Living with a learning disability (cognitive and psychological disabilities) or stating that you are disabled, is a daunting thought for many individuals from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, due to the stigmas and inequalities associated with it.
Most people from BME communities do not understand or accept disability as part of life. For this reason, disability is often frowned upon or considered to be a result of something else.
In 2015, BBC (Sophie Morgan) published an article which discussed how a certain BME community “imported traditional beliefs to shape the way they explain disability”. It was reported that, for many people within this particular group “disability was considered not a physical or mental impairment, but in fact a spiritual sickness or curse that could either be healed by prayer or by confinement, and in some cases by physical violence”. Therefore, the response to people living with disabilities and their families included deliverance and sacrifices in some ethnic groups.
Although the article above discusses disability in a third world country, it has to be acknowledged that most immigrants now living in the UK have migrated from third world countries or are off generations from third world countries. For this reason, “traditional” views about disability are still active and at times practiced. Many BME communities are heavily driven by faith and religion, this sometimes causes individuals to agree or believe that, any condition or behaviour outside societal norms is a result of a spiritual component or sinful deed committed by a person.
Although these “traditional” views might be diluted due to education (providing better understanding about the cause of disabilities) and consequences/prosecution within the UK, it is not completely eliminated as these “traditional views” have been embedded and reinforced from early stages through generations.
“Over three-quarters of people with learning difficulties from black and minority ethnic communities in Britain are struggling without support, according to the Valuing People Report” (The Children Society.2011) . A learning disability can be defined as a “reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities”. This difficulty with everyday activities alongside managing stigmas from our communities makes it impossible for people to openly talk about their condition. This lack of awareness then causes limitations in support service available for BME people living with disabilities.
Our “traditional” views and attitudes have an adverse effect on people living with disabilities. This often leads “to negative consequences such as low self-esteem and reduced participation”. People who feel stigmatised and discriminated against because of their disability at times, avoid going to places, socialising, or even leaving their home which in turn, causes isolation and exclusion from society.
How can we as a community help ourselves and each other?
Self-Education: Online research and information about disability:
- Book: Disability and the Black Community- by Sheila D Miller
- Book: Don’t Stop the Music by Robert Perske
- Book Owning it: Stories About Teens With Disabilities edited by Donald Gallo
- Book: Staring back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out
- Book The Speed of Dark-by Elizabeth Moon (2002)
Through supporting other organisations addressing and bringing about equality, support and services for people living with disabilities.
- Engage Tool Kit
- National Black Disability Coalition (NBDC)
Interacting and integrating with persons living with learning disabilities:
Individuals learn through experiences (Kolb. simplypsychology.2013). Interacting with people living with disabilities, observing behaviours, asking question to build on knowledge will help shape and eliminate some of these “traditional” views which should help create a united community.
References and Further Reading