Stigmatization affects millions of lives from different groups. Public attitude towards them influences their life and personality.
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Why is it happening ?
Disabilities and treatment of disabled persons are general issues. And yet, even in the 21st century, the common person lacks any basic information on the topic. When it comes to disabilities, most still tend to talk about them as illnesses. To clarify: a disability does not mean that someone is sick, therefore disabled persons do not need nor do they deserve to be treated that way. It is not like the flu—it won’t get better after taking some medicine. On the contrary, in general, disability is when the disease is irreversible. By no means does it imply that the person is not able to live a complete life. It is very important to understand that independent life does not turn on taking a bath by oneself. It is all about freedom of choice.
Then why does society use labels? It happens because of the lack of knowledge. On the surface all people can see is a wheelchair or a white stick. However, it is time to forget misbeliefs indicating disabled people are not valuable. Otherwise, a lot depends on perception—most of us would not be able to play in a wheelchair basketball team. Maybe the person called ‘lame’ on the street one day is the king of the field the next. Sometimes society makes someone disabled; society creates the labels.
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Why does it matter?
It is in the common interest that everyone focuses on abilities and does the best they can. Society is the conglomeration of people. Similarity lies in diversity. Being disfellowshipped because of a disability is like being disfellowshipped for being a vegetarian. There was a case in Hungary when a man with Down syndrome was banned from a gym because of complaints from another member. This reveals how integration is a common aim but, in instances, the way forward is often faulty. Nevertheless, a few examples display hope. Imagine going to a cafe with a friend. In a minute there is a waitress to take your order. They are extremely nice, the service is satisfying. But the coffee shop is a little different: the waiters are all persons with disabilities, for example with Down-syndrome. “Nemadomfel” ( “Never give up”) cafe bar and Premier Kultcafé are such places in Budapest which emphasize how valuable their lives and jobs are. It is not to forget that society is responsible for defining what “normal” is. If society continues to hold the perceptional status quo, the world is not going to be a place to live well. As one must understand that “their” life influences “ours”.
What can you do about it?
One must broaden one's mind. Let them choose your help. It is easy to start: if one sees blind people, instead of grabbing their arm-- ask first whether they need help. Millennials everywhere should talk to experts and read about disabilities. The best thing to do about it is to give disabled persons the freedom of choice and regard them as individuals. Also, there are hundreds of organizations for volunteering such as Ability Park, a theme park at Sziget Festival—The Island of Freedom (Hungary) that presents the daily life of people with disabilities through personal experiences. One can always do something useful by searching for the “how to help” button on any foundation website. As the Australian Attitude Foundation advertises: ’’Changing attitudes will change lives.” Personal contact is not the only field for development. There is a lot to work on accessibility and barrier-free constructions. In many populous cities, central metro stations are far and not barrier-free in spite of being used by disabled people. This is a wide area where more professions, for example, engineering, should be involved, but from which little is being done to incorporate such needs.
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Csenge Anna Farkas briefs from Budapest, Hungary. She is a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts in Special Needs Education.