Exclusion in Society
There are experiences of exclusion in society; most of them we are aware of, but like many unpleasant things, rarely do we dwell on them unless there is a dramatic shift by a large group of people, set on changing the status quo. Why is it we think it is a question of status quo? We assume it is and see protesting as the most productive means of change.
Someone once said demography is truth, so looking at disability statistically in a population we need to see figures that function as laws therefore functioning as true statements, but not necessarily as statements about the world. Taking the UK, every 1 in 5 persons is disabled, or in other words over 7 million people or 18% of the working-age population in Britain are disabled as defined as by the Equality Act 2010. More than 4.1 million disabled people are in work. Would it be better to express this by saying disabled people are more than twice likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people? Lastly, the total spending power of families with at least one disabled person is estimated at £274 billion a year. What is true, is that regardless of defining someone as disabled, statistics do not allow for a system suitable to account for their employability and inclusivity. There is a gap, and it lies in ideology.
Lack of Inclusivity in the Workplace
By calling into question the whole ideology on what is perceived as disability, lack of inclusivity in the workplace could be the key to the highly discriminatory statistic that 1 in 3 people see disabled people as being less productive than non-disabled people. Yet films and famous actors have advocated inclusivity and one among them is Kurt Yaeger. The Casting Directors Society of America has just made him their actor of the month, he is also a below-the-knee amputee. ‘’A democratic civilization will save itself only if it makes the language of the image into a stimulus for critical reflection — not an invitation for hypnosis’’, Zizek. So let us imagine the hypnotic state of those who watch the high-profile films with Kurt Yaeger and never realize that he is living proof of the antithesis of the ideological bias of what disability is and isn’t. What is the action needed to address the ‘’ideologically blind forces’’ that exist within society to exclude the disabled? More importantly how should they be fought? With technology comes brilliance of a kind that ideology cannot defeat; could we imagine a world without the voice of Stephen Hawking? Technology brought his voice and views home to us. There must be a revolution in thinking and technology together, to overcome the resisters to inclusive technology for the ideal workplace.
However, if we really think about exclusion on a more personal level, we would have to admit that we would resist protesting publicly since we would be too intimidated by social norms to do so and secondly intimate pain is not debated easily in public.
An Intimate Case
A case in point in my own family was the gradual withdrawal into silence of my aunt in her later years even with her own children. My dear uncle had died and slowly and mysteriously my aunt ceased to be the vibrant, demonstrative strong woman we had all known for years. She stopped talking and after numerous attempts to revive her former interest in others, she responded to questions with ‘’yes’’ and ‘’no’’ answers. Everyone felt excluded by her.
The shock was immense and painful; dutifully my cousins worked around it. They made the best of the situation and patiently took care of her every perceivable need until she passed away in her own chosen way, without a sound. We miss her dearly. However, I see a parallel with how a disabled person might feel when the world seems to exclude you and worse, without a fathomable reason.
The pain caused to the disabled person must be so intimate and barely tolerable that it is thankfully with the wonderful advent of technology can we address decades of exclusion with inclusion.
Who is on board for Inclusion?
It is not a question of who is on board but how? How can you make the most of technology to advance the idea that protest alone is an old-fashioned method of making real life changes for inclusion? The company I am happy to represent uses all its intelligence to do just that. CityMaaS with machine learning puts together the most practical and precise way to get the disabled out and about on a global level with no obstruction to their travel plans. For every city we show the accessible points and potential travel routes via bus or train, transport options can be checked beforehand for ease of use, regardless of the disability.
Here is where the who comes in. On the CityMaaS website with the accessibility data, on our aptly named Mobility Map, companies can become partners and promote the inclusivity features of their business on the map or incorporate the map into their own websites, depending on their choice. Better still, we can boost their inclusivity message via our marketing packages, where our social media team spend hours promoting the partner’s collaboration with us and our software. The media director behind CityMaaS is the award-winning digital strategist Alan Firmin, with a portfolio of former clients such as Coca Cola, Nissan and IKEA.
We have a special message for the property sector
We see them as vital to the practical roll-out of inclusion in real estate. Our data from Mobility Map can be used to advertise the accessibility of houses to rent or buy. It is obvious that the disabled are dramatically underserved for housing and crying out for customised searches that acknowledge them as a client segment.
CityMaaS knows full well that digitalisation is one of the biggest concerns for the world now and if you are excluded from websites due to an impairment, it is another silent inexcusable form of exclusion. The UK government laid out clear guidelines for accessible websites in 2018, making it compulsory for the public sector and here we can question the status quo. Why was digital accessibility not made compulsory for all websites? To meet the demand of genuinely inclusive company policies in business CityMaaS created Assist Me. A vital software to address inaccessibility with a plug in making the website adjustable depending on the user’s disability and providing free audits just to show companies where they are in relation to the established guidelines. No one should dispute the web guidelines, least of all the business community, they stand to gain huge revenue streams if they are more accessible.
The Slovenian Philosopher Zizek once said:
“But the excluded don't need sympathy and compassion from the privileged, they don't want others to speak for them, they themselves should speak and articulate their plight. So in speaking for them, you betrayed them even more than your uncle - you deprived them of their voice.”
One should not seek to include solely as a form of emancipation but as an unravelling of the mystery as to why people with disabilities are martyred by the able-bodied population who can’t see life being lived with an alternative force to a sole set of physical attributes. If protest is seen as the only means of change and the tools to work and play for all are not fully enabled, then where are we technologically? A true philosophy of inclusion is an opening up to the wonderful survivor mindset of the disabled that the able bodied among us might be lacking.
About the author: Niamh O’Dwyer
Niamh is an empathetic, fierce yet humble woman who is extremely passionate about the disabled community. She takes an avid interest in social criticism, especially from the world of philosophy, ranging from current debates raised by Slavoj Žižek and retrospectively by the late Rick Roderick.