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Making the World Aware of Disabilities… and Then?

It is time for us to stop talking about awareness and start making real change now. It is time to get our hands dirty.

On December 3, the world marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is a time when many individuals and organizations run events dedicated to their disabled counterparts. Even though these activities are varied — from visiting disabled homes to holding sports competitions for those with disabilities — most of them are done with one objective in mind: raising awareness.

Even though such events are crucial in increasing people’s knowledge of the issues concerning disabilities, the extent to which this awareness is translated into real action is questionable. Is it only done to make people aware, or is the aim to start a cause to actually enact change — both social and political transformation in our societies?

Around the world, there is a myriad of awareness movements and campaigns regarding disabilities. While this is a good thing to make educate the general public about a certain issue, it is not enough. The real question is what all of us are going to do with our new awareness — that is what truly matters. There is a need for us to be more determined and more concerned with taking practical steps.

Today, despite all of these awareness campaigns around the world, people with disabilities still encounter negative stigma that is wrongly associated with them. Whether it is mental or physical disability, the quest for people with special needs to be seen as equal as everyone else is a struggle.

In many parts of the world — in the East and West — disabled people are still given limited access to live like their non-disabled counterparts. In developing countries such as Indonesia, for example, many people with disabilities live like prisoners. The segregation does not only limit their access to education, health care and employment, but it also restricts their access to public transport and entertainment facilities.

Some disabled people even struggle to go out of their own homes and are treated poorly by their own family. Yes, there are still cases where parents are embarrassed of their disabled children and lock them in their rooms, breaking off any social interaction with the outside world.

We also see disheartening statistics and facts presented before our eyes: That millions of people living with disabilities are deemed unequal to access the same opportunities to succeed and have a fair shot in life. What makes it even worse is that the societal norms and legal systems are still made to enforce barriers between the disabled and non-disabled.

With this in mind, it is important for us, in an effort to give the disabled their overdue rights, to not limit the ultimate goal of our caring just to make the public aware of the problem. Rather, we should begin to translate our awareness into concrete actions that can put an end to the injustice we comfortably live in.

It is indeed true that there is nothing wrong to speak about disabilities because our voices have power. But we should remember that actions speak louder than words. What will inspire others to start doing something is to lead by example. We are our own advocates. And what we do, rather than what we say, is the mirror that shows our compassion toward our fellow human beings.

It is time for us to stop talking about awareness and start making real change now. It is time to get our hands dirty. Be of those who help others, especially for people with disabilities whose fulfilment of their rights has long been overdue.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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