Acknowledging societal misconceptions about disability - and a man that is leading that change

Acknowledging societal misconceptions about disability – and a man that is leading that change

One of the most powerful uses of social media, for me, has been the ability to filter who I follow, to ensure my newsfeeds are packed out with exciting and dynamic influence. A firm believer that we are all the sum of those we surround ourselves with, social media allows me to digitally distil the information I receive to come from the people who inspire me — a powerful tool for personal development.

Today, I discovered a new inspiration. Chris Soukup, 38-years old, a third-generation member of the deaf community who runs brilliant non-profit CSD — Communications Service for the Deaf. Challenging misconceptions about deaf people since the 1970s, Chris Soukup understands the frustrations the deaf community faces — even seeing his grandfather’s farm taken away because of financial difficulties which arose when a banker believed a deaf man could not operate a farm.

He’s seen deaf children in isolated education environments and unemployment rates of deaf people at unacceptably high levels relative to the rest of society – and sees countries like India with 18 million deaf people with just 250 sign language interpreters. Chris Soukup’s inspirational work is a reminder of the need for change. CSD helps alleviate the unexpected roadblocks of deafness — from placing a phone call to even applying for a loan — and serves to cultivate a culture of adaptability and innovation in the digital age to help deaf people become a success.

The worst thing about disability is people see that before they see you

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Disability is the largest and most underrepresented minority in the world. As media, politics and business rightly rush to equalise the balance of racial and gender diversity, it remains the case that most of us have never seen a Hollywood movie with a disabled actor playing a disabled character, or had a Board of Directors with a disabled face within. And perhaps even the word ‘disabled’ is wrong — a dis prefix offers a negative connotation from the off.

In fact, at times the word is plainly inaccurate. Can we generalise a man with such phenomenal ability as Stephen Hawking with a word which means ‘not able’ — his body may have functioned differently, but in other ways — mentally — he was immensely able. And in this instance, Derren Brown meets a blind man who has developed a supernatural ability to identify very accurately the objects around him purely through a reflection of sound. This is a different ability — a super ability.

A reminder for me today – we must question the biases conditioned into our subconscious minds and reframe the way we think about those that live in a society which hasn’t been designed for them.

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