Forget Disability day, how about Disability year

On the eve of yet another “International Disability day”, (3 December), I find myself, as I  always do  at this time of year, pondering the point  of this day. Like many thinkers in the area of Disability mainstreaming, I tend to be rather cynical about the day and am inclined to ask, why pay attention to Disability on just this day? What about the other 364 days?

I guess you could say the same about “16 days of activism  against  violence toward women and children”. Its true you can get your teeth into 16 days more than you can with 1 day,  but its still only 4% of a year! So what does that say about our attitude  toward the more uncomfortable, unpleasant, inconvenient  and unacceptable truths that plague our societies?

How seriously do we take our problems and rise to  our challenges?

The answer is we don’t. especially not with Disability.  the reason is that on that day, we will be too busy  patting ourselves on the back about misguided and hollow “successes”. Having tea parties where we will be  alternatively “inspired” by sports personalities and lied to by vacuous politicians, sprouting spin and missing the point.       

And on the 4th of December we will return to “normal?” And for the next 364 days will forget that only 200 blind youngsters will write matric, and that less than 70 so called special schools will offer matric while still less will offer exemptions. We will ignore the fact that still fully 65% of Disabled children wont see the inside of a school.

We will overlook  that notwithstanding  a largely ignored Employment Equity act, there will still be over 95% unemployment  for persons with Disabilities. We will continue to disregard the significance of the need for accessible public transport,  housing,  health facilities  and general every day amenities.

No, I am afraid, only when we can demonstrate, consistent, sustained, committed energy and planning and activity with genuine political will, 365 days a year, will we be able to celebrate a Disability day.



Our attitude towards Disability mainstreaming reminds me of the difference between a lazy Schoolboy and a farmer.


Picture a lazy schoolboy  at school, doing just enough work to get out of trouble, leaving things to the last minute, avoiding tasks or getting away with out doing them altogether.

Exam time comes around, huge panic, tension, too much work to study everything, swot the wrong stuff, sit for the exam, wow this is hard! Fail on his ear.


Now imagine if a farmer  responded to his tasks  like a schoolboy.

Wake up late, don’t feel like going out in the cold today. Forget to feed the stock or plan the next crop, it can keep.

Blow the money for seed on a new car instead.

Procrastinate  on planting, feeding, harvesting, oh well, I am sure it will be ok in the end.

Dying and Hungry cattle . Poor crop this year. Wonder why?


Its up to us if we as a society  want to continue  responding to this crisis like lazy schoolboys or responsible farmers.



This blog is dedicated to the memory of Colin Eglin, veteran progressive politician, liberal thinker and friend  who passed away during the writing of these words.  


Jeremy Opperman

December 2013

3 thoughts on “Forget Disability day, how about Disability year

  1. I really appreciate you articulating so well the frustrations and challenges experienced by the disabled on a daily basis. As the parent of a child who is classified learning-disabled, I agree wholeheartedly that one day a year might be fine for appeasing one’s feelings of guilt, but does nothing to address the fact that there is inadequate thought, funding and general support for people with disabilities.

  2. thank you Jeremy for incisively lighting up my blind area. Your impact is to wake me up and enable me to ask more questions that matter in my own environment. Gratitude to you. Maryse

  3. It seems to me that to dedicate a day for those who are seen to be less than adequate human beings is undermining and devaluing. I assume the days are to show how we value ‘them’, be they people with disablities, women, children , those with hiv/AIDS etc, as a society little value is placed on them and so it becomes an exercise in differentiation and separateness. What will it take for us to live and accept wholistically and have days were we commerate the revered?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s