Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Mental Handicap: The World Scene

From: Speeches Of Rosemary F. Dybwad
Creator: Rosemary F. Dybwad (author)
Date: 1975
Source: Friends of the Samuel Gridley Howe Library and the Dybwad Family

Previous Page   Next Page   All Pages 

Page 4:


In France, UNAPEI, the national parents' association, issues a comprehensive monthly bulletin which reports on and reviews in great detail proposed new legislation, regulations, and governmental activities in the field of retardation and related disabilities.


Switzerland was the first country to develop a national policy for subsidies to local associations for the mentally handicapped, on the condition that they were providing information and counseling services to parents. The significant point is that it was the Swiss governmental disability insurance system which provided this financial subsidy because they had convinced themselves that these kinds of services, rendered by local parent association, were of distinct value as measures in secondary prevention of disability.


It has been a characteristic of any of the older and larger parent associations to develop an interest in international exchange and to become part of the international network of helping organizations. A look at this network seems appropriate at this point.


A resolution passed in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly, which led to the establishment of the rehabilitation program within the United Nations, requested the Secretary General to plan this activity jointly with the UN Specialized Agencies and in consultation with the interested non-governmental organizations. A meeting of such organizations was called and resulted in 1953 in the formation of the Council of World Organizations Interested in the Handicapped, also known as CWOIH. CWOIH now comprises almost 40 international voluntary organizations, from the International Committee of the Red Cross to the World Federation of the Deaf and the World Council for the Blind, from the International Catholic Child Bureau to the Salvation Army. A major force from the beginning was the International Society for Rehabilitation of the Disabled, now also called Rehabilitation International. Its Secretary General, Mr. Norman Acton, is at present the chairman of CWOIH, and the International League of Societies for the Mentally Handicapped is represented on its Executive. One of the most recent members is the International Cerebral Palsy Association, which has its headquarters in London.


A major function of the Council of World Organizations Interested in the Handicapped is to assist the non-governmental organizations in its membership in effectively relating to and whenever possible utilizing the services of the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies -- in particular, UNESCO, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, and, particularly with reference to the "developing" countries, the FAO -- the Food and Agriculture Organization. Within the United Nations itself the Social Development Division is playing an important role, particularly through the work of its Unit on Rehabilitation of the Disabled; it is that Unit which is authorized to call together each year the UN Ad-Hoc Committee on Rehabilitation of the Disabled. During recent years mental handicap has received increasing attention from this group, which maintains a continuing relationship with CWOIH.


As we meet in our travels with agencies and their professional staffs, but also with colleagues from the academic field, my husband and I note with great regret how few people know of the excellent materials, documents, and significant policy declarations which emanate from these UN Agencies, and how little use is made of them, even where known. The highly developed industrialized countries are no exception.


In addition, there are of course important international regional organizations, such as the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States, whose resources are also underutilized.


In the area of international cooperation there is a further resource which is very much underused, and that pertains to internationally sponsored exchange of students and practitioners, and to visits by consultants (many of them UN sponsored), or to study trips such as those based on grants like the Churchill Travel fellowships. All too often the results of these studies are not shared with a larger group, and excellent reports are limited to casual private circulation. As so often, the problem lies in the expense of organizing such materials for wider distribution, but merely the availability of such information as to who has been where would be most helpful, judging from the many requests for information which reach us personally.


One area in which the International League of Societies for the Mentally Handicapped has been particularly active in recent years, and which was the subject of one of its recent conferences in Brazil, is manpower and manpower training.


The concept of mental retardation, in its social, biological, and psychological dimensions, has undergone, during the past quarter century, most sweeping changes. Previous notions of the mentally retarded as a socially dangerous group, notions of the fixed I.Q. as a roadblock to substantial improvement, of the social incapacity of mentally retarded persons and of the ineducability of a large number of them, stood in the way of an aggressive program of training, treatment, and rehabilitation. With mental retardation thus conceived, there was little need for well trained, effective staff.

Previous Page   Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6    All Pages