Her long hair and brightly colored bag caught my attention first. She was waiting at the bus stop, but when the bus came, she did not stand to board as the rest of us. She hadn’t stood for some time. She waited for the bus driver to help her maneuver her 4 wheeled life onto the ramp, then waited as he strapped her into position. The rest of the passengers made room, pointedly not mentioning her incapacity.
She was able, and unable to do everything that ‘normal’ people do. She was able to brush her hair and teeth, to read, and to converse fluently. She loved, she laughed, she enjoyed good food and talked about the weather. She was so able, but the lack of ambulation set her apart and many things difficult. The chair, the bus, these things gave her mobility. She could shop in the store, she could cook, she could teach.
She taught math. She was very good as a math teacher. She was so able in this area where I struggle, just as disabled as she is without her chair. In math, her mind soared into shapes and spheres, motions and possibilities that were simply magic and shadows for me.
I wondered what boundaries bordered her life; what things kept her from going everywhere she wished to go. I wondered how she could travel, perhaps visiting the wonderful places of the world. Like Peru.
I wanted to understand what it would be like for her to travel into a foreign place without the amenities that were afforded her by her city/university life. Here there are ramps and elevators. Here she finds a wall plug for the electricity that powers her chair. Here she finds drinking fountains that are set low enough for her to reach and toilet seats high enough to meet her needs.
I did a little research about people with disabilities in Peru. I found wonderful work is being done to help those with disabilities. With the adoption of a disabilities act by the Peruvian congress in December of 2012 that put Peru in line with the United Nations Community Based Rehabilitation and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (1)
By ratifying the measure, Peru adopted the same principles outlined in the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states in part, it is important for a shift in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities: from seeing them as
“objects of charity and welfare to viewing them as participating, contributing members of society, where they have the same rights as others in their community, and are capable of making decisions for their lives. The Convention is a disability-specific human rights treaty, clarifying how established civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights apply equally to persons with disabilities. It clearly states that all human rights have to be made inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities; it identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to access and exercise their rights on an equal basis with others, and areas where their rights have to be protected. The central tenet of the Convention is non-discrimination; its vision is that of an inclusive society”(2)
These tenets of ability – the change in attitude toward the disabled- seeing them as capable and able instead of defining them by what they cannot do, and labeling them as ‘objects of charity and welfare” is an important step toward making the world a better place for people, who like my friend with the wild streaming hair and handbag, want to call the world their own.
More work was done to help the disabled in Cusco on Saturday, when help was available to help those with disabilities get their DNI (National Identity Card)taking another step toward the goals of the initiative that states “Parties shall take effective and appropriate measures, including through peer support, to enable persons with disabilities to attain and maintain maximum independence, full physical, mental, social and vocational ability, and full inclusion and participation in all aspects of life. To that end, States Parties shall organize, strengthen and extend comprehensive habilitation and rehabilitation services and programs, particularly in the areas of health, employment, education and social services…”(3)
Getting a National Identity Document can be difficult for people who do not have birth certificates or lack other documentation. Assistance was offered last Saturday (July 9) to help people solve such issues when trying to attain a DNI card. With the help of Reniec (National Registry of Identification and Civil Status) personnel were on hand to help people, free of charge to fill out the proper papers to receive the help they need.
According to Andina Agencia Peruana de notices “It is the first time that an exhibition of this kind meet in Cusco to many institutions, and organizers hope that from now on, can replicate and become a promoter of inclusion space”.
Some important parts of the law passed by the Peruvian Congress in 2012:
- People with disabilities are entitled to integral rehabilitation in their community
- People with disabilities have the right to inclusive education
- 5% of labor force in the public sector and 3% in the private sector should be persons with disability
- Any vacancy left by a person with disability need to be covered by another person with a disability
- All transport units have the obligation to be accessible
- In congressional elections, political parties, electoral alliances and independent movements, have to include at least 10% of persons with disabilities
- In developing its Participatory Budget, the Regional and Local Governments need to prioritize projects and initiatives presented by persons with disabilities(3)
With the advancements of technology, the inclusion of those who are differently abled and the accessibility of facilities from bathrooms to stairs, my friend may well find her way round the world.