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Disability Inclusion and the Power of ‘by

Context:

Disability, considered both as an identity and a distinct entity, emerges at the crossroads of various vulnerabilities encompassing social, economic, and gender aspects. Each dimension necessitates thoughtful consideration when devising strategies for promoting equity.

Relevance:

GS-2

  • Government Policies & Interventions
  • Welfare Schemes

Mains Question:

It is about time that the voices and needs of persons with disabilities are prioritised at the centre of the global development agenda. Analyse. (15 marks, 250 words).

Prevalence of Disability:

  • On a global scale, approximately 1.3 billion individuals, comparable to the entire population of India, grapple with some form of disability.
  • Notably, 80% of these individuals reside in developing nations, with 70% concentrated in rural areas.
  • Existing systems are crafted with an assumption of non-disability, inadvertently leading to exclusionary practices that contribute to elevated instances of poverty, restricted access to education and opportunities, engagement in informal sectors, and various forms of social and economic discrimination for people with disabilities.

For and By:

  • The distinction between “for” and “by” is crucial in the realm of disability inclusion. The term “for” implies a recipient perspective, while “by” involves the identification of the agent performing an action.
  • This disparity holds significance, especially in disability inclusion efforts, as the approach diverges significantly when individuals with disabilities are active participants in the process (“by”) rather than being passive recipients (“for”), absent from the decision-making process.

Advocating for Inclusion:

  • Initiating the integration of individuals with disabilities into the economic framework stands to enhance global GDP by a substantial margin, ranging from 3% to 7%, according to findings from the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) study, “The price of exclusion: The economic consequences of excluding people with disabilities from the world of work.”
  • Every individual deserves equal treatment and opportunities in the workplace, regardless of any attributes other than their ability to perform the job. However, the current employment landscape presents a mixed reality.

Employment Opportunities for people with disabilities:

  • Opportunities for individuals with disabilities are limited, perpetuating stereotypes and erecting additional barriers that hinder their access to the labor market.
  • This situation directly contradicts the principles outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which advocates for a shift in attitudes and perceptions towards individuals with disabilities and underscores the importance of viewing inclusion through the lens of social development.

Greater Challenges in Rural Areas:

  • Unfortunately, some developmental schemes inadvertently exclude individuals with disabilities, perpetuating a perception of charity rather than recognizing them as individuals with agency capable of participating in decision-making processes.
  • Rural regions additionally grapple with a high dependence on agriculture, exposing them to elevated risks associated with climate-related disasters such as rising sea levels, reduced access to clean water and food, hurricanes, heatwaves, and floods.

Way Forward:

  • Adopting a bottom-up approach to disability inclusion becomes imperative in constructing viable pathways out of poverty, ensuring that individuals with disabilities are acknowledged as active contributors to both society and the economy.
  • The private sector plays a pivotal role in advancing the employment prospects of individuals with disabilities.
  • Beyond a robust legal framework, experiences underscore the significance of involving the private sector and instilling confidence in companies to hire and retain workers with disabilities.
  • Collaborative efforts with employers’ federations, particularly those representing small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as engagement with trade unions, exhibit substantial potential in promoting the employment of individuals with disabilities.

The SPARK Project:

  • Implemented collaboratively by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Women’s Development Corporation in Maharashtra, the Sparking Disability Inclusive Rural Transformation (SPARK) project is underway.
  • This initiative places individuals with disabilities at the forefront, identifying them from villages and providing training to become Disability Inclusion Facilitators (DIFs).
  • These DIFs play a crucial role in engaging with the community, individuals with disabilities, caregivers, women from self-help groups, and other stakeholders. Their primary objective is to raise awareness about disability inclusion and the associated barriers.
  • Through the SPARK project, DIFs identify women with disabilities and integrate them into existing self-help groups, fostering both social and economic development.
  • This inclusion allows these women to access funds for initiating their enterprises. Notably, the project has successfully instigated a positive shift in attitudes toward individuals with disabilities, spanning from societal perceptions to administrative levels.
  • Recognizing that achieving social justice necessitates the inclusion of individuals with disabilities across all aspects of development, starting with rural areas and building rural resilience, the SPARK project addresses the bi-directional link to poverty, nutrition, and hunger. The evidence underscores the imperative for more inclusive opportunities and employment in rural settings.

Conclusion:

Given the historical marginalization of individuals with disabilities and setbacks in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, there is a critical need for a fundamental shift in commitment, solidarity, financing, and action. It is high time that the voices and needs of individuals with disabilities take center stage in the global development agenda.


February 2024
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