Due to common misconceptions, discrimination and stereotypes, the greatest barrier people with disabilities experience is other people. Disability awareness means educating people regarding disabilities and acknowledging the impact that societal attitudes and inherent stigma and discrimination have on the lives of people with disability. Raising awareness is an important part of establishing inclusion for people with disability. However, it is important that we don’t stop at awareness and progress to action in order to create lasting change.
There are many misconceptions surrounding disabilities. For example, many people assume that all disabilities are visible. In reality, 90% of the 4.4 million people with disabilities in Australia are living with an invisible disability (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020). When someone has a disability, it means that a person has a mental or physical impairment that can restrict their ability to participate in everyday activities.
Awareness creates empathy- when we attempt to understand each other it stops that stereotyping mindset and helps create inclusive and safe environments. By self-educating, we can find ways to create change and spread the word to others.
There have been an increasing number of awareness days including World Autism Day and International Day of People with Disability, that aim to increase knowledge of these disabilities and break common misconceptions. However, it is simply not enough to only acknowledge that discrimination against people with disabilities is wrong. There must be a greater awareness within each person to distinguish between good and poor practices.
Taking the next step
Raising awareness is hugely important, but the next step is embedding it in your culture and committing to change.
It is important that communities and businesses develop Disability Action Plans that encourage, recognise and promote an active commitment to eliminating disability discrimination and that ensure effective supports are in place to do so. Focusing on inclusion and universal policies requires cooperative efforts within communities and society at large.