For persons with disabilities, the sky is not the limit
At the age of two Edward (Eddie) Ndopu’s life seemed over before it had even begun. That year, he had been diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that affects the nerve cells that help us walk, eat or breathe. According to doctors, Eddie would not live beyond his fifth birthday. Driven by a relentless pursuit of a full life, Eddie not only survived, he was able to get an education and go on to become the first African with a disability to graduate from Oxford University and become the UN Secretary-General’s SDG Advocate. Today, he is making plans to become the first wheelchair user to go into space.
“My voyage to space is really a full circle moment for me,” Eddie says. “I defied my prognosis. I was told I would never live beyond the age of five, and I’m here and it seems to me that the logical next step is to defy gravity; to show the world that people with disabilities have enormous capacity for brilliance and to achieve the extraordinary.”
As he reaches for the stars, Eddie continues to amplify the voices of persons with disabilities around the world, many of whom continue to be marginalized, isolated and neglected, facing barriers to access education, jobs and to be fully included in society.
Today, 44 per cent of countries prevent students with disabilities from being taught in the same classroom as others. In some countries, over 1 in 10 persons with disabilities have been refused school enrolment. And despite having greater health-care needs, one in three people with disabilities today cannot afford health-care facilities.
The United Nations is working to change that through the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Adopted in 2006 and ratified by 177 countries so far, this landmark document is the largest human rights treaty in the world and it is paving the way towards full inclusion and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.
From 11 to 13 June, UN Member States, UN entities, NGOs and civil society organizations will meet in New York for the 12th session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention, held under the theme “Ensuring inclusion of persons with disabilities in a changing world through the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres will open the Conference and announce the launch of the new UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, opening a new chapter in the history of the UN’s work to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The strategy will establish the UN’s vision on disability inclusion and provide an accountability framework with objectives for the UN at the individual and country team levels.
The Conference will also discuss such issues as technology, digitalization and ICTs for the empowerment and inclusion of persons with disabilities, social inclusion and the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and inclusion of persons with disabilities in society through participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sports.
In addition, over 80 side events will cover a wide variety of issues related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, such as education, the use of assistive technology, inclusion through sports and women and girls with disabilities. These events will also showcase global, regional and national initiatives for the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
In the lead up to the conference, the NGO Committee on Social Development will host a Civil Society Forum on 10 June to strengthen partnerships among stakeholders.