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Including the Voices of Disabled People in the International Development Agenda
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Photo of Judy Heumann as World Bank's first Adviser on Disability and Development from

February 9, 2006
University of Pittsburgh School of Law
The Thornburgh Family Lectureship
in Disability and Law and Policy
Judith E. Heumann,
Advisor Disability and Development,
The World Bank Group

The Disabled Need a Voice in the International Development Agenda

Let me start my remarks by congratulating Pittsburgh and the Steelers for a great game. I never thought that I would root for a "Bus" (Jerome Bettis) or look at a half time program with 60 year old men playing Rock and Roll.

I would like to thank the Committee for selecting me to be this year’s Thornburgh Family Lecturer. It is an honor for me to be in the family of Henry Betts Awardees, which was given to the Thornburgh’s in 2003.

Gini and Dick deserve all of our admiration and praise. Their commitment and tenacity to work for the removal of barriers and for the creation of opportunities for all people with disabilities has resulted in significant changes here in the United States. Together they continue to create a path for us to emulate.

Dick’s leadership as the Attorney General was critical to the passage and signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act. His continued willingness to intervene in numerous court cases on behalf of disabled people demonstrates his belief that disabled people must be given every opportunity to equally participate in our society.

Ginny’s tenacious and engaging personality has made her one of the most effective leaders working in removing barriers that have prevented disabled people from participating as full and equal members in their religious communities.

Ginny could easily have her work only speak to the need of removing physical barriers so that people could enter their houses of worship. But, she has correctly chosen to address the problem completely. She spoke up not only to remove the physical barriers but to overcome the attitudinal barriers toward the disabled that are often far more difficult to remove than the physical barriers.

Finally, the Thornburgh’s remind me of my late parents and the parents of thousands of disabled children in countries around the world who believe that their son or daughter must never be counted out but must be given every opportunity to make their rightful contributions to societies.

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The Purpose of My Lecture

Today I want to talk about the progress that made and the lessons that have been learned in giving those of us who are disabled a voice in the development agenda. I want to review the emergence of the disability rights movement in the U.S. and internationally – and the powerful role that the disabled have had when we have banded together as a community to make change happen.

I also want to talk about the road ahead including initiatives by the United Nations, the World Bank, other development institutions and the newly formed Global Partnership for Disability and Development.

At the conclusion, I hope that I will have presented to you a compelling case to engage you as professionals and as citizens of the world to participate more actively in the human rights and development efforts being undertaken around the world. Whether you are students or faculty or visitors there is a role you can play. Putting a disability lens on your work will open opportunities that didn’t exist before.

I want to begin by making the case that too many people in the United States remain uninformed about our problems and challenges faced by the 400 million disabled people in the developing world who are fighting for their basic rights including full inclusion into schools, jobs and their communities.

And even here in the developed world we still struggle with the reality that barriers based on pity, fear and lack of knowledge are still the hardest to overcome. The physical barriers may be coming down but attitudes changes slowly.

Now some people believe that if we only had more money the barriers to full inclusion would be removed. I disagree. Like the Thornburgh’s and families around the world I believe that change only happens if we can change people’s attitudes and knock down the false assumptions about who we are and what we can do.

I should know. I was once defined as a fire hazard.

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The Early Years of Discrimination

I came down with polio in 1949 while growing up in Brooklyn, New York. At the time, disability was seen as a tragedy and as such society had very few expectations for the disabled if any. We were to be shunted aside and kept out of view.

Like so many people, my parents had no idea about the types of barriers we were about to encounter. As I was growing up I learned that discrimination was a natural part of life for disabled people in this country.

Children were educated in segregated schools or at home for only 3 or 4 hours a week, which is what happened to me. Many disabled children did not get any education at all. My parents, for example, knew I had a brain but they couldn’t get me into the local elementary school until I was in 4th grade.

Nothing at the time was accessible. Streets had no ramps. Government and public buildings were not accessible and public facilities such as libraries, movie theaters or restaurants had no accessible bathrooms. The idea that disabled people like myself might want to be teachers was out of the question.

At the time, there were very few organizations that spoke up for the disabled. Many charitable organizations were running various campaigns to develop cures. But few of those organizations were fighting to remove barriers that caused so many disabled people to live in poverty and few of these organizations ever thought to give disabled people control over their own lives.

But there was one group that made a difference. World War II had ended and thousands of disabled veterans had come back from Europe and the Pacific. These veterans had a voice. Disabled veterans were successfully lobbying for state legislation that required new construction to be accessible. A federal law was passed in the late 1960’s requiring that new curb cuts had to be accessible.

Some universities had also begun to establish disabled students programs to support a growing number of us who had it that far. I was involved with the establishment of a disabled students program at Long Island University.

The DSP enabled students to articulate problems they were facing on campus and to work with the administration to remove barriers. It was also an opportunity for some of us to move from being passive players on the margin to change agents.

We also learned that being on the margin didn’t mean that our concerns were included in the broader movement for change taking place in America in the 1960's and 1970’s.

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Learning how to be a Movement

Even as we look back this weekend the lives of two great American icons Coretta Scott King and Betty Freidan and appreciate their achievements, we also have to remember that the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and the anti-war movement all had their own agenda’s. Our concerns, even though we were also on the outside of American society, didn’t make the cut.

So we came to recognize that if we didn’t create an agenda for change that was controlled by disabled people we would never be able to make the same type of progress that we saw happening within other movements. We also realized that while we all were experiencing discrimination disabled women and disabled people of color were experiencing additional barriers.

In 1970, after completing my undergraduate degree I applied for and was denied a teaching license specifically because I couldn’t walk. I was considered a "fire hazard. If a fire broke out in a school how would the children get out and how would I get out.

My friends and I were able to use this act of discrimination to highlight the types of problems disabled people were facing all over the region. The media covered this story, which resulted in many disabled people beginning to speak out about the various problems they were having.

I successfully obtained two pro bono attorneys to represent me against the Board of Education of the City of New York and was granted my teaching license. I was the first wheelchair rider to be hired as a teacher in the New York City school system.

As a result of these efforts "Disabled In Action" was formed. DIA was formed with the intention of creating a strong organization run by disabled people that not only discussed problems but, proposed solutions. We worked in coalition with other disability organizations, to promote reforms.

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Making International Connections

In 1972 I traveled for the first time outside of the United States to attend the Paralympics Games in Heidelberg, Germany with the U.S. team and then we went to Sweden. This trip was a milestone in my life for it was the first time that I met disabled people from all over the world. The rich and poor countries competed. We had opportunities to talk about our experiences as disabled people from our respective countries.

Now I was learning from other disabled people in rich and poor countries about the problems we were experiencing. Underlying all of our experiences we discussed the same types of barriers of exclusion. True the disabled people from the wealthy countries had better wheelchairs and technologies and greater opportunities because of stronger economies.

But we all faced barriers that were the direct result of low expectations, pity and fear. Even Sweden, which provided health care for all including wheelchairs, accommodations at home and more supports for living in the community had it share of discrimination.

When I came back from this trip I realized that it was important for us as disabled people to learn from each other and to help create and international movement. Internationally there were organizations for disabled people that were similar to the U.S. organizations. But they viewed people with disabilities as charity. They accepted things as they were did not advocate for change and had virtually no disabled people working in them.

A year later, in 1973 I had the opportunity to travel under the sponsorship of Rehabilitation International to four countries in Europe as a youth ambassador and then to travel to Australia for their World Assembly. In Norway I attended an International Red Cross camp that had disabled and non-disabled youth mainly from Europe and Scandinavia and one person from Botswana.

We spent ten days together having fun but also serious discussions about the barriers in our countries and our ideas for reform. Here I learned about organizations being formed that were similar to those being created in the U.S. and run by disabled people.

We discussed the importance of disabled people running our own organizations, create our agendas and empower disabled people into a political movement. As disabled people we needed to demonstrate to ourselves and to other disabled people and society that we were able to lead.

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The Independent Living Movement

In 1973 I moved to Berkeley, California to become a part of the emerging Independent Living and Civil Rights Movement. Led by disabled people we were finally positioned to have a large enough group of disabled people working together every day with a growing number of independent living centers across the country empowering other disabled people.

Disabled people were learning to lead and how to engage the system. We moved from being passive recipients to becoming paid staff, members of boards of directors and on committees run by various government agencies. Together we were slowly beginning to see changes in our communities that were the direct result of our efforts. Streets were having ramps built on them, people were moving into their own homes with supports where needed, parents were being trained as advocates and political leaders were recognizing that we were becoming an important voting constituency.

