Disability Rights: A Call to Arms!

 

DRPI-Canada Issues a Challenge to the Global Community

By Meenu Sikand, Sandra Carpenter, Steve Estey, Marcia Rioux and Mihaela Dinca-Panaitescu

Each year, the United Nations (UN) proclaims December 3rd as the International Day of Disabled Persons (IDDP) in order to encourage all communities, governments, service providers and individuals to focus on the contributions, achievements and human rights of persons with disabilities. During the fall of 2010, a series of presentations took place across the globe, which involved people with disabilities, disability advocates, governments and other key stakeholders with a view to the further empowerment of persons with disabilities.
Here in Canada, Disability Rights Promotion International Canada (DRPI-Canada) joined with Independent Living Canada (IL Canada) to mark the IDDP. On November 25, 2010, leaders from DRPI-Canada spoke about how they have been working with Canadian communities to build capacity within the disability community on disability rights monitoring led by persons with disabilities themselves. They also discussed the recent ratification by Canada of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and how best the network of Independent Living Centres can use this as a potential tool.
Members of the Canadian project team—Sandra Carpenter, Steve Estey and Marcia Rioux—talked about progress that had been made thus far in Canadian Centres, notably in St. John’s, Quebec City, Vancouver and Toronto, where work has been underway since 2006 to develop disability rights monitoring sites under the auspices of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant that funds DRPI-Canada.
Participants were encouraged to attend the workshop the following morning for more detailed information on how the DRPI-Canada project works and how the Independent Living Centres could potentially feed into it. This workshop went into greater detail about human rights and a different way of thinking about disability services and supports. It was emphasized that it is essential to monitor human rights under the CRPD and to report any progress—or backsliding—in Canada in order to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities in the long run.
Two key messages emerged from the workshops: First, unless we have effective monitoring, we won’t be able to discern what progress we are making over time, and second, it is essential to have people with disabilities involved in the monitoring process since people with disabilities are the only group likely to maintain an interest over time.
The workshop concluded with a call to arms for the Canadian IL movement. Participants were asked: “How can you best use the DRPI project’s methodology, in the context of the recent ratification of the CRPD, to advance the agenda of equality and participation of Canadians with disabilities in society?”
A similar event took place in the Region of Peel (Ontario) on December 13, 2010, with the involvement of the Accessibility Advisory Committee and participation of two members of the DRPI-Canada team, Sandra Carpenter and Marcia Rioux. The event (which was themed Customer Service as a Right) was moderated by Meenu Sikand, who also joined hands with the DRPI-Canada team to share knowledge with various stakeholders about how to make use of monitoring data in order to promote the rights of people with disabilities and improve their services. Attendees enjoyed learning about DRPI-Canada, a project that converts “lived experiences” of persons with disabilities in a variety of communities into evidence-based data. Participants walked away with an understanding of service delivery from the perspective of human rights.
The question still stands: When will this new way of thinking about disability services translate into better lives for people with disabilities? This is also the challenge presented to us all by the CRPD. It is a new and unique approach to the realization of the human rights of people with disabilities here in Canada and around the world.
The challenge—or call to arms—for the global community is the same as the one posed to the participants at the IL Canada meeting and Peel event last December: How can you use the CRPD to advance the human rights of people with disabilities with the involvement of people with disabilities themselves?

From left to right: Sandra Carpenter, Marcia Rioux and Steve Estey speaking to representatives from Independent Living Centres across Canada

From left to right: Sandra Carpenter, Marcia Rioux and Steve Estey speaking to representatives from Independent Living Centres across Canada

 

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