By Judy Illes & Hayami Lou Pages: 75-84
Scientific discoveries and technological advances, in combination with evolving sociocultural understanding of health and ability, continue to reshape the definition and perspectives of disabilities around the world. New discoveries about variations in brain structure and function within the general population, and technological advances that may influence brain activity, can impact the range and continuum of conditions that are viewed by society and experienced by a child or adult as disabling. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 15% of the global population lives with a form of disability, of which 2–4% experience “significant difficulties in functioning”. In Canada, where we are writing, the disability rate in 2006 was 14.3%, accounting for about 1 in 7 Canadians; 8.6% of Canadians were found to experience mild to moderate disabilities, and another 5.7% severe to very severe disabilities. While the medical model of disability focuses largely on biological factors, more integrated approaches such as social and cultural models recognize the complex interactions of biology with environment and societal attitudes. Myopia or nearsightedness is an impairment that affects a significant percentage of the population globally and is generally not considered disabling where prescription eyeglasses are accessible.View all notes This implies that in both policy and practice, society and government must uphold the rights of people with disabilities, not only by implementing appropriate environmental supports and accessibility, but also by promoting positive attitudes and an inclusive society. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), for example, ratified by 174 countries as of July 2017, is grounded in such a model.
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