Getting around in the physical world is something many of us may take for granted. Curbs, thresholds, stairs, sidewalk gratings, obstructions, narrow passages – these are barriers we walk over, around, or through many times a day. We may seldom think about signs, loudspeaker announcements, traffic signals, and other sources that direct us or give us necessary information, except to avoid or use them.
For those of us who have some physical difficulties, however – a curb or a few stairs can be large barriers. Airport loudspeaker announcements are often difficult to understand for people with perfect hearing; for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, they might as well not exist. Signs, no matter how well-placed they are and how much information they carry, do someone who is vision impaired no good unless they are in predictable places and can be read by touch.
In other words, physical features that people without physical disabilities take for granted can present serious problems for people with different abilities, mostly because their needs haven’t been considered in designing those features. That lack of consideration can also be extended to the ways people with disabilities can be treated when they seek employment, education, or services. In over 50 countries, this situation has been recognized and addressed, at least to some extent, by laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination, and guarantee them at least some degree of access to public facilities, employment, services, education, and/or amenities.
This section is part of a chapter that deals with changing the physical and social character of communities. We will discuss making community changes that ensure that people with disabilities have physical access to buildings and other spaces that are used by the public, as well as changes to ensure their access to employment, services, education, the functions of government, and full civic participation.
What do we mean by ensuring access for people with disabilities?
According to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), “the term ‘disability’ means an individual has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his/her major life activities or there is a record of such an impairment or an individual is regarded as having such an impairment.” Caused by injury, disease or medical condition, or neurological, chemical, or developmental factors, severe disabilities affect about 12% of the U.S. population.
About 18% of the population has some level of disability, a figure that expands to 72% for those 80 and older, and shrinks to 11% for children ages 6 to 14. Four percent of the population over age 6 is severely enough disabled to need personal assistance with one or more activities of daily living.
Passed in 1990, ADA is the comprehensive law that covers most issues of accessibility for people with disabilities in the U.S., and disability rights laws in many other countries are based on it. It applies to all state and local government offices and facilities (federal facilities have been covered by federal law since 1978) and all public facilities – buildings and other spaces that are available to the general public. ADA guarantees both physical accessibility and non-discrimination in employment and the delivery of goods, services, programs, and education.
A disability is only actually a disability when it prevents someone from doing what they want or need to do. A lawyer can be just as effective in a wheelchair as not, as long as she has access to the courtroom and the legal library, as well as to whatever other places and material or equipment that are necessary for her to do her job well. A person who can’t hear can be a master carpenter or the head of a chemistry lab, if he can communicate with clients and assistants. A person with mental illness can nonetheless be a brilliant scholar or theorist. (John Nash, the subject of the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” is a Nobel Prize winner described by some as the most important mathematician of the second half of the 20th Century, despite being schizophrenic.)
Sometimes, on the other hand, a disability is really a disability. If the building is on fire and the elevators aren’t working, a wheelchair user on the 14th floor could be in quite a predicament. In order to function effectively and safely in jobs, education, and everyday life, people with disabilities have to have physical and social access to the same spaces, employment, goods, services, entertainment, and community participation that everyone else does. When that’s the case, their disabilities don’t limit their ability to fully participate in life.
Disabilities can be visible or invisible, physical or otherwise. Most can result either from hereditary conditions or pre-birth developmental issues; from injury; from disease; from chemical imbalances; or, in some cases, from environmental factors.
In Africa most of the public places don’t have accessible to people with disabilities. Most of the people with disabilities can’tvisit public places because there is no access. Children with disabilities can’t go to school because someone need to help them to climb stairs, push the wheel chair to climb the stairs before, so what about if there is no one around and also it has add some stigma on it? The organization is embarking a programme in Africa on Advocacy and construction of access way in some public places. The main idea is children with disability should get access to public places and go back to school. Your donation will help a child with disability to have access to where ever he/she want to go without any interferes.