Today we observe International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD); an United Nations (UN) sanctioned day which is celebrated each year on December 3. The day aims to promote action and raise awareness of the benefits of including people with disability in all aspects of society.
This year the theme is Inclusion Matters: Access and empowerment for people of all abilities. People with disability face many barriers to enjoying equal access and inclusion in society. Of the estimated one billion people with disability globally, more than 80 per cent live in poverty. Empowering people with disability is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty and disability; and is therefore essential to all development efforts. According to UN Enable:
Empowerment involves investing in people - in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.
One such example of this is in Gajarat, India where people with disability face many barriers in realising their human rights. Poverty is widespread and access to employment is limited. Many children with disability remain out of school and women with disability are particularly marginalised as a result of their gender and disability. A government survey showed that only 12 per cent of people with disability are aware of their rights.
The Blind People’s Association in Gujarat has long been working in the field of disability and development. It created the Inclusion of Disabled Persons in Gujarat project to develop sustainable infrastructure that links people with disability to government services and supports their full participation in the community. The project is designed with the ongoing involvement of people with disability to ensure it best meets community needs.
As an elected member of the Karnataka State Children’s Parliament, Sushma (right) recently met the state's Chief Minister. She recognises that she’s become a role model for children with disability, and hopes to motivate others to speak up for their rights. Robin Wyatt / © CBM
The project has established district information centres; increased the mobility and visibility of people with disability and access to services; increased the number of children with disability in education; and ensured that village leaders, public servants and some community members are trained on disability inclusion. This project has also taken a strong approach to gender by adapting activities to ensure that women and men can participate and be involved in all aspects of the project.
Some of the achievements of this project are:
* The health and education departments at district and sub-district level frequently approach the district information centres for training and support on disability inclusion.
* Through the district information centres, more than 1500 people with disability have received certification from the government, which allows them access to a disability pension.
* Within Gujarat, over 1000 people have received assistive devices; 320 people with disability commenced income generating activities; and 178 children with disability are now enrolled and are staying in school.
* People with disability report feeling more ‘visible’ within their community, which has enhanced their social status and emotional well being. People with disability are more aware of their rights and are beginning to stand up for themselves.
* Approximately 90 women with disability have their own bank account, which helps them have greater control over their finances.
This is just one example of how empowering people with disability through development efforts can build inclusive communities, where all people can take advantage of opportunities and be their own agents of change.
This project is funded by CBM Australia through the Australian Government NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
Elle Spring is the Advocacy Support Officer at CBM Australia (a member agency of the Micah Australia Coalition).