According to the Bill of Rights, everyone has the right to equality. But what does this mean? Everyone is unique and has their own set of needs, especially people with disabilities. So how can we all be the same? Simply put, it means that we all have the right to be on an equal footing. So equality doesn’t really mean “the same as,” it means to be given what we need to have our rights upheld. People with mental illness, psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities have to be given what they need to place them on this equal footing. An important example of when and how this must be done is in the right to education.

The right to education is provided for in the Constitution. It states that everyone has a right to basic education and to access to higher education. Government has put together laws and policies to make sure everyone can access education, but these are not always well-implemented. This means that all too often, people with disabilities do not get what they need to learn. There is a view that people with disabilities are incapable and cannot learn as well as those who are non-disabled. This is not true! When provided with the correct devices and environment, people with mental illness, psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities can achieve great things. This is called the right to reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable accommodation is about providing people with disabilities with what they need in order to work and study efficiently. It might include devices that assist you or it might include things like breaking up tasks into smaller parts, gradually increasing workload little by little after you have been absent for some time, being placed in a small class, and having extra time for tests and exams. The idea behind reasonable accommodation is that it should not place an unfair burden on the school, the teachers, or government. A balancing act is therefore required to ensure that the person with a disability can have what they need, but that schools, universities and other institutions can also legitimately provide it.

If you have a mental illness, psychosocial disability or an intellectual disability, you should never be afraid to ask to be accommodated. It is your right to go to school and to be equal to other learners. Sometimes people don’t understand these rights and end up discriminating against people with disabilities. This is called stigma. Stigma is the cause of many people’s rights being taken away from them. It refers to negative attitudes. Everyone has the right to dignity and stigma takes that away from you. This is unacceptable, but unfortunately stigma continues to exist in society. Stigma may therefore lead to people not wanting to accommodate you. This is unfair, and you must do everything you can not to let this happen. Follow channels of complaints and get people to help you if you are struggling. Most importantly, do not give up!

Above all, it is important that you have every right to be in a place where you can receive the best education- whether it be at school, university or college. You deserve the chance to learn and a chance to succeed. #takeyourplace, #getwhatyouneed and #claimyourrights

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