Breaking Barriers for Persons with Disabilities and Realizing Global Citizenship.

Author:Baghdayan, Annie
Position:Global Citizenship issue

My disability awareness journey started in the early 1990s, when I worked as an elementary school teacher in a little neighbourhood in Beirut, Lebanon. As my students helped me realize that they each have unique abilities, I had to acknowledge that our education system lacked policies, resources and professional training necessary to address existing barriers that inhibit successful and inclusive classroom instruction. This sparked my interest and passion for research in special education.

Almost a decade ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, which were ratified on 3 May 2008. The adoption of the Convention followed decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. The focus of the movement was to establish the public perception of persons with disabilities as individuals who can claim their rights, remain active members of society, and make free and informed decisions regarding their lives. The Convention reaffirms that persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It ensures that persons with disabilities may effectively exercise their rights, and identifies areas where these rights have been violated and where protection must be reinforced.

Since the beginning of the disability rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, American society has focused on disassociating disability from inferiority (Blacher and Baker, 2007). This movement forced the Government to outlaw educational, social and employment segregation of citizens with disabilities (Hastings and others, 2005). Due to growing awareness raised by the disabilities rights movement, the Government of the United States has taken steps towards the transformation of the lives of people with disabilities, as well as towards changing societal perceptions and beliefs regarding this segment of the population (Hastings and others, 2005).

The first law that treated disability as a civil right rather than a medical issue was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Prior to that, it was thought that disability was a medical condition that needed to be cured before anyone could expect full participation in society. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 required non-discrimination on the basis of disability for businesses that receive funding from the federal Government. That legislation did not really solve the issues inhibiting employment of individuals with disabilities or interfering with their participation in the workforce, but it offered a new way of looking at disability. This in turn led to the development of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990...

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