Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities - December 3rd

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities! It's a day for us to reflect and become more compassionate and understanding of people with disabilities(person-first language)/disabled people(Identity-first language)

Today at my work (Ciena) we had an event where we discussed disabilities, people with disabilities/disabled people, how to have healthy conversations around it, being mindful and understanding, and more. Hailey Moss, an attorney, contemporary American pop art artist, author and advocate for people with disabilities, gave us a great speech on the topic. She has a wonderful story about how her mother told her that she was autistic. Her mother explained how different doesn't mean good or bad, it's just different. Harry Potter was different and didn't easily fit in with the wizards or the muggles. But he was still the hero of the story. Just like that, Hailey is different and is the hero in her own story.

Here are a few things I learnt from the session:

  • An individual with a disability can be defined as "a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities"

  • People have preferences on the language you use to describe them (person-first and identity-first)

  • Don't use ableist words such as crazy, insane, bonkers, etc. People can be sensitive to these words.

  • There are many different types of disabilities, and you might not know if someone has a disability/is disabled.

  • Disabled people/people with disabilities aren't "special" or "have special needs". They are just people that need a little something to do the same things a "normal" person would. Think of it like this, people that have visual impairment wear glasses to help them see better. It's not like the cool glasses are given to them because they are special, but simply because they need them to do day to day things. It's interesting to see how something like wearing glasses can be considered "normal", but something like a wheelchair or autism can be considered a "special need".

  • Disabled people/people with disabilities have pride in who they are and their identity

  • Always be mindful and have a method for people to ask for accommodations while hosting events, meetings, etc.

Few stories that were shared:

  • "Have a son with very similar disability. Challenging for "normal" parents, because when your child is young its "oh no! what do I do?". Agree. Don't pity. Love them. Encourage them, guide them, and they will do just fine!!!! They will find their way and find something they excel at, differently..."

  • "I have an autistic daughter. As an immigrant parent, I was at loss when my daughter diagnosed. After a while I fully embraced. In fact, my daughter taught me to embrace. In the last couple of years I have been teaching neurodiverse students. I totally resonated with Haley. We need to accept differences and support what’s needed as an individual."

Read More