Celebrate and Struggle: International Day of People with Disabilities

Here is a note from Amber Smock, the Director of Advocacy, about the International Day of People with Disabilities

Today around the world, we are celebrating International Day of People with Disabilities. It is a day to honor our successes, and also recognize our struggle.

Around the world, our Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is recognized as the pioneering law that recognized that people with disabilities have civil rights. As Irish disability advocate Gerard Quinn has pointed out, people around the world may not know the exact letter of the law, but they know, even in small villages in rural Africa, that the ADA is about recognizing that people with disabilities deserve the same access to society as anyone else.

Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the ADA here in America, and disability movement advocates will be convening celebrations all across the country. Here in Chicago, we have the ADA 25 Initiative thanks to the Chicago Community Trust. The ADA 25 Initiative is seeking to bring together unlikely partners to create new initiatives and a calendar of events all through 2015. To learn more about what it take to be involved or have your organization be a Partner, visit http://www.cct.org/ada25chicago .

And yet as strong as we have become and as empowered as we have been privileged to be, we have to remember that people with disabilities around the world are still locked in a real struggle for their human rights. Thirty five disability activists in Pakistan were just beaten for demonstrating for their rights. Activists in South Korea have been demonstrating for days for a better bus system. People with disabilities are still locked away in shameful conditions in countries such as Romania and Russia.

We each struggle with our disabilities….but we also struggle as a people. Disability is the only family that anyone can join at any time. We are all “one of us.” We are the ones who can make us proud.
The United Nations leads the world in recognizing this day each year, with an annual theme and a message from the Secretary-General. To learn more about this year’s theme of “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology” and to see the message, please visit http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1620 .

This afternoon (December 3), U.S. Senator Tom Harkin will also be delivering remarks to national disability advocates on the conclusion of the current fight to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Unfortunately, due to the fears of a small group of home school advocates, the U.S. Senate does not have the will to ratify the CRPD at this time. However, the U.S. disability community pulled together harder than ever before, building new relationships and forging new frontiers of power. I would like to particularly thank Access Living’s President and CEO, Marca Bristo, for serving as the President of the U.S. International Council on Disability (USICD) in leading much of this fight. No one was more committed, except possibly Senator Harkin, who will soon retire after a lifetime in Congress fighting for disability rights.

So today, please spend some time considering how YOU are part of a global community. Look up the advocates around the world…check out international groups like Disabled Peoples International and the World Federation of the Deaf. Celebrate and struggle.