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ENABLING THE DISABLED TO ENJOY A NORMAL, HAPPY LIFE

 

                                                                            By Dr. Malik S. Khan

A Publication of Motamar at the United Nations by

 

the International Islamic Council for Da`wa and Relief

 

 

The session of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities in August 2002 was very informative.  Governmental delegates made very good contributions, while NGOs brought along with them disabled people and material covered in the debate.  It was a great experience to see the problems and issues that disabled people suffer, and their presence enhanced this informative debate on how to tackle these problems globally.  The global human rights issue for the disabled was an area where all delegates were united.

 

Mines, guns, wars, and chemicals, inter alia, make people disabled.  The United Nations emphasizes that we must protect people from these dangers and stresses.  It is our moral duty to protect the disabled and to protect the able from becoming disabled.

 

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has submitted General Assembly Resolution S4/21 of 17 December 1999 for implementation to the Commission for Social Development to give equal opportunity in selected fields of employment to people with disabilities and to provide sustainable health and social services.

 

There is a growing trend for the adoption of regulations and policies to fight discrimination against the disabled with the provision of increased access to public buildings, Internet and telecommunications systems, transportation, and other facets of the infrastructure.  Making life for the disabled easier makes them productive.  They can contribute whatever they are capable of.  Acts and laws are geared to protect and provide services for the deaf and blind.

           

One of the basic rights that should be available to the disabled in all countries is barrier-free access to public buildings.  In some countries the disabled are provided financial assistance for the acquisition of equipment and software designed according to their needs, and comprehensive websites are providing information for the rehabilitation and integration of people with disabilities.  The computer levels the playing field for many people of various disabilities.

 

The disabled need new building codes that provide for building access, disabled parking, footpath ramp access for wheelchairs, and toilet facilities in bathrooms equipped for the access and use of the disabled. Most countries do not yet have an equivalent to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Disabilities include lack of motor skills, restricted movement, the infirmities of old age, paraplegia and quadriplegia, degenerative disorders, muteness and speech pathologies, deafness, blindness, inability of the heart and lungs to work at normal capacity, mental retardation, insanity, reading and learning disabilities, and others.  The disability can be total, or it can be partial, measured in percentage.

 

There are people with work disability.  The protection of the less able, whether they were born with disabilities or became disabled, needs special attention.

 

Reforms, and the money to implement them, are needed worldwide to provide for the physically and mentally challenged.  In every community around the world a certain percentage of the population is disabled.  The governments should allot a suitable percentage of their budgets for programs for the disabled. We must share our 2 1/2% of zakat (Islamic charity) with those who don’t have normal capability.  In countries with Islamic governments, the government collects the zakat (charity) to use to benefit the disabled, among others.  Sometimes, though, this money is not enough due to too many people being eligible to receive its benefits.  Certain segments of the disabled population incur great expense: the lifetime care of the severely physically or mentally handicapped, and those suffering from disabilities that involve severe medical complications.  Sometimes the government money must be supplemented by resources such as private charity.  The state also has to provide from the zakat (charity) money for others qualified to receive it, such as impoverished orphans and widows.

 

National awareness campaigns, symposia, seminars, and observing the Universal Day of the Disabled will lead to positive programs.  To be disabled does not mean that the person with the disability cannot be productive.  Special industries can be geared for the persons who can still utilize the abilities they have to be productive.  Not only can the individual earn and be a productive member of society, but at the same time the person gets respect and can live a normal life within the disability.  The information and awareness-raising campaign can focus on the abilities of a person with disability.  Their potential, production, and creative participation with skills in the workforce have been shared at the UN conference.  Information on the programs one nation successfully is gearing can be shared with all nations.  The government can implement these programs within its available resources to the level that it can achieve, but it may not be able to provide the high standard of assistance that is provided in rich nations.

 

Intergovernmental organizational institutions through their social integration programs provide disability and development programs to get not only training but also loans and aid.

 

Throughout the world, seminars, conferences, workshops, and symposia on topics related to disability can raise awareness and spark legislation funding programs to empower the disabled, women and children and to combat poverty.  The health information systems must define the population of disabled persons.  The world needs to provide direct special attention to equal access to education and development of programs for appropriate and sustainable employment as a key policy.

 

In some countries the HIV/AIDS problem has reached epidemic proportions, leaving a significant proportion of the population as widows and orphans, men unable to work and mothers too sick to care for their children.  The problems arising through HIV/AIDS need to be addressed at the grassroots level.  How to combat it?  How to eliminate it?  What to do for prevention?  What human value is best geared to prevent and combat HIV/AIDS?

 

The United Nations Millennium Assembly, which was held 10-15 September 2000, suggested to consider fundamental values deemed essential to international relations in 21st Century and to identify priorities to translate the shared values into action.  The United Nations has adopted the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.

 

The UN recommends the improvement of management and delivery of services in urban agglomerations so that they meet the needs of all citizens including the disabled, and on expanding youth and adult education with particular attention to people with disabilities.  The United Nations Millennium Declaration adopted by the General Assembly on 8 September 2000 covers the disabled with all citizens.  On International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December 2000 the theme was "Making Information and Technologies Work for All."

 

All the NGOs are committed to working through the Department of Public Information and its system of United Nations Information Centers and services to effectively disseminate a range of documents and information on the work of the organizations concerned with persons with disabilities.

 

Pursuant to the Economic and Social Council’s resolution 2000/268 of July 2001, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on Disabilities of the Commission for Social Development, we are committed to the United Nations’ human rights mechanism, including special rapporteurs and treaty bodies.  We the NGOs will get involved concerning the rights of the disabled.  The United Nations High Commission programs are geared with special attention given to the refugees with disabilities.  The Health Hazard material also gives special attention to the needs of the disabled with reference to hazards such as fires, hazardous chemicals, radiation, pollution, and others.

 

NGOs worldwide are requested to launch a Global Rights campaign to promote awareness.

 

International child labor laws protect children from abuse.  The universal programs are introducing legislation globally to combat problems.  The world human values can be the best gear we can use in promoting the religious initiative to promote and provide for the child and family till the bread earner stands on his feet.  This is for the prevention of disability.

 

The Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities met in July 2002.  The NGOs participating in specific situations, proposed solutions for NGO participation and to hear from them in special situations.  (1) Defining the disability, (2) rights of people with curable and incurable disabilities, (3) rights of those specific to disability. 

It is an excellent suggestion to see in the framework of disability.  There are many other forms of disability.  Human beings suffer, for instance, color blindness, night blindness, and other disabilities due to malnutrition or diseases.  There are people with disabilities with those syndromes which are recognized and need to be provided facilitation so they can live a normal lifespan. 

The International Islamic Council of Da`wa and Relief requests all the Islamic organizations of the world to appeal to entire humanity to kindly provide compassion and assistance to disabled people so they may take their part in every sphere of life.  Disabled people form a sizeable fraction of the world's population and exist in every society and on all continents of the world.