PDA's Director, Andrew Fairbairn and his wife Kaye

The One-Legged Sax Player’s view on Perception

Written by Andrew Fairbairn, PDA Director

Let’s talk about PERCEPTION.

I Work for an organization called Limbs 4 Life as a Project Coordinator.
One afternoon I was driving home from a meeting about 15 kms from my house. Most of that journey there are roadworks being done. It is normally an 80 km/h speed limit, but because of the roadworks, it was down to 40 km/h.

As I was cruising along at 40km/h, I happened to glance over and noticed new looking white Toyota Prado with a roof basket and side awning, you know, your usual 4wd set up, parked on the side of the road with another car in front. Not unusual you may say, and you would be correct, BUT, as I got closer, I noticed that said Prado, had some other, hidden additions. It had blue and red lights flashing in the front grille and also in the rear windows. It was an unmarked WA Police car. Now my perception of the vehicle had totally changed.

What you perceive is very much guided by how you think and can be defined by your recognition and interpretation of a sensory input. For an example, if at a set of traffic lights, you have a green light, you perceive, through your sense of sight, that it is ok for you to proceed.

What does it mean for those of us with physical disabilities? We may need to have additions made to the “normal” for us to be able to process that sensory input. Things like flashing lights, sounds, alarms etc. will assist hard of hearing and vision impaired people. For people with mobility issues, obvious things such as ramps and rails assist when we are navigating the community.

BUT………perception goes both ways. What able body people perceive good for us, doesn’t necessarily equate to what works for us. We, as a community of physically disabled people, need to be in the forefront of planners and designers’ thoughts and minds when they are building anything in the community. You can do this by getting involved in your Local Government Area Disability Action and Inclusion Group. You can have input through State and Federal Government Planning Groups, such as those that are put together when they build new sports stadiums, shopping centers and recreational facilities.

The more you go out in your community and exercise your right of place to that community, people’s perceptions will change, and they will see you as valued and important.

Lastly, don’t let other people’s perception of you, or our community, be the thing that stifles you. You are unique, and you bring to the table a wealth of perception and experience that only you can have.

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