Australia

‘Don’t look past us’: Greens senator criticises ‘ableist’ disability awareness campaign

Highlights
  • A new International Day of People with Disability campaign calls on Australians to “look beyond disability”.
  • Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John rebuked the new Australian campaign, calling it “garbage”.
  • One Twitter user said “all people do is #LookBeyond us”.
Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John has delivered a stern rebuke of a new Australian campaign for International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD), accusing it of ableism.
Ahead of IDPWD this Saturday, a new campaign was launched calling on Australians to “look beyond disability”.

In a post shared on social media, the campaign said: “We want to acknowledge and celebrate disability, but also encourage the community to #lookbeyond and discover the talents, skills and interests of individuals with disability across Australia”.

Senator Steele-John criticised the campaign during a speech in the Senate on Thursday.
“This government wouldn’t tell First Nations people ahead of the International Day of First Nations people to look beyond their skin colour,” he said.
“This government wouldn’t tell a woman ahead of International Women’s Day to look beyond their gender”.

The senator, who lives with a disability and is a disability rights advocate, called on Australians to try something “radical” instead of “looking beyond disability”.

He closed his address by saying “to address ableism we must authentically engage disabled people”.
“To our allies and supporters see us, don’t look past us.”

The campaign and its slogan “look beyond disability” has also faced criticism by some in the community, labelling it “ableist” and “problematic”.

One Twitter user replied saying “all people do is us”.
The #LookBeyond campaign has also received some positive support from members of the people with disability community.

With a handful of individuals sharing their experiences of living with a disability in comments shared on social media.

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, 14 February 2019. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas via APP Image

A spokesperson from the Department of Social Services told SBS News that the campaign was intended to be a “conversation starter”.

“The video encourages the community to ‘look beyond’ to see the whole person and their unique experiences and perspectives,” they said, adding that the positive feedback they have received from the campaign has outweighed the negative.

The spokesperson said they wanted “people to listen and learn from lived experience of disability, whether it’s visible or invisible”.

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