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In a friendly society where the wheelchair user are not viewed with tinted glasses and treated with respect, it will be natural for them to feel more confident about themselves. It is innate in humans to feel inferior and have personal low esteem if they sense that they are not accepted by people around them. Thus, to help the wheelchair user psychologically, the society first has to open up to these people.
A tolerant and warm society can be achieved through deeper understanding of the needs, feelings, and potential of the wheelchair user. People will then be more sensitive and accommodating to the special needs of the wheelchair user. It is important to acknowledge that though the wheelchair user are physically disabled, they can still contribute intellectually or with other skills that they posses. With this mindset, acceptance of the wheelchair user into workplaces would follow and that gives the wheelchair user a great sense of security and belonging. Having equal opportunities to all is not only restricted to the issue of racism or sexism, but also in the context of the disabled.
Although not necessarily the best in providing wheelchair-friendly facilities, places like Australia are known for its hospitality towards the disabled. Most Australians treat the disabled with utmost respect and regard them as just like anyone else on the street. As quoted from our interview with Mr. Gilbert Tan, BLAH BLAH. Other countries such as United States and most of the European nations are also reputed for their social acceptance towards the wheelchair user. Besides catering to their necessary physical accommodations and facilities required specifically by the wheelchair user community, the people there also play a part in offering help to these less fortunate people.
On a more diplomatic and global scale, we see protective measures initiated to secure rights for the disabled. Some of these would be the Disabled Discrimination Act imposed in UK and The Americans With Disability Act. More globally, we see how the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR) has implemented the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons. More recently, a United Nations convention was held and the pact on disabled rights was signed by more than 80 countries and was very much deemed a success; “unprecedented in terms of support for a human rights instrument, but it's apparently setting records for the signature of any convention in the United Nations” quoted Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
These rights ensure that in accordance to the tangible law, that disabled people, like the wheelchair user are ensured equal rights in their jobs, education and daily lives. Protection of their current rights such as user-accessibility for buildings is also ensured. By having a legislative body to institute such a law would definitely be an advantage to the wheelchair user as half of the battle has already been won. As much as bringing up these issues legally might raise eyebrows, it will also raise the awareness of the general public.
Case study of Ghana
The people of Ghana regard the disabled as junk. Parents with disabled babies are persuaded to poison them or leave the new born in the forest to die. Emmanuel Yofuso himself is a disabled man since at birth. In his pursuit to fight for the rights of the disabled, Emmanuel took on an almost impossible task of cycling around his country, about 300 km, to raise awareness of the disabled. He wanted to show that disabled does not mean that he is useless. Through his hard work and continual effort, Emmanuel was invited to the King’s residence for a prize giving ceremony awarding scholarships to promising young challenged athletes. This is a great milestone as the King has great influence over culture and the society of Ghana and his acceptance of the disabled sends out a very strong message to the people.
So what exactly can we do to better integrate the wheelchair user?
More activities involving people from different walks of life to come together and understand more about the wheelchair user can be organized to raise awareness for this cause. Games, performances and information booths can complement the fun-day-out to make it a meaningful learning experience for those who do not know much about the disabled.
VWOs can initiate more CIP or volunteer work opportunities
Voluntary Welfare Organizations can partner with schools and business organizations and initiate service learning (what is service learning?) based projects so that students and working adults get to contribute to society, at the same time, learn more about the wheelchair user.
More VWOs set up and have them to reach out to those in need
VWO’s provide financial and psychological aid to the people in need. Having more VWOs and social workers reaching out means more can benefit from such social services. With aid and support, the wheelchair user would have a more positive outlook of life.
People to bring their WCB friends to their churches or temples.
Religion calms one’s senses and is a form of spiritual aid. Many find strength from their faith in their god and have since had their lives changed totally. Also, the wheelchair user can expand their social circle and get to know those who would really care for them. Naturally, they would be happier and their attitude will definitely improve.
Educate the young well. Parents set good example
Cultural learning and character development is the most effective during childhood. As such, educating kids about the wheelchair user and how to be sensitive to their needs is something important as they grow up with the mindset they retain from childhood. Parents need to set a good example for the kids to learn too.
Government can honour WCB ppl. Disabled ppl to raise awareness too
Honours are not only for people who do not use the wheelchair. Somehow in places like Singapore, successes of paraplegic are not as highly regarded or celebrated as those of normal people. The Singapore National Olympic Council has set up the Million-dollar Award Programme to reward athletes for successes at major international competitions. However, this only to applies to the able-bodied people, leaving the Singapore Disability Sports Council, a charitable organization, to search for sponsors to fund a similar programme internally.
Governments can play a part by showing the people that the leaders regard the disabled equally and that it is the right way to go. With the accomplished disabled basking in national honours and media limelight, many more would come to know the potential of the disabled and their increasing role in society.
Legal laws and pacts may appear rather impressive, and suggestions on educating the public may sound logical. But even as much as how flawless these plans may be, one must take into consideration the human aspect that would account for a certain amount of problems. For example, even though the various declaration rights might be passed, this would not totally ensure that a wheelchair user individual will live a discrimination-free life. Furthermore, there is also a certain extent to how much laws and education can assist a wheelchair user. Even with welfare groups in place to cater towards the social and psychological aspect of the person, it would have to still rely on the individual himself to choose to be open and accept such help. More of this would be elaborated in the Psychological Issues.