subject as the UN and its various agencies readied for this year’s commemoration. As with other UN days or international commemoration days, the Day of the Disabled as it might be abbreviated was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 47/3.
The theme for this year’s IDPD is given by the UN as empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality, which it is true that many people around the world have made an effort to realize, before and after the commemoration was designated. Actually it is an indicator of the level of one’s humanity the way such person treats those with disabilities, as fellow humans or with a veneer of contempt as it used to be the case, especially among primary forms of society in tribal communities. Disability was associated with a curse and the victim carried that implicit curse throughout her or his life.
Attitudes have been changing steadily since the promulgation 70 years ago of the International Declaration of Human Rights, from which flow all other specific resolutions to highlight various aspects and shades of the human rights agenda around the world. Plenty has been done to alleviate the plight of the disabled, for instance strenuous efforts to treat eyesight disability, and we have seen doctors coming from as far away as India to help relieve those among us with that disability. Helping those with disabilities is next to saving life itself, a foremost kind of salvation.
But there is another aspect to salvation that is needed by people with disabilities, which doesn’t need input of resources on the part of a specific individual, but merely a change of attitude. Just not staring at someone directly and purposely on account of being surprised by one or other apparent disability helps that person to feel normal, but there are many among us who don’t remember the rule of helping out with disability by seeing the person, not a disabled organ. As a result we keep reminding such persons that they aren’t normal, even if they do most things normally, - yes, at times better than the rest of us.
That is partly why keen observers point out that the International Day of Persons with Disabilities has been observed with varying degrees of success around the planet. There are cultures where one doesn’t need disability to feel discriminated; often the color of the skin is a disability, and we hear police officers shooting black young men in the United States for any plausible reason. They have turned black color not into a disability but a crime, or imaginary fear that the bearer of that color is likely to commit a crime. If color can be treated with such nervous agitation, at what point shall disability be treated as normal, or as they often say, differently able? Maybe the only plausible answer is Mwalimu’s first five year plan refrain: It can be done, if you play your part!