Breaking Barriers to Access Potential

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Panel discussion on Mainstreaming youth and adolescents with disabilities in the international development agenda

Report by Devindree Pillay 

Friday, April 27, 2012


This informative panel of speakers clearly illustrated how young people with disabilities are among the most marginalized of the world’s youth.  Sometimes, if something is not within our own limited sphere of experiences, it is easy to remain in a state of blissful ignorance to these critical matters, so it was really enlightening to learn the details of all of how the issues that affect general youth such as access to education, employment, health services and other social services also affect young people with disabilities but in more complex ways. Receiving this information, perhaps can sow seeds of compassion that would grow into tangible, practical solutions.  In this light, what created concern in me, was the information presented about current development frameworks, policies and programmes to improve the well-being of youth in general, they do not often specifically address youth with disabilities.  Young people with disabilities constantly experience their opportunities being denied due to negative attitudes, discrimination and barriers to access. Furthermore for young women with disabilities their vulnerability is compounded by the barriers they face based on gender as well as their disability.  Hopefully this event was the opportunity to promote efforts to integrate the rights of persons with disabilities, in particular young people living with disabilities within the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme for Action that was being held concurrently at the UN.  The contents of the discussion certainly did provide useful input deliberations and its recommendations, on how the inclusion of disability can help accelerate efforts towards achieving the objectives of the ICPD as well as other internationally agreed development goals of the international development agenda.  A personal highlight for me was the brilliant presentation delivered by Mr Gopal Mitra of UNICEF, who has a severe visual impairment, but was still able to present using his exceptional auditory memory as well as alternative augmentative communication technology.  I was humbled by his pursuit of excellence despite his physical limitation.

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