Life Style

First person: Guest edit UN News’ first live blog

That is happening on the opening day of the 17th session of the Conference of the States Parties (COSP17) on the game-changing Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, taking place from 11 to 13 June 2024.

From being a delegate at COSP16 to taking over UN NewsIn his live blog at COSP17, the activist with Down syndrome said his mission is to amplify voices and drive change, including this year’s themes of jobs, technology and humanitarian response in times of crisis.

Here’s more from our guest editor ahead of COSP17:

“What I’m most looking forward to is connecting with others and meeting people who are also interested in what I do. Last year, I made new friends and shared stories, which was really fun.

I also want accessibility and inclusion. One thing that really stood out to me last year was how people talked about making things easier for people with disabilities. It’s great to see so many people interested in making the world a better place for us.

I am from Canada and am passionate about disability rights. I am a member of the L’Arche community in Toronto. L’Arche has nearly 160 communities in 37 countries around the world, fostering inclusive relationships where people with and without intellectual disabilities make each other’s lives better.

Nick Herd at the United Nations General Assembly Hall for COSP16.

Nick Herd at the United Nations General Assembly Hall for COSP16.

Jobs, technological and humanitarian crises

This year, COSP17’s focus is on technology, jobs and humanitarian crises through the lens of disability. Technology is changing the way we live and work, and that’s no exception for people with disabilities.

We will discuss how advances in technology can create new opportunities and supports for individuals like us. From accessibility features in smartphones to assistive devices in the workplace, technology has the ability to level the playing field and enhance our lives.

Unfortunately, conflicts and wars around the world disproportionately affect people with disabilities, and I have witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by individuals in the L’Arche community in conflict zones must face to face. COSP17 will shed light on these issues and advocate for better support and protection for people affected by conflict.

When it comes to employment, finding and keeping a job can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for people with disabilities. Discrimination, lack of access and stigma are just some of the barriers we face. Through discussions, we will work towards solutions that improve employment opportunities and ensure equal rights for all.

These issues are important to me and so is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

How technology helps me as a person with a disability

Technology plays a vital role in enhancing my life as a person with a disability, allowing me to connect, communicate and understand information more easily and independently. Here’s how:

Stay connected: Technology allows me to connect with friends, family, and the world around me. Whether it’s through social media, video calls or messaging apps, I can stay in touch no matter where I am. You can even follow me on Instagram!

Better communicate: Technology tools like speech-to-text, text-to-speech, and communication apps help me communicate more easily. They make it easier for me to express myself and understand others, whether I’m chatting with friends or attending meetings. For example, I’ll use WhatsApp to stay connected with our L’Arche team while at COSP17 in New York City.

Understand information: Technology helps me understand information. With tools such as screen readers, magnifiers, and accessible websites, I can access and understand information more effectively, helping me study, work, and participate in a variety of activities .

Nick Herd worked as a creative consultant on the set of a short film production for L'Arche Canada and the United States in March 2022.

Nick Herd worked as a creative consultant on the set of a short film production for L’Arche Canada and the United States in March 2022.

3 ways employment changed my life

As a person with a disability, employment is very important. The most important thing is to be included.

My cartoon Freebird has long been nominated for an Academy Award in 2021. That’s a big deal. It shows that people with disabilities can also shine. Working on the film as creative director was a highlight of my career.

Working together is also important. Collaboration is key in my acting gig. Working with others helps us all come up with better ideas and make great things happen.

Equally important is the ability to express yourself. As an artist and freelancer, having a job means I can offer my unique perspective. It allows me to be myself and show what I can do, which is great.

Dignity and disability

Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected in their lives. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, whether you have a disability or not – being treated poorly is never okay. Whether at school, work or anywhere else, bullying, abuse and neglect are never tolerated.

In difficult times such as emergencies, disasters or war, it is extremely important that governments do everything they can to keep us safe. They have to follow the rules set by the world to make sure everyone is okay.

It’s important to remember that no one is forgotten or abandoned. We all have rights that are protected and valued.

Nick Herd (right) and colleague Warren Pot from L'Arche Canada are being interviewed at the United Nations.

Nick Herd (right) and colleague Warren Pot from L’Arche Canada are being interviewed at the United Nations.

Human rights for everyone

Why are humanitarian rights important to me as a person with a disability? Human rights are not just words on paper; they are essential for people like me to live fulfilling lives and contribute meaningfully to society. I can think of three reasons why.

Get the help I need: Humanitarian rights ensure I can access essential resources and support services, such as healthcare, education, employment and tools that suit my needs, helping me live with dignity and independent.

Feeling included: These rights promote inclusion by fighting discrimination based on disability. They ensure fair treatment of everyone, fighting stereotypes and discrimination. With humanitarian rights, society becomes friendlier, where everyone’s contribution is valued.

Speak up for change: When it comes to conflict, we know that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected in war. As part of L’Arche, we have communities in places like Haiti, Bethlehem and Ukraine experiencing this. Belonging to L’Arche’s supportive community gives us the solidarity, strength and resilience to get through these difficult times together. With humanitarian rights support, we can ensure that people with disabilities are not forgotten when the going gets tough.

Rights and opportunities

Living a life of dignity means having all the rights that make us who we are. Everyone has the right to make their own choices, such as what they want to do or where they want to go. We all deserve a safe place to call home and enough food to eat every day.

COSP17 begins on Tuesday at United Nations Headquarters.

COSP17 begins on Tuesday at United Nations Headquarters.

Communication is also extremely important! It’s important that people talk to us in a way we understand. That way, we can express ourselves and be understood by others. And it’s not just talking. Everyone must have the same opportunity to get health care, go to school, and find a job they love.

Governments play a key role in ensuring these rights are protected and it is important that our voices are heard. People with disabilities deserve the support they need to live a happy and fulfilling life.

COSP aims to ensure that everyone, regardless of their ability, has a fair chance in life. That’s the place to make change for the better.

Let’s work together to ensure everyone has the rights and opportunities we deserve.

See you on June 11th when I take over UN News live blog. We will be live at 8am. I hope you’ll join us!”

Stay tuned to UN News This.


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