ALI JOOKHUN
Disability Rights and Awareness Campaigner since 1993
OSK- Commonwealth’s 83rd Points of Light award

Supporting people with physical, sensory, mental and intellectual disabilities has been ever present in public policies. Different governments have contributed towards improving accessibility to social support for people living with disabilities. As such, since a few years now, two principal barriers to basic invalid pension have been flattened: that of having lower than a specific household income and to be of the age of fifteen to be eligible! Both these advances underline two basic principles: that public policing around healthcare and support to vulnerable groups of our society are universal and that disability can be from birth.

 Whilst progress is there, the need to improve is always an excellence that States must seek to strive towards. When it comes to children born with Down Syndrome and Autism, the Medical Board remains the principal conservative embodiment of the violation of the principle of universality of access to social support and of the human rights approach.

 Children born with Down Syndrome and Autism will live their whole lives bearing these forms of disabilities.  Down Syndrome and Autism are forms of intellectual disabilities which are lesser physical and therefore lesser visible; therefore, lesser measurable. The core determinant to whether a disabled person will benefit from basic invalid pension remains the quantification of the percentage of disability. Those who have been assessed with disability of above 60% are eligible for this form of social support. With the fact that assessment of intellectual disability is complicated, how can the Medical Board possibly assess if a person with Down Syndrome or Autism can be eligible for Basic Invalidity pension?

 It is truism that oft a times, the Medical Board with frivolous assessment of people living with Down Syndrome or Autism reinforces and perpetuates systemic and systematic injustices towards children with disabilities and their guardians and parents. In a situation of utter disorganisation that is stressful on parents, often, the latter seek help of NGOs such as Down Syndrome Mauritius to attend to these issues. Zaffirah, Elodie and Ryan are a few names of children who are in this dire situation.

 Cancelling of basic invalid pension for people living with Down Syndrome or Autism comes with the cancelling of their bus passes in addition to a sudden financial burden. Redressing this pell-mell situation is not some hocus-pocus work and is fairly easy. Options are diverse.

Yet, focus should be on two improvements:

1.       Ensuring that the Medical Board composition is diversified and strengthened with the technical expertise of paramedical, parents of children with down syndrome and Autism, social workers and psychologists to be able to make appropriate and informed decision.

2.      Children with Down Syndrome or Autism obtain basic invalid pension life-long since birth.

United Nations Agencies and the Sustainable Development Goals recommend a shift from a charitable and medical model in tackling disability issues to a social and human rights approach. Let us work towards setting the recommended human rights standards to ensure that equitable social justice is a reality for the vulnerable of society so that another Zaffirah, Elodie or Ryan do not face situation where their rights are violated.