“Our challenge is to provide all people with the equality of access they need and deserve,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Monday. Countries of the United Nations have been creating an International Treaty aimed at the rights of the disabled. This process has not been without challenge as I learned from Harvard Law Professor Michael Stein during the Disability Awareness Week presentation at Trinity College.
Some things to note from the process begun by the United Nations:
- 20% of people living below the poverty line have a disability
- First time a core treaty has been self-represented. "Nihil de nobis, sine nobis" translation.
- The first session there were 85 disabled registered, the last convention had 850 disabled registered. Total accessible toilets: 2
- Most signatures of any treaty to date for the United Nations
- As of last month two thirds of the United Nations Member states signed the treaty.
Tuesday, the United States Senate failed to ratify the treaty. Our country has the opportunity to lead based on priorities and instead has fallen upon its politics. At the beginning of the United Nations Disability Convention sessions the United States disclosed its belief that disability rights were a domestic issue and should not be managed on the international stage. When something is right it needs to be a priority and not fall short based on a political line. All people deserve to be treated with dignity, in other words, everyone has the right to live in the community.
I guess we can’t fault our political leaders too much though. I mean really, the disabled community in the United States is embroiled in fighting for its piece of the pie, totally disregarding the power of unity over name recognition. The DSM-V published by the American Psychological Association went public this week as well and some of the changes will be fodder for a variety of arguments between the various disabilities. The disability type only matters for services received in order to participate at the best rate for each individual, not basic human rights.
Disability rights needs to be the focus if we are to witness positive widespread change in our lifetime. In-fighting for awareness and recognition slows down the process. I am proud to be a part of the solution and focus on the dignity of each individual and look for solutions, regardless of the ability of individuals I meet.
What small change can you make to make an exponential change in the life of someone you know with a disability? I guess it will take one foot in front of the other...