On August 1, I had the opportunity to attend a webinar hosted by the US Fund for UNICEF. The topic of the webinar was the state of the world’s children with disabilities.
While the issue of disability is not a new one for UNICEF, I learned that they are moving from focusing on the protection of children with disabilities to promoting their rights the same as other children.
I left for my vacation shortly after the webinar and didn’t get the chance to write about it. It’s been popping into my head ever since, so I thought I would share some of what I learned.
The webinar was facilitated by Cara E Yar Kahn, the Reporting Specialist for UNICEF Haiti. Cara educated us on the models and approaches that have been used to address disabilities. The charity approach looks as a person with a disability as inferior or a burden to society. The medical approach looks at a disability as a condition that should be fixed so that the person can be integrated into society. The social and human rights approach, the one that UNICEF uses, sees disability as human diversity. This approach shifts focus from impairment to relationship with society. Equal rights, opportunity and inclusion are promoted in this social and human rights approach.
Cara gave the example of a person in wheelchair not being able to vote in an election because she could not reach the ballot box. The person is excluded from voting because of the environmental barriers of the ballot box, not because the person is disabled.
Cara also discussed using person-first terminology, where the individual is the primary focus and the disability is a secondary characteristic. So, you say a “child with a disability” instead of “disabled child” or “the child with the hearing impairment” (if you don’t know the child’s actual name) instead of “the deaf boy.”
While it is estimated that 93 million children – or 1 in 20 of those aged 14 or younger – live with a disability of some kind, the statistics are mostly speculative. Children with disabilities are often the most marginalized in the world and many are abused and discriminated against. Many governments do not have protections in place for these children. However, we don’t need hard data to start helping children with disabilities.
UNICEF’s three main goals are to mainstream children with disabilities in all programs, to champion the rights of people with disabilities and to promote inclusion. You can find out more about UNICEF’s work and the situation of children with disabilities in their The State of the World’s Children: Children with Disabilities report.
Following are links to articles from the webinar. There is something to learn in each one!
- UNICEF: See the child before the disability from ThirdEyeMom
- Children With Disabilities: 15 Facts Everyone Should Know from Connect with your Teens through Pop Culture and Technology
- Unicef USA’s Children With Disabilities Webinar from Mom Bloggers for Social Good
- Unicef USA’s Children With Disabilities Webinar Recap from Storify