Jewish Disability Awareness Month: Beyond our Borders
If you’ve kept up your habit of reading RACblog religiously (you’re supposed to check for updates three times a day, right?), then you must know that February has been Jewish Disability Awareness Month. While most of our JDAM coverage has focused on the struggle for inclusion in the United States, as the month draws to a close I’d like to highlight some of the issues confronting persons with disabilities worldwide.
According to the United Nations, more than one billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. That means that people with disabilities comprise nearly 15% of the world’s population and represent the world’s largest minority. However, despite their considerable number, people with disabilities are all too often left out of discussions about the major issues confronting our world.
The effects of all the global social justice issues we discuss – poverty, disease, violence and natural disasters – redouble when considering people with disabilities. According to the World Bank, persons with disabilities in the Global South are the most likely to live in poverty and they are the least likely to attend schools. They frequently lack sufficient access health care, and too often that lack of care worsens disabilities and creates new ones. The lack of basic infrastructure prevents people with disabilities from accessing the most basic services they need and deserve. And when natural disasters or man-made destruction strikes, persons with disabilities are often the worst hit as the least mobile and most dependent on government or international community services.
Major players on the international scene are beginning to address these critical and devastating issues. The World Bank has launched the World Report on Disabilities in order to better track how the people with disabilities can be better served by the Bank’s development work. The United Nations has developed a program called UN ENABLE which advocates for stronger inclusion and better care for people with disabilities in member countries. To this end we have started to track the rights of persons with disabilities as a part of the major development push toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
However there is still a need for major policy to be enacted on the international stage, and the United States is critical to its implementation and success. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are protected, and their needs met, around the world. Albania recently became the 126th country to ratify the CRPD, but that is not enough for the treaty to take full effect. Early this year, in a failure of moral leadership, the United States Senate failed to ratify the CRPD. Then-Senator John Kerry called that day one of his saddest in office.
But it is not too late! Urge your senators today to ratify the CRPD and extend the protections that the United States already promises people with disabilities to the entire world.