Society and the Disabled

UNESCO Courier, July 1987 | Go to article overview

Society and the Disabled


Society and the disabled

IN the last twenty years and especially since 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons, the integration of disabled young people into the ordinary education system has become widely accepted and is now a prominent goal of educational planning in many countries.

This undeniable change in attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people is playing an essential role in their integration into working life and into the societies to which they belong. This integration is based on the fundamental principles of equality of access to education and the full participation of all persons, including the disabled, in social life and in national development. It is one of the objectives of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1982. Unesco is co-operating with other specialized agencies of the United Nations system in implementing the Programme, which was included in Unesco's Second Medium-Term Plan (1984-1989). The integration of disabled young people into ordinary schooling is already being carried out in many Unesco Member States on a long-term basis, to the benefit of both the disabled themselves and of the education systems in these countries, which thereby become more flexible. Integration contributes to the acceptance of "differences', promotes mutual tolerance and respect and encourages the democratization of education.

The concept of "handicap' has been greatly modified in the last two decades. It is now distinguished from that of "impairment' or "disability' and is defined as a disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or a disability, that limits or prevents the fulfilment of a role that is normal, depending on age, sex, social and cultural factors, for that individual. Handicap is therefore a function of the relationship between disabled persons and their environment. It occurs when they encounter cultural, physical or social barriers which prevent their access to the various systems of society that are available to others. Thus, handicap is the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the life of the community on an equal level with others. …

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