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International Day of Persons With Disabilities; A Commitment on 3rd December

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Today, the world population is over 8 billion people, and more than one billion people, or approximately 15 percent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability; of those, 80 percent live in developing countries.

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

Building on many decades of UN’s work in the field of disability, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted in 2006, has further advanced the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international development frameworks, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the New Urban Agenda, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development.

A disability is a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual in their group. The term is often used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness, and various types of chronic disease. Some disabled people have described this usage as associated with a medical model of disability.

Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. It is due primarily to the lack of services available (like information and communications technology (ICT), justice or transportation) and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives. These obstacles can take various forms, including those relating to the physical environment, those resulting from legislation or policy, or societal attitudes or discrimination.

People with disabilities are at much higher risk of violence:

  • Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled children.
  • Adults with some form of disability are 1.5 times more likely to be victims of violence than those without a disability.
  • Adults with mental health conditions are nearly four times the risk of experiencing violence.

Factors which place people with disabilities at higher risk of violence include stigma, discrimination, and ignorance about disability, as well as a lack of social support for those who care for them.

Evidence and experience show that when barriers to their inclusion are removed, and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that barriers constitute a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognized by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and are not only objectives but also prerequisites for the enjoyment of other rights. The Convention (Article 9, accessibility) seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all parts of society on an equal basis and identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

The rehabilitation and development of disabled people are critical to the moral values of a state and society. Pakistani law requires that 2 percent of people employed by an establishment be “disabled persons.” In the absence of reliable data, estimates of the number of people living with disabilities in Pakistan wildly vary from 3.3 million to 27 million. Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. There are multiple factors involved in the rising disability situation in Pakistan. The health system is incompetent to raise healthy kids, and they fall victim to disabilities. The menace of terrorism, accidents, diseases, catastrophes and other natural disasters cause disability in Pakistan.

This disability is more of a human issue than an administrative or health issue. The state prioritizes the implementation mechanism and develops the organizational structures to not only halt the increase in disability but also rehabilitate all who fell, victim. The legislation and policy mechanism are essential; however, implementing and changing people’s behavior is critical. The government must implement two percent employment figures at every tier of an establishment. There is a need to uphold the reasonable accommodation principle recognized in the Disability Rights Convention, holding that mere employment provision is insufficient. The Pakistani authorities also must provide necessary and appropriate adjustments, including accessible infrastructure, assistive technology, modifications to the work environment, and other forms of support so that people with disabilities, once appointed to a position, can effectively perform their job.

Federal and provincial governments must discontinue the use in all official documents and correspondence of derogatory terms such as “disabled,” “physically handicapped,” and “mentally retarded,” and instead use “persons with disabilities” or “persons with different abilities.” Then, people must also improve society’s behavior towards these brothers and sisters. It is also encouraging that people and governments are improving in this regard. There is a potential to improve the lives of millions of people across the country. Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments are responsible for implementing the mechanism and reforming laws and policies to ensure they completely conform with the country’s international human rights obligations.

People with disabilities are the conscience of the state and society. A soulful community must prioritize their welfare and rehabilitation. Hence, the state of Pakistan must incorporate the rights of disabled people into the collective life of society and the state.   

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