PART 2 of 4: Blog from the UN Human Rights Council – Social Forum
10th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
By Mary Radnofsky Ph.D.
October 3-5, 2016 (Geneva, Switzerland)
Remember when you’d go to the cafeteria, push your tray along a track, and wish you could take one of – well, everything? You’d be reasonable, though, and choose carefully your appetizer, main course and side dishes. Dessert, however, required getting one of each! As a result, your tray would get a bit crowded. Luckily, you thought to grab a second tray, so all you had to do was slip it out from under the top one, and fill it up.
Here, then, is your second “tray” from DAI’s representation at the UN Social Forum, with Peter Mittler and me – Mary Radnofsky. Hope you liked the “appetizers” in my last posting, because now you’re in for the a few main courses and side dishes. Think of it as a smorgasbord! So grab a cup of tea, have a seat, and enjoy a taste of how the world is trying to apply the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Monday, October 3, 2016 On Accessibility
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) promotes equal access for all. Towards that end, the head of Brazil’s National Civil Aviation, Marcelo de Souza Carneiro Lima, described the changes and adaptations that he made both structurally and in terms of services provided at the airport authority to prepare for the 2016 Para-Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. They had over 1000 people in wheelchairs; some with guide dogs, walkers, crutches, companions, people with intellectual and multiple disabilities.
In the introduction of Brazil’s “Guide to Passenger Rights and Accessibility,” all travellers, including those with disabilities, are guaranteed the chance to “lead their lives independently, safely, and autonomously in public spaces and when using public facilities and equipment.” It’s a formidable promise, backed up with considerable resources, brochures, complaint procedures, a human rights ombudsman, a 24/7 human rights hotline, and a lot of good will to do what’s best for all people. An impressive accomplishment.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016 The Psychosocial Side
Michael Njenga – Kenya said that people with psychosocial disabilities are not allowed in their communities to choose their own clothes, attend weddings, or make formal and informal decisions. It is difficult to even convince doctors to deal with patients without them forcing a certain kind of treatment on them.
- Rosa Damayanti – Indonesia said that families can do whatever they want and it’s not illegal: e.g. put a person with dementia in chains, on blocks, in institutions with constant physical restraints. But the government can’t close the institutions, because the people would be out in the street. Family would reject them anyway. Something needs to be put in place if they close the institutions. It’s impossible to have a formal guardianship system, but they would like to have supported decision-making in Jakarta.
- Solano Carboni, from Costa Rica, explained that guardianship was removed and so one person no longer has the power to do substitute decision-making for a person with dementia. The person with the disability can appoint a guardian, and a lawyer is not necessary. So it’s free. This kind of guardianship can be reviewed periodically, or the family can ask for legal access and personal assistance.
Peter spoke emphatically about the stigma and marginalization of people with dementia.
In South Africa, support groups are perceived as controlled externally, and so looked upon with disdain. User groups and support groups do exist, but the bridge needs to be made with people who need them.
Salam Gomes – co-chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, Colombia has seen a lot of suffering, but believes we should highlight peoples’ abilities more than we do their disabilities. Families are affected in many ways. Supporting the person means being there at all times, which empowers the person. Families need to be solid support, not sources of dependency. He said we should generate a system that creates freedom for decision-making and creates freedom. We must minimise risk, of course, but improve the quality of life. Inclusion should be seen in education work life, community.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016 Strengthening Equality and Specific Measures
Ms. Lidia Pretorious, Chief Director, Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Dep’t of Social Development in South Africa said they have statistical measures, and track government performance, but realize it likely doesn’t change anything at the level of the user of services. So she said they need a dynamic, evolving system, not one that has a 5-year plan, because as the world moves ahead, they stay 5 years behind, and essentially regress.
Ms. Ana Lucía Arellano, Chair, Latin American Network of Non-Govt Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and their Families, commented that the situation is critical. There are scarce resources, but they need to educate the family, and reach people with disabilities as they don’t yet realize they can raise themselves up. Many have low self-esteem; and she said we must design global strategies so people realize they’re entitled to reasonable accommodation and support at a national level. It sounds as though the governments of the country don’t make an effort to get the word out. They don’t give the schools proper support. She said they need to stop backtracking, and align the 2030 agenda with the convention. She reiterated that she wants change, and to get something tangible.
Ms. Esther Kyozira, National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda – explained that “Reasonable Accommodation” is not law there; victims that theoretically could complain (based on the human rights convention) don’t know that they can. People who are in need, are not aware or empowered at all.
The Interactive Dialogue includes the voice of people from the audience.
Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion, UK – said that we need reporting procedures; some schools may accommodate, while others do not, but to whom does one complain when it doesn’t work right?
Salam Gomes (WNUSP, Colombia) talked about the exclusion of people with psychosocial disabilities, who are in close relation to those with intellectual cognitive impairment, but let’s not stick on the label of “mental” disability, which can cause confusion. He asked that we think about the institutionalized and those in prison. In Colombia, they’ve made progress in disability law, recognizing psycho-social conditions such as depression, which is one of the primary reasons people leave their jobs.
In Argentina, however, “reasonable accommodation” is left to the discretion of the employer, leaving employees quite without recourse, leading to another classic social Darwinian environment, where only the strongest survive.