A few statistics:
- 57.8 Million Americans have one or more disabilities
- 5.5 Million Ameican veterans are persons with disabilities
- 1 Billion people with disabilities around the world
- 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries
- 1 in 4 of today's 20 year olds will become disabled before they retire
- 80% of people with disabilities live in isolated, rural areas
When I volunteered at the Lang Hoa Binh Care Center in Ho Chi Minh 8 years ago, I took on the same tasks as the nurses who cared for the children there. I mean, I couldn't speak fluent Vietnamese, but I knew where every kid needed to be at what time -- from feeding, to showering, to napping, to getting their medicine. However, a few things stuck out to me that I pushed away in the back of my mind, but now that I approach my 30th birthday, I realize a great deal of injustice occurred to those kids, mainly those with severe mental and physical capabilities.
However, this is not something linked only to Vietnam. This is a worldwide issue. And it needs worldwide ratification. The United States usually identifies itself as the leader of the global community, setting an example for other countries to follow. So why hasn't the United States gotten on board with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? When almost all other developed countries in the world has ratified this treaty, where is the United States in all this?
What is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
Guiding principles of the Convention:
1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons
3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
5. Equality of opportunity
7. Equality between men and women
8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities
For more in depth definitions of the following points, please click here.
Without getting too long-winded, we must admit that the idea that those persons with disabilities are not given the same treatment and rights (whether to attempt to live an independent life or to be able to access a sidewalk as easily as an able-bodied person) only empower society's silent discrimination of those who may seem "different" to us. We will post more information about this topic and the progress of the United States ratifying the the CRPD, but until then, ask yourself, what the are true downfalls to ratifying this? Taxes and spending?
Disability Rights is currently a state to state decision. But with certain states deciding to withhold monetary aid to those with a disability, people who have been living independently for years are forced into institutions, under the management of paid employees. This is not fair nor just to our fellow man. However, the persistent theme of looking at persons with disabilities as lesser than able-bodied persons allows us to justify their being put into a home. However, that person has a right to a choice and a right to freedom. We cannot allow this to continue in America. We need to set an example for other countries waiting to ratify, or those in Africa, not even considering to sign at this point. For more information on how you can help get the CRPD ratified, visit the USICD website.
Below is a global image of countries participating in the CRPD.
Dark Green = Ratified
Light Green = Signed, but not Ratified
Grey = No involvement