Disabled People and Health

An article for the alternative health report, “Global Health Watch” 2005-2006


In the context of global health, disability must first be defined as disabled people experience it.

Then, with a shared understanding of the disability dimension, we can look at how disabled people are or are not being supported within positive agendas for health, well-being and rights and how they themselves are taking control over their own lives, changing their environments and demanding their right to full participation as human beings and equality in freedom and dignity.

Way back in 1985, WHO set the following targets for Global Health to be achieved by 2000 for disabled people: “that disabled people should have the physical and economic opportunities that allow at least for a socially and economically fulfilling and mentally creative life.”

They went on to say that this could be achieved if “societies developed positive attitudes towards disabled people and set up programmes aimed at providing appropriate physical, social and economic opportunities for them to develop their capacities to lead a healthy life.” (WHO, 1985)

This report also said that, despite some efforts in the areas of rehabilitation and prevention, disabled people were still being denied inclusion in their communities, they were denied self-determination and not enough steps were being taken to eliminate the barriers to full participation.

Some progress has been made since 1985, but according to a report from the UN Human Rights Commission, on the current use and future potential of UN human rights instruments, in the context of disability: “A long overdue and imperfect reform process is underway through out the world…However, that process is slow and uneven, in some places almost non-existent.” (Quinn & Degener, 2003,).

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