September is Spinal Injury Awareness month. Being a spinal injury survivor myself, this is an important time for all of us. It’s probably one of the few times that people will hear the words spinal injury and take a little interest in what it entails. It’s important for all of us to participate in this conversation because this and many other forms of disability are not going to stop existing any time soon. From Stairs To Ramps: The Beginning – The Accident That Changed My Life
In the spirit of passing some much-needed education, I will highlight what my idea of awareness looks like. For me, awareness is any relevant information or action that is meant to improve a particular situation. Being aware of something requires you to learn it and to understand it.
I have found that the greatest enemy of the disabled community in our society is being overlooked. People choose not to acknowledge our existence. Wherever you are reading this from, you need to understand that we do not live in a perfect world with perfect people… Ours is a beautiful melting pot where some people are different from others. Being acknowledged is a means to strengthen inclusion, disabled people often go unnoticed because we are victims of an old and backward narrative that the world only belongs to certain people who are not us.
A friend of mine works at a restaurant as a waitress. She was telling me that they normally have trained translators on standby to assist foreign guests who might not necessarily speak the common language. The hotel acknowledges the non-English speaking guests, which is interesting because the hotel is in Kenya. The translators are there to ensure that everyone feels as accommodated as possible. Sadly, this is not always the case when it comes to disabled people. We seldom get considered and it’s easy to see why most of us opt to lock ourselves in our rooms and wallow in sadness.
There also needs to be some awareness on the importance of self-advocacy. Individuals need to be encouraged to voice their thoughts and feelings in a confident and articulate manner. There is some kind of self-belittlement that predominates some disabled people which always leaves them with low self-esteem and little confidence. Most are very soft-spoken, not because that’s how they are naturally, but because they don’t feel like their thoughts matter.
It’s a dangerous thing to be complacent and feel like you have no power over the most basic aspects of your life. Meaning is easily lost and suddenly you only go where the wind blows. My message to my brothers and sisters is one of empowerment and self-belief, it’s hard to pick up the pieces but it is not impossible. Disabled people need to draw confidence from within themselves and be able to express themselves like any other person. We should not feel sorry when we ask for equal treatment without prejudice. We should be bold and assertive… No one can tell our stories better than we can.