Year of International Human Rights

Webster University's“Year of International Human Rights” began in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2008. Since then, the YIHR has expanded to include a wide range of programming that includes guest lectures, film series, art performances and exhibits, common reading programs, and more. 

2013/2014: Disability Rights 

For hundreds of years, the treatment of persons with disabilities was a question of charity. Society offered pity and compassion, but people with disabilities had no right to equal treatment under the law. Reformers struggled to make “the handicapped” more productive, more “normal,” and less of a burden to society. In the nineteenth century, such efforts led to the mass confinement of persons with disabilities in asylums. In the twentieth century, many countries – including the United States – adopted polices of forced sterilization. A widespread obsession with “racial improvement” and a fear that persons with disabilities posed an unsustainable burden for society culminated in the Nazis' program of “euthanasia,” or mass-murder. The legacies of this past are with us today. 

The 2013/14 Year of International Human Rights (YIHR) at Webster University focuses on the theme of Disability Rights. More than 700 million people – or one-tenth of the world's population – have mental or physical disabilities, yet they continue to face severe challenges to their basic human rights. In many countries, persons with disabilities are still treated as pariahs, forced to live in degrading and abusive institutions and deprived of access to the law. In the United States, discrimination against persons with disabilities is rampant almost 25 years after passage of the landmark Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Today only 20 percent of the disabled population in America participates in the work force.

Despite these challenges, an international revolution in the legal standing of persons with disabilities is growing. Inspired in part by the ADA, many countries have passed their own legislation protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Some of these nations have advanced beyond the United States by vigorously promoting fair housing, access to education, and employment opportunities for disabled citizens. An international network of disability rights advocates has fought for the recognition of disability as a human rights issue. Non-government organizations today carry out investigations and issue reports on the status of persons with disabilities around the world. In 2006, the United Nations adopted a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. More than 80 countries have signed the Convention, and it is fast becoming an important tool for pressuring governments to abolish discriminatory laws and practices.

The 2013/14 YIHR will explore the issue of Disability Rights with a wide range of programming that includes guest lectures, a film series, art performances and exhibits, a common reading, and more. Webster's annual human rights conference will take place on the Webster Groves campus on October 9-10, 2013, featuring scholars and activists from around the world.

Internet Resources on Disability Rights 

I. Articles and Reports on Violations of the Rights of People with Disabilities Worldwide 

One Million Forgotten: Protecting the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, by Human Rights Watch

Country Reports by Disability Rights International

Regional Reports, International Disability Rights Monitor 

II. The United Nations and Disability Rights 

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Marianne Schulz, Understanding the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Best Practices for Including Persons with Disabilities in all Aspects of Development, UN (April 2011) 

III. Organizations Promoting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Worldwide 

Disability Rights International: Our Work

Human Rights Watch: Disability Rights

Handicap International: About

The European Union: Disability Strategy 2010-2020