Bonus 🎙 Members Episode transcript | Equity for People with DisabilitiesLISTEN TO THIS EPISODE
Peerada: Hi everyone, and welcome to our podcast, The Equitist. In our show, we will try to understand how a more equitable world would look like and how to get there. We will look at the roadmap on how to create a more fair world - a more united one. At this point, you may have already noticed that I am neither Andrea nor Colombe. My name is Peerada Ngamsnae, an Atlas volunteer from Thailand, and I'm here to show you guys the force driving our movements forwards. Join me every month, as I sit down and talk with fellow Atlas members from all over the world. Take a listen to today's members episode to see who my guests would be, and what kinds of issues they would like it to bring equity to.
Now on our pod, we have with us Omar. Thank you for taking your time to talk with us. Please introduce yourself to the listeners. Who are you, which country you are from and what you are doing at the moment.
Omar: Thank you so much. So nice to see you, everybody. My name is Omar. Right now, I live in the center of Spain. I live in a city called Toledo, where I study international affairs. I like to explore , all the things related with people who have been, let's say less heard in the history, like disabled people, like LGBTQ people, people who have been always taken away of history, who we haven't heard as our main priorities. So yeah. That's my main focus.
Peerada: That sounds really interesting, and so both of us are members of the Atlas community. Can you tell us what team you are working at the moment?
Omar: Right now I'm working on the Spanish team. I started around that like exactly the same day that the pandemic arrived, I remember that. So it was a way to connect with people from around the world on a really, really hard moment for everybody. I think Atlas is a really, really important movement for connecting people. I think it's a way to connect with people who will have different mentalities, who have different points of view on a topic, but now really have that mentality of going beyond differences and to try to construct beyond different mentalities.
Peerada: I agree. I have been on Atlas and I have seen so many people from so many countries. We also do activities, like community chat, right? Where we have seen like people talking about so many topics and it's so interesting. And some of them are even like so new to us, because we live in different countries and we live in like different cultures. Some of the stuff we might not even have heard about before. And we actually have a new important philosophy in Atlas here, called Equitism. Basically, Equitism is an aim towards a world where people's wellbeing is prioritized and everyone has equal access to opportunities and rights. Atlas aims to bring Equitism to lots of aspects, like political equity, gender equity, environmental equity, and such. So what is your current topic? What is your global issue of interest - the one you would like to apply Equitism to?
Omar: Well, there are many, but disabled people are always forgotten when we talk about a theme, when we talk about how people live - they are always forgotten in history. So I think it's one of the most important topics, and I think it's one of the things that I would like to always try, to take out, to think ahead on Atlas, so yeah, we need to pay a lot of attention to that.
Peerada: Yeah, what you talked about how disabled people are one of the most excluded group of people in history? Yeah, it gets me thinking in this kind of quote that I have also been hearing a lot in Thailand, in my home country, that history is often written by the more privileged people.
Omar: It's the one who write the history.
Peerada: Right. In my country, the mainstream history that people in my country get to learn, in history books, most of them are written like by our past Kings, and we seldom get to learn about the people we meet in the everyday life. Most of the story we hear in history is about the Kings and the Lords and such. So your idea about talking more about disabled people throughout history and bringing rights to them - bringing more eyes to them is a very interesting topic. So you have explained why you are passionate about disabled rights for the disabled people. Would you like to like explain to the listeners in context? Like how is it like for disabled people in your country? In Spain?
Omar: Yeah. I liked what you said, that it's like we don't pay so much attention to the history of the everyday person, you know, to the person that we have around us. At the end, disabilities is something that we don't talk about. It's a taboo topic. It's something that we see, but we don't talk about that now in many societies and that thing is also about my own country. I mean, though, that is something that you can see on the street, normally you don't treat that like something normal, like a part of somebody, of a person. We see disabled people as people who are not going to be part of some of the society, who cannot afford anything to society. And it's a big problem because we haven't seen disabilities in a way, people in the way that they can be engineers, or they can be a doctor, the more intelligent for some people. We also see them like people that we have to take care, but we don't see them like people that give us something. Also, there are many different disabilities. There are disabilities that are invisible, disabilities that are visible. At the end equities empower people, give tools to people to get to where they want to go. My country is really good in this. I will say, for example, in Europe, it's one of the best one. We have a lot of associations working on this.
Peerada: In your society, disability is a taboo. So I take that the reason why it is a taboo and not a lot of people talk about it is number one, like you said that, people in general view disabled people as people who cannot contribute to the society, people that we have to care for and we only have to give something to them, which is not true. Given the chance, they can be, like doctors, many, many occupations, right?
