Sunday, December 03, 2006

?tnereffid taht ti sI/Is it that different?

December 3rd is the International Day of Disabled Persons. Aside from this one day devoted to our fellow citizens with some disability, the United Nations has passed two important documents: the World Programme Action Concerning Disabled Persons (1982) and the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993).

But need we be reminded of the fact that all people are equal and deserve the same amount of dignity, respect and opportunities for prosperity?

It appears that we do. The World Health Organization's press release informs of a dismal reality: of the 500 million of people living with some disability, 80% live in developing countries and only 1-2% have access to rehabilitation services. Some 30% of the 104 countries that bothered to respond (there are close 200 countries in our world) said they have no provisions for the rehabilitation of the disabled. Only three countries involve disabled peoples' organization in the planning and evaluation of health services.

But statistics is only one side of the coin. There is another, a sadder one: Discrimination. Our inability as society to (fully) engage the disabled members is a testimony of our outter failure. But matters can go worse. We build barriers, both physical (lack of facilities and equipment) and social (unemployment- 70% in the US, a country that is well ahead in bridging the gap); we discriminate against verbally- or even without using words.

I don't think there is much more to be added here. Just let us all take a moment to briefly imagine how different our lives would be if, say, we could not walk? could not hear? could not see?

With this principle in mind, but with the goal of increasing awareness on the unique abilities of the disabled, the Foundation for the Hellenic World (Ίδρυμα Μείζονος Ελληνισμού) a not-for-profit cultural institution based in Athens, Greece organized a day of activities for the little ones, titled "Different skills, different friends" ("Με άλλες ικανότητες, με άλλες δυνατότητες.. οι φίλοι μου") which aimed at showing the unique ways children with disabilities perceive the world. What an excellent initiative!

Finally, I have been told that the newly released movie "Happy Feet" (the story of a penguin that is different in that it "taps" his feet unlike the rest of penguins and fights in order to become accepted in the society of 'mainstream' penguins) is also a strong criticism against discrimination.. may the powers of Warner Bros and the cute penguins help us become better persons..!


World Health Organization Press Release
Foundation for the Hellenic World
The movie: Happy Feet!

1 comment:

Pixie said...

Continuing our discussion;its apparent how we keep on discriminating against disable people.We have changed our vocabulary to be less offensive but we have not changed the ways that we treat them.We have created as you said many barriers, the physical ones make their everyday life unbearable and the social barriers refer to the lack of support, the lack of benefits and the less opportunities that societies offer.I really could not imagine how it is to suffer from a disability, it must be emotionally unbearable.Imagine then not only to have to cope with your disability but also to have to cope with constant obstacles in your every day life!

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