There are huge numbers of young disabled people, and most of them (around 80 percent) are living in developing countries. The basic problem for them is invisibility – they don't come out of their homes and their parents just hide them away. And within the homes they are losing their dignity because when they need to go to the washroom they have to ask for their parents' help. Young women with disabilities, in particular, feel this is very difficult.
Secondly, parents treat the young disabled person like a child – they don't listen to what they want. Parents see the disabled person as special, as someone who needs help. And yes, disabled people do need support, but to help build the capacity for independent living.
There are other barriers too, like the attitude of those who feel that disability is all about the person who's sitting in a wheelchair or who can't see or who can't talk and can't contribute anything to the community. There are also accessibility concerns – many disabled young people are not getting any kind of access to health facilities or any opportunities for education.
Eliminating these challenges will be a long process and to do that we need to empower disabled people to understand their disabilities. Here a twin-track approach is very important. First, you can motivate young disabled people who can find some kind of understanding about their disability and can take the leadership role. And secondly, their family members, they have to change their mind-set. The media can play a very important role in this by showing a positive picture of young disabled people taking part in everyday life.
I feel that older people who are involved in the disability movement over the last two or three decades have done a lot of good work, but we need to include some young disabled people in these organisations so they can contribute their ideas and share their feelings and experiences. I think it's very important for young people with disabilities of all kinds to get involved at all levels – from policy and decision-making to implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Note: This article was published on Global – the international briefing. It can also be read on Young people