A Foreign Utensil

Disability can be a positive thing. Or so we are taught in this country. We are taught to treat our disabled peers with the same respect and dignity as we would any of our other mates. We’re told that there is no difference between the mind of a physically disabled person and the average Joe.

Yet, we cannot deny that our disabled brothers and sisters face a certain stigma. The fight against this injustice is well and truly underway and the leaders of the movement have made significant ground. People like Stella Young and Nick Vujicic have paved the pathway for their community to break free from the bondages of society and live as freely as they so desire.

The opportunities for the disabled part of our community are vast and growing constantly. With countless service providers on the scene and the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, there is no shortage of assistance available for our brothers and sisters to realise their potential and set and exceed their ambitions. While, the previous generation did not have this kind of support and arguably suffered greatly for it, we are equipping the current and future generations to grasp life by the fullest and to live a life as a liberated soul.

But, unfortunately, for many disabled individuals elsewhere in the world, this is far from the case.

A lot of communities who perpetuate older ways of thinking do not consider disability in the same equitable light as many of us do. As a bystander, this can be incredibly hurtful. So many people are being denied quality of life because of archaic social constructions that do not need to be practised in this modern age of equal opportunity.

A person I know has quite observably had learning difficulties since he was a child. He struggled at school and could never quite “understand” social norms and etiquettes. Rather than seeking the necessary help to educate and assist their son, his parents chose to sweep their son’s condition under the carpet. His difficulties were by no means a novel concept for them. His uncle was autistic, although never clinically so.

In the culture of these people, identifying disability is a representation on the parents and their inability to produce a “wholesome” child. What a load of absolute bogus?! A child’s disability, albeit dependent on genetics in some cases, can be guided by practitioners to become a simple weakness in the presence of many other strengths. An omission to get the necessary help early on in the piece can lead to many issues later on.

This same person, now in his mid-twenties, is suffering from diagnosed depression. Why? Because he has very little purpose in life. He was compared to his fully able peers in childhood and was therefore classified as having below-average intelligence. He cannot succeed in job applications because employers are to consider him as a fully functioning adult, although he is not necessarily so. It is not that he is incompetent, it is just that he needs guidance where necessary. It is absurd to think that all this has and is happening due to a refusal on his parents’ part to ignore his disability because of “what society would say”.

It’s truly a shame that these parents denied their son help. It’s truly a shame that people still advocate cultures where humans are not treated equally. It’s truly a shame that every person does not necessarily have the same opportunity.

At the end of the day, it’s all about education. If all these people could be shown the prosperity of a functioning disabled person’s life, they would be made to realise that it can all be worth it. If they are told that there are people out there who see their vocation as being the empowerment of disabled people, they may change their way of thinking. We can all change our way of thinking, because in the end, it is just that: a way of thinking.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and emerging. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.