Dementia as a Cognitive Disability
By Peter Mittler 
The United Nations recognises dementia as a cognitive disability.
Why are governments and professionals so slow to accept that dementia is a disability like any other and that people affected by dementia have the same rights as other disabled people under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
The CRPD is now ten years old. Why has it taken people with dementia so long to demand their rights?
Dementia was not mentioned by any of the speakers or the 800 delegates from all over the world at the recent Global Disability Summit organized by the Department for International Development (DfID), the government of Kenya and the International Disability Alliance.
I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease 12 years ago but I am still me. Much worse than my Alzheimer’s is severe deafness which makes it difficult for me to use the phone or hear what the person next to me in a noisy restaurant is saying.
I have worked in the disability field since the 1950, first as an NHS clinical psychologist and then as a university teacher in psychology and education and researcher in the social sciences. I have also been active in the British Psychological Society, most recently in my new role as ‘a psychologist living with dementia’.
My priority for some years has been a commitment to human rights and social justice for all disabled people, particularly those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
I started working with International Disabled Persons Organisations in in 1979 when the UN was taking advice on the 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons and UNESCO was launching a 5-year programme on what we would now call inclusive education.
My most vivid memories come from the founders of the disability movement who insisted on co-production of policy with ministers and officials. Most of the pioneers were men in wheelchairs demanding access to jobs, buildings and documents. The strapline of ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ was launched in the 60s and has now been extended to 50 million people living with dementia world-wide.