CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information

Social, cultural and economic rights ...the most widespread form of oppression

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/* Written by MILES-PAUL@ASCO.comlink.apc.org in igc:gen.diffable */
/* ---------- "Social, cultural and economic right" ---------- */

               The DPI European Union Committees'
        INTERNATIONAL  DISABILITY  E-MAIL  NEWS  SERVICE

               Issue No. 24/94  November 9, 1994

                 from DISABILITY INTERNATIONAL
                  Vol. 1 No. 3 September 1994

                        By Richard Wood
Executive Director, British Council of Organizations of Disabled
People - Member, DPI Human Rights Task Force

             Social, cultural and economic rights
           ...the most widespread form of oppression

It has taken some time but we are coming to recognize that the continued
denial of the human rights of disabled people is possibly the most
widespread form of oppression now operating across the world. It is
staggering to think that, almost to a person, the world=D5s 500 million
disabled people experience apartheid every day of their lives. Some
violations are extremeist death squads that eliminate disabled street
children in South America, and fascist murders of three disabled people in
Europe. Other violations are more subtle, such as the forced
institutionalization of disabled people who `cost too much' to keep in the
community. A cornerstone of our awakening was the 1993 report of the UN
Special Rapporteur, Leandro Despouy, on Human Rights and Disabled People.
This report covered every area but in this short article I can only focus
on one; the right to economic, social and cultural life. Despouy includes
in these rights; the right to work and equal pay, the right to education
and the right to take part in cultural life. Research by the British
Council of Organizations of Disabled People has clearly shown that these
rights are not afforded to disabled people in the UK. Our research shows
that disabled people are three times more likely to be unemployed than
non- disabled people.  Recent evidence from the European Commission
suggests that 50 per cent of disabled adults in Europe are unemployed.
Even when we are employed, disabled men are paid about 80 per cent of the
pay received by non-disabled workers for doing the same job.  The
inequality of pay for disabled women is significantly worse than this. The
basic legislation that protects our right to work is based on a three per
cent quota system. The law is simply ignored (even by government
departments). No employer has been prosecuted for breaking the quota law
since 1975. It is not too difficult to see why we don't get work when you
look at how poorly we are educated. A government report in the late 1970s
concluded that disabled children were significantly under-educated and
that special (segregated) education was not the way forward for most
disabled children. This was followed by an Education Bill, which
emphasized the need for integrated education.

Legislation ignored

However, this legislation is also widely ignored and recent evidence
suggests there has been an increase in the number of disabled children who
are bussed to special schools. Little wonder disabled people do not get
the basic education to qualify them for college, university or
professional training. Less than 0.03 per cent of adult students in
Britain are disabled people. We have no right to take part in the cultural
life of our country. Disabled people are regularly barred from
restaurants, theatres, cinemas and sports stadiums etc.  We have an almost
totally inaccessible transport system and most of us can't afford to
participate anyway. Nearly 8O per cent of disabled people in the UK rely
on state benefits for their basic income. We face open and blatant
discrimination in every area of our lives and we have no legal protection.
Many of you reading this will be thinking, so what's new, discrimination
is just as bad, if not worse, in my own country. Well, what is new in the
UK is that disabled people are doing something about it. We have a radical
and powerful disabled people=D5s movement here and we have almost succeeded
in what others (e.g. United States, Australia and New Zealand) have
already achieved. We are actively campaigning to get civil rights
legislation introduced. Our pressure has been so great that more than 50
per cent of the members of our parliament support our right to a bill.
People have stopped patronizing us. There is now widespread debate about
disabled people=D5s rights. July 9th l994, 5000 disabled people and their
supporters staged a mass rally in London to press for a bill. Our
government (although it has not yet conceded) is under intense pressure.
We believe it is now only a matter of time before our rights are enshrined
in legislation. I hope this will encourage you. We live in difficult
times. Here in Europe services and resources have been decimated. The
economic climate has led to the re-emergence of fascist views. Euthanasia,
genetic engineering and eugenics all threaten us. Yet, against this
background we have seen the emergence of a strong, united European
disabled people's movement. DPI is to be congratulated on establishing a
Human Rights Task Force to monitor and report on violations. However, the
issue of our rights is only on the agenda because disabled people have put
it there. We have at last seen the potential power that we hold. I urge
you to make human and civil rights in your own country the priority issue.
The snowball that started with the Americans With Disabilities Act could
become an avalanche of rights legislation for disabled people around the
world. However, this can only happen if we have absolute belief in our
ability to achieve it, and absolute determination to fight for it.

       **********************************************************
                      The DPI European Union Committees'
               INTERNATIONAL  DISABILITY  E-MAIL  NEWS  SERVICE

          Disabled Peoples' International - European Union Committee
     c/o Ottmar Miles-Paul, Werner-Hilpert-Str. 8, D-34117 Kassel Germany
                  Tel. +49 561/713811   fax: +49 561/713132
                       E.-Mail: ISLKS@ASCO.ks.open.de

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