|Sustainable Development and Persons with Disabilities: The Process of Self-Empowerment (ADF, 1995, 117 p.)|
|Section I: Understanding and perception|
|Chapter 1: Introduction|
We live at a time when issues of major concern to large numbers of people on the earth's surface get on the global agenda for action. The electronic media have facilitated this process of globalisation. For the disabled people to put their cause on the world's conscience they have to compete (or join forces) with other causes - such as those of women, the environment, human rights, and global poverty.
Getting disability on the global agenda is not the objective of this guide. The International Year of Disabled Persons (1981), the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), and the World Programme of Action for the Disabled Persons were designed for putting on the ground those broader objectives. Of course, more can be done in this regard. And in some ways, this guide might indirectly help.
Ours, primarily, is but a modest, and practical objective. We want to look at the terrain on which disabled people live and struggle. We would like to discuss, for example, if the best strategy for people with disabilities is to demand special treatment for themselves on account of their disability, or to join the mainstream of economic life and compete with the able bodied people. These are the kinds of issues we would like to examine. What does the economic landscape look like when the PWDs start Income Generating Projects (IGPs)? How do they go about planning their projects? What are the resources which they can draw upon... and the challenges? How do they lobby for change? What are the advantages of networking? And so on.
This guide is even more modest than its title would suggest. A "guide," after all, is only a guide; it is not an answer to problems. It is rather like a route map of a complex, spontaneously grown township whose streets and corners are really known only to the people who live there. It shows the general direction of the journey ahead. It does not say what you will find at the end of your journey.
Thomas Mouandza, a member of Young Deaf Handcrafted Furniture Makers in the Congo making a point in sign language. (Photo by Marla Feldman)
There is no substitute for concrete action based on a concrete situation.
Therefore, this "Guide" should not be confused with a technical manual on IGPs. There are many of these around. Rather, it is an exploration of the principles which should guide action. For example, we suggest in this guide that "as a matter of principle," it is better to exhaust all local resources before turning to donor funding; that, as a matter of principle, projects that empower the disabled people are preferred to welfare oriented projects. The Guide goes on to discuss ways in which the PWDs can empower themselves in the various environments in which they live.
There may be more than one path to the destination. Circumstances differ.
Personalities matter. Everybody cannot follow the same path. When ducks are cold, they enter the water. When chickens are cold, they roost in the trees. It is the same with people. Some are rich, some poor. Some are disabled in one way, others in another way. No useful strategy is eternal, its path carved out in stone. We innovate as we go along. It is in this spirit of adventure that we embark on this exciting journey.
But, to be honest, the objective of the guide is not all that modest. One of its objectives is to try to influence events and the general direction in which policies that affect the lives of people with disabilities are going. It's not all sewn up; PWDs have space to influence decisions - within Governments, NGOs, international organisations and donor agencies.
These, then, are the objectives of this guide.