The Independent Living Movement was also beginning to have an impact on organizations that were service organizations on behalf of disabled people. Some slowly began to include disabled people on their Boards of Directors and to hire some disabled people. Various formal and informal coalitions that previously did not include the voices of disabled people began to become more inclusive.

All through the late 1960’s and 1970’s the groundwork was being laid at the national level demonstrating the degree of discrimination that disabled people were facing and the need to have legislation to protect our rights.

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Creating a National Agenda

The first major national anti-discrimination legislation was passed in 1973. The centerpiece of this legislation was Title V which had numerous provisions. The most well known is Section 504 that prohibits discrimination against a disabled person by any entity receiving federal financial assistance.

This provision became quite contentious and the government dragged its feet on the promulgation of regulations. The recipients of federal money were lobbying the government very hard to produce a weak set of regulations.

But the disability community had created the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities to counter these efforts.

In 1975 the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act was passed. Court cases had been brought against the State of Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia on behalf of children living in institutions. The court ruling, which was based on the landmark Brown v. Board of Education, gave disabled children the Constitutional protection they needed as American citizens.

This Constitutional protection has always been contentious. IDEA is often been seen by many school boards as a thorn in their side and an unfunded federal mandate. It has taken years to make the case that many children with disabilities have the skills they need to be included in regular classrooms.

By the same token, I also recognize the frustration of school boards across the country, including here in Pennsylvania, who have every right to complain that IDEA is not being fully funded.

There was also a new and emerging spirit of activism in the disability community in this period. Parents of disabled children, and disabled people themselves were more aggressively demanding reforms.

We adopted many of the tactics and strategies that had been so successful in other movement efforts. In 1977 we took to the streets, lobbied and even took over government buildings demanding the full implementation of federal laws and regulations to protect the disabled. I still have a particular fondness for the federal office building in San Francisco.

I’m not sure back then that we were the most polite people in the world. But we were very determined. We felt that we had to make our own way. And you can imagine the police looking at several hundred shouting protestors in wheelchairs and wondering – how in God’s name are we going to arrest all of them. In the end, we got the strong regulations that we needed to make a difference in our lives.

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The Growing International Disability Community

Even as we fought for full inclusion here in States we also saw the beginning of international disability community. In 1980 in Winnipeg Canada, Rehabilitation International held its annual meeting. There were a number of disability rights leaders from around the world in attendance at this meeting.

They wanted Rehab International to agree to include disabled people on their Board. When this was denied they walked out and established Disabled Peoples’ International, the first cross disability international organization.

At the same time the voices of disabled people were emerging across the world and the United Nations began playing an important role. In 1981, the U.N. declared the International Year of Disabled People which was of great importance in establishing disability rights in many countries. The United States, unfortunately, was not a big player.

Interestingly Japanese television and British television came to the United States to do documentaries on our work.

The programs focused on the strength of the disability movement in the U.S. and accomplishments such as the promulgation of the 504 regulations and some of the results of these regulations such as buses beginning to be made accessible and the development of the independent living centers.

Ironically, Japan started a ten year program to send disabled Japanese people to the United States to work in independent living centers. Today Japan has moved from having no Centers for Independent Living to having more than 100.

The decision by the United Nations to focus on the concerns of the disabled began a two decade effort to encourage many more initiatives in the developing world. The 1982 Diwaka Millennium Framework was a great impetus to improving the status of disabled people in Asia. This was followed in 2003 by the Biwako Millennium Framework led by Japan to establish barrier free and rights based society in Asian and Pacific region by 2012.

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The Politics of Washington

Here at home, disability leaders were starting to make inroads in Washington, D.C.

Both President Reagan and George Walker Bush -- President Bush I -- appointed a number of disabled people to key government positions. Justin Dart, Lex Frieden, Evan Kemp and Bob Funk where all critical to the development of the American Disabilities Act that became law in 1990.

In the 1993 the Clinton Administration took office and made a significant effort to work with the disability community by hiring more than 40 disabled people to work across the government in various agencies. I was one of those 40 people.

I was no longer a fire hazard. I was no longer a firebrand protestor. I was now Madame Secretary. This was heady stuff.

