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Statement by UNICEF Representative, Mr. Sheldon Yett on the occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities

SKOPJE 3 December 2012:  “Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and on its 20th anniversary let us call attention to the importance of promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, and children in particular and to mobilise support to build a more inclusive society.

People with disabilities remain one of the largest overlooked minorities in the world. Over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. This includes around 93 million children with disabilities who face discrimination in every aspect of their lives.

While there is no specific data on the number of children with disabilities in this country, the most recent EU progress report notes that in this country ‘only 15% of children with disabilities are in education, mainly in specialised institutions.’ Among other things the report notes ‘existing discrimination against children with disabilities prevents their inclusion in the education system.’

The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”   This is particularly important for this country given that a recent UNICEF baseline study on education based on the child-friendly school framework found that sixty-nine per cent of teachers that teach children with disabilities in this country, and fifty per cent of all teachers, feel that children with special needs do not belong in mainstream classrooms. 

Globally, other barriers for children with disabilities and their families exist in different forms, including for example through negative attitudes, policies and legislations which discriminate and are not inclusive, or when the physical environment is not accessible. Whether it is being accepted in school or on the playground, accessing health services, basic nutrition or being included in emergency response, children with disabilities encounter barriers on an everyday basis, which prevent them from participating equally in the society. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which came into force in 2008 recognises that often these barriers are more disabling than an individual’s impairment itself.

UNICEF is calling on all to join efforts to build a more inclusive society and more specifically to remove the barriers which discriminate and create large social distance”



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