Tag Archives: inclusion

Opening doors for positive change that will end discrimination and ensure our freedom and rights

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The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, together with its Optional Protocol (which provides for the right of individual petition to the Committee), was adopted on 13th December 2006. The Convention rapidly came into force in May 2008, and has retained its momentum in rate of ratifications – to date 170 countries have ratified the Convention.  See a map of country ratifications here.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, you can read about many global activities, along with highlights over the last 10 years here.  The United Nation’s annual photograph and film festival on 3rd December showcases the best global contributions, and includes a short film by CBM Australia linking the Sustainable Development Goals and disability rights.
CBM International supported the design of the official Office of the High Commission for Human Rights logo and animated icons for the 10th anniversary, as well captioning and sign language for a film by members of the Expert Committee on the Convention, and a beautiful musical recital by Dame Evelyn Glennie in Geneva.

Musical recital by Dame Evelyn Glennie in Geneva

Musical recital by Dame Evelyn Glennie in Geneva

Today is a time to reflect on the participation of persons with disabilities, and their representative organisations who inspired the drafting process of the Convention. The United Nations General Assembly in New York constantly supported the active involvement of disability organizations in the drafting of the Convention. A broad coalition of organisations of persons with disabilities and allied NGOs formed the International Disability Caucus, the unified voice of organizations of people with disabilities from all regions of the world. One of its members stated that its goal was “to open doors for positive change that will end discrimination and ensure our freedom and rights”. The level of participation of organisations of persons with disabilities and NGOs in the drafting process was probably unprecedented in United Nations human rights treaty negotiations. By the Ad Hoc Committee’s final session, some 800 organisations of persons with disabilities were registered.
Beyond the negotiations, organisations of persons with disabilities have been actively involved in the lifecycle of the Convention. They were closely involved in the signing ceremony on 30 March 2007 and have been involved in the work of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Conference of States Parties and the Human Rights Council’s annual debates on the Convention. I have been a member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2013.

 

Please join in the celebration the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities.

International Day of People with Disability: towards a barrier free reality

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), also known as World Disability Day is annually observed on 3 December each year. This Day aims to promote an awareness of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities.

The blog piece below is attributed to CBM Australia.

 

Globally, there are one billion people with disabilities, and 80 per cent live in developing countries. People with disabilities often face barriers to inclusion in many aspects of daily life and these barriers can stop them from achieving their full potential.

To mark International Day of People with Disability, CBM Australia has created a video to illustrate some of these barriers and to show that we all have a role to play in making a barrier free word a reality for everyone.

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Watch video: A Barrier Free Reality

Barriers come in many forms, including those relating to the physical environment; or negative attitudes and discrimination; or lack of suitable access to information; or those resulting from discriminatory legislation or policy.

These barriers can often stop people with disabilities from gaining education and employment opportunities; accessing vital rehabilitation and healthcare; or participating fully in their communities.

Let’s take a closer look at Orsula from Timor-Leste. She was born with an impairment that affects her legs, making mobility more difficult for her. Orsula has faced many barriers to inclusion throughout her life; barriers to: education, employment, health care, and participation in her community.

Orsula from Timor-Leste © CBM Australia

Orsula from Timor-Leste © CBM Australia

From childhood she was left out of school, not because she wasn’t more than capable of learning.

“When I was a child my dad dropped me out of school because he was embarrassed with my condition. I saw my friends go to school and asked my dad if I could go back to school, but because my dad was afraid and worried that people would make fun of me, he didn’t let me go back”

Being left out of school creates a long lasting impact. When children with disabilities don’t attend school, they are more likely to live in poverty as an adult.

Despite not having the opportunity to gain an education, Orsula learned how to sew and works as a tailor to contribute to her family’s income.

“Even though I have a disability, I work as a tailor. I love sewing. I do this to earn some money for my children’s food.”

But like many people with disabilities, she often earns less for her work.

“Some people are kind, they give me $5 when I fix their clothes, but some are not. They give me just $1 or 50 cents. I feel sad when they do that. I can’t force them to give me higher pay.”

However, Orsula’s most significant barrier was caused by negative attitudes of health care providers.

“It happened with my first-born child. They [midwives] were just shocked when they saw me, and spoke to each other saying that I won’t be able to give birth naturally; they said it will be hard for me to push with my condition and I can’t take a big breath.”

Many didn’t believe that she was capable of delivering her children naturally, and even worse, some said she shouldn’t have children at all.

“My third and fourth children were only one year apart. Because they were exactly a year apart, they [nurses and midwives] were shocked and start verbally abusing me by saying “why does she want to have children all the time while she has this condition”. It hurt me when they said that.”

