Being born with a disability is certainly a hardship for many not only in the aspect of facing the challenges of the disability itself but also in societal norms. As a person with albinism, the things I face every day are no exception. My vision has always been a problem for me reading or seeing things from afar and I have consistently been sunburned when I didn’t apply for sufficient protection. Luckily, I was born and raised in a caring family that did whatever they could to provide physical and mental support.
Growing up surrounded by people who accept and respect differences has shaped me into the person I am today.
Despite the relative comfort of my experiences, most people do not have the same privilege, largely a part of the conforming societal norms, being positioned with insufficient support or acceptance to the community. In my home country, Thailand, people with a certain form of disability aren’t necessarily discriminated against by the policies themselves, but rather, discouraged by the lack of support provided at both the governmental and the communal level. These shortfalls make it extremely difficult for people with disabilities to thrive academically and professionally.
Policies and Infrastructures for people with disabilities
Not many policies or infrastructures today are very well optimized for those with disabilities like mine. This does not only apply to people with albinism specifically but also, to others including the handicapped. Walking down the streets and doing the countless activities I can do, I quickly realized that not everyone could do the same, for example, something as small as rough pavements can make it difficult for those confined to wheelchairs. Furthermore, for someone who is visually impaired like me, being able to see street signs can be a tough task that is not necessarily publicly supported. These are only a few instances of people with disadvantage face in their daily obligations that many, including myself, often take for granted.
In academic settings, I am truly grateful to be part of the school community in the United States as learning support and accommodations are provided and seen as something completely normal whereas from my hometown, it is seen as something that shows inferiority in learning abilities. The US education system is completely aware of people with any form of disabilities from visual impairments to attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and deafness.
Appropriate accommodations are provided to ensure that people with disabilities are on par with peers and being evaluated fairly. On the other hand, the norm in my home country, affected both by society and policy, discourages people with hardships such as mine to come out and seek support. As a result, most of the education policies from my home country fails to address the challenges these people and I face and thus, giving us a significant disadvantage over our counterparts.
Putting the challenges directly related to the disabilities aside, the lack of inclusivity in communities is another setback that prevents people with differences from receiving equal opportunities.
Bullying and distrimination: Result of the lack of good policies
As a result, bullying or discrimination is common for a person who deviates from societal norms. Although bullying is by no means an accepted act in any school, there are no serious enforcement and action against such problems. All these suppressions are counterproductive measures that cause people with disabilities to be mentally discouraged and hinder them to reach their full potential.
People with disabilities are no different in competency from others provided that they receive appropriate support. National policies on disability related to equal opportunities and treatments in education, activity, employment, or health care, etc. along with inclusive cultures are basic platforms to promote better living and social functioning among people with disabilities. Also, they will be able to make positive impacts and meaningful contributions to society just like any normal person.
I am hopeful that one day there will be many more people like Stephen Hawking in our society.
Peak Labs founder and collaborator of Beyond Suncare