Nowadays in the West the able-bodied are constantly reminded that disabled people have rights like everyone else. But what is it like in the developing world? In places where there are no facilities?

Magazine - Disability


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by Chris Wilson

Nowadays in the “west” the able bodied are constantly reminded that disabled people have rights just like everyone else and they mustn’t discriminate against them in any way. Public buildings have to have ramps and toilets big enough for  wheelchairs. Bus drivers are supposed to announce every stop so that blind people know when to get off. One is not allowed to refuse a person a job on the grounds that he or she has only one leg, or cannot speak. We use phrases like “physically challenged” instead of crippled or spastic. We avoid using the word “dumb” to mean stupid - and this is not just us trying to be “politically correct”. Things like the Para Olympics have done wonders to raise people’s awareness with so many positive images and  perceptions of disabled people genuinely have changed. Not that Western society  doesn’t  still have a long way to go, but disabled people are far less marginalised, far more integrated than in the past when they were confined to institutions, out of sight and out of mind.

Disabled people’s own self esteem has risen enormously in recent years and they have become far more assertive and insistent on their rights, and their ability to compete with everyone else. Even the words “disabled” and “handicapped” are challenged. Is a blind person disabled when he or she can function just as well as everyone else? New technology of course is making a huge difference.  Instead of clumsy wooden legs, for example, new materials and designs in prosthetic limbs enable people to walk and run  as fast  as everyone else.  High tech hearing aids exist for the deaf, as well as laser surgery for the very short sighted. Cars are adapted so that people can drive them with only one hand, or even no hands at all.  Very recently a chip was inserted into the brain of a person paralysed from the neck down enabling him to move a cursor on a screen simply by looking at it. This means he can now do all sorts of things -  switch the television and  the lights on and off,  type, surf the internet, even send e-mails. Who knows what he’ll be able to do next? Drive a car?

Also many things that previously were not considered disabilities now are recognised for what they are -  serious handicaps, and arrangements have been made for the people who suffer from them. Dyslexia is a good example. Not so long ago dyslexic people were considered at school to be slow, or stupid, and that was that. Nowadays it is seen as a serious condition and teachers have to be aware of it.

But what is it like in the Developing World? In  places where there are no facilities at all? Where polio victims have to crawl through the traffic on their knees and elbows? Where every disabled person is unemployed and forced to beg, or depend on relatives?

“Despite all that” says Anna, a Swedish Volunteer in Mozambique, “ it is often in these places that disabled people are actually more integrated and happier in society. Western society is so obsessed with beauty and physical perfection that even an overweight person feels ostracised, let alone a person missing an entire limb. Here having one leg is no more remarkable than having a big nose”.

But is this really so?

“Yes and no” says Adolfo, a blind Mozambican who, as an accomplished guitar player, is actually the only breadwinner in his family. “I’m lucky. I have a skill. More importantly I was given the opportunity to acquire one. And so I am able to contribute to society and I am respected. Most disabled people are totally unskilled and so are burdens on society whether they like it or not. Maybe we are more generous, we don’t reject people who cannot contribute. They are not outcasts - but that doesn’t mean we respect them either. I think that is too idealistic a view of African society, how we would like it to be rather than how it really is. In reality these days, with so much poverty and HIV Aids, its every man for himself, every woman for herself,  and disabled people are completely forgotten, left behind. I heard a story about a  woman in a very dry part of our country. She had lost both legs in a land mine explosion. Because of drought  there was no food and when a UN truck full of supplies arrived she was left behind in the stampede, and so she got none. Later everyone had to register in order to get a ration card, then because she didn’t get one she was told that she did not officially exist and therefore was not entitled to food! No thank you, I  would rather have no legs in Europe any day than here”.

“I don’t believe that story” says Anna. “People here just wouldn’t behave like that”.“Have you ever been really hungry?” asks Adolfo.“No” she is forced to admit.“Then how would you know?”

But Anna still  thinks its worse in the West. “ In Africa people are much more tactile, much more tolerant, much more accepting. Even the mentally deranged are part of society. What’s the use of all those facilities if no one actually ever talks to you? Disabled people in Europe are dying of loneliness.  People are physically repulsed by handicapped people. The idea that disabled people have sexual desires just like anyone else is quite shocking.  Here in the market there is a young girl who sells tomatoes. She must have been in an awful fire because one side of her is completely  burnt and her left hand has no fingers at all. Her face is terribly disfigured, she has only one eye and just a hole for a nose. But she flirts with all the guys, and then makes bawdy jokes about them to the other women, and has everyone in fits of laughter.” “That doesn’t mean they actually fancy her though” says Adolfo. “Unless they’re blind like me” he jokes.

