Each month, about one million people cross through checkpoints like Stanytsia Luhanska in east Ukraine. More than half are older people traveling into areas under Ukrainian control to collect social benefit payments. Between January and early April, according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), at least 19 people died while crossing these checkpoints, mostly older people with heart-related complications. Ukrainian officials have voiced deep suspicion and even hostility toward this population, suggesting they are “anti-Ukrainian.” The government also forces them to register as internally displaced persons and to provide addresses in government-controlled areas – a legal fiction which often involves paying monthly fees to landlords there – and to make the difficult journey through Ukrainian crossing points at least once every 60 days. If they fail to register or cross, the authorities automatically stop paying their pension. Spend an hour in Stanytsia Luhanska and it becomes clear just how arduous these requirements are for older people. Dozens pass by in wheelchairs, while others can walk only with crutches, walkers, or canes. Some people pay up to 200 hryvnia (about US$7.60) to be ferried one half of the journey in hand-pushed carts – no small price for someone on a pension of 2000 hryvnia (US$76).

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

More than 13,500 asylum seekers remain trapped on the Greek islands in deplorable conditions as winter begins on December 21, 2017. Greece, with support from its European Union partners, should urgently transfer thousands of asylum seekers to the Greek mainland and provide them with adequate accommodation and access to fair and efficient asylum procedures.

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Shantha Rau Barriga is the founding director of the disability rights division at Human Rights Watch. She leads research and advocacy on human rights abuses against persons with disabilities worldwide including: the shackling of people with psychosocial disabilities, denial of education for children with disabilities, violence against women and girls with disabilities, institutionalization of children and adults with disabilities, and the neglect of people with disabilities in humanitarian emergencies. She has worked on projects on Australia, Brazil, Central African Republic, China, Croatia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Russia, Serbia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia.  

Shantha is a founding member of the International Network of Women with Disabilities, member of the Amnesty International Advisory Group on Disability Rights, expert advisor to the Catalyst for Inclusive Education Initiative and a senior advisor to the Global Campaign for Mental Health. She also served on the UNICEF Advisory Board for the 2013 State of the World’s Children report.

Before joining Human Rights Watch, Shantha participated in the UN negotiations toward the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, working as part of a global coalition to advocate for strong protections on non-discrimination, accessibility, education, legal capacity, independent living and international monitoring. She also previously worked with UNICEF Tanzania, carrying out an assessment on children with disabilities in refugee camps in Kibondo.

Shantha received degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the University of Michigan, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Austria. She speaks German and Kannada. Shantha is married and has two sons.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Sydney) – Australia’s parliament should scrap a new rule that allows nursing homes to overmedicate and restrain older people, a group of organizations working for older people’s rights in Australia said today. On August 20, 2019 in Sydney, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights will hold a hearing on human rights concerns relating to the new rule. Human Rights Watch, Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia (ADA Australia), and others will appear.

The group includes ADA Australia, Capacity Australia, Dementia Alliance International, and Human Rights Watch.

“The Australian government rule is trying to regulate abusive practices that harm older people rather than prohibit them,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “The opening of a parliamentary inquiry into this matter is a critical opportunity to address the regulation’s serious shortcomings.”

In April, the Australian government introduced a new rule to regulate both physical restraints and overmedication, also known as chemical restraint, in aged care facilities. The use of physical or chemical restraints as punishment, control, retaliation, or as a measure of convenience for staff should be prohibited, in line with Australia’s international human rights obligations.

Authorities should instead make sure that any medical intervention takes place only with free and informed consent, and that medications are administered only for therapeutic purposes. The government should prioritize positive support and intervention for people with dementia, including in aged care facilities.

On May 23, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Australian parliament, urging its joint committee on human rights to move to disallow the Quality of Care Amendment (Minimising the Use of Restraints) Principles 2010.

In 2013, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities criticized Australia for allowing practices that would subject people with disabilities, including older people with dementia, to “unregulated behaviour modification or restrictive practices such as chemical, mechanical and physical restraints and seclusion.” The committee called on Australia to end these practices.  

In addition to the physical, social, and emotional harm for older people restrained with antipsychotic drugs, the use of such drugs in older people with dementia is also associated with a nearly doubled risk of death. It also limits their ability to eat, communicate, think, and stay awake.

“Older people in nursing homes are at serious risk of harm if this new aged care regulation is allowed to stand as is,” said Geoff Rowe, CEO at ADA Australia. “Australia’s parliament should act urgently to ensure that everyone, including older people, is free from the threat of chemical restraint.”

Human Rights Watch has documented the harm of overmedicating older people living in nursing homes in the United States.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, in Washington, August 5, 2019.

© 2019 AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

President Donald Trump responded to the horrific mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio by calling for the “reform” of mental health laws “to better identify mentally disturbed individuals, who may commit acts of violence.” He added that such people should be subject “when necessary [to] involuntarily confinement.” “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he said. But Trump’s response is based on false assumptions and prejudice.

There are no scientific studies linking someone’s mental health with their propensity to commit acts of violence. But by repeatedly pushing that connection, Trump is perpetuating stigma and feeding widespread prejudice that people with mental health conditions, or psychosocial disabilities, are prone to commit acts of violence. In fact, the vast majority of people with mental health conditions are not violent, but rather more likely to be victims of violence themselves.

People with actual or perceived mental health conditions are among the most stigmatized and marginalized in the US. Trump’s remarks do them a further disservice by using them as scapegoats for a serious problem in the country, as he has done with migrants, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable minorities.

Discriminating against people with disabilities won’t prevent the next El Paso or Dayton. Instead the Trump administration should listen to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which has urged governments to “protect their populations … against the risks posed by excessive availability of firearms.”

Calling for the involuntary commitment of people who have not committed any crime but simply because they have a disability is contrary to fundamental human rights and equal protection of the law. Trump should abandon that approach.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Staff from the Coordinating Unit, a network supporting people with people with disabilities in the South-West region of Cameroon, April 2019.

© 2019 Human Rights Watch

(Nairobi) – People with disabilities in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon are caught in the violence and struggle to flee to safety when their communities come under attack. They also face difficulties in getting necessary assistance.

“People with disabilities are among the most marginalized and at-risk population in any crisis-affected country, and Cameroon is no exception,” said Emina Ćerimović, senior disability rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The woefully underfunded United Nations humanitarian response exacerbates their risks, as many people with disabilities aren’t getting even their basic needs met.”

Over the past three years, Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have been embroiled in a cycle of deadly violence that has claimed an estimated 2,000 lives and uprooted almost half a million people from their homes. People with disabilities have faced attack and abuse by belligerents, often because they are unable to flee.

On May 13, the UN Security Council discussed the humanitarian situation in Cameroon during an informal meeting. This gave momentum to international efforts to address the crisis and an opportunity to consider practical steps for an effective humanitarian response, particularly for the most at-risk people. The Security Council should formally add Cameroon to its agenda as a stand-alone item so it can regularly address the crisis and spotlight the dire humanitarian situation in the country, as well as the grave human rights abuses by all sides.

The crisis in the Anglophone regions began in late 2016, when teachers, lawyers, and activists, who had long complained of their regions’ perceived marginalization by the central government, took to the streets to demand more recognition of their political, social, and cultural rights. The ruthless response of the government forces, who killed peaceful protesters, arrested leaders, and banned civil society groups, escalated the crisis. Since then, numerous separatist groups have emerged calling for the independence of the Anglophone regions and embracing the armed struggle. Government forces and armed separatists have both been responsible for serious human rights abuses.

Between January and May 2019, Human Rights Watch interviewed 48 people with disabilities living in the Anglophone regions, their family members, representatives of UN agencies, and national and international humanitarian organizations to investigate how the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions has disproportionately affected people with disabilities.

People with disabilities and older people have been among those killed, violently assaulted, or kidnapped by government forces and armed separatists. Soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Battalion killed a 43-year-old man with hearing and intellectual disabilities in the village of Ntamru, North-West region, on May 5, when he did not answer their questions. “He was shot in the head and the chest,” a witness told Human Rights Watch.

Destruction of homes and property has an increased effect on people with disabilities. Throughout the crisis, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of people with disabilities whose homes were burned by the security forces, leaving them without accessible home environments, shelter, and assistive devices, and forcibly displacing them.

A 41-year-old man with a physical disability said he lost his wheelchair after soldiers burned his home in Kumbo, North-West region, on December 3, 2018: “My house was razed. I was lucky I could escape thanks to a friend who carried me. But I lost everything, including my wheelchair, and now I have no means to move myself around independently.”

During some attacks, people with mobility difficulties could not flee with their families. A 27-year-old woman, with paralysis in her left leg as a result of childhood polio, said she remained alone in her village, Esu, North-West region, in March 2018: “Following three days of clashes and non-stop gunfire, my parents fled and left me home alone. I sought refuge in a nearby house, but the neighbors left too. My family thought it was safer for me to remain and hide, instead [of] to carry me and run. But I felt really scared.”

People with disabilities who have managed to flee the violence struggled to get basic humanitarian assistance in the areas to which they are displaced. More than a quarter of Cameroonians who require humanitarian assistance live in the Anglophone regions, including over half a million people who remain internally displaced. The 2019 UN humanitarian response plan for Cameroon is only 21 percent funded.

The UN secretary-general said in this year’s report on the protection of civilians that the Security Council should ensure effective protection and assistance for people with disabilities. And on June 20, the Security Council adopted a resolution, calling on UN member states and parties to armed conflict to protect people with disabilities in conflict situations and to ensure they have access to justice, basic services, and unimpeded and inclusive humanitarian assistance.

Over 4 million people have been affected by the crisis in the Anglophone North-West and South-West regions, but there is limited data on the needs of people with disabilities. This data is essential to guide humanitarian efforts reflecting the realities of all civilians.

“The UN and its member states should deliver on their commitments to prevent violence against all civilians, including those with disabilities, and to ensure an inclusive and accessible humanitarian response,” Ćerimović said. “Meaningful consultation with, and participation of, people with disabilities is essential to understanding the risks and improving protection.”

Attacks on People With Disabilities
Since the beginning of the crisis in late 2016, Human Rights Watch has documented at least 20 cases in which government forces killed people with disabilities as they struggled to flee attacks, or because they were left behind. Human Rights Watch has also reported on cases of people with disabilities attacked or kidnapped by armed separatists.

Ebai Rose Deba, 31 years old, has a physical disability and was forced to flee her village in the South-West region of Cameroon in February 2019 following violence. May 18, 2019.

© 2019 Private

A 27-year-old man with intellectual disabilities was shot dead at a gas station by gendarmes in Ndu, North-West region, on December 24, 2018. “He was walking, the gendarmes stopped him and started talking to him,” a witness said. “Since he was always laughing each time a person spoke to him, he started laughing at the gendarmes, and they got angry. They shot him and drove off. He was shot in the head and the chest; he died instantly.”

