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For thousands of people who convened for the Rio+20 conference billed as the “most historic of our generation” –much has been lost because of the lack of political will to deliver the world out of its challenges.
Anyway, out of all the things that Rio+20 could not achieve something right did happen. Something which is most of the time overlooked by you, I and everyone else. As the dust settled on two decades of negotiations, some of those among us and most vulnerable to climate change because of their “unique abilities” are finally given the recognition they deserve.
They are our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, relatives, neighbours and friends living with disabilities. The Rio+20 Outcome Document is inclusive of disabilities! For this group of people – the world’s largest minority group – inclusion did not come easy and it was through partnerships between individuals and groups who had consistently advocated for inclusiveness in the society and in any activity that would have an impact on people with disability.
We are aware of the impacts of climate change and how we all feel it in one way or another. But we must also be aware that this global threat will not impact everyone equally. Women, children, the elderly, the indigenous peoples and those with disabilities – all are affected differently.
According to the International Disability Alliance, in a world of seven billion people there are a billion people living with disabilities and at least 80% percent of the disabled population live in developing countries. Now that is something to think about! How can we make sure that our society is inclusive of people with disabilities, giving them the respect they deserve and treating them as equal?
The Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) defines the term disability as “those who have long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” Fiji signed the CRPD in July 2010 but has not yet ratified it.
The Rio+20 Outcome Document, "The future we want", has five specific references to disability.
We need frameworks and policies that are disability-inclusive and based on the key foundations of equality, fair participation and empowerment. When leaders talk about development – it has to include disability because we are all in this world as one. We can only progress if we move together at the same speed.
There is a need to encourage action from our Governments. But we also need to get involved. As individuals, thinking and acting inclusive to stop believing that disabilities stop people from doing things. Changing mindsets is not easy, but it not impossible also.
Many of us live in a world where we are blinded to see the potential people with disabilities have, and often feel and act as if they are not part of society. I had a similar mindset once. But that changed when I befriended a young man who was a very good athlete. We had similar sporting interests. He loved playing sports like most young people, he also provided for his family, and fully participated in all activities that he is involved in. My friend has vision impairment. Yet, it feels as if he is merrier than me and many others in our circle of friends because he does not see his disability limiting him from living a full, happy, healthy life. He made me realize the ability in his disability.
One of the most celebrated singers, songwriters in the world, Stevie wonder, who lost his vision shortly after birth once said, “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes does not mean he lacks vision.” Imagine the world without the vision and music of Stevie wonder. It does not sound as nice as one with him now, does it?
We are seven billion people, living in one world with unique abilities. To appreciate what we have – we need to create a culture of inclusiveness!
References: Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities; International Disability Alliance (IDA website); Rio+20 - The Future We Want (Full text of the Rio+20 Outcome Document); Alert Net (Live Bloghttp://s3.amazonaws.com/voy/attachments/1705/original/CIMG0004.JPGs - Sightsavers at Rio+20 by Helen Hamilton).