“Actions speak louder than words, will we see some action for disability rights now?”
The UK hosted the first ever Global Disability Summit in London on 24th July, it presented a crucial chance for decision-makers all over the world to ensure the rights, freedoms and dignity for all persons with disabilities would be guaranteed and to give those with disabilities the opportunity to be at the forefront of decision making affecting their lives for years to come.
164 countries ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), yet far too many people remain marginalised and excluded from society due to disability. Existing commitments made around inclusion must not be forgotten and the new initiatives will prove hollow if the existing promises remain unfulfilled.
We believe that inclusion should be at the heart of all efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities for them to have real value. Inclusion is not the same as equality. Inclusion requires extra, specific positive steps over and above equality to ensure disabled people are included and integrated into all parts of everyday life.
To reach this achievable goal, we must also abandon the view that disabilities are purely physical. Mental health is very slowly becoming recognised as a disability; however figures regarding mental health issues are generally under-reported. For many, including over 40m people disabled by leprosy or lymphatic filariasis (LF), we need to embrace a holistic, wider scope including socio-cultural issues covering real obstacles they face, such as being divorced or married off early, shunned and isolated by their community or prevented from working.
Lepra was founded in 1924 as the world’s first anti-leprosy agency, focusing on inclusion from the outset. Our focus has always been on helping people stay in their own community, providing support to people, helping them learn new skills needed to re-gain confidence, independence, and an income to combat the socio-cultural issues associated with leprosy.
Decision-makers must match the rhetoric and sound bites with genuine, inclusion-led actions. We support the summit and look forward to the actions that result.
To find out more about Lepra’s work, please visit lepra.org.uk