You May Be Living With A Disability, Yet Unbeknownst..!

Sun, 10 Feb 2013 Source: Badu, K.

“Disability is part of the human condition. Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life, and those who survive to old age will experience increasing difficulties in functioning” (The World Report On Disability, 2011, p. 10).

The World Health Organization’s report reveals that over a billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability. This corresponds to about 15% of the world's population. Between 110 million (2.2%) and 190 million (3.8%) people of 15 years and older have significant difficulties in functioning. The report stresses that in the years ahead, disability will be an even greater concern because its prevalence is on the rise. This is due to ageing populations and the higher risk of disability in older people as well as the global increase in chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health disorders (WHO Report, 2011).

Following the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), disability is increasingly understood as a human rights issue. Disability is also an important development issue with an increasing body of evidence showing that persons with disabilities experience worse socioeconomic outcomes and poverty than persons without disabilities (World Report on Disability, 2011).

For the purposes of this article, I will define disability as: any physical, mental and sensory condition that restricts a person’s movements, senses or Activities”. The term disability is formally used to refer to malformations that are severe enough to interfere with, or restrict normal day-to-day living activities.

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “persons with disabilities include those who have substantial long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

On the other hand, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. ICF stresses that impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. In practice, disability is a continuum rather than categorizing people with disabilities as a separate group: disability is a matter of more or less, not yes or no.

In other words, disability is the interaction between individuals with a health condition (e.g. cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and depression) and personal and environmental factors (e.g. negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports). Overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers (WHO:’DISABILITY’).

In United Kingdom, apart from the above categories of disability, the Equality Act 2010 classifies people with progressive conditions as disabled. A progressive condition is a condition that gets worse over time. For instance, people with HIV infection, cancer or multiple sclerosis automatically meet the disability definition under the Equality Act 2010.

Based on the definitions above, one can be excused by suggesting that a lot of Ghanaians are unbeknownst to their own impairments. Yes, they are living with disabilities, yet they are not aware. Thus, it is possible that some people who have made it a habit of discriminating against the known disabled people may be disabled themselves, yet unknown to them.

If the preceding explications are anything to go by, then I can aver that each and everyone is susceptible to a disability. Therefore, our transcendent chiefs who are strictly adhering to some antiquated traditions and customs by discriminating against disabled people must engage in serious introspection, for they, the discriminatory chiefs, may be harbouring disabilities, albeit they are unaware; (see: “More Chiefs oppose Dr. Danaa's nomination as Chieftaincy Minister”; myjoyonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 06/02/2013).

Let us remind the phlegmatic chiefs that if not the apathetic resignation of our politicians in the implementation of the 2006 ‘DDA’ Act, they would have been dragged to the law courts on the grounds of discriminating against a disabled person.

Paradoxically, we hear in the time past, the severed ‘heads’ of subjects accompanied deceased chiefs to their resting place, nevertheless such quaint practice has been abolished. So, to our discriminatory chiefs: ‘why did you stop such idiosyncratic practice, nonetheless still holding on to the view that it is abominable to come into contact with a disabled person? It would also be appreciated if our chiefs can tell us, in the event that a chief happens to give birth to ‘a disabled child, what would happen? Would they carry out infanticide? Again, what if a chief accidentally becomes disabled? Would he dethrone himself?

K. Badu, UK.


www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/ -

www.who.int/icidh/ -

Trends in health conditions associated with disability: whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2011/9789240685215_eng.pdf

www.who.int/entity/mediacentre/factsheets/fs352/en/index.html -

Columnist: Badu, K.