Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spain wins Roosevelt prize for disability rights, inclusion

From West:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If something bothers you, confront it.” This is the motto Spain used in recent days when it received the Franklin D Roosevelt International Disability Rights Award from the United Nations headquarters in New York. The award recognizes the efforts made by a country to improve the rights, inclusion and well being of people with disabilities in all areas of society.

The grandson of the famous US president, David B Roosevelt, presented the award to Queen Sofìa of Spain. She emphasized that people with disabilities are “human beings with the same dignity and rights as any other person”. They are not just ‘recipients of subsidies’. She also attributed the success of the Spanish model to collaboration between different levels of government and social organisations.

Indeed, Spain leads by example in this field. It was the first in Europe to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has adapted its laws accordingly. In the coming years it will follow the Plan on Disability 2013-2015. It will also take into account children with disabilities, of which there are 140,000 in Spain, who are at increased risk of exclusion and poverty.

Furthermore, in times of financial constraint, Madrid has not neglected accessible tourism and has in fact invested in it. Not only has it campaigned for better access to public spaces, infrastructure and services but it has also implemented appropriate technologies for people with disabilities. It’s therefore not a coincidence that 20 million Europeans with disabilities recently expressed a desire to visit Spain in the near future – and this represents a significant economic resource for the country.

There are also plenty of personal stories about inclusion that have made history, such as Pablo Pineda who will be presenting Piensa en Positive, the first TV programme to be presented by a person with Down’s syndrome. Or take the case of Angela Bachiller, who last July became Spain’s first town councillor with Down’s syndrome in the town of Valladolid.

All in all, there is no shortage of reasons to award Spain with the bronze bust of the 32nd US president, who contracted polio aged 39. Despite being paraplegic and unable to walk or stand without assistance, he was elected four times by the American people. A cheque for $50,000 was also presented to CERMI, the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities.