Content Warning: terrorism, domestic violence and able – ism

There has been a lot of sickening violence in the news lately: Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the bombing at a Brussels train station, a French couple murdered, with only their child surviving, the Orlando Pulse Nightclub attack and most recent, the Nice attack and a knife attack on a church in Rouen, France, where a Christian priest has been reportedly killed – possibly decapitated. I want to focus on one violent attack in Japan that has been mentioned in the media, although not discussed in depth on the major media outlets.

A man in Sagimahara stormed a disability service armed with knives and proceeding to kill 16 people and leaving another 19 wounded. His reasoning? According to “The Guardian”, he said:

It is better that disabled people disappear

So, if this is true, this was a deliberate attack on people with a disability. This reflects an attitude that is obviously too prevalent around the world – that people with a disability shouldn’t be here, that their lives are of no or little value to society. This idea that if you become disabled, you  are better off dead. (not all disability advocates saw the film “Me before you”, in that way, but it has been a major criticism).

 

Let’s talk able – ism in the media and in society in general. Throughout history,people with a disability have been ostracised, abused and left for dead at the hands of families and the wider community. In other instances, disability has been forced on people, particularly women as a means of subjugation. The barbaric act of foot binding in China comes to mind, which was regularly practiced until it was outlawed in the 1930’s. It’s still believed that it may still occur in some rural communities.

Domestic violence is also a all – too – real issue that constantly faces people with a disability. According to the Better Health Channel, women with a disability face higher rates of domestic violence, mostly from male partners/ spouses (43%) and a parent (15%). It’s harder victims with a disability to speak up and get justice because they often rely on caregivers/ spouses/ other family members to tell the story about what is going on – and, as indicated above, these people are often the abusers themselves.

 

These stories barely make the news, and when they do, the media either ignores the fact that disabled people are targeted, or in the case of the murder – suicide in Lockhart, NSW, the story quickly turns somewhat sympathetic to the able – bodies killer or abuser – the victim is said to be angry, demanding, causing the perpetrator to go over the edge and do the unthinkable. Needless to say, this isn’t always the case.

 

Violence isn’t the only problem that people with a disability face. They are much more likely to be unemployed than able – bodied people and are more likely to be in poverty. People with a disability are also under represented in areas like media. We did have the late comedian, Stella Young, but other than that, in Australia, disabled people in the media are, quite frankly rarely seen.

 

It’s not all doom and gloom.The 2012 London Olympics/ Paralympics saw a shift in attitudes toward people with a disability in sport. The attitude changed from one of sympathy to respect for Australian Paralympians. They were seen as dedicated, hard working and worthy of admiration.

But, there is still a way to go. Unemployment needs to go down, support in education needs to be consistent and, most importantly, people with a disability need to be seen as humans; not charity cases, not someone lesser – than, but human beings. There needs to places in the public that people with physical disabilities can easily access, including those who rely on a wheelchair. Allowing people with a disability to be independent and contributing members of society is what is needed. The whole narrative surrounding people with a disability needs to change. Only then, will we not have an incident like what they’ve had in Japan.

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