Wednesday, December 5, 2012

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2012

Development and human rights for all

Theme: United Nations declared December 3 every year as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for 2012, “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”

Over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.

Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, often face barriers to participation in all aspects of society. Barriers can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment or to information and communications technology (ICT), or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination. The result is that persons with disabilities do not have equal access to society or services, including education, employment, health care, transportation, political participation or justice.

Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognized by the CRPD and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. The CRPD (Article 9, accessibility) seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

In spite of this, in many parts of the world today, lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility as a cross-cutting development issue remains an obstacle to the achievement of progress and development through the Millennium Development Goals, as well as other internationally agreed outcomes for all.

The commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 provides an opportunity to address this exclusion by focusing on promoting accessibility and removing all types of barriers in society.

How the Day may be observed

Based on the main theme of IDPD 2012 “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and
accessible society for all”, sub-themes can be selected to cover all aspects of society and development, including, but not limited to, removing barriers to education, employment, transportation, travel and tourism or sports. You can select a sub-theme to address a specific issue of exclusion and accessibility in your community.

Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation by all stakeholders – Governments, the UN system, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities – to focus on issues related to the removal of barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society that would benefit all.

Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the themes of IDPD 2012 to find innovative ways and means by which barriers to the inclusion of persons with disabilities and their families can be broken down.

Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase - and celebrate - the contributions made by persons with disabilities as agents of change and development in the communities in which they live.

Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action that would help to remove barriers that limit accessibility for and participation by persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development.  Highlight progress and obstacles in creating accessible and inclusive society, including in terms of physical environments, information and communications technology and other areas, as well as promote public awareness of existing barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in their societies.

Disabled community pushes for improved building regulations

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has been urged to enact disabled-friendly building regulations to ensure the provision of facilities for this group of people.

Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) president Prof Datuk Abdullah Malim Baginda said the existing directive only advised companies to build such disabled-friendly facilities and the matter often fell on deaf ears.
“If the directive was made compulsory, all new buildings will then be required by law to have ramps and existing buildings must be modified to accommodate this,” he added.
Abdullah Malim said the government should impose a deadline for companies to implement the changes and if they ignored it, penalties ought to be imposed.
“Making changes to an existing building will incur cost and companies often felt there was no need in spending money for such facilities.
“With a penalty, companies will be forced to implement such changes,”he said.
Besides the inaccessibility factor, KL-Selangor Welfare Society for Handicap Citizens president Lim Kok Onn said private toilets lack facilities for the disabled. 
He also said not all LRT stations were equipped with ramps.
“The disabled cannot make use of the public transportation as they are unable to get to the trains,” he said.
Commenting on the identity card for persons with disabilities, which can now be obtained within a day, he said the move was a step forward in recognising the needs of the disabled.
“We will just have to wait and see if this new measure will take place effectively throughout the country.”
The new development was announced by the Women, Family and Community Development deputy minister Datuk Noriah Kasnon in conjunction with the national-level celebration of International Day of People with a Disability, on Monday.
According to Lim, previously, the card application took from three months to almost a year. 
Damai Disabled Persons Association of Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan Malaysia president V. Murugeswaran welcomed the new initiative.
He said the government should emulate the Manjung Municipal Council in Perak which imposed a RM10,000 penalty on buildings that did not provide disable-friendly facilities.
“The Uniformed Building By-Laws 1984 should have a penalty clause as the current condition would not change until there are changes made to the law.
Noriah said yesterday there were ongoing discussions with the Local Government and Housing Ministry regarding disabled friendly rules for buildings. 
“We are still in discussion with the relevant stakeholders and hopefully will be making changes to the Local Government Act 1976 to incorporate compulsory disabled-friendly building regulations applicable to both the government and public sector,” she said.