The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the High Level Political Form (HLFP) are two structures that are currently working to include persons with disabilities (PWD) into the development framework. However, the reason that PWD have historically been excluded from receiving equal access, participation and human rights stems from a long history of prejudice and stigmatization. Rimmerman details religious and genetic reasons for historically excluding PWD in his book Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. He outlines the rationalization of disabilities through the Bible and Qur’an. The Bible sees PWD as sinners in need of a cure (12). The Qur’an sees PWD not as sinners, but as people with burdens that should be excused from certain tasks because of their disabilities (13). In modern day, we see that both of these interpretations have led to the exclusion and isolation of PWD. Even the Qur’an’s explanation of compassion and exception has led to beliefs that PWD are incapable of leading independent lives.
Rimmerman also outlines the horrific impact that the euthenics movement had on PWD. During the 19th century, the eugenics movement began and with it the further stigmatization of PWD. The movement encouraged only healthy, able-bodied people to reproduce (16). This idea led to forced sterilization of adults and euthanasia of “defective babies” (18-19). It was not until the late 20th century that PWD were afforded any civil rights in America (20) or treated as capable, independent people. Unfortunately, as the founder of the Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI) Mr. Nay Lin Soe pointed out, today there are still huge human rights violations and engrained religious stigmas about PWD in countries like Myanmar.
From this brief history of the treatment of PWD historically and currently, it is evident that global initiatives and policies that incorporate PWD into the development framework must work to address these stigmatizations and prejudices. It is important to include the voices of PWD in development strategies because as Amartya Sen reasons, the people within a community must decide the rate and form of their globalization (240-242). It is imperative that PWD are included in the development conversation because they are the only ones who can speak to their needs and challenges for becoming full participants in this globalized world. As the international community has progressed from the UDHR and the MDG’s, which have not specific mention of PWD, to the CRPD and the SGD’s, which explicitly mention PWD, we can see that PWD are beginning to gain recognition and importance in the development framework. As we continue with forums like the HLPF, it is crucial that we include PWD in the discussion to ensure that the goal of developing a world that includes everyone is achievable.