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This Week in PubHub: Protecting the Rights of People With Disabilities

January 27, 2012

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she wrote about trends in funding for social justice and advocacy efforts in support of marginalized populations.)

Throughout the month of January, we're highlighting research on various aspects of the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights around the globe. This week, we're featuring four reports that address topics related to the rights of people with disabilities.

Among the most egregious examples of human rights violations involving the disabled is the forced sterilization of women and girls with disabilities, as described in Sterilization of Women and Girls With Disabilities (4 pages, PDF), an issue brief from the Open Society Foundations in collaboration with Human Rights Watch, Women With Disabilities Australia, and the International Disability Alliance. The report points out that the practice is justified in many countries as being in the "best interests" of the women -- who are sterilized without their knowledge, despite refusing or not having the opportunity to consent, and/or after being encouraged to do so through misinformation, as a result of financial incentives, or by intimidation. In addition to being an act of violence, a form of social control, and a violation of numerous international human rights standards, forced sterilization, the paper notes, is a violation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which promotes the right of all people with disabilities to start a family and, for women, to control their fertility on an equal basis with the non-disabled.

The right to live one's life with the same choices as others is at the core of A Community for All: Implementing Article 19 (39 pages, PDF), another publication from the Open Society Foundations. Based on Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that people with disabilities have the right to live independently and be counted as members of society with the same choices as others, the report calls for ending the institutionalization of people with disabilities and to create community-based alternatives and services for them that promote social inclusion. A separate checklist lists ten steps to achieving those ends, starting with "Commit to transforming the system from institutional services to community-based services" and ending with "Establish mechanisms for periodic review of the action plan and national strategy."

What is the nonprofit sector's role with respect to the issue? According to Renewing the Commitment: An ADA Compliance Guide for Nonprofits (139 pages; 15.49MB; PDF), a report from the Chicago Community Trust, about 54 million people in the United States -- nearly one in five -- have at least one disability, and the Americans with Disabilities Act requires most nonprofits to provide them with equal access to services. The guide provides a checklist, resource list, and advice on serving people with disabilities, encourages nonprofits to make sure that their facilities and communications meet the various needs of the disabled community, and highlights considerations for specific types of events, services, and programs. An action agenda in this area includes a call to collaborate with people with disabilities and the organizations that represent them in the planning and compliance process.

Many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who return with severe injuries will require care and services, as well. Based on qualitative and quantitative assessments of services needed by Iraq/Afghanistan veterans and their families, the RAND Corporation report A Needs Assessment of New York State Veterans (102 pages, PDF) found, among other things, that veterans were frustrated with employment preference programs that do not prevent discrimination against those with disabilities, as promised. Funded by the New York State Health Foundation, the report concludes that responsibility for the health and well-being of veterans extend well beyond the VA to other clinical and social service delivery systems, and calls for better coordination of care, better outreach to veterans seeking assistance, and more accessible, sustainable, and higher-quality mental health care.

What do you think needs to be done to protect the rights of and enhance the lives of people with disabilities? Are there specific unmet needs that foundations and nonprofits should be addressing? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

And be sure to check out PubHub, where you can browse more than a hundred and fifty reports on topics related to civil and human rights.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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