BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

People Living with Physical Disabilities



Most people have heard about Chantal petitclerc- the exceptional Canadian wheelchair athlete with 21 Olympic medals who went on to become a senator despite her condition. The society does not hesitate to celebrate outstanding and inspiring figures like her, however, there are many more physically challenged individuals without much success stories that are ostracized, abused, infantilized, ridiculed, ignored; name it! The ‘disabled’- a word that in fact should be substituted with a more societally neutral term due to the stigma attached to it, constitute the largest marginalised group of individuals with over 1 billion individuals affected worldwide. Disability is either congenital (born with) or acquired through aging, disease conditions, traumatic injury from wars, natural disasters etc. The fact that 15 out of every 100 individuals are affected should stress the commonality and accommodation of their rights as full-fledged individuals. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different; they are confronted with problems in various social areas ranging from healthcare to education.

Across the globe, it is glaring how the healthcare sector has failed disabled individuals as they are 3 times more likely to be denied healthcare and 4 times more likely to be treated badly in health systems; the situation is even worse in developing countries with out of the pocket system and the US where they often lose their insurance. The perplexing fact is that some of these things are caused by governmental conflict or failure of a system in the society. Consider the thalidomide disaster (a typical example of failure in the drug surveillance system) where many mothers bore babies with limb abnormalities due to the effects of the thalidomide drug taken by these mothers while they were pregnant. Now, shouldn’t the government take a moral stand to take responsibility for its inaction? Another area of health that is often ignored is the sexual health of these physically challenged individuals. With little or no sex education, they are seen as lacking or having less sexual needs which is completely false and wrong. The ‘ideal’ and accepted culture of how people engaging in intercourse should look and how sex should be done has left no room for them.

Consider the situation of a thalidomide baby who due to the failure of the society is born without limbs and has problems with schooling, and consequently becomes poor due to the inability to get a job. Such is the vicious cycle that can arise from not allowing and supporting people with disabilities reach their full potential. Children are faced with psychosocial problems of isolation and exclusion which injures their self-esteem. Also, problem with transportation and communication can make everyday living difficult. The discrimination continues to employment and pay. The most important thing is inclusion in every aspect for everyone including the elderly, women (who suffer double blow gender discrimination and this) and children who are often abused and neglected. Proper integration of these children into the educational system is of prime importance if the SDGs are to be realised. Inclusive legislation like Americans with disabilities act and Canadians with disabilities act which prohibit discrimination based on disability are to be encouraged. The right to receive healthcare and other necessary services just like every other member of the society must be protected. Beyond these legal amendments, there should also be support and enlightenment of the public to correct unfounded beliefs about ‘disability’

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