5 things everyone should know about disability
Feb 21, 2022
We asked our former Head of Strategy and Growth, Claire Murphy to comment on her time with the Sociability team and what she learnt. Here are her words of wisdom…
I joined the team at Sociability without much of an understanding of what life is like being disabled. In my short time here I’ve learnt A LOT about disability and the lives of disabled people. It has been an eye (and heart!) opening experience to learn about what it’s like to live with a disability in a pretty inaccessible world.
Here are five of the key things I’ve learnt – that I think everyone should know about disability and being disabled.
1 in 5 people are disabled
When I first heard this statistic it knocked my socks off! In the UK, it’s around 15% of the population – or 14 million people. It really is a staggering figure and brings into question why we’re not talking more about disability.
The other fact that shocked me is that almost everyone will be disabled at some stage in their lifetime, whether temporarily or permanently. It really can happen to anyone, and more than that, it probably will happen to you!
80% of disabilities are hidden
Most people assume disability is mostly related to physical disabilities, such as mobility limitations or visual or hearing impairments. The truth is that the vast majority of disabled people do not show physical signs of their disability and that disability can include learning difficulties, mental health conditions, chronic illnesses and other disorders and diseases that impact daily life.
In the UK, the sunflower is used as a symbol to represent hidden disabilities and is worn to indicate to people around the wearer, that they need additional support or time. It has now been adopted globally by businesses, airports and emergency and health services to show hidden disabilities.
Accessibility means different things to everyone
Accessibility is inherently personal. Take, for example, our team at Sociability. We have two wheelchair users in our team. One doesn’t mind going to a restaurant or bar with a couple of steps up the front as he’s happy for his friends to lift him (or can he even bunny hop up them!) The other wheelchair user prefers ramp access and hates being lifted in her chair. Both don’t mind if a venue doesn’t have an accessible toilet, so long as they know beforehand and can plan ahead.
There is a vast range of disabilities and every person has their own set of wants and needs. This means simply saying somewhere is “wheelchair accessible”, or “has good accessibility”, is not particularly helpful – and, in some cases, completely meaningless!
Accessibility information is often missing or incomplete
On a number of occasions, I’ve tried to book a team event in central London, and I’ve struggled to find even the most basic of information (such as does the venue have a ramp, or does it have an accessible toilet).
It’s really reaffirmed to me the value of what we’re doing at Sociability by making it easier for disabled people to find the information they need to socialise, without the uncertainty of whether they’re going to be able to get into the venue or use the loo when they’re there. With greater information, more disabled people will feel comfortable and empowered to explore the world around them and to spend time with their friends and families doing the things they love.
Disability is finally starting to get the attention it deserves, but it’s still not enough…
WeThe15, a global movement against discrimination against people with disabilities, has just released an awesome campaign which highlights the “ordinariness” of being disabled (you must watch it here).
The Valuable 500, a global movement that is trying to put disability on the business leadership agenda, signed their 500th member in May last year.
The Paralympics in Tokyo also made prime time television last year, for the first time – and for the first time in many countries, Paralympians were paid comparably to their Olympic counterparts…
It’s exciting that we’re seeing progress, but there’s still a long way to go to normalise disability and achieve widespread understanding and support. You can do your bit to drive this change by starting a conversation with friends and family about disability and what you do and don’t know!
And, of course, you can download Sociability and start tagging your favourite places!
Written by: Claire Murphy, Head of Strategy & Growth - Sociability