Government forces have also physically assaulted, harassed, and threatened people with disabilities during security operations searching for armed separatists.

In January 2019, gendarmes, policemen, and soldiers arrested a 24-year-old man with an intellectual disability in Tobin village, North-West region, after firing live ammunition into his home. His father said:

I was sitting in the veranda when two bullets almost hit me. The security forces then came in, said they were looking for separatists, and took my son without any explanation.

The police detained him in Kumbo police station for three days before his father secured his release: “When I took him out, I found that he had bruises on his forehead and feet. I suspect that he was beaten in detention.”

Soldiers raided the home of a 28-year-old woman with a physical disability in Meluf village, North-West region, in December 2018. She told Human Rights Watch that about 15 soldiers broke into her home, took her phone and medications, and ordered her at gunpoint to remove her artificial leg: “They watched me crawling and laughed. They asked me where the Amba [separatists] lived and I replied that I didn’t know. Since they seized my medication, I have been ill.”

People with disabilities have also been abused at checkpoints controlled by the security forces or at roadblocks manned by separatists. Often, they are traveling because they have been displaced by violence. After the military burned the home of a 41-year-old man with a physical disability in Kumbo, North-West region, in December 2018, a soldier stopped the taxi in which he was riding at a checkpoint in Jakiri, North-West region, on January 19, 2019, and beat him:

I had to get out of the car by crawling with my hands, then a soldier hit me badly with his gun on my right arm. The soldier said that I was escaping because I am a collaborator of the Amba [separatists].

A 43-year-old woman with a physical disability described how she was ridiculed by policemen at a checkpoint in Nsoh, North-West region, in May 2018:

The policemen were standing in a queue. The first checked ID cards, the second held a rope high across the road [as a form of barricade] and the other two collected money from drivers. When I presented my ID card and went ahead to the police holding the rope, he mocked me and told me in French: “I want you to jump over this rope.” His colleague told him to leave me alone because of my disability, but the policeman asked me to jump four more times, before giving up and insulting me because I am Anglophone.

Fleeing Violence
People are often forced to flee areas when violence starts. For people with disabilities, especially those with mobility and visual impairments, fleeing attacks often puts them at higher risk than others fleeing.

A 27-year-old man with a physical disability from Guzang, North-West region, said that he had to run away from his village when gendarmes attacked it on October 30, 2018, and destroyed his shop:

I encountered a lot of difficulties while fleeing because I had to support my pregnant wife and my two-year-old child. Before getting a car, we had to walk for two kilometers through the bushes. As I use a crutch, it was impossible for me to carry any luggage, so I left empty-handed, with only the clothes I wore.

A 24-year-old blind student traveled without any support to Bamenda, about 100 kilometers, from his house in Meluf, North-West region, on December 3, 2018, when soldiers burned his house. He said:

Not only did I lose everything, including my school certificates, but I had to escape by myself, because I am orphan. I was very scared during the journey, because I can’t see around me, I can’t see the danger coming.

Many had to rely on relatives or friends, when they could, to carry or guide them to escape violence.

A 37-year-old single mother with a physical disability and no assistive device struggled to flee to the woods outside Etoko, in the South-West region, after it was raided by the security forces searching for separatists in May 2018:

Everyone ran, and I panicked because I couldn’t go as fast as others. I had to use a small tree branch as a walking cane to support myself and move faster. My sister walked at my pace to help me. We spent three days in the bushes, sleeping on the ground, with no food.

Those who carried or helped people with disabilities were also put at heightened risk during their flight to safety.

A 32-year-old woman who takes care of her 11-year-old nephew with developmental and physical disabilities said that she was in Bambili village, North-West region, when clashes between security forces and separatists broke out on February 10, 2019:

It was on the eve of the celebration of the national youth day and there was shooting during a violent confrontation between the army and the Amba [separatists] because the Amba intended to disrupt the celebration. We ran away. I had to carry my nephew on my back and walk for one hour before finding a taxi. It was difficult because I was slow.

The mother of a three-year-old boy with physical and developmental disabilities said that she fled her village, Benakuma, North-West region, following repeated clashes between separatists and security forces in July 2018 and that she contemplated leaving her son behind:

We walked for one day. Then we took a bus to Bamenda. My son was becoming weaker and I feared he might die. My duty as a mother is to ensure his welfare by staying with him. But [at times] I felt I could have carried more luggage instead of carrying him. I felt like he was a burden. He slowed us down and forced us to leave most of the useful things home.

A key challenge in escaping for people with disabilities was the absence of assistive devices such as wheelchairs, sticks, or crutches, which were lost in the chaos, destroyed, or looted.

A 26-year-old man said his artificial leg was broken while he fled into the forest following clashes between separatists and soldiers in his neighborhood in Mile 1, Kumba, South-West region, in early October 2018:

Soldiers and separatists were fighting and there was gunfire, so I had to leave. I couldn’t run fast because of my disability. I entered the forest and walked for hours till my artificial leg broke. I took it off and left it there. Since then, I walk on crutches.

Left Behind
Most of the people with disabilities interviewed said that their relatives took them to safety when their communities were attacked. However, some said that their relatives or caretakers were not able to take them along. Others said that they told their relatives and neighbors to run away without them, fearing that their presence would slow the others down or endanger them.

A 19-year-old blind man who fled his village, Baba I, North-West region, following clashes between the military and the separatists in late October 2018, said that he stayed in his village for two days as his family ran away:

There was heavy gunfire. I was home alone and hid in a room. I could hear people shouting. I think I was abandoned because it would have been difficult to guide me during the flight. I could have exposed my family to more danger.

A 25-year-old student with a physical disability from Bekora village, South-West region, was left behind in his home as his community came under attack on October 6, 2018:

I was in the toilet when the military entered our village chasing out the separatists. There was intense shooting. My cousins could not trace my whereabouts, so they ran and abandoned me. I remained in the toilet for about 4 hours because I could not run and for fear of being caught by a stray bullet. When the shooting stopped, I went to the woods to meet my family.

A 5-year-old blind child was left in his house in Ajayukndip village, South-West region, during an attack carried out by soldiers on January 14, 2019. His father said:

That morning my wife and I went to the farm and left the child with his elder brother who is only 11 years old. The military invaded the community and my 11-year-old boy ran away, leaving the child alone. The child attempted to run, but he fell in a pit toilet. Luckily, he was still alive when we found him.

Homes Burned
Security forces, including soldiers, members of the Rapid Intervention Battalion, and gendarmes, destroyed and looted hundreds of homes across the Anglophone regions. People with disabilities often lost everything, their accessible homes, assistive devices, and their livelihoods.

Egbe Aron Ayuk, 62 years old, has a physical disability and was forced to flee his village in the South-West region of Cameroon following clashes between armed separatists and security forces. May 18, 2019.

© 2019 Private

Fifteen of the 45 people with disabilities interviewed said that security forces burned their properties.

A 37-year-old woman with mobility difficulties said that her home was burned when armed separatists clashed with the security forces in her village, Etoko, South-West region, in July 2018:

The separatists ran toward my house and the army chased them there. The soldiers broke into my place and set it on fire. I escaped into the forest where I spent two days with no food, lying on the ground and covering my head out of fear. I lost my house and the stick I used to walk with.

A 66-year-old man with a visual disability from Ekona, South-West region, said his house was torched by the gendarmes on October 6, 2018:

The gendarmes came and started burning houses. We had to flee and sleep in the bush for days. When we came back, we found that our home had been burned down with everything inside, food, clothes, medicines, documents… I have worked hard my whole life to give a shelter to my family, but now we’re homeless and beg for food. Because I’m blind it’s not easy for me to rebuild what we’ve lost.

On rare occasions, some security forces spared people with disabilities who had been left behind.

A 31-year-old woman with a physical disability said that she could not run away when soldiers arrived in her village Ogomoko, South-West region, on February 15, 2019:

The military came and started arresting people suspected of belonging to separatist groups. I was afraid they could take me too. Since my son was killed on March 3, 2018 by a stray bullet fired by the gendarmes near Afab village, I am afraid of the military. But this time, a soldier entered my home and said it was not safe for me to stay around, he said many old people and people with disabilities had been burned alive in their homes, so he helped me escape.

The soldiers also spared her house and did not burn it down.

Accessing Aid for Internally Displaced People
Life for internally displaced people is difficult, and displaced people with disabilities face additional difficulties in getting assistance and meeting their basic needs such as for food, sanitation, and health care.

Only 9 of the 45 people with disabilities interviewed had humanitarian assistance. In all these cases but one, aid was distributed by local charities in urban centers. Displaced people taking shelter in isolated areas have little to no access to aid because of security issues.

Humanitarian workers in Cameroon said that there are huge gaps in the aid coverage. “It’s a drop in the ocean,” said one UN employee based in the South-West region. “There are large swathes of the Anglophone regions where the crisis has hit the local population hard, but where aid organizations are yet to deliver anything.”

The situation is easier in urban areas. However, even in cities like Buea or Bamenda, displaced people with disabilities who are hosted by local families find it hard to adapt or to get services. All displaced people with disabilities interviewed described severe overcrowding and difficulty getting to water and sanitation facilities.

A 66-year-old blind man who left his village, Ekona, South-West region, said that living conditions in Buea, where he is staying, are difficult:

We are eight in a room; we sleep all together. There is no privacy, the space is narrow, and we can hardly move. To access the toilet, I need to go through some steps, which is very hard for someone like me who cannot see.

A 25-year-old man with a mobility disability from Bekora village and now living in Buea explained that he is staying with six friends in a small room. He explained that in the absence of being carried or having an accessible environment, he must use his hands to get around:

The biggest challenge is the toilet. It’s outside and is used by many people, so it is often disgusting. I am afraid I will soon get some disease since I must creep to the toilet with my hands. Because of the overcrowding and non-accessibility, I am forced to bathe in the middle of the night or very early in the morning.

Needs of people with disabilities affected by the crisis are significant and can be very specific but are not always integrated in humanitarian planning. A protection officer working for an international nongovernmental group in the South-West region said that while there is some assistance for people with disabilities there are no specific programs to respond to their needs and in particular there are not enough services like rehabilitation, assistive devices, and accessible information available. She said: “During the early stage of the project, there’s usually a sense of urgency, a rush to intervene which can leave important considerations about needs of people with disabilities out.”

International aid organizations operating in displacement areas in the Anglophone regions all said they have no targeted programs to respond to the rights and needs of displaced people with disabilities.

