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City of Banjul
Sunday, September 20, 2020

Disability, technology and sustainable development

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Disability has been a physical and socio-economic reality since time immemorial. Societies over time have reacted to the issue in many different ways. However, discrimination against and social exclusion, of differently able persons seem common across generations. 

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The fight against these stereotypes is ongoing and differently able persons themselves, who are direct victims of the injustice, are not left behind in the crusade. We celebrate the fact that such efforts have culminated in giant strides in the actualisation of their rights and wellbeing.

 

Today, governments around the world and international and regional political groupings like the AU and UN have put in place laws and other measures to protect and promote the rights of people with disability. 

 

However, there’s more room for improvement. If the statistics are anything to go by, the situation still looks grim. For, according to the World Health Organisation, at least 10 percent of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live with a disability. 20 percent of the world’s poor are disabled. The percentage of children with disabilities not attending school is extremely variable and is between 65 – 85 percent in some African countries. 

 

Mortality for children with disabilities may be as high as 80% in countries where under-five mortality as a whole has decreased to below 20%. In many low-income and middle-income countries, only 5-15% of disabled people who require assistive devices and technology have access to them. These are the realities that we face as a world and we must act with urgency to reduce, if not to bridge the gap between them. 

 

One of the major causes of disability around the world is said to be conflict and war. Millions of people lose limbs in explosions and other forms of contact with biological and nuclear weapons. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki are places where, to this date, babies are being born with impairments and disabilities. The residue of the atomic substances after the American invasion in the Second World War is blamed for this catastrophe. 

 

So, as the world continues to endeavour for a safe space for all and sundry, we must look into the atomic and nuclear weapons that are currently part of the grand debate. The war on the nuclear arms race should be as important and imperative to the international community as the fight against terrorism. 

 

The United Nations, whose predecessors, the League of Nations, was organised and formed so as to serve as solidarity against war must take serious measures in the fight against this existential threat. 

 

This year’s theme clearly reaffirms the role of technology in the development and protection of the interest of people with disability. With over 1 billion people living with some form of disability around the world, technology which is one of the most powerful tools in the modern era should be utilised in the in delivering the promises of sustainable development and not in the creation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

 

“Technopoly” – the monopoly of technology – should be addressed to serve the greater good of mankind, especially in the development of people who are underprivileged and vulnerable.

 

In as much as we talk of many other things that impede the progress of disabled people, we shouldn’t forget that the main factor for the gulf of inequality and isolation is that of poverty. Disability will always be a major problem as long as poverty is still in our midst. The problems of disability, inequality and lack of development, are all aided by the chronic problem of poverty. Majority of the disabled people live in the poor and deprived parts of the world. The third world is home to the majority of people living with disability simply because in a situation where most of the people live in dire need and their lands ravaged by war and conflict, the only logical conclusion is a people who are dispossessed and disabled both physically and materially.

 

So as world leaders put in a new framework for development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they might as well remember that all would be futile without the fight against poverty and the wise use of technology in creating sustainable communities that thrive with the highest degrees of excellence. 

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