Jamie-Lee Dwyer is a 27-year-old freelance writer out of Queensland. She has studied and received a bachelor of journalism with first-class honours from Griffith University. In between doing the odd freelance writing job she is currently writing a fiction book about disability.
Recently someone thought they were complimenting me by telling me what great shape I was in for a girl like me. This backhanded compliment just reminded me how ignorant some people are about disability; we are not all one and the same and not enough people are educated about that.
Not enough people look at me and see the person instead of the wheelchair. I’m a well-educated woman, with a university degree behind her and a couple of jobs under her belt. There is so much more to me than just disability, and yet there are a lot of people out there who treat me like a five-year-old kid based on my disability alone.
I have seen first-hand the way a disability can be overcome, as I’m sure many of us will have seen, and I have also seen the way it can take over someone’s life. The loss of willpower, the zombie-like stares, and letting the fatigue take over.
Whatever the type or impact of a disability, everyone has the right to live an active life to the best of their ability. Everyone deserves a right to an education, something that is often forgotten about when it comes to disability. Most importantly, however, everyone deserves to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
When a disabled person goes out in public they can face physical barriers and difficulties in accessing necessary supports, not to mention the discrimination they face. This leads to limited opportunities to find work, study, and socialise.
Australia ranks lowest among developed countries for the relative income of people with disabilities. Overall employment rates for people with disabilities remain low, with workforce participation at around 54 per cent compared to 83 per cent for people without disabilities.
Although there has been progress made towards an equal society for all, we still have a long way to go regarding disability rights. I know we will get there in the end, but it will take a lot of people to keep on raising the issue of disability rights to spur the action forward.
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