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The Disability Rights Movement Abroad

April 4, 2012

In the United States, when we think about the disability rights movement we either think of the past 50 years of highlights such as the development of the Independent Living model, the Olmstead Act, and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or we turn to the current debates on healthcare and coverage for pre-existing conditions. As the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is implemented around the world, I have had my eyes opened to some of the latest international disability movements to uphold the rights of people with disabilities. The methods and tactics vary greatly, but the goal is always the same and echoes the theme of our own disability rights movement, “Nothing About Us Without Us.”

Macedonian Disability Rights Leaders

Poraka members visit Assembly Speaker Trajko Veljanoski to urge ratification of the U.N. Convention.

In Macedonia, where the rights of people with disabilities were submerged in a culture of segregation and social stigma, advocates approached the National Democracy Institute to help them develop a legislative strategy and public awareness campaign. Beginning in 2009 Macedonian advocates launched an aggressive effort of opinion pieces and international conferences that included the participation of legislators. Through these efforts, disability civil society in Macedonia was able to influence their own country to such an extent that Macedonia ratified the CRPD in December 2011. The advocates who were key to this movement plan to continue their comprehensive strategies to make sure that the CRPD is implemented. Read More.

UNESCAP Banner for "Make the Rights Real" campaignElsewhere in the world, are movements like the “Make the Rights Real” campaign. The UN launched this campaign when it noticed that the region with the lowest percentage of countries signing and ratifying the CRPD was the Asia-Pacific region. With an estimated 650 million people with disabilities in the region and less than half of the governments having agreed to ratify the convention, the need was easy to identify. Since its inception in 2012, there have been leadership conferences, stake-holder meetings, workshops and marches aimed at raising awareness of the CRPD and ensuring that it is implemented where ratified. Currently, 23 out of 50 governments in the region have now ratified the CRPD with Myanmar being the most recent.

Still other countries have taken a more grassroots approach to raising awareness of disability issues. Unfortunately, these acts of civil society are not always well received. In Bolivia, activists who trekked1000 miles over 100 days, met resistance from riot police and were forcibly kept from delivering their petition to the legislature and president demanding more support for people with disabilities in the country. Read More and Watch Video. Regardless of resistance, these movements continue as advocates voice their support for the rights of people with disabilities. In Zambia, the Zambia Deaf Women and Youth, a GDRL deployment site, along with other advocacy groups, plan to walk from Kitwe to Lusaka in what they are calling a “Hungry Walk Campaign” with the aim of compelling the legislature to implement the CRPD which they have already ratified. Read more about this upcoming walk.

A lot is happening in the world around disability rights and USICD will continue to keep you posted on the latest advancements in global disability rights. Please visit our website for more information on these exciting movements and join our Facebook/Twitter to get the latest international disability news.

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