Getting noticedInternational Day of People with Disabilities is observed on December 3 every year through various programmes and activities that all serve to highlight the rights and issues of people with disabilities. The slogan for the 27th edition this year is, ‘empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’.
International Day of People with Disabilities is observed on December 3 every year through various programmes and activities that all serve to highlight the rights and issues of people with disabilities. The slogan for the 27th edition this year is, ‘empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) states, ‘Disability is an evolving concept, and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.’
The World Report on disability indicates that the term itself is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. The definition of ‘disability ‘ thus does not refer only to the medical perception but also other relevant aspects including social, environmental and psychological conditions.
According to the World Report on Disability, about 15 percent of the global population lives with one form of disability or another. In Nepal, more than 500,000 people—that is nearly 2 percent of the total population—have a disability. It would not be inappropriate to say that such a large portion of the population should be mainstreamed into society for the welfare and development of the country.
Disability is a development and human rights issue. But for people with disabilities, the realisation of their human rights is a huge challenge since they are not even recognised as valuable members to society. Their capacities are always underestimated, under recognised and hardly celebrated. Persons with disabilities, specifically in developing countries, tend to be invisible, disadvantaged and forgotten in the context of development. For many persons with disabilities in a conservative-dominated society like ours, life can become unceasingly solitary; daily life is often restricted to one room, their home or close surroundings. In some customs and cultures, disability is considered to be the result of a sin committed in one’s previous life or by one’s ancestor. Consequently, it is extremely difficult for a person with disabilities to receive a job or acquire an education. Participation in society is very difficult or impossible for them due to physical and information and communication-related barriers. The stigma attached to disability is severe in many parts of Nepal, particularly in rural areas.
From a global perspective, the adoption of the UNCRPD can be said to be the most important event for persons with disabilities. The UNCRPD and its optional protocol were adopted in December 2006 at the UN Headquarters and entered into force on May 3, 2008. Nepal signed the convention on December 27, 2009. As of August 2014, 147 states had ratified the convention.
The convention clearly reaffirms that persons with disabilities are active members of their society on an equal basis with others. It also highlights full and active participation of persons with disabilities in development.
All persons with disabilities have the right to be equal citizens and active participants. But the irony is that many persons with disabilities in the developing countries live in extremely unequal and disabling environments with limited personal capacity. Nepal is no exception in this regard. Disability is still considered to be something to be ashamed of in many cultures like ours. It is all too common for persons with disabilities to be kept hidden away and excluded from mainstreaming into society. There is no doubt that many persons with disabilities are talented and capable. But the capacity of many persons with disabilities in developing countries has been too frequently underestimated. It is needless to say that a person’s capacity is strengthened when he or she is given adequate opportunities to participate in society. By underestimating their potential, we have knowingly contributed to the marginalisation of persons with disabilities on a social level.
In these circumstances, it is necessary to mainstream them into society through the concepts of participation and empowerment. When a person is empowered and mainstreamed, they have more potential to participate as an active member of society; without this fundamental recognition of differently-abled people as capable and equal citizens, we will continue holding a large section of our population behind in our development progress.
Organisational institutions must consider applicants from differently-abled people; educational institutions and policies must adapt to their varying needs to ensure minimum participation at the least; development organisations must invest in disabled communities by incorporating intentionally targeted initiatives for different groups and finally, the state must do more to provide benefits for the welfare of all persons with disabilities.
And once empowered, a person has the capacity to advocate for his or her rights. As a result, their wellbeing will also improve, basically in the field of education, employment and recreation. So taking all these things into consideration, mainstreaming people with disabilities should be part and parcel of development.
KC is the president of Guardian Association of Blind-Nepal.