Reflecting on International Day of People with Disability

A selfie of Joe and Deanna who smile at the camera

Friday 3 December is International Day of People with Disability which aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability.

Therapy Pro occupational therapist, Deanna Spear, met with one of her clients, Joe, to reflect on what this day means for him.

What is your personal experience in living with a disability?

Since having a stroke many years ago, I have needed to adapt. I cannot do the things I used to be able to do, but I just needed to overcome this and work out a different way to tackle everyday tasks. I have had to readjust my whole lifestyle. Having people visit my home was hard at the start, I didn’t want to know anybody and just wanted space to cope in my own way but I overcame this, and have started again.

Why do you think having an international day to celebrate people with disability is important?

So that people without a disability can become aware that we are suffering in our own way. Also to teach the general population about how to be more respectful of people living with a disability.

What do you think we can do to make the world more inclusive or accessible for people with a disability?

I find accessing shopping centres to be hard. When I go to a shopping centre, people are so rude sometimes. Some people are wonderful and help when they see you struggling to reach something, however others push past you even when using a walker. Some people have no respect at all. Having a day like this to celebrate people with a disability, will hopefully make people become more aware of how to respectfully treat the less able bodied.

In terms of accessibility in the community, some toilets and some lifts can still be difficult to get into but there have been improvements over time. I feel there should be scooter lanes on the roads too to make it easier to drive up the streets, or wider footpaths to make it easier to drive past pedestrians. I love watching the rugby league and I sometimes ride my scooter on the train to access the football stadium. All of the trains in the local area are accessible, and once at the stadium it is easy to ride my buggy in. There have been improvements with access to public transport and public places over recent years which is good.

I also think having the ability to socialise and participate in activities with other people with disability is important. There should be more activity options out there that cater for different levels of disability.

What would you like people to know about accepting people with a disability?

Respect and patience are important for all people, however especially for people who have a disability. I would also like people to offer to help more.

How can we best celebrate the achievements of people with disability?

Maybe not so much a public holiday, but continuing to have a day each year to commemorate people with a disability would be great.

Will you do anything on 3rd December for International Day of People with Disability?

At this stage, it will just be a quiet day for me. I might have lunch at one of the local sport clubs.

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