Disability And Development : Rajesh Man KC
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) recognises in its preamble that “disability is an evolving concept that results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal as well as environmental barriers that hinder their full and active participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
Similarly, the World Report on Disability cites and stresses that disability is the umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions, referring to the negative aspects of the interaction between an individual (with a health condition) and that individual’s contextual factors (environmental and personal factors). The definition of disability, thus, does not concentrate only on the medical perception but also on other relevant aspects, including social, environmental as well as psychological aspects.
According to the World Report on Disability (WHO and the World Bank, 2011), about 15 per cent of the world’s population lives with one or other form of disability. In Nepal’s context, nearly 2 per cent of the total population, i.e. more than 500,000 people with disability live in the country. So it would not be inappropriate to say that such a large portion of the population should and must be mainstreamed into the society for the welfare and development of the nation.
Development and human rights issue
Disability indeed is a development as well as a human rights issues. But the realisation of their human rights is a huge challenge since they are not even recognised as part of the society. Persons with disabilities, specifically in the developing countries, tend to be invisible, disadvantaged and forgotten in the context of development.
For many persons with disabilities, in a conservative dominated society like ours, their daily life is restricted to one room, to their home or the proximity thereof. Even in some costumes and cultures, disability is considered as a result of the sin committed in one’s previous life or by an ancestor. Consequently, it is extremely difficult for a person with disability to get a job or acquire an education. Participation in the society is very difficult or impossible for them due to physical as well as information and communication-related barriers. The stigma based on disability is severe in many parts of the country, particularly in the rural areas.
From the global perspective, the most important event for those with disabilities has been the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UNCRPD and its optional Protocol were adopted in December 2006 at the UN Headquarters and entered into force on May 3, 2008. The convention was signed by Nepal on December 27, 2009. The convention clearly reaffirms that persons with disabilities are active members of their society on an equal basis with others. The convention also highlights the full and active participation of persons with disabilities in development issues.
There is no doubt that many persons with disabilities are talented and capable. But the capacities of many persons with disabilities in the developing countries have been too frequently underestimated. Consequently, they tend not to be included in different activities of society on an equal basis with others.
Needless to say that a person’s capacity is strengthened when he is given adequate opportunities to participate in the society. Indeed, all persons with disabilities have the right to be equal citizens and active participants in the society. But the irony is that many persons with disabilities in the developing countries live in an extremely unequal and disabling environment with limited personal capacity.
Nepal in this regard is no exception. Disability is still considered something to be ashamed of in a society like ours. It is all too common for persons with disabilities to be kept hidden away and excluded from mainstreaming into the society.
Under such circumstances, development through the concept of participation, empowerment and mainstreaming the disabled into the society is necessary. Because as a person gets empowered or mainstreamed, he has more possibilities to participate in and become an active member of the society. The more disability issues are mainstreamed into society, the more the society enables such persons to participate. And once empowered, a person has the capacity to advocate for his/her rights. As a result, their well-being also tends to increase basically in the field of education, employment and recreation. In this regard, mainstreaming people with disabilities should and must be a part and parcel of development.
It is a matter of grave concern that some 24 physically challenged persons across the country are known to have died in the devastating April 25 quake and powerful aftershocks. Many of them are learnt to have died after being buried under heaps of rubble. According to a news report, of the total deaths among differently-able persons, Rasuwa district has recorded the highest toll, at seven, while four disable persons each are reported to have died in Sindhupalchowk and Gorkha districts. Five differently able persons died in Dhading, and two each in Bhaktapur and Dolakha.
Similarly, some 425 physically challenged persons have sustained injuries due to the 7.8 magnitude quake. Of the total number of injured that has surpassed 22,000, as many as 3,000 persons are at high risk of becoming permanently disabled due to the injuries they have suffered in the devastating quake.
At this critical situation of the nation, the government and other disability-related organisations should join hands and collaborate for immediate relief and rehabilitation of the quake victims with disabilities.
The author is president of Guardian Association of Blind-Nepal)