Friday, December 12, 2008

Outdated Prejudices

A recent article in the Ottawa Citizen looks at the issue of equality for people with disabilities in Canada.

The article states:
The Canadian Association for Community Living is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and coinciding with the occasion is the Global Forum for Inclusion to be held in Ottawa next week. The association will release its National Report Card 2008, which uses Statistics Canada data to examine the inclusion of Canadians with intellectual disabilities.

There's a lot to celebrate. People with intellectual disabilities are no longer treated as shameful family secrets. But they are three times more likely to live in poverty than other Canadians. More than 70 per cent of adults with intellectual disabilities are unemployed or out of the labour force.

... It is foolish to judge a person's work ethic, creativity or temperament by his or her facial features, speech patterns or other superficial markers of difference. Disabilities do not inherently prevent people from contributing to society, making decisions about their own lives, or taking pride in their work.

... The most troubling statistic in the report is this one: 47 per cent of Canadians say they are "not very" or "not at all" comfortable being around people with intellectual disabilities.

If that were to change, it's likely that the lives of people with those disabilities would improve overnight. They would find it easier to realize their potential in their social relationships and in their working lives. They would be able to go about their business without pretending to ignore the stares.

The report puts it this way: "Everyone wishes to feel and be safe within our communities. To be able to go about our daily lives, without fear, without prejudice, without being an object of ridicule, discrimination or violence."

Parents of children with disabilities need more than understanding, of course. They need medical support, access to appropriate child care, access to transportation, good teachers and flexible employers. But understanding is more important than anything else. The sight of a child playing happily with others at the neighbourhood park is probably worth more to a parent than any government program could ever be.

Link to the article:

The leaders of the disability community in Canada oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, because they recognize the social devaluation that exists for many people with disabilities. That social devaluation will lead to the pressure to die, whether subtle or upfront.

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