Handicap This! January-February 2014

February 18, 2014

by Suzanne Rose

Around 500 people, mostly disabled, gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India, to hold a candlelight vigil and talk about a new bill, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They were protesting that after its approval by the Cabinet on Dec. 12, the bill wasn’t even tabled in Parliament before the Houses adjourned. A spokesperson for the group said, “Four years went into drafting that bill. We are scared that the government does not give this bill any priority and, given upcoming general elections, Parliament may not be re-convened early next year for any legislative business. If that happens, all our effort these past four years will go down the drain.” If that happens, he said, “Disabled people from across the country will jam the streets of Delhi.”

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“As many as 6.5 million of the world’s 43.5 million people displaced by conflict have disabilities. People with disabilities are among the most hidden and neglected of all displaced people, excluded from or unable to access most aid programs because of physical and social barriers or because of negative attitudes and biases. They are often not identified when aid agencies and organizations collect data and assess needs during and after a humanitarian disaster. Often, refugees with disabilities are more isolated following their displacement than when they were in their home communities.”

From Women’s Refugee Commission

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A new camp for Syrian refugees living with disabilities is under construction in Sulimaniyah, Iraq. A UNICEF officer tries to ensure that families are as comfortable as possible while waiting. The Gorgis family has three sons with disabilities. Their oldest, Yousef, was paralyzed at birth. Lying on the ground would make him stiff and insects would attack him. Now he has a bed and the family is more able to take care of him. The permanent camp will have facilities for people with special needs, including ramps and wide access points for latrines and other sanitary facilities.

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Georgia has become one of the first ex-Soviet republics to abolish state orphanages in favor of foster care. But disabled children continue to be marginalized and face the prospect of life-long isolation from society. The life of one 18-year-old with cerebral palsy is grim. He lies in the fetal position in bed, and is very thin with the body of a 10-year-old. He has not left his bed for five years except to get washed. He lives in one of the three remaining orphanages, some of which are run by the Georgian Orthodox Church, where children are said to be vulnerable to abuse, a charge the church denies.

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