93 million children around the globe have a moderate or severe disability.  Many of these children live in developing nations that do not have the financial or social tools to make necessary accommodations for special needs children.  Even more disturbing is the discrimination against children with special needs, making children who need our support the most feel abandoned.

This is where Able Child Africa (ACA) steps in.  ACA was founded in the wake of the Ugandan Civil War in 1984 with a vision of helping children with disabilities realize a future of equality and inclusion in society.

The organization seeks to break down the social barriers that demean special needs people.  These barriers are broken down into three categories: physical and environmental barriers that prevent access to buildings, transportation and the like as well as institutional barriers such as governmental policy that fails to recognize the equality of disabled people and negative popular attitudes about disability.

ACA works locally with communities in order to help create a sustainable culture of change for special needs children.  For example, ACA is partnered with the Ugandan Society for Disabled Children.  Together, the two organizations oversee support groups for parents of special needs children and run training programs to teach elementary and secondary school teachers how to be more inclusive.  ACA also runs two centers in Kenya and Tanzania, respectively.

Although 63 percent of children in African countries are now completing a primary education, only two percent of children with disabilities complete this stage.  In 2006, the United Nations held the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires all member nations to be inclusive for disabled persons in all levels of education.  With such a gap between traditional and special needs students, much work must be done.  ACA is willing to take up the fight.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: UNICEF, Able Child Africa
Photo: The Guardian

The injustice of ableism is often overshadowed by sexism, racism and LGBT discrimination in the media. The US International Council on Disabilities, however, hopes to raise ableism’s profile. USICD aims to cultivate global empowerment of disabled people by prioritizing the rights of the disabled in U.S. foreign policy. As an organization, it also strives to foster a mutual understanding between disabled and abled individuals within the United States and in foreign countries, thereby creating a united front of advocacy for the disabled.

Mentally and physically handicapped people are among those most susceptible to human rights abuses and poverty. Because they are often stigmatized by employers and assumed to be virtually worthless in the workforce, members of the disabled community are systematically denied access to jobs and, thus, opportunities for upward social mobility. Lacking stable means to earn an income, many disabled people struggle to support themselves. USICD is intent on striking down these common misconceptions and insists that the disabled have much to contribute to society.

Disabled people are also among those most vulnerable to the chains of modern slavery. In China for instance, there have been several documented cases of forced sweatshop labor among the mentally handicapped. Human traffickers often prey upon the disabled, being fully aware of the disadvantage they have in being able to advocate for themselves. Even if they escape such terrible circumstances, their plight will likely be ignored by the justice system, in which their testimony is often discredited based on assumption of their intellectual defects.

Throughout this past year, USICD has worked to lobby on behalf of passing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through the Senate. If CRPD is ratified, countries participating in the Convention would be obligated to grant their disabled citizens with the same legal rights and protections afforded to disabled Americans under the 1990 Disabilities Act. This would mean that the rights to employment and basic healthcare services would be guaranteed to disabled individuals under international law.

Moreover, by compiling content for a digital database, USCID aspires to develop among its constituency budding human rights activists for the disabled cause. Armed with knowledge that then translates to power, its members realize that although the struggle for equality between disabled and abled people is far from over, it is nonetheless a battle worth fighting.

– Melrose Huang

Sources: USICD, Huffington Post, National Council on Independent Living, China, U.S. Department of State
Photo: RFA