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Breaking Barriers: The Anthem of Disability Rights as Human Rights

In a world that strives for inclusivity and equality, the assertion that disability rights are human rights is a fundamental truth that demands recognition. (This article was originally published on Medium.com.)


The context presented in this article reflects professional knowledge and experience up to the publication date. Readers are advised to exercise their judgment and seek appropriate professional guidance tailored to their specific circumstances. This article does not constitute professional advice, and it intends to contribute to the broader conversation on disability rights as human rights.
Disability rights advocacy is not merely a matter of political correctness or affiliation with a particular party. A distinct difference exists between advocacy, activism, and cultivating allies. Disability rights are a matter of embracing diversity which brings to humanity equity and a platform for all to thrive.

Disability Rights? Human Rights? What’s the buzz?


Bear in mind, that “disability” is commonly defined as a physical, sensory, cognitive, or intellectual impairment substantially limiting one or more major life activities. This term is often used in the context of laws and policies to ensure equal opportunities and rights for individuals with disabilities. We must be cognizant of the fact disabilities can be invisible to the naked eye.


Disabilities can be present from birth or may be acquired due to illness, injury, or aging. It’s important to note that the concept of disability is evolving, and contemporary perspectives emphasize creating inclusive environments that accommodate diverse abilities and promote equal participation in society.


A Paradigm Shift

Disability rights encompass a wide spectrum of issues aimed at ensuring that individuals with disabilities enjoy the same rights and opportunities as anyone else. In the 19th century, the establishment of asylums and institutions for the mentally ill was influenced by changing societal views. What may have started as well-intended services often ended up being implemented in woefully inadequate facilities. People were mistreated in the environment and their dignity was stripped away.


In the early to mid-20th century, the eugenics movement and misguided beliefs about segregating and isolating individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities led to an increase in the institutionalization of people with these conditions. Sterilization programs and other coercive measures were also implemented in some places.


It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that a

shift in attitudes began to occur. Advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities, as well as changes in psychiatric and social work practices, contributed to the deinstitutionalization movement. This movement aimed to transition individuals out of large institutions and into community-based settings, with a focus on providing more individualized and humane care.


Human rights shifted to not only accessibility, but also employment opportunities, education, healthcare, and social inclusion. The essence of the disability rights movement lies in dismantling barriers and fostering an environment where every person can contribute to society without facing discrimination or exclusion.


Human Rights: A Universal Concept

At the heart of the disability rights discourse is the acknowledgment that human rights are universal. Regardless of physical or cognitive differences, every individual is entitled to the same inherent rights and dignity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations, is a testament to this commitment, emphasizing the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.


The Right to Accessibility

One crucial aspect of disability rights is the right to accessibility. Be it physical spaces, digital platforms, or information, everyone should have equal access. From wheelchair ramps to inclusive web design, ensuring accessibility is not just a legal obligation but a moral imperative that reflects a society’s commitment to leaving no one behind.


Equal Opportunities in Employment

The workplace is a microcosm of societal values. Disability rights in employment underscore the importance of creating workplaces that embrace diversity. Accommodations, fair hiring practices, and promoting an inclusive corporate culture are pivotal in ensuring that individuals with disabilities are not only welcomed but can thrive professionally. When individuals join forces to discriminate against one class of people, it’s a slap in the face of all human beings.


Education as an Equalizer

Education is the cornerstone of personal and societal development. We, as a society, can’t positively evolve unless we understand knowledge is power. Disability rights advocate for an inclusive education system that accommodates diverse learning needs. From the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to the neurodivergent child with ADHD, it’s about recognizing and nurturing the unique abilities of every individual, fostering an environment where learning knows no barriers. What’s more, by exposing children to different abilities, we foster compassion, and understanding, reduce stigmas, and empower everyone. It sets the stage for ongoing societal growth.


Breaking the Stigma

Perhaps one of the most significant challenges in the journey toward recognizing disABILITY rights as human rights is breaking the stigma associated with disABILITIES. For the remainder of this article, “disability” will be written as “disABILITY.” Shifting perceptions from a deficit model to an asset-based model is key. disABILITY is not an obstacle; it’s a facet of diversity that, when embraced, enriches the human experience.


Advocacy in Action

The call to recognize disABILITY rights as human rights is not a plea for special treatment; it’s a demand for equal footing. It’s about being a voice for the voiceless and advocating It’s a call to acknowledge that the full realization of human rights necessitates dismantling barriers that hinder an inclusive and equitable society.


In celebrating disABILITY rights as human rights, we celebrate the essence of humanity — our collective strength lies in our diversity and the power of shared advocacy initiatives. Only when we truly embrace this diversity can we unlock the full potential of every individual and build a world where everyone, regardless of ability, can contribute and thrive. It’s not just a matter of legal frameworks; it’s a matter of embracing our shared humanity. We are all citizens of the same planet. “disABILITY rights are human rights” and this involves compassion and understanding.


The Golden Rule, often stated as “treat others as you would like to be treated,” is a fundamental principle that inherently includes the concept of advocacy. When we apply the Golden Rule in the context of advocacy, it emphasizes treating others with empathy, respect, and fairness — qualities essential in championing the rights and well-being of individuals and groups.


In the realm of advocacy, practicing the Golden Rule means recognizing the inherent dignity and worth of every person, regardless of their background, abilities, or challenges.

 

About the Author: Gena D. Richardson is a visionary leader, advocate, and psychotherapist. Gena has dedicated her life to empowering others and making a lasting impact. Learn more by visiting www.GenaRichardson.com.

 

The Fine Print:

This article is not a substitute for individualized consultation with a qualified professional or legal expert. Laws and regulations on disability rights may vary, and readers are encouraged to verify information based on their local jurisdiction.

Any reference to specific organizations, individuals, or events is made for informational, educational, and entertainment purposes only and does not imply endorsement or affiliation. The author disclaims any liability for actions taken or not taken based on the information provided in this article.

Finally, the use of “disABILITY” in this context is a stylistic choice aimed at promoting positive and inclusive language. It does not diminish the significance of the term “disability” or the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities. The objective is to contribute to a constructive dialogue surrounding the promotion of equal opportunities and human rights for all individuals, irrespective of ability.


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