The annual compliance of International Day of Disabled People was announced in 1992, by a resolution of the UN General Assembly 47/3. Sticking to the Day aims to promote understanding of disability issues and stimulate support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people with disabilities. It also seeks to raise awareness of the benefits to be gained from integrating people with disabilities into all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life.
World Disability Day was held last month under the theme “Building Better Back: towards a post-COVID-19 disability-inclusive world”.
The United Nations (UN) Leading Report on Disability and Development 2018 – Realizing SDGs by, for and with people with disabilities – shows that people with disabilities are disadvantaged in most Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) , but it also highlights the growing number of good practices that can create a more inclusive society where they can live independently.
The United Nations has issued an urgent call for global efforts to ensure that the more than one billion people worldwide living with some form of disability can benefit from development and full participation in society. For this to happen, the United Nations has said that it is necessary to remove all barriers that affect the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in society, including by changing attitudes that fuel stigma and discrimination.
People with disabilities generally have poorer health, lower educational achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is mainly due to the lack of services available to them and the many obstacles they face in their daily lives.
Unsurprisingly, children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled children, according to a systematic review published in the medical journal The Lancet in July 2012.
Globally, children with disabilities are estimated to be 5.1 percent of the total population. These are the ones most likely to be disadvantaged in terms of educational opportunities. For example, while we here in Guyana can take pride in a good track record in providing quality education to people, regardless of their geographical location, race, religion, gender or social status, there is still much to do ensuring that disabled people have equal access to education.
At present, very few teachers in the school system have the necessary skills to inform people with disabilities, and as in almost all sectors, COVID-19 has made things worse. It is also worth noting that most of our public schools do not have the facilities necessary to accommodate such people; eg ramps and railings, etc. All of this makes it more difficult for people with specific disabilities to ‘fit in’. Few schools in the country also cater for special needs children.
In fairness, some steps are being taken to improve and expand what currently exists as it relates to education for special needs children; but they are inadequate and the benefits are not accessible to all.
We urge all stakeholders here, including political parties and the international development partners, to continue to support policies that would realize every child’s right to quality education as one way to reduce the inequalities created by social exclusion. Certainly, when people with disabilities are given the opportunity to acquire a good education or learn a skill, they are in a better position to secure a job and in turn break the cycle of poverty that typically defines such situations.
More generally, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires countries not only to adopt it, but to implement it fully because it is a tool for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to the same rights and opportunities with everyone else. As explained by the World Health Organization (WHO), rather than considering disability as a matter of medicine, charity or addiction, the Convention challenges people around the world to understand disability as a human rights issue.
The Convention covers many areas where barriers can arise, such as physical access to buildings, roads and transport, and access to information through written and electronic communications. The Convention also aims to reduce stigma and discrimination, which are often reasons why people with disabilities are excluded from education, employment and health and other services.

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