International Day of Persons with Disabilities

A message from the CFILC:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers salutes December as Universal Human Rights Month!

CFILC celebrates December as Universal Human Rights Month, with a
spotlight on the human rights of people with disabilities around the
world. According to the United Nations, over 600 million people, or 10%
of the world’s population, experience a disability. Over 80% of these
people with disabilities live in developing nations, and in all parts of
the world are “kept on the margins of society,” frequently trapped in
poverty, social isolation and vulnerable to forced institutionalization,
abuse and even torture. UN reports also document the “double
discrimination” that faces people with disabilities who also belong to
racial or other minority groups.

Three examples of contemporary denial of human rights include:

* A constitutional court in a Southeast Asian country upheld a
decision that disqualified an accomplished lawyer from serving in the
judiciary because he uses a wheelchair.

* A court in a European nation awarded damages to plaintiffs who
sued a hotel, complaining that they were forced to share the company of
a guest with a disability.

* A girl who has a mental disability is taken from her home in
South America to live in an institution where she is put in a cage and
dies of malnutrition and exposure.

The Washington Post, 11/3/04

In addressing the legal and social justice issues facing people with
disabilities worldwide, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities was a pivotal advancement. The first human
rights treaty of the 21st century, the Convention came into force on May
3, 2008, representing a major shift from the charity approach to one
focused on human rights as well as addressing the economic and social
processes of inclusion. The Convention’s purpose is “promote, protect
and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and
fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote
respect for their inherent dignity.” Seeking to end discrimination based
on ability, it includes any type of disability, covering civil and
political rights, accessibility, participation and inclusion, the rights
to education, health, employment and social protection.

Fundamentally, the Convention recognizes the concept of self-autonomy and freedom for people with disabilities, and acknowledges that adequate social supports are necessary to take advantage of that freedom for a life of active participation in society.

Upon ratification of the Convention, participating nations must
eliminate any existing laws that discriminate against people with
disabilities and “reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right
to life and shall take all necessary precautions to ensure its effective
enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”

To date, seventy-four nations have ratified the treaty, making it
binding under international law. One hundred and forty-three nations
have signed it (the first step toward eventual ratification).

In the context of Universal Human Rights Month, December 3rd of each
year is set aside to celebrate the “International Day of Persons with


* For more information on the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, visit

* The International Disability Rights Monitor is an international
grassroots project that generates reports on the status of people with
disabilities worldwide. For more information, visit

Please join us this December in celebrating Universal Human Rights Month
and the advancement of people with disabilities throughout the world!