"Persons with disabilities are normal part of the diversity of our society and the environment," Beatriz who is a researcher at Vrije University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, said at a colloquium organized by the Indonesian Students Association (PPI) Delft here Friday (17/5).
According to Beatriz, who is the study manager of SARI (Assessment and Reduction of Stigma Impact) project, the assumption of being incapable for the people with physical disabilities came up due to the society`s inadequate understanding and the environment that do not support the existence of the disabled.
"The inability to afford is the result of the interaction between the disabled and the society who does not understand how to deal with the disabled, and because the environment does not meet their needs, so it is not due to their disabilities," Beatriz explained.
On the same occasion, a doctoral candidate at Vrije University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Mimi Lusli Mariani who suffers visual impairment, said the lack of vision does not make her passive and unable to get in touch with the society.
"I cannot see but I can speak, hear, walk. I can do things that are usually done by people who can see," said Mimi who started having retinitis pigmentosas or retinal degeneration since she was 10 years old due to genetic factors.
So that, according to her, people with disabilities should be treated equally as members of the community without losing their rights in the society such as that on education to the highest level and access to services on basic needs.
The dealings to the disabled are formulated by the United Nations through the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
One of the articles of the Convention on accessibility mentions countries should ensure people with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.
With that regard, the states shall take the necessary measures to ensure persons with disabilities able to access equal public services, including those on transportation, information and communications as well as technology systems and public facilities both in urban and rural areas.
The disabled should also enjoy such facilities as buildings, roads, transportation, schools, housing, medication and jobs.
Information technology, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services should also be accessible to persons with disabilities.
"I hope the Indonesian government implements this convention so that persons with disabilities can be accepted by the society and participate in social activities," Mimi said.
According to Beatriz, the term disability has a political meaning because the condition is actually constructed by the society`s view on the disabled and that affects the social relationships in the environment.
"The thing that must be changed is our mind about persons with disabilities who are part of the society," she said.
She said the understanding on disability in various scientific fields is important in order that the environment and the society could accept the presence of the disabled and build good social interaction.
Beatriz noted the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated the number of persons with disabilities in the world reached to 25 percent of the total population. This figure has continued to grow in line with the population growth, medical advances and aging processes.
"Defining and approaches regarding disabilities help us construct social policies which are equal for all members of the society," she said.
Beatriz explained the medical model approach describes disabilities into three groups namely impairment, disability and handicap. The first approach refers to defective limb, organ or mechanism of the body. The second and third models are the resulting lack of function and the limitation on daily living.
"If we can understand the conditions of persons with disabilities, it is then the community and the environment that adapt to their (the disabled`s) needs," she said.
Meanwhile, Mimi said in Indonesia definitions on disability used by related institutions are different from one to the others and therefore they have different approaches.
"The Ministry of Health says the number of the disabled in Indonesia is recorded around 13 percent, while the Ministry of Social Affairs notes that the number is 3.5 percent. This figure may be small because they only see people with disabilities living in social houses," she said.
According to her, if this approach is done correctly and properly then the public will be more aware and also the environment will be more supportive to the existence and needs of people with disabilities. (LWA/B005)