Why disability needs more social visibility

According to the Population and Housing Census 2020, there are 7,168,000 disabled or mentally ill people in Mexico or 5.7% of the population. 24% of them are not enrolled in social security.

Why disability needs more social visibility
There has to be more of a focus on the needs of people with disabilities. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

In Mexico, there are about 7,168,000 people with disabilities or some mental problem, representing 5.7 percent of the national population; 24 percent of them are not affiliated with social security institutions, according to the Population and Housing Census 2020. The World Health Organization notes that globally people have less access to healthcare services, so on numerous occasions, their needs go unmet.

Disabled people need more visibility

"It is important to consider this population because we have a relatively large percentage in our country." Disability can be congenital or acquired, but in both people require a lot of attention," says Jesús Barrera Reséndiz, academic of the Bachelor's Degree in Physiotherapy at the Escuela Nacional de Estudios Superiores (ENES) Unidad León.

The National Institute of Statistics and Geography reported that by 2020, 3.2 million elderly people, 2.2 million adults, 869 thousand young people, and 899 thousand children would have this condition. Given this, the doctor in behavioral sciences emphasizes that the first step to addressing disability is prevention. For example, congenital disabilities are monitored during pregnancy to minimize risk factors.

Those acquired by accidents that cause spinal cord injuries, cranioencephalic trauma, or vascular-cerebral events related to cardiac conditions can also be prevented.

Some of the problems faced by people with disabilities detected by the 2020 Census are: two million (939 thousand) have difficulties walking, climbing, or descending; two million (691 thousand) have problems seeing even when wearing glasses; one million (590 thousand) have some mental problem or condition; and one million (168 thousand) have difficulties to bathe, dress, or eat, among others.

"Once an event occurs that affects mobility, sensory, or cognitive issues, it is important to attend to it immediately." In this sense, ENES León trains responsible, capable professionals with broad criteria to help this population. In addition, it offers them the possibility of receiving care in a professional, scientific, and accessible environment, as a way of giving back to Mexican society," remarked Barrera Reséndiz.

The WHO points out that the number of people with disabilities is increasing due to the growing prevalence of chronic illnesses and the aging of the population. This poses human rights problems because people with disabilities are often subjected to violence, mistreatment, prejudice, and disrespectful attitudes, among other things.

Professional and scientific care

ENES Leon has a "Physiotherapy Clinic", run by academics and students of the Physiotherapy degree program. With the geriatric population, preventive work is done for different aspects, for example, to avoid or improve their cardiovascular conditions.

In the case of congenital disabilities, there are strategies for the prevention of sequelae, such as the PUMAS program, which treats newborns with risk factors up to children with sequelae of cerebral palsy.

TRI-21 is another program focused on children and young people with Down syndrome that provides them with multidisciplinary treatment: physical rehabilitation, dental services, and support from the Visual Diagnosis Unit. The physiotherapy, dentistry, and optometry departments participate. Patients receive an initial assessment to detect their needs and provide follow-up.

"Many of the alterations we find have to do with decreased muscle tone, and we work to prevent sequelae in postural and functional issues such as gait, posture, and jumping alterations," says the ENES León academic.

This program is five years old, and although they receive patients mainly from the central zone of the country, they have also attended to children and young people from more distant entities such as Chihuahua.

Barrera Reséndiz refers to the fact that the person in charge of the program, Cristina Carrillo, implemented telerehabilitation to follow up on the patients during their confinement during COVID-19, and it has also been a way to make it grow.

"The patients are consulted remotely, and periodically they are scheduled at the ENES for evaluations." Because of the pandemic, this mechanism was established, and corrections were made according to what was observed in the videos sent by the parents.

"It is also important to point out that this initiative was successful, in part, due to the willingness and responsibility of the parents, who, via video calls, WhatsApp, Zoom, and Instagram, depending on the tools they had, followed up on the treatment," he emphasizes.

With the return to face-to-face activities, services increased as more and more associations that serve people with Down syndrome approached the program for support. In addition, the program has expanded and now includes young people from 21 to 25 years of age.

The academic Jesús Barrera Reséndiz emphasizes that there is nothing more precious than health, so at ENES León they work to prevent any type of disability-related alteration.

He considers that on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities it is also required that society reflects on the fact that this population needs support and they can be helped by respecting parking spaces and areas intended for them; avoid blocking wheelchair accesses, among other actions.

"That is the importance of having a special day for these people so that the message of their needs permeates society and we are aware that they are important and need our attention," he asserts.