Social Awareness and inclusiveness

In India, we observed less social awareness about various kinds of special needs/ disability and their whereabouts. People with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in the world. People with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

Disability is now understood to be a human rights issue. People are disabled by society, not just by their bodies. These barriers can be overcome, if governments, nongovernmental organizations, professionals and people with disabilities and their families work together.

Disabled or able-bodied, we all have the power and responsibility to make society more inclusive for everyone. From lived experiences to listening to the disability community, here are 9 ways we can continue to make our world more accepting of people with disabilities.

1. View the Disability Community as a Valuable member of the society

It's still progressive to see the disability community as a targeted audience and consumer. We're the biggest minority population in the world, yet the most under represented, as they are the last to be thought of. We're slowly seeing models with disabilities incorporated in fashion and marketing commercials, but this needs to become the norm, and not seen as future-forward thinking.

2. Employ People with Disabilities- They are Ambitious and Want to Work

The disability community is still discriminated to get a job or against at work from being refused a job or denied a final interview. But when it comes down to it, employers need to see a person, including his/her disability, as an asset and not a potential liability.

3. Integrate Disability History in School Curriculums

How can a person with a disability acknowledge and identify with his/her history if it's not widely taught? How can the community be embraced if their civic background is never taught? Through a general education, the acceptance of disability can be taught, and this will be very helpful in inclusion. Even more, Disability Studies should be an emerging discipline in which to receive a degree as schools/ colleges. Disability history needs to be integrated within our school system for the community to fully acknowledged.

4. Promote Social Inclusion in Schools

Our overall cultural consciousness on how we treat and interact with disability needs to change, beginning in elementary schools. We need to celebrate our peers for their differences. If this is taught at a young age, less discrimination and more social inclusion will occur. Having kids with and without disabilities learning side-by-side helps everybody appreciate the talents and gifts all kids bring with them. As a society, we have the responsibility to promote the inclusion of our differences.

5. Employ More Actors with Disabilities in Mainstream Media

We need to see more actors with disabilities playing actual character roles of people who have disabilities. No more able-bodied actors playing a person with a disability when an actor living with a disability can be easily hired. It is  understood if a director wants to hire an able-bodied actor to characterize a person before his/her accident or disability, but what about movies or shows where a character is already disabled? How could an able-bodied actor play a character with a disability better than a person living under those circumstances? And even at that, our media needs to do a better job at accepting disability as a human condition instead of a flaw and imperfection.

6. Provide College Scholarships to Athletes with Disabilities

Athletes with disabilities should be scouted and receive scholarships based on their athletic abilities by their chosen school/ colleges.

7. Make Air Travel Universally Accessible

Many people with disabilities travel through flights. They need to get to the airport and become dependent on the Special Services Request or cannot use the washroom once in the air. Many people with disabilities have faced unfortunate experiences at the airport or even in the air- left for hours without a chair, or access to a washroom. The level of disrespect and invisibility a traveler with a disability endures can be astounding and frustrating. Training the Special Services Request personnel would go a long way in promoting a more positive experience though the "just ask, just listen" approach. A better interaction would be to ask travelers with a disability what they need and act accordingly. Also, major airlines need to do a better job at accommodating people with disabilities by building an accessible restroom within planes. Many people with disabilities have to forgo traveling for long flights because they do not have access to a bathroom. It's unbelievable how companies have put a blind eye in enabling basic human rights for people with disabilities.

8. Realize that People with Disabilities are Humans too

It's interesting how we can see a person in one dimension and forget that he/she is a human being, intricate with multiple angles. When we see a person outside of their element, we tend to forget that his/ her life is a culmination of different sides and not just how we see them in an isolated environment. Sometimes people can forget that a person with a disability is first and foremost a human being with desires, talents, skills, heartache and loss, just like everyone else. At the basis of every person are the similarities we all share for being human, and that includes people with disabilities.

Empower yourself and others by realizing that your voice can make a change for generations to come. We need to become the voices that challenge. If you never raise your voice, then nothing will occur and no change will happen. Join us in raising your voice so we can see a fully inclusive society and celebrate each other for who we truly are - talented and incredible human beings.