“But going back to technology, it  is  making things easier here too” he adds. “Look at my mobile phone”. “Wouldn’t you like a speaking clock or a computer with software to enable it to read aloud to you?” asks Anna. Adolfo  just laughs. “My wife does that for me” he says. “She reads the newspaper to me every day”.“You see!” says Anna. “That proves me right. Nobody where I come from has got time to read to a blind person! And don’t tell me that a machine can do it just as well because it can’t!”





The technology for handicaps is so important! There is so many intelligent people that just have a small physical problem which make them different then everyone and the society hardly accept them. Meanwhile we can really see a big advancement in that subject! Hopefully that every person will be able to find her place in the society.

Here, in Hungary the situation of disabled people is really sad. I thinkthe government should take steps to improve it, but to be honest, I can't see the results. For example: a couple of years ago during the renovation of one of the metro lines, they didn't build ramps or elevators at the stops, so for disabled people is is completely impossible to use this line. We still have old buses and trams which also very difficult to use by disapled people.
I think in this meaning Hungary is still the part of the Developing Word, but the people are very helpful, I can see it every single day, that we do help blind people to get on the bus, we give our seats for the elderly, so there is hope and it makes me happy. :)

it is clear government always create a myriad of opportunities for handicapped people being taken good care of by their familes and Viêt Nam people tend to help disabled ones have food and joy every day especially respecting them a lot.we should generate motivation and inspiration for them to keep moving forward and have positve outlook on their lives instead of leaving behind.our communities can run campaign to raise people's awareness with perception of disabled people because they contribute significantly to society more than we imagine.nowadays advanced technologies are ultilized to help individuals cope with disabilities.some negative people often make fun of handicapped people that they depend on relatives or charitable organizations to meet ends need.l criticize that people in the world.

Valuable information !!

Disabled people are more accepted and well-cared for in Western countries compared to developing ones. They have priority lanes for handicapped people and receive discounts for fares, food and other necessities. Utility vehicles have specific seats allotted for those with disabilities. Moreover, their governments provide welfare and benefits for them. Science and technology are also utilized to help their citizens cope with disabilities.
In my country, a developing one, there is little concern for the incapacitated. Accommodations are only seen in urban areas and totally non existent in the provinces. Social security only provides a meager allowance. It's not even enough to purchase basic commodities. Disabled people usually rely on relatives and charity to make ends meet.
However, our culture is very respectful of persons with disabilities. They are usually given the right of way and are assisted if they have no companion. Relatives often care for family members who have disabilities despite limited means. We try to integrate them to society by going to the mall, attending mass and strolling around the park. In Western countries, people are so obsessed with beauty and physique that they abhor those with handicaps. They are left alone in institutions and die forgotten.
I think, the west can learn from the east in terms of acceptance and care of disabled persons while the east can make use of valuable technologies from the west to enhance the quality of life of the handicapped.

nt so intrsting,try to fnd sm new ways to inculcate the spirit of learning english among teens............

Computer 11 writes “I live in Spain and here disabled people have problems getting a job or having a normal life and I’m sure that in Africa it’s worse. I think that if you have money it’s easy because you can use new technology to help you in daily life and perhaps you won’t need any help. Normally a disabled person needs a little bit of help and respect from their families and friends. I can’t play the guitar and compared to Adolfo I’m a disabled person, and that makes no sense. We all must be equal in rights and in opportunities, men and women and disabled people and able people.”

Computer 8 writes “In my opinion, disabled people have improved their way of life in some aspects, such as social benefits and the suppression of physical obstacles, mainly in urban areas. That has been a big step, without any doubt but, on the other hand, I believe we continue keeping apart people who are "physically challenged", so I agree with Anna's point of view. In any case, our society has made a big step in the right direction, but there are lots of things to be done about this issue, mostly in our minds.”

Computer 6 writes “First of all I would say that the best thing is if you aren’t a disabled person. But in case you are one of them I would rather live in a developed country than in a poor one. The main reason to choose that is technology and the wide range of facilities that exist in Western countries to make your life easier. Nowadays people are beginning to get concerned about disabled people. On the other hand, Western people are very worried about their physical appearance, and I believe that could be a reason why disabled people are being discriminated against nowadays.”

Computer 10 writes “In my opinion, both Adolfo and Anna are right up to a certain point. Anna shows her point of view as far as she is concerned, and she recognizes that she has never worked in an area with real famine. On the other hand, Adolfo's story about the disabled woman takes place in a starving part of the country, and in that case, I think the matter is not real discrimination but a problem of survival.”

Computer 9 writes “People have more opportunities in western countries; therefore, disabled people have also more opportunities. Moreover, people's awareness of disabilities has increased. However, people in Europe should learn about the culture of other countries and their tolerance and respect towards handicapped people.”