‘Lives Worth Living’ and Microfinance

> Posted by Adriana Magdas

the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by President H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.

President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990.

How do you determine if a person’s life is worth living in freedom, independently and with the opportunity for education and a career?
The answer is: You don’t, because every life is worth living and all human beings have the right to be free, happy and a valuable part of society.
This belief was reaffirmed when I watched “Lives Worth Living,” a documentary released in 2011, which traces the development of the Disability Rights Movement in the United States from the 1950s until its culmination with the signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) have always been a large minority in the United States, but as a group, they were largely marginalized with little to no access to schools, public transportation, public buildings, and more. They were second-class citizens who were deprived of their rights in countless ways. This documentary vividly depicts the Disability Rights Movement in the United States and the commitment and determination of the pioneers who worked together tirelessly to win a battle that culminated in the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by President H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. This momentous piece of legislation prohibits discrimination based on disability, and is very much in the spirit of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, etc. illegal.
Since the signing of the ADA, progress in the United States has been significant. Though much more work needs to be done, Americans with Disabilities can more fully participate in civil society than ever before.   The international picture, particularly in developing countries, is much grimmer.  The mandate of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is to extend basic civil rights projections to the 785 million persons with disabilities around the world (nearly 15% of humanity), who are heavily concentrated among the world’s poor.
The theme for the annually observed 2011 International Day of Persons with Disabilities (held on December 3rd) was “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development.” PWDs must become a central priority of current and future development efforts, or the Millennium Development Goals simply cannot be achieved.
To address this issue in the realm of microfinance and financial inclusion, through its Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities Program, the CFI works with the industry and various other stakeholders to develop a body of “how-to” knowledge for financial service providers around the world, indicating the steps needed for persons with disabilities to enjoy equal and fair access to quality financial products and services. Also, in 2011 the Smart Campaign added a non-discrimination clause to the Client Protection Principles (under “Fair and Respectful Treatment of Clients”), which reads as follows:
“Non-discrimination means treating all clients equally regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, disability or gender. It means, in the case of persons with disabilities, for example, making microfinance institutions as physically accessible as reasonably possible and ensuring that staff and practices are disability friendly. “
In this New Year, I am hopeful that efforts to include persons with disabilities in financial services, and in international development overall, will continue to grow and that the voices of persons with disabilities around the world can be increasingly heard and listened to.
Image credit: White House
Have you read?
How Does Educational Inclusion for Children with Disabilities Relate to Financial Inclusion?
‘Eleven Seconds’ and Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities
Microfinance for All Alliance Spotlights Smart Campaign