We live in a society that likes to put labels on people, based on little more than a lack of understanding, stereo types and generalization. Having been born with mild cerebral palsy and slight learning difficulties, I have experienced being pigeon holed from a young age. Since that time I have strongly believed in ripping off that label and defining what it means to have a disability. Anyway the only place that labels belong is on jars of jam and pickles - not on people.
Times are changing though. The highlight of this last week daily news was seeing the pictures of Madeline Stuart on the FDL Moda cat walk at New York fashion week and hearing that she was going to be the face of GossiGirl cosmetics, 'Beauty is...', campaign, filled me with great excitement . It's hard to believe that twenty or thirty years ago or...lets face it, even ten years ago, the thought that models with disabilities would be on the cat walk, at one of the world's biggest fashion shows is a far cry from the dark dinghy asylums that were. Fashion is constantly changing and people are constantly changing and this event is a major land mark in the disability movement. As world I do feel that we are slowly coming more tolerant and more accepting and this is important because diversity is the spice of life, and things would be pretty dull and flavourless without it. I still feel we have a long way to go, and we not there yet by any stretch of the imagination.
New York Fashion week however represented a deeper question ,which has been on my mind for quite a while. How much is the voice of people with disabilities listened to in society and how much are our talents and interests embraced?
There are many areas in our society where people with disabilities are not heard or seen from politics to science to media and the arts to business, and I feel this is a great shame and I would like to see this change. At its core I believe that attitude and education are two main keys to breaking down this door lock, that has been closed far too long. Having been on the receiving end of peoples` attitude towards my disability, throughout my life I know what it feels like to not be taken seriously, and to feel as if you are outsider looking in a key hole to a room, which seem impossible to get into.
So standing under ever prominent grey clouds, one feels that there are many reasons as to why public attitude is still so negative, even though there has been a leap in equality legislation and more places have improved accessibility, and this has opened much greater opportunities to us. Now making us more visible in society, and has allowed us to have aspirations like never before. As the rain pours upon my head, despite all this positivity there is an awkwardness about disability, and this makes it difficult for us getting our voices out there.
According to the charity, Scope, two thirds of people feel uncomfortable talking to people with disabilities. There are many reasons for this, from a lack of understanding the fear of saying something wrong, education, education, education I believe it is at the heart of this issue, I am not the only one feel this way. In order for this to change, there should be greater educational awareness and I believe this should begin from a young age. Having experienced this as a child, I know that positive attitudes can develop between children with disabilities, and those without an impediment. My teacher at that time was great, because we were always included in everything from sports days to having some lessons with others mainstream. We were truly embraced for who we were as individuals and for our talents and were not being defined by our disabilities.
Madeline Stuart is a great role model for a movement, which should be much more widely talked about. Even though this is a big stepping stone we still have a long way to go. I would like to see more people with disabilities in the public domain, and I will be writing further articles about this subject.