My Offense at the Need for The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Emily and I took ourselves off to the cinema today to watch a romance. At the multiplex the theatre showing the chick flick wasn’t accessible because the lift had broken, so the wheelchair accessible options reduced our choice of movie, from the offerings we chose The Butler.

The film is historical fiction about Cecil Gaines who served eight presidents during his 34 year tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affecting this man’s life, family, and American society. The final credits commenced with a dedication to all those involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Emily and I set off home with our heads full of debate, how abhorrent to us today to witness, even in a film, colour discrimination, to know that our forefathers  thought colourism was normal, that this prejudice was accepted until recently, within my lifetime. I remember Martin Luther King being assassinated in 1968, I was six and had no idea about the wider implications of the event but I remember the gravity of the news and my mother’s tears.

It made me think about the rights of people with disabilities.

It was as recent as 1981 to 1992 that the United Nations (UN) had a “Decade of Disabled Persons”. In 1987, a global meeting of experts reviewed progress and recommended that the UN General Assembly should draft an international convention on the elimination of discrimination against persons with disabilities. “Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities” were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993.  Only in 2001 did the General Assembly establish an Ad Hoc committee to consider the promotion and protection of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. Only at this stage were people with disabilities sought to implement and monitor the Convention. The Principles of the Present Convention are below:

    1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
    2. Non-discrimination
    3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
    4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
    5. Equality of opportunity
    6. Accessibility
    7. Equality between men and women
    8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities

The UN treaty on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  was adopted on 13th December 2006, formal confirmation, accession and ratification is still, to date, awaited on in several countries. While I researched this information I was taken aback on two levels. The first shock to me was that anyone needed to write such fundamental human rights for people with disability and secondly that the treaty is awaiting ratification in some countries, Australia ratified on 21st August 2009.

I read a related article by Laura Sminkey which states the health issues associated with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), they include chronic pain, deep vein thrombosis, urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers and respiratory complications. People with SCI also experience social participation and educational barriers impairing their quality of life. Laura’s article lists essential measures to improve survival, health and participation of people with SCI which include appropriate hospital treatment, community integration, access, education, employment. This article must be welcomed as much as  the International perspectives on spinal cord injuries which was developed in association with the International Spinal Cord Society and Swiss Paraplegic Research, and launched on this auspicious day, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3rd December 2013. It is still a shock to me that these fundamental freedoms, to hospital treatment, integration, access etc, need to be documented as required for SCI as they are the basic rights for everyone.

Newness to this forum has revealed my steep learning curve to current legislation addressing persons with disabilities but I am struck with the same abhorrence I have to all prejudice and discrimination. It is offensive to me that the rights of persons with disabilities need to be spelt out to the general population, governing bodies and policy makers,  it is very sad that anyone with a disability has to advocate for primal, basic entitlements which I naively thought were the rights of every human. I advocate for fundamental freedoms, dignity, choice and mainstream integration be available equally to all and until this is recognized Worldwide I strongly support the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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