This coming Friday in South Africa we recognise people with disabilities. To do this we purchase a sticker and dress up in a themed manner. Sounds fun, doesn’t it. But it has me thinking. Does the purchasing of a sticker and dressing up really make a difference? Will those who participate really understand what living with a disability is like? I’m afraid I think not. That said, I’m certainly not decrying the initiative, and will participate, as I do each year, happy that my R10 will be going to charity. I’m also encouraging you all to join in please.
But would it not be better to suggest we purchase the sticker and inconvenience ourselves a little instead? I’ve had a slipped disc for about 3 months, and how my husband hasn’t divorced me after all the moaning and groaning I’ve done is anybody’s guess. My inability to perform such simple daily tasks as putting on my shoes without the need for pain killers has had me bordering on despair. Keep that in mind, I’ll get to the carers in a minute.
Let’s put this inconvenience into perspective then. Have you ever cut your finger? Can you remember how difficult it was to type, cook, even wash-up or go to the loo? What about broke a bone, say your leg. Did you find it frustrating to not be able to drive, walk, live your life as normal? Did you suddenly discover activities such as the gym were out of the question, or the chance to participate in a fun event were no longer an option?
Now can you imagine living like that for a month, two months, a year, five years, a lifetime? You wouldn’t want it, would you?
So how about this Friday you put a plaster on your finger, or put your arm in a sling and no matter what you are expected to do, keep it there. In essence learn how to live with a disability for twenty-four hours, and see how important your R10 is.
The carers then, an area of disability that is rarely considered and barely recognised – often than not they are parents who give up jobs and opportunities to support their child. Their emotional welfare pushed to levels most parents would never know.
A couple of months back I was walking in Tokai forest. Coming towards me were a family, mum, dad, new baby and young son. I was drawn to them immediately as the son was on a tricycle, the type typical of a disabled child. I knew this as my own daughter had had one, modified to suit her cerebral palsy. This young lad reminded me of my daughter and I stopped to chat to them.
I told them how my daughter had similar disabilities to their son, and that she’d recently married. We laughed as we discovered their son was attending the same school as my daughter had and how his surgeon had operated on my daughter’s hamstrings, although these days, instead of cutting the hamstrings they use botox once a year to loosen them. Amazing!
When we said goodbye, I felt as if I’d done a good deed that day. Here was a family who were facing a lot of decisions I had already dealt with. I like to think they went away with a little bit of hope that their son could lead a life beyond their care one day, or at least reasonably independent. Something many parents of disabled children find hard to comprehend.
So this Friday, put on your sticker, dress up if you will, and maybe you’ll put a plaster on your finger. But whatever you do, give it some thought, and really, really think about what it is to live with a disability. And maybe, just maybe, you could offer the carers of a disabled child a night off, or bring them a cooked meal.
Whatever you chose to do, it will make a difference.