Today’s focus at camp was the rights of people with disabilities. We began the morning by thinking about the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in just a couple of weeks!
We were honored to have as our guest for the morning Cara Yar Khan, an extraordinary human rights advocate. Cara joined us last year at camp to share stories from her years working with the UN in disaster areas. She is also the former director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights’ International Human Trafficking Institute. Her TED Talk has over 2 million views, and she is presently working on a book and also a documentary film. Of the many, many things that Cara could teach us, disability rights is the subject for which she has a special passion and a special personal relationship.
Inspired by her TED Talk, campers came ready with insightful questions about Cara’s own life and adventures as well as questions about disability in general. What was the process like for you learning to identify as a person with a disability? How can a family member support a person with disabilities without speaking for them? What language around disability is the most respectful? Cara’s openness and grace helped us dive deeper into some of these sensitive issues. One resource she pointed us to is themighty.com, an online community that invites reflections from people with disabilities and the people who love them. And she shared the insight that while people may have impairments in the way their bodies or minds function, the real “disability” comes not from within themselves but as a result of their environment. A mobility impairment only becomes a disability when no ramp or elevator is available to circumvent stairs, for example. A visual impairment is only disabling when adjustments like proximity to a speaker or guide animals aren’t accommodated.
Like every other conversation we’ve had so far at camp, today’s discussion reminded us all of how interconnected all human rights issues really are. As we continue next week to think about intersectionality, we will be remembering a lot of the wisdom Cara shared with us, and more than anything, her example of fierce advocacy for human rights for all!