Fri, May 16, 2008 - Page 8 News List

LETTERS

Doing more for the disabled

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) took effect on May 3, becoming the first human rights treaty of the 21st century. It was created to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities (PWD), who represent about 10 percent of the world population.

Today, with a global number of 650 million PWD — including more than 1.4 million in Taiwan — the CRPD guarantees the highest protection of rights.

It is now possible to say: “Yes, we PWD finally have our own human rights convention!”

The CRPD is unique for advancing, protecting and implementing the human rights of PWD in all aspects. More specifically, it transformed the traditional angle of PWD issues from social welfare to one of rights.

The CRPD reminds us not to see PWD from a perspective of self-abasement and sympathy, but rather as equals with the full rights and privileges to pursue happiness.

Within the treaty’s 50 articles, the CRPD includes almost every aspect of PWD’s basic rights: health, education, family, accessible environment, work and employment, social affairs, politics, cultural life, athletic participation, dignity preservation, privacy protection, freedom of communication, statistics and information accumulation, international cooperation and national implementation and monitoring. All of this aims to protect the fundamental rights of PWD.

Although PWDs represent 4 percent of the Taiwanese population, their unemployment rate is three times that of the general public. Financial support for PWD comes primarily from the government, followed by family. However, their monthly family expenses are usually NT$50,000 more than those of an average family. Moreover, the physical condition of PWD typically starts to deteriorate at about 50 — in other words, 15 to 20 years earlier than in persons without disabilities. Only half of PWD are married. These members from “disabled families” are at high risk not only in their finances, but also in their marriages. They also face an unfriendly environment, community opposition and discrimination.

After three years of lobbying, the Protection of the Rights and Interests of (Physically and Mentally) Disabled Citizens Act (身心障礙者權益保障法) was announced on July 11 last year. Its mission statement proclaimed that: “This act serves to protect the legal rights and interests of the disabled, secure their equal opportunity to participate in social, political, economic, and cultural activities fairly, while contributing to their independence and development,” which corresponds to the spirit of the CRPD. Nonetheless, the act has not yet fully been put into effect in Taiwan.

Therefore, the Republic of China (ROC) League of Welfare Organizations for the Disabled and the Eden Social Welfare Foundation are calling on society to help disabled families fully integrate society. Furthermore, we urge the government to adopt world-class standards and continue pushing for the full protection of the rights of PWD by advocating barrier-free mobility and employment opportunities for them.

First, this means ensuring PWDs’ right to make decisions on what kind of medical care, education and community life they want to have.

Second, it implies providing access, information and assistance that will allow PWD to have an independent life and participate in society.

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