Public Policy for the Inclusion and Acceptance of the Disabled in the U.S Compared to Underdeveloped/Developing Countries

The Arc is an organization that works to "promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes." They strive to educate the community about intellectual and developmental disabilities to help foster a better understanding for what those affected may need. Their public policy and legal advocacy teams work to protect and promote the rights of the disabled by advocating on a broad range of issues. The advocators work includes: legislative advocacy in Congress, executive and regulatory advocacy with officials and administration of federal agencies, and legal advocacy by participating in federal court litigation.

The organization argues that historically people with disabilities have been denied fundamental human and civil rights. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the disabled where still being institutionalized, abused and neglected. Towards the end of the century many legal battles had been won and the newly implemented federal legislation began to change lives. However, "despite (the) tremendous advances ... limitations of laws and regulations, poor enforcement of the laws, limited funding of programs, disregard for binding legal precedent, and societal prejudices keep many people with disabilities from being fully included in our society." Some issues that The Arc cites on their website, amongst which they are advocating for justice, are: Budget and Appropriations, Healthcare, Civil Rights, Housing, Education, Long Term Supports & Services, Employment, Medicaid, Family Support and Social Security.

In an effort to rid underdeveloped and developing countries of stigma and prejudice surrounding disabled youth, UNICEF released a fact sheet that is "intended to provide a starting point for approaching policies and programmes that can make a difference in the lives of these children, their families and their communities." They firmly believe that, "Knowledge and understanding of the barriers and challenges faced by children with disabilities is essential if their rights are to be realised" (5). The fact sheet, frequently refers to the UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and how that convention has proven that it is possible to remove barriers that exclude and ostracize people, especially children, with disabilities. Although the CRPD requires that governments collect statistical information on the disabled of their respective countries, estimates for these children are mostly unavailable. Many countries have out-dated ways of classifying what is and isn't a disability, whether it be physical, mental, or developmental, and they also may not have the resources or statistical capacity to collect this information. Most disabled children are also considered invisible in their communities and have their existence denied by their families. Thus, UNICEF claims some of their statistics may be speculative due to this information, or lack thereof.

Not only do they report on discrimination, prejudice and stigma, but also on healthcare, sexual and reproductive health, poverty and inclusive development, education, family life and institutionalism, violence and exploitation, child labor and employment, nutrition, participation in decision-making, and humanitarian crises; armed conflicts.

This article, published by UNICEF and written by Emil Sahakyhan, describes an Armenian girl named  Sironaush that has a disability that restricts her to a wheelchair. She is enjoying an inclusive education at  a regular school, whereas many Armenians believe someone like her should be at a special education school or even at home without an education at all. At this regular school she has been able to achieve many things that would've been impossible had she been enrolled at a special school. However, Sironaush is a rare case. There are 8,000 registered Armenian children with disabilities of which 18% do not attend any kind of school. Around 65% are poor or live on $3 a day, and 8% live in extreme poverty, $2 a day. The risk for children to be separated from their families and sent to a boarding school or institution is much higher for those with disabilities.

These prevailing attitudes and discrimination are based on the older generations perceptions of disabilities. Many parents of children with disabilities believe their children aren't able to study in schools or participate socially in their community. "'We have to mobilize the society to address the stereotypes existing with regards to children with disabilities. It is imperative to increase public understanding of the fact that a society, able to include children with disabilities, is a better society for everyone. Learning in inclusive kindergartens and schools is the passport to living in a society where every member can lead a dignified life,' UNICEF Representative in Armenia Henriette Ahrens emphasized."

In this New York Times article, single working mother Christine Salerno describes how stressful financial planning for family members with special needs can be and she provides tips on how to be successful. Her four year old daughter was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, last year. She has limited use of her hands, difficulty swallowing, and can only speak a few words. She currently has 10 therapists and 15 doctors and Ms. Salerno must figure out how this will be managed in the future once she, herself, is too old to look after her daughter or passes away.

She advises that when getting started, parents must take precautions that money set aside for their child isn't consumed by their own long-term care expenses. She also praises Medicaid because it covers healthcare for people with disabilities who are over 18, and provides entry to other services and programs that can help with job or life skills. She also talks about a new ABLE account, or 529A account, that is like a savings account, where money can grow tax-free and where working families can save more than $2000 without being disqualified from benefits (Medicaid).

AUCD, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, is "a network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practice for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities." They provide news about new legislation, information about pre-existing public policy, and knowledge of issues that affect those with disabilities. Their mission "is to advance policies and practices that improve the health, education, social, and economic well-being of all people with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and their communities by supporting our members in research, education, health, and service activities that achieve our vision."

The Developmental Disabilities and Bill of Rights Act is of the highest priority for AUCD's public policy work. The DD act is reauthorized every four years and provides authorization for the 67 University Centers that make up AUCD. They also explain how the Disability Treaty, an international treaty that recognizes the rights of people with disabilities, was inspired by U.S leadership. Not only does the treaty outline the basic human rights that those with disabilities still deserve, but it aims to change the attitudes and perceptions people have towards people with disabilities.

AUCD also works to ensure education, healthcare, Medicaid, social security, and community-based services for people with disabilities. Their website is extensive in it's resources and does a great job of educating those interested about what people with disabilities face and how they are changing that.

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