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The interconnection of human rights and disability rights

The interconnection of human rights and disability rights

As the world commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 Dec, the theme ‘Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All’ resonates more powerfully than ever. This occasion provides a moment to reflect on the progress made in upholding human rights globally and to emphasize the interconnectedness of human rights with disability rights.

The nexus between UDHR and disability rights

The cornerstone of the UDHR, Article 2, proclaims the right to freedom from discrimination. It boldly asserts that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the declaration without any distinction based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. This universal principle is a crucial foundation for recognizing the inherent dignity of all individuals and ensuring their equal treatment. The emphasis on non-discrimination is not only a moral imperative but also a legal commitment that nations around the world have pledged to uphold.

Similarly, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted by the United Nations in 2006, reinforces and extends the principles laid out in the UDHR. The preamble of the CRPD explicitly acknowledges the principles set forth in the UDHR and the International Covenants on Human Rights, highlighting the commitment to ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights without any form of discrimination. Article 1 of the CRPD articulates the purpose of the convention: to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities. It underscores the importance of respecting the inherent dignity of individuals with disabilities, aligning seamlessly with the core principles of the UDHR.

The interconnectedness of human and disability rights

The inseparable link between human and disability rights is a vital thread in the worldwide push for inclusive societies. It resonates powerfully in the proactive execution of inclusive policies, the creation of accessible infrastructure, and the nurturing of supportive environments. Across the globe, governments, organizations, and communities are not only acknowledging but vigorously embracing their legal duty within the international human rights framework to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. This recognition goes beyond mere morality—it symbolizes an escalating dedication to guaranteeing the complete engagement of every individual in societal activities.

Inclusive policies play a pivotal role in embodying intersectionality, addressing not only overarching human rights issues but also the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities. These policies span various sectors, including education, employment, healthcare, and social services, aiming to prevent the inadvertent oversight or marginalization of the rights of persons with disabilities within broader frameworks.

The realization of intersectionality extends beyond policies to tangible changes in infrastructure design and implementation. Accessible infrastructure encompasses physical structures, digital spaces, transportation systems, and communication channels. The goal is to dismantle barriers hindering the participation of individuals with disabilities in societal activities, integrating inclusivity into the very essence of infrastructure development.

Supportive environments go beyond accommodation, actively addressing the diverse needs of individuals with disabilities in physical, social, and cultural contexts. Inclusive mindsets and the dismantling of stigmas contribute to environments where everyone can thrive, irrespective of abilities or limitations.

The global recognition of the interconnectedness between human and disability rights emphasizes the shared responsibility on the international stage. Governments, international organizations, and grassroots movements collaborate and exchange best practices to create a more inclusive global landscape.

However, in Nepal, practical gaps persist in realizing disability rights as human rights. The dominance of the social welfare model positions individuals with disabilities as passive recipients rather than active rights-holders, necessitating a paradigm shift toward empowerment. Despite inclusive policies, challenges in implementing inclusive education, unequal access to healthcare services, barriers in employment opportunities, and limited accessibility in rural areas highlight the gap between policy intentions and on-the-ground realities. Bridging these practical gaps requires a concerted effort to ensure that the rights of individuals with disabilities are not only recognized on paper but also fully realized in daily life.

Quoting the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the architects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home.” As we celebrate 75 years of progress on International Human Rights Day, it is imperative to recognize that the interconnection of human rights and disability rights is not an abstract concept but a lived reality. The principles embedded in Article 2 of the UDHR form the bedrock of a just society, emphasizing freedom from discrimination for all. The subsequent evolution of these ideals through the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities demonstrates a profound commitment to inclusivity. Inclusive policies, accessible infrastructure, and supportive environments are not just strategies; they are the embodiment of a collective resolve to ensure that dignity, freedom, and justice are not mere aspirations but tangible realities for every individual, regardless of ability.

The journey towards a truly inclusive world is ongoing, but as we reflect on 75 years of progress, let us renew our commitment to the universal values that bind us together. The interconnectedness of human and disability rights is a testament to our shared humanity, and it is only by upholding these principles that we can truly celebrate the triumphs of the past and pave the way for a future where every person, irrespective of ability, can thrive with dignity, freedom, and justice.

The author writer, researcher and disability rights activist