Advocates and dignitaries from around the world converged at the United Nations on Monday for the international body’s first-ever high-level meeting on disabilities.
With more than 1 billion people with disabilities globally, those behind the historic event at U.N. headquarters in New York said the gathering was convened to encourage inclusion of those with disabilities in all aspects of life.
“Far too many people with disabilities live in poverty. Too many suffer from social exclusion. Too many are denied access to education, employment, health care, and social and legal support systems,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who implored leaders to “break barriers and open doors.”
More than 800 representatives from disability organizations attended the meeting, officials said, which included remarks from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and musician Stevie Wonder, among others.
“I am here before you to ask you to see me,” Loretta Claiborne, a Special Olympics athlete and board member who has intellectual disability told the gathering Monday afternoon. “Recognize me, and those like me, when goals and strategies are set. See not our disability, but what we can contribute if we have access to basic services.”
The U.N. General Assembly adopted an outcome document Monday emphasizing the need for accessibility and inclusion. What’s more, member states were encouraged to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities around the world.
To date, the United States has signed the treaty, but an effort last year to ratify it was unsuccessful.