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Human rights are based on human needs. They assert that every person is equally entitled not only to life, but to a life of dignity. Human rights also recognize that certain basic conditions and resources are necessary to live a dignified life.  Human rights apply to every person in the world, regardless of their race, color, sex, ethnic or social origin, religion, language, nationality, age, sexual orientation, disability, or other status. They apply equally and without discrimination to each and every person. The only requirement for having human rights is to be human.

Although governments have the official legal responsibility for respecting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights, human rights are not their exclusive responsibilities. Human rights are far more than legal requirements. They represent a moral code of conduct designed to promote understanding, equality, tolerance, fairness, and many other features essential to just and peaceful societies. Regardless of what behaviors may or may not be legally enforceable, a variety of actors, including individuals, groups, and institutions within society, also play important roles in the promotion and implementation of human rights.

Each person must know and understand their human rights in order to be able to claim them, defend them, and hold themselves, other people, their governments, and societies accountable for the actions that affect them. Because human rights are common to all people, even an effort by a single individual to assert his or her human rights represents an important initiative on behalf of every person.  Likewise, actions of an individual that violate somebody else’s human rights represent a threat to everyone’s human rights.

Although people with disabilities are entitled to every human right, they often face serious discrimination based on attitudes, perceptions, misunderstandings, and lack of awareness.  Freedom Friday will address this issue further next week.

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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