Disability spans every culture across the world, yet every culture responds differently to disability. Here in America, numerous camps, support groups, and other special retreats such as Joni and Friends offer refuge, encouragement, and friendship to people who have disabilities. Other cultures, however, respond to disability nationally, rather than locally. One such organization, the International Disability Alliance, is a collection of forums that advocate for the disabled community in their respective cultures. Among the areas represented are Europe, Africa, the Pacific, and the Arab world. A beautiful, truly unique feature of each of these organizations is that they are led entirely by people who have disabilities themselves. Additional international organizations include the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the International Committee for the Red Cross. We are going to explore a little more
about what some of these organizations are doing to make a difference in the world for people who have disabilities.
First, the European Disability Forum, as its name implies, advocates for disabled individuals all across Europe. Its two main platforms are (1) full inclusion in society and (2) access to human rights. It fights to ensure that all disabled Europeans are able to participate in society and to enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens. To accomplish these goals, the European Disability Forum may collaborate with other organizations such as EU institutions and agencies, or even with EU presidents. One important subdivision of the European Disability Forum is the Disability Intergroup, consisting of members of the EU Parliament. The Disability Intergroup advocates for the disabled population through legislation, parliamentary questions, or amendments relating to areas as transportation, employment, and accessibility. A second organization in the International Disability Alliance, the Pacific Disability Forum serves nearly the same function as the European Disability Forum for the Pacific area. As pacificdisability.org states, this organization’s mission is “to turn the tide of persons with disabilities from being viewed as a burden, dependent and not worthy investing in, to individuals with dignity and potential to become equal partners and active contributors to their families, communities and nations.”
Another organization leaving its footprint on the world is the International Committee for the Red Cross. Although the ICRC’s mission spans an extremely wide range of social issues, it is well-known for its international work among people with disabilities. For example, the ICRC provides physical rehabilitation and vocational services. Specifically, it offers rehabilitation services to people who have been left disabled by war or other forms of armed violence. One way it provides physical rehabilitation is through sports, working in places such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Gaza, and India. The ICRC also works in Iraq and Niger managing paralympic running projects.
A final international organization that advocates for the disabled community is the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. According to unescap.org, the ESCAP follows the Incheon Strategy, a regional initiative designed to “enable the Asian and Pacific region to track progress towards improving the quality of life, and the fulfillment of the rights, of the region’s 650 million persons with disabilities, most of whom live in poverty.” Working toward this mission, ESCAP specifically strives to consider the needs of the disabled population as it formulates disaster plans for the region. As illustrated by its mission statement, ESCAP believes that people with disabilities deserve equal care, consideration, and protection in every circumstance.
As we explored each of these organizations, a common goal seemed to emerge within all of them. These organizations didn’t see people with disabilities as inferior or unable to participate in life. They believe that people have incomparable worth and continually work hard to fully include the disability community in society because everyone deserves to enjoy life to the fullest.