Stigma and Discrimination
Communities hosting displaced people have generally shown solidarity and welcomed into their homes people who fled the violence. However, people with disabilities have faced stigma, leaving them stranded in areas where they fled. An employee of a local charity in Bamenda said that some potential hosts will not accept a family because they do not want someone with a disability in their home. “Unfortunately, there are cultural beliefs shaping local understanding of disability and resulting into discrimination, which should be tackled with more awareness-raising activities,” she said.

A 36-year old mother of a child with a developmental disability said that she was stranded in Bamenda when she arrived there in November 2018 after fleeing her village, Bali Bawock, North-West region: “I had so many problems in carrying [my child] on my back when we fled for safety. There is too much stigma on persons with disabilities. No one wants to host a child who drools all the time and still uses diapers at the age of 7. People reject us.” The mother and her child now live with her sister and others in Bamenda and get support from a local rehabilitation facility to help them access health care and education.

A volunteer from a local organization providing services to people with disabilities in the South-West region said: “People in Cameroon have negative perceptions about disability. Many think disability is a curse resulting from evil spirits. Others think persons with disabilities are useless. Due to these perceptions, people don’t want to help or mingle with persons with disabilities.”

A 27-year-old blind student said that thanks to help from a kind woman, he managed to flee to Bamenda when clashes between security forces and separatists erupted in his village Tobin, North-West region, in September 2018. While the two days of walking through the forest were very difficult, it has not become much easier in the city:

Here in Bamenda I don’t have a place to stay, I sleep where the night meets me. It’s difficult, I am displaced. I have no friends or family to rely on, and generally people don’t like to have a disabled person around, so if you are blind or deaf or on crutches, no one will welcome you home. I often struggle to find a shelter.

The crisis in the Anglophone regions has exacerbated an already difficult situation for people with disabilities. “People with disabilities have always faced challenges in all aspects of life,” an official of a network of organizations supporting people with disabilities in the South-West region said. “Even prior to this crisis, they found it difficult to access basic services, including education, employment, and health care. They also suffered from discrimination.”

Access to Health Care
Access to health care has been disrupted in the Anglophone regions. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 40 percent of health facilities in both the North-West and South-West regions are not operational. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous attacks against medical facilities and health workers since December 2018. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, 61 healthcare facilities and 39 medical professionals have been attacked since May 2018, depriving people of access to medical care, often when they need it the most.

A representative of a network supporting people with disabilities in the South-West region pointed out that people with disabilities have struggled to access health care since the violence started:

Even prior to this crisis, people with disabilities had less access to healthcare services. The crisis exacerbated an already bad situation. Hospitals have been destroyed or ransacked, medical staff threatened or killed. Many doctors have also fled because of the violence.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Screenshot of a viral video showing an incident involving a woman living with paranoid schizophrenia arguing with worshippers at a mosque in Bogor, a Jakarta suburb in Indonesia. 

© 2019 Pantau

Indonesian police last week senselessly detained and charged a woman with a mental health condition with blasphemy after she entered a mosque in Bogor, a Jakarta suburb, wearing shoes and accompanied by her dog.

A video of the June 30 incident, which has since gone viral, shows the 52-year-old Catholic woman agitated and wrongly claiming that the mosque was preparing to marry her husband to another woman.

Her behavior prompted angry responses from the worshippers. She became aggressive, reportedly hitting a mosque guard when he asked her to leave.

The woman is known to have lived with paranoid schizophrenia since 2013, and a psychiatric examination at a police hospital in Jakarta confirmed her condition.

Bogor police charged her with blasphemy, presumably because Islamic rules consider canine saliva to be unclean and visitors should take off their shoes inside the mosque. The district court will decide whether she should be tried or not. She has been detained ever since the incident. The police submitted her case to the public prosecution office on July 10.

Indonesia’s 1965 blasphemy law punishes deviations from the central tenets of the country’s six officially recognized religions with up to five years in prison. The law was only used eight times in its first four decades but convictions rose to 125 in the decade during the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from 2004 to 2014. More than 30 people have been convicted of blasphemy since President Joko Widodo took office in 2014.

While the woman’s behavior in the mosque was inappropriate, charging her with the criminal offense of blasphemy for actions that appear directly related to her mental health condition show how the law is so easily abused. Worryingly, Indonesia’s Islamist groups are increasing using blasphemy cases to mobilize and agitate the country’s Muslim majority. The government should revoke the blasphemy law and drop all pending blasphemy cases, including this latest one, which has needlessly left a vulnerable person to face prison time.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

School-age children in Lebanon.

Top photos, bottom left photo: © 2017 Amanda Bailly for Human Rights Watch. Bottom center and right photos: © 2017 Sam Koplewicz for Human Rights Watch

People with disabilities in Lebanon have the right to education without discrimination. However, nearly 19 years after that right was guaranteed under Law 220, the government has still not taken the necessary steps to fully put it into practice. Lebanon’s new budget proposal, approved by Cabinet on May 27 and sent to Parliament’s general assembly on July 9, risks backsliding even more. Parliament should revise the budget to ensure basic rights for children with disabilities, not entrench their marginalization.

Children with disabilities have the basic human right to be free from discrimination, and that includes attending mainstream schools. But  Human Rights Watch  has  found that Lebanon’s public education system discriminates against children with disabilities, often denying them  admission to schools because of their disability. The minority who do enroll don’t get the quality education they deserve, as schools often lack reasonable accommodations, such as modifications to the classroom environment and physically accessible buildings. 

Many children with disabilities in Lebanon aren’t in school at all or attend segregated institutions funded by the Social Affairs Ministry that are not mandated to provide an education. We found that the educational resources at many of these institutions are of poor quality, and a lack of monitoring, poor evaluation systems, and a lack of formal accreditation raised serious concerns about whether these institutions fulfill children’s right to an education.

The United Nations expert body on disability rights underscored that “inclusive education is incompatible with institutionalization.” But Instead of boosting funding to make public schools more inclusive, the proposed budget would slash these funds, while increasing funds to the institutions that segregate children with disabilities from their communities and don’t provide the education they need.

We analyzed the draft 2019 state budget that the Cabinet  endorsed  and that was leaked to the media  before the Finance and Budget subcommittee amended it. We found that the Education Ministry’s budget lines for equipping primary and secondary schools with technical and other equipment for people with disabilities would be cut by $138,000 – 30 percent less than for 2018. The budget for constructing primary school buildings accessible for children with disabilities would be cut by 25 percent. It is unclear whether the Finance and Budget Committee, which made some amendments to the budget, revised those numbers.

Sylvana Lakkis, president of the Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities, an advocacy and support group, told us that accessibility is one of the main obstacles to an inclusive education. She maintained that although Law 220 obligated the state to make its public buildings physically accessible, the government has not yet allocated a budget line dedicated for this purpose, and that very few of the schools  are accessible for people with physical disabilities.  

A 2009 survey by the Union found that only 5 of 997 public schools observed in Beirut and Mount Lebanon met all of Lebanon’s physical accessibility standards for public buildings. According to a 2013 UNESCO report, the Education Ministry had made only five public schools in the entire country accessible. Our research in  2018 found that the situation has not improved.

Lakkis said that the government had not made adequate accommodations for students with disabilities to take the state exams in June. She is aware of at least three cases in which students had registered their disability with the relevant body beforehand, as required, but found on the day of the exam that no accommodations had been made for them.

Meanwhile, the proposed 2019 budget increases the funding allocated for programs run by the Social Affairs Ministry by around 39 percent. According to the ministry’s website, some of these programs channel students with disabilities into segregated institutions. Such segregation often entrenches discrimination against these students. However, the Social Affairs Ministry has historically reneged on funding commitments to these institutions, causing some to close or significantly decrease their programming.

While it is important for the Social Affairs ministry to provide the necessary support services to meet the developmental needs of children with disabilities, it is the Education Ministry’s primary responsibility to ensure the right of children with disabilities to inclusive education. The Social Affairs Ministry’s services need to be coupled with a deinstitutionalization policy that includes educating children with disabilities in mainstream schools.

Children with disabilities should be guaranteed meaningful choices and opportunities to be enrolled in mainstream schools if they choose, and to receive quality education on an equal basis with, and alongside, children without disabilities. Greater interaction between children with and without disabilities can decrease the marginalization that children with disabilities face in Lebanese society today and begin to dismantle the cultural stigma around disability, creating a more enriching educational experience for all students.

Parliament should carefully review the provisions in the budget related to the inclusion of people with disabilities, and they should prioritize putting Law 220 fully into operation. They should ensure that that sufficient resources are directed toward making public buildings, like schools, more accessible for persons with disabilities.  And they should ensure that the schools have adequate services for children with disabilities when they get there.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Sixteen beds fill a room with barred windows in a closed institution for children with disabilities.

© 2018 Human Rights Watch

(Berlin) – Children with disabilities in state institutions in Kazakhstan are at risk of physical violence, forced sedation, and neglect, Human Rights Watch said today.

Kazakhstan should make it a priority to move children with disabilities out of closed residential institutions and provide support for children with disabilities to live with their families, or in other family settings in the community. All forms of violence in closed institutions and the use of restraints as a form of punishment, control, or retaliation, or as a measure of convenience for staff, should be prohibited.

“Hundreds of children and young adults with disabilities in Kazakhstan are locked away in closed children’s institutions, where they can face neglect and violence, and are isolated from families and society,” said Mihra Rittmann, senior Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Kazakhstan should call a halt to these abusive practices and urgently develop a way for children with disabilities and their families to get the services they need to protect their right to a family life.”

Between October 2017 and April 2019, Human Rights Watch interviewed 27 children and young adults with disabilities who had lived in closed children’s institutions, as well as parents of children with disabilities, institution staff, and disability rights experts and activists. Human Rights Watch also visited three institutions for children with disabilities.

Children and young adults who grew up in closed institutions for children with disabilities reported that staff beat them, forcibly administered sedatives to punish or control them, and forced them to take care of younger children.

According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, Kazakhstan has 19 state institutions for children with mental health conditions and developmental disabilities. More than 2,000 children live in these institutions, though many have at least one living parent.

Staff confirmed that they use psychotropic drugs to sedate children and have sent children to psychiatric hospitals for behavior such as screaming, shouting, or refusing to follow staff directions. Such drugs are usually medically prescribed to treat schizophrenia, sleep disorders, and strong pain. The sedatives put children to sleep, in some cases for up to 24 hours.

Several young adults who grew up in institutions said that staff beat them with objects such as crutches and mops, or slammed them or other children against the wall. Staff would also force children to work, for example to mop floors, or to feed, bathe, and change the diapers of younger children. In one institution, Human Rights Watch saw a young girl in physical restraints, with her arms fixed around her torso, enclosed in a pink cloth with sleeves tied behind her back, like a strait jacket.

