When we shun children with disabilities, we are denying them of their human rights and limiting their potential to a mere condition, says Noemia Contente, spokesperson of the Lusito Association.
“We are finding that there is a definite block with trying to get corporates out there to fund disabled causes. There seems to be this mentality that a disabled child will always be a disabled child, no amount of money can change that. Although there may be no cure for disabilities, we can still improve the quality of life of these children,” Contente continues.
A 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities established that children with “long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments” should enjoy the same human rights and freedoms as other children.
But this is not always the case.
“Children with Disabilities all over the globe face a multitude of barriers not experienced by other children. In South Africa alone, Human Rights Watch estimated that over 500 000 children living with a disability have been shut out of the country’s education system. You look at Corporate Social Investment databases that are used for funding, they have various sections such as education, arts, sports and culture, health, and the likes, but none of those categories include disability, Contente explains.
Living with a disability is an expensive experience. Most of the children require specialised equipment to assist in making their lives better. Often the equipment is customised to their specific needs and has to be imported with the price ranging from R5000 – R60 000 plus.
“But most of the parents in our association are from disadvantaged backgrounds. They can’t afford to buy imported equipment that their children need. This is where the association needs funding,” says Lusito School physiotherapist Diana Ribeiro.
“We have a little boy of four attending the Lusito School, which cannot walk. His mobility was restricted to the floor of his home and relied on people carrying him from place to place. He didn’t have much independence. We were able to assist him with a wheelchair. Now he can sit at the same level as the table and eat with his peers, he can go to all the extra murals at school, without relying on someone to carry him there. We gave him independence through that wheelchair, we were able to change this boy’s life and make him mobile through the use of a wheelchair.”
Ribeiro says the situation in which they find themselves is frustrating.
“Working with these children, we see a lot of potential in them, but because we don’t have access to funding, there’s only so much that can be done. We assist with makeshift items, which is something, but we know that with the right equipment, these kids could reach their full potential a lot quicker. “
But Contente says it is not just mobility equipment that the school is lacking in.
“We are also talking about bringing technology into the classrooms, because some of the children are nonverbal. So, things like tablets assist in allowing these children to communicate. Although this may seem like a luxury item, it is actually an essential item in improving their quality of life. It is our belief that every child, whether disabled or not should be looked after.”
The Lusito Association is a non-profit organisation whose function is to manage and fundraise, to build and maintain, the Lusito School. The association uses the Lusito Land Festival to raise funds for the school, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the school.