Have you ever wondered why you don’t see many special needs babies and toddlers 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 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 are determines the intensiveness of the planning for a day out.
Parents with special needs 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.
We all have become accustomed to seeing more and more of that wheelchair logo around, which is unquestionably a step forward towards the right direction if you like. However there are many issues that have been overlooked regarding disability. For example from my own personal experience I have noticed from toddler age up until infant age there isn’t anything available to use for changing purposes in public places. I have seen shocking photos on Facebook groups of parents having to use the floor of a public toilet to lay their child down on. When the need for disabled toilets was discussed why weren’t all ages taken into account? These are considered to be basic human needs as well as human rights. Issues such as these are exactly what pushes parents with special needs children to preserve their dignity as well as their child’s and just stay at home.
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’s 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