Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities

Every human have the inherent right to dignity and respect.

Persons with disabilities are entitled to exercise their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights on an equal basis with others under all the international treaties. The full participation of persons with disabilities benefits society as their individual contributions enrich all spheres of life and this is an integral part of individual’s and society’s well-being and progress for a society for all – with or without disabilities. 

-From a Background Paper prepared by the Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations Secretariat for the “Informal Consultative Meetings on International Norms and Standards for Persons with Disabilities.” (9 February 2001)

Today, I moderated a workshop about Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities. As per a 2002 report from the Census Bureau, about 18 percent of Americans in 2002 said they had a disability. It is estimated that by 2020, 80% of the US population will become disabled, 20% of those will be permanent.

One concern addressed by the speakers was what to do when local or national laws do not protect persons with disabilities. Answer: there are International laws protecting this population. Last March, the UN passed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century. It reaffirms the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the need for persons with disabilities to guarantee their full enjoyment without discrimination…

Countries are called to sign the Convention, ratify it and accept it as law. Only few countries have not signed the Convention based, among others, in the fact that they ‘already have laws protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.’ But signing these documents makes possible for people living in x country who struggle against discrimination (for one) to have more legal resources available to support pleas for their rights.

Based on all these, there are indeed minimum standards for everybody served by libraries. Therefore, as librarians we should be dealing with problems in a proactive way: collecting data to see how people are affected, having policy making processes in place, and hosting staff/customer forums to see if the library is meeting the needs of all.

Unfortunately, often changes are made when someone sues an organization and take matters to court. We should not wait for that.

I’ve compiled a selected list of local and international resources to better serve persons with disabilities. Few of the organizations mentioned below work at a New York local level but do have links to nation and international organizations.

International organizations and resources:

U.S. organizations and resources:

 New York organizations and resources:

General resources:

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