Disability as a crosscutting issue, therefore it is important to mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies for sustainable development. The crucial need for social inclusion of People with disabilities in all aspects of political, economic, social and cultural life cannot be overemphasized. To this end, all national programmes and strategies in public and private sectors shall, where appropriate, demonstrate disability-sensitive programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation so as to eliminate all forms of inequality and discrimination.
Discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person and can only be eliminated in an inclusive society. The inspiring theme of inclusion has been expressed often enough in the familiar phrase: “Nothing about us without us” This theme continues to inspire persons with disabilities worldwide as they aspire to live meaningful lives. It conveys a strong message that persons with disabilities are endowed with rights and human dignity and that they are able to effectively participate in the socio-economic development of their countries on an equal basis with others. Yet People with Disabilities continue to face barriers in their participation as equal members of society. The need to eliminate these barriers shapes the disability agenda in Botswana.
The Disability agenda in Botswana has benefited from the interaction with the International context with special reference to the work of the United Nations which culminated in the adoption and entry in force of the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the recent initiatives of the African Union for the extension of the Plan of Action of the African Decade for People with Disabilities. This review process has also been guided by the principles and policy guidelines contained in the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and in the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for People with Disabilities. It is in appreciation of these principles that the Government of Botswana undertakes to promote, formulate and evaluate policies, plans, programmes and actions at the national and community levels to equalize opportunities for persons with disabilities.
People with Disabilities have successfully advocated for departure from the charity and medical models of disability. The medical model views disability as a disease, focusing exclusively on medical services to the individual, promoting and perpetuating exclusion from the mainstream of society. It ignores the social context of disability and the fact that it is society which creates the disabling environmental and attitudinal barriers which stand in the way of social inclusion. The global perspective has now shifted to the “social model” of disability, which focuses on the different ways in which the disabling physical, psychosocial and cultural barriers exclude PWDs and takes a more holistic approach to interventions that effectively address their special needs. This paradigm shift has influenced this policy review process that now sees the housing of this Policy move from the Ministry of Health to the Office of the President.
Other significant developments include broadened understanding of the “human rights approach” as a paradigm for understanding disability issues, such as health, the role of gender, social development, multiple marginalized status (such as race, gender, and disability). The dependency created by the charity and/or welfare model dis-empowers persons with disabilities, isolates and marginalizes them from the mainstream society. On the other hand, a human rights and development approach to disability enhances the prospects of equal opportunities. The principles of equal rights implies that the needs of each and every individual are of equal importance, and that planning and policy making should be based on those needs.
The rights and respect for the dignity of persons with disabilities shall never triumph over prejudice and differential treatment in the absence of a firm commitment on the part of the Government and without the support and participation of the Civil Society and Disabled Peoples’ Organizations (DPOs). The vision to create a society that is fully inclusive and which provides equal opportunities and access to services to People with Disabilities depends upon the extent to which the Government, and the society at large, overcomes the attitudinal, historical, cultural, social, economic and political barriers that stand in the way of this collective vision.