While addressing the inaugural function of the 28th International Day of Persons with Disabilities-2019 at Jatiya Protibondhi Unnayan Foundation on Thursday Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the country’s people to discard their ‘negative mindset’ about the persons with disabilities.
No doubt, hitherto in Bangladesh, children with disabilities are the least likely to receive health care or go to school and are among the most vulnerable to violence, abuse and neglect, especially if they are hidden away in institutions because of social stigma or parental inability to raise them. There is no denying that over the last years Bangladesh has brought disabled members of society out of the shadows. Now, we have to ensure that they can live life to the fullest without being stigmatized and discriminated. But unfortunately, discrimination around physical and mental illness is embedded in our language. Longstanding cultural prejudice around disability, combined with the demonising rhetoric of austerity, has exacerbated a sense of difference in society; an othering that perpetuates the idea that disabled people aren’t quite normal, or don’t want a life, a family, a home or an education like everyone else. Whether they are being pushed away because they are pitied, or pushed forward because they are used as objects of “inspiration”, both ways, the common humanity is denied.
Over the last years Bangladesh has brought
challenged people of society out of the shadows.
Now, we have to ensure that they can live life to
the fullest without being stigmatized and discriminated.
But unfortunately, discrimination around physical and
mental illness is embedded in our language and mindset
A few decades ago, very few parents were aware of autism. With the onset of globalisation and in the digital era, more people are familiar with autism now than ever. Governments, doctors, NGOs and parents came together to spread increased awareness about autism but still the efforts have not been adequately comprehended in rural Bangladesh
However, there are still major barriers to the use of assistive technologies, including high costs, lack of availability, lack of awareness of their potential, and a lack of training in their use. Available data indicate that in several developing countries more than 50 percent people with disabilities who need assistive devices are not able to receive them. Moreover, stigmatisation and discrimination associated with neurological differences remain substantial obstacles to diagnosis and therapy.
One of the most difficult things about autism is the judgment of other people. The problem with autism is that the person finds difficulties being social. For example, a person with autism may acquire high computer skills but become restless with sound or noise. In such cases, an office can create a special working environment for them. We believe every special person has the potential to be self-employed if they are trained and treated in a strategic manner.
Affordability of health care is a major obstacle. People with disabilities tend to be poorer, have higher health-care costs, and are 50% more likely to experience catastrophic health expenditure than non-disabled people. Physical inaccessibility of health facilities and problems with transportation can also present major logistical challenges; thus, facilities must be inclusive and accessible to everyone.
People with disabilities are affected by health ailments unconnected to their disability, just like everyone else, and health professionals should not allow the presence of a disability to overshadow an individual's health needs.
Importantly, the course of disability is not static. With good-quality care and rehabilitation, individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities, if identified early, can improve function. And in children with sensory impairments, early intervention with cochlear implants, hearing aids, or visual correction allows them to follow a more normal trajectory of development. Knowledge that some impairments can be treated can also help combat the stigma associated with disabilities in some settings.
Children with disabilities are targets of bullying, more likely to be victimized, and the society shuns them. Considering this, necessary steps should be taken to spread widespread awareness about autism. Also as a part of the society we must break social, environmental and psychological barriers that come in way of challenged people. The most effective way to tackle the inequality faced by disabled people is to think about it in the round, looking at issues of housing, employment, social security and social care, and offering a coordinated strategy that is not only morally right but also speaks to common sense. We must be inclusive of people with disabilities if they are to enable positive social change that benefits all members of the community and fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals. Last but not the least, we must generate new employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and the society needs to be more accommodating and friendlier towards especially able children.
Sayeed Hossain Shuvro is Editorial Assistant, Bangladesh Post