Academic journal article Bilingual Review

The Social Integration of Individuals with Disabilities

Academic journal article Bilingual Review

The Social Integration of Individuals with Disabilities

Article excerpt

The World Health Organization calculated that in 1990 there were 500 million people with disabilities in the world, and that by the year 2000 the number would reach 600 million. According to these figures, 10 percent of the total world population suffers from some type of physical, mental, or sensory disability. This is a serious problem, especially in developing countries where the greatest number of individuals with disabilities are reported to live.

The seriousness of the problem, however, is even more critical than numbers alone reflect. The majority of these people live in deplorable conditions, struggling against physical, cultural, familial, or social obstacles that prevent them from full social integration. There are millions of children, young people, adults, and elderly people in the world who, with their families, live in marginal conditions and are excluded and deprived of their rights. This problem is not limited to poor countries. Social injustice and the violation of human rights of disabled people are found both in developing and in developed nations alike. All of the above lead us to analyze, reflect, dream, and decide to fight against these circumstances with a clear vision of what we want to accomplish for our children, brothers, friends, or students. After all, this is a human rights issue.

Regardless of age, any person with disabilities affects his/her family. By the year 2000, more than 2.4 billion inhabitants of the world will be confronted with this problem unless we develop strategies to prevent some disabilities and minimize discriminatory conditions, abuses, social injustice, and the marginalization suffered by people with disabilities. Support systems must be created within societies to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families. Finding global solutions to this problem must be viewed as a priority, as well as individual solutions in the different countries and even in different regions of the same country.

In 1995, a Summit Conference on Social Development was held in Copenhagen and, for the first time, the United Nations, along with representatives of the member states, recognized that the greatest concerns were for improving the standard of living, social development, and the well-being of all people and eliminating discrimination on the basis of color, race, religion, sex, or disabling condition. A great variety of issues and the need to accomplish significant changes related to social problems were recognized. Problems such as poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion, which affect all countries and create insecurity and social injustice, prevent millions of individuals with disabilities from having a dignified life.

In the case of disabled people, there is a wide range of social problems associated with disadvantaged conditions. Disabled individuals are a vulnerable group that often suffers social injustice, marginality, and poverty and affects millions of people and their families. For this reason society must respond appropriately and assume responsibility for the material and the spiritual needs of individuals, their families, and their communities. Social development and justice that promotes a better quality of life for all can only be achieved within a frame of peace and security, respecting human rights and fundamental liberties within a realm of human interdependence that involves all members of society.

At this Summit Conference it was recognized that social and economic development should be a social goal for everyone. Clear social policies that provide solutions for every problem should not remain in written norms, declarations, agreements, and national plans. They should represent real commitments for governments and society to strengthen, develop, and confer power to all sectors of society, thereby maximizing their capacities, resources, and equal opportunities. These plans should match reality by proposing different strategies to be analyzed, planned, implemented, and periodically evaluated to know if they are providing a better quality of life for the social sector in question. …

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