India or Canada, the disabled suffer everywhere: activists

February 27th, 2008 - 12:12 pm ICT by admin  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) Be it in a developing country like India or a developed nation like Canada, disabled people across the world suffer the insensitivities of the system, say leading activists. “Disabled people suffer from the system’s insensitivity everywhere in the world. The difference only lies in the acuteness of suffering,” Javed Abidi, secretary general, Disabled Peoples International (DPI)-India, said at a seminar here.

He pointed out the case of India where they have a share of less than 1.5 percent in the government’s welfare and other poverty alleviation schemes despite statutory provisions under which their minimum share should be three percent.

“Hardly anything is being done to make them aware of their rights,” Abidi said.

The 21st century does not offer much to protect the rights of people with disabilities (PWDs) and ensure their social dignity and financial independence, the activists said.

Contrary to the general perception that disabled people are better treated in developed countries, Steve Estey, human rights officer, Canada-based DPI, presented a grim picture of people suffering from physical disabilities in affluent nations.

“It is a perception that the developed and rich countries spend a lot on us, but it is not the reality,” Estey said.

Estey who can’t hear but speaks eloquently was here to attend the strategic round table conference on the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

He said people with disabilities were integrating themselves globally.

“The governments have also started responding to their rights and demands. But all is not well. A barrier free ambience is still a distant dream. They are discriminated globally. Human rights violations of persons with physical disabilities are rampant,” Estey said.

“It pains me to say that PWDs have miles to go in terms of social and financial security,” Estey said.

Estey said things started changing for them only 30 years ago when the world saw a movement in support of their rights. But there was a lot to be done for their well-being. “Over 100 million people suffer from impairments caused by malnutrition,” he said.

Mary Ennis, executive director, DPI, told IANS: “We have to fight for our rights in Canada as well. It is happening in other developed countries. People have to buy hearing aids on their own. The issue of PWDs is much larger than seen by others from outside.”

Major problems that affect people with disabilities are poverty, malnutrition, inaccessible health and education facilities, total absence of rehabilitation programmes, discrimination, and social insensitivity.

“The issue is whether the people with disabilities are seen and treated like other human beings with the same amount of dignity and affection. In African countries, they are treated pathetically. Their condition vastly differs in urban and rural areas in Asian countries. The level of poverty is much higher among them,” she said.

Aruna Sharma, joint secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said: “It is true that a lot needs to be done for people with disabilities, notwithstanding the on-going efforts. They should be treated as an asset rather than liability.”

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to protect the rights of the world’s estimated 650 million people with disabilities will take effect 30 days after all the member countries ratify the treaty.

Over 124 countries worldwide are signatories to the treaty, but only 16 of them have ratified it so far. These countries are Bangladesh, Croatia, Cuba, El Salvador, Gabon, Guinea, Hungary, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Namibia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, South Africa and Spain.

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