Removing barriers with the disabled and building a future together

INTERNATIONAL Day of Persons With Disabilities 2013 was celebrated early this month with the theme โ€˜Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for allโ€™ and it provided opportunities to further raise awareness of disability and accessibility as a cross cutting development issue and further the global efforts to promote accessibility, remove all types of barriers, and to realise the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and shape the future of development for all.

This was highlighted by Daniel Ruiz de Garibay, Assistant Programme Specialist of UNESCOโ€™s Jakarta office, in his keynote address during the launching of the Asean Disability Forum 2013.

Present as the guest of honour to launch the opening ceremony afterwards and to deliver her sabda prior to the keynote address was Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah binti Pengiran Haji Salleh Ab Rahaman.

โ€œThere is a need to eradicate all โ€˜wallsโ€™ that affect the inclusion and involvement of persons with disabilities within society, including through changing egotisms that fuel stigma and institutionalise acumen,โ€ marked Garibay.

Garibay shared that majority persons with disabilities face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers that exclude them from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society.

Daniel Ruiz de Garibay, Assistant Programme Specialist of UNESCOโ€™s Jakarta office, delivering his keynote address during the launching of the Asean Disability Forum 2013. โ€“ BAHYIAH BAKIR

These individuals lack equal access to basic resources, such as education, employment, healthcare and social and legal support system, he said, adding that above all, stigma may cause their families to limit their involvement in the community, thus denying access to education and jobs.

Garibay shared that 2013 โ€œState of the Worldโ€™s Childrenโ€ report by UNICEF on children with disabilities was launched recently to raise awareness about the group of children who are amongst the most invisible and vulnerable in the world.

โ€œIt was emphasised that one important reason for this is the children with disabilities are often hidden away at home or in institutions, because their families are embarrassed or they donโ€™t know how best to support them. Discrimination and prejudices often leave children with disabilities isolated, bullied and with only very few friends, if at all,โ€ pinpointed Garibay.

For the reason he just mentioned, Garibay urged that it is of utmost importance to take action now and governments should make sure that the significant advancement in the international normative framework on disability makes concrete impact in ameliorating the live of persons with disabilities.

He shared that while adopting a holistic approach in addressing disability inclusion issues, UNESCO promotes the human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons living with disabilities and encourages all stakeholders to take concrete measures for their inclusion and empowerment.

โ€œUNESCO is making a strong contribution in the preparations for the post-2015 agenda, mobilising all its strengths to make the case for the centrality of education, the sciences, culture and communication and information for sustainability and for building the inclusive, knowledge societies we need for the century ahead which also incorporates the rights, well-being and perspective of persons with disabilities in development at all levels,โ€ underlined Garibay.

United Nations Convention on Rights for People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was signed by all Asean countries, which was a good start, but more work needs to be done, particularly regarding the signature of the protocol, says Garibay.

He pointed that the convention introduces new understanding of โ€˜disabilityโ€™ to define persons with disabilities โ€“ those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and active participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Garibay underscored that the new definition implies that disability is not synonymous with impairment, a view which tends to focus on fixing the impairment rather than improving the environment or changing attitudes that define people mainly based on what they cannot do rather than in light of their abilities.

โ€œIf we understand this basic principle, it is easy to realise that exclusion not only impacts the lives of persons with disabilities, but affects the development of communities and society as a whole,โ€ he affirmed.

Garibay explained that โ€œdisability tends to reduce economic output by reducing or eliminating the economic contributions of certain members of society, particularly people with disabilities and their family members and close friendsโ€.

โ€œHence, the socio-economic integration of persons with disabilities is not just a question of their right to participation; it is also a prerequisite for broad-based and sustainable development.

โ€œGovernment policy is essential โ€“ reliable and comparable disability data are needed for a rigorous evidence base to inform the design, implementation and evaluation of effective policy.โ