Independent living, as seen by its advocates, is a philosophy, a way of looking at society and disability, and a worldwide movement of people with disabilities working for equal opportunities, self-determination, and self-respect.
According to traditional thought, disabilities are impairments to be cured through medical intervention. In practice, people with significant disabilities are treated at best by the medical industry as diseases to be cured, and more often, since most disabilities cannot be cured, as incapable and undeserving of optimal and self-directed care. The significant underestimation of the abilities and life quality of people with disabilities has led to a state in which the evaluation of people with disabilities by medical professionals, so highly valued by society, has come to infringe on basic human and civil rights.
The Independent Living Model sees the problem differently and understands disability as a construct of society. In this model, the problem lies in the environment, not the individual. Though many people have physical, intellectual, or mental attributes that deviate from the ‘norm,’ disability is manifested in society through purposefully created and maintained physical, programmatic, and attitudinal barriers.
People with disabilities do not see themselves as problems to be solved, and ask only for the same human and civil rights enjoyed by others. Remarkably, this viewpoint is not generally accepted in society today and the Medical Model is still so deeply ingrained in us as a society that people with disabilities may spend their entire lives in nursing facilities often described as “tortuous” or even be refused treatment at a hospital, and at a professional’s discretion, denied life-saving “futile care”.
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A clear focus on promoting human rights as well as international conventions and declarations; on the rights of women, children, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples. A strong, independent and diverse civil society plays a crucial role in securing these rights.
In practice, advocacy work will often take place on two levels, with a smooth transition:
Strengthening and raising awareness as part of a capacity building of organizations and groups of people in order to be actively involved in advocacy.
Actually advocacy, which aims to influence structures, institutions and authorities at all levels.
That advocacy can be done at all levels: local, regional, national and international.
Targeted efforts mean that an analysis has been made and formulated both a strategy and goals for the advocacy business.
Influencing decision-makers and citizens means working on a broad demarcation of what bodies it may be relevant to do advocacy with.
By extension, political, economic, cultural and social processes and decisions mean that advocacy, in addition to formal legislators and policy makers, is also thought to be aimed at, for example, traditional leaders, business owners and other persons exercising authority.
A considerable number means that the effort should not only aim at benefiting a narrow project target group (eg the pupils in the schools that are involved in a project) but towards improvements for the target group in general (eg all the school students in the district).
As advocacy is about influencing authorities and rulers at all levels, there is a risk that the activities will trigger resistance and conflict. This risk must be considered in the strategy for the effort.
Inclusion of people with disabilities is also about breaking traditions - which means doing things differently than before. Advocacy of including people also takes courage and new knowledge to make inclusion happen.
The Kyrgyz context
Background info about Kyrgyxstan
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