“Although children with disabilities have become more visible since the beginning of the transition and attitudes about them and their families are changing, many of them remain simply ‘written off’ from society,” said Marta Santos Pais, who heads the Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) which produced the report.The total number of children registered as disabled across the region’s 27 countries has tripled from about 500,000 in 1990 to 1.5 million in 2000. An additional one million children are thought to go unregistered, according to the report, which found that disability and poverty often go hand in hand for these children, who lack access to quality services. Outdated medical approaches that neglect the child’s best interests combine to convince parents that institutionalization is the only viable alternative.UNICEF is calling for an immediate end to the practice of placing children with disabilities in institutions and segregated schools. This will require a change in public attitude, measures to boost family incomes, greater parent participation in decisions affecting their children, family and community resources and changes to the physical environment that exacerbate the disability, such as curb cuts and ramps.“It is time to transform the care and treatment of children with disabilities from being a source of public shame to being a measure of human progress,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for the region, Maria Calivis.

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