Two news stories caught my attention this week. One was the outgoing message of Australia’s Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes, and the other is the bullying faced by disabled school children. I immediately knew that the two were linked.
Education about diversity and disability needs to start as early as possible. Discrimination, stereotyping and prejudice are not born qualities, which means they can be eradicated. Getting rid of bullying altogether is not something I see happening anytime soon although I would love to see that day. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be taking drastic steps to reduce it for the sake of all children, disabled or not. It is worth mentioning that teenagers perpetrate the bullying mentioned in this article, which is all the more reason why we should be implementing long-standing and effective education about people of difference.
The natural curiosity of children means that they will of course ask questions when someone enters the classroom that has a visible point of difference. In fact I would even go so far as to say that this is something that needs to be encouraged in order to increase awareness about the reality of minorities. From what I’ve seen and experienced, once they know abilities and limitations they instantaneously are willing to accommodate accordingly.
Therefore it makes me wonder why once we get to workforce, employers are unwilling to make those same considerations and modifications. Where are we going wrong? Is it a flawed education system where students are congratulated for standardising to the ‘norm’ rather than nurturing their own differences and strengths? Or is it an obsession with profit and cost cutting at the expense of the wellbeing of entire communities? I would say it’s a combination both.
The only thing stopping a person with a visual impairment practicing law is the hoards of people saying that it can’t be done before making sure that it indeed doesn’t happen. I would say that this is a form of bullying.
Until we change our focus from standardisation and pressuring others to conform to taking care of one another so that we can all move forward together, this cycle with surely perpetuate.