What is this piece about?
I was born in 1996, I was also born with a “disability”. This piece means a lot to me because having different challenges with cerebral palsy and using a power wheelchair, I have come to realize the date I was born was really important. 30 years earlier, I could have been in an institution, with no rights, no education, no technology and minimal care. This piece is about the evolution of people with disabilities and includes three parts, the past, present, and future. The past was a very dark side of history where people with disabilities were isolated, ignored, sterilized, put into institutions, and treated unequally from the rest of society. Even when the civil rights era came about in the 1960’s and laws were passed for many other groups of minorities, it was not until about 10 years later in 1973, that the first real law that prohibited discrimination was passed. The 1970s-80s is when people’s voices really started to be heard, and some real changes started to take place. But, it was only in the year 1990 that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became a landmark law, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. That leads us into the present day where there are more rights than ever before in history, such as equal employment opportunities and accessible public transportation. Also, there is more equality and inclusion within society. Although everything is getting better as time goes on for individuals, there is still a lot of social injustice that needs to be worked on. For example, there is still discrimination within schools, the workplace, and society itself. In the future, there needs to be total inclusion, equality, and the same rights for everybody no matter their abilities and every person has value! This piece is going to go through each time period where people are ignored from society, with their voices not being heard, and stuck. Over time, the individuals are going to be integrated into society and accepted for who they are. Our hope for the future is inclusion, equality, total acceptance and feelings of self worth.
Why is this piece/topic important?
The fact the 1 billion people in this world, around 15%, of the population live with a disability, means that, in some way, this will affect everyone at some point in there lifetime, whether it is a parent, child, friend, co-worker or yourself. Believe it or not, it is the world’s largest minority, and we need to make sure everyone has equal opportunities and rights. It is important to understand the history of people who are differently-abled so we can learn from that and start making much needed changes. Also, there needs to be more understanding and empathy for what individuals have to go through. There are so many barriers, both physically and mentally that need to go away. Some of those barriers include language, labels, inaccessibility, discrimination, and attitudes of society. Language has evolved over the years and still needs to continue to change. In the past, people have used horrific words to describe individuals. Also, labels seem to be part of our culture, which can really stereotype or stigmatize groups or individuals. It has gotten better but there is still a long way to go. Accessibility is an issue that people have to face on a daily basis including physical barriers to go to school, work, a store, restaurant, or with transportation. But, it is also access to be able to vote, have good healthcare, get information and services, communication, and get education to name a few. A huge reason why people who are differently-abled are not as equal as everybody else is because of society itself. Sometimes, the hardest thing to overcome is discrimination and attitudes. Trying to change comes from within, and through advocating, educating, giving respect to everyone, knowing every person matters, standing up for what you believe in, is how this will happen. I am hoping this piece can be a part of this process, and that is why I love AUTS theme of “Empathy”!
Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities
- Around 15 percent of the world’s population, or estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities. They are the world’s largest minority. (WHO)
- This figure is increasing through population growth, medical advances and the ageing process, says the World Health Organization. (WHO)
- In countries with life expectancies over 70 years, individuals spend on average about 8 years, or 11.5 per cent of their life span, living with disabilities. (Disabled World)
- Eighty percent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, according to the UN Development Programme. (WHO)
- Disability rates are significantly higher among groups with lower educational attainment in the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says the OECD Secretariat. On average, 19 per cent of less educated people have disabilities, compared to 11 per cent among the better educated.
- In most OECD countries, women report higher incidents of disability than men.
- The World Bank estimates that 20 percent of the world’s poorest people have some kind of disability, and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged. (World Bank)
- Women with disabilities are recognized to be multiply disadvantaged, experiencing exclusion on account of their gender and their disability. (Disabled World)
- Women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse. A small 2004 survey in Orissa, India, found that virtually all of the women and girls with disabilities were beaten at home, 25 percent of women with intellectual disabilities had been raped and 6 percent of women with disabilities had been forcibly sterilized.
- According to UNICEF, 30 percent of street youths have some kind of disability. (UNICEF)
- Mortality for children with disabilities may be as high as 80 per cent in countries where under-five mortality as a whole has decreased below 20 per cent, says the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, adding that in some cases it seems as if children are being “weeded out”. (World Bank)
- Comparative studies on disability legislation shows that only 45 countries have anti-discrimination and other disability-specific laws.
- In the United Kingdom, 75 percent of the companies of the FTSE 100 Index on the London Stock Exchange do not meet basic levels of web accessibility, thus missing out on more than $147 million in revenue.
- Ninety percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school, says UNESCO. (UNESCO)
- The global literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as 3 per cent, and 1 percent for women with disabilities, according to a 1998 UNDP study. (UNDP)
- In the OECD countries, students with disabilities in higher education remain under-represented, although their numbers are on the increase, says the OECD. (OECD)
- An estimated 386 million of the world’s working-age people have some kind of disability, says the International Labour Organization (ILO). Unemployment among the persons with disabilities is as high as 80 per cent in some countries. Often employers assume that persons with disabilities are unable to work. (ILO)
- Even though persons with disabilities constitute a significant 5 to 6 percent of India’s population, their employment needs remain unmet, says a study by India’s National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, in spite of the “People with Disabilities” Act, which reserves for them 3 percent of government jobs. Of the some 70 million persons with disabilities in India, only about 100,000 have succeeded in obtaining employment in industry. (NCPED)
- A 2004 United States survey found that only 35 percent of working-age persons with disabilities are in fact working, compared to 78 per cent of those without disabilities. Two-thirds of the unemployed respondents with disabilities said they would like to work but could not find jobs. (International Disability Rights Monitor, 2004)
- A 2003 study by Rutgers University found that people with physical and mental disabilities continue to be vastly underrepresented in the U.S. workplace. One-third of the employers surveyed said that persons with disabilities cannot effectively perform the required job tasks. The second most common reason given for not hiring persons with disabilities was the fear of costly special facilities. (Dixon, Kruse, Van Horn, 2003)
- The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment states that the employers in the 2010 study reported that a high percentage (56%) of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $600. (JAN)
- Companies report that employees with disabilities have better retention rates, reducing the high cost of turnover, says a 2002 U.S. study. Other American surveys reveal that after one year of employment, the retention rate of persons with disabilities is 85 per cent. (Unger, 2002)
- Thousands of persons with disabilities have been successful as small business owners, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The 1990 national census revealed that persons with disabilities have a higher rate of self-employment and small business experience (12.2 percent) than persons without disabilities (7.8 per cent). (U.S. Census of Population and Housing, 1990)
- For every child killed in warfare, three are injured and acquire a permanent form of disability. (Disabled World)
- In some countries, up to a quarter of disabilities result from injuries and violence, says WHO. (WHO)
- Persons with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence or rape, according to a 2004 British study, and less likely to obtain police intervention, legal protection or preventive care. (Dodd, Tricia, et al., 2004)
- Research indicates that violence against children with disabilities occurs at annual rates at least 1.7 times greater than for their peers without disabilities. (Global Campaign for Education, 2011)
“Willowbrook” (video) (trigger warning)
“Christmas in Purgatory”
President Obama Speaks on the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act