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The Convention on the Right of People with Disabilities - Commentary

  • Published: 2009-07-23 (Revised/Updated 2010-06-24) : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: An editorial commenting on Barrack Obama signing UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Main Document

President Barrack Hussein Obama is set to sign the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities on July 24th, 2009.

The founding documents that the United Nations has produced state:

"we are all equal and we are all members of the human family which is important for freedom, fairness and peace in the world. We are all equal and all of us have human rights. We agree that people with disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms and they must not be discriminated against. We understand that disability is something that changes all the time and it is the environment and people's attitudes that create disability."

President Barrack Hussein Obama is set to sign the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities on July 24th, 2009. There are many greatly important ramifications contained in this convention; I have only begun to understand them. When I first began to read this lengthy document, the first thought that crossed my mind was, 'Finally! We will finally gain the recognition and rights that we deserve in America!" As I continued to read through the convention, I was stunned at the clarity and thought that has gone into the production of this convention. The points covered in it are incredibly valid, giving people with disabilities the very respect, honor, and place in societies they deserve.

For example; the following statement in the convention approaches the very heart of discontent among people with disabilities in any number of societies:

"It is very important to make sure that the situation of people with disabilities is always equally taken into consideration when governments and international organizations make plans about a country's growth, for example, about how to get people out of poverty, or get them jobs."

There have been and continue to be vast numbers of people with disabilities living in America on the streets; homeless, simply because the Social Security Administration and additional social supports just are not providing the necessary levels of assistance they need. The unemployment rate among people with disabilities in America makes the current ten-percent rate nation-wide look very, very pleasant. The unemployment rate among people with disabilities in America is well above sixty-percent, something that is completely unacceptable, and largely due to prejudices on the part of employers, in my opinion. The convention goes on to say:

"We understand that people with disabilities help make countries better if they are fully included and their rights enjoyed. We understand that it is very important that people with disabilities are free to make their own decisions."

While other groups of people in American society have enjoyed levels of recognition they have previously been denied in the past, people with disabilities have continued to experience immense levels of social denial. We continue to experience a lack of inclusion that is unjustifiable. Non-disabled persons in society, organizations, medical personnel, social workers, and others continue to make decisions for people with disabilities instead of the people making decisions for themselves. Levels of social oppression against people with disabilities continue, even in the year 2009; to the point where disability is still viewed from a medical perspective instead of a social model.

The purpose of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities is defined within the convention itself. The convention states: "The reason why this Agreement is made is to make sure that the countries that agree to this Agreement (called "countries" in this document) will make sure that:

All human rights and freedoms of all people with disabilities are enjoyed, promoted and protected;

The dignity of people with disabilities is respected.
People with disabilities include those who have long-term impairments, for example, physical, psycho-social, intellectual and who cannot get involved in society because of different reasons, such as attitudes, language, stairs, and laws, which prevent people with disabilities from being included in society." The convention also defines discrimination on the basis of disability as being, "when people are excluded, shut out or prevented from doing things because of their disability. This can be in all areas of life."

The convention makes certain requirements of the countries that sign.

The countries promise to make sure that all human rights apply to all people, without discrimination because of disability. To fulfill this promise, they will:

a. Do what it takes to make sure that the rights from this Agreement are put into laws, policies, and practice in their country;

b. Take action: for example, adopt new laws and rules, change old rules and laws where necessary, and get rid of other laws and stop actions that discriminate against people with disabilities;

c. Make sure that the human rights of people with disabilities are included in all policies and programs;

d. Not do things that do not support the Agreement, and make sure others respect the Agreement;

e. Take action to stop individuals, organizations or businesses from discriminating because of a person's disability;

f. Work on and encourage the use of goods, services, equipment and facilities that can be used by all people with disabilities all over the world, at the smallest possible cost to the person;

g. Work on and encourage new technologies in all aspects of life that are useful for people with disabilities, especially those that are low cost;

h. Provide information about all types of assistance, including technologies, and other forms of assistance, in a way that can be understood by people with disabilities

A tall order for a country to fill. President Obama, Congress, and the United States as a whole have a lot to do in order to comply with these demands. These demands are not the only ones by far. The convention is rather lengthy, and there is quite a bit more. There is no possible way I can cover all of the points made in the convention in a simple article such as this one. There is an incredibly important item in Article 10 that I will present:

"The countries agree that all people with disabilities have the right to life and will take action to make sure people with disabilities can use this right."

The convention also makes a statement regarding war, natural catastrophes, or additional emergency situations that is highly important. After the experiences this nation had with Hurricane Katrina, the requirement below has incredible significance.

