International Day of People with Disability

Cross-posted from HOPE

The 3rd of December is the 21st International Day of People with Disability. It coincides with the first ever Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games in Newcastle, Australia from the 1st to the 7th of December.

This is a time to celebrate with people living with disabilities. “IDPwD is an opportunity to: celebrate the contributions people with disability make every day to their communities; make a positive contribution to the lives of 4 million of Australians with disability.”

But, in the words of UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, “We must remove all barriers that affect the inclusion and participation of persons with disability in society, including through changing attitudes that fuel stigma and institutionalise discrimination.”

In my own experience, even the most positive view of general attitudes to people with disability should tell us that there is still a great deal that can and should be achieved. In Australia, we welcome the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the promise that it brings support and self-determination to millions of Australians as well as new opportunities. But we should not be lulled in any way into thinking that even this significant shift in thinking and assistance and support will remove discrimination and inequity.

I write as one acutely aware of the need from my own families experiences and, additionally, because I have seen for myself the reality that many people with disability feel that the talk about euthanasia and assisted suicide is targeting them.

Any wonder that the disability group Lives Worth Living, opposed the recent Tasmanian euthanasia bill on these same grounds.

In Toronto at the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International symposium in November we heard first hand from people like John KellyNic SteenhootAmy  Hasbrouck and Kevin Fitzpatrick about what they hear when the media focus on individuals who want euthanasia or assisted suicide say something like: I wouldn’t want to be like that.

Very often the ‘that’ they describe is the kind of issues that people with disability deal with on a daily basis. What people with disability say they hear is: I wouldn’t want to be like you.

We hear comments like that of TV personality, Tracey Spicer about her mother’s so-called ‘loss of dignity’: Spicer says that her mother ‘suffered the indignity of being carried to the toilet.

We hear comments like that of pro-euthanasia advisor to the Belgian Government, Etienne Vermeersch pointing at an audience member at a recent debate and saying: “Wait until you’re paralysed.” A clear reference to Belgian and Dutch focus on euthanasia for disability.

As Ban Ki-moon pointed out, such comments ‘fuel stigma and institutionalise discrimination.’

It may be a way off yet, but if we can get to the point where there is no toleration whatsoever of discrimination against people with disability then I think it fair to say that a great deal of the push for euthanasia may well also subside.

Also, this great video of an interview with the Ramp Up editor, Stella Young:

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