Upon turning 18, many young adults with disabilities are automatically transferred to adult institutions and remain there. In part, this is due due to a lack of services to support young adults with disabilities to live independently.

They may face more violence in the adult institutions. One man described being repeatedly stripped naked and placed in a very cold cage-like isolation room as punishment.

Children with disabilities living in state children’s institutions receive little or no education. “We don’t have a school [education] program, but a correctional program,” one institution director said. “Children here are weak and difficult.”

In all the children’s institutions Human Rights Watch visited, children face neglect. Up to 16 children are kept in rooms together, with only a few caregivers. Some children, typically those who cannot walk or talk, are confined almost continuously to cribs or beds.

After her September 2017 visit to Kazakhstan, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas, noted that, “Living independently in the community is one of the major challenges for persons with disabilities in Kazakhstan,” and that she had received “worrisome allegations of violence, abuse and degrading treatment against persons placed in those institutions, especially girls and women with disabilities.”

An 18-year-old man who grew up in institutions said, “It’s not a life. They fed us, dressed us. I want to build my own life. I want a life! I want to live on my own, make [my own] food, go to work.”

In correspondence with Human Rights Watch, the Labor and Social Protection Ministry acknowledged that “large dormitory-like institutions lead to overcrowding… reduce the quality of services and the social adaptation of people in society, [and] lead to the loss of family ties.” The Labor and Social Protection Ministry also said that 727 children with disabilities had been returned to their families in 2018, facilitated by the development of day care centers. The ministry said that it plans to develop smaller homes, for 10 to 50 people.

However, while such homes may be smaller in scale, they would only perpetuate institutionalization in so far as residents would not have autonomy over their daily lives. Instead, the Kazakh government should invest in the development of community-based services to support independent living for people with disabilities. If small-group living arrangements are developed, they should be community-based, voluntary, ensure autonomy and individual decision-making, with support as necessary, and include programs to teach skills for living independently.

Kazakh law states that “every child has the right to live and be raised in their family, the right to know their parents, the right to their care, and the right to live with them, except when it is contrary to their interests.” As a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Kazakhstan should ensure that all children with disabilities can grow up in a family and be included in the community, regardless of their disability or multiple disabilities. The government is also obligated to protect children from abuse and ill-treatment and should prohibit using sedatives and physical restraints to control or punish people with disabilities.

Children should only be placed in residential institutions under the supervision of an independent judicial body, in cases of emergency, or to prevent the separation of siblings, and for a limited duration. Family reunification or placement in family-based alternative care should be the ultimate plan for the child, Human Rights Watch said.

The Kazakh government should adopt a time-bound plan to phase out the use of residential institutions for children with disabilities and prioritize accessible community-based services and support to families. The government should end abuses in closed children’s institutions and ensure rigorous monitoring of institutions pending their closure.

“All children, including those with disabilities, should be at home, with their families,” Rittmann said. “The Kazakh government should make sure that children with disabilities and their families have the support they need to live in the community, just like everyone else.”

For more information about conditions in closed institutions for children with disabilities in Kazakhstan, please see below.

Kazakhstan’s Labor and Social Protection Ministry helped facilitate access to three closed children’s institutions, in Almaty, Karaganda, and Shymkent, which Human Rights Watch visited in November and December 2018. The ministry also responded in July to a letter about conditions in such institutions. Interviews were voluntary and held in private. Human Rights Watch used pseudonyms for all the children and young adults interviewed to protect their privacy and confidentiality.

Children confined to a "lying down" room in a closed children's institution. 

© 2018 Human Rights Watch

Institutionalization of Children with Disabilities

Children with disabilities in state care in Kazakhstan live in institutions known as Special Social Services Centers for Children. There are currently 19 special children’s centers, with a total of over 2,000 children. Most children in these centers have intellectual, psychosocial – that is, mental health – or developmental disabilities. They include children with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. Children in Kazakhstan with other types of disabilities, such as physical or sensory disabilities, may live in residential special schools, or at home with their families, or in two specialized residential institutions for children with physical disabilities.

The practice of institutionalization in Kazakhstan carries over from its Soviet past, where, according to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, institutions were “considered as the best public care solution” and the prevailing view was that “all those who, for different reasons, could not fit within the rules of society should be isolated.”

At the time of Human Rights Watch’s visits to special children’s centers in 2018, there were 131 children in the Almaty special children’s center; 176 children at the Shymkent special children’s center; and 175 children in Karaganda special children’s center, ages 3 to 18. The Karaganda center also has 68 young adults ages 18 and older.

While many institutionalized children have at least one living parent, parents are required by law to relinquish their parental rights to admit their children in state residential institutions. The institution director becomes the child’s legal guardian.

Treatment and Conditions

Sedatives, Forced Psychiatric Hospitalization for Control and Punishment

Several of the current or former special children’s center residents interviewed said that staff had given them sedatives, or they had seen staff give other children sedatives to control them or punish them for their behavior. Some children said that staff forced them to go to local psychiatric hospitals for behavior such as not following staff directions, which they took to be punishment. Some were forced to remain there for weeks, a month, or more.

Institution staff, as well as one parent whose child currently lives at an institution, corroborated these practices. One staff member said that a child was hospitalized after behavior such as pulling another caregiver’s hair.

Kazakh law gives psychiatrists the authority to order forced hospitalization, including for children, for monitoring or treatment. But it is not clear what, if any, basis in law exists for holding children in psychiatric hospitals for these extended periods.

The use of medications for staff convenience, to control behavior, or as punishment, is known as chemical restraint and is never acceptable. The UN special rapporteur on torture has stated that “any restraint on persons with disabilities for even a short period of time may constitute torture and ill-treatment.” Medications should only be used for therapeutic purposes and consistent with the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Bakhyt, a 24-year-old woman who grew up in a special children’s center, said that institution staff punish children by “giving shots to make [us] sleep.” She also said that institution staff had punished her for running around in the bedroom by giving her an injection, and had sent her to the psychiatric hospital for two months. Bakhyt said that institution staff had told the attending psychiatrist that she had tried to jump out of the window, though she said she hadn’t. “They shouldn’t lie like that,” she said. “God is watching.”

Asel, 22, who grew up in the same institution, also said that staff punished children by giving them sedatives. “When they give you a shot,” she said, “then you sleep for one whole day.” Several other young people who had lived in other institutions said they too slept for long periods after staff gave them injections or pills.

Galym, now 23, was also institutionalized as a child. He said that in the special children’s center where he lived, “if you run off to go to the shop, they send you to the psychiatric hospital.” He said he was given shots twice a day which made him “slow.” He said both he and some of his caregivers asked the medical workers to stop the medication, but they refused.

Staff at all three children’s institutions said that when children become overexcited or uncontrollable, for example when they do not follow directions, the staff first summon the institution’s psychologist to talk to the child, to try and calm them. But they admitted that when that approach was not effective, they could call the doctor to give children sedatives and in more serious cases, send them to psychiatric hospitals.

One institution director said that if children “are uncontrollable, we call an ambulance, and they take the child to the psychiatric health center [hospital].” A caregiver who works with 15- to 18-year-old boys at the same institution said that staff sometimes threaten to call the psychiatric hospital ambulance to compel the boys to follow instructions. She said that staff summoned the psychiatric hospital ambulance after a boy in her group pulled the hair of one of the caregivers. “He spent a month at [the psychiatric hospital],” she said.

A medical worker at another special children’s center said that in 2017, staff called a psychiatric hospital ambulance when a 17-year-old boy tried repeatedly to run away. The boy was sent to the psychiatric hospital for over 40 days, the medical worker said.

She said that if the psychiatrist decides a child needs medication, for example, because he hits himself, they prescribe a sedative for up to two or three months, then there is a break. “We only give shots at the moment [the child] acts up,” she said.

Use of Sedatives, Isolation Cells to Punish Adults

Children who were transferred to adult institutions upon turning 18 said they faced similar abuse there.

Amir, a 24-year-old who grew up in state care, said his time in the adult institution “was horrible”:

They [the staff] had a habit of beating us if we didn’t want to help or if we didn’t listen to them. They would also give us shots. Shots and shots of aminazine, to make us sleep. They break it open, jab it in you and that’s it. Or, they’d take a tablet, crush it up in their hand and make me drink it.

Svetlana, also 24, lived in the same adult institution. She said that institution staff “would give shots to anyone who wouldn’t listen. The shots would make people sleep a lot… People would sleep for a long time, feel very weak. You want to drink a lot, [but] your appetite falls away.”

Both also said they were put in isolation as punishment. Amir said that one night orderlies beat him and insulted him, then they put him in an isolation room overnight:

“It was so cold. They opened the window. It was so cold. They would give me the shot and then close me in the cage. It was so cold. They took all of our clothes off. We were totally without anything… No bed, nothing, just a bare floor. I just had to lie on the floor. There was nothing. It was so cold.”

Anara, 30, said that in state institutions where she lived as an adult, “[If] you behave poorly, they give you shots or pills, or put you behind bars. When they punish you, they lock you up. They can keep you there until the morning. There is a metal bed, mattress. [When you’re locked up] they don’t give you food.”

Physical Restraints

Like chemical restraints, the use of physical restraints such as tying or strait jackets to control children’s behavior is unacceptable, and may amount to torture and ill-treatment, even if used only for a short time.

A young girl whose arms were tied and affixed behind her back in a closed children's institution.

© 2018 Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch observed that staff in one institution had bound the arms of a girl who was about 10 years old, wrapping them around her torso and fixing them down using a piece of clothing tied behind her back, similar to a strait jacket. A staff member attending to the girl said that the management of the institution does not allow her to keep the girl tied up for more than half an hour at a time.

Another staff member in the same institution said that they sometimes use physical restraints on children if they “really act up.” In those cases, she said, they restrain the child for 20 or 30 minutes, “but we don’t tie young ones, only children 10 and above.”

In March 2018, a 7-year-old boy who lived in a children’s institution in Talgar, a town in southern Kazakhstan, died of asphyxiation after his caregiver reportedly tied him to his bed because he would not sleep and was disturbing other children in the same room. The caregiver was convicted of murder and sentenced to 13 years in prison, but no other institution staff appear to have been held accountable for the child’s death.

Physical Violence

Young adults interviewed said that some staff had beaten them in the children’s institutions where they grew up.

Boris, 23, said that some staff members made him mop floors at night and also beat him and his friend:

There was one caregiver who made us clean the floors and the toilet. She would swear at us. She heard us complaining [about something] and she beat us with a crutch. I had a welt [after that].

Boris described other violence he experienced in the children’s institution:

They beat my head against a wall. I got a concussion. Three caregivers would beat me, they drank [alcohol] and beat everyone. They didn’t feed us and swore at us. If someone [defecated] in his pants, they would beat him with a stick.

