Today, December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD)! This important day is celebrated around the world to help promote the rights of individuals with disabilities so that they can grow and thrive within a more inclusive, equitable, and accessible society.
According to the WHO, more than 80% of people living with disabilities reside in developing nations. Life is particularly difficult in these places for disabled persons, where cultural taboos, a lack of critical adaptive infrastructure, and poor quality health services are common. Many disabled children are severely marginalized; they are excluded from school and later on from job opportunities. They are often at greater risk of sexual, psychological, and physical abuse and exploitation, and some parents even murder babies that are born disabled.
At Luena Foundation, we continuously strive to stand up for children with health conditions or impairments. In Cameroon and Uganda, nearly all of the latrines and water points we construct are designed to be accessed by children in wheelchairs or those who use crutches. We take inclusivity into careful consideration as we vet our partners, and we consider all children when we evaluate how to proceed with and implement our projects in the field.
We also look for disabled change-makers who are striving to change the way their society views them. In Bolivia, we supported a young man with Down’s Syndrome who was raising guinea pigs to help generate an income for his parents and brothers and sisters. In Uganda, we met Evelyn, whose inspiring story is featured in the video below.
So, what can you do to help?
You can become an ally of someone who is disabled. The best way to do this is to educate yourself on ableism and stand up for inclusivity. Be aware of the language that you use; for example, phrases such as ‘wheelchair-bound’ can imply that having a disability is negative and frightening. Take time to educate yourself by reading or listening to a podcast. Donate to and partner with an NGO or organization that helps provide equal access to schools, medical care and other services to ALL people, regardless of their condition. And remember that all people deserve to be treated equally, that all communities should strive to be more equitable, inclusive, and accessible.