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20 Dec, 2010

Special Report: Int’l Day of Persons With Disabilities

Regional countries are on track to declare a third Decade of Disabled Persons in the Asia-Pacific (2013-2022), a move that will give a huge impetus to facilitating employment opportunities, accessibility and mobility for the estimated 400 million PwDs in the region.

Asia-Pacific Plans Third Decade of PwDs (2013-2022)

BANGKOK – Regional countries are on track to declare a third Decade of Disabled Persons in the Asia-Pacific (2013-2022), a move that will give a huge impetus to facilitating employment opportunities, accessibility and mobility for the estimated 400 million PwDs in the region. It will also open a window of opportunity for destinations, transportation systems and accommodation to upgrade their PwD-friendly status. The subject was discussed on Dec 3, the International UN Day of Persons with Disabilities, at a special event organised in Bangkok by the UN Economic and Social Commission in Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in cooperation with the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD).

Ms. Nanda Krairiksh, Director, Social Development Division, ESCAP and Mr. Bkom Limpiphiphatn, APCD, noted that the 400 million PwDs in the Asia-Pacific account for two-thirds of the world’s population of PwDs. In a joint statement, they noted: “In the last twenty years, much progress has been made to promote the rights of persons with disabilities – from the adoption of the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled People in 1982 to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008.”

The second Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, which is drawing to a close, saw decades of work by committed advocates. The ideas of a rights-based approach and disability-inclusive development, a philosophy of “nothing about us without us” — have become the norm. However, much more remains to be done. Said Mrs Nanda, “Only a small amount of information is available in accessible formats. We face not only a shortage of sign language interpreters, but many countries lack even the schools to teach them. In some countries in our region, the percentage of children with disabilities who have access to primary education is as low as 4 per cent, 20 times less than that for the total population.”

Dr. Tej Bunnag, Chairperson, APCD Executive Board, said that if the extended families of the 400 million PwDs in the Asia-Pacific are included, “one could say that 40 per cent of families in this region have PwDs as family members. They have little hope of getting an education, having employment, owing a home, having a family with children or a social life. For the vast majority of the world’s persons with disabilities, shops, public facilities, transportation, and even information are difficult to access.”

Dr Tej added, “PwDs make up the world’s largest and most disadvantaged minority. The numbers are shocking: an estimated 20 per cent of the world’s poorest persons are those with disabilities; 98 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school; an estimated 30 per cent of the world’s street children live with disabilities; and, the literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as 3 per cent – in some countries, as low as 1 per cent for women with disabilities.” He added, “Disability is associated with illiteracy, poor nutrition, lack of access to clean water, low rates of immunization against diseases, and unhealthy and dangerous working conditions.”

He warned that “the persistent and cumulative impact of multiple global crises threatens the progress made toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and has a disproportionate and negative impact on PwDs. Governments, global leaders, policy-makers and other stakeholders should therefore acknowledge the need for disability-inclusive development within a legal framework that supports their efforts and keep their promises.”

Dr Tej noted that the APCD, one outcome of UNESCAP’s First Asia and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, is “strongly committed to fight against discrimination, segregation and isolation of persons with disabilities.” Helped by the governments of Thailand and Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the APCD has relations with 35 countries, more than 240 Associate Organizations and over 1,600 ex-trainees in more than 30 countries. Its job is to ensure the ratification and enforcement of United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and to support the implementation of domestic laws concerning disability. Many of the PwDs trained at the APCD are now playing an active role as leaders among disabled persons.

Japanese Ambassador to Thailand Seiji Kojima said that although Asian economies have become key drivers of the global economic recovery, “we need to ask ourselves if such growth is benefiting everyone including PwDs. Currently there are no references to PwDs either in the MDGs themselves or in their targets and indicators. However, if we consider that an estimated 10 percent of world’s population or 690 million people live with disabilities and that disability is associated with 20 percent of global poverty, it is clearly evident that MDGs cannot be achieved unless PwDs are fully integrated in the process of economic and social development. In this regard, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities reminds us of the importance of inclusive development and provides an opportunity to think afresh about disability in its all aspects.”

He added, “Our region made great progress through the 1st and the 2nd Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, during which governments took actions to create an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society in partnership with ESCAP and disabled persons’ organizations. These endeavors culminated in the so-called “Bangkok Draft”, which contributed greatly to the successful negotiation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (which entered into force in March 2008).”