“They didn’t know what I am capable of. I am strong.”

While there are many barriers, we can work together to help break them down. One powerful way to do that relates to this year’s International Day of People with Disability theme: Achieving 17 goals for the future we want.

The theme is in recognition of the Sustainable Development Goals, commonly known as the Global Goals, which were adopted by world leaders in September 2015. These 17 goals aspire to pave the way to a world in 2030 where poverty is a thing of the past and no one is left behind.

Including people with disabilities in all 17 goals – goals such as health care, education and employment – will bring us closer to achieving the future we want. A future where barriers no longer stop people with disabilities from achieving their full potential.

For Orsula, her vision for the future is a world where negative attitudes are changed so that no women with disabilities will have to face the same discrimination and treatment that she faced when having children.

“If I were to have another baby then I hope that it is more accessible for people with disability. I hope the nurse will be more understandable and patient with us people with disability. I hope they change their attitudes towards people with disability.”

We all have a role to play in making a fairer, more inclusive, and ultimately, barrier free world a reality for everyone. What will your role be?

Working together to break down barriers © CBM Australia

Working together to break down barriers © CBM Australia

Let’s “Shape the future” together

Katharina Pförtner, Global Advisor for Inclusive Education and Regional Advisor for Community Based Rehabilitation, based in Nicaragua writes about her experience while participating in the Inclusion International Conference ‘ Shape the Future’ held in Orlando USA in October 2016.

Partially visually impaired After-School Club Coordinator Chethankumar (2nd from right) leads 'Cheering Up', a highly inclusive exercise that gets the children enthusiastic about engaging with one another.

Partially visually impaired After-School Club Coordinator Chethankumar (2nd from right) leads ‘Cheering Up’, a highly inclusive exercise that gets the children enthusiastic about engaging with one another.

The Inclusion International Conference ‘Shape the future‘s’ main goal was to create a Global Resource to support Self Advocates with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Under the headline: “Nothing about us without us” around 900 participants from USA and around the globe came together (I met participants from over 24 countries!)

The discussion in the different workshops and presentations was intense and inclusive, Self-advocates were all around, demanding their rights and easy to understand communication. During the Self-Advocates´Summit 80 men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities met and elaborated their demands and goals to continue working in the future. The meetings were facilitated by 12 self-advocates from different countries. There was a large group of self-advocates who could not participate (mostly because of high costs for travelling, conference as well as logistics fees) and sent their comments and videos online to the coordinating office.

 
One of the central points appearing all over the discussions was: how can we conclusively translate the rights mentioned in the UNCRPD (like the right to participate in the community, vote, live independently, receive inclusive education etc) to something concrete on the ground? how do make sure that “No one with I/DD is left behind”?

 
To do so, first we have to create the following conditions:

  1. Strengthening self-advocates and their organisations around the world
  2. Challenge negative attitudes wherever they appear
  3. Raise the voices of persons with I/DD and publicise their achievements, demands, experiences, etc. and include them in  the international discussion
  4. Collect Data (disaggregated by gender, age, disability) with  regards to health, education, employment, social inclusion
  5. Analyze the situation in justice systems in different countries and publicize instances of  exclusion from justice for persons with I/DD
  6. Include self-advocates in decision-making units, for example Sara Pickard from Wales (a women with Down Syndrome) is part of the community council in Cardiff.

For this empowerment education plays an important role: Inclusion International plans to create “Catalysts for Inclusive Education”, trying to build alliances with other organizations working in this field and coordinate experts for publications and campaigns in order to oppose the latest negative movements calling for revision of the ideas of inclusive education. In my opinion publishing good practice examples is one of the most important steps for all of us ahead.

 
We should all connect our work on the rights of persons with disabilities, including the persons with I/DD, raise awareness in CBM, partners and alliances, initiate Self-Advocates groups and strengthen them in the different levels of our work. It is important to focus in our activities and discussions on this issue, to make sure that persons with profound I/DD are included in all spheres of life.

 
I would like to share a story which left an impression on me: Ethan Saylor was killed by police officers in a cinema because he did not want to leave; he wanted to watch the movie a second time. He had no ticket. The officers were not able to understand him, he was thrown to the floor and with the three men on his chest, he could not breathe any more. His mother started meetings and campaigning against this injustice which killed her son. She succeeded in initiating a commission where police, justice, self-advocates, parents, politicians discussed much needed changes. This resulted in a training which all police officers will be participating, where self-advocates are included as facilitators.

