Disability Rights Are Human Rights

By Donna Werner

Today is the 65th celebration of International Human Rights Day. The UN Declaration of Human Rights was passed after WWII to ensure that atrocities that happened in the war would never happen again.

It’s comforting to think that these kinds of declarations apply to all people, but this is not the case.

Even though people with disabilities were targeted for extermination during the war, people with disabilities are not mentioned in the Human Rights Declaration.

Today people with disabilities still face significant barriers in housing, employment, and access to public spaces around the world. Until these barriers are removed, people with disabilities will not be able to exercise or enjoy basic human rights.

When I first entered the disability field 30 years ago, I was taught that people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else. However people with disabilities were still hidden away and discriminated against in many places.

Just a few weeks ago I was visiting one of Mosaic’s international partners, Motivation Romania.

Edi as Child

Edi, one of more than 40 children taken out of a Romanian institution through a program supported by Mosaic International. This photo shows Edi shortly after he moved to a loving family-style group home. Today, Edi is a happy, thriving young man.

One afternoon we decided to drive by Tancabesti, an institution for people with disabilities where we had removed more than 40 children over 10 years ago. (Today many of those children are thriving and active young adults, just like Edi, who is pictured with this post.)

As we drove up to the communist era-structure of Tancabesti, it was a flashback to more than a decade ago.  There was the same prison-like fence, a guard at the front gate, a gray dirt yard with not one blade of grass, or flower, and no sign of life.  It looks abandoned, but the guard told us that 60 children with disabilities still live there.

It wasn’t until 2006, when the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities was adopted that the basic human rights of people with disabilities were lifted up in the international community.

Part of it reads:

Discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.

Much progress has been made, much remains to be done.

We join UN General Secretary Ban Kai Moon in “asserting that we must recommit to guaranteeing that the fundamental freedoms and protection the human rights of all.”

Including people with disabilities.

Donna Werner is the Senior Vice President of Advocacy for Mosaic. This post originally appeared on the Mosaic Possible Blog.




One thought on “Disability Rights Are Human Rights

  1. A thoughtful write-up Donna! Edi is the perfect example of how his current life reflects his rights as a human being, but how he almost did not reach that point because he was born in a society that placed little or no value on human rights, especially for people with disabilities. Seeing Tancubesti was a grim reminder of further changes still needed.

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