Disability is not a limit, if you love me force me to change
According to the latest data from the WHO (World Health Organization), the number of people with disabilities today has exceeded one billion and, due to multiple and various factors such as pollution, the onset of serious diseases, road accidents and on the job with highly invalidating results, in the coming years it is destined to grow dramatically. These are people who daily experience enormous difficulties in accessing vital sectors such as education, care, work, politics, active participation in society events.
This reality must force our country to face the issue of disability with a new and constructive spirit, identifying and then putting in place policies and strategies that operate on two fronts: on the one hand it is necessary that the progress deriving from scientific research be made available to all citizenship, and therefore the care, aids and technological equipment of the latest generation must be able to be enjoyed by anyone in need; on the other hand it is necessary to insist on the theme of Universal Design, which simply means designing realities taking into account everyone’s abilities. It is now essential to imagine a way of designing that goes beyond the concept of overcoming architectural barriers and puts people with their characteristics at the center of the project. It means thinking about environments in terms of greater usability without ever forgetting the close correlation between the socio-environmental context and the quality of life of those who live there. And I want to insist on a point in my opinion fundamental and that is that even before being a purely technical issue it is a problem of human rights and citizenship of children, adults and the elderly; of women and men; of low and tall people; of those who use the wheelchair, of those who push a stroller, of those who use guardians, of those who move with a guide dog or a stick, of those who are obese, of those who have heart problems, of those who have hearing problems … of all people therefore, whatever their “diversity”.
The point from which I start when I address this issue is not simple, I do not want to simply emphasize the need, for people with disabilities, to be able to move freely and as independently as possible, I want to emphasize, and sorry if I repeat myself, that freedom of movement, the possibility of being able to easily live spaces, the accessibility of services, cinemas, theaters, museums, shops, the practicability of roads and sidewalks, simply mean life.
And there is another very important aspect that in my opinion is not sufficiently underlined: the integration of people with disabilities into society is a huge advantage not only from the point of view of the conquest of civilization, which never hurts, of course, but even from an economic point of view. People with disabilities, like all the others, are consumers and users and I believe that there are many market spaces that could benefit from widening their range of action. I only give the example of PEBA, the accessibility projects of the beaches of our country because together with the Luca Coscioni Association, they saw us very busy in the last period. Imagine how many more people could become guests of the beach resorts once they are made accessible. It is an ethical and qualified economic development. And this is a further step in the direction of integration.
Not to mention the scientific research that, made accessible in its results, could lead to an extraordinary development of a whole important sector of the industry.
The history of humanity has made giant strides forward: the social identity of the person with disabilities over the centuries has been the subject of alternate destinies, which have often materialized in disparaging epithets: from the punishment of the gods to the Greek civilization -romana to the expression of malefic and diabolical forces in the Middle Ages, from an incurable patient in the nineteenth century, to a life that does not deserve to live during Nazism up to the disabled in today’s society. Definition of this last hypocrite like the previous ones, and even if not inhumane anyway, in my opinion, categorizing. We must arrive at very close years to us, 2006, to see the relationship between a person with a disability and the environment recognized and to finally see the rights of people with disabilities that until then had been framed within the health model as established sick people in need of care and attention, therefore as passive and inactive subjects. The fundamental step that marked the process from health to social was the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Now it is necessary to go even further. In order for the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to be respected, it is essential to broaden our gaze, to fight for peace in the world, to achieve sustainable growth, to promote social cohesion. Men and women, all men and all women, children, all children, without distinction, must always be protected and respected and they must be guaranteed the opportunity to grow and live in the best possible world.
I speak of widening our gaze and I cannot but think of a country that has now firmly entered my heart, Democratic Republic of Congo. People with disabilities in the Kivu region, which is the area I attended and to which I am particularly attached, are not supported by any law on the subject, suffer continuous discrimination, have no possibility of movement, do not even have the most basic aids like a rudimentary crutch, the girls then, especially if they are with disabilities, are systematically humiliated and raped. It is also for them that for years now I’ve been swimming around for the way, to succeed even if minimally in contributing to their well-being. They are wonderful children, courageous women, humiliated men who have nothing and therefore need everything. In these contexts a disability really means a final sentence. Some things for them, thanks above all to the fundamental help of the Italian Cooperation, we managed to do them but obviously it is the famous drop in the ocean and the road is still so long that the end is not identified.
There would be many other things to say, projects to talk about, people to thank. Every time I make an intervention I realize how little I can express and how many things it would be necessary to talk about. Today there are authoritative personalities here, certainly much more competent and decisive than I can ever be in this field. For me it is important to bear my testimony, my desire to do and to commit myself. I am sure of one thing, when a person with a disability has the possibility to share his abilities and his potential then, as in the most beautiful fairy tales, barriers and prejudices melt like snow in the sun. Because we must finally understand that diversity is the star around which the human universe revolves.
All the best