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The injustice of ableism is often overshadowed by sexism, racism and LGBT discrimination in the media. The US International Council on Disabilities, however, hopes to raise ableism’s profile. USICD aims to cultivate global empowerment of disabled people by prioritizing the rights of the disabled in U.S. foreign policy. As an organization, it also strives to foster a mutual understanding between disabled and abled individuals within the United States and in foreign countries, thereby creating a united front of advocacy for the disabled.

Mentally and physically handicapped people are among those most susceptible to human rights abuses and poverty. Because they are often stigmatized by employers and assumed to be virtually worthless in the workforce, members of the disabled community are systematically denied access to jobs and, thus, opportunities for upward social mobility. Lacking stable means to earn an income, many disabled people struggle to support themselves. USICD is intent on striking down these common misconceptions and insists that the disabled have much to contribute to society.

Disabled people are also among those most vulnerable to the chains of modern slavery. In China for instance, there have been several documented cases of forced sweatshop labor among the mentally handicapped. Human traffickers often prey upon the disabled, being fully aware of the disadvantage they have in being able to advocate for themselves. Even if they escape such terrible circumstances, their plight will likely be ignored by the justice system, in which their testimony is often discredited based on assumption of their intellectual defects.

Throughout this past year, USICD has worked to lobby on behalf of passing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through the Senate. If CRPD is ratified, countries participating in the Convention would be obligated to grant their disabled citizens with the same legal rights and protections afforded to disabled Americans under the 1990 Disabilities Act. This would mean that the rights to employment and basic healthcare services would be guaranteed to disabled individuals under international law.

Moreover, by compiling content for a digital database, USCID aspires to develop among its constituency budding human rights activists for the disabled cause. Armed with knowledge that then translates to power, its members realize that although the struggle for equality between disabled and abled people is far from over, it is nonetheless a battle worth fighting.

– Melrose Huang

Sources: USICD, Huffington Post, National Council on Independent Living, China, U.S. Department of State
Photo: RFA