 
I leave you with some strong statements from participants at the conference:

  • “Normal is boring, who needs to be normal?” “Unboxing” is needed.
  • Independence means different things in different cultures, does not mean to be alone, but to have control about one´s life.
  • Make sure that people matter and their voices are heard. Self-advocacy starts at birth.
  • Legal capacity is not about mental capacity; it is about power over ones decisions, preferences and will.

 

Hurricane Matthew – Green shoots of recovery

This blog piece is written by Katleen Jeanty, a communications consultant working with CBM to cover Hurrican Matthew in the Caribbean.

Three days. That’s how long it took. Three days to fully recover – both physically and emotionally – from what I experienced during my trip to Haiti’s southwestern peninsula, just two weeks after Hurricane Matthew made landfall. I had the honour of accompanying a team from CBM’s Haiti office that went to assess how people with disabilities dealt with the hurricane and determine what were their needs and priorities. As a communications professional, I went along with a photographer to capture and tell their stories.

The category-four hurricane hit the already vulnerable island nation on October 4, 2016, leaving in its wake a trail of devastation not seen in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Videos and pictures started circulating on social media almost immediately, showing the sheer power of Mother Nature. Powerful winds mowed down trees, ripped off roofs and lifted entire homes from their foundations. Rivers swelled, swallowing anything and everything in their paths…homes, roads, bridges, trees, livestock, residents.Survivors are left in need of rebuildingtheir lives, from fixing their homes to assuring they have enough food to eat tofinding ways to make a living to take care of their families.

Hurricane Matthew Haiti 2016 Images taken during needs assessment visit to southwestern regions of the country - including Les Cayes and Jérémie - from 16 to 21 October This image shows Alexis Joseph, CBM Accessibility Program Manager and and Katleen Jeanty (Communications), during focus group discussion.

This image shows Alexis Joseph, CBM Accessibility Program Manager and Katleen Jeanty (Communications – on the left), during focus group discussion at a needs assessment visit after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti.

Although I was nervous in the days leading up to the trip, as I didn’t know what we would see or how I would process the stories we’d hear, stories I knew would be heart-breaking, I couldn’t wait to go. So, I prepared as much as I could and at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 16th, I waited to be picked up to start the estimated seven-hour journey. All along the road, as we got closer to the impacted area, I started looking for signs of destruction. And literally, just like that, about 3.5 hours in, we saw the first set of downed trees and damaged houses – those either missing roofs or completely flattened. But even with all of the pictures and videos we saw, nothing could have prepared us for what awaited us.

As we left the town of Les Cayes and got close to entering the city of Jérémie, our final destination for the day, we were left speechless. Complete devastation. Town after town, it was the same story, damaged trees, buildings and lives.

During our week-long trip, which had to be cut short due to extreme flooding from days of non-stop torrential downpours,we participated in coordination meetings at the Departmental Emergency Operation Centres (COUD), with the Coordinators of the Civil Protection Department (DPC) and the President’s Departmental Representative of the Grand Anse and South departments. During these meetings, we discussed the immediate need for food, water, medicine, corrugated metal and tarp to assist residents in the outskirts now, with long-term needs for economic opportunities, especially for people with disabilities. The most shocking outcome of that meeting was learning that there are areas that have no houses standing and that residents in those have taken to sleeping in graves and caves.

We also met with several Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) across the area, traveling at times up to three hours each way to assess their capacities to support their members, and had the opportunity to hear the heart-breaking stories from the members themselves. We also witnessed aid starting to reach some of the affected communities, although not specifically people with disabilities. But with so many hard-to-access villages, it may be weeks before some of these victims see anyone. Nonetheless, we were extremely happy to see several organisations and missionaries on the ground, mobilising to distribute food, provide medical attention and medicine to the sick and injured, as well as home improvement materials for those affected to start boarding up their houses.

Is it enough? Absolutely not! The need down there is enormous and people’s lives are at stake.

Most impressive though? The amount of local Haitians we saw working with these organizations. Again, is it enough? Far from it, but we started and that’s what’s most important! Now to keep it going, especially for those who were most affected.

I’m happy to have been involved in this early work. And I look forward to seeing how CBM, with its partners, ensures that people with disabilities, their families, and other community members are identified and supported to recover from the hurricane.

Finally, again on the bright side, as we left the greater south, we literally saw the shoots of recovery: We noticed that many of the trees that were brown and completely bare from losing their leaves on Sunday when we first got there, have already starting sprouting bright green new baby leaves.

Just a little reminder that there is always hope as long as there is life!

More reading:

Leanie, who works with a local Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO) in Haiti, lost her house and livelihood during hurricane Matthew. She is matter-of-fact about the situation, saying “I just want to go back to being able to take care of myself”. Read her story here.