A guest article by Christian Camilleri.
I’ve always thought that we need to take baby steps when it comes to changing attitudes. I believe that changing the disability accessibility icon to one that is more dynamic is a small step in the right direction and will ultimately result in a huge splash.
The Maltese people, especially those who have never met disabled people, might have the impression that disability marks the end of the world for the person experiencing it and for his/her family. From my experience as a disability rights activist and as a 24 year old who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, I have found that those who do not reach their full potential are often surrounded by people who have a very narrow and limited perspective of people with a disability. Unfortunately, some people with a disability who find themselves in this situation lack the empowerment to overcome such limited perspectives and therefore to do what they believe is right for them, notwithstanding what those around them might say.
Some might see staying idle as the best option; that way you will always feel safe, and few will be able to accuse you of making any mistakes or miscalculations. But what about trying and failing, to retry time and time again until you finally succeed, and to learn from any mistakes you make? Doesn’t this apply to non-disabled people as much as it does to people with disability?
Reverting back to the new accessibility icon, this represents a step towards being able to achieve all of what I have said through a more progressive way of thinking that will bring a change in attitude towards both people with a disability and the disability itself. In fact, this icon represents a more realistic re-branding of disabled people. Through symbols, images, and various other media, we have learned to view disabled people as tragic and charitable cases. We now have to learn to view them more realistically as proactive people, capable of enjoying life and reaching their own goals through their own abilities. I’m sure that the new accessibility icon as well as the President’s decision not to show TV spots which portray the lives of disabled people as tragic in order to attract the sympathy of tele-viewers during Istrina will help improve things in this regard.