With the government's latest announcement, once again we slip into the categorisation of
society. Young people, elderly people, transport users, office workers, pub owners, school
children. But none come with such negative connotations as those classed as 'vulnerable'
'high risk' or 'at risk'.
For disability advocates and those working in related fields, it is becoming quite apparent that placing a huge swathe of people in a group based on their vulnerability goes against inclusivity and is reinforcing narratives of difference when it comes to disability and long term illness.
This is an unfortunate consequence of communication, in order to drive home a message that may be missed by some. A message that if not delivered, could be a matter of life and death.
For years disabled people's organisations (DPO's) and advocates have fought to move the association of disability away from the medical model, aiming to shift the association towards a human rights issue. Disability is a medical issue, but it is not just that. It is a social issue, an environmental issue, an accessibility issue. It is an awareness issue. Year on year, slow moving progress is being made towards greater integration of people with disabilities in Irish workplaces. There is less fear, more understanding, less misrepresentation and miscommunication. But the unfortunate categorisation of many people into 'at risk' and 'vulnerable' groups now runs the risk of regression of workplace attitudes towards disability. Many people who have disabilities are no more at risk that those without. But they are now also being placed into 'vulnerable' and 'at risk' groups based on perception, a perception which through no ill intention, may not be right.
Once more, we find ourselves sliding back towards creating a society of 'us and them'. There is no doubt that phrasing of language and categorisation of certain groups based on risk factors pales in comparison to the primary objective during this pandemic, which is to save lives.
Let's just hope an unfortunate consequence will not be the regression in the attitudes in Irish workplaces towards valued employees with disabilities.
Disability awareness is a key component in ensuring attitudes and understanding of disability within Irish workplaces continue to progress. Training staff in disability awareness demonstrates not only a commitment to inclusivity of Ireland's most diverse group, but also ensures a workplace where there continues to be equal opportunity for all.
Contact Ability Focus for information on Remote Disability Awareness Training for your organisation on info@Abilityfocus.ie or all (01) 699 1150