Omar: One of my dear friends, for some while now, she's working on women rights with disabilities, especially on their own recognition of body, and this is a big problem, you know. Because they need to see themselves being sexy for themselves. You know, something that they are learning to be sexy for themselves and to say, oh, I love my body. I love who I am. I'm not a woman. I cannot talk for them, but I have friends who are working on these. It's clearly something that nobody talks about that how a woman with disabilities needs to accept herself, her body, and also to empower herself on the feminist movement and be part of that.
Peerada: Yeah. In Thailand, around a year ago or so, an organization on disability rights are working on this similar topic. They are working and actually talking about sex for disabled people. Because disabled people also have needs, so they are talking about how disabled people also would like to enjoy sex and have romantic relationships. And that's a very interesting topic that not a lot of people talk about because it's a taboo in many societies in the beginning. People tend to overlook topics like romance and relationships. And that's really good to know that people in other countries are working about that too.
Omar: Yeah. I am really happy to see that they are working on that. I want to give you a personal case. My father is blind. My mother is not blind. And for me, it was always normal, you know, and many people ask me always like "Wow, why's your mother with your father when he's blind?" I don't know. I mean, they were always together. They love each other. And at the end, it's also part of our own insecurities that we have. We don't want to open our mind, to open to new themes. we need to try to ask ourselves, we need to look for information. We need to ask people We need to really try to get more information or need to open to more things. Because at the end, if we left this away of the debate, we are not working on it. Of course it's important when we talk about climate change, but we have topics that sometimes are not even on the agenda. We are not even on the agenda politically because we never heard about many political leaders around the world talking about this. So it's like sounded like taboo on the daily, daily life, on the political life, on everything.
Peerada: True. So, the first step to bring equity to disabled people is to like talk about it. Yeah, we have to like to think of it less of a taboo and we should shed more public lights to the disabled people. They are also people with needs, like blind people date because, well, they love each other We shouldn't view that as weird or something new. It's really normal.
Omar: Another thing that is really important. Normally all we have been watching are the paralympic games and we know many paralympic people who gets a medal, paralympic medals, but we also need to see people who have a normal life: Somebody who wants to be a, a doctor, who's not going to appear on TV, or somebody who wants to work on a pharmacy, or people who maybe don't want to study a degree are... They have their own rights. It's something that at the end, this person became a hero. Like any other person, the reason why we need to have that equities. To achieve the goals. What we need to do as a society? Give the tools - the tools to make people get their goals. And that's it. That's the big thing for me, the tools and the facilities. You need to take them as normal people who are going to give us something and not people that we need to take care of. Also, ask ask, ask, ask, if you have any questions about that.
Peerada: We have to communicate more, and disabled people need tools, to help them achieve their life goals. Talking about tools, what are the tools that are available at the moment in your country right now?
Omar: In my country, it depends so much on different levels you have, for example, people who have... what we call here, like a second disability. So, those people will have access to free museums, to a restaurant, or to go into different places. We need to evaluate them. It's difficult to create a policy because you need to focus on every single person. In Spain, we are working a lot to make disabled people feel part of the society. For example, my own father has been working like for 45 years as a teacher and there is not any problem on that, but obviously in other countries , you don't have that right. So we need to try at least in many countries to try to get those rights, those basic rights.
Peerada: Providing tools for disabled people should be more individualized, right? There's also a similar idea in the medical field as well. I have a little bit of a medical background and I have heard that providing healthcare in the future should be more individualized, because many people may have the same diseases from time to time, but each person is different from each other. The care that they need, the tools that would help them to live a normal, happy life should be tailored just for them, because they are different peoples with different DNA, different traits and such. Same goes for the disabled. It's pretty challenging, but I think it's essential for the future.
Omar: At the end, I think what we need is an open debate. Try to bring more people to discuss. Listen to the disabled people to make them show what they can really teach to society. I've never seen a disabled person in international affairs, or in the diplomatic themes. I would like to see that. I've never seen, I don't know, disabled politics.
Peerada: I would like to share as well, because my home country is Thailand and I have got a chance to live in Japan. Regarding disabled people rights, I actually see a lot of difference in between these two countries. First off, I find it interesting that when I come to Japan, I see more disabled people in everyday life more than I did in Thailand. I see more disabled people, people on like wheelchairs or people using crutches on the streets more than I saw in Thailand, because in my home country, most of the disabled people don't leave the house. Most of the time, disabled people in Thailand, don't get to walk along the streets like they do in Japan, because one, our streets, aren't really nice. We don't have nice footpaths. This pattern for like people with eyesight problems? We have those, but it is poorly maintained. I think Thai disabled people cannot go out of home that much, because they have lots of obstacles. Our government hasn't had good enough policies to assist them, to give them the tools, like you said, to get outside, to live life. But in Japan, so many disabled people are walking with us. They are going to places, just like the general population. I think Japan has provided at least more tools for the disabled than in Thailand.
