A Day of Inclusion: “Cherish Our Role”

By: Mike Crooks

With events like the International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD),  the United Nations is encouraging Australians to be a part of a worldwide push to create an inclusive community.

And for some, like former Paralympian Marayke Jonkers, who is the co-vice president of People with Disabilities Australia, the IDPwD is important because “it’s the one day of the year that people with disabilities celebrate what we’ve survived”.

Celebration and optimism

The IDPwD “aims to promote community awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability,” read an IDPwD statement.

The day celebrates people with a disability and aims to “cherish the role we all play, regardless of our abilities.”

And it marks a call to action, encouraging people throughout the world to “take on a commitment to create a world characterised by equal human rights.”

In Australia, there are 4.4 million people living with a disability, and the Federal Government funds a national program to help promote and raise awareness of the IDPwD.

Jessica’s mission

As part of the day, the IDPwD highlighted some of the inspiring stories of Australians with disability and their hopes for the future.

One such woman is Jessica, who was 27 when she was diagnosed as autistic. Jessica is a journalist, artist, disability advocate and advisor from Wagga Wagga, NSW.

She has won an ABC Regional Storyteller Scholarship, which she used to explore adult experiences of autism.

“Part of my elevator pitch was about media representation of autism because it’s mostly focused on children and carers,” Jessica said.

“And that’s not inherently bad; it’s an important conversation to have. But what it overlooks is the enormous number of adults living in Australia who are autistic.”

Ben’s triumph

Ben was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 2.

For much of his childhood, the Australian was either in hospital or bed ridden.

One day he was told that he might not live past his 10th birthday.

“That was mainly due to the drugs,” he said of the medication he was prescribed. “Juvenile arthritis is not necessarily life threatening in most circumstances.”

But he credits the physiotherapy he received from the age of 12 as life changing. And now he is in his early 50s.

The physiotherapist “helped us design a program that specifically worked on my core strength and hips and my knees,” Ben said. “I was actually able to get up out of the wheelchair and walk.

“It felt good to prove the experts wrong.”

Lu’s turnaround

Lu has myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), brought on by a bout of glandular fever and stress.

ME/CFS is an invisible disability.

“They do all the standard tests and they’re always normal,” Lu said. “You look really good on paper, but it’s not the case in real life.”

Because of her disability, Lu’s life changed, including being unable to work.

“Eventually the most helpful thing is you start to accept that this is it and focus on what you can do,” Lu said.

Lu says that inclusion is important in her life.

“It’s nice when someone says, ‘Well how does it feel?’” she said of her disability.

“I imagine if you use a wheelchair or have some other really obvious disability, it would still be nice to be asked, ‘How does this feel for you?’”

Education and support

The theme for this year’s IDPwD was – “United in action to rescue and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for, with and by persons with disabilities.”

The Sustainable Development Goals is a UN initiative of 17 targets – including eradicating poverty and hunger – that countries are working on to make the world better and fairer for everyone by the year 2030.

The IDPwD is also a day of “educating people within the community around barriers to inclusion”, and “providing opportunities for supported education, training, volunteering – and employment for people with disability.”

Still, for the PWDA’s Marayke Jonkers wishes there was more focus on people with disabilities throughout the entire year.

“It would be amazing if we didn’t have just one day a year,” she said. “Because disabled rights are human rights.“

For more information visit here.

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

Feature image: Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash 

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