TL:DR #17 Disability Inclusion – Collective Understanding and Effort

Everyone is Affected, More Can be Done

Although there is plenty of credible evidence that the world has progressed, and societies have evolved on aggregate for the better[1], there is still much that individuals, groups and states can do to eliminate irrational inhuman behaviour and disseminate empathetic supportive values into critical aspects of day to day and long-term life. Over 1 billion people live with some form of disability and almost everyone is likely to experience some form of disability on a temporary or permanent basis in their lifetime[2].

Mindset to Understand Range of Disabilities, Eliminate Stigma

Therefore, improving physical and thought-based approaches to disability and inclusion in all aspects of interaction in our lives is a mindset that should be embedded within us from an early age, and instilled into young, middle-aged and senior people alike to make an impact. This requires an education and understanding of:

(i)the range of disabilities that humans are subject to
(ii)recognition and behavioural adjustment to eliminate stigma and discrimination

In business, much weight has been placed on debating the purpose of a firm and the extent to which a pluralistic or wide-thinking approach to who should benefit from a firm’s objectives and actions. Although there has always been a movement of resistance against pluralism, often framed with justifications referencing that outside of business there is plenty of room to create enterprises and carry out altruism, or that doing good will inevitably be a by-product of economic success.

In life, in order to encourage more progressive attitudes, debating the ‘place’ in a flowchart of theoretical objectives isn’t necessarily going to benefit disabled persons in the short term, and may remain confined to inaccessible textbooks and unfriendly-to-the-visually-impaired websites. Instead, some direct action is called for to break down barriers[3].


Bangkok – a Great City for the Non-Disabled

Oh you live in Bangkok”; “Ah – you like cities”; “Ooh – there are lots of things to do in Bangkok” – phrases which carry some admiration for what is a great city in many respects. However, 13 years after Thailand ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008[4], Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand remains under a critical spotlight, as are many other places on our planet, for not having done nearly enough to improve even the most basic facilities of access and environment for disabled persons[5]. Being proud of a city or a place, must be underpinned by being proud of the effort to be inclusive and help others, burying prejudice, ignorance and embracing empathy.

Culture and Stigma – Thailand, U.K., Germany and Elsewhere

Historically, culture has been a barrier to improving societal approach to disability. In Thailand, disabled persons were and in some cases still are viewed as objects of ‘pity’, viewed as ‘handicapped’ and hidden to avoid ‘embarassment’ or ‘shame’[6]. Elsewhere, the administered drug ‘Thalidomide’, a drug used to combat ‘morning sickness’ in pregnant women, resulted in musculoskeletal problems and pain; mental health problems including depression and anxiety; hearing, sight and dental problems; and other health problems[7]. It was only in 2010 and 2012 that weak apologies were issued by the inventor, business and states that were complicit in damaging the lives of many under their care[8]. These are significant issues, but represent only a small proportion of the experiences of circa 1 Billion persons affected by disabilities.

Renewed Initiatives and Inclusive Action – Legal Practice/Arbitration

There are many organisations and individuals, and to be fair to certain state officials – some civil workers who are trying to make a difference and change embedded misguided beliefs and policies. This, fortunately, includes legal practice and the field of international arbitration.

The International Chamber of Commerce, under the recently appointed leadership of Ms. Claudia Salomon, has recently launched a taskforce on Disability Inclusion and International Arbitration, the purpose of which is to ensure that the ICC’s dispute resolution services meet the needs of all practitioners. Ms. Salomon, during the recent ICC Commission meeting, cited a situation where a colleague had been working lengthy hours on a case and had suffered mental and physical distress during a critical hearing due to a diabetic condition, which could have been avoided by early enquiry, identification, and accommodation of the disability.

This type of situation should resonate highly within the legal profession, where often bravado and prestige is attached to “burning the midnight oil”, fortunately now being attacked as a concept with renewed vigour following the post-pandemic shift in attitudes to working and wellbeing.

Actively Adopting and Implementing Inclusive Values

One of my sporting heroes and role models I have promoted to my children is Dylan Alcott[9]. Dylan is an Australian wheelchair tennis player, born in 1990 with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord, which although removed, left Dylan a paraplegic. Since then, he has excelled in tennis, being the third professional tennis player and only male player to win the calendar-year Golden Slam – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Aside from this, Dylan is an accomplished basketball player, has a Commerce Degree from the University of Melbourne and works a radio host and motivational speaker. He launched “Ability Fest”[10] a universally accessible music festival including quiet areas for people with sensory disabilities and sign language interpreters.

Dylan has made a huge and positive impact in the sporting and global community through his positive mindset and commitment. One quote reveals part of his views on society and achievement:

“The biggest thing is that for every one thing you can’t do, there are 10,000 others you can. For every one idiot to give you a hard time, there are 10,000 others worth your time”[11].

Instead of assuming that the person we are interacting with is not one of the one Billion disabled people, we should perhaps take the view they might be and we are not aware. This should heighten our self-awareness and reduce the idiocy that Dylan Alcott referred to, thereby improving our minds, the experience of others and further our Pinkian enlightenment, now[12].

[1] Steven Pinker Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason; Science; Humanism and Progress (Viking 2018)

[2] World Health Organisation Disability and Health (see: 24 November 2021 last accessed 4 December 2021)

[3] Ibid 2.

[4] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Status of Ratification Interactive Dashboard (see:

[5] Renaud Meyer & Jyri Jarviaho More Must Be Done For Those With A Disability (Bangkok Post Online 4 December 2021 see: last accessed 4 December 2021)

[6] Donruedee Srisuppaphon, Arnon Sriboonroj, Wachara Riewpaiboon & Viroj Tangcharoensathien Effective Implementation of the UNCRPD by Thailand State Party: Challenges and Potential Remedies (BMC International Health and Human Rights Vol. 17 Article Number 15 2017) see pp.3 and also reference footnotes 5. W Petchkong Disability Civil Society Network: Identity Formation in Health System Reform Process (Nonthaburi: Society and Health Institute 2005 in Thai language), and 6. P Kata The Biopolotics and Disabled Body: The History of the Construction of the Ambiguous Citizen (Nonthaburi: Society and Health Institute 2014 in Thai language) see:

[7] Elizabeth Newbronner, Caroline Glendinning & Ruth Wadman The Health and Quality of Life of Thalidimode Survivors As They Age – Evidence From a UK Survey (PLoS One 14(1) 16 January 2019)

[8] Press Association Thalidomide Scandal: 60-Year Timeline (The Guardian Online see: 1 September 2012)

[9] See:

[10] See:

[11] Hamish McLachlan What You Didn’t Know About Paralympian Dylan Alcott (Herald Sun 4 June 2021)

[12] ibid 1.

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