As the world marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities – observed annually on December 3, promoted by the United Nations since 1992 – those who work in the field reiterate that disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights.
According to the UN, the commitment to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice, but it is also an investment in the future.
‘The global crisis of COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative. People with disabilities – 1bn people – are one of the most excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this crisis in terms of fatalities,’ UN said in a statement.
In Oman, many are grateful to the government for its support.
H H Sayyida Hujaija Jaifer al Said, chairperson of the Association for the Welfare of Handicapped Children, said, “The International Day of Disabled Persons reminds us all that these people need our full support and their inclusion in society is an essential part of human rights. It is an investment in a common future.
“We remain grateful to the government of Oman for the moral support and consistent spirit of social solidarity which helps us provide differently abled children their rights. We call upon all others to come forward and support our initiatives,” she said.
“The private sector has been helping us in making sure the handicapped children are supported and we hope this help continues. Many have been providing meaningful financial support to various underprivileged segments in the community and we call upon more to come forward to ensure differently abled children get good care. These children are part of the society and on this day, we hope our love and care for them is renewed,” Sayyida Hujaija added.
The UN observed that even under normal circumstances worldwide, persons with disabilities are less likely to access healthcare, education, employment and to participate in the community. An integrated approach is required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind.
Yahya al Amri, chairman of the Oman Association for the Disabled, said his association was established to serve disabled individuals and showcase their true potential to the society.
“With the support of the government, our association ensures that the rights of such individuals are being upheld in a fair manner and in the recent past, we have seen the results. Many of our members are given their rights, thanks to Oman’s laws and regulations which prevent discrimination in many aspects, including jobs. We now enjoy all the rights,” he said.
“The public too has been very supportive and companies have come forward. However, COVID-19 has impacted those who support us. We call upon all those companies to come forward again and help the association to run its programmes smoothly. Over all, Oman grants all the rights to people of disabilities, not just physical disabilities,” Amri said.
The annual observation of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by UN General Assembly resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Barka al Bakri, co-founder of the Al Noor Association for the Blind, Association for the Welfare of Handicapped Children and the Association for Early Intervention for Children with Disabilities, said, “Our associations, especially the Al Noor Association for the Blind, has done well over the past years. We have produced many talented people who are working in various places in the public and private sectors.”
She said that the Al Noor Association is the only non-governmental organisation in Oman for the visually challenged.
“The association, which was set up in 1997, works for the economic and social empowerment of visually impaired people with focus on their education, training, healthcare and overall welfare,” she said.
Barka said in Oman, persons with disabilities now have full access to healthcare, education, employment and to participate in the community.
“As opposed to the past, there is no stigma among people with disabilities. There has been a great awareness among the people. We made sure that an integrated approach was taken to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind,” she said.
Tariq al Khabouri, who founded the Oman Disabled Diving Association, suggests all disability associations in the country come under one association.
“Because of the difficulty in financing different organisations that sometimes offer the same services, it would be great if one big association is formed to cater to all disabilities in Oman. It would also require fewer staff and running costs will reduce significantly. As we all know, these associations run on donations from various sectors.”