Last month the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force. It may not be a snappy title but it marks an important development in disabled people’s pursuit of equality. Sixty years after the original UN Declaration on Human Rights was launched, disabled people have finally gained their own charter and full recognition that they too have human rights.
Disabled people are one of the last “vulnerable” social groups to be given the protection of a specific human rights convention. While women, ethnic minorities, children and migrant workers all received one years ago, disabled people have had to wait until the 21st century for this moment.
In a way, this isn’t surprising. No international treaty has ever come about without a long and hard campaign. But in order to campaign, people need to be able to take part in demonstrations, attend meetings, sign petitions, write letters and lobby politicians. You can only do these things if you have a reasonable level of education, access to transport and the ability to make your voice heard. Sadly, the vast majority of disabled people in the world are denied such luxuries.
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