Assuming you developed an impairment tomorrow – would that change your answer in any way?
The reality is that the greater portion of society thinks that persons with disabilities can no longer work. This is not only evident in the adverts for income protection to cover you financially “when you cannot”, but also in the vast discrimination against persons with disabilities in the workplace.
What is the reason for this thinking? Could it be a result of the many years of good Samaritans rushing in to help and effectively taking over the person’s life? Or perhaps the many people with disabilities who turn to begging at traffic lights and outside shopping centres? These are possible reasons, but I suspect it has to do with culture and upbringing.
The messages we pass onto our children in their formative years are ones they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Teaching children to respect others, no matter how different they look, will create a society that celebrates diversity and truly treats every person equally.
However, we cannot teach our children the correct messages unless we ourselves have changed our way of thinking. This may be extremely difficult, especially in cultures where disability is regarded as shameful or punishment for wrongdoing. Changing our culture around disability must be a conscious decision, and should be made by each individual.
There are many persons with disabilities who are employed successfully, even those who have started their own businesses. But there are also many who are unable to find employment as people see their disability first and judge their competency according to their disability.
There are many stories which demonstrate that the barrier to equal opportunities for persons with disabilities lies in social attitudes, and not necessarily in the abilities of the person in question. Come on, let us examine how we view other people and pledge to change the way in which we interact with them. We will open ourselves to all they have to offer, and it may just blow us away!