“Sadly, when I talked with delegates about the struggles those of us with disabilities have faced over specialized transportation service and the desire of council to eliminate it, everyone thought I was talking about a developing country and all were shocked to find out that this could happen in Canada”
By Michael Peeling, The Paris Star
Wednesday, October 23, 2013 11:08:07 EDT AM
Theresia Degener (L), a member of the United Nations committee for the rights of people with disabilities, is greeted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (R) during the United Nations High Level meeting rights of people with disabilities at the United Nations headquarters in New York September 23, 2013. Degener was born without arms. Change text size for the story
A local advocate for the disabled got the chance to learn and network at the Second Forum on the Rights of Children with Disabilities held in New York City last week.
“It was a wonderful experience and chance to network with other disability rights advocates,” said Karen McCall of Paris.
The forum was held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly meetings, which means that representatives from several countries can attend.
McCall said 238 attendees from all over the world came to UNICEF House in New York City and is across the street from the UN buildings
“We were in the centre of the action,” McCall said.
She said it was “exciting” to hear Secretary General of the UN Ben Ki-Moon identify the 1 billion people with disabilities around the world (or 15% of the population) as part of the global community and urge the advancement of disability rights and inclusion.
“The fact that those of us with disabilities were mentioned in the opening address to the UN General Assembly and the call for action gave me a sense of being in a historical moment in time,” she said. “The rights of people with disabilities were a prominent part of this year’s General Assembly with two days of high level meetings on the rights of people with disabilities in the post-2015 millennium goals of the UN. It was quite exciting to be a part of.”
McCall previously served as a member of the County of Brant disabilities committee and often expresses her frustration with what seem like failing policies and approaches to revamping the transit system for the physically and developmentally challenged.
Talking about her frustrations with attendees at the forum brought a surprising response.
“Sadly, when I talked with delegates about the struggles those of us with disabilities have faced over specialized transportation service and the desire of council to eliminate it, everyone thought I was talking about a developing country and all were shocked to find out that this could happen in Canada,” she said. “On the other hand, I was able to raise awareness that human rights law and legislation means nothing without education and accountability.”
McCall said she “learned a lot” at the forum and met a lot of people dedicated to creating an inclusive society and the rights of people with disabilities in their own countries and globally, but she also met people who have to deal with much more than inadequate policy.
“I also met dedicated people who are struggling for basic rights for people with disabilities who are threatened with violence for their advocacy.”