We need a dream for the world I want!
4 June 2019 – Rome, CNEL (National Council of Economy and Labor), national convention organized by the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio.
I am really happy to be here today and I thank Professor Alessandra Sannella for wanting to offer me the opportunity to take my testimony in such an authoritative context.
Disability resides in society and not in the person. This is the reflection from which I always start when I am invited to present my project “Swimming in the seas of the globe”.
Most people with disabilities in the morning, when they wake up, have great difficulty planning a day and often, unfortunately, are forced to settle for simple imagination. We all know the reasons for this sad reality very well: the impossibility, for many, of accessing prosthetic devices and aids corresponding to their own needs; dwellings and public buildings very often lacking adequate and elementary access and exit tools, such as a simple elevator or an even more banal ramp; the difficulties to enter fully into the world of work: all obstacles that provoke self-indulgent contempt. In addition, if I think of children and adolescents, the picture becomes even more bleak, given that in some areas of our country schools are architecturally inaccessible or, even more serious – provided that it is possible and lawful to draw up a ranking of seriousness in contexts like this – without support teachers, thus compromising the right to full cultural and social development to which we should all have equal access. And also, but not least, the worst obstacle that a person with a disability, along with his family, often finds himself facing, loneliness.
All this also happens because the progress that comes from scientific and technological research is not distributed equally, its results are not available to all in equal measure. And because the society in which we live is leading to a dangerous isolation, to the selfish celebration of the well-being of the individual at the expense of the community.
The World Health Organization provides us with really frightening data: every year more than a million amputations are performed due to diabetes. Every 30 seconds a lower limb is amputated.
The number of new cancer cases per year will rise from 14 to 22 million over the next two decades.
The rare diseases are around 6000, and 80% have a genetic origin. According to recent estimates, in the European Union, about 30 million people suffer from a rare disease, only in Italy are about 2 million and of these 70% is represented by children.
I emphasize these terrible numbers because their greatness should, I believe, clarify the urgent need to address the problem of disability with new parameters, moving from the concept of mere assistance to that of inclusion and participation, and to do this it is necessary to promote paths of listening aimed at achieving autonomy through the enhancement of everyone’s abilities, and always keep in mind that even in this field, and especially in this field, it is necessary to apply oneself by looking at a long and planning look.
In this sense therefore, in the objectives of sustainable development of the UN 2030 Agenda, issues relating to the world of disability are fully included because only in inclusion and in combating inequalities, and contextually in the enhancement of differences, it is possible to create a world that be hospitable for everyone. The right to health, also envisaged in our Constitution, also means that every person must be able to enjoy decent and satisfactory living conditions, and starting from my experience I can today say that this is only possible together, in a collective journey in which everyone cooperate with the well-being of others with the tools they have.
I talk about my experience because since I made swimming a communication tool – and I definitely swim better than I speak! – I have always met wonderful and helpful people, long engaged in welcoming paths and in projects that aim to transform difficulties into opportunities for growth and enrichment. Believe me, it is not rhetoric: in the video you saw there is joy, enthusiasm, love and everything in a territory, the Kivu region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, battered by wars and poverty. I brought this experience, among the many that I have experienced all over the world, because here, more than anywhere else, I could see first-hand how important, even decisive, work together and collectively to improve people’s living conditions.
The dramatic data provided by the WHO teach us that over 1 billion people worldwide live with a disability. These are people who are confronted every day with obstacles, more or less large, such as architectural barriers, but also with cultural and social resistance, and these are the walls that need to be demolished urgently. To do this we must intervene on two levels, the scientific and technological and the political, social and cultural.
The elaboration of a technology built with the sole purpose of doing good is needed, of bringing individual differences closer together, combining talent in the workplace, improving everyone’s quality of life, creating the conditions that favor an ideal starting point for everyone. By combining the forces of the scientific community and of politics together with civil society, each person can be helped to realize themselves, without distinction of age, physical abilities or cognitive abilities. The result will be a more intelligent, connected, inclusive and accessible world for all.
To achieve this goal, it is necessary to democratize technologies, that is to say, to support universal design, that is, to design solutions that can adapt seamlessly to any person’s abilities and through any legislation, in order to make habits, interactions and decisions easier. and intuitive. With more than a billion people with disabilities on a global level, including a growing portion of the elderly population, the need for accessibility grows, and places the need for society to develop a system capable of responding to everyone’s needs.
Thanks to universal design, accessibility will become increasingly widespread, able to intuit social needs, habits and interactions in every context, so as to be able to build experiences that are also personalized according to the abilities of each of us.
The use of public spaces, the enjoyment of cultural assets, the creation of new models and tourism services for all, but also simple daily mobility, and urban accessibility plans, are the new challenges that our society must face if wants to avoid violating civil rights, not just people with disabilities.
In conclusion, I am convinced that everyone, especially young people, could find a point of useful comparison in a just and just society and start a process of real and profound change, a process that finally contemplates words such as integration and inclusion and that enhances the differences and allow everyone to contribute to a different development of this planet of ours, a development that leaves neither anyone nor anyone behind.
Involving human diversity in the universal project is the axiom on which the conception of an accessible society is based.
All the best, Salvatore Cimmino