Disability is defined under the Equality Act as a physical or mental impairment that has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on an individual's ability to carry out normal, everyday tasks. Prior to uncovering this, I had an incomplete idea of what disability meant.
The consequence of this was that I found it difficult to recognise anyone in my own life that was disabled, past or present. Relying purely on visual stimuli, such as the presence of a wheelchair, it was hard to see who fit into my limited idea of disability. Discovering the actual size and scope of disability under the Equality Act broadened my understanding of the number of people I had known throughout my life who were disabled.
These people included friends, family and colleagues. Among them, I could recall long-term mental health problems and learning difficulties. Like others, I'd never considered these to be defined as a disability.
When it hits home how many people with a disability you know or have known, the issues regarding social inclusion become much more vivid. It always helps to have tangible examples of underserved individuals if we want to understand the need for an equal playing field.
Impairment of the mind can lead to impairment of the body and vice versa. By encouraging people to be open and honest about all of their obstacles, whatever they may be, we may be able to help them both physically and mentally. It is about creating a culture where everyone can communicate more effectively and live happier lives.
Recognising that disability is a wide category is crucial because humans need to understand their own rights. People may be entitled to support they are not claiming because they are unaware that this definition applies to them. It's also important because, while disability manifests in different forms, we can still treat people with the same degree of fairness and understanding.
This is something we all benefit from. We don't want people to have to hide or cover up who they are in the workplace. Mutual trust and respect enable greater teamwork and cohesion. If everyone else is working at their best, you will also be able to work at your best. And, since we all are different in some way, our own differences are more likely to be accepted in a workplace that accepts people based on their talent and shows understanding towards the obstacles they face.
It is important for us to spread the word about disability, accompanied by its legal definition. A culture where we are not in the dark about these issues is a boon for us all. It creates a more caring, compassionate and congruous society.
Written by Robert Potter, Captioner