I even had an official title. I was the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

I was fortunate to work for Richard Riley, the Secretary of Education, who was more than willing to make our concerns his own. He was accessible, caring, involved and took an enormous amount of political heat for all of us who were trying to push our disability agenda forward. He believed in the inclusion of disabled children in public schools and knew that education was the key to the future for all children not just some.

He also understood the international dimensions of our work and I went on several international trips with him. He knew that our disability expertise was asset that he could bring to other nations. And so we did.

Riley made a point to have our issues included in bi-lateral agreements with several nations including Mexico and Ireland, the latter being the first nation outside of the United States to hold the Worldwide Special Olympics.

The 1990’s also saw a growing awareness that the rights of the disabled had to be included in the broader global human rights agenda. The lack of education, the lack of employment, and the higher risk of violence against disabled women were just a few of the issues that concerned those of us in the Clinton Administration.

As a result, we were able to participate in the planning meetings and the delegation for the U.N. Beijing Conference on Women. And we co-sponsored the first major international disabled women's meeting which brought together more than 600 women from more than 80 countries.

Yet, for all the progress that we made in the 1990’s I also recognized just how hard it was to overcome the attitudes and barriers that still prevent our full inclusion into American society. All through the Clinton years we had to struggle to mainstream children with disabilities into classroom and we had to fight for full funding for IDEA year after year.

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The World Bank

In 2002 I became the first Advisor on Disability and Development at the World Bank, an institution of enormous importance to the developing world. I found myself working in the world of high finance seeking to represent 400 million disabled human beings, the majority of whom lived in poverty.

We developed an approach that I call inclusive development. We look for opportunities to integrate disability into the operational work of the Bank. We have been strengthening the knowledge within the Bank through the hiring of a small number of people who are knowledgeable about the field of disability and development. This has resulted in progress in many areas.

When I travel for the Bank to our country offices I always have a meeting with Bank staff and disabled people from local organizations. In the beginning this was frequently the first time that Bank officials had met with disabled people and parents. They learned that the problems were similar to those of others and that there were changes that could be made if people work together.

We had such a meeting in Ethiopia and the issue of HIV/AIDS of course came up. There were some strong complaints from the community and some positive stories. Last year the Bank office sponsored a two day meeting to discuss HIV/AIDS and disability. This came about as the result of disability organizations and others that discussed the problem, WB staff that were willing to listen.

Getting a large institution like the World Bank to think in new ways and to become more aware is a bit like changing the course of a large ocean liner. It takes time to change course.

For example, the Bank supports the Millennium Development Goals which were adopted by the U.N. family and their member states. One of these goals states that all children will complete primary education by the year 2015.

We know from work that has been done by UNICEF and UNESCO that less than 10% of disabled children are in school. So if governments do not include disabled children in their efforts it will be impossible to have all children completing primary education by 2015.

We have produced papers on inclusive education, how to construct new schools to make them more accessible, held conferences with educators, schools, parents and disabled people on approaches to education of disabled people, and begun work around the world to look at what are some of the best approaches to bringing children with disabilities into schools.

Not all countries have policies that require disabled children to attend school and some schools reject disabled children if they come to the school. Universities are not training teachers to teach disabled children. Classroom sizes continue to be very large and there is little if any monitoring going on to gather accurate data.

One of the biggest problems is that governments have relied on foreign assistance that is given to nongovernmental organizations to provide education to disabled children. Even if the education is being provided in local schools it is uncommon for the government to be working on scaling up these efforts.

Around the world everyday schools, and roads and hospitals are being built that are not accessible to people with mobility disabilities in violation of the same laws that richer countries require in their own homeland. Yet a few weeks ago the Washington Post stated that it was a waste of money for the U.S. to be requiring that schools in remote areas of Afghanistan be wheelchair accessible because they have no wheelchairs.

So is the point that although the cost of accessible construction is less than one percent we should not start someplace? Shouldn't we make the school accessible because it is being built today and work to get the children wheelchairs as fast as we can?

We are working hard to demystify and allow Bank staff to see that our agenda of a world free of poverty cannot be achieved if we do not include the more than 10% of the population effected by disability.

Let me cite just one example. Brazil found in its most recent census that they had a high percentage of children who were blind. When the investigated further they found that these children were not blind but needed glasses. This cost $10 per child and was included in the project that the World Bank was doing with the Bank. This same problem occurs all over the world regularly.

