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International Day of Persons with Disabilities – Executive Director, Isabel Hodge

December 7, 2017

International Day of Persons with Disabilities2017 Theme: Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all

Sunday was the annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

Since the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted in 2006, the international community has made progress in advancing the rights persons with disabilities worldwide. I recently witnessed evidence of progress being made this summer when I participated in the review of Antigua and Barbuda’s draft legislation that would implement the CRPD.

USICD board member and nine-time Paralympic athlete, Candace Cable, can often be heard saying “Nothing Without Us,” taken from the well-known slogan of the global disability community, “Nothing About Us Without Us”. This is a message that aligns perfectly with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledge “to leave no one behind.” The 15-year Agenda is a voluntary political commitment agreed to among most country governments around the world, though unlike the CRPD it is not legally binding. The United States has not ratified the CRPD, but we can hold our government to their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.

For example, Goal 8 calls upon us to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” The labor force participation rate for people with disabilities in the United States is 21%, and by comparison, the labor force participation rate for people without disabilities is 68.3% Many countries do not systematically gather data on disability and employment. But in cases where this data is available, it has consistently been found, similar to the United States that people with disabilities have significantly lower rates of employment. One World Health Organization survey conducted with 51 countries found that only 53 percent of men with disabilities and 20 percent of women with disabilities were employed, compared to 65 percent for non-disabled men, and 30 percent for non-disabled women. With that in mind, and with a growing U.S. interest in global disability employment and inclusion, we must examine how U.S. companies conduct business overseas with regards to the employment of people with disabilities.

In 2016, the U.S. government launched the first-ever National Action Plan (NAP) on Responsible Business Conduct. The NAP has some roots in the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which briefly mentions how to consider effectively issues of vulnerability and/or marginalization, recognizing specific challenges faced by people with disabilities, and the need to consider additional standards. When we consider the theme, Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all, all stakeholders, including the U.S. government and American private sector businesses, should think beyond borders and begin by asking what initiatives exist, if any, on the effective employment and retention of people with disabilities. Likewise, disabled peoples organizations here, and overseas, should hold governments and the private sector accountable through their commitment to the 2030 Agenda. #NothingWithoutUS!

Isabel Hodge
Executive Director

Please take a moment to read my message that was published via social media on 3 December.

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