Disabled or Differently Abled?

This week is United Nations International Day for Disabled Persons and I was busy getting ready to speak at an event on the day.

The first thing that struck me was that we still refer to people as disabled because there is something different about them to the accepted norm of a human being.

My concern is that I find it impossible to define the perfect human being, as we are all different and unique. Does it mean that shorter people or taller people are disabled; does it mean that fatter or thinner people are disabled; does it mean that people with ginger hair or bald people are disabled?

What it means is that we define people by what they cannot do, rather than what they can do. All too often people will compensate for a weakness in one area by developing strengths in another.

Evelyn Gennie has become one of the top solo percussionists in the world and yet she is totally deaf. She has learnt to hear the music through her feet and pays in bare feet.

Nobuyuki Tsujii is a top concert pianist and yet he has been blind from birth and Richard Branson has dyslexia and yet we do not think of any of these as necessarily disabled.

What we are more inclined to do is to celebrate their achievements rather than regarding them as disadvantaged.

And yet we still persist in focusing on disability in most cases. Surely we owe it to them to look for the ability rather than taking the negative approach.

So this year perhaps it is time for all of us to change our attitude to differences and start celebrating the International Day for Differently Able Persons.

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