“My exercise of my rights can be limited when it makes your exercise of your rights impossible.” — David Saperstein, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom
“Disabled people and their family and friends must speak up when they believe that they are being disrespected or discriminated against.” — Judith Heumann, U.S. special adviser for international disability rights
During a live, three-day Facebook Q&A that ended July 2, Heumann and Saperstein responded to questions from YALI Network members about tolerance, disability and inclusion.
Here are excerpts from the chat:
How can we get empowered and mobilize our society and nation at large to recognize disability rights to enhance inclusion in employment and higher education?
You can become empowered by organizing with other persons with disabilities and other minorities in your community. Identify a high-level person to help advocate for the cause.
Too often, in [my country], people with a disability are found in the street fetching a livelihood. What is the responsibility of government to give hope to those people?
It is the responsibility of the disabled community to demand the government take steps toward equal access so that persons with disabilities can contribute to their societies.
What do you think can be done to move governments from taking a tokenist approach to addressing disability issues?
Collaboration with organizations outside the disability community is critical. Governments are moved when they know that disabled people and their families and friends participate in elections, run for office and play an active role in their communities.
My personal experience working at the local and national levels is that we, as disabled people, must learn how to present our messages clearly, [and] work with other groups who are working together, not only with the disabled.
We had a situation where a disabled female was selected to do nursing, but due to her disability, the nursing council of Malawi refused to take her. Can we say her right of choosing the educational field of her choice was violated? What strategies should government put in place to make sure that disabled people can freely embark on any activity that they wish to do?
She experienced discrimination that keeps her from accomplishing her goals. When I finished college, I was denied my teaching license because I couldn’t walk. I challenged that decision, and was granted my [teaching] license.
I am an African living in the U.S. What do you suggest to religions that don’t want to participate in gay and lesbian marriage? Will the churches lose their license as [nonprofits]?
We are not advocating or forcing anyone to change their religious views. We merely advocate that all individuals, including LGBTI individuals, be treated with dignity, respect and fairness and given equal rights. Specifically, that LGBTI individuals not be subject to criminal sanctions and that they be protected from governmental or societal persecution.