Is the UN vote a mystery….or a sign of the end of times?

Maybe the Mayans have it correct after all – the end of the world is fast approaching. I don’t think it is some hieroglyphic date on a wheel but truly a world run amok where craziness abounds. A clear example of this apocalyptic sign is that the US Senate rejected the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities! I believe I am sufficiently calmed down now after last week’s monumentally embarrassing decision by the US Senate to reject signing-on to this Convention which promotes the rights of individuals with disabilities worldwide. I guess we in the United States aren’t concerned about the tenets of the Convention to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”. I don’t want to get into the politics of certain parties nor do I want to examine the illogical conclusion of those who think signing on to this Convention will affect each home in the United States or diminish us as a sovereign nation.

I would like to talk about how we, as world citizens, support the tenets or Guiding Principles of this Convention.

Here are the eight guiding principles that underlie the Convention and each one of its specific articles:

1. Respect for the inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons

2. Non-discrimination

3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society

4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity

5. Equality of opportunity

6. Accessibility

7. Equality between men and women

8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities

In this Blog I have mentioned that I don’t have a frame of reference personally other than by association to experience the pain of discrimination. I can’t imagine being on the receiving end of being disrespected and not given the option of making choices that effect my life. But unfortunately you don’t need to travel far to see persons with disabilities disrespected and being told what to do and when to do it. It breaks my heart to see an adult with disabilities arrive at our office and a care giver who accompanies the person talk down to, or make a decision for, the person with a disability. I think Bob Dole was disrespected as a person with a disability by the actions of the Senate. I wonder what he was thinking during the vote.

Unfortunately, even in our own great society supposedly the “gold standard” for recognition of the rights of person with disabilities, people with disabilities aren’t afforded full participation and inclusion in our society. Washington State has a great track record of supporting persons with disabilities. After all we were the first state to pass legislation offering free and appropriate education for individuals with disabilities in our public schools with the passage of HB 90 decades ago. We have done a great job of supporting individuals in our schools but have not done a great job of transitioning students with disabilities into adulthood by supporting them through living and vocational services. Apparently the notion that someone might need some support to live and work independently isn’t in our lexicon of inclusion. If we are the “gold standard” then the value isn’t worth much.

Equality and accessibility sound good, very noble ideologies to attain. We may think that the in the United States this is our expectation and the reality that persons with disabilities experience. Sadly this generally isn’t the case. Oh sure strides have been made in the elimination of some architectural barriers but overall we have a long way to go. I still experience “unusual” workarounds when I accompany someone in a wheelchair going out to eat. But attitudinal and artificial barriers exist and those are the hardest to make accessible to ensure everyone is treated equally. Unfortunately I have too many examples to fit in this blog. Often, when I attend a lunch with someone in a wheelchair, the wait staff looks to me for guidance. When I look at the person with a disability to acknowledge them and demonstrate they are present and can make decisions the wait staff looks at me after the person with a disability has spoken as if I am the “adult” and the person with a disability is a child.

I know people have ideologies. Unfortunately they often can only see things their way, as if their way of thinking is the only right way. When I talk to persons with disabilities who heard the Senate testimony they felt devalued plain and simple. People couldn’t even get the correct vocabulary – so it leads one to believe they don’t care.

Ultimately our country can hope for a future it wants to achieve. If those in power don’t want individuals to be successful, included, equal and feel valued then we can create that by doing nothing and not signing on to this Convention. But if we want a society where everyone is valued, included, successful, accepted, respected then we can also do this but it will take all of us wanting this for all people – disabilities or not.

If you want to see the work of the United Nations go to:


CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside

This space is intended to share my thoughts and update the community on issues concerning Morningside and its clients as well sharing inspirational employment stories.

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Posted in Disability Policy