Earlier this year I took a trip around my hometown of Nakuru with the intent of assessing the state of accessibility for people living with disabilities. I had arrived at this decision after spending countless hours under the scorching sun because not many places had been considerate of wheelchair users or people with other physical challenges. My findings were quite shocking as the real picture of our society revealed itself.
The consequences of not accommodating all people go beyond the failure to build ramps or implement standard sized doors that allow wheelchair or crutch users to access areas freely. The real consequence of exclusion is psychological. Making a particular group feel like they are outcasts has tremendous effects about how they feel about themselves.
Seldom will you find too many disabled people who are passionate about advocating for their rights, articulating their thoughts and feelings. They will often live down to the standards that society has set for them because sadly, those standards are all they know.
Disabled people need to find a voice for themselves and they need to do this as unapologetically as possible. Self-advocacy is the process of being able to confidently articulate your thoughts and feelings in a way that will lead to positive results. The state of inclusion in our country is not bad but it isn’t great either. The final push towards a positive change will most likely be instigated by our willingness and readiness to rally behind each other and support this because that is integral to our well-being.
For us to get there, we need to forge paths that have been less travelled in the past. There is a need to educate ourselves and become more self-aware of the issues that surround and affect our community. It is counterproductive on our part to simply sit and expect that things will change without us having to raise even a finger. More so, we need to identify the solutions to our problems.
The self-belief and confidence required to undertake self-advocacy are qualities that have been relatively absent in the majority of the disabled community. Feelings of low self-esteem have underpinned most of our lives and in my opinion, I think it all goes back to the lack of proper inclusion.
In this case, all of us have an active role to play in the promotion of self-advocacy. Able-bodied people need to look within themselves, rectify any biases or prejudice that they might be having against people with disability. They need to offer equal opportunity and treat every individual objectively. Levelheadedness is a quality we should all seek to attain.
Disabled people, on the other hand, need to be more proactive about tackling their issues and breaking historical stereotypes. We do not have to settle for the seat at the back because that is where we have always been told to sit. We must take initiative and challenge ourselves despite the odds being stacked against us sometimes. Our voices need to be heard; our stories have to be told.