The modern perception of disability and opportunities for change

Tuesday, 27 April 2021 00:41 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Charmaine Vanderhoeven

Disability conjures up images of people in wheelchairs, helpless people, people who live on charity and those who are a burden on their families and on societies.

No longer so – disabilities are opportunities for change. 

Sri Lanka has joined the rank of countries that are attempting to recognise and increase the opportunities for people with disabilities.

There are brilliant, talented people with some form of disability who can contribute towards society and to the work engine and if given the opportunity to do so would certainly excel in their chosen field. It’s just that the perception of society is causing barriers for them. As individuals, we must change this perception and our attitude towards those persons. Concentrate on their strengths, give them opportunities, show them the way, be flexible, be inclusive, change your mind set – it has to begin with you. We must understand and accept the rights of the disabled. They too are citizens with the same rights as anyone else. Why do we draw the line and divide us from them? Shouldn’t we be drawing them closer to us by offering them our understanding, empathy and whatever support that is within our means? To quote: “As full citizens, people with disabilities are entitled to equal rights. In their daily lives, they continuously battle exclusion and restriction to their full participation in society.”

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), defines disability as the outcome of the interaction between a person with impairment and the environmental and attitudinal barriers one may face.

Presently, there is no internationally binding convention specifically devoted to the rights of people with disabilities.

A human rights perspective to disability requires society and especially governments, to actively promote the conditions for all individuals to fully realise their rights to ensure persons with disabilities the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Accessibility is a major issue for people with mobility impairments. But the concept of universal design can create more opportunities for participation in society. Universal design is inclusive; it sees people with disabilities, older and the people and children, as part of, not distinct from – society.”

In modern times with the opportunities available all persons with any form of impairment, can adjust to the environment and the technology and accessibility gives everyone an opportunity to be the best they are.

(The writer is Past President of Enable the Disabled and Member of the Board of Management.)