In my 20 odd years of work in the disability sector in the not-so-popular domain of advocacy, one mantra that has led me is that 'Information is Power'. This is especially true for those of us who have the privilege to be based in big cities, capitals and places where the movers and shakers who shape policies, operate.
With the coming of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), there is suddenly a sense of hyperactivity towards two supposed power centres: Geneva and New York. Everybody who is anybody in the disability world seems to want to be seen there. As our mailboxes incessantly beep with incoming messages with tidings from Geneva and New York, I am apprehensive.
When I see this sudden flurry towards a top down flow of information, it makes me nervous. Communication is neither a top down nor a bottoms up approach. It needs to give equal weightage to both. In this case, however, I dare say it needs to pay more attention to the bottoms up traffic.
CRPD is a great tool no doubt. But what does it say that the disability sector has not known for years. Not much. The right to education, access, information, health, social security, and so on and above all the dignity and integrity of a person with disability is not something that dropped down in the form of CRPD like manna from heaven. We all knew all of this before CRPD and we all know it now. But suddenly, all our energies seem to be focused on what is happening in Geneva and New York, on submissions, on reports, on Committees, on resolutions. While I am not denying the importance of those processes, I am cautioning against neglecting national issues, local issues, and what is happening in our own backyards.
CRPD will not be implemented by either Geneva or New York. CRPD will be implemented by the grassroots persons with disabilities by ensuring that disability is an integral part of their local and national policies. CRPD will be truly implemented when people with disabilities at the grassroots become a force to be reckoned with in their own locality, province and country.
Note: This article was published as a blog on the Disability Rights Knowledge Network, hosted by the Commonwealth Connects Portal