Building an Inclusive Society

Building an Inclusive Society

Building an Inclusive Society

The World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen 1995) defines an inclusive society as a “society for all in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play”. Such an inclusive society must be based on respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural and religious diversity, social justice and the special needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, democratic participation and the rule of law. It is promoted by social policies that seek to reduce inequality and create flexible and tolerant societies that embrace all people. This blog views why people with disability lives in isolation and how can they be integrated within broader society to make it more inclusive.

People living with disabilities have historically faced discrimination and negative attitudes throughout their lives. Often, they are perceived as inferior, lacking capacity and skills, and incapable of making decisions and choices. Additionally, they are frequently viewed as a burden on society. This perspective and behavior towards people living with disabilities result in neglect, discrimination, violence, and exploitation. Technically, this is termed “ableism,” which refers to attitudes that result in discrimination and harmful behaviour towards people living with disabilities.

Ableism is the root cause of how individuals and society treat people living with disabilities. This includes treatment, beliefs about themselves or people living with disabilities, and political, legal, and infrastructure setups that impact people living with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities are more vulnerable in this context. Likewise, First Nations people with disabilities are more vulnerable due to their position in society.

The lack of awareness about the human rights of people with disabilities exacerbates their situation. The lack of knowledge increases ableism and exposes people living with disabilities to further discrimination, violence, and abuse. Staff working in disability service providers sometimes lack information about the rights of people with disabilities, making the issue more complex. Similarly, people with disabilities themselves may not be aware of how and where to report abuse, discrimination, or violence.

Measures to Improve Awareness and Quality of Life

Awareness Campaigns

Awareness campaigns at different levels can help change attitudes towards disability and people living with disabilities. These campaigns can be promoted via social and mainstream media and organizations working in the disability sector. Highlighting the work and contributions of people living with disabilities is essential. Alongside awareness campaigns, specific training should be available for people to gain more knowledge about the issues and challenges faced by people with disabilities, their rights, and how to interact with them.

Promoting Dignity

Feelings of shame, lesser capability, and inferiority are often internalized by people living with disabilities unless they are encouraged to be proud of who they are. Providing space and opportunities to raise their voices, share opinions, and become part of societal initiatives is crucial. People with disabilities feel dignified when they recognize their capacity, strength, creativity, and courage. This helps them grow personally and professionally and feel they are positively contributing to society.

Connection and Belonging

Engaging and including people living with disabilities in initiatives across various domains is vital. They should be provided space to be part of initiatives, projects, and programs and given opportunities for leadership. A long-term approach and provision of resources can help people with disabilities feel more connected and engaged with broader society. They have the right to be safe and promote healthy interpersonal relationships in families, workplaces, friendships, and intimate partnerships.

Accessibility to Information

People living with disabilities often have fewer means to access information that can benefit them and connect them to updates about the society they live in. Enhancing accessibility to information can play a critical role in creating an inclusive society that is well-informed. More efforts are required to make information available to people living with disabilities, helping them stay informed, fostering a sense of inclusiveness, and enabling them to take advantage of the benefits presented by society. Media can play a vital role in sharing information for more education and enlightenment. Apps, websites, and digital tools designed with accessibility in mind can provide real-time information and updates to people with disabilities. Innovations such as voice-activated assistants and AI-driven tools can further enhance accessibility.

Inclusion over Segregation

People with disabilities must live free from violence, neglect, and exploitation. They should not be compelled to live in isolation from communities and society. This includes avoiding spending excessive time in residential settings, group homes, and other segregated programs. They should have the right to equality and be able to live, work, learn, and engage with people without disabilities. Segregation should be avoided by providing space to share their opinions, values, and supporting their engagement with the broader community.

Building an Inclusive Society

As a society, we need to change our perspective on disability and the capacity of people living with disabilities. We should contribute to providing choices, supporting their integration into wider society, and ensuring they do not feel isolated. People with disabilities have the right to live, work, and learn with choices similar to those without disabilities. They should be empowered to live independently and with dignity, feeling safe and secure in their community.

People living with disabilities are not a burden; they possess skills and capacities that should be recognized, nurtured, and given opportunities to flourish. Their contributions to the community are vital for social, cultural, and economic progress. We should strive towards a society that is inclusive and diverse.

Blog Author: Farooq Dar

Farooq Dar is Director at Canopus Consultants, who work with disability support providers including the one supported through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to strengthen their capacity in providing support to people living with disability.

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