Global Perspectives on People with Disabilities

July 31, 2009 at 7:31 PM Leave a comment

by guest blogger Thuli Katerere

I’ve been writing about the ways in which our system in the US has a long way to go in terms of providing the best care for those with disabilities. I thought a look at some of the obstacles members of the disabilities community deal with around the world would provide yet another perspective.

The general consensus; the policies of the U.S. regarding people with disabilities are a major improvement compared to that of a great number of other countries.  In many parts of Africa, Latin America, and India, people with disabilities face challenges related to abject poverty, lack of education, lack of government support, and discriminatory cultural beliefs.

In rural parts of Africa, a child born with a disability may be viewed as a sign of bad luck or a punishment from the gods.  These children grow up to be isolated from society, deprived of proper health care, and under educated.  Any chance of their ever being valuable members of society are smashed by their inability to provide for themselves, as the cyclical nature of the poverty continues.  Furthermore, the prevalence of armed conflict in many African nations continues to keep the number of disabled persons steadily increasing.

Neglect and isolation keep the disabled communities of Latin America from reaching their full potential.  Those with disabilities are not visible members of society as they are viewed as a shameful and unspeakable mark on a family. A string of fires in Chilean mental institutions recently spurred a closer look into the lives of Latin Americans with disabilities.  Approximately half of the children and adults in Chilean mental institutions and special care homes do not receive any visitors as their families have essentially dumped their children into the laps of these underfunded and overcrowded institutions.

In India, during the latest solar eclipse, claims were made that children with disabilities were buried up to their chins in the belief that the practice would rid the child of his/her disorder.  Important aspects of Hindi culture, such as the dowry paid for a daughter in marriage, are highly affected by a girl child having a disability. The dowry is often much lower for her, and these girls are often left with the only option of marrying a much older man; resulting in a high number of widows with special needs and no means of sustenance.

Internationally, it is not all bad news for those with disabilities.  Several American families are actually immigrating to Switzerland in hopes of benefitting from the exceptional social welfare system and relatively low individual cost.  In Switzerland, the government provides the education and health care for the disabled, and will continue to care for the person with disabilities long after their family is deceased.  Jordan too is a nation leading the way for disabilities rights by being the first nation in the region to set forth legislation to secure and protect the rights of people with disabilities.  By being a generally accessible tourist destination and making disabilities issues a priority in policy-making, Jordan became the first Arab nation to receive the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award.

So, sure, American services for people with disabilities leave a lot to be desired, but overall we’re a nation that believes in equality, acceptance of all, and offering help to those who can’t necessarily help themselves.  Other nations have much larger obstacles to overcome in the continued effort to ensure equal rights for the global disabled community.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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