CyberDodo and persons with disabilities (2-20)

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Do persons with disabilities have rights ?

There are many different types of disabilities. A disability may be visible or not visible and it may be permanent or temporary.

The disorders or deficiencies that bring about a disability can affect different parts of the body or brain. A disability can also strike anyone at any time.

Certain persons are born with disabilities while for others, their disability is the result of an accident or illness. A disability can also be caused by aging. It is generally accepted that as the average age of a population increases, the number of persons living with one form of a disability or other increases.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), around 10% of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live with some form of a disability. The geographical distribution is very skewed, with around 400 million persons with disabilities (80%) living in poor countries and thereby have only inadequate care and facilities at their disposal.

10% of the world’s population suffers from a disability

All over the world, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers to their full and equal participation in society. Now, if we broaden our view a bit, the number of persons affected by a disability surpasses one billion when taking into account the impact on immediate families. The 10% mentioned is not just a statistic given that disabilities are strongly linked to poverty and frequently limit access to education and treatment, not to mention problems related to exclusion and/or discrimation.

It has proven very difficult to agree upon a definition of disability. A definition or classification represents essentialist thinking that gives rise to terms that may seem pejorative and are very often experienced as limiting.

Moreover, how could a classification manage to capture the daily reality of a person living with a disability?

Yet there does exist a series of definitions that are applicable to the reality and daily experience of such persons. Our view on disability should be put into perspective- a person with a disability is a full-fledged human being with all the rights naturally accruing to him or her, just like anyone else.

There are many different types of disabilities and numerous terms have been used at different moments in history to designate a person with a disability. Generally, there is a distinction made between two different “categories” of disability – physical or mental. Representing on average 2% of the population, persons with intellectual disabilities usually have either down's syndrome or fragile X syndrome.

It is important to draw a distinction here between psychiatric disabilities and other disabilities that are more specific with respect to cognitive functions such as language and/or learning disorders. Psychiatric disabilities are principally manifested as difficulties in terms of one’s relational life, communication and behavior, including for example obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD), schizophrenia or autism.

A child with a disability has the same rights as all other children

Physical disabilities may be visual in nature (from persons needing to wear glasses to those affected by blindness), related to hearing, or involve an impairment in motor functions, such as paraplegia (more or less total paralysis of the lower extremities), quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs, both arms and legs), cerebral vascular accidents or myopathy.

There are many different types of disabilities and one may hear the term polydisabled (Combination of severe motor and intellectual disabilities potentially associated with additional disabilities which entail a very significant restriction of autonomy). A pluridisabled person is said to have a combination of disabilties of the same level of seriousness such that it is not possible to distinguish one in particular as more serious. It is also possible for a disability to be exacerbated by relational difficulties related to an existent disability.

It is important to point out that given similar disabilities, level of incapacity or the limitation of activity is largely dependent on the context in which the disabled person develops.

Various international treaties aim to counteract the discriminations that persons with disabilities experience in their daily life. The goal is to ensure that the right of each human being to respect and dignity is respected.

It is absolutely critical that our treatment of persons with disabilities undergoes a radical change so that the environmental and behavioral obstacles that make us see a disabled person instead of a person disappear.

In conclusion, it is important to recall that Article 23 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child acknowledges the rights of children with disabilities to be the same as those of non-disabled children.

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For the text of the Convention, click here

To see the animated cartoon about the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, click here

For the quiz, click here

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