As a person with a disability I often wonder why we, people with disability, are still denied equal rights in 2017…
The Disability Discrimination Act was enacted in 1992, however disability discrimination occurs on a daily basis in our society. Professor Roberto Saba wrote an article expressing similar sentiments, entitled ‘Around the Globe People with Disabilities Face Unseen Discrimination we must do better’.
In this article, Professor Saba discusses the prevalence of structural inequality, experienced by people with disability on a worldwide scale.
Professor Saba believes that to understand why people with disability do not have equal rights, one needs to understand the difference between legal equality and real equality.
Legal equality involve citizens having the right to fair treatment under the law. However, real equality requires governments dismantling structures that perpetuates disadvantage among minority groups. One way governments can achieve this is by implementing policies such as affirmative action (preferential treatment) for minority groups.
Read the article here
In Argentina, there is no formal or legal barrier to women becoming judges. But according to a 2013 report, 56% of Inferior Judges, 67% of Appeal Judges and 78% of State Justices in Argentinean courts are men. Why should this be the case? The answer is, of course, structural inequality.
Currently in Australia people with disability experience severe levels of disadvantage in comparison to people without a disability. In a submission by the National Disability Services Victoria (NDSV), they stated that 43% of people with a disability rely on income support as their main source of income.
They claimed that 53% of people with a disability are employed compared to 83% of people without a disability.
Employees with disability have a significantly lower income of $400 per week compared with $750 per week for people without a disability. The NDSV wrote that the government has a large role to play in addressing these grim statistics.
What I’ve discussed so far may appear discouraging. However, it is beyond time for the government to acknowledge and dismantle the structural barriers people with disability face.
A researcher Mark Sherry claimed that the removal of structural barriers requires government investment in transport, buildings, communication and education infrastructure. Another researcher Rose Galvan claimed that further structural changes are required to dismantle the barriers people with disability face.
These changes may include adaptions to the built environments to make public places physical accessible. This requires a great investment by the government, however the question remains will governments be willing to do this?
In fact some may claim that government occasionally benefits from maintaining some of the structural disadvantage confronted by people with disability.
Researcher Alan Morris states that in the current labour market, values of profit margins, efficiency and productivity are predominant, making it difficult for people with disability to compete with other employees. Some policy makers prefer economic rationalism, so equal opportunities for people with disability in the workplace wouldn’t appeal to them.
Is it all doom and gloom?
Although, it may seem doom and gloom, people with a disability have come a long way in trying to achieve equality. However, there is a long way to go before we are all on an even par.
We must urge policy makers to eradicate structural barriers preventing us to achieve equality. I strongly believe it can happen. I know that professor Saba is right in saying people with disability need real equality.
Let’s start the discussion and turn the dream of real equality for people with disability into a reality!