When asked if he reported the abuse to anyone, Boris said, “I didn’t complain because that would just make it worse.” He also did not know to whom he could complain. “You can’t just go see the director,” he said.

Anara, now 30, described the violence she experienced in the children’s institution where she grew up: “[Staff] beat us up in there. They beat us with a mop. You’re not supposed to beat children with a mop!” She understood that staff beat her as punishment, if “for instance, [we] didn’t listen to them.” Anara said that, “It felt like they didn’t consider [us] people, but dogs or animals.”

Lack of Personalized Attention, Nurturing

In each of the three special children’s centers, rooms for children were organized by age, type of disability, or both, as well as by gender. Most rooms had between eight and 16 children, and about three staff members attending to them.

Under such circumstances, even the most dedicated staff face challenges providing the individualized attention and care that each child needs. This is especially true with respect to young children or children with high support needs, where children are given little or no opportunity or support for physical, emotional, or intellectual growth.

Studies have shown that a child’s healthy development depends on their ability to form emotional attachments to a caregiver. In his reporting on children deprived of their liberty, the UN special rapporteur on torture has noted that children “require emotional companionship and attention to flourish.” Human Rights Watch found that due to the grouping of large numbers of children, children’s special centers do not provide sufficient individualized care and nurturing.

Older Children Forced to Care for Younger Children

Current and former residents in multiple children’s institutions said that they were forced to assist caregivers, carrying out such tasks as feeding, changing diapers, bathing, and dressing younger children.

When Aiym lived in a closed children’s institution, she “had to help take care of other kids. It was hard. It was sad to see these children. One girl had a tube coming out of her stomach. It was hard.”

Nurbek, now 21, said: “In [the institution] I had to help with the children who don’t speak, who are lying down. I would help feed them, change their diapers. There were also kids in wheelchairs. Sometimes I had to carry them. I got mad because I was tired of doing this.”

Another former resident, Boris, 23, said: “[I was forced to] bathe and brush the teeth of other children. The staff would sit there and give us orders. Other kids also performed work. Even Serezha [not his real name] in a wheelchair was forced to work, to mop the floor.”

Three other young people described similar work. Nurgul, who lives in a special children’s center, said: “I always help out and support them. I dress [the young ones], put on their shoes, and wash them.”

Galym said that he “helped the caregivers to take care of the lying-down children. I mopped the floor, changed diapers.” For his assistance, Galym said that the caregivers sometimes gave him money or home-cooked food.

Denial of Education

Children and young adults who had lived in special children’s centers said that they received little or no education. Senior staff at the institutions Human Rights Watch visited confirmed that the vast majority of children living there did not go to school. They said some children attended “correctional” classes in the institutions. In correspondence with Human Rights Watch about education for children in closed children’s institutions, the Labor and Social Protection Ministry said that “children with psychiatric-neurological pathologies… have difficulty learning in special classes in special educational institutions” and are thus under the care of the social services system.

Lack of Play, Recreation

The children in the institutions visited lacked access to sufficient play and recreation, particularly children confined to their beds. All children in institutions follow a strict daily schedule, with defined meal and nap times, and spend the majority of their day indoors. Irina, 23, said that in the children’s institution where she had lived, “everywhere there were only bars. We were always within four walls. We never went anywhere on our own.”

Bakhyt, a 24-year-old who grew up in an institution, said, “They don’t let us walk around. I like to do things myself, but it’s not so easy. [If they’d let me] I would go to the movies. It’s interesting.”

Institution directors said that some of the center’s children leave the institutions for day outings, or particular events such as to attend a concert. It was not clear how frequently children participate in these activities, as the institutions have buses that can accommodate only 20 or 30 children, whereas more than 100 children lived in each of the institutions at the time.

Children Transferred to Adult Institutions Without Consent

By law, special children’s centers are intended for children ages 3 to 18. Staff at the Karaganda center said that 68 adults continued to live there because there was no room for them in the nearby adult institution. Young adults up to age 24 were living in the same rooms as young children.

Many of the young adults said that institution staff had arranged for their transfer to adult state residential institutions without their consent when or after they turned 18. Aigul Shakibaeva, a human rights activist and disabilities rights expert who has carried out research on the treatment of children and young adults with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, said that the vast majority of children transferred to adult institutions are deprived of their legal capacity, or the right to make decisions for themselves, without their knowledge.

A childhood spent in an institution can have serious negative consequences for the person institutionalized. Thinking back to her time in a children’s institution, Dilnaz, now in her 30s, said, “I wish they wouldn’t give shots or pills [in the institution]. I wish everything was good and fair. Sometimes it’s hard for me [still]. I sit at home and cry.”

Recommendations

The Kazakh government should:

  • Establish a time-bound plan to end the use of closed residential institutions for children with disabilities. Children should only be placed in any residential institution under the supervision of an independent judicial body, in emergency cases or to prevent the separation of siblings, and for a limited duration. Planned family reunification or placement in family-based alternative care should be the ultimate outcome for the child;
  • Systematically monitor institutions, prevent and remedy human rights abuses, including violence, the use of sedatives and physical restraints for punishment, control, or for staff convenience; and other abuses;
  • Develop quality, accessible community-based services for people with disabilities and families of children with disabilities;
  • Examine ways to reallocate government funds and programming from institutions to increase support for people with disabilities to live independently in their communities and for families to raise children with disabilities at home;
  • Pending phasing out these institutions, ensure that children with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities living in state institutions have regular access to their families, ideally through home visits and access to inclusive education, adequate health care, rehabilitation, and play.
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Human Rights Watch staff holds posters reading "Disability Rights are Human Rights" as they march in the Disability Pride Parade in New York City. 

© 2019 Emina Cerimovic/Human Rights Watch

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch marched in the 5th annual Disability Pride Parade in New York City, alongside thousands of people with disabilities, disabled persons organizations, companies, local politicians, and others. The participants marched for inclusion, awareness, visibility, and a dignified perception of disability, and to encourage New Yorkers to view people with disabilities through a lens of pride rather than charity.

Beyond New York City, disability pride parades also occurred in in Brighton, Rome, and Calgary, demonstrating that the disability rights movement is growing.

Over 120 organizations marched in New York City representing people with physical and sensory disabilities, psychosocial disabilities, developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, autism, and more. It was a rare opportunity for New York City’s disability community to come together, as public and private spaces in the city remain largely inaccessible to many people with different types of disabilities.

New York subways are tricky terrain with few elevators. Street and subway signs are not accessible for people with visual disabilities, and too few crosswalks have audible signals. Disability Pride Parade organizers provided reasonable accommodations such as sign language interpretation, text description of maps, live transcription (CART) services, a wheelchair accessible parade route, wheelchair accessible restrooms, and more, making the parade accessible and inclusive for all participants.

People with disabilities are active members of society who regard their disability as part of their identity. Sunday’s Pride Parade brought people together to celebrate that the city was accessible and inclusive for one day. Now, New York City should improve accessibility and make this something to celebrate every day.

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Volunteers tend to a man in a wheelchair and his partner, after they were rescued during flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017.

© 2019 AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

The United Nations Human Rights Council made history on Friday when it adopted a resolution on climate change and the rights of people with disabilities. The resolution calls on governments to adopt a disability-inclusive approach when taking action to address climate change.

The impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people with disabilities. They are frequently in situations of social, economic, and political disadvantage and may not have access to adequate resources, information, and services necessary to adapt to the effects of climate change. For example, people with disabilities may feel the health impacts of climate change more severely, as some are more susceptible to invasive disease due to pre-existing health conditions. Additionally, many are at particular risk of neglect, abandonment, and even death during instances of migration or natural disasters, which are increasing in frequency and ferocity, due to physical, communication, and other barriers, as well as disrupted support networks.

This is the first time the Council has addressed the rights of people with disabilities as they relate to climate change. While women, indigenous peoples, and youth have successfully become part of discussions around climate action, persons with disabilities have largely been absent.

This resolution could be an important first step to remedy that gap, presenting an opportunity for persons with disabilities to engage in the conversation about climate resilience and for governments to ensure that happens. The resolution includes a mandate for the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to conduct a comprehensive study–engaging governments, United Nations bodies, intergovernmental organizations, and disability rights groups–focused on ways to better protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of climate change.

As is central to the disability rights movement, governments, UN agencies, and environmental groups should echo the principle “nothing about us, without us” in acting on this resolution. Governments need to reach out and listen to people with disabilities, who are among those who feel, or will feel, more acutely the adverse effects of environmental change, and will be important leaders in fighting it.

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Re: 852 Civil and Human Rights, Faith Based, Justice Reform, Housing advocates from National, State and Local Organizations Support Disability Integration Act of 2019 (H.R. 555/S. 117) and its movement in the 116th

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy,

In honor of the 29th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) which we celebrate later this month, 852 civil and human Rights, faith based, justice reform and housing advocates from national, state and local organizations write to say that we support The Disability Integration Act of 2019 (DIA) (H.R. 555/S. 117). This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will ensure that people with disabilities live in the community, which is the premise of the ADA – community integration.

People with disabilities have a civil right through the ADA to live in the community. This year was also the 20th Anniversary of the Supreme Court Case titled Olmstead v Lois Curtis. This is the case that recognized the fundamental equality of those with disabilities. It stated that people with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting possible for their needs. This means that they cannot be forced to live in institutions. Unfortunately two decades after this historic civil rights decision millions of Americans with disabilities and seniors remain and are forced to live in institutions. Research proves that most multi-marginalized communities especially Black and Brown people and the LGBTQIA community are forced into institutions at a higher rate (New York Times 2014).

That is why I am proud to support the Disabilities Integration Act DIA.

This important civil rights bill picks up where Olmstead left off. It enshrines in Federal statute the right to live in the community, which Olmstead recognized. It gives people with disabilities and seniors the right to demand that states and insurers remove the obstacles, which stand in the way of their integration. It takes what disability advocates have learned in working for integration in the past eighteen years and gives disability advocates another and a more powerful tool to effect that integration.” This quote is from Steve Gold one of the Olmstead litigators. (written in 2017)

The 852 civil and human rights, faith based, justice reform and housing advocates from national, state and local organizations join Steve Gold and more than 50 civil rights attorneys (see letter here: http://cdrnys.org/dia-attorney-letter/) in support of DIA and the movement of the bill in the 116th congress. DIA has 230 Cosponsors both Democrats (214) and Republicans (16) in the House of Representatives yet is remains stalled in the House Energy and Commerce Committee with no movement expected. The many organizations supporting this bill understand that the communities they advocate for every day include people with disabilities or have family or friends with disabilities and DIA will ensure that they are part of our community in this country as the ADA and Olmstead case intended.

We call on Congress specifically the House of Representatives, to pass this imperative civil rights legislation today!

To find out more on the bill go to: http://www.disabilityintegrationact.org/

Please contact Dara Baldwin, Director of National Policy for Center for Disability Rights, Inc. at dara.baldwin@ncdr.us or 202 -919-5725 with any questions.

New York Times Article: Minorities Are Forced Into Nursing Homes at Greater Rates – by Karen D. Lincoln – September 25, 2014

 https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/09/25/finding-humane-care-at-the-end-of-life/minorities-are-forced-into-nursing-homes-at-greater-rates

Sincerely,

(also see this list at: http://www.disabilityintegrationact.org/dia-supporter-list/ )

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• Family Values@Work.
• Fidos For Freedom
• Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research
• Galt Foundation
• Getting Back Up
• Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network
• Griffin-Hammis Associates, Inc.
• Health and Disability Advocates
• Health Over Profit for Everyone
• Healthcare Rights Coalition
• Hispanic Federation
• HOPE TBI
• Human Rights Campaign
• Human Rights Watch
• Indivisible
• Institute for Disability Studies and Policy
• Just Detention International
• Justice in Aging
• JustLeadershipUSA
• Keep the Promise Coalition
• Lakeshore Foundation
• Law Project for Psychiatric Rights
• Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
• Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
• Lifelong Adoptions
• Little Lobbyists
• Little People of America
• Lutheran Services in America Disability Network
• Medicare Rights Center (MRC)
• MindFreedom International
• MODELCI Disability Inclusion
• MomsRising
• MoveOn
• MoveOn.org
• MS SOCIETY
• Ms.
• Muslim Advocates
• NAACP
• National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)
• National Action Network
• National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
• National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
• National Association of State Head Injury Administrators
• National Association of the Deaf
• National Black Justice Coalition
• National Center For Lesbian Rights
• National Center for Transgender Equality
• National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities
• National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery
• National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP)
• National Council of Churches
• National Council of Jewish Women
• National Council on Aging (NCOA)
• National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
• National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA)
• National Disability Mentoring Coalition
• National Disability Rights Network
• National Domestic Workers Alliance
• National Down Syndrome Congress
• National Equality Action Team (NEAT)
• National Fair Housing Alliance
• National Federation of the Blind
• National Health Law Program
• National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, University of Delaware
• National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
• National Low Income Housing Coalition
• National Multiple Sclerosis Society
• National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND)
• National Reentry Network
• National Respite Coalition
• National Women's Law Center
• National Working Positive Coalition
• National,Association of State Head Injury Administrators
• NMD United, Inc.
• Northern Nevada Working Families Party
• NOS Magazine
• Not Dead Yet (NDY)
• NuLeadership
• One Vision
• One vision
• Orange Theory Fitness
• Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
• OutServe-SLDN
• Paralyzed Veterans of America
• Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI)
• Parent to Parent USA
• Perkins School for the Blind
• PFLAG National
• PolicyLink
• Positive Women's Network-USA
• Post-Polio Health International
• Progressive Democrats Of America
• Project LETS
• Queerability
• RCIL
• Road to Freedom Bus Tour
• Rooted in Rights
• SAGE
• Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE)
• Self-Advocacy leadership Team (SALT)
• Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
• Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)
• Shared Support Maryland, Inc.
• Social Security Works
• Solve ME/CFS Initiative
• Starkloff Disability Institute
• Street Pictures
• TASH
• The ADA Legacy Project
• The Advocacy Institute
• The Arc of the United States
• The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
• The Community Consortium
• The Congress of Disabled Persons Against Exploitation
• The Daniel Initiative
• The Is-Able Center
• The Jewish Federations of North America
• The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
• The Perfect Self
• The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
• The Sunrise Group
• The Taifa Group, LLC
• The USA Sports Council
• Together We Will USA
• Transformative Justice Coalition
• Transverse Myelitis Association
• UltraViolet
• Union for Reform Judaism
• United Cerebral Palsy
• United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA)
• United Spinal Association
• V-Day/One Billion Rising
• Voices of Health Care
• Women's March
• Women's March on Washington - Disability Caucus
• World Institute on Disability
• Wyoming Institute for Disabilities

State/Local

Alabama
• Disability Rights & Resources
• Housing Opportunities Made Equal of VA
• The Is-Able Center
Alaska
• Access Alaska
• SILC of Alaska
Arizona
• Ability360
• DIRECT Center for Independence
• New Horizons Disability Empowerment Center
• People Demandig Action Arizona
• Services Maximizing IL & Empowerment
Arkansas
• Arkansas Association of the Deaf
• Disability Resource & Advocacy Center
• Disability Rights Arkansas
• Palco, Inc
• Spa Area Independent Living Services
California
• (CCCIL) Central Coast Center for Independent Living
• ADAPT Los Angeles
• California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC)
• California Independent Living
• California State Independent Living Council
• Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities
• Center for Independent Living
• Communities Actively Living Independent and Free - CALIF
• Community Resources for Independent Living
• Dayle McIntosh Center
• Designing Accessible Communities
• Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living
• Disabled Resources Center, Inc. (DRC)
• Equality California
• FREED Center for Independent Living
• Fiesta Educativa
• Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC)
• Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco
• Independent Living Resources of Solano & Contra Costa Counties
• Latina Mami
• Lions Center for the Blind
• Marin Center for Independent Living
• NorCal Services for Deaf & HH
• Personal Assistance Services Council
• Placer Independent Resource Services
• REACH
• Resources for Independence Central Valley
• Rev. Ellyn Kearney
• RiseUp4HealthCare
• Rolling Start, Inc.
• SABE California
• Service Center for Independent Life
• Silicon Valley Independent Living Center
• Southern CA Resource Services for Independent Living
• Tri County Independent Living
• Unbound Books Autism Acceptance Library
• United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida
• Westside Center for Independent Living
• labor Community Strategy Center
• remmer4congress.com
Colorado
• Atlantis Community Incorporated
• Center for People With Disabilities
• Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
• Colorado Mental Wellness Network
• Connections for Independent Living
• LIM359
• Parent to Parent
• Southwest Center for Independence
• The Arc - Jefferson, Clear Creek & Gilpin Counties
• The Independence Center - Colorado Springs
Connecticut
• CT Cross-Disability Lifespan Alliance
• CT State Independent Living Council (CT-SILC)
• Center for Disability Rights
• Connecticut Fair Housing Center
• Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Inc.
• Disability Rights Connecticut
• Independence Northwest, Inc.
• Independence Unlimited, Inc.
• Keep the Promise Coalition
• Mental Health Connecticut
• NAMI Connecticut
• SARAH Inc.
• Women's March on Washington--Connecticut Chapter
Delaware
• ADAPT Delaware
• Freedom Center for Independent Living
• Independent Resources, Inc.
District of Columbia
• DC Metro ADAPT
• DC Metro Democratic Socialists of America
• Disability InterSectionality
• National Fair Housing Alliance
• St. John's Community Services
• The District of Columbia Center for Independent Living, Inc
• Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective
Florida
• CIL in Central Florida
• Center for Independent Living of South Florida
• Disability Achievement Center
• First Coast Disability Advocates
• Florida Democratic Disability Caucus
• Organize Florida
• Rotary's Camp Florida
• Self-Reliance Inc.
• The Arc of The Glades, Inc.
• The Florida Democratic Disability Caucus
• The ILRC of Northeast Florida
• The Sunrise Group
• adult congenital
Georgia
• Access to a Better Tomorrow, Inc.
• Albany Advocacy Resource Center
• Athens Inclusive Recreation and Sports
• Atlanta Post Polio Association
• Be The Change
• DISABILITY CAUCUS of the.Dem. Party of GA
• Disability Action Center of Georgia, Inc. (disABILITY LINK)
• Disabled Queers In Action
• Frazer Center
• Georgia ADAPT
• Georgia Advocacy Office
• Georgia Association for the Deaf
• Georgia Options, Inc.
• Middle Georgia Center for Independent Living, Inc.
• NWGA Center for Independent Living
• Parent to Parent of Georgia
• People First of Atlanta
• People First of Georgia
• Seminole Spirit
• Shepherd Center
• Sign Systems, LLC
• Speak Foundation
• Statewide Independent Living Council of GA, Inc
• The Arc Georgia
• The Specialty Nurse Company, Inc.
Hawaii
• Aloha Independent Living Hawaii
• Statewide Independent Living Council of Hawaii
Idaho
• All Seasons
• DisAbility Rights Idaho
• Disability Action Center
• Disability Action Center - NW, Inc.
• Idaho Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
• Idaho State Independent Living Council
• Intermountain Fair Housing Council
• Living Independence Network Corporation (LINC)
• Living Independently For Everyone, Inc. (LIFE, Inc.)
• United Action for Idaho
• United Vision for Idaho
Illinois
• 101 Mobility
• Aardvark Insurance
• Ability Chicago
• Abstract Journey
• Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago
• Achieving Independence and Mobility Center for Independent Living
• Aetna Better Health
• All Eyez On Me
• Alliance for Community Services
• Ann & Robert h. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
• Apostolic Faith Church
• Arc of Illinois
• Black Network In Children's Emotional Health (BNICEH)
• Blind Service Association
• CDPH West Nile Virus Lab
• CJE SeniorLife
• Center on Halsted
• Central Synagogue of Chicago
• Chicago ADAPT
• Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership
• Chicago Dept of Public Health
• Chicago Disability Activsm Collective
• Chicago House and Social Service Agency
• Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications
• Chicago Park District
• ChicagoPride.com
• Chiro One
• Church of the Three Crosses
• Citizens Utility Board
• Columbia College
• Disability Policy Office, Chicago Park District
• Disability Pride Parade
• Edgewater Reads
• Elderworks Educational Services
• Equip for Equality
• Exploration
• Family Resource Center on Disability
• Folk That LLC
• Friedman Place
• HOPE Fair Housing Center
• Howard Brown Health
• IMPACT CIL
• Illinoid Iowa Center for Independent Living
• Illinois Deaf Outreach
• Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living
• Illinois Parents of Adults with Developmental Disabilities (IPADD)
• Illinois Single-Payer Coalition
• Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living
• Inclusion PAC
• Independence Plus
• Independent Living Solutions
• Independent Movement of Paratransit Riders for Unity, Vehicles, Equality (IMPRUVE)
• Institute on Disability and Human Development
• JCFS Chicago
• Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living
• Jewish United Fund
• LEEP Forward
• LIFE Center for Independent Living
• LINC, Inc
• Lake County Center for Independent Living
• MFTD Waiver Families
• MOMENTA
• McKee Family Foundation
• National Kidney Foundation of Illinois
• New Star
• Nexus Radio
• Northwest Housing Center
• Open Taxis
• Options Center for Independent Living
• Organizing Neighborhoods for Equality: Northside (ONE Northside)
• PACE, Inc. Center for Independent living
• Physicians for a National Health Program Illinois
• Progress Center for Independent Living
• Pyramid
• RAMP Center for Independent Living
• Roustabout Media
• S.I.B.S. - Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters
• SCIL
• Self Advocate
• Southern Illinois Center for Independent Living
• Soyland Access to Independent Living (SAIL)
• Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois
• Springfield Center for Independent Living
• St Paul's House
• Stone-Hayes Center for Independent Living
• Tellin' Tales Theatre
• The Habitat Company
• The Honeycomb Project
• The Resurrection Project
• Thomas Clark Law
• Thresholds
• Trisomy Families, Inc.
• WEllington Ave. United Church of Christ
• West Central IL Center for Independent Living
• Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living
• Z Life Program
• anixter center
• independence plus inc
Indiana
• AccessABILITY Center for Independent Living
• Attic, Inc.
• Delta State Polythenic
• Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana
• Fort Wayne Clubhouse / The Carriage House
• Indiana Statewide Independent Living Council (INSILC)
• Noble, Inc.
• The League
• The Wabash Independent Living & Learning Center, Inc.
• Turnstone
Iowa
• Brett's Buddies
• Consumer choice option
• Disabilities Resource Center of Siouxland
• Heart of Iowa Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)
• Illinois-Iowa Center for Independent Living
• Iowa Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC)
• Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services
• MP Climb On
Kansas
• Beach Center on Disability
• Coalition For Independence
• Disability Rights Center of Kansas
• Independent Living Resource Center
• Kansas ADAPT
• Kansas City Disability Leadership Coalition
• Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities
• Melinda Alleyne, Ind. Targeted Case Manager
• Prairie Independent Living Resource Center, Inc. (PILR)
• Resource Center for Independent Living, Inc.
• SILCK
• SKIL Resource Center
• Three Rivers Inc.
• Topeka Independent Living Resource Center
Kentucky
• Blofish
• Center for Accessible Living
• Independence Place
• Kentucky Protection and Advocacy
• Resources for Independence
• disABILITY Resource Center of Southeast Kentucky
Louisiana
• @Southwest Louisiana Independence Center, Inc.
• Advocacy Center of Louisiana
• New Horizons Independent Living Center
• People First of Louisiana
• Southwest Louisiana Independent Center
• The Advocacy Center of Louisiana
Maine
• Alpha One
• Alpha One Disability + Aging Solutions
• OHI
• Wild River Consulting Corp
Maryland
• Baltimore County Green Party
• Bay Area Center for Independent Living, Inc.
• Disability Partnerships
• ENDEAVOR Disabled Advocacy, Inc
• Healthcare is a Human right Maryland
• Independence Now
• Indivisible North Baltimore County
• Indivisible Towson
• Maryland ADAPT
• Open Road Inclusive Community Consulting
• The Freedom Center
• The IMAGE Center of Maryland
• Together We Will -- Baltimore Area
Massachusetts
• AdLib, Inc.
• Boston Center for Independent Living
• Center for Living & Working, Inc.
• Disability Policy Consortium
• Independence Associates, Inc.
• Independence Associates, Inc.
• Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, Inc
• MA Pediatric Home Nursing Care Campaign
• MassADAPT
• MetroWest Center for Independent Living
• Multi-Cultural Independent Living Center of Boston
• Northeast Independent Living Program Inc.
• RYAN LEVIA
• Stavros Center for Independent Living
• TASH New England
• The Meeting Point
Michigan
• ADAPT Michigan
• Community Living Services, Inc.
• Disability Network Northern Michigan
• Disability Network Southwest Michigan
• Grand Rapids ADAPT
• Kent Regional Inclusive Community Coalition
• MI Disability Rights Coalition
• Michigan Deaf Association
• Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council
• National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys- Michigan Chapter
• Peer Action Alliance
• United Spinal Association Southern Michigan
Minnesota
• BOLD, choice Theatre Company
• Handicap Hunting Hideaway
• Happy Hands LLP
• Options Interstate Resource Center for Independent Living
• Southeastern MN Center for Independent Living (SEMCIL)
• Southern MN. Independent Living Enterprises & Services (SMILES)
• Trisomy Families, Inc.
• United Cerebral Palsy of Central MN
• Zstudio
Mississippi
• Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities
• L.I.F.E LIVING INDEPENDENCE FOR EVERYONE
• LIFE of MS`
• LIFE of Mississippi
Missouri
• Paraquad, Inc.
• Rural Advocates for Independent Luving
• SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence
• Southwest Central for Independent Living (SCIL)
• THE WHOLE PERSON
Montana
• ADAPT Montana
• Disability Rights Montana
• Living Independently for Today and Tomorrow
• Montana Independent Living Project
• Not Dead Yet Montana
• SILC
• Summit Independent Living Center, Inc.
Nebraska
• Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
• Independence Rising
• Indivisible Omaha
• Panhandle Independent Living Services
Nevada
• Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living
• Silver State Equality
New Hampshire
• Community Crossroads
• Granite State Independent Living
• NH Pediatric Nursing Care Campaign
• One Sky Community Services
New Jersey
• Alliance Center for Independence
• Camden City Independent Living Center
• Camden City Independent Living Center
• Center for Independent Living of South Jersey Inc.
• DAWN Center for Independent Living
• DIAL Center for Independent Living
• Heightened Independence and Progress (HIP)
• MOCEANS Center for Independent Living
• Progressive Center for Independent Living
• Reach Your Potential USA, Inc.
• Resources for Independent Living
• Resources for Independent Living, Inc.
• SPAN Parent Advocacy Network
• Stockton university disability studies minor
New Mexico
• AAA Participant Direction
• Independent Living Resource Center
• New Vistas Center for Independent Living
• Professional Women with Disabilities Network
• San Juan Center for Independence-Gallup
New York
• 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
• A Little Piece Of Light
• AIM Independent Living Center
• ARISE
• Access to Independence of Cortland County, Inc.
• Action Toward Independence
• Advocates For Autism, LLC
• All About You Homecare (AAY)
• BRiDGES
• Black and Pink NYC
• Brain Injury Association of New York State
• Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS)
• Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled
• CNY Solidarity Coalition
• Capital District Center for Independence, Inc
• Capital Region ADAPT
• Catskill Center for Independence
• Center for Disability Rights (CDR)
• Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY (CIDNY)
• Concepts of Independence
• Consumer Directed Choices
• Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York
• Deaf Community Advocacy
• Disability Rights New York
• Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York (DIA)
• Empire State Association of the Deaf
• Finger Lakes Independence Center
• Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, INC
• Healing Reign Christian Church
• Housing Works
• Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley
• Independent Living, Inc.
• Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition
• L.I, Advocacy Network for the Developmentally Disabled
• Larker Anthology
• Long Island ADAPT
• Long Island Activists
• Long Island Center for Independent Living (LICIL)
• Massena Independent Living Center, Inc.
• Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP)
• New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL)
• New York State ADAPT
• New York State Independent Living Council (NYSILC)
• North Country Center for Independence
• North CountryAccess to Health Care Committee
• Northern Regional Center for Independent Living
• Physicians for a National Health Program New York Metro Chapter
• RCIL
• Regional Center for Independent Living (RCIL)
• Reinvention Life Coaching
• Resource Center for Accessible Living (RCAL)
• Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL)
• Rochester ADAPT
• Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SAANYS)
• Southern Adirondack Independent Living Center
• Southern Tier ADAPT
• Southern Tier Independence Center (STIC)
• Suffolk Independent Living Organization (SILO)
• Taconic Resources for Independence, Inc.
• The Alliance of TBI & NHTD Waiver Providers
• The Viscardi Center
• United Spinal Association Hudson Valley Chapter
• United Spinal Association New York City Chapter
• Voice Buffalo
• Welcome Change Productions
• Westchester Disabled On the Move (WDOM)
• Westchester Independent Living Center (WILC)
• harlem independent living center
North Carolina
• Advocates for Medically Fragile Kids NC
• Developmental Disabilities Resources
• Disability Partners
• Disability Rights & Resources
• F I R S T
• Illumination Foundation of NC
• Independent Living Network of NC
• Joy A Shabazz Center for Disability Rights
• NCSILC
• The Adaptables, Inc
• disAbility Resource Center
North Dakota
• Dakota Center for Independent Living, Inc.
• Freedom Resource Center for Independent Living, Inc.
• Options Interstate Resource Center for Independent Living
Ohio
• Central Ohio Fair Housing Association
• Junto Unsilenced
• Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
• Supporters of Disability Rights in the Mid Ohio Valley, Inc
• The Ability Center of Greater Toledo
• The Center for Disability Empowerment
• Toledo Fair Housing Center
• Western Reserve Independent Living Center
Oklahoma
• Ability Resources, Inc.
• Dynamic independence
• Oklahomans for Independent Living
• Progressive Independence
Oregon
• Abilitree
• Allies, LLC
• Disability Rights Center
• Disability Rights Oregon
• Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living (EOCIL)
• Eugene ADAPT
• Handicap Awareness & Support League (HASL)
• Lane Independent Living Alliance (LILA)
• Oregon Spinal Cord Injury Connection
• Oregon State Independent Living Council
• SPOKES Unlimited
• Umpqua Valley disAbilities Network
Pennsylvania
• Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Pittsburgh Chapter
• Center for Independent Living
• Chester transitional housing forveterans
• Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
• Consumer Workforce Council of PA
• Disability Empowerment Center
• Disability Options Network
• Disability Rights Pennsylvania
• Disabled in Action of PA
• EDGE Philly
• Education Rights Network
• Independence EDGE Studio
• Liberty Resources, Inc
• Mazzoni Center
• Out of Order Philadelphia: Queer Disability Justice Project
• Pennsylvania Council on Independent Living
• Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council (PASILC)
• Pennsylvania Together
• Philadelphia Parent Support Groups
• Philly Bi Visibility
• Roads To Freedom; Center for Independent Living
• Roxborough Parent Support Group
• The Good Peoples Group
• Three Rivers Center for Independent Living
• Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living
• Tuesdays With Toomey
• United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania
• Vision for Equality, Inc
• Voices for Independence
• West Philadelphia Parent Support Group
• Western PA ADAPT
Puerto Rico
• Movimiento para el alcance de vida independiente
Rhode Island
• Rhode Island Disability Law Center
South Carolina
• Able South Carolina
• Indivisible Charleston
• Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities
• South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association
• disAbility Resource Center (dba) AccessAbility
South Dakota
• Independent Living Choices (ILC)
• Independent Living Choices - Aberdeen
• Independent Living Choices - Huron
• Independent Living Choices - Mitchell
• Independent Living Choices - Watertown
• Independent Living Choices - Yankton
• South Dakota Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities
Tennessee
• Empower Tennessee
• Indivisible Memphis
• Mid-South ADAPT
• Mid-South Peace & Justice Center
• T.A.R.P., Inc. Center for Independent Living
• The Memphis Center for Independent Living
• disABILITY Resource Center
Texas
• ADAPT of Brazoria County
• ADAPT of Texas
• ARCIL Inc.
• Accessible Housing Austin (AHA!)
• Brazoria County Center for Independent Living
• Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living (BVCIL)
• Coalition of Texans with Disabilities
• Community Now!
• Dignidad, Igualdad y Oportunidad (DIO)
• Disability Activism of ADAPT
• El Paso Desert ADAPT
• Family To Family Network
• Fort Bend Center for Independent Living
• Grupo Dignidad, Igualdad, y Oportunidad (D.I.O)
• Heart of Central Texas Independent Living Center, Inc.
• Houston Center for Independent Living
• North Texas United Spinal Association
• Paso del Norte Children's Development Center
• Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas (PACT)
• Pride Socks
• REACH Resource Centers on Independent Living
• RISE Center for Independent Living
• Safe Place/Alliance
• San Antonio Independent Living Services
• Texas Disability Project
• Texas State Independent Living Council
• The Arc of El Paso
• United Advocacy of El Paso
• United Way of Brazoria County
• Volar Center for Independent Living
Utah
• Center for Persons with Disabilities
• Disability Utah
• Disabled Rights Action Committee (DRAC)
• Humanity Enabled
• Legislative Coalition for People With Disabilities
• Roads to Independence
• Salt Lake County Democratic Progressive Caucus
• Utah Democratic Disability Caucus
• Utah Statewide Independent Living Council
Vermont
• Brain Injury Association of VT
• Cara Sachs Coaching
• Center on Disability and Community Inclusion
• Champlain Community Services
• Community of Vermont Elders
• Disability Rights Vermont
• Green Mountain ADAPT
• Green Mountain Self-Advocates
• Justice For All
• Migrant Justice / Justicia Migrante
• Rights and Democracy
• Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition
• Vermont Center for Independent Living
• Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights
• Vermont Legal Aid
• Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
• Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Inc.
• Vermont Statewide Independent Council
• Vermont Workers' Center
• Voices for Vermont's Children
• Women’s March Vermont
Virginia
• Appalachian Independence Center, Inc.
• Blue Ridge Independent Living Center
• Clinch Independent Living Services
• Corpus: Disabled Student Group
• Disability Resource Center of the Rappahannock Area, Inc
• ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia
• Eastern Shore Center for Independent Living, INC
• Endependence Center Inc.
• Friends of Guest House
• Independence Empowerment Center
• Junction Center for Independent Living, Inc
• Lynchburg Area Center for Independent Living, Inc
• Parent to Parent of Virginia
• Resources for Independent Living Inc
• Valley Associates for Independent Living, Inc
Washington
• Alliance of People With disAbilities
• Bellingham Deaf and Disability Justice Collective
• Center for Independence
• Central Washington Disability Resources
• Disability Rights Washington
• Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Library
• Spokane Center for Independent Living (SCIL)
West Virginia
• Appalachian Center for Independent Living
• Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living
• Student Access Advocates
• West Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council
Wisconsin
• Access to Independence, Inc.
• Advancing Abilities of Wisconsin
• CIL for Western Wisconsin
• Center for Independent Living for Western Wisconsin
• Central Wisconsin ADAPT
• Disability Pride Madison
• Disability Rights Wisconsin
• Forward Fox Valley
• IndependenceFirst
• Independent Living Resources, Inc
• Indivisible Madison
• Indivisible WI06
• Madison ADAPT
• Madison SCI
• Midstate Independent Living Choices
• North Country Independent Living
• Options for Independent Living
• Southeast Wisconsin (SEWI) ADAPT
• Southeastern WI Disability Rights
• Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers
Wyoming
• Wyoming Independent Living

