Have you ever wondered why you don’t see many babies and toddlers with disabilities crossing your path when you’re out and about? I find myself frequently pondering on this question, especially on family days out. Before having my youngest son – who has Spina Bifida – I didn't realise how privileged I was when taking out my eldest who doesn’t have any special needs to a restaurant, shopping or even just to our local playground. Those outings that seemed so standard at the time have now become a little more complicated and need a lot of preparation beforehand. The more complicated the needs of the child determines the intensiveness of the planning for a day out.
Parents with disabled children ultimately want what all parents want when it comes to their children however, majority of the time our lives seem like more of a social obstacle course in my opinion. Having a child with special needs is demanding, but extremely rewarding in ways I couldn't even begin to explain. That child has a right to be included in society, with full inclusive access to all facilities and services that are provided to all children.
Inclusion should not just be about finding obstacles that people with disabilities face and then amending them, rather it is including those people’s needs on the government's agenda from the get-go as a way of living not a problem to be solved. For example, playgrounds are designed in parks for fun and play and through that a child’s social and emotional development is enhanced. When a special needs child enters that playground, society is sending that child and his family a message that they do not belong. Losing a sense of belonging massively effects a person’s identity and those constant enforced restrictions that welcome them everywhere they go will eventually result to isolation. Policy makers need to review the impact of neglecting the needs of disabled people on society as a whole.
Although we as a society may not all be in a position to have an input in policy formation, it does not mean we do not have the power to make a difference and really change things for the better. Possessing a tunnel vision mindset in today’s world only increases division and ignorance between people. If ever an individual or a group of people quality of life is under threat it should be our responsibility as a collective to challenge those threats and at least attempt to rectify them.