“We the 15, we are people with disabilities, we are 15 percent of the world” People with disabilities are 15 percent of the world’s population, meaning that 3 out of 20 of us have a disability. “Disability” is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The group of people with disabilities is the only minority group that anyone can join at any point in their life.
I am a person with a disability, I am blind. Although I am a person with a disability, I am also a wife, I have a full time job that I enjoy, go to the movies, relish dinner with friends, practice yoga and belong to a book club. So yes, I am a person with a disability, but that is not all I am, I am a person first and live a full life. It is important to understand that being a person with a disability is not extraordinary, special or inspirational because we are humans and live life in the same way that our non-disabled peers do. It is true that I read with my ears and I use a cane to walk through the city where I live, but neither of these means I have “special needs” or that there is something “brave,” this is just my life.
It is very common for non-disabled people to make assumptions of people with disabilities and their needs. A person can come up and take your arm or waist without any preamble or warning and forcibly walk you in a direction you did not want to go. No one likes to have their needs assumed and taken for granted, everyone likes to be asked before anyone takes any actions affecting their person. People with disabilities are people first and must be treated with the same respect, we know what we need and when we need it. Whether the disability is visible or invisible we are all human.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games launched the #WeThe15 to initiate change over the next decade by bringing together the biggest coalition of international organizations from the world of sports, human rights, policy communications, business, arts, and entertainment. #WeThe15 will campaign to break down barriers, a global movement that is publicly campaigning for disability visibility, inclusion and accessibility.
María Mónica Villarreal