We are also working with the Bank and collaborating with others around the world to address the reality that too many people still see disabled people as objects of charity, the hopeless, helpless cripples who we expect to see begging on the street.

Once again we are addressing the issue of attitudes. We are helping people to realize that it is not the exceptional disabled person who can learn and work but rather barriers of exclusion that have kept us out. When girls and women are not educated it doesn’t mean they cannot learn for we know when girls attend school they do learn. So is it true for disabled children and adults.

One of the positive outcomes of our work at the Bank and other development institutions is that we are getting people to sit down together. To listen and learn from each other. Disabled people are learning more about the development process at the national and local levels and participating more in important deliberations.

Governments, civil society and the development community are beginning to realize that in the case of HIV or education or new construction there are simple things that can be done if we are willing to do it. Good information is also essential to our work. The Bank commissioned a report with Yale University to investigate how disabled people were being affected by HIV/AIDS. A survey was developed and distributed around the world. The results show that no major institutions at the international level or national governments were including the collection of data on disabled people. Additionally, training and prevention programs were not including disabled people thus ensuring that proper information was not being received.

Additionally, reports of higher violence against disabled people coupled with the fact that many local police and judicial systems do not consider disabled people to be credible and do not prosecute alleged perpetrators leaves disabled people more vulnerable and at higher rate for infection.

Disabled people in Africa as an example are beginning to recognize this problem and are beginning to apply for funds. Frequently they have been denied because people reviewing the applications don't understand the problem or they didn't write a good enough application.

We have sought to overcome these disconnections in many ways.

Over the last three years we have held a series of meetings with international organizations working on behalf of the disabled such as the World Blind Union, Rehabilitation International, Inclusion International, Disabled Peoples’ International, as well Handicapped International, World Vision, Save the Children to name just a few.

We also sought to reach out the broader United Nation’s family of organizations and development institutions like USAID, SIDI and NORAD to name just a few.

These discussions made it clear that there is a need for greater collaboration amongst those responsible for improving the human rights and economic status of disabled people. We need to be sharing knowledge, collaborating more effectively, strengthening the capacity of disabled people’s organizations and governments.

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The Work of the United Nations

The United Nations, working in conjunction with many of these organizations, has spearheaded major efforts that have provided disabled people and governments the opportunity to dialogue and develop agendas promoting the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all societies.

The most recent work conducted under the auspices of the U.N., has been the negotiation of a new core human rights treaty that will elaborate existing human rights standards through a disability lens. The process began in 2001, when a U.N. General Assembly resolution established an Ad Hoc Committee "to consider proposals for a comprehensive and integral international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, based on the holistic approach in the work done in the fields of social development, human rights and non-discrimination and taking into account the recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission for Social Development."

The Committee recently completed its seventh negotiating session, and is likely to adopt the finished convention no later than 2007. As you can tell from the mandate that I just read out, this treaty will be one of the first to explicitly tackle the intersection of human rights, disability and development.

Indeed, developing countries have been at the forefront in the convention development process. But they are not the only leaders in this process. Disabled people have had a seat at the table, participating in a manner and at a level never before seen in a U.N. human rights treaty negotiation.

The meaningful engagement of disabled people at these negotiations has been critical in the education of government delegates, and in ensuring that the substance of the treaty is truly responsive to the needs and aspirations of people with disabilities. Though the Convention will certainly not be a panacea, it is one more tool to be used in the fight to achieve the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all societies.

All this work has led us to this moment. We can look back at the last 30 years and see that a great deal of progress that has been made. We have energized the disability community here in the United States and learned how to lead and take charge.

We have created an international disability community that continues to grow and gain a greater degree of sophistication. We have successfully developed a body of laws and protections that are now on the books in many nations. And in a few short years the new U.N. Convention will soon be a reality.

But for me the clock still ticks too slowly. 600 million human beings, including 400 million in the developing world, still confront on a daily basis attitudes based on pity and fear and ignorance. At the rate that we are moving millions of disabled people, both here at home and abroad, will continue to be relegated to poverty.

Many of the institutions that seek to address the problems of the developing world are only now just beginning to fully understand and grasp both the problems that we face and the opportunities we seek to lead successful lives.

