U.N. Report: Children with Disabilities ‘Invisible and Marginalized’

by Colette Moran

UNICEF has announced the start of the first global study on the challenges faced by children with disabilities.

The report’s underlying message is that girls and boys with disabilities “are not problems” but sisters, brothers, daughters, sons and friends with favourite foods and songs, dreams and rights. Eschewing a focus on traditional notions of “rescuing” the child, the report instead spotlights investment in removing the barriers that impede the realization of the child’s rights. . . .

Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake who led today’s launch, writes that the inclusion of children with disabilities in society is possible – but it requires a change of perception, “a recognition that children with disabilities hold the same rights as others; that they can be agents of change and self-determination, not merely the beneficiaries of charity; that their voices must be heard and heeded in our policymaking and programmes.”

The report has many recommendations of ways nations can help. One practical point it brings up is that it is much cheaper to build new structures with full access (it only raises construction costs by less than one percent) than to modify buildings after construction. The report also suggests ending institutionalization and instead helping families care for their children at home. 

“Separating children with disabilities from their families is a violation of their rights to be cared for by their parents unless this is deemed by a competed authorities to be in the individual child’s best interest,” according to the report.

“Making public services, schools and health systems accessible and responsive to the needs of children with disabilities and their families will reduce the pressure to send children away in the first place,” the authors also noted.

Assessing the number of children worldwide aged 14 or under living with a disability is very difficult, but one figure from 2004 estimated it was 93 million.

Much more here.