UK & World News

  • 8 May 2014, 5:09

Attitudes To Disability: 'More Respect Needed'

Scope has reported that two thirds of the Great British public find it difficult to speak with disabled people and one in five 18 to 35-year-olds are so uncomfortable that they would prefer to walk on by.

I wish I could say my gob was smacked to learn of the disability charity's findings.

If anything I question whether a third of us are apparently perfectly comfortable.

As a registered blind guide dog owner, I've experienced more than my fair share of weird reactions from the public, from queries about how my dog knows which items to choose in a shop, to outright disbelief by one gentlemen that I could possibly have a job - and even more surprise I was on a train at 10pm on my own.

Accepting that the crazier and most unusual reactions are the ones we remember - and yes, sometimes even dine out upon - it should be noted that there are a great many people who are not only happy to help but are extremely obliging.

We therefore thought we'd hit the streets of central London for a sample of reactions and I think you'll agree that Scope's findings were reflected by too many instances of ignoring calls for help.

Public Transport also presents challenges as one bus journey demonstrates with a driver who moved off before I was seated with my guide dog to a passenger with a buggy occupying the priority disabled seating where my guide dog Chipp could have tucked himself into without needing to lie in the aisle.

There is no doubt the Paralympicsfailed to engender enough equality, and more work clearly needs to be done. But as attested to by one lady I interviewed, the disabled community has a responsibility to remember that like it or not, right or wrong, if you have a disability, other disabled people will be judged by your actions.

It is equally important for those who may have had a bad experience with a disabled person to realise that treating one disabled person differently based on the perceived actions of another is itself highly discriminatory - unless of course you treat able bodied people equally differently because another able bodied person was once rude to you.

When all is said and done, this is about respect - and even then it's merely about refraining from disrespect. Some people of course have disabilities that affect their ability to communicate - but for those who do not, deafness, blindness, dwarfism and many wheelchair users are as capable of communicating as you and me.

So if you like modern equality - please, let's have some.

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