The job now, according to the Ambassador, is to implement the CRPD fully and effectively to ensure that rights of PwDs are respected, protected and fulfilled. He said, “It is encouraging that the ESCAP Committee on Social Development recommended the proclamation of a new decade to promote the rights of PwDs for the period 2013 to 2022.”

Asia-Pacific travel & tourism forums seeking to get further insights and forge partnerships with the U.N. on this issue may want to contact Mrs Nanda Krairiksh at krairiksh.unescap@un.org.


UN Chief Says Targeted Laws, Policies Needed to Empower Persons with Disabilities

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities:

The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Keeping the Promise: Mainstreaming Disability in the Millennium Development Goals”.

Among the promises made by world leaders at the Millennium Development Goals Summit in September was a commitment to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. This diverse group includes people close to us — family, friends and neighbours. Indeed, physical, mental and sensory impairments are very common, affecting about 10 per cent of the world’s population.

Disability is also highly correlated with poverty. People with disabilities account for roughly 20 per cent of those living in poverty in developing countries. Worldwide, they suffer high rates of unemployment and often lack access to adequate education and health care. In many societies, there are simply no provisions made for this group and they end up living in isolation, disconnected from their own communities.

Despite these obstacles, persons with disabilities have displayed great courage and resilience. But even as we continue to be inspired by those who reach the highest levels of human achievement, such successes must not obscure the difficulties faced by those who live in desperate conditions and lack the rights, privileges and opportunities available to their fellow citizens.

Governments need to do more to support people with disabilities. That means implementing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And it means integrating their needs into national Millennium Development Goal agendas. In the Action Plan adopted at the Millennium Development Goals Summit, world leaders recognized that current efforts are insufficient.

On this International Day, let us recognize that the battles against poverty, disease and discrimination will not be won without targeted laws, policies and programmes that empower this group. Let us pledge to keep the promise of the goals alive in the community of persons with disabilities. And let us include them not only as beneficiaries, but as valued agents of change in our five-year push to reach the Goals by the internationally agreed deadline of 2015.


Sickness and Disability Benefits: Jobs Crisis Makes Need For Reform More Urgent, says OECD

PARIS, 24/11/2010 – Governments should urgently reform their sickness and disability benefit systems to help people get back to work and reduce the burden on public finances, according to a new OECD report, “Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers”. It says that the economic downturn will likely lead to a rise in the number of people on disability benefit, up from the current 6% of the working-age population. “Countries need to speed up their reforms to help people with disability find a job,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said. “The mantra of making work pay must become central to all welfare schemes.”

Disability benefits represent 10% of public social spending in most OECD countries. This is equal to 2% of GDP and twice the cost of unemployment benefits before the crisis. Once people move onto disability benefit, they almost never leave it for a job, the report says. Before the crisis in 2007, more people of working age in OECD countries received disability benefits than unemployment benefits (30.2 million compared with 27.9 million). Mental health issues are becoming the main cause of people claiming disability benefit, says the report. One-third of all new disability benefit claims over the past 15 years have been due to a mental health condition, rising to 70% among people aged 20-34.

The social cost is high: while most people with disability who are not working receive some public benefits, they are much more likely to live in poverty. In Australia, Canada, Ireland, Korea and the US, one in three people with disability are poor. The best way to help people with health problems or disability avoid poverty, according to the OECD, is to strengthen the financial incentives to work: reforming the tax and benefit system so that they can do paid work and still receive some benefits is key, says the OECD.

Other measures must include:

Reform benefit system obligations for employers. They should, for example, share the cost of paying sickness benefit for workers. Firms that hire people with health problems or disability should receive wage subsidies, as happens in Nordic countries.

Harmonise the unemployment and sickness and disability benefit systems. This would save costs, stop the frequent transfer of people between benefits and prevent people with disability or health problems being treated differently from the rest of the population.

Convince doctors of the importance of helping sick workers return to work quickly. In Sweden, providing doctors with guidelines on average duration of sick leaves for frequent illnesses helped cut the time people spent off work.

More information is available at www.oecd.org/els/disability.

