Disability in a Cruel World

Disability in a Cruel World

Disability in a cruel world. How do people with disabilities cope in a world so cruel as this?

Sandra Emons writes about her vast encounters with disability in a cruel world. As a disabled person she has experienced that she is treated less than human.

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Sandra Emons writes:

It wasn’t hard to understand why they might feel that way when I saw a five-year old girl in Ghana dressed in rags, with a heavy chain secured to a nearby tree clamped around her legs. This was her fate because her family believed that she was possessed by evil spirits, which is commonly associated with having a disability in many communities.

Or when I met Agus, a young man with a psychosocial disability (mental health condition) in Central Java, Indonesia. He spent four years locked in a sheep shed, barely able to stand or move, surrounded by the stench of human and animal waste.

Many of the children that have been institutionalised will grow up and never leave these places.

I have just returned from Serbia where we documented that children with disabilities are often confined in institutions, sometimes taken there directly from the maternity ward on the advice of medical staff. Many of the children do not attend school or play with toys or other children. They just lie in bed all day without any stimulation or interaction. Instead of echoing with laughter and running, the halls of these “homes” for children are quiet, chilling. And many of the children there will never leave.

I was fortunate to be among the many advocates who participated in the negotiations on the international disability rights treaty at the UN in New York. During that process, there was a sea change in the way people viewed, respected and engaged with people with disabilities. People with disabilities had a voice, and they were heard.

Ten years since its adoption, much progress has been made in so many aspects of the law and life, and people with disabilities in many countries are leading the fight for their rights.

At the same time, in many countries – both developing and supposedly developed – people with disabilities continue to be locked up in institutions, hidden out of sight or treated like animals. And stigma and discrimination play a central role.

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Chances are you know someone with a disability. According to the World Health Organisation, 1 billion people – one in seven – have some form of disability. They are our classmates, relatives and friends, and they have the right to be treated the same as everyone else.

 For more information about training that we offer, please contact Elsie Botha on 011 763 3366 or elsie@action4.org.za and Stephen Bergers on 011 763 2429 or stephen@action4.org.za