Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The UN Advocates for the Disabled, The US Should Do The Same

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebrating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Convention and its Optional Protocol were adopted in late 2006 as a treaty whose provisions are considered binding on the member countries who sign it.

The Convention recognizes the plight of the world’s 650 million people with disabilities and is designed to level the playing field so that they, irrespective of their geographical location, might take their rightful place in mainstream society.

So far, 136 of the world’s 192 countries have signed on.

It would be nice if the US signed on—soon.

Why the US hasn’t signed on is pretty much a mystery to most people, especially because the Convention was partially inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act and complements ADA quite well.

In the developed world, social and legal recognition of people with disabilities is far advanced.

Even so, major blind spots abound.            

One: In the two-year run-up to last month’s US elections, people with disabilities were deeply frustrated that they, the largest minority group in the country, were ignored on the national stage. Ironically, when Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin, the mother and aunt of children with disabilities, finally broke the national silence, her advocacy potential was quickly overwhelmed by partisan astonishment that someone other than a Democrat had the temerity to acknowledge people with disabilities. Hence, a potentiality powerful moment of behalf of disability issues was wasted.

Two: Other less visible, but no less important problems for people with disabilities exist. In-utero genetic testing already detects scores of anomalies that result in some form of disability discrimination. Given powerful social pressures for conformity and perfection, many pregnancies revealing genetic irregularity are routinely terminated.

Three: People with disabilities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the growing utilitarian nature of medical care. Facing the reality of a large disconnect between available resources and patients’ expensive treatment needs, people with disabilities are likely to be among the first victims who will be pressured or made to succumb to euthanasia, an idea that is rapidly gaining in acceptance - both here and abroad.

Celebrating the Convention today reaffirms our commitment to fundamental principles of dignity and justice and to ensure that the Convention becomes more than a paper tiger.

Let’s encourage our elected representatives in Congress to consider signing the Convention, not only as an acknowledgement of the needs and rights of Americans with disabilities, but also as an exemplar of US leadership on behalf of the world’s 650 million disabled.


kimba said...

Do you really think it will make a difference?

Dr. Mark Mostert said...

Hi Kimba, thanks for stopping by. I'm not sure what you are referring to about making a difference. If it's that a difference will be made of the US signs UNCRPD, my answer is yes, because of the example it would set, and because the US should take credit for all the wonderful work it has done in advocating for people with disabilities in the US and worldwide.

Dr. Mark Mostert said...
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