Article by the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

Recently, The Overcast and the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities partnered on a photo contest to collect powerful and positive photos of people with disabilities. The photos submitted were awesome! They were fine examples of powerful people. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words; but, a thousand words does not even scratch the surface when it comes to the topic of inclusion.

Most dictionaries define inclusion as simply; “including someone in something”. While this sounds simple, people with disabilities often seem to be missing from the picture both literally and figuratively, which is what sparked the idea for our photo contest.

Why, in 2016, are persons with disabilities ‘not in the picture’? It may be surprising to some, but every single day in our city, our province, our country, our world; people are facing a wide variety of barriers to inclusion.

There are physical barriers – lack of ramps, automated door openers, accessible parking, elevators and lifts, and the list goes on. How can it be that with the advancements in Universal Design (Google it.) we still see limitations within our buildings and communities?

There are communication barriers – lack of clear language, clear print, alternate formats, captioning, American Sign Language, etc., etc., etc. Communication is a key element to most everything we do as humans, it’s no surprise that these barriers are excluding people.

Systematic barriers are huge and just one example would be programs or services for people with disabilities being based on income. This might sound reasonable on the surface but does not recognize that many people with disabilities can have many disability related expenses that chew up a lot of their income.

And here comes the big one…attitudinal barriers! Yes, indeed, in 2016 attitudes still present some of the greatest challenges for people with disabilities. Attitudes are often the root from which other barriers to inclusion grow. People still struggle with ideas about what people with disabilities “can” or “should” do.

This can range from going to community events, obtaining viable employment, to marrying or having and raising children. Generally, attitudes can be negative and limiting to allowing people with disabilities to make their own decisions like people without disabilities do.

We hope the powerful photos from our contest help shift some of these attitudes and start people thinking differently about what people with disabilities can and should do. Creating positive images is just the beginning of a much bigger conversation we hope to continue here in the Overcast…stay tuned!