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A child in a Russian state orphanage for children with disabilities. © 2011 Gordon Welters/laif /Redux © 2011 Gordon Welters/laif /Redux


(Chicago) – A leading disability rights organization will award Human Rights Watch its annual Lead On! Award on June 10, 2019, in recognition of the organization’s contributions to the inclusion and rights of people with disabilities

Access Living, which promotes an inclusive society and supports people with disabilities to live independently, will present the award to Human Rights Watch at a gala in Chicago.

School-age children in Lebanon. Top photos, bottom left photo: © 2017 Amanda Bailly for Human Rights Watch. Bottom center and right photos: © 2017 Sam Koplewicz for Human Rights Watch

“We are honored and humbled to receive this award, especially from such a prestigious group as Access Living,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said. “This recognition confirms the importance of mainstream human rights organizations working in partnership with organizations of people with disabilities to make sure that the 1 billion people with disabilities around the world are able to enjoy their rights on an equal basis with everyone else.”

In 2013, Human Rights Watch became the world’s first international human rights organization to create a dedicated team to investigate and expose abuses against people with disabilities, and to advocate for change to improve their lives. There are more than 1 billion people with disabilities globally, 15 percent of the world’s population.

Partnering with people with disabilities and their representative organizations across the globe, Human Rights Watch works to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are heard, in line with the disability movement’s motto “Nothing About Us, Without Us.” The majority of the Human Rights Watch’s disability rights team are people with disabilities or who have close family members with disabilities.

A Honduran migrant explains to Human Rights Watch research Carlos Rios-Espinosa the difficulties he has in making use of the bathrooms in El Barretal, Tijuana, Mexico. © 2018 Luis Rodríguez Martinez/Human Rights Watch

Over the years, Human Rights Watch has published more than 60 reports on disability rights in more than 40 countries around the world. The work has focused on breaking barriers to education; stopping violence against women and children with disabilities; ending the shackling and other abuses of people with disabilities in institutions and prisons; and ensuring the inclusion of people with disabilities in response to humanitarian crises.

A key strategy has been to mainstream the rights of people with disabilities across Human Rights Watch, with researchers and advocates integrating the issue into their work.

Before she died, this woman lived chained at Bina Lestari healing center in Brebes, Central Java for over two years. Her family paid for her platform bed and for the Islamic-based healing she received at the center. © 2011 Andrea Star Reese

Human Rights Watch is also committed to inclusion by making its offices and materials accessible to people with disabilities. For example, Human Rights Watch publishes reports in simple language versions and strives to make multimedia accessible through captioning, voice-over, and sign language interpretation. Roth’s annual essay in the Human Rights Watch World Report is also published in an accessible format. The executive management of the organization has also pledged that all Human Rights Watch events should be accessible. 

Access Living will also recognize The Ford Foundation for its efforts on disability inclusion.

“People with disabilities are some of the most marginalized and invisible people in the world, with their rights routinely trampled,” Roth said. “We will continue to ensure that these abuses are exposed and together with groups like Access Living, we will work for the rights and dignity of people with disabilities.”

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