By Guest Blogger, Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, Department of State
On the eve of December 3, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, it is worth noting that 2011 also marks the 30th anniversary of the International Year of Persons with Disabilities. Much has happened to advance the rights, equality and inclusion of persons with disabilities since the International Year was adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1981. International Decades of Disabled Persons have been adopted by the UN, the Asia Pacific region, the Americas and the African region, advancing activities to combat discrimination on the basis of disability.
In 1990, with its adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the United States became the first country in the world to adopt national civil rights legislation unequivocally banning discrimination against persons with disabilities. A global pioneer, the ADA has inspired adoption of disability rights legislation around the world, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD is the first international treaty to comprehensively address the rights of persons with disabilities, and has unified the global community with a common language of disability rights.
In celebrating this year’s International Day, and in a spirit of reflection, the State Department is hosting a screening of the Independent Lens film, “Lives Worth Living.” This documentary charts the history and rise of the disability rights movement in the United States. It shows how far we have come in striving for a society where persons with disabilities can live their lives on their own terms, through access to education, employment, transportation, political participation and other fundamental spheres of life. It also demonstrates the power of unity, and how historically marginalized members of civil society can claim their place as agents of change in championing rights and freedoms, not only for themselves but for all people.
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