Activism & Volunteering

‘Policies that include us NOT exclude us’: The coming together of the disability rights movement.

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In every part of the world, the disability rights movement is evolving, and we are all part of that evolution. We are outside the government and are helping our governments evolve. Social policies are being re-written in many countries, and all youth are approaching social issues in a more human and a more inclusive manner. We have been making our voices heard; we want policies that include us NOT exclude us.

In many parts of the world, youth with disabilities are formulating their visions of what an inclusive barrier-free society would look like. Youth with or without disabilities can and should work together to overcome gaps in knowledge and experience, and this website will contribute to this effort. Youth with disabilities are gaining momentum with the CRPD.

Paola Munios, a young advocate for disability rights in Paraguay, said that in her country, youth with disabilities “are gaining more experience on how to develop laws and what those laws should be saying.” She added, “we should be affecting how budgets are decided in our countries. We should learn how to get involved in negotiations with the Ministry of Finance.” In Serbia, youth with disabilities are working with architects and planners to eliminate architectural barriers.

For youth with disabilities to be effective advocates, we need to work together to learn to mobilize the right stakeholders. We will need to understand our respective governments. Whenever possible, we will need to insert ourselves into the political process.

The disability community needs people to come forth with real experiences, knowledge and research. You should do case studies on what agencies in your government are doing with reference to city planning, education, employment and social service provisions.

As Judy Heumann, Senior Advisor on International Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department, says, “The work we are doing always goes forward and backward, even with what’s going on in Africa, its got to be that the disability movement is not seen in isolation. It has to become part of the greater Youth Movement, it simply won’t get the leverage it needs to get off the ground otherwise.”

According to her, if disabled youth are not seen as part of the youth movement, they will not get noticed. The African disabled youth movement needs to be taking a leadership role in solidifying their values as a community and forging alliances in other cross-cutting movements.

With help from the Open Society Foundations, 50 youth with a variety of disabilities came together and founded the African Youth with Disabilities Network (AYWDN). On December 3rd, 2011, members of the AYWDN united to celebrate the International Day of Disability, formed a draft Constitution, and formalized a Steering Committee to further strengthen their network. We have to work hard to make sure all youth networks and development efforts are inclusive of all youth (including youth with disabilities). As the Chairman of the AYWDN Steering Committee says, “Together we can make a difference!” Young persons with disabilities are contributing to their societies and, like other youth, are demanding to be involved in the policies that affect them.

Can we, YES we can!

Image credit: Claudia Lucacel |

Featured Image Credit: History Herstory