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WBU statement on the Human Rights Day, 10 December 2018

The World Blind Union (WBU) welcomes the opportunity to commemorate Human Rights Day. The Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10, the day the United Nations general assembly adopted the Universal declaration of human rights. This year, Human Rights Day kicks off a year-long campaign to mark the 70th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights, a milestone document that proclaim the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to regardless of disability including visual impairment.

The World Blind Union (WBU) joins the United Nations to celebrate this day by urging states to advance the rights of persons with visual disabilities.

One of our priority areas is human rights and representation and our goal is to ensure that the rights of blind and partially sighted persons are articulated at all levels from the national, regional, international and global level. We call for legislative and administrative policy frameworks that are inclusive and accommodative towards blind and partially sighted persons.

The situation of blind and partially sighted persons in accessing their human rights

Persistent cultural, social, legal, physical and institutional barriers pose restrictions to the full inclusion of visually impaired persons in society in all areas of private and public life, including education; employment; health care; cultural, recreational, sporting and leisure activities; and political participation. They face huge barriers to personal mobility owing to lack of accessibility. Poor access to justice limits their access to communications and compounds their isolation and exclusion. Unemployment of persons with visual disabilities is a significant challenge and they remain the poorest of the poor, unable to compete with the labour market. Therefore, disaggregation of data by disability, sex and age is fundamental for understanding the situation of blind and partially sighted persons and informing policies to ensure their effective inclusion and the full realization of their human rights. 

While significant progress has been made towards the inclusion of blind and partially sighted persons in the international human rights and development frameworks, concerted advocacy efforts are still needed to ensure that these commitments are translated into an enabling environment that mobilizes stakeholders, enhances participation of  organizations of persons with disabilities and strengthens political will and the capacity of governments to implement the 2030 Agenda in line with all the UN International human rights instruments, together with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This requires constant attention to ensure that human rights mechanisms uphold the highest CRPD standards and facilitating interconnections and consistency of these mechanisms with normative development frameworks.

We further celebrate the adoption and ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty that calls upon researchers, publishers, and the academia in line with the intellectual property rights to ensure that persons with visual disabilities receive and access information in accessible formats of braille, large print, audio and electronic formats. We celebrate this achievement, but we call upon states to ratify this instrument and domesticate it into their legal framework to ensure that the obligations spelt under the treaty are met.

However, this is still a big challenge by many states, as this goal has not been adequately implemented. This poses a barrier to our participation as blind and partially sighted persons on an equal basis with others.

We advocate for the availability of resources to accommodate the different needs for blind and partially sighted persons. We appeal to governments and international agencies to provide consistent statistical data for persons with visual disabilities to provide evidence during planning, budgeting, programming, policy development and implementation.

We further request governments and development partners to promote the full and effective participation of persons with visual disabilities by ensuring that their organizations and their representatives are permanently consulted on contentious issues and rights affecting them during development processes.

Call to actions 
We ask governments and international development partners to take action on the following rights:
  1. Accessibility. It is our fundamental right to enjoy access to the built environment, public transport, public buildings on an equal basis with others. We recommend that appropriate resources are allocated towards the development of accessible smart cities that promote the needs of persons with visual disabilities. Goal 11 of the sustainable development goals points to access to smart cities and inclusive human settlements. This provides an opportunity to state parties to plan, and budget for accessibility requirements for persons with visual disabilities including ensuring tactile signages on the roads, braille and sound reflected on traffic lights, accessible public transport that mentions stops, lifts with speech software’s among others.
  2. We request governments to allocate financial resources towards the realization of access to information and to design appropriate policy and legal framework to guide the implementation of this right.
  3. Unemployment is a significant challenge towards persons with visual disabilities, yet it is recognized by both Article 27 of the CRPD and goal 8 of sustainable development. We request international development partners to condition governments and private enterprises to grant affirmative action to persons with visual disabilities during employment.
  4. Many girls and women with visual disabilities are not aware of their sexual and reproductive health rights. This right is stipulated under Article 25 of the CRPD and sustainable development goal number five on gender equality. We call upon states to ensure that this right is realized by persons with visual disabilities by mainstreaming sexual and reproductive health rights in the education system, budgeting for information on the subject and building the capacities of organizations of persons with visual disabilities to empower their communities about sexual and reproductive health rights.
  5. Article 26 of the CRPD guarantees the right to rehabilitation for persons with visual disabilities. We appeal to governments to mainstream this right into their policies and provide all the necessary assistance needed to fulfill the realization of this right.
  6. Lastly, we recommend the facilitation of community led initiatives geared towards the promotion of social and cultural rights for persons with visual disabilities.
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The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 253 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of 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. Visit our website at www.worldblindunion.org  

For further information, please contact:

Terry Mutuku
Communications Officer, World Blind Union