International Disability Day – 3 activists discuss what it means for them

Home visits to former patients of our project in Malawi, titled 'NationalIdentity and Referral of Persons with Disability Project'

In this article we interview 3 disability activists about how they celebrate International Disability Day; Abner Manlapaz from the Philippines, Madezha Cépeda from Peru and Fredrick Ouko Alucheli from Kenya.

Why is international disability day important to celebrate?

Fredrick: This day is important to celebrate since it enables persons with disabilities to reflect on the strides made in advancing their rights globally. It facilitates the shift of focus at a global level to the plight of persons with disabilities thus facilitating various discussions and commitment on their issues by governments across the world.

Madezha: December, 3rd is a one day in the year when we can draw the attention of the public to all the things that still need to be done to eliminate the obstacles, which limit or prevent over one billion of people with disabilities worldwide from fully exerting our rights and contributing to the development of our countries and implementing all the capabilities that we possess. 

Abner: For me, it is important to celebrate the international disability day to highlight the human rights of all persons with disabilities. For many people, the human rights of persons with disabilities are not seen as human rights, instead, it is seen as privilege that need to be given to persons with disabilities because of their pitiful life. Oftentimes, their actions are based on sympathy rather than respect for the human rights of persons with disabilities. Thus, the celebration should break those stereotypes and stigmatizing view about persons with disabilities.

How is it celebrated in your country?

Fredrick: In Kenya, previously, we have held a national event with the localised theme to the one being used globally where speeches from relevant leadership within the disability movement, government and development organisations are presented including entertainment from groups of persons with disabilities alongside a showcase of products made by persons with disabilities. This year, we have a national function but each of the 47 counties is organising their own county celebrations. In Nairobi, disability organisations have come together to organise a walk around the city up to the venue of the celebrations where various performances will be given by groups followed by speeches related to the theme of this year’s celebrations.

Madezha: In Peru, October 16th has a higher profile as the day of the person with disabilities. It was established to commemorate a march of persons with disabilities, which in the beginning of the 80s managed to draw attention of the public and the parliamentarians. 

Abner: As far as I am concerned, I want to celebrate it by giving strong statement about the neglect and ignorance of people, about equal recognition and equal enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities. I want the society to realise the inequalities brought about by years of neglect and lack of equal attention on addressing inclusion of all persons with disabilities in different socio-economic areas. However, in our country, the Philippines, it is celebrated like any disability related celebration. It is not to say that it is not OK. But, I believe that the international disability day is best celebrated through the lens of social inclusion.

For 2016, what are your hopes for disability rights?

Fredrick: I hope to see a genuine interest and inclusion in the development agenda as the sustainable development goals take root; an inclusive international development agenda that takes disability as an important parameter of measuring progress. We should not be required to explain much about why disability inclusion matters. We do not need to convince to the human rights fraternity that disability rights are human rights, these are the kind of progress I want to see in 2016 including the emancipation of the youthful voices within the global disability movement.

Madezha: In 2016 in Peru we will be electing a new government. In this regard, the organisations of persons with disabilities and those who work in this field, we all are facing a challenge of achieving that the new government will implement various aspects of the new legislation for the persons with disabilities, which are awaiting to become a reality.  With regard to the disability movement, we are challenged to increase our active involvement in politics, so that in the next elections there will be more persons with disabilities running for positions of power and from that place, it would be possible to supervise more effectively compliance with all the rules that we have. 

Abner: I hope that persons with disabilities will become more critical about their human rights. I hope that the government of the Philippines will thrive harder to promote and protect the rights of all persons with disabilities. I hope that international organisations will also do the same. Persons with disabilities needs to be engaged more so that they will be more critical about their rights. To make it easier for DPOs, we need to be supported. We need to be supported to help us engage the government. To effectively engage the government, we need to be knowledgeable about our human rights.