Pre-Collegiate Global Health Review
The Alarming Lack of Inclusion Towards People with Disabilities
Mellica Piri, University High School, Fresno, California, USA
While designated parking spots, additional elevators, and social security insurance are ideas that move the world towards greater accessibility for the disabled, they merely scratch the surface. A disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” (What Is Disability, 2020). Today over 15% of the population has been diagnosed with a disability (WHO, 2021). With such a sizable number of people faced with disabilities domestically and internationally, there should be greater pressure on policymakers and society to create more inclusive opportunities to combat these inequities. However, people with disabilities must not only deal with their physical ailments, but societal and mental burdens imposed by others.
People with disabilities are subject to discrimination, stigmatization, and a higher susceptibility to poverty. These patterns start early on with children facing, “exclusion from early learning opportunities, institutionalization, violence, abuse and neglect” (Davitt & Vogel, 2021). Due to the fact they are isolated, children with disabilities are less likely to attend public schools, more likely to develop mental issues, and lack basic reading and writing skills (WHO, 2021). These children enter the world feeling burdened and alone and continue onto their adult lives set up for failure and unready for difficult challenges. Common activities such as looking for a job, receiving proper treatment, and doing daily tasks are much more demanding for people with disabilities. The lack of support causes them to develop mental and physical health problems that they carry on for the rest of their adulthood, further segregating them. The lack of normalcy for disabled children due to these additional burdens leads to permanent impairments and negative self-perceptions, due to the fact that it happens in their formative years.
The reasons for this lack of disability awareness and care range from physical barriers like inaccessibility and insufficient healthcare, to socio-economic barriers due to lack of resources. On a global scale, “eighty percent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries” (United Nations Factsheet, n.d.). If disabled people are not included in developmental efforts the gap between children with disabilities and those without would continue to grow, causing economic and social strife globally (WHO, 2021).
In the United States, there have been initiatives to promote closing this gap. There have been measures passed by Congress attempting inclusion by, “[requiring] long-term service or support that would enable such individuals to live in the community and lead an independent life” (Disability Integration Act, 2019). However, enforcement of these inclusion policies is little to non-existent. In fact, about, “90% of companies claim to prioritize diversity, [while] only 4% of businesses are focused on making offerings inclusive of disability”(World Economic Forum, 2022). Many institutions who claim they venture toward inclusivity merely state it as a broad well-intentioned statement, rather than implement it. Oftentimes, actually committing to this process is seen as not worth the investment. However, disability inclusion is actually beneficial, because it increases revenue. Overall businesses that had disability-inclusive policies had a, “28% higher revenue, doubled net income, [and] 30% higher profit margins” (World Economic Forum, 2022).
Another barrier is the lack of ample funds within the government to allow disabled populations access to the necessary care they need. For example, “in high-income countries, between 20% and 40% of people with disabilities generally do not have their needs met for assistance with everyday activities” (World Report on Disability, 2011). This further undermines the opportunity for people with disabilities to be able to lead a satisfactory life.
According to the CDC, the ability of disabled people to be independent and an active part of society depends on factors such as, “aspects of natural and built surroundings, availability of assistive, technology and devices, [and] family and community support and engagement” (CDC, 2020). However, this is impossible if people do not actively try to help encourage, and, communicate the opportunities that are given to those with disabilities. Not only is this an issue in the United States, but also in developing nations as they cannot afford to create accommodations for this minority group. “Comparative studies … show that only 45 countries have anti-discrimination and other disability-specific laws'' (United Nations Factsheet, n.d.). Disability inclusivity is seen as a privilege to economically disadvantaged countries, allowing discrimination and adverse effects to plague these disabled populations and make this a global epidemic.
Global inclusion can only be achieved, “when disability inclusion is intrinsic to health sector priorities'' (WHO, 2021). Insurance coverage during emergencies, access to information and data on how to care for certain disabilities, and basic resources like hygiene and sanitation products are required (UNICEF, 2020). These are essential to eradicating prejudice and ableism. Other ways to end stigma include obtaining new data on the severity of limitations for people with disabilities to understand how to properly support them and ensuring that disabled people have a voice and autonomy over their lives as a basic human right. In addition, guidelines and other norms help set standards by outlining policies to incorporate and support the disabled within healthcare corporations (WHO, 2021). It is vital to “build capacity among health policymakers'' in order to adequately obtain the representation needed for this marginalized group. Once implemented, these guidelines can increase the chance of equal opportunity.
In order to have a fair public health system that protects and serves all people, steps need to be taken to introduce disability-inclusive systems. Not only is it up to healthcare institutions, but also governments and policymakers to establish fair opportunities from early on. For instance, education about disabilities, extra support to families with disabilities, empowerment programs within schools, cost-efficient treatment plans, and policies to prevent discrimination would ensure accommodation to all, amplifying the voice of the disabled and increasing opportunities for their participation (UNICEF, 2020). Measures such as implementing “child protection systems and workforces" would help prevent the separation of children with disabilities from their families (Davitt & Vogel, 2021). All these factors are vital to improving the quality of life for people born with disadvantages through eradicating the stigma and discrimination they are faced with on a daily basis.
Today people with disabilities are still faced with a large number of challenges. With population growth and poverty in developing countries, the amount of people with disabilities continues to increase and the prevalence of barriers continues to worsen. In order to combat these issues, those with disabilities need their fellow members of society to actively empower and advocate for inclusion initiatives to foster equality and accessibility, potentially altering the lives of many for the better.
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