Today, December 3, is International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
“Dignity and justice for all of us” is the theme of this year’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities, as well as for the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the United States, we are fortunate to have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, and the recently passed Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA), which restores much of the original meaning and intent of the ADA that has been watered down over the years, and which will take effect on January 1, 2009. Even so, there is still much work to be done to ensure equal rights for people with disabilities, and to overcome attitudes and stigmas that still exist today, both in the U.S. and in other countries around the world, especially those without such legislation as the ADA.Following are some excerpts from the United Nations Enable website, “Rights and Dignity for Persons with Disabilities”:
- The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
- Around 10 per cent of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live with disabilities. If one includes the members of their families, there are approximately 2 billion persons who are directly affected by disability, representing almost a third of the world’s population.
- All over the world, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers to their participation in society and are often forced to live on the margins of society. They are routinely denied basic rights such as to equal recognition before the law and legal capacity, freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to participate in political and public life, such as voting. Many persons with disabilities are forced into institutions, a direct breach of the rights to freedom of movement and to live in the community.
- Eighty per cent of persons with disabilities – more than 400 million people – live in poor countries and there is a strong link between disability and poverty. For example, the statistics on employment for persons with disabilities are staggering. In developing countries, 80 per cent to 90 per cent of persons with disabilities of working age [are] unemployed and in industrialized countries it is estimated to be between 50 per cent and 70 per cent. The rights to education and health are also routinely denied. Ninety per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school, says UNESCO.
- Approximately 20 million women acquire disabilities as a result of complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
- This continued marginalization against persons with disabilities highlights the need for all States to sign, ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. The United Nations and the global community must ensure that all its work is inclusive of persons with disabilities.
- On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, as well [as] during the year-long celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us use ‘dignity and justice for all of us’ as a rallying call, as these principles are far from being realized for everyone. Dignity and justice are embodied in the civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights promoted by the Convention. Therefore, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a time to make a renewed commitment to the ratification and full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and was opened for signature on 30 March 2007. There were 82 signatories to the Convention, 44 signatories to the Optional Protocol, and 1 ratification of the Convention. This is the highest number of signatories in history to a UN Convention on its opening day. It is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century and is the first human rights convention to be open for signature by regional integration organizations.
The Convention marked a ‘paradigm shift’ in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as ‘objects’ of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as ‘subjects’ with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.
The Convention is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension. It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.
Legislation alone will not ensure that persons with disabilities can enjoy their human rights. States will need to formulate effective policies and programs that will transform the provisions of the Convention into practices that will have a real impact on the lives of persons with disabilities. For persons with disabilities, as for all persons, the denial of one right can lead to the denial of other rights and opportunities throughout their lives.
This International Day for Persons with Disabilities is a time to make a renewed commitment to these principles of dignity and justice and to ensure implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. All human beings are not only entitled to rights, but also have the responsibility of making universal human rights a reality for all of us.”
Click on Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for more information on the convention and its Optional Protocol and International Day of Persons with Disabilities. You can also contact: