Monday, September 5, 2011

On disability in Belfast.

This poster was found in two locations around the hostels of the University of Ulster in Belfast. It covers the main groups toward which hate crimes can be directed, like 1) ethnicity 2) sexual orientation 3) religion, and remarkably, 4) disability. The fourth picture is especially difficult to look at because it shows a man in a wheelchair with bruises being pulled by the collar of his shirt with two arms. I don't know if it's a real picture, but it is sure hard to look at for long.

Yesterday during a family outing, my father tried sitting in a wheelchair and I wheeled him for a few blocks. He remarked that he expected that people around him would be more friendly towards him because he was sitting in a wheelchair, but to his dismay he realised that most Singaporeans either don't care or are too scared to approach people with disabilities (or as my friend suggest, difabilities!). 

Most usually just stare (as if the person is not aware of this) until they've stared enough or until the person is out of their sight. People, that's really rude -- if you're curious you can just ask and most will be happy to enlighten you.

I see this as a kind of quiet violence towards people with disabilities in Singapore. It's not punching or hitting, but those kind of rude stares remind them that they are different, when many just want to get about their normal lives everyday -- to work, school or home.

This was found on several campus noticeboards. It invites postgraduate students to work part time, earning £10 to £12 an hour being a campus assistant, helping disabled students in the form of notetaking and moving around -- taking lifts, getting cutlery at the canteen, and so on.

While we idealise this sort of care work to be done for free and out of the goodness of our hearts -- as if altruism is somehow reduced if there is monetary compensation -- it's not realistic to expect everyone to be, well, nice for nothing. Because we think this way, we consider the work that stay-at-home mothers do for their families (washing, ironing, cooking, nursing, repairs) to be free because they are good mothers.

I really like this arrangement of the university because it benefits all parties: the disabled students get assistance, the university pays but does not miss out on smart students who may have disabilities, the assistants get paid (postgraduate studies is frugal living), and the student population at large benefit from diversity.

This sign was found near the university to warn drivers on the roads near the Jordanstown School for Children with Auditory or Visual Handicaps. Can I just briefly say that I think this school is fabulous? They have specialised curricula for students and use a variety of techniques to suit each child. They also use Northern Ireland Sign Language and/or Irish Sign Language in the Deaf department in addition to Signed English.

This was found in Belfast city, marking the entrance to an office building. It was really heartwarming to see how people with disabilities are taken into account in various aspects of living in Belfast -- so progressive!

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