Children with disabilities: Human rights, equity and inclusive development
MAPUTO, Mozambique, 30 May 2012 - Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. The difference between disability and impairment is that the former is permanent or long-lasting, whereas impairment refers to a temporary or short-term condition.
Traditionally, disability has often been seen as a form of divine punishment in many societies, and people with disabilities have been seen as inferior or cursed, often hidden and living on charity. In many cases, disability has been the cause of pity and humiliation. Over time, people with disability have increasingly become integrated into the mainstream of society, living normal lives in their communities. In recent years, however, a greater focus has been placed on disability as a societal issue rather than an individual issue, with the implication that more attention is being paid to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of people with disability. This overall evolution in how people view and address disability has lead towards the goal of ensuring equal opportunities and full participation of people with disability in economic, political and social life.
“UNICEF has made it a priority to work with the most disadvantaged children and has identified children living with disability as being among the most disadvantaged,” says UNICEF Communication Specialist Arild Drivdal. “It has been agreed that children living with disability require special protection, above and beyond the protection that all children require.”
Whether an individual will be considered “disabled” is strongly related to the enabling or disabling environments that surround the person, including the societal attitudes and social norms. If barriers are eliminated and there is positive interaction between the person and the broader environment, there will be greater opportunities for personal empowerment, social participation and inclusion. If the individual is not able to overcome the existing social barriers, even with support and specific accommodations, this interaction will reinforce social stigma and discrimination and lead to exclusion from society.
“It is our objective to promote inclusion and fight exclusion and to provide equal opportunities for all children,” says Arild Drivdal. “We need to provide conditions that help children with disability play a full role in society and create an environment where these children are fully included and integrated.”
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