Many “orphans of consciousness” have been revealed by the Black Lives Matter protests that are unfolding worldwide as an outrage to the murder of George Floyd.
It is also a stark reminder of prejudice against people from other minority groups, such as those with disabilities. Being aware of and highlighting the violation of the rights of people with disabilities in many parts of the world remains an important step in addressing this problem.
During the eugenics movement, around the time of World War II, the lives and rights of disabled people were disregarded and disrespected to such an extent that they were subjected to sadistic experimentation and euthanasia. Although the practice of euthanasia was eradicated some years later, many other forms of discrimination remain to this day. The superstitious regard of people with disabilities in many developing countries, such as epileptics in East Africa being ostracised and forced to sleep in graveyards until recently, is one example.
There is also the environmental inaccessibility of many geographical areas; prejudice against the reproductive rights of those with disability; the lack of access to information and education for so many with various types of disabilities, including those who are blind or deaf; and the economic inequalities of which minority groups, especially disabled people, often bear the brunt.
There should be emphasis on the need of our mindlessly doing-orientated society to stop shying away from its shadow — vulnerability, physical passivity and deformity — represented by people with disabilities.
In fact the terms “vulnerability, deformity and physical passivity” need to be reclaimed as potentially meaningful and ultimately empowering in creating a healthier, more mentally stable society. At the very least, “different ability” should be celebrated and not dismissed or sidelined.
Associations, assumptions and perceptions around disability need to be reshaped and funding for and the rights of disabled people should be prioritised.
This is of paramount importance in halting injustices, violations of human rights and crimes committed against people with disabilities.
In this country we still have huge problems with inequality, but we are adamant not to repeat atrocities of our past. The protection of minority groups is written into our Constitution and highly regarded. It is time to stand up for the rights of all minority groups; and never again allow them, including people with disabilities, to be marginalised, overlooked and underestimated.
Marguerite Black works as the executive director of the Dandelion Initiative, a non-profit organisation providing psychosocial support to ill, disabled and disadvantaged youth. She is the author of The Dandelion Diary: The Tricky Art of Walking, and a wheelchair user who is planning to further her PhD in prejudice and disability