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People with disabilities have the same rights as all other people. However, for a number of reasons they often face social, legal, and practical barriers in claiming their human rights on an equal basis with others. These reasons commonly stem from misperceptions and negative attitudes toward disability.

Everyone is different, whether that difference relates to color, gender, ethnicity, size, shape, or anything else. A disability is no different. It may limit a person’s mobility or their ability to hear, see, taste, or smell. A psycho-social disability or intellectual disability, may affect the way people think, feel, or process information. Regardless of its characteristics, disability neither subtracts from nor adds to a person’s humanity, value or rights. It is simply a feature of a person.

A disability itself does not affect or limit a person’s entitlement to human rights in any way. Defining persons with disabilities first and foremost as rights holders and subjects of human rights law on an equal basis with others is an extremely powerful approach to changing perceptions and attitudes, as well as providing a system for ensuring the human rights of persons with disabilities.

Every person is entitled to claim her or his human rights and to demand that they be protected, respected, and fulfilled. When you advocate in human rights terms, and use the human rights framework to support your advocacy, no one can challenge that you are asking for special treatment or something undeserved. However, just because human rights law exists does not make human rights a reality in people’s lives. Positive attitudes and good intentions are not enough either.  Without individual efforts, a firm social and cultural commitment reinforced by group action, and strong implementation and enforcement by governments, human rights cannot be guaranteed!

Next week, Freedom Friday will address equality and non-discrimination.

Information from this article came from “Understanding the Human Rights of Persons With Disabilities” a publication of the University of Minnesota Human Rights Resource Center.

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