Social Support Services for Children with Disabilities

Respecting the rights and abilities of every person and actively avoiding labelling, stigmatization and discrimination

A visually impaired child reads a book in braille
UNICEF/2017/Georgiev

The challenge

The definition of disability is not a yes and no process, but is in fact an discernment across a scale of abilities, capacities and possibilities. In fact, ability and disability cannot be defined from a medical diagnosis alone. Instead, there are many contributing factors to a person’s ability or inability to do something they want or need to do. For example, if a child cannot walk or go to school it may be related to any one of a number of different health conditions, or limiting environmental factors.

However, the country still uses traditional methods of assessment which include elements of labelling and contribute to stigmatization and discrimination of children and adults alike.

Classifying children increases risks for neglect, abuse and exclusion

For disability-facing children, this approach is not only unhelpful for achieving their fundamental rights to education or to health services, for instance, but it also effectively hinders their development potential.

Anyone may experience disability at some point in their lives, whether permanent or temporary, intermittent or continuous. Labelling persons and especially children with disabilities as different, incomplete or ‘broken’ is simply not fair.

Ability and disability belong on the same scale

The terms “ability” and “disability” can be seen on a scale of differing levels and definitions. Everybody, no matter who they are,  fits somewhere on this scale. This is important for all people, but perhaps most vitally for children. 

That is why it is crucial not to classify people and children based on their abilities or disabilities, but to rather focus on their functionality – their potentails, possibilities and abilities –  so that they can fully enjoy their rights to education, health services and social support and care.

The solution

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is the world standard for classifying functioning and disability, agreed by the World Health Assembly in 2001. By shifting the focus from health condition to functioning, the ICF places all people on an equal footing, allowing their capacities and potentials to be compared, in terms of their related functioning, via a common framework – and ultimately supported.

The ICF supports rights-based policies across government and other sectors and provides a common language and understanding for use by people experiencing disability, providing relevant services, or working with disability data.

UNICEF works with partners from the Government and civil society to introduce a functional disability assessment based on ICF so that children get the best support and services to help them survive and thrive in their lives.

UNICEF is committed to making sure that all children have equal grounds to achieve their full potential!