Promoting the Rights of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and their Families

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Yesterday, the 9th Conference of States Parties opened at the United Nations in New York. Inclusion International is there along with members and self-advocates.

Inclusion International is a network of over 200 family-based organizations, with national members in 115 countries worldwide, working to promote the social, cultural, economic, and political rights of persons with intellectual disabilities.

We welcome the focus at this year’s Conference of States Parties on promoting the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities.

For Inclusion International, promoting the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and their families requires moving beyond an accommodation or service approach; if we don’t change, at a systems level, what we do and how we do it, then people with intellectual disabilities and their families will continue to be left behind.

The CRPD, which so far has been ratified by 164 countries, announces an elementary paradigm shift: Disability is no medical deficit any longer, it is a matter of human rights! Individual autonomy including the freedom to make choices and full and effective participation and inclusion in society are the general principles and guidelines for the implementation of the CRPD by the States Parties. Yet still, there are millions of persons with intellectual disabilities who are deprived of their legal capacity, their right to inclusive education, their right to live independently and be included in the community, and their right to political participation as described in the CRPD.

Supporting self-advocacy is critical for realizing the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities. We know this must begin at home and it must begin at birth. For persons with intellectual disabilities, their families are the main source of support throughout their entire lives. They need help to do this. Furthermore, if their families are not included and targeted in planning and outreach measures, then there is significant risk people with intellectual disabilities will be left behind.

Persons with intellectual disabilities and their families have identified inclusive education as the key in breaking down barriers and building inclusive lives. Inclusive education provides better academic outcomes for all children. Inclusive schools foster and promote social inclusion; they help build social cohesion and social capital that has lasting impact in the lives of individuals and in communities. Inclusive education contributes to building peaceful inclusive communities.

We need to focus on community development efforts that ensure our communities are inclusive and welcoming of ALL its citizens. ‎Inclusion in all aspects of community is critical for building meaningful inclusion and establishing natural and sustainable supports in the community.

To ensure that, truly, no one is left behind we must do things differently. It’s not enough to open doors; this approach is not sufficient in reaching the people who face multiple barriers. To be successful we need to reorganize and reform the ways in which education, health care, poverty reduction is delivered.

As long as the basic human rights are not realized by persons with intellectual disabilities and their families, the aims of this year’s Conference of States Parties cannot be achieved.

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