Omar: I'm going to interview you for a moment. What do you think Thailand can learn from Japan? What do you think should be the main priority for the government of Thailand?
Peerada: Oh, so much. If you talk about the government of Thailand, I would need like an extra episode talking about the government of Thailand, but okay. Thailand is very notorious for like bad footpaths actually. In Bangkok, the capital itself, the paveway is really bad. You have a chance of walking into a lamppost because it's really, really poorly positioned like in the middle of the footpath. It's in the way, or maybe you have a very, very high chance of stepping into this open hole for water sewage, you can fall into that. Yeah, even if you don't have a disability, even that is hard. To think that people without disability find the footpath really hard to walk, then what about the disabled people? So that's why they can't even like get out of home in the first place. And like, um, when you asked me what I think the Thai government should do about this is... First of all, they have to invest more in creating better pathways for both disabled and non-disabled people to properly walk. They have to do a good investment in that. I think that's the start. The problem is that they haven't invested in that. They decided to invest the money elsewhere.
Omar: I also think that this is really connected on the global level with what model of cities we want for the future. People are going to live especially in the cities. What kind of things do we want for the future? How we are going to apply to make a safe place for pedestrians? I think it's so important. I think that we need to debate about that and I think it's a global challenge.
Peerada: And also I would like to go back to one of your earlier talk. You said that disability can be both visible and invisible. Do you want to like, elaborate on that?
Omar: Yeah. Yeah, I am a person with a disability. When I say this, people say "Wait, you don't look disabled." I was like, "What is looking like a disabled?" What is it in your mind that would look like a disabled? And I'm going to talk to you like, by my own perspective, but there are many ways to see it, as I said, I'm not representing anybody. I don't want to be the spoke person of anybody. If in the beginning, I say "I am disabled," people are going to say like, "You don't look disabled!" And I'm sure they won't look at me at the same way if I say, "I'm disabled," at the end. And they'll say, "How can you be able to do all of these?" And at the end, this is a problem. It's important to see that disabilites are visible, and not visible. And you don't need to say "I'm disabled," to every person that you meet. If you don't want to say it, don't say that. If you want to say that, you can say that. It's something normal, you don't need to justify yourself. We need to change that mentality, also.
Peerada: I agree. I agree wholeheartedly. When you said that the moment you said that "I'm disabled," and then people will start thinking, like, "How can you do that?", I think we have to start thinking that disabled people are also capable. It also goes back to that question, like, how did your parents date? They can, because they are capable. People should think that disability is not a taboo and disabled people are capable of stuff, like everyone.
Omar: Yeah, I think disability is something that is in our daily life and you feel right? Disabled people are a couple- we need to try to open the mind. Ask, ask ,ask, a little more everyday, everyday, everyday. I don't think that we'll know everything. Try to not judge people, because at the end, we don't know what is inside of that person.
Peerada: Disability should not be viewed as taboo and we should all be viewed as capable people. We should communicate often. We should talk about it more often and we should provide each other tools to live our life to the fullest. Yeah, I think both of us agree on that. Disability maybe is not apparent all the time. It could be invisible. We had such a nice time talking about that.
Omar: I really appreciate talking with you. Thank you.
Peerada: Thank you to you too. So, to wrap this up, what would you like to, to say to the listeners, who are thinking of joining Atlas?
Omar: From wherever you are, whatever language you speak, whatever you think, welcome to Atlas. We would be really happy to have you on board with us. I mean, I'm so happy to be part of the team. You laugh a lot, you meet a lot of people. You try to change the world. You also have fun. I can say that you have, will have lot of happy moments on, on the community. So yeah, don't hesitate to join. Don't wait to join.
Peerada: I am looking forward to the day that I will be doing a member's episode and then this member comes up and then they say that "I joined Atlas because of Omar!" I think your aspects and your views on disabled rights is very inspiring. It could inspire people who are listening to come and join and make this a more equitable world for disabled people and everyone. Thank you so much today, Omar. Thank you so much for this first episode.
Omar: Thank you for being such an amazing host.
Peerada: Thank you. So have a nice day.
The Equitist Podcast is produced by Atlas, the global grassroots movement uniting people to create an equitist society. It is regularly hosted by our co-founders Andrea Venzon and Colombe Cahen-Salvador. This is Peerada Ngamsnae, your occasional host for our members episodes and sound editor along with Colombe. You can support our show by subscribing, giving reviews, and leaving comments on anywhere you get the podcast. Please also tell your friends about it. To support the movement, you can go to atlasmovement.org and become a volunteer, or donate to our cause. Keep your revolutionary equitist minds fresh, and see you next time.