Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A note about International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The striking photo above was the Image of the Day
in yesterday's New York Times
In the spirit of "better-late-than-never", I'd like to note that International Day of Persons with Disabilities was observed yesterday, December 3rd. Sanctioned by the United Nations twenty years ago, my oversight of this day is inexcusable. But it may be testimony to the media's paltry coverage of all disabilities news.

Nevertheless, our leading local newspaper did run one informative article on the topic. Replete with depressing statistics, it left me wondering whether perhaps I'd have preferred no attention at all. The article summarized a new report by our Central Bureau of Statistics revealing that

"Only 44 percent of all severely handicapped people aged 20-65 were employed in 2011, 30 percent fewer than non-handicapped people in this age group. In the 45-64 age range, only 39 percent are employed, compared to 74 percent of the non-handicapped."

It added that

"The figures showed that people with severe disabilities were more common among populations with lower educational levels."

And - big shock

"People with disabilities show less satisfaction with life and optimism than" others.

It concluded that the reality is actually bleaker than these findings indicate:

"The overall numbers of the severely disabled [here] are higher than the report indicates, because the survey did not include people with disabilities living in institutions or people who could not be interviewed because of the severity of their handicap."

Over in the United States, the day garnered more attention than it usually does. It seems that the Senate will vote today on the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Introduced by the United Nations in 2006, and signed by President Obama in 2009, the treaty gives people with disabilities around the world the rights and protections necessary so that they may live independently and productively.

While my country is busy playing catch-up with the U.S. and other developed countries in the treatment of its disabled population, it trumps the US in this regard: our government signed the Convention in 2007 and ratified it in September of 2012.

Photo from the Ugandan Little People website
Huffington Post blogger Gary Arnold explained the significance of ratification:

"If ratified, the treaty extends U.S. protections to Americans traveling abroad and working abroad. Without ratification, Americans won't have those protections. Also, the United States will lose an international voice on disability matters. If the United States does not ratify the treaty, the United States can't appoint anyone to sit on the U.N. Committee on Disabilities."

The vote will have personal ramifications for Arnold too:

"As a person with dwarfism who sits on the board for Little People of America, losing that voice would have a devastating impact. I recently read an article from a magazine published by Little People Uganda, which serves people with dwarfism in Uganda. The article was written by a young man with dwarfism who had recently celebrated the birth of his daughter. The baby's mother was an average stature woman. In the article, the young man wrote that his newborn child was murdered just days after birth by her maternal grandmother. In the article, the father wrote that his baby was strangled to death "just because her father was a dwarf and probably she was a dwarf." Sadly, as a member of a non-profit volunteer board, I can do little more than express outrage over, mourn over, and write about such a tragic story."

Note: cases of dwarfism-related infanticide are not isolated in the third world where many associate that disability with witchcraft and superstition. 

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