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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

European Day of Disabled Persons 2008

3rd December is the European Day of Disabled People. Hurray! It's our day... or is it?

Well, the message for this year focuses on how a more inclusive society is of benefit to every member of society - disabled or not. And I believe as a disabled person I feel that this is the purpose of disability activism and the reason I joined in the Maltese Council of Disabled People (MCoDP). Indeed, I don't want to be advantaged over others because of my impairments, but I do demand the opportunity to participate and be included on an equal level. In truth, this issue is about you as well if you think of yourself as non-disabled.

But then think of how better this world would be if our society was more inclusive. Let's assume you need to take your baby son/daughter or brother/sister about four corners around the block in his or her pram. Imagine if the roads were all bumpy with garage ramps seemingly set as booby traps to topple you over. You'd thank inclusion then when you find that the pavements allow you to pass without too many difficulties. For me, as a wheelchair user, traveling on a bus is next to impossible but, I hope, as Malta ratifies the UN Convention Rights of Disabled People, things will improve.

What about access to information? As a visually impaired European citizen, don't I have the right to access information in an electronic or other accessible format on an equal level. It can help a wide range of people - ranging from old people who find reading difficulty to children! But then, think of yourself and how great it would if, following a hard day staring at a computer, you can still read with your eyes closed by 'listening' to an audio book... Believe me, it's quite an experience!

But now, let me talk about communication... Locally, the availability of programs with subtitles or Maltese Sign Language interpretation are virtually non-existent. But having subtitles, for example, can help a diverse range of people - such as old people who have lost their hearing and even children who want to learn to read. Apart from that, it can also help you follow a conversation if the accent is unfamiliar to you.

I cannot forget people with an intellectual impairment (UK: learning disability) here. Don't they have the right to access information too? Providing text in easy-to-read format is an option that can help. E-T-R texts are a conversion into the same text into a more concise, simpler language and are often accompanied by images. But, when KNPD - where I work - issues a publication in the easy-to-read format, demand exceeds supply!

Of course, accessibility to resources are only a fraction of the inclusion formula. In this sense, access to the Internet by designing accessible pages, access to services and all areas of life where we have rights are integral to the success of inclusion. However, we should be aware that disability is neither constant or inevitable. Impairment may well be on a route to 'progressive deterioration' as we grow older, but our level of inclusion in society need not be limited - even if we acquire an impairment. It's not fair and by equalizing social opportunities we can exert our human rights and reclaim our denied status in the world.

I'm afraid that I have a busy week ahead of me - interviews, receptions, conferences, food, ... (so no posts for a while)

PS: To check out the things KNPD and other organizations in Malta are doing for the period after the European Day of Disabled Persons, and on the occasion of International Human Rights Day (10 December) visit KNPD - please note opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect KNPD's position