"The countries will take action to make sure that in the case of war, natural catastrophes or other emergencies, people with disabilities are protected."

At this time, America is attempting to decide whether or not it wants a form of nationalized health care. The form of nationalized health care that President Obama is promoting has been met by skepticism on the parts of some, with enthusiasm by others. Some believe it will help people with disabilities to get health care; other believe it will be detrimental. When President Obama signs the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, it may have some ramifications related to the bill associated with national health care. The convention states that countries who sign it will:

"Make sure that people with disabilities have the same right to liberty and security as all other people. Make sure that people with disabilities do not have this right taken away from them without a reason, because they have a disability, or in a way that is against the law. The countries will make sure that if a person has had his/her liberty taken, he/she will be protected by law. They will also make sure that changes are made to the individual's environment if they are needed for that person to enjoy his or her human rights."

At this time in America, there are many people with disabilities who have no choice but to enter a form of long-term care in order to continue to receive health care. Many of these people would much rather receive their health care at home, or in a community-based setting. Forcing people with disabilities into institutions in order to receive health care is removal of their liberty. Unless the new national health care plan takes this into consideration, giving people with disabilities who choose to receive health care in a community setting or at home that option; the national health care plan will be in violation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. For those who might debate this perspective, the convention also states:


The countries recognize that all people with disabilities have the same right to quality health care, without discrimination because of disability.
The countries will make sure that health and health-related rehabilitation services are available, including:

a. Making sure that people with disabilities get the same variety, quality and standard of free and affordable health care as other people;

b. Making sure that people with disabilities can get services they need because of their disability and to protect them from further disability;

c. Having health services in peoples' own communities;

d. Insisting that health workers give the same quality care to people with disabilities as to others, for example, only if the person agrees and has been told about their rights achieved through trainings and by making ethical standards for health care;

e. Stopping discrimination against people with disabilities when it comes to health insurance and life insurance, and making sure that such insurance is provided fairly;

f. Making sure that people with disabilities will not be discriminated against and denied health care or health services or food and fluids because of their disability.

Not only must any new national health care plan ensure that people with disabilities who choose to receive health care in their own communities or homes receive it - any new national health care plan must ensure that options to government health insurance are available to people with disabilities. Even more, any new national health care plan must ensure that health care is available to people with disabilities in the first place. Refusing to provide health care to people with disabilities, despite their health issues, would be against the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities that President Obama is set to sign on Friday, July 24th, 2009.

When it comes to employment, the convention also has much to say.


1. The countries agree that people with disabilities have the same right to work as other people. This also means that they have the right to earn a living from work they choose in a work environment that is open and accessible to all people.

The countries will pass laws and take other action needed to:

a. Stop discrimination because of disabilities in all situations relating to all kinds of employment. This relates, for example, to situations when people with disabilities are trying to get jobs, are hired, or promoted, or in making sure that the working conditions are safe and healthy;

b. Protect the rights of people with disabilities to equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity, safe and healthy working conditions, and the ability to make complaints;

c. Make sure that people with disabilities can organize and join labor unions and trade unions like everyone else;

d. Make it possible for people with disabilities to get career counseling and vocational trainings;

e. Promote employment, career advances, and help people with disabilities to find and keep employment;

f. Promote self-employment, business opportunities, and start-up businesses;

g. Hire people with disabilities in the government;

h. Encourage and help employers to hire people with disabilities;

i. Make it easy for people with disabilities to be in the work place and work environment by making sure reasonable allowances are made for them;

j. Work to make sure that people with disabilities can gain work experience in the labor market;

As I have mentioned, the unemployment rate among people with disabilities in America is completely unacceptable. There are many, many people with disabilities in this nation who want to work on some level. The Social Security Administration has placed a stranglehold on us by placing financial limitations on our ability to earn almost anything whatsoever. Employers in this nation have been consistently prejudiced against us - without reason; we are some of the most reliable and productive employees in this country. Whether we have the ability to work twenty hours a week or forty; we need the freedom to do so.

With the convention signed and supporting us, there is potential for people with disabilities in America to advance. We may find ourselves with access to all public place, at last. We may find ourselves with a rate of employment that is acceptable. We may find the level of prejudice and hate diminishing. The health care we need may appear as well. For United States Government Representatives to avoid following the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, having signed it, would be to present themselves as unworthy, incapable, and worthless before the entire world. We can hope that with this convention, people with disabilities will finally start to experience the rights we have for so long deserved.

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