November 30, 2021 | 00h00
The first Paralympic Games were held in 1960, in Rome, Italy, although they have been held since 1948 under a different name. Since 1998, the Paralympic Games have used the same facilities as the Olympic Games, and in 2001 the International Olympic Committee formalized that every city that applies to host the Olympic Games also bid to host the Paralympic Games in tandem in the same year. . The goal was likely to encourage a similar treatment of the Paralympic Games as its more illustrious brother.
In practice, this has not quite been the case. The Paralympics in general receive much less media coverage than the Olympics. Much of the media coverage around the Paralympic Games has also been historically problematic, calling Paralympians “overcoming” their disability in order to “participate” in sport, rather than treating them as exceptional athletes.
This type of stereotypical coverage tends to use the Paralympic Games as inspiration while advancing the mistaken narrative that pure effort is enough to negate the effects of disabilities, which is extremely distorted of the reality of many with disabilities in the world. world. In a way, the disparity in treatment between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympians and the Paralympians, highlights the parallel but different treatment of able-bodied and disabled people.
There have been people with physical or mental disabilities since the dawn of humanity, but the movement to ensure that these disabilities do not interfere with their equal participation in society and its rights is recent. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is less than 20 years old and was adopted in 2006. This despite the fact that people with disabilities represent a significant number of the world’s population: According to United Nations data , approximately 15 percent of the world’s population lives with a disability. Eighty percent of these people with disabilities live in developing countries. Based on the 2016 National Disability Prevalence Survey, around 12% of Filipinos aged 15 and over in surveyed households had a severe disability, and almost a third of those surveyed who were 60 years old. years or older suffered from a severe disability.
We use the term “disability” but it is important to be aware that it is a complex, evolving and contested term. There have been different models of disability, or ways of thinking about disability, that have evolved over the years. One of the oldest and most criticized models, the individual model, still prevails today: disability is considered a problem encountered by the individual, the disabled person being considered a passive beneficiary of cures or rehabilitation. by medical experts. But this view ignores the role that society and the environment play in disadvantaging people with disabilities.
A more equitable way of looking at disability is the social model. The CRPD provides an inclusive definition of persons with disabilities as “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various obstacles, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis. with the others. “
This definition no longer makes disability a purely individual matter. Instead, it distinguishes between impairment of body or mind and barriers or obstacles in the environment that render people with those impairments unable to participate in society on an equal basis with others. able-bodied people.
This distinction is important because disability is no longer an individual problem to be solved, but a social problem – society must be made to adapt to the needs of people with disabilities so that they are not excluded from society. Of course, the effect of these impairments on the individual cannot be ignored, and access to medical assistance and rehabilitation must be part of any policy in favor of people with disabilities.
But in many cases, what makes a person “disabled” is caused by the refusal of society to take their needs into account: a second floor accessible only by stairs is inaccessible to a person in a wheelchair, but a floor with ramp is not; a document without braille is unreadable to a blind person, but a document with is not.
This is all the more important in an emergency, as the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown. People with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic: barriers that already made life difficult for people with disabilities, that made it harder to get an education, or find a job, or apply for a job. government assistance, have been dramatically exacerbated by the pandemic and quarantine restrictions. . Not all disabilities would allow access to distance learning, leading many students with disabilities to no longer attend classes. A survey conducted by the NGO Project Inclusion Network found that a significant number of people with disabilities may not have been able to receive social improvement funds because they were unable to register properly or not. could not find anyone to help them reach the distribution site.
We need to do a lot to make sure we don’t leave our people with disabilities behind. Measures have already been taken in Congress to better enable schools to accommodate learners with disabilities, to ensure that the identifiers of people with disabilities have lifetime validity and to facilitate access for people with disabilities to public transport.
But there must also be a fundamental shift in policy and mindset, to fully integrate the needs and concerns of people with disabilities with those of the general public. How many government offices are fully wheelchair accessible? How many important laws and regulations are published simultaneously in a form that the visually impaired can understand? How many able-bodied people think about the special needs created by the spectrum of disabilities when starting a business, constructing a building or establishing a rule?
As the International Day of Persons with Disabilities approaches, it is important to realize that disability is part of the human condition. It affects all of our lives, and it is a condition that each of us can find ourselves in at some point in our lives. The Magna Carta for People with Disabilities declares that people with disabilities are part of Filipino society, with the same rights as all of us … but this principle and promise is void unless Filipino society adapts to the disabilities of our brethren and sisters.