Read the opening remarks at the Press conference by Deputy Secretary-General, Aart De Geus

Read the background note on the Sickness and Disability project


Summary of the OECD report “Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers”

Sickness and disability policies are rapidly moving to centre stage in the economic policy agenda of many OECD countries. Even before the onset of the recent recession too many people of working age who were able to work relied on sickness and disability benefits as their main source of income, and the employment rate of those reporting disabling conditions was low. The economic crisis has added to this pressure by raising the possibility that many of the long-term unemployed may end up on sickness and disability benefits, similar to what happened in previous downturns.

In this context, there is an urgent need to address this “medicalisation” of labour market problems by tackling the widespread use of disability benefits across the OECD and promoting labour market participation of people with disability. Many people with health problems can work and indeed want to work in ways compatible with their health condition, so any policy based on the assumption that they cannot work is fundamentally flawed. Helping people to work is potentially a “win-win” policy: It helps people avoid exclusion and have higher incomes while raising the prospect of more effective labour supply and higher economic output in the long term.

Executive Summary and Policy Conclusions: Too many workers leave the labour market permanently due to health problems or disability, and too few people with reduced work capacity manage to remain in employment. This is a social and economic tragedy that is common to virtually all OECD countries. Economic and labour market changes are increasingly proving an obstacle for people with health problems to return to work or stay in their job. In fact, until the recent recession struck the labour market in 2008, disability was much more prevalent than unemployment across the OECD countries, and spending on disability benefits was typically twice as high as spending on unemployment benefits, and even 5-10 times higher in some cases, especially in the Nordic and English-speaking countries.

These facts seem counterintuitive when one considers that the health status of the working-age population has been improving over time, as shown by several health indicators. The deep economic downturn and the associated jobs crisis have shifted the policy focus to tackling rising unemployment. However, past experience suggests that downturns tend to hit disadvantaged people more than the general population and, with a time lag of a few months or even years, increase the disability beneficiary caseload, which then typically stays on a higher structural level in the subsequent recovery. Therefore, the current jobs crisis should not be an excuse for delaying urgently needed sickness and disability reforms.

The Economic Context for Disability Policy: Despite the recent economic downturn, globalization, together with demographic and technology transitions, remain powerful forces of change in the labour markets of OECD countries. This chapter argues that integrating more fully into the labour market people with disability is essential in meeting economic and social challenges arising from these broad drivers of change. The recent economic downturn is further reinforcing this urgent need, as people with disability have been hard hit by job losses and the reduction in job vacancies. This may push them to the margin of the labour market, raising the risk of further structural increases in the disability beneficiary caseload.

Key Trends and Outcomes in Sickness and Disability: What are the main challenges policy makers across the OECD will need to address in the future? This chapter highlights the key outcomes and trends in the field of sickness and disability during the past 10-15 years, focusing on four areas: labour market integration of people with disability and workers with reduced work capacity; financial resources of those people; costs of sickness and disability benefits schemes; and beneficiary dynamics. It concludes that despite reforms and good economic conditions until recently, employment, unemployment, income and poverty outcomes have not improved for people with disability. Disability benefits have become the main working-age benefit in most countries and their role as a benefit of last resort is still increasing in many cases. However, outcomes also suggest that policy can have a large influence on beneficiary developments: Several countries have recently seen a promising turnaround in beneficiary trends.

The Direction of Recent Disability Policy Reforms: Sickness and disability outcomes are still disappointing in most countries, with low employment rates and high benefit dependence, calling for further often unpopular reforms. In the past 10-15 years, countries have started to shift their approach away from merely paying benefits to people with disability towards helping them stay in, or return to, work. This chapter outlines the main directions of recent reforms across the OECD and explores the question whether or not changes have gone far enough to reduce benefit dependency and increase employment rates. The chapter concludes that i) policy matters: reform has had a major impact on the observed outcomes, especially the disability beneficiary rate; and ii) policies are moving in the right direction, with considerable convergence of policies despite continued structural differences. However, in most countries more needs to be done.

Transforming Disability Benefits into an Employment Instrument: This chapter addresses the key challenges and recent developments in changing the current disability benefit schemes, which are still too passive in nature, into employment-promoting policy tools. Key elements in the transformation process are a new way of assessing work capacity implemented, thus, benefit eligibility; a new activation and mutual-obligations stance applied at the application phase; a stronger focus on reassessments of benefit eligibility and work capacity of current or long-term benefit recipients; and improved work incentives to make sure work always pays. The chapter concludes that what is needed is to bring the disability benefit scheme closer in all its aspects to existing unemployment benefit schemes and questions the need for distinguishing unemployment and disability as two distinct contingencies.

