Disability and the SDG's

 
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“Diversity is being invited to a cocktail party, whilst inclusion is being asked up to dance - I want an opportunity to dance.”
— Anne Wafula Strike, Speaking at an International Conference on diversity

Whilst there is no single SDG assigned to disability, there are several SDGs that reference disability in their targets and stress the importance of diversity and inclusion.

For example:

GOAL 4 QUALITY EDUCATION - aims to ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities

GOAL 8 - DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH aims to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

GOAL 10 - REDUCE INEQUALITIES aims to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of ….. disability

GOAL 11 - SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES aims to provide access to safe affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, … with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons

GOAL 16 - PEACE JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS emphasises that decision-making should be inclusive and responsive, by sex, age, disability and population group.

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I still find it disgraceful to read of disabled people in the UK left on planes or treated unfairly in airport security. Little improvement appears to have been made for disabled access on the London transport system in the past ten years. There is still a long way to go to include people with disabilities in places of political power.

However, the challenges for persons with disabilities are even greater in fragile countries like South Sudan or Syria. Even in developing countries like Uganda and Haiti, children with learning difficulties are usually the last to receive quality education.

They may be given wheelchairs but many still face the challenge of accessible entry into their homes, schools or hospitals. Very few persons with disabilities are given the opportunity to feel included in the political or social arenas of their communities.

Whilst many churches are as guilty as anyone of exclusion, some are waking up to the importance of inclusion. I was impressed that in one South Sudanese refugee settlement in Uganda, several pastors asked us for further training in disability awareness. They had previously initiated a meeting to listen to the needs of many people with disabilities. Some were discussing how wheelchairs could help bring about improved inclusion. Others discussed how carpentry tools might be adapted for those with disabilities. Everyone was given the opportunity to express their needs to local pastors and community leaders.

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These pastors had understood some of the positive images of disabled people in the Bible such as characters like Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. He was the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul.

He suffered an injury that resulted in mobility impairment for his entire life. When King David found him, he treated him exactly as he would have done if Mephibosheth had been a powerful warrior.

He welcomed him to his table, gave him Saul's land and provided servants to farm it for him.

This story becomes a powerful metaphor for the kingdom of God, where abled and disabled people sit together side by side as equals at the feast table.

The New Testament also endorses the inclusion of disabled people by Jesus.

Joni Eareckson Tada, herself a quadriplegic, once observed:

“Our Saviour chose to flash His credentials as Messiah through ministry to disabled people.… A disability magnifies God's grace.... We in our wheelchairs get to prove how great and how trustworthy God is.”

I once observed several workers in a hospital in Haiti wearing T - shirts that said Disability is not inability. It became their mantra.

Whilst there may not be one specific global goal that addresses specifically the needs of disabled people, EVERY goal should seek inclusion for some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Perhaps it is right then that all the goals should strive for people with disabilities to not be defined by disability but by their ability.

Again in the words of Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike, "When you have a disability, knowing that you are not defined by it is the sweetest feeling." - "In My Dreams I Dance "

 
Michael Goldsmith