Ever heard the phase, disability is not inability? Indeed, no statement could be truer. As such, a day was set aside every year in honour of people living with disability, to remind what tremendous capabilities they do have. This day, occurring on the 3rd of December is known as the International Day of Persons with Disability. Previously it was called the International Day of Disabled Persons but this was changed in 2007. On this observance, the United Nations among other stakeholders and people all over the world seek to achieve two things. One is to increase awareness of the disability issues. Secondly, they look to mobilize support for the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at all levels in society.
You might ask, who are people living with disability or better still, what does it mean to have disability. These and other questions will be our focus.
What is disability?
Disability is a condition that affects the body and/or the mind thus making it difficult for one to carry out certain daily activities and to cope with the demands of the world around them.
What kind of activities could be impaired?
What causes disability?
The most common cause of disability is diseases. Diabetes and cancer for example are leading causes. Diabetes for example, causes progressively severe nerve damage in various sites in the body. Damage to the nerves in the limbs for example could cause paralysis, while eye nerve damage would lead to blindness.
Are there any other causes of disability?
Other causes include poverty and malnutrition, work related injuries, accidents, poisons and pesticides and inherited disabilities.
How can disability be prevented?
Prevention is the best cure. To keep disability and its effects at bay, the most effective measures would be those that prevent exposure to risk factors. For example, in the knowledge that diseases are the leading causes of disability, vaccination and lifestyle changes as well as other measures to prevent these diseases from occurring would best prevent disability.
Let’s break down in three levels; primary, secondary and tertiary prevention.
These are the measures taken before the disease occurs to prevent it from happening. This I should say is the most effective stage and it should be our aim. How can we best achieve this?
- Providing education and promoting awareness about these conditions for example by reading and sharing this
- Avoidance of marriage between close family members to prevent hereditary conditions.
- Consultation with a doctor before pregnancy concerning best practices to prevent these conditions.
- Lifestyle change to avoid diseases that lead to disability such as diabetes.
- Precaution against accidents by being careful and use of safety equipment.
These are actions which are taken when the disease has occurred to stop its progress and prevent complications. Essentially, this refers to diagnosis and treatment. The measures which can be taken in this stage include sensitization for screening of disability and its causes through hospital visits and medical camps and appropriate treatment and compliance with doctor’s instructions particularly in taking medication.
These refer to the measures taken to prevent complications and further impairment. This is essentially a stage of rehabilitation. The activities in this stage include physical and psychosocial measures to restore the patient back to their normal or near- normal condition.
The theme for the 2021 World International Day of Persons was Leadership and Participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world. Together, we can make the lives of friends and family who are living with disability much better. This both by recognizing and in our own small way, attending to their unique needs and facilitating their increased participation in the matters of life.