Double Standards: Why do we Ignore Disability Discrimination?
Picture this: a renowned builder wins a big contract to construct a new shopping centre – the jewel of the local council’s vision for the future. The development is the talk of the town – locals are excited because it will be more than just a shopping destination, but an entertainment complex with restaurants, bars and cinemas.
A huge opening event is planned with all the bells and whistles. Hundreds of people attend, including local media, excited to see how the plans have been shaped into reality. As the crowds wander its freshly painted walls, a huge design flaw is found to be missing – there are no female toilets. None. Every single bathroom has a male stick-figurine adorned on the door. Cue outrage.
Instead of the expected high praise and great reviews, local media slam the developers for this clear oversight. The local community calls for a boycott, discouraging anyone from shopping there, until the mistake was rectified. While (thankfully) this isn’t common practice, that’s not to say that discrimination isn’t still prevalent. It’s unfortunately experienced by the disability community nearly every day.
When a public place is built – say a foreshore or a park or an amphitheatre as examples – and it’s not accessible, it rarely even raises an eyebrow. The practice is so common place our society has become numb to it. I’ve seen so many instances of publicly funded projects being unveiled where, as a tax payer, I can’t even access. Tell me how that’s fair? And tell me, how is it any different to the fictional scenario I painted earlier in this blog? By not considering accessibility, we are discriminating against people in our society. In my opinion, it is the same as having dedicated drinking fountains for light and dark skinned people. It’s discrimination, plain and simple. When people hear that only 25 years ago Indigenous Australians weren’t allowed in public places, it creates shock and disbelief. And yet, there are public areas of cities and towns where disabled people can’t even get to and there’s not so much as a peep. It troubles me to think that disability discrimination is accepted in Australia when we have so many progressive movements calling for positive change. Black Lives Matter, Marriage Equality, Gender Equality... Australian society is so open minded in so many ways, and yet it’s so incredibly frustrating that people with a disability are being left behind. AGAIN! Don’t get me wrong – I’m empathetic to the above movements and so many others that are helping our society move forward and establish much-needed equality to end discriminatory behaviours. But why can’t accessibility be part of the conversation? In fact, in many ways we are ahead of some of those movements. Laws and legislation already exist to protect people living with a disability, and yet for they are still not being enforced. People in places of leadership do not care enough to be proper allies and advocacies for the disability community, and our voices – while growing louder – are not loud enough by ourselves. We need support from our able-bodied friends to take up arms and say ‘this is not acceptable – we will not stand for this any more’.
Do better. Expect better. Ask for better. If you can hold yourself and each other accountable, together we can create positive change and a better, more inclusive society where everyone is welcomed.
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