Rising to the Challenges of Disability

… Everyone is entitled to all … rights and freedoms … without distinction of any kind…. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination … and against any incitement to … discrimination…. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for … health and well-being .. Including … the right to security in the event of … disability…. –Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1, 2, 7, and 25 According to the Federal Developmental Disabilities Act of 1984, developmental disabilities are conditions or disorders that significantly affect a child’s progress in his growth and development. Eventually, disabilities limit a person’s self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and/or economic sufficiency. Some people who do not have such conditions easily take for granted just how difficult it can be for those who have, and may swiftly judge and discriminate them for things they are unable to do. However, disability may be viewed in another light that does not directly target the person himself. One example is the social model of disability in New Zealand which does not view disability as something that individuals have but how society treats the impairments of the individual. Disability is the process which happens when one group of people create barriers by designing a world only for their way of living, taking no account of the impairments other people have. (New Zealand Ministry of Social Development, 2002, p.1). Vygotsky (1993) shares the same view. He believes that a child with a disability is not a child less developed but rather, has developed differently. What made his development different are the intellectual and social processes that he compensates with in order to still be part of the social milieu despite their impairments. He concludes in the contention that it is the social consequences and socio-psychological realization that determines the fate of the child with disability and not the defect itself (McPhail amp. Freeman, 2005). Unfortunately, what seems to prevail in terms of societal views on disability is more negative than positive. McPhail amp. Freeman (2005) explain that the deficiencies of disabled persons as are considered burdens that hinder their productivity as individuals, which leads one to question why well-intentioned teachers (and some parents) focus on what is lacking rather than what is functioning well in their students/ children. For example, one counselor at a Disability Equality Training (DET) studied by Parkinson (2006) admitted, I found it very hard to see the person as someone in their own right. I kept looking at their wheelchairs or their glasses. It took me a while to see them just as a person who watched the same TV programmes as me and laughed at the same jokes. I feel sad about that. (Parkinson, 2006, p. 99). The purpose of the DET is for counsellors to unite and share their views and attitudes about disability and discuss the need to overcome disabling barriers that hinder disabled individuals from functioning to the best of their ability, promote positive self-identities and self-determination in these disabled individuals through counselling (Parkinson, 2006). This is very crucial especially in children who are in the