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International Human Rights Day

On December 10th, we celebrate International Human Rights Day, embracing the concept that ‘every human has the right to be happy, healthy, to be treated fairly and involved in society.

However, people with disabilities still encounter, on a daily basis, a range of physical, cultural social and attitudinal barriers, which prevent them from accessing the same rights as non-disabled people, including making decisions about their lives, getting a job, obtaining an adequate standard of living, getting around and being included in society.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was developed to clarify and ensure that disabled people have the same rights as non-disabled people, and that countries must remove these barriers, providing disabled people with the opportunities to live life to their fullest potential.

But in today’s society, how many of us consider these rules?

In the UK, it’s been unlawful to publish inaccessible content on the Web since 1999. But to date, there has been one case on the accessibility of electronic services that resulted in an employment tribunal finding of discrimination. That case, decided in October 2006, involved the accessibility of a computer-based examination. But prosecutions to date? None.

In India, Dr Satendra Singh, a Medical Professional in Delhi has filed a case in the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) about inaccessible medical institutions violating the Human Rights of disabled persons, due to physical barriers, libraries being inaccessible for disabled students and lecture halls for faculty with disabilities. The petition also points out that no efforts were made for patients with visual impairments or hearing impairments and that even the websites of medical institutions were inaccessible to blind users. It added that there were no sign-language interpreters to deal with hearing impaired patients either. Yet the MCI are reluctant to respond, indicating that this is certainly not a priority issue for them.

However in the USA, a national advocacy group for visually impaired people and three Ohio voters are suing Secretary of State Jon Husted, claiming some services provided by Husted’s office are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The secretary of state’s website, which allows voters to update their registration information and request absentee ballots, is incompatible with screen access software, according to the complaint. Blind voters must then complete forms on paper, which they cannot do without human assistance.

So even with legislation in place, Human Rights of Disabled persons are being violated all over the world. Those with a disability have the legal right to an inclusive society. And a moral one too.

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