Unconscious Bias: Diversity in Disability

“I’m not the best judge of character but I acknowledge we all fall short. I have my fair share of shortcomings.”

It’s been two days of magnificent work collaborating with amazing people both within my team at Ryculture Health and Social Innovation and partner organizations in the just concluded YouTH Voices Summit that took place on 3rd and 4th December 2020. Through the day’s I have been amazed by the work being done by young people to improve access to healthcare services in their communities and empowering themselves for societal development. This melts my heart and looking back even though it has been a hectic moment, I am proud & delighted at the progress made to bring this to life. Of all I am indebted to the amazing speakers, partners, team mates and of all the super energetic and active participants we’ve had. Thank you for making this happen. Unfortunately, this isn’t the subject of this piece. I did fail a section of the youth that I can’t say I didn’t know and this weighs on me. I hope to do better next time.

On Wednesday 2nd December, I received an email from one of our registered participants to give provision for sign language interpretation which out of the hustle and bustle of the last minute I failed to do. Looking back at the outcome and contributions of the session, I feel responsible for leaving out the deaf yet I acknowledge quiet well their contribution in our society. Having a brother who is deaf I appreciate and relish the care and protection he has always accorded me and my younger siblings knowing that he is responsible for us. Unfortunately, having been so accustomed to everything working seamlessly and getting to interact in our spaces my unconscious bias and predisposition to design with the masses made me leave this critical bit out.

I acknowledge that in developing solutions to drive meaningful transformation in communities, we need to work with every segment of the community. People living with disability most often are left out not because we want to but because we make decisions without having them come to the picture most of the times. This superficial blindness to a part of us is hurtful and disappointing. Having siblings with disability I expected myself to know better and do better but then when it came to be, I realized I had let them down in a big way even after being reminded.

With the benefit of hindsight, I believe it is important for us to look into ways of including and mainstreaming people with disability into developmental conversations, developing solutions with them and most importantly ensuring they play a role in shaping our future. They may not have the privilege of experiencing all that we do and rather than this being a challenge, it’s a hidden treasure because they are cushioned from group thinking and mentality that may derail our critical thinking to play within the confines of what we perceive normal. They think out of the norms and that’s been missing and I wish we can do this moving forward in all our spaces. My brother, Steve at the outset of COVID-19, took his time to do a video to enlighten the deaf on how to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19 and heeding government directives especially around the curfew which were turning violent. In his work I believe he saw beyond out general rhetoric but looked into the risk this population had by not having access to the information, being at risk and in a country where the police communicate after taking action on their hands. I got reminded of this from a story by Mel Edwards in the compilation done by Facebook on Build Brilliant Brands featuring marketing experts. Even though it was considered a part of the marketing strategy in a company, to me I feel it’s a moral and social imperative.

“When you fall short, acknowledge your shortcomings, learn from them and work on doing better moving forward.”

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