Cc: 
Rep. Frank Pallone – Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee
Rep. Greg Walden – Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee
Rep. Jerry Nadler – Chair of the House Judiciary Committee 
Rep. Doug Collins – Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee
Rep. James Langevin – Co-Chair of the 116th Disability Caucus
Rep. Don Young – Co-Chair of the 116th Disability Caucus 

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Mexico City) — A few weeks ago, a group of disability rights organizations and experts made a request to the Mexican government asking it to guarantee the implementation of disability rights. Doing this requires a state body that can monitor, coordinate efforts and force other government agencies to respect those rights. The response that we received was discouraging but also very revealing: "If I go to the president," said Mexico's Undersecretary of Welfare, "and I tell him that you want an agency, he'll tell me to go right back where I came from."

What we are asking for is not something excessive; it is the country's legal obligation. In 2007, Mexico ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a UN international instrument that requires governments to set up a national agency to ensure that all state offices respect disability rights. The UN is calling for the creation of this agency because, as we can confirm, if governments do not pay particular attention to implementation and compliance with the treaty, people with disabilities will be left behind. That is exactly what has happened in Mexico.

The response from the public official in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's administration helps us understand why: the 7.65 million people with disabilities in the country are not and have never been a state priority. Besides the fact that there are no public policies to ensure that people with disabilities can live independently and be included in society, there are two further realities that this government cannot ignore: over 54 per cent of people with disabilities in Mexico live in poverty and two out of every ten people with disabilities cannot read or write.

The new government has the opportunity to change that situation.

To do so, President López Obrador needs to give his full political backing towards creating an agency that guarantees disability rights or strengthening the body that already exists in Mexico, the National Council for the Development and Inclusion of Persons with Disability (CONADIS).  Up until now CONADIS has not been effective in implementing national policies and programs to ensure the rights of people with disabilities, but it could be empowered to do so.

In 2014, the UN Committee that oversees the treaty urged Mexico to monitor compliance with accessibility laws and to establish a system for lodging complaints and imposing penalties for non-compliance. Five years later nothing has happened: Mexico is still a virtually inaccessible country, without uniform criteria in terms of accessible ramps to public and private buildings or full access to public transport.  Most of the UN's 2014 recommendations to the Mexican government have still not been implemented.

And the current outlook is even gloomier: President López Obrador has calledfor dismantling Conadis and transferring its responsibilities to the Welfare Ministry. Although welfare and social programs are important for many people with disabilities, full implementation of protection for disability rights requires policies and measures that go beyond that individual government agency: responsibility is shared between various bodies because disability rights fall under several areas such as health, education, social welfare and justice. This is why we so urgently need an agency to coordinate those efforts and to take action against or sanction any ministries that are not meeting their obligations.

To achieve genuine and effective implementation of human rights, this task must be coordinated from within a government body. Passing laws, ratifying treaties or reforming the constitution is not enough.

In that sense, Mexico could follow the example of Denmark, which created a coordination body. Its role is to ensure that the various state agencies responsible for implementing disability rights meet their obligations. This has helped to create a system of transparency and accountability to better protect the rights of people with disabilities.

So the time has come to create that agency in Mexico and to give it the necessary independence and political backing so that all government bodies know that they are required to follow the guidelines and instructions of the national system for disability rights or face serious consequences.

Unfortunately, Conadis has lacked support from Mexican presidents, including President López Obrador, and, as an institution, suffers from significant shortcomings. Currently there is no obligation for Conadis to report on its results and that makes it hard to hold it accountable. Instead of breaking up Conadis, President López Obrador needs to take measures to remedy its flaws and strengthen it.

The time is now. President López Obrador's government needs only the political desire to consult the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which insists that national implementing mechanisms like Conadis need to fulfill an essential function, namely to serve as a focal point for organizing policies and programs between the various state agencies.

The report recommends two decisive steps: firstly, the government needs to appoint liaison officers in all ministries and state agencies whose duties cover matters related to basic disability rights: work, education, justice, health and others. Secondly, the government needs to create an overall system of coordination in which all state agencies that deal with disability matters play a constant and active role. This would enable state ministries to draw up a structured and synchronized plan for implementing the rights set out in the treaty

The new administration has the opportunity to bring about real change in the lives of people with disabilities. The delay in doing so over the last decade is unacceptable but not doing so now will be wholly unjustifiable.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

I recently read an article about the abduction of an 11-year-old girl in Nampula Province, Mozambique. She was later found dead with her limbs cut off. Why? Because she had albinism, a genetic condition in which the body produces lower levels of melanin, the pigment in your skin. People with albinism in Mozambique can face extreme violence, including killings, abductions, and mutilations because some believe their body parts hold magical powers and bring good fortune.

I just came back from Tete, Mozambique, where Human Rights Watch documented the violence, isolation, and discrimination people with albinism in Mozambique experience their entire lives: “From Cradle to Grave.” They face difficulties going to school, getting a job, being part of their communities. They endure name-calling, verbal abuse, and the threat of kidnapping and violence. Many wish they were invisible.

"From Cradle to Grave"

"From Cradle to Grave"

Human Rights Watch found children living with albinism in the central Mozambican province of Tete to be widely discriminated against, stigmatized, and often rejected at school, in the community, and, at times, by their own families. Many face challenges and threats their entire lives.

We met people like Cesaria, a teacher with albinism who told me her students are afraid to touch her, but who demonstrated incredible resilience and courage. 

We spent time with Josina and her niece Luisa (who doesn't have albinism), 8-year-olds who embody the spirit of friendship, love, and inclusion.

We spoke with Revita, a teacher who has ensured Josina gets an education along with her peers. Revita’s gift to Josina and all the children in her classroom goes beyond the lessons in a textbook; she is teaching them about compassion, equality, and human rights. 

We shared these examples of courage and inclusion with Mozambique’s Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare. We brought them to the United Nations in New York, with the UN expert on the rights of persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, a woman with albinism herself.

We also took our report to the albinism community in Tete, Mozambique, printed in large font since many people with albinism have low vision.

Video

Cradle to Grave: Discrimination Against Persons with Albinism in Mozambique

Children with albinism face insecurity and significant obstacles to accessing quality education in the Tete province of Mozambique.

We played our documentary in the only movie theater in the city, and I saw tears running down their faces. A singer with albinism sang to the crowd, “If we’re Mozambicans, we’re human beings too.” They no longer wished to be invisible.  

The Mozambique government should invest in sensitization programs and teacher training so that there are more educators like Revita and more communities that accept children like Josina as they are. The government should also implement a series of measures focused on protection, prevention, accountability, and non-discrimination contained in the 2017 Regional Action Plan on Albinism

While it’s essential the government does its part, we all share the responsibility to ensure every human being – with or without albinism – is treated with dignity and included in our communities. Children with albinism like Josina deserve no less.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am