December 10, 2015
International Human Rights Day provides us the opportunity to both celebrate the successes of the global movement of blind and partially sighted persons advocating for their rights, as well as to raise awareness about the barriers to realizing these rights that unfortunately still persist.
This year is an especially important observance of this day as it will launch a year-long UN campaign to honour the fiftieth anniversary of the two international covenants on human rights: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
The World Blind Union supports a robust international human rights system that works to defend the rights of all, especially the world’s most vulnerable, including the blind and partially sighted. Thanks to the tireless work of many human rights defenders (many of them blind or partially sighted themselves), stereotypes and attitudes about the rights and abilities of blind and partially sighted persons have improved.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been an instrumental tool for disability rights defenders, providing the international legal foundation for the “movement from viewing persons with disabilities as ‘objects’ of charity… towards viewing persons with disabilities as ‘subjects’ with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society” (UN Secretariat of the CRPD).
The CRPD enshrines the rights of all persons with disabilities, and lays out the duties of States Parties to protect and promote these rights. Unfortunately, stigmatization and isolation persist, as does the need for continued human rights advocacy. Blind and partially sighted persons consistently face significant and unnecessary barriers to their human rights. Illiteracy unfortunately remains as a major barrier for blind people all over the world, with less than 7% of books being available in accessible formats in richer countries, and that percentage is even lower, approaching 1%, in some developing countries. This is a serious issue as illiteracy is a persistent barrier throughout one’s life, diminishing the ability to become gainfully employed, to provide for one’s self or one’s family, and to become an engaged citizen or even a potential community leader.
Barriers to employment also remain, despite the numerous social and technological advances that societies have made over the last 25 years. The unemployment rates for blind and partially sighted persons have remained steadily high, at 70% in developed countries and over 90% in many developing countries.
Discrimination is also a major barrier for blind parents, who still face the very real risk of having their children taken away because of misconceptions that some health care workers have regarding the ability of blind persons to raise their own children.
Under the current human rights system, all blind and partially sighted persons have a legal right to an education, to employment and to a family. As a leading international organization representing persons with disabilities, we work to help our members engage their governments to implement all aspects of the CRPD, as we believe the proper implementation of the CRPD will decrease these barriers and make a significant and positive difference in the lives of blind and partially sighted persons.
You can learn more about the CRPD by visiting our website and downloading our CRPD FAQ sheets and toolkits that were created to help our members better advocate to their governments for the proper implementation of the CRPD: World Blind Union Website
The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf, and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment.