Mr Palm's speech during the launching of the report "The State of the World’s Children 2013 - Children with Disabilities" at the Institute of children who do not hear on 2 December 2013
We are here today to do two things. We want to give publicity to the annual UNICEF report on the State of the World’s Children. The report is read by public officials across the world who care about children. This year, the report is about children who have special abilities. It is about children, who although they have some limitations, show that everyone can be part of our society.
We also want to do explain to everyone –teachers, parents, bankers, business people, and other children – that there is only one big family and that everyone in Albania is part of it. Everyone must be visible, recognized, and receive attention, including from the cameras and the media.
Before I continue - can you tell me something. Or ask something? What do you like to do most?..........You see, it works. It is about communicating. We can communicate even without speaking, with a little help. Many teenagers mainly communicate by facebook. That works without talking. Technology can help.
The same for those who are blind. The world is not black. We can describe the snow covered mountains, the blue sea, the tasty Albanian food. Everyone can have a part of it.
The same for those with a physical limitation. Does the opera hall have a wheelchair ramp? Or our National Conservatory. Or our Parliament? I don’t know – I ask the media to go out and find out what the situation is!
There is only one type of supermarket, one type of post office, one type of bus in every town. We want these institutions to serve everyone. It is not “bad luck” if a person with a limited ability cannot enter the post office; it simply means the institution has failed to be free of discrimination.
Often, it is just thoughtlessness that makes children with a disability to become excluded. By wanting to make money or being so focused on one issue related to EU accession, people forget that everyone must be part of the story. If Albania wants to join the EU, everyone has to ensure that everyone is included.
One messages is: Children with a limited ability can do many things, and they can do them well. People with a disability must not remain invisible – in the media, the TV show, the art exhibition, in sports, or politics. If we don’t know the facts, Government cannot put money aside for special services, and good laws cannot be created. We estimate that there are about 120,000 children with some disability in Albania – but this number is outdated (SCF), since no new data has been collected. We ask that Albania begins to systematically collect information about how a disability affects the independent living. UNICEF is presently helping in a survey that will document how children with disabilities live.
The family is where most things are happening, and where decisions related to wellbeing are made. As much as possible, we want children to remain with their parents. The families may need help, including through services in the community; through removing barriers; through changing attitudes. We do not want children to be hidden, but to participate in the networks of their peers.
Many children, with a little help, can participate in regular school or social life of their peers. The strategy is to give this extra little help, to families, to teachers, schools, offices. According to what we know, there are more than 200 children with disabilities living in residential institutions, and half of them are older than 16 years. Let us help these young persons to move out and have their own life – with assistance, of course, as needed – and get a job and earn their own living.
Many barriers are in our heads –we simply don’t believe that we can be an inclusive society. But experts and activists have studied this for long. They came up with the international conventions – the convention on the right of the child and the convention on the rights of people with disabilities – that define the standards by which to go. For Albania, for all of us, and for our children with special abilities.