HCD offical calls for rights-based approach to persons with disabilities

Members of the Amman International Rotary club pose for a photo on April 13, 2022. (Photo: Rotary club)
AMMAN — An estimated 11.2 percent of Jordanians are persons with disabilities, the secretary general of the Higher Council for Persons with Disabilities said Wednesday, speaking to a Rotary club meeting at the Grand Hyatt Amman.اضافة اعلان

Alongside other countries in the region, Jordan previously used an “extremely narrow criterion” to put that percentage at 2 percent, Secretary General Muhanad Al-Azzeh said.

Sweden, which has an excellent health system, estimates that persons with disabilities comprise 17.5 percent of its population.

A former senator, who holds a PhD in criminal law and a post-graduate degree in governance, democratization, and public policy from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Azzeh said that things in Jordan are changing. “While there is a lot of work ahead of us, there is hope for change,” he added.

Azzeh, who was born with sight impairment and was legally blind by the age of 12, related how things have changed in Jordan. “People with disabilities for example were prevented from studying math and science due to a directive from the Prime Ministry in the 1970s,” he said.

Azzeh said that 184 countries around the world (except for the US) have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) since its announcement in 2006.

“In Jordan, we worked hard on a rights-based approach to disability law. The law was produced in 2017 after engagement with all sectors of Jordanian society. Each article was discussed with relevant stakeholders, and we used the feedback from disabled persons including children and persons who have been bullied, harassed, and even violently and sexually abused and we integrated their comments into the law,” Azzeh said.

He added that while he is proud of the Jordanian disability law, which he called “progressive,” he noted his concern about the implementation challenges. Azzeh said that too often, “bureaucrats look to disabled persons from the prism of charity, welfare, and at best as people needing rehabilitation and not persons with full constitutional rights”.

He reported that 18 public schools in Amman’s Marka neighborhood, Karak, and Ajloun are being readied to become inclusive schools. Although delayed by the pandemic, the schools are scheduled to open “starting from September 2022/23 school year,” he said.  Azzeh praised the German development agency GIZ for committing 30 million euros to help Jordan meet its inclusivity goals in the coming years.

“Our plans are for every ministry to prepare an action plan of how it wants to become inclusive, and we will be holding these ministries accountable to ensure that they carry out what they strategized to do,” he said. He added the council will produce an annual report that will name and shame institutions that have not fulfilled their own promises and goals.

In his talk, Azzeh spoke about the need for a deep change in the way society views persons with disabilities. Some see them as charity cases and miss “that a disabled person has the same constitutional rights as an able person,” he said.

Azzeh said that he needed help to move from one location to another in the hotel because he is not familiar with the location. “However, at home and in my office, where the environment is accessible and familiar to me, I can move around without any help. A disabled person is not sick, and people should not talk to them as if they are ill in a hospital,” he concluded.

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