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Harmony at Work
CRPD: 1 Key Unlocks 193 Countries for 1 Billion People
State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are obligated to provide accessible infrastructure and support to make commuting and travel inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities. David Fazio sheds some light on the need for governments to sign the Convention.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
More than a billion people on earth live with one or more disabilities. This does not deter us from commuting to work daily, attending conferences and workshops, or business meetings in other cities and countries. Many of us love traveling for leisure and vacation. However, few countries and cities include our needs to make this a real possibility. Accessibility and inclusive travel is not yet a reality.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) treaty is a vehicle to make our way through 193 countries recognized by the provisions of inclusive and accessible travel and tourism. The Convention follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as "objects" of charity, medical treatment and social protection, towards viewing persons with disabilities as "subjects" with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.
Parties to the Convention are required to promote, protect, and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities and ensure that they enjoy full equality under the law. When countries sign the convention and ratify the Optional Protocol, they ensure that people living with disabilities are able to access basic facilities that would allow them to pursue education, healthcare, work, financial services, travel, entertainment and leisure - just like everyone else.
Image: David Fazio at the Temple of Poseidon in Greece
Traveling to experience other cultures is vital to a person’s growth. On the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr., January 15, 2012, I had the pleasure of educating the global community on the legalities, practicalities, and perceptions of traveling with disabled guests at the International Tour Management Institute's (ITMI) 25th Annual Symposium. More than 500 tour guides and directors from all over the world assembled to gather insight into the world of disability. They knew what disability was. They met people living with a range of disabilities every day, throughout many excursions, in many countries across the globe. They just didn’t know how to deal with it. However, countries themselves did not have adequate support system or a culture of accessibility to facilitate inclusion.
Let me narrate my experience of traveling to Greece on a writing scholarship during the summer of the 2004 Olympics. The Director of my degree program and former UCLA Screenwriting Chair Lew Hunter led us on a journey through the birthplace of modern civilization and literature. It was the maiden overseas journey for many of us. We expected it to be fun, but we didn’t know that it would also turn out to be this magical journey of self-discovery.
The 27 of us assembled like covert operatives in a Mission Impossible film. We were men, women, young, old, students, teachers, and business professionals from all over the world. Our rendezvous points were at airport terminals meeting up for connecting flights, and calculated stops throughout the historical city of Athens. Our mission, as we chose to accept it, was to share something worth writing home about.
Each of us had unique stories to share and listen to. My bunk mate, Trevor, and Sarah, Sara, and I were getting ready to graduate with our bachelor’s degrees. The four of us were dealing with the insecurities of our unexpected future. Jessica had just entered college. Bob was dealing with a devastating personal issue. I was lost in romance with an exchange student that I was to meet back up with in Greece.
As individuals, our stories were indicative of our differences in age, experience, expectations, health, and other aspects. Our group came together as a bridge to the age gap, the separation of abilities, and a means of traversing all our disparities to fully participate in and enjoy this meaningful experience. That made it a memorable journey.
Our first monumental stop was at the Temple of Poseidon on our way to the port of Lavrio. We stepped off of the bus and were instantly captivated by a whole new world. My traumatic brain injury (1996) had left me with a considerable limp and extremely poor gait. In this new world my functional considerations were immaterial to these strangers that I had already called my friends. Our success was interdependent on one another. Our good time, our happiness, our fun, it all relied on each of us reaching the same level of enjoyment. We were all for one and one for all.
The area surrounding the temple was rocky and hazardous. I stumbled. I fell. I climbed. I managed. My friends would have helped if I needed them to, but luckily I didn’t. We shared this odyssey together. Our adventures were many. We bussed cliffhanger roads, explored monasteries and we scoured the villages in search of new and exciting things.
Image: David Fazio (first row from bottom, fourth person from right) with his fellow companions
Article 30 of the CRPD creates possibilities for persons with disabilities to be included in cultural life such as theaters, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services to enjoy access to monuments and sites of national cultural importance.
Countries like Greece do not have the collaborative resources in place that CRPD establishes. Travelers with disabilities do not have choices for reasonable accommodation. I am lucky to have enough mobility to traverse such terrain. Others looking forward to experience this same wonder will not have that capability without all countries signing and ratifying the CRPD. Those instances will disrupt the harmony of the group. The disabled participant may very well limit the opportunities for everyone else.
The knowledge sharing provisions and collaborative mandates of CRPD are the beginning of establishing a tourism method to employ harmony at work through cooperative understanding. It will allow travelers of all abilities to be included in this life changing experience.
Travel bands people together to form a camaraderie. It is the intimate and interpersonal relationship that everyone experiences when we are allowed to share it together. We want to be a part of the same world and share the same experiences. We are the sum of all of the moments of our lives. Our personal experiences have shaped who we are today. When it all comes to an end and we lay there on our bed we want to reflect on a life lived, everything gained and nothing lost. We want to smile, satisfied that we have completed our journey and will leave this world whole.
We deserve to live that life. We would like to complete that journey too. We long to share in the same wonders, and die with those same treasures. CRPD helps to make our lives whole and fulfill our dreams because it specifically addresses and promotes the mechanisms that will make this possible.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is our only vehicle to this precious destination. It is the engine to employ “harmony at work”.