It was good to hear that UNICEF Belize and other relevant parties were busy on Thursday, the 22nd of August, working to improve the lot of children with disabilities.
Belize has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Thursday’s work concentrated on – get ready for it – the Situational Analysis of Children with Disabilities and the Situational Analysis of Blind and Visually Impaired Children.
OK, the names, as usual with bureaucratic agencies, are complicated, but the aim is clear. In order to develop the best policies to help people with disabilities, it’s important to get a better understanding of their current situation.
The situational analysis showed that 36.4% of Belizean children age two to nine are at risk of having one or more disabilities in areas such as the physical, hearing or seeing. According the analyses, that figure represents an increase of some 10% since 2006.
It also found that children in rural communities are at a higher risk than kids in urban areas; 41.4% compared to 28.3%, and that the two most frequent disabilities are speech and intellectual impairments.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that Belize is doing something about it.
Having signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Belize has agreed to follow nine recommendations
- First – ratify and implement the convention
- Two -fight discrimination and enhance the awareness of disability among the general public, decision makers and those who provide essential services
- Three – dismantle barriers to inclusion and encourage the participation of children with disabilities in society
- Four – work to end the institutionalization of children with disabilities
- Five – support families so they can meet the higher costs of living and the lost income-earning opportunities associated with caring for children with disabilities
- Six – move beyond minimum standards by involving children and adolescents with disabilities and their families in evaluating supports and services that are designed to meet their needs
- Seven – coordinate services across all sectors so as to address the full range of challenges facing children and adolescents with disabilities and their families
- Eight – involve children and adolescents with disabilities in decision-making that affect them
- Nine – promote concerted global research on disability to generate the reliable data needed to guide planning and allocation of resources
It is quite a list, but we include this condensed version to give our readers an idea of what it’s going to take to fully include kids with disabilities and make it easier for them to participate in all areas of society.
We’ll be talking more about this in the future, and of course we encourage our readers to contribute to the discussion.
If you don’t think it’s important, consider just one individual with serious disabilities who has made important contributions that affect all of us:
Imagine if Stephen Hawking had just been shunted away instead being given the assistance he needs to move, communicate, learn and teach? We don’t pretend to understand even a fraction of what this modern day Einstein does, but there’s no doubt he’s made huge contributions to science and our understanding of the universe and life itself. Many, many people are using this one man’s knowledge in many fields of study.
And it doesn’t take a genius to suppose that somewhere in Belize is another bright spark who is poised to make the world a better place, but has a disability that may prevent her or him from realising their true potential.
What a shame it would be if just for a lack of some assistance, that person was never heard from.
But more important, what a shame if even one kid was denied the joy of growing up happy and feeling valued? Of being part of things? Of enjoying those little things most of us take for granted?
You can understand why we think Thursday, the 22nd of August was a big day. We hope you do too.
Ya da fu we Belize – each and every Belizean, regardless of their abilities and disabilities.