Adressing social-health needs of people with different abilities

Section: Editorial


Dra. Eva García Perea


Departamento de Enfermería. Facultad de Medicina. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

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On December, 13th, 2006, The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was approved in New York, and it became effective on May, 3rd, 2008. This convention was the result of a long process, involving the member states and UN observers, Human Rights Organizations, NGOs, and many others. This legal tool has been the first large human rights instrument in the 21st century, and the first human right convention open for signature by the regional integration organizations. This convention was signed and ratified by Spain; therefore, this international body of rules is completely integrated into the Spanish legal system since May, 3rd, 2008 (1,2).

Article 25 of said convention refers to Health Rights; I would like to highlight two of its six sections, which state:

  • People with disabilities will be provided free health programs and care of the same range and quality than other persons, even in the setting of sexual and reproductive health.
  • Health professionals will be demanded to offer a quality of care including raising awareness of the human rights, dignity, autonomy and needs of persons with special needs (3).

Based on these data, I think it would be interesting to think about this: From 2008 until today, have we health professionals reinforced our knowledge about disability? As Nursing professionals, do we know how to meet adequately the necessities of adult people with different abilities? Do we know how to understand and care for their relatives? As a nurse, professor, and relative of a “different” person who is extraordinary, I have some doubts about it. Approximately one year ago, we as professionals from the Nursing Department of the UAM set up a Summer course, focused on “Adressing the social-health needs of people with different abilities”. A group of renowned socio-health professionals were involved in this course, with the most updated knowledge on intellectual disability. Likewise, the testimonials offered by people with different abilities and their relatives provided a direct and real vision about this situation:

  • “This course has made me understand disability in a completely different way from my previous idea. When I have to care for persons with special needs, I feel fear and impotence, because I don’t know how to understand and address their necessities, they had never taught this to me before, neither in University nor in my practical training. It is absolutely essential to include this training in our degree.” (A.R., nurse).
  • “Through this course, I have been able to see my great lack of knowledge about this world, we need further training about it during our education. I don’t know how to manage an adult with disability, I depend on their relatives to try and orientate me; and in most occasions, I don’t know how to address these patients.” (L.E., resident student on their 1st year of Anaesthesiology).
  • “The testimonials by people with different abilities have been impactful; they show how lost we are as health professionals. Many more courses like this are required, undoubtedly!” (PG., Psychologist).

As my final reflection, and based on the above, I consider that training on disability is indispensable. We must reinforce training during the degree, and create post-graduate courses that provide knowledge about the health needs of these people. It is necessary to create higher awareness among the healthcare community in order to open lines of research in this area. Likewise, we must be aware of the resources available regarding the follow-up of health problems, and to know how to provide guidelines to relatives and the overall society for encouraging the inclusion of these persons with “different abilities”.

I would like to end up with a sentence by our beloved Pablo Pineda. In a wonderful interview conducted by Pepa Bueno, she asked him: “Do you feel special?” And Pablo answered: “Special?... What is special about me is that my parents and those close to me have fought so that I can be as independent as possible”.


  1. Ministerio de Sanidad, Consumo y Bienestar Social. Convención sobre los derechos de las personas con discapacidad [internet]. [citado 16 dic 2018]. Disponible en:
  2. Instrumento de Ratificación de la Convención sobre los derechos de las personas con discapacidad, hecho en Nueva York el 13 de diciembre de 2006. Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE) 096 de 21 de abril de 2008. Sec 1. p. 20648 a 20659 [internet]. [citado 16 ago 2018]. Disponible en:
  3. Naciones Unidas. Asamblea General. Convención sobre los derechos de las personas con discapacidad [internet]. [citado 16 ago 2018]. Disponible en: