In 1981, the United Nations developed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The day was started in hopes of promoting the involvement of persons with disabilities in the areas of economic, social, cultural and political areas within the world community.
Yet, in today’s world, persons with disabilities are still victims of discrimination. Judy Heumann, active spokesperson and Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the United States Department of State, feels that persons with disabilities are victims of discrimination to the point that they are not viewed as equal citizens in society. Heumann goes on by pointing out that in addition to the United Nations, 106 countries have adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an occurrence which Heumann feels is a “paradigm shift.p”. Furthermore, Heumann states that world is starting to view disability rights as not a health issue, but rather a human rights issue.
In the US, President Obama’s administration has been working hard on disability rights issues; the project is a valued part of its efforts on diplomacy and assistance. The Obama administration is enabling Heumann to travel to other countries, such as Africa, to promote and encourage the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State is teaming up with other U.S. agencies that have influence abroad in hopes of promoting disability rights.
Despite these efforts, Special Advisor Heumann feels that equal rights for disabled persons “Won’t happen overnight”. However, she asserts that the U.S. is working hard to provide information, offer assistance, and raise awareness to speed up the process. Heumann feels that although people of her generation never thought it was possible, the new generation hasn’t known anything different. Through effort and awareness, Heumann hopes that offering rights to persons with disabilities will improve not only their lives, but the lives of all people.