Defining Disability – How Do We Practice Kindness
and Tolerance?

When it comes to disability, one of the problems we have with bringing a spotlight onto it is that
defining disability is no longer easy. It’s not as clear-cut as it may have been a few decades
ago. As our understanding of disabilities has grown and evolved, our definition of disability has
evolved with it. A good example is that once upon a time, there was no recognition for those
people who had a neurological disability – nowadays it is a recognised part of life with disability
and we have that representation.
However, in an increasingly complex world, we have to think properly about how we look at
disability and what it means to define it and provide support for it. It’s no longer just about
people who are born with disabilities, of course – people can become disabled following
illnesses or accidents. Soldiers often return home from war with life-changing injuries, and yet
they are often neglected most within society. The greatest inequalities come from how we treat
these people, and the problems continue further as a divisive argument is now starting up
across the UK and will undoubtedly have an impact on the greater world politics.
You may well have heard that there are parts of the world which are offering sick leave and
benefits for women going through the menopause. However, many are now arguing that it
would be akin to disability discrimination not to let these women get the benefits they need
during this process. It has sparked a lot of debate about what we classify as a disability and
opened up some interesting questions about disability moving forward. As people who
constantly advocate for disability recognition, rights and support, it has given us a unique
opportunity to speculate.
What do we class as a disability? When it comes to the way we look at the world, we have an
opportunity to do some good and redefine the way that we think about disability as a whole. The
decisions which we make about disability will redefine what it means to help people – some of us
will gain new support and freedom as a result of questioning the status quo, whereas others
may find that their liberties are cut short. We must carefully balance what is fair and just against
what we are prepared to accept. In some cases, this may mean choosing to deny or accept
someone’s stance on what a disability is.
Regardless of what we choose, however, we believe very firmly in making kind decisions and
treating all people with the dignity they deserve. No matter what the outcome in talks about
disability, everyone is entitled to the basic compassion and unwavering support they’d want for
themselves. We can’t answer big questions involving the nature of disability in such a short
time, but we do implore people to look at the situation with empathy, and to remember that the
way we treat these questions – and the people asking them – is a measure of how far we’ve
come as people.

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