Building back better

Why International Day of Persons with Disabilities is About You!

Today, Thursday 3 December, is the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and the theme is "Building back better: towards a disability-inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post Covid-19 world."

This day comes near the end of Disability History Month (18 November - 18 December) which, in turn, began with a celebration of 25 years of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Disabled people are not finding much energy to celebrate at the moment, however. The global crisis of COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative. Disabled people are still the most excluded in our societies and among the hardest hit in this crisis in terms of fatalities. In the UK alone, 60% of COVID-related deaths were disabled people.

"So what’s it to do with me?", I hear you mutter wearily as you juggle your online workload with your Zoom headache, existential angst and child care. "I am rather busy right now just getting through this all myself."

We, (Bath Spa’s Disabled Staff Network and the D4D project team), want to tell you that this day, this month, IS about YOU!

Did you know that globally 1 in 7 people have a declared disability? A billion people. This number doubles when we include those with undeclared or unknown conditions. From the litter pickers of Bangladesh to the Oligarchs in Moscow, from the Yanomami of the Amazon, to the Arsenal supporters of Highbury and Islington, Black Lives Matter, trans and gay rights, the far right, the far left, the believer and the atheist, and on and on. Every group of people has disability within their community. To be human is to be disabled.

If we take this on board, it completely changes how we view our society. The need for inclusion and equity becomes tantamount because it will cross into every area of our lives. Don’t forget, we cannot escape the four truths of birth, sickness, aging and death, says the Buddha. But, we can make ‘em a whole lot easier! (I paraphrase.)

It turns out that we can reimagine our world when forced.

COVID ensured that we all had to isolate, to work from home, to find coping skills and resilience and rethink our attitudes to access, loneliness, fear for ourselves and others, and isolation. This was a shock to many, but not for the thousands of disabled people for whom this is a daily reality. As we come out of the other side of the virus, it is time to hold on to what positive changes occurred to work spaces, communications, online access, and community support, and build on it. We can rethink architecture, access to the outdoors, education, research, travel – all to make them better. Systems must become more agile and effective for ALL, including you! Life can only become better that way, for all of us. And, waiting to advise, support, and inspire the change, are those one billion disabled people – what a wonderful resource!

Let us know how we can help - we are waiting.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.



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