Getting the Right Services to the Right People at the Right Time: More people with disability could work if they were helped with the right supports at the right time. The chapter argues that much can be gained from improvements in three areas: better cross-agency co-operation; systematic and tailored engagement with clients; and improved institutional incentives. Currently, in many countries too many actors and agencies are involved in benefit and service provision; they do not co-operate effectively; they do not have sufficient incentives to promote the new employment focus of policy; and they lack the tools and resources to provide timely services in the mix needed by the client. In seeking to improve their systems and measures, most countries face barriers stemming from the lack of data and evaluation of programmes currently in place.


New Store Dedicated to Accessibility for Disabled and Handicapped People

Brady, TX (PRWEB) December 4, 2010 — For people dealing with a disability or handicap, whether it’s a temporary injury or long-term issue, ordinary activities can become painful or even seem impossible. Regardless of the ailment, people should be able to go about their lives. In many cases, that can be aided with the proper tools, like products that can improve mobility in the home and out in the world. People are looking for a convenient store that offers those kinds of helpful necessities.

Thanks to one new store, shoppers have a go-to store in that realm. Making Access Easier, recently established by Texas entrepreneur Wanda Hahn, is an Internet store that understands the medical and mobility needs of people dealing with physical ailments.

Making Access Easier is available to customers at any time of day via the web at http://www.makingaccesseasier.com. There, shoppers will find an experience that is convenient and enjoyable. Browsing the site is simple thanks to the user-friendly design and a useful search function. Even for those people who haven’t previously made a purchase on the web, the site proves to be easy to use and safe.

Making Access Easier provides more than just convenience, though. Every item at the store is picked for its quality. Moreover, the store works constantly to keep their prices low. People in need of the proper medical and mobility equipment will truly appreciate all that this store offers.


Helpful Guides for Disabled Motorists

(Vocus/PRWEB) December 01, 2010 — More help and information is now available for disabled motorists, in the shape of a new range of free publications. These helpful guides contain a wealth of information on a number of key mobility motoring questions covering topics such as Access to Work grants, the Motability Scheme and advice on choosing a disabled car or WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle), as they are often known nowadays.

The Access to Work scheme is in place to assist disabled people in overcoming any barriers to employment. The scheme offers help and advice to employers and employees and can assist with funding towards costs which arise from a disability. This new Access to Work Guide contains handy information on who is eligible, what support is available and what types of things could potentially be funded by the scheme. These include various items such as aids and equipment to allow a disabled person to carry out their work effectively. Items which could be covered by the scheme include alterations to premises, such as the addition of a wheelchair ramp and this cost of getting to work. Transport solutions may involve buying a specially converted disabled car or having your own vehicle adapted.

The Guide to Motability introduces the Motability Scheme and explains its workings and how to join. Motability is an independent, non-profit organisation which helps to provide mobility solutions for disabled people. The new handy A5 guide answers a number of key questions including how the Motability Scheme works in practice, who is eligible to join Motability and what options are open to disabled people through the Scheme. The Guide to Motability also contains useful details of who can help with further information.

Many people find the prospect of choosing a disabled car – otherwise called a WAV or wheelchair accessible vehicle – daunting. Nowadays wheelchair accessible vehicles are available from a number of suppliers, in various shapes and sizes and built to different quality standards. Now this need no longer be confusing as all aspects of WAVs are explained in in this handy guide.

The new Guide to WAVs covers a range of hot topics for those interested in learning more. These range from explaining what a WAV is to outlining key features such as a lowered floor, wheelchair ramps, folding seats, wheelchair restraints, seatbelts for wheelchair users and an electric winch. Guidance is also given on the payment options for disabled people buying a WAV and things which should be considered when selecting the perfect vehicle. With a wide variety of wheelchair accessible vehicles available this guide gives an overview of the main types of WAVs which are available, including wheelchair MPVs and minibuses.


