Updated: Feb 28, 2020
The United Nations has declared 3rd December as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Since its inception in 1992, the day is set to give recognition to Persons living with Disabilities around the world, their challenges and the support needed to remove the segregation and inequalities they face. Did you know? This year’s celebration is under the theme: “Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda” (https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/news/news/idpd2019.html).
A Discourse of the problems and challenges facing Persons with Disability, however, cannot be complete without a retrospection of the great work of the Disability Rights Movement. Stemming from the Civil Rights Movement, Women Rights Movement and the Lesbian and Gay Rights Movement in the early 1960s, the purpose of the Disability rights Movement was geared toward recognizing Persons with Disability as humans and their inclusion in political and socio-economic development of their nations. Did you know? According to Ronald J. Berger (2013), the movements emerged in the United States in a context of other ‘Oppositional Movements’… Ed Roberts, a polio induced disabled person is arguably recognized in the fight for Inclusion for persons with disabilities. Questioning the conventional living of individuals, the political movement, “Independent Living Movements” followed, which campaigned for a self-reliant, self-determined life for persons with disabilities. In response to this, the United States Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Roberts J. Berger, Introducing Disability Studies, 2013). Later, this was followed by a revised and detailed form, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) in 1990, prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities. Following the enactment of these Acts, many other nations around the world have passed similar laws protecting the interest of persons with disabilities.
In all African, Asia and Pacifics as well as Latin American nations, such laws exist. But to what extent have these laws benefit persons with disabilities in these nations; removing barriers, eradicating discrimination and dealing with the severe inequalities in these nations. The inequalities and economic hardships facing persons with disabilities around the world, especially in Africa, Asia and Pacifics and Latin America are still a thing for the affected to deal with. The Spiegel, one of the popular newspaper companys in Germany delineates the Story of Mohammed Abdo, 27 years and Polio induced Person with Disability and the socio-economic difficulties he faces in Ethiopia. Abdo faces stigma and discrimination while a student. After all the alarming situation of his challenges he managed to study and become a Lecturer. He says, it was only a luck that he could get a job as a lecturer in a University, “Denn das Stigma, das die Krücken und seine verkümmerten Beine mit sich bringen, ist groß”, (because the stigma, that the crushes and the atrophy of his legs bring are high) (https://www.spiegel.de/lebenundlernen/schule/aethiopien-behinderte-menschen-finden-oft-keinen-job-a-1288243.html, 09.11.2019). Sophie Mitra et al (2018) and the Palgrave Studies in Disability and International Development reports a study of inequality and marginalization in some nations of Africa and Asia. The table below shows an excerpt of functional difficulties and inequalities facing Persons with Disability in Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda (Sophie Mitra, Disability, Health and Human Development, 2018).
The table depicts an ecerpt of data from Sophie Mitra et al (2018) and shows the percentage of persons with disability and their economic situations in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda. A comparison of the hours per week to the wage recieved shows a highly marginalized pay gap that these people recieve. A result of this is an absolute poverty leading to a very low self´-esteem and aspirations.
It is sad that when Singapor was planning its future economic developments, persons living with disabilities were not factored in the planning (ref. Kenneth Parker, 2001). We cannot just continue with business as usual, focusing on achieving high national economic figures while leaving human life behind.
As we celebrate this day, I call on all who are reading to take a closer look at our behaviour toward persons with disabilities. Some of them are our siblings, our friends, our colleagues etc. How do we treat them? The United Nations Convention on Persons with Disabilities spells out clearly that, there is no different Disability rights and that Disabled people are humans and therefore every human right is a disability right. Let us open up the barriers for them to discover themselves.