On December 13, 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons With Disabilities. This document formally affirms the rights of people with disabilities as human rights. It aims to ensure that people with disabilities are full contributing members of society and to end the discrimination that the 650 million people around the world who live with disabilities experience each day. The convention includes such rights as education, health, and work for people with disabilities.
"Today promises to be the dawn of a new era -an era in which disabled people will no longer have to endure the discriminatory practices and attitudes that have been permitted to prevail for all too long,” said then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. He had strong and insightful words about the treatment of people with disabilities throughout history. Annan urged all 192 member states to ratify the convention.
According to the U.N. News Service, the convention “provides that States which ratify it should enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights and also abolish legislation, customs, and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities." Starting March 30, 2007, countries can sign and ratify the convention.
Hopefully this United Nations convention will make countries think about the lives of their citizens with disabilities in this new year. It’s a good first step. However, just saying disability rights are human rights is not enough. It’s up to each country to fully embrace this important principle. Actions speak louder then words.