VSA Presents a Global Screening of Motion Disabled in 17 Countries

Washington, DC (Vocus) November 30, 2010 — On December 3, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, VSA, the international organization on arts and disability, is presenting a global screening of British artist Simon Mckeown’s video installation Motion Disabled in 17 countries to raise awareness about disability rights. Motion Disabled is a digital exploration that captures the movements of 15 people with disabilities performing a range of activities from kickboxing to riding a bicycle.

“There are 650 million people with disabilities — ten percent of the world’s population. On December 3, we’re making a statement that everyone deserves inclusion and access to equal opportunities,” said Soula Antoniou, VSA president. “This installation by one of Britain’s most experienced 3D animators explores the uniqueness of each person’s physicality and challenges conventional ideas of motion and disability.”

Using motion capture, a technique commonly associated with feature films and computer games, Mckeown recorded actors’ movements and then mapped the movements onto 3D models — or avatars — that replicate those real-life movements.

“I’m very proud to partner with VSA to raise awareness about the rights of people with disabilities worldwide,” commented artist Simon Mckeown, who is based at Teesside University. “My hope is that this art sparks conversations and changes attitudes about disability.”

This mesmerizing installation, which will be screened outdoors at most sites, will be shown in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, England, Iceland, India, Ireland, Kosovo, Latvia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Senegal, Sri Lanka, the United States of America, and Uruguay.

A short video will also be available for online viewing on a Facebook page where people worldwide can post their own videos, share information, and join discussions about disability and the arts.

For more information, visit http://www.vsarts.org.


Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities Announces Its 2011 Youth Achievement Award Contest

Westport, CT (PRWEB) December 2, 2010 – Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, Inc. announces its 2011 Youth Achievement Award Contest, a nationwide recognition for students 19 or younger with learning disabilities or ADHD. The $1,000 award will be made to a student who demonstrates initiative, talent and determination resulting in a notable accomplishment in any field including art, music, math, athletics, or community service.

Parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, or students themselves are invited to submit an application for the award, via a form posted on the organization’s website at http://www.smartkidswithld.org/success-stories. The contest deadline is February 15, 2011.

“This award recognizes the strengths and accomplishments of young people with learning disabilities and ADHD,” said Suzanne Fields of Westport, CT, co-chair of the Youth Achievement Awards Committee. “Too often, these students’ talents are not acknowledged or developed, as attention is focused instead on their weaknesses.”

The recognition that students with LD and ADHD are as intelligent as other children and generally possess significant strengths, along with their weaknesses, are key factors in developing the support for their strengths that will help them to achieve success.

Celebrating these children’s potential is particularly important in view of the misunderstandings concerning learning disabilities cited in the September 2010 Roper Poll produced for the Tremaine Foundation, which states that “seven out of ten or more of the general public, parents and teachers incorrectly associate mental retardation and autism with learning disabilities.”

This lack of understanding has profound negative effects on our expectations for these children–expectations that the Youth Achievement Award helps to raise, according to Jane Ross, Executive Director of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities. “The remarkable accomplishments of so many candidates for the Youth Achievement Award each year demonstrate the tremendous potential of these students, when they receive the support and confidence of their parents and teachers,” Ross stated.

The winner of the 2010 Youth Achievement Award was 16-year-old Melissa Rey of Chesterfield, MO. Melissa spent three years learning to read with her school’s reading specialist, after being diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade. Applying the skills she learned in mastering reading, she won the Discover 3M Young Scientist Challenge after two days of intense competition at the NASA Goddard Space Center in October 2008, where she was named America’s Top Young Scientist. She has conducted science webinars for middle-school students across the country, and runs a week-long summer science camp for underprivileged girls in St. Louis.

The winner of the 2011 Award will be expected to attend the awards ceremony at the Stepping Stones Museum in Norwalk, CT on May 13, 2011. Transportation and hotel accommodations will be provided for the winning student and his/her parents.

Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering parents of children with learning disabilities (LD) and attention-deficit disorder (ADHD). Its mission is to educate, guide and inspire families dealing with disabilities and to change the perception of learning disabilities as a stigmatizing condition. Henry Winkler, the famed actor, director and producer as well as the author of the Hank Zipzer book series about a boy with learning disabilities and ADHD, serves as the organization’s Honorary Chairman.

Contact: Jane Ross, Executive Director, Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, Inc. 203-226-6831


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