There is still a great deal of work to be done in integrating the concerns of the disability community into the broad and larger efforts to eradicate poverty in the developing world.

Let me cite just one example. Technology is providing opportunities to people all over the world. Cell phones are being used in areas where there are no land lines. The possibilities for people in developing countries who gain access to technology are limitless and may well help to advance much more rapidly. But here again the knowledge to ensure that this technology will be accessible to disabled people is possible but not guaranteed.

While all the designers of technology in the U.S. and Europe must adhere to stringent standards there are no international standards. We need to make sure that universal design becomes a standard that we all follow. If we realize the benefits of universal design benefit all we can move the accessibility features from the hands of a few designers into the hands of all designers thus guaranteeing a more seamless system.

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What you can do here at the University of Pittsburgh

Addressing this issue and many others is where we need your expertise and help. The University of Pittsburgh is well positioned to become a partner of the Global Partnership for Disability and Development and to be a leader in the inclusion of disability into the international agenda.

Your EU Center of Excellence, your Office for International Students, your School of Public and International Affairs and your School of Health and Rehabilitation Services position you to apply a disability lens. You could, for example, document the good work that you may have done in areas like recruitment of disabled students. Do you know that many countries today deny students with various disabilities the opportunity to study in their field of interest even when they are qualified?

Universities in this country have been very successful in providing supports for students who need them to successfully graduate. You would be doing a great service if you shared that work with universities in other nations.

The work that you are doing at the university in wheelchair design could also help hundreds of thousands of people who currently have not wheelchairs.

We need your help to make dramatic improvements in expanding the Community Based Rehabilitation concept to create a cadre of workers that barely exist in many countries.

We could all be doing much more to learn about disaster relief and how disabled people and newly disabled people have been so badly served during and after the most recent disasters from Hurricane Katrina to the earthquake in Pakistan. There is an enormous amount of work to be done to make sure that disability measures are appropriately integrated into future disaster relief efforts.

This is why I encourage you to look for catalytic opportunities in the next 5 years that would allow you to demonstrate how your efforts have benefited disabled people both here at home and abroad.

Every student you train who goes back to their country and applies what they have learned impacts many. People seeking to work in development community must learn about disabilities in their studies so that they can bring this knowledge into any area they are working in --- water, agriculture, education, prevention of disability, primary health care, transportation, etc.

Every faculty member who begins to learn how to apply a disability lens to their work not only expands opportunities for their students but also can help other faculty learn the value of this inclusion.

The University could also work with other universities here in the U.S. and abroad to integrate disability into your curriculum, and your research.

Disabled people around the world are fighting to become equal players in the human rights and economic development agenda of the world. Universities must and can play a critical role in helping to make this happen.

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Let me now conclude my thoughts. In preparing for this speech I wanted to recognize the progress that has been made but also recognize the tremendous hurdles we still have to overcome. These hurdles are not only those faced by disabled people but by poor people around the world.

One of our additional challenges is that we still are facing the pervasive belief that disabled people are less capable or that removing the barriers to our full participation in society is too expensive and simply can’t be done.

I fundamentally disagree with this. We need to unleash the energy not just of disabled people but of many others who share our sentiments and concerns: family members, co-workers and others who have learned that disabled people like all people must be given opportunities.

Continuing to build capacity within the parent and disability community is essential. Regardless what country one comes from the voices of people from the local communities do make a difference.

We need to believe in ourselves and to have the tools to make changes. Education is critical to this. Education of children, education of adults, education of families, education of society.

Over the last few decades we have seen time and time again that when people have the opportunities to meaningfully interact many peoples view change.

When I was the Assistant Secretary I had a father of a non-disabled child say to me, "I am reluctant to hire people with disabilities but I have a daughter who is in kindergarten with a classmate with Downs Syndrome. She will have a different perspective about people with disabilities when she grows up."

Well, while this is true we don't have a generation to wait. We all must commit ourselves today to leave this lecture hall and work harder to remove barriers based on prejudice and lack of exposure.

Today's lecture is to honor the work of the Thornburgh's. Through their work we have seen that hard work and persistence and a belief in ourselves can lead to change, inclusion and a more hopeful life.

We can move from the margin to full membership in society and be recognized for our talents and contributions. We have much to offer society. I hope you are up to the challenge.

Thank you.

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