Closing the second day of the Conference of States Parties, a roundtable discussion was held on promoting the rights of persons with mental and intellectual disabilities. Psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities were both discussed during the panel, with Teresa Di Fiandra of Italy, Paul Deany of the Disability Rights Fund, Loretta Claiborne of Special Olympics International, and Mesbah Ansari Dogaheh of Iran speaking primarily to psychosocial disability and Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Mark Mapemba, a self-advocate and Inclusion International Council Member primarily addressing intellectual disability.
During the panel presentations, both Devandas-Aguilar and Mapemba took the opportunity to speak about the necessity of moving beyond a simple accommodation and service based approach to supporting people with intellectual disabilities. The panelists spoke about the legal capacity and right to decision-making for persons with intellectual disabilities, as well as the reorganization of education systems in order to facilitate genuine inclusive education.
As a self-advocate, Mark included his own experience in his discussion, reminding attendees that the priorities of persons with intellectual disabilities are the same as those without intellectual disabilities, namely inclusion in education and community life.
The importance of inclusive education was a highlight that attendees took from Mark’s points, calling for an overhaul to the existing education system. Mark pointed out the need for inclusive budget to ensure that education is genuinely inclusive, noting that “as long as money used to fund two separate systems, the regular system and the special system, there will not be enough money to build up the supports to ensure inclusive quality education.” With inclusive education serving as one of the keys for promoting social inclusion and community involvement for persons with disabilities, the points Mark raised should be prioritized in discussions about education and development taking place at the global level in the coming months.
Mark also spoke about the significance of self-advocacy more broadly, noting how critical self-advocacy is for realizing the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities, and the role that families play in fostering that self-advocacy. He also took the opportunity to make an important distinction between self-advocacy and support, which can and should go hand in hand.
Persons with intellectual disabilities are often overlooked when disability rights are addressed more broadly, the inclusion of intellectual disability during the Conference of States Parties on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an important step forward in integrating inclusive health care, education, and poverty reduction into the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.