The stigmatizing experiences of persons with disabilities is seen to have a genesis from the societal attitudes towards persons with disabilities. People in the society have a general thought that persons with disabilities must go through some form of problems. It is indeed a fact that persons with disabilities, once in a while, go through some form of problems, but this is not exclusively in any way fully attached to their disabilities. What the society needs to understand is the fact that persons with disabilities, have, in most cases, adopted ways of living their lives which in the end accommodate their disabilities thus making them not persons with limited abilities but rather persons who are abled differently. By and large, the most issue that relates to the lives of persons with disabilities is not in their conditions, it is what they encounter as a result of what is created in the minds of the people around them or rather the people they interact with or the aspects in the built environment, this is clearly not things that are intrinsic to persons with disabilities.
The societal attitudes and the environmental design are the most things that bother persons with disabilities. This therefore means that the society, in a very great way, hinders the independence of persons with disabilities. INDEPENDENCE is the word here. This is simply the aspect of not being able to do things that the rest of the society may take for granted.
This term “persons with disabilities” is a terminology that applies to all persons who have long-term or rather permanent physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments that, in the face of various negative attitudes or physical obstacles, may prevent those persons from participating fully in the society. This is an approach given by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Disability in the past and for a very long time, was seen to be a medical issue, this is where persons with disabilities have been viewed, and in some cases are still seen as medical cases. The medical viewpoint is where the person’s impairment is seen as the reason for the hindrance of the person living a full life, the focus here is put more on the impairment than the person.
The impairment of the person is seen to be “abnormal” thus needing cure for the person to be seen as “normal”. But with some form of awareness and sensitization, persons living with disabilities pushed out the medical model and embraced the social model of defining disability. The social model approach sees that the main cause of the exclusiveness of persons with disabilities is not in a large way related to their disability but rather to the environmental and attitudinal barriers to inclusion which are socially constructed and are seen as the ones that play a big role in the creation of the disabling conditions experienced by people with impairments.
This model (the social) is seen to be greatly concerned with ensuring that there is enough awareness creation and enlightenment towards the changing of the society with an aim of ensuring accommodation of persons with disabilities. When focusing on the relationship between disability and gender, the social model is supposed to be seen to be a progressive process of ensuring that the inequalities that are faced by persons with disabilities are well addressed. But unfortunately, this makes it to be a bit insufficient because it does not come out so clearly well due to the aspect of ignoring the gender roles in the creation of the double disabling conditions of women with disabilities. This is with bias to sexual and reproductive health rights of women with disabilities.
This social model of disability operates basing on assumption that the social barriers are experienced equally by both men and women with disabilities. But in real sense, men in general, including men with disabilities, have a greater chance to get access to power, economic capital, and opportunity to participate in decision making opportunity to access education, resources as well as public space more than the women with disabilities. Even though both men and women with disabilities make up the biggest percentage of persons who are marginalized in the society, there is still a gender issue which makes the women with disabilities to be more disadvantaged. There is a more likelihood of women with disabilities, as compared to the men with disabilities, to be poor, less educated, lack medical interventions to control their fertility as well as experience sexual violence and all other forms of violence.
Women with disabilities also have added disadvantages of sexual health issues like cases of unplanned pregnancies, higher risks of contracting sexually transmitted infections and even breast and cervical cancer just to name a few. In order to realize the rights to reproductive health by persons with disabilities, especially women with disabilities, there is need for more than just giving it an approach from the medical as well as the social model.
This requires a combination that will be made up of the relationship between disability and gender, race, sexual orientation, age, social status, economic status and many other aspect that will not favour one factor over the other. the best option could be the use of an approach that originates from human rights because this looks at the inherency of dignity and equality of all persons as humans.
This is clearly stipulated in the international human rights documents, standards, conventions and treaties. With these in mind, there will be a platform on which the rights of persons with disabilities to sexual and reproductive health will be realized. Sexuality and disability need an equal meeting point. This cannot be understood if there is lack of primary understanding or rather acknowledgment that every individual human being has a right to his or her own sexuality. In most places where this is common, it seen just seen or known to be a paper knowledge that has not yet been received in reality due to the deep rooted stereotypes and negative attitudes. The category of persons with disabilities who are still massively trapped are the persons with intellectual disabilities.
There is a group of human rights principles which are globally recognized and should be upheld despite the disability that an individual may be experiencing. These are; The right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to marry and found a family, the right to reproductive health, including family planning and maternal health services, information and education, the right to physical integrity, the right to respect for private and family life, the right to benefit from scientific progress and the right to freedom of expression.