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New Human Rights Site Brings U.S. Efforts to Light

April 12, 2011

As the newest staff member at USICD and coming from the theatre world, I feel as if I have been running (or rolling really fast when I’m in my wheelchair) to catch up and learn about the state of disability rights in our country and around the world.  So you can imagine my excitement when I came across a tweet from Judy Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the State Department, announcing the State Department’s new site focusing on human rights, HumanRights.gov.

As Special Advisor Heumann explains, the site is in direct response to President Obama’s Open Government Directive which the President signed on his first day of office to commit to more government accountability and visibility.  It gathers all the press releases, statements, interviews and reports that the State Department has issued on international human rights and on the U.S. government’s involvement in these affairs.  The site currently focuses on information from 2009 on, but the State Department is working on creating an archive of past information.  Heumann also makes the point that the site is accessible to people with disabilities, after having undergone extensive testing which included feedback from people with disabilities.

By visiting and doing a simple search on ”disability”, I gained a whole new understanding of what our government does in terms of advocating for the rights for people with disabilities around the world.  Listed right alongside the interview that Heumann did with our Executive Director, David Morrissey, is a fascinating initiative that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo collaborated on to offer intensive legal sign language training to 26 Egyptian lawyers so that they could be more effective advocates for deaf Egyptians.  You can also find statements from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, including her comments on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and also her interesting response to a question from a woman with a disability from Kazakhstan during the Town Hall on Empowering Civil Societies for Central Asia’s Future.

I still have a lot to learn, but it is encouraging to find such useful tools on the internet provided by our own government.  As an artist, I hope I will always be challenged to seek new knowledge and it looks like my time here at USICD will provide that in abundance.

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