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Every 3rd of December, The United Nations observes the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
According to their Enable website:
The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December was established by the International Year for Disabled Persons (1981). The Day aims to promote a better understanding of disability issues with a focus on the rights of persons with disabilities and gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities. The goal of full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society and development was established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982.
Based on the said World Agency’s data; it is estimated that around 15% of the world’s population, or one billion people, live with disabilities.
Further, the United Nations gave us some programs, various ways and different means of observing, marking and celebrating this auspicious world event.
Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation by all stakeholders – Governments, UN system organizations, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities – to focus on issues related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the MDGs.
Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the Day focusing on disability issues and development to find innovative ways and means by which persons with disabilities and their families can be further integrated into the development agenda.
Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase – and celebrate – the contributions made by persons with disabilities as agents of development and change in the communities in which they live.
Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to mainstream disability in all aspects of development, as well as to further the participation of persons with disabilities in social life and development on the basis of equality. Highlight progress and obstacles barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the lives of their societies.
Why it is important for the international community to recognize the rights and status of the people of disabilities and those people who are handicap?
It is because they are our fellow human beings and they are also citizens of the world, just like you and me.
It follows that as human beings, they have unalienable human rights and as citizens of the world, their rights (whether political, civil, socio-economic, etc.) are protected and guaranteed by law; that is whether the local (municipal law) national (the respective constitution) and international (such as the International Human Rights Law, etc.).
If I may be allowed to cite just two jurisprudence concerning this issue with regard to the education sector (of course, due to the limited space, I cannot cite the other pertinent cases concerning labor rights, etc.) I am inviting the attention of the reader to these relevant cases.
First, in the landmark case of Mills vs. Board of Education, the Court ruled that:
“Disabled children cannot be denied enrollment in publicly funded schools on the basis of their disability”.
While in the case of PARC vs. Pennsylvania, the state laws cited “to keep disabled children out of public schools are ruled unconstitutional”.
As I’ve stated in my letter, “Include schools in mental health education”, The Star (Malaysia), November 24, 2011:
I suggest that mental health care education be included in our school curriculum. We must start early teaching our young the truth and the facts concerning the mentally impaired and the psychologically disturbed.
We must teach our young to renounce unpardonable discrimination, myopic stereotyping and stupid branding.
Further, I would like to add that society as a whole must also have a program concerning the idiotic, immoral and unethical bullying committed by some rascals and barbaric youth to those students who are physically handicapped and suffering from disabilities.
According to Dave Tabaniag, a political commentator in the Philippines:
The term “differently-abled persons” is an attempt at euphemism which has met with disapproval from disability rights advocates, as it might seem to indicate that disability is a deviation from what is considered by most people to be the norm.
On the other hand, the term “disabled persons” might be misinterpreted to imply that the ability of the individual to function as a person has been disabled. The term “persons with disabilities” is consistent with the language used by the United Nations (UN).
I wholeheartedly concurred to his brilliant analysis, yet I would like to add some critical elaboration.
The negative effect of the first statement if mankind will not counter it would definitely be discrimination and apathy!
That disability is a deviation from what is considered by most people to be norm is one of the most idiotic assertions which only distorted and feeble minds could ever think of.
It is not the fault of the person if he or she is disabled; rather it betrays the lack of our character if we will judge an individual on the ground of his/her disability and not on the content of his or her character.
While statement two concerns with the misplaced and preposterous view that disabled persons or those people who are physically infirmed or those individuals who are physically handicapped are less likely to become productive.
To reiterate the central thesis of this article: it does not follow that due to the physical limitation of a worker or the physical and mental disability of a student, those individuals would be less productive.
In fact, the reverse is true!
History has shown us, again and again that it is indeed, those people who are physically lacking that are creative, innovative and revolutionary both in their thoughts and lives.
More often than not, it is them who pushed history forward and we are still using and treasuring their profound and illuminating ideas as of the present moment in our contemporary history!
They are the men and women like Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Rosa Luxemburg, Thomas Alba Edison, etc.
These indomitable individuals have proved to us that disability, state of being handicap and other physical and mental limitations are no obstacles to succeed in life. They taught us passionately that if we have a dream and the courageous heart to follow that dream; there is no way we will not be able to attain it; and we will survive even against all odds!
The writer has a Master’s degree in Philosophy, a law degree and a degree in AB Political Science. He was previously teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology at an institution of higher education in the Nilai University College at Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. He is currently a lecturer at the College of Arts, Department of Philosophy at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
As of the moment, he is preparing to publish his first book entitled “Dissidente”. It is a collection of his articles, commentaries and op-ed published by various newspapers in Southeast Asia.