Disability is a Human Trait

To have empathy concerning people with disabilities is the possible key to the social inclusiveness for many people with severe disabilities; this must be based on the pragmatic education of equitable logic. Empathy is the ability to understand and immerse in another person’s perspective.  For example, what we believe or think may not be the same as what really is.

So then, why is empathy so poorly understood, and frequently misunderstood?

“Choose Equality”

Somehow our understanding of political responsibility needs a fundamental rejigging. We need to redefine “advocacy” so that it is not put under constraint by corporate capitalist values. Those who are corporately responsible to implement “equity” across their welfare organisations, like senior management, should not feel that they are prevented, by some or other subtlety in corporate law, from publicly advocating just economic and income distribution. To do so will also mean promoting salary cuts at the “top end of town”. Indeed let them show that they “choose equality”!

If we want to build a just economy, with an equitable system of welfare provision, then we should encourage social welfare providers, and social welfare providers should join in the effort to develop such a self-denying approach to management!

“Choose equality!” Let us move away from slogans and “smiley face” manipulation to genuine welfare, and to genuine equity.

My Situation

The lack of empathy shown by Yooralla, has led me to experience a life without control over the last 6 and 1/2 years. Here I am, living in a group home, where most residents have some form of intellectual disability. As a result, we are all standardised and grouped together under one type of disability. When this displacement or misplacement is combined with other contextual factors such as an overworked support staff and to a large degree an incompetent management by Yooralla, you may begin to sense how I am feeling that my lack of control is now pretty well wall-to-wall chaotic.

Please do not mistake the issue here. It has nothing to do with how my views might be perceived and is all about the individuality of persons living with disability. We are, after all, those who share a diverse humanity, and it may only be our physical or intellectual disability that separates us on some evaluations from a society’s so-called norms. What I am concerned about is addressing situations that impede a person’s control of life. I am wanting to look at theories that are capable of addressing the manner in which people’s freedom is constrained. Disabled persons are only a special case of persons enduring such unrecognised social constraint.

The following is from my dear friend Bruce Wearne back in 2015, in an article he co-wrote with me:

Peter should not have to plead his own case like this. He is not hanging out to be treated as a “special case”. He is simply appealing for support workers, who take the time to understand him, who are willing to learn from him how they can learn what he is trying to communicate. He is not saying this is easy; he knows that all too well. It is not just about what disability support workers can learn from him about his condition and how to be supportive, their friendship extends in all kinds of ways just like any friendship does. Moreover, he is concerned about their situation, and in particular, their work conditions.

And so Peter is particularly concerned about a form of management that assumes that he is simply a somewhat passive recipient about what is provided to him by Yooralla. He’s keen to emphasize that he is wanting to see the emergence of a facility “ethos” in which residents (customers) are respected for their active responsibility. Being a resident does not mean passivity when it comes to promoting justice and fairness for all.

Thank you to Bruce Wearne for his empathy and understanding in helping me with this piece. And the ‘thank you’s do not end there. Chrissy, my academic support worker in helping me with editing, reading and writing. Also thank you to Peter Cross for his advocacy.




Author: petergibilisco

Researcher, author and advocate. Bachelor of Business Accounting, PhD from Melbourne University. Dealing with issues involving disability.

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