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Disabilities and attitudes… what’s going on?

These days, you can hardly turn on the television, radio, or open a newspaper without being confronted by diversity and inclusion in some form.

Here, award-winning consultant Richard Shakespeare, of Workplace Diversity Solutions considers how attitudes towards diversity, disabilities have changed.

Disability is part of everyday life for millions of people and is not something that can just be swept under the carpet.

However, the reality is that while we have seen some brilliant progress, some businesses, sections of society, and, indeed, individuals are still not getting the message.

Lots of the media coverage we see encourages us to think positively about disability, but does it really work?

Even after 35 years of living with a disability, modern legislation being introduced and a wide range of information available, I am still often amazed by some reactions towards disability.

Yes, I fathered a child....

Around 18 months ago, I was lucky enough to become a father for the first time, an absolute joy and, to be honest, not something I was ever sure would happen.

Yet, the interesting thing has been to see the range of reactions you get when you have a wheelchair and a baby!

Most people do not mention it, some people become obsessed and feel they can ask all manner of personal questions about how this is possible, and of course, we still get those people who feel the need to stare at you.

Often, when we attended antenatal appointments, complete silence would occur when my pregnant wife would push me and the wheelchair into a waiting room… normally one of those awkward silences when you can feel the whole room looking at you.

Perhaps the most surprising reaction of all was the day after my son was born.

Even the people who should know better get it horribly wrong

Picture the scene, my wife and baby are nicely settled into the maternity ward, I go to visit them, and because of the distance from the car park, I opt to use my wheelchair.

As I enter the lift to go to the relevant floor, a member of NHS staff gets into the lift.

To my amazement, the NHS staff member looks me up and down and then loudly announces “Gosh, you’re in a wheelchair”.

Firstly, surely, I was not the first person they had seen using a wheelchair in a hospital.

Secondly, why was it necessary for them to even mention it?

I was disappointed to see such a reaction, especially within the NHS.

What needs to happen if things are really going to change?

So, have we really progressed in terms of disability awareness?

In some respects, yes, we have.

Over the past few years, some businesses have made a real effort to be more inclusive.

Access to venues, websites, and some shops has improved but, as I have said many times before, unless we start to look at attitudes and stereotypes, I fear that very little will ever actually change.

To find out more about Workplace Diversity Solutions and the services it provides, visit its Love Business News profile page.

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