Declared in 1992 by the United Nations, the International Day for People with Disability this year it has as its central theme “Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with people with disabilities”.
Each year this day aims at increasing awareness and promoting more effective actions that can remove architectural, cultural and other obstacles that are still too present in our societies in the political, economic and social fields.
This year the United Nations dedicated the entire week (November 25 – December 3) to conferences, seminars and workshops held by numerous experts, committed to dialoguing on this subject in order to better understand what has been done so far and what is the way to go.
As stated on the United Nations portal, “the social inclusion of people with disabilities is an essential condition for supporting human rights, sustainable development, peace and security. The commitment to ensure the rights of people with disabilities is not just a question of justice, it is an investment in a common future “.
And today the General Director of UNESCO, Xing Qu, also shared his message of support for people with disabilities around the world.
So the issue returns, even stronger this year, according to which the most vulnerable people are the most exposed to the risk of exclusion from society, and it is increasingly complex to preserve the rights, well-being and inclusive interaction of people who live this condition, even more in a problematic historical period such as that of post-Covid.
Living with disability during Covid-19
If we think about how much human interactions have changed during the lockdown, we have an idea of how much the pandemic has affected even more the daily lives of people with disabilities, conditioning a series of activities and further hindering their integration.
In line with this need for change is the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a program of action for people, the planet and prosperity, which “aims in particular at strengthening national health services and improving those structures that can guarantee accessibility for all people ”, also in the light of the current situation.
BionIT Labs and the Mission of “Turning Disabilities into New Possibilities”
In BionIT Labs we believe that people with disabilities are continually forced to adapt to an environment that has not been designed considering their needs, but rather following the wishes of the majority of the “able-bodied” population.
The interfaces that allow a person with motor, visual, auditory or other impairments to interact immediately and effectively with the environment and other individuals are generally few and inadequate.
It’s therefore our responsibility to breathe life into Innovative Technologies that can concretely improve people’s quality of life, thus creating a more equitable and accessible world.
This is why we believe in the strong social impact that devices such as Adam’s Hand can bring, in order to radically improve the life of people with disabilities, in this case a limb difference. Generally, we make available our skills and we propose innovative solutions and new technological tools in the medical field, as in the case of the Telemachus, a new project developed with other Italian companies, by which we are trying to give an efficient and effective response to the Covid pandemic.
Communicating disability: when words matter
However, action is as important as information. Did you know that there is a real catalog to communicate disability and promote significant and inclusive information?
Reading the guidelines introduced by Franco Bomprezzi in 1998, they may seem obvious, but it’s clear that these guidelines are still useful, especially for those involved in education and communication. Bomprezzi’s recommendations are very clear.
Decalogue of good information on disability by Franco Bomprezzi
1) In the information, consider the person with disabilities as an end and not as a means.
2) Consider disability as a “normal” situation that can happen to everyone in the course of life.
3) Respect the “diversity” of each person with disabilities: there are no standard rules or identical situations.
4) Write (or talk) about disability only after checking the news, possibly drawing on the most documented and impartial source.
5) Use the images, new or archived, only when they are indispensable and in any case accompanying them with correct captions and not offensive to the dignity of the person. When the person in the image is clearly recognizable, ask for consent to publication.
6) Ask for the advice of parents or family members only when the person with disabilities is clearly and evidently unable to argue independently, with the means at his/her disposal (including technological ones).
7) Approach and consult regularly, in the information phase, associations, institutions and sources capable of providing certain and documented information on disability and related problems.
8) Properly and promptly give feedback to requests for clarification regarding published news and articles.
9) Consider people with disabilities also as a possible subject of information and not only as an object of communication.
10) Avoid stereotyped phrases, clichés, pietistic statements, generalizations and routine trivializations from journalistic (and radio and television) language. Think about effective and interesting titles, without falling into vulgarity or ignorance and respecting the content of the news.
On special days like this, we believe that it’s even more important to reflect on the way in which each of us strives every day to break down the barriers that don’t allow the complete inclusion of people with disabilities, and very often we realize that the way we talk about disability hasn’t a conscious approach.
In fact, there is the risk of falling back into pietism, conveying a negative message with discriminatory elements, thus obtaining the opposite result and making more difficult the process of inclusion of people with disability.
Talking about disability through informative content can certainly help to avoid issues as clichés, as underlined by associations, amputees or families of children with limb differences that interact with us everyday.
Similarly, the idea of people with disabilities hailed as a “superhero” tends to encourage the stereotypical way in which disability is represented in our society, using inappropriate communication tools.
In this regard, the theme “Communicating the rights of people with disabilities” has been addressed several times by the EESC (European Economic and Social Committee), the Commission’s consultative body, through specific focuses:
- the contents of the communication
- their accessibility
- the code used by the information
- the importance of involving organizations that work with people with disabilities according to their skills and experiences.
This is why we think it’s important to reaffirm, especially today, the importance of real awareness campaigns, as we also try to do with stories and experiences, but also by using tools and technical insights we have with our skills, with the aim of ‘communicate disability’ with accuracy, for a world increasingly educated to inclusion in which no one is left behind.