Disabled people are old, young, black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, famous or unknown. They may be someone in your family, or someone in your street.
Disabled people are painters, sculptors, athletes, footballers, writers, academics, company directors, assembly workers, accountants, MPs, comedians, teachers, or unemployed.
Disabled people can be talented or lazy, interesting or boring, it can be obvious they are disabled, or they may have an invisible impairment.
Disabled people are individuals, who are all different from each other. What they have in common, is that sometimes people’s attitudes, or the environment around them can act as a barrier, that says ‘you are not welcome here’.
If you hold a meeting about Time in a building with steps and no lifts, you exclude a famous expert, Professor Stephen Hawking.
If you send a fax to Stevie Wonder or Andreas Boccelli, asking them to sing for charity, they wont turn up – unless you send your information by tape or Braille.
If you decide that sport is not safe for people who have epilepsy, you are saying goodbye to Tony Greg, or Jonty Rhodes – Tony Greg was that rare phenomenon, an England cricket captain who won the Ashes!
If you think that an illness like M.E. means a person can’t do much – look at Claire Francis, best-selling novelist, and former round-the-world yachtswoman.
If you think it’s okay to hold athletics events in venues with narrow doorways, steps, etc, because “after all, they are athletes”, think again: The country who came third in the world in the ParaOlympics was the UK – some of Britain’s greatest athletes are wheelchair users.
Disabled people are just people, with all the talents and weaknesses that you have. We are disabled by the environment, or by the attitudes of others – so next time you are thinking about a public meeting, or a public building, or about talking to your disabled neighbour, try to make your attitude or your building more disability friendly, and focus on what a person needs in order to be involved, not why it might be difficult.