• Celebrating International Day of People with Disabilities

    Posted by Stevie

    2 December, 2011

    Stevie Wills poverty and disability activistStevie Wills poverty and disability activistStevie Wills poverty and disability activistThe way I see it, living with cerebral palsy has given me opportunities to rise to the challenges I face. Living in Australia, I have a walking frame, wheelchair, and an aide called a ‘keyguard’, which assists my typing. Provided with assistance, I was able to go through primary and secondary mainstream schools. Growing up I had physio, speech and occupational therapy, all of which helped me to develop my physical abilities. My immediate and extended family are extremely supportive, encouraging me to do all that I can for myself, and assisting me when needed. I have developed my writing, public speaking and pastoral skills, studied a Diploma in Counselling Studies and enjoy dear friendships – everything I need to lead a rich and fulfilling life.

    I have been given opportunities and empowerment to be all that I can be... All that I was born to be.

    But if I had been born into poverty, my life would have been very different. Without a walking frame, or wheelchair, I would crawl along the ground. As a small child, I would have been reliant on my mother to carry me. Even if I did have a walker or wheelchair, it would be difficult to move along the rugged roads.

    If I lived in a developing country, I would have great difficulty in accessing my local community, in particular the school. I wouldn’t have the assistance I needed to fully participate in school. I might face an even denser barrier (Photo courtesy of CBM Australia)(Photo courtesy of CBM Australia)(Photo courtesy of CBM Australia)to receiving an education: that of social stigma. The sad reality is that many people in developing countries are taught that people with disabilities will never be able to achieve anything in life, so it would be seen as futile to provide me with an education. Worse still, they could believe that I have been cursed, and hence must be avoided. This would leave me abandoned and isolated.

    In developing countries, disability is frequently misunderstood, stigmatised and neglected. In these countries, children with disabilities often don’t have the opportunity to go to school. Their chances of financially supporting themselves are minuscule. People living with disabilities in developing countries, commonly in physically and socially inaccessible environments, are far, far more likely to fall into poverty than there non-disabled peers.

    On the flip side, people living in poverty, lacking medical care, nutrition, clean water, sanitation and safe living and working environments, are more likely to acquire a serious illness or injury. Hence, they are more likely to acquire a disability.

    This means that poverty and disability are interlinked in a vicious cycle. Twenty percent of the world’s poorest peoples have a disability. Thus, to be truly effective, efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals must be accessible to people with disabilities. This cycle of disability and poverty must be made known to all who desire to see poverty eradicated, and addressed in all development and aid programs.

    When the value of people with disabilities is not recognised, they are not the only ones who are excluded. Their community excludes itself from the valuable contributions people with disabilities can make.

    Tomorrow, 3 December, is the International Day of People with Disabilities, a day when the achievements and contributions that people with disabilities have made to their communities are recognised and celebrated.

    My prayer is that all people with disabilities know they are precious and become all that they were born to be, so that their communities will be blessed.

    If you want to find out more about issues of disability, poverty and development, you can visit and sign the pledge at www.endthecycle.org.au and follow @endthecycleaus on Twitter. Micah Challenge Australia is an endorsing partner of the End the Cycle campaign.

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    Stevie Wills is an ambassador for CBM Australia (a Micah Challenge coalition agency). Stevie travelled with CBM to South Africa and Zambia in March this year, so that, on her return, she could advocate for people with disabilities living in poverty. Stevie also joined us at Voices for Justice 2011 and her poetry performance was one of the highlights of the event.