Don’t Get Mad, Get Moving
Thursday, 28th September 2017 at 8:34 am
Many people still believe if a disability isn’t visible it doesn’t exist, writes Bill Gamack, CEO of EPIC Assist, as he reflects on the fallout of the “Ashy Bines’ saga.
Gold Coast fitness guru Ashy Bines recently made headlines when she parked her car in a disability parking spot, later defending the move as acceptable because, “her gym has no members with disability”.
After a moment of disappointment, I considered Ms Bines’ statement and realised she is by no means alone in her assumptions around disability.
The reality is, many people still believe if a disability isn’t visible and obvious to the passer-by in the street, it doesn’t exist. And that’s a problem.
I don’t believe there was any ill-intent behind Ms Bines’ comments, but there is certainly an opportunity for her words to act as a catalyst for conversation, so we may all become more educated and informed.
The truth is, disabilities can be both visible and invisible. Disabilities are not black and white; even people with the same disability can have vastly different experiences. A disability can be something that a person lives with all day every day, or something that can affect them in different ways at different times.
Saying “no one here has a disability” is particularly problematic, especially as many people with invisible disabilities choose not to disclose for fear of becoming the object of damaging stereotypes.
Ms Bines has a significant public platform for disseminating her messages, as do many other individuals in the media spotlight. And the issue is, when influential people make uninformed assumptions and comments, people listen.
We live in a time when words and phrases like “wheelchair-bound”, “suffering from” and “victim of” are still commonplace in the media. That needs to stop, now. These words serve to perpetuate the narrative that people with disability should be pitied. It says people with disability are always going to be at a disadvantage, never able to achieve as highly as others. And that’s just not true.
It’s up to everyone to educate themselves, and make sure they are part of moving society forward and levelling the playing field for people with disability. There is no shortage of resources and voices out there that will happily help you on this quest.
I’ve seen a lot of blame and shame in this whole “Ashy Bines saga”, and I do understand where people are coming from. But rather than getting mad, let’s get moving.
Let’s get moving on an educational journey to demonstrate that disability comes in many forms. And most importantly, demonstrating that disability does not mean “less”, it just means different. And different is good.
About the author: Bill Gamack has been CEO of disability employment not for profit EPIC Assist for four years, and is passionate about helping people with disability secure meaningful, sustainable work. Bill also has family experience with disability, and understands the challenges faced by participants and families in seeking the services needed to achieve success.