UN International Day of Disabled persons

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2006 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: Accessibility

Sunday 3rd of December was the United Nations International Day
of Disabled Persons and the theme this year is E-Accessibility. As
my contribution to the discussion I would like to quote from a
sermon my friend Alex Cowan gave at a special Crystal Clear service
at our synagogue. The service was specially designed to be as
inclusive and accessible as possible.

Alex has lost the use of her legs and is a wheelchair user so
her main concerns relate to physical access. However I realised
whilst listening to her that people with other disabilities are
feeling the same level of anger, sadness and frustration that she
feels because they cannot easily access ICT solutions.

Ask yourself if you have developed a solution that is causing
such misery. If so it obviously morally reprehensible but it is
also financially and legally an issue.

I found writing this speech incredibly difficult. I thought
this was just because I am angry. And I am so angry about the level
of exclusion that is still going on. But behind that anger was the
incredible sadness and hurt and rejection about being excluded. And
fear: fear that I might not get the level of assistance I need as
has happened to disabled people I know. Having to fight almost
every day to be able to use a toilet or to go on holiday or go to
an event. I realised how much of my limited energy goes on fighting
and dealing with these feelings of sadness and hurt and fear so
that they don’t overwhelm and consume me. Energy I’d rather be
using to go out with my husband, family and friends, working on the
projects and the work I love doing.

Most people don’t think consciously to exclude people but do
not think hard enough or proactively enough or broadly enough to
include us all and that is our challenge as a community.

And it is not only the disabled person’s responsibility to
do something about this, it is everybody’s responsibility, because
when you exclude one part of the community, the whole of our
community is being diminished. And I really believe that everybody
can make a difference, no matter how small.

When we value and accept the difference in other people, we
value and accept the difference in ourselves. And our community
will grow all the more strong for it.

As an industry we have a duty to do better in the future and try
and fix the mistakes we have made in the past.

To help us in that process the UN will be holding several events
and publishing a report on web accessibility.

I will report on these in more detail in future articles.