Ambassador Hale’s Remarks at the Seventh Annual Leadership Conference for Persons with Disabilities

Date: September 26, 2017
Location: Ramada Hotel, Islamabad
Remarks as Prepared

Asalamu Alaikum.  It is a pleasure to be here as you begin the seventh annual leadership conference for persons with disabilities.

I would like to thank STEP President Muhammad Atif Sheikh and STEP Projects Director Abia Akram for their invitation.

It is also a pleasure to see Senator Nizhat Sadiq, Member of National Assembly Tahira Aurangzeb, and Additional Secretary of the Federal Judicial Academy Huma Chaughtai.

I would like to recognize our guests from Mobility International USA (MIUSA), including Project Manager Susan F. Dunn; American Civil Liberties Union Senior Staff Attorney Claudia Center; and Former Director of Governmental Affairs for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund Pat Wright.  Mobility International is recognized as a global leader in empowerment and leadership for people with disabilities.  Since 1981, MIUSA has conducted more than 45 international exchange programs supported by the U.S. Department of State.

These exchange programs allow participants, regardless of background or disability, to access unique opportunities that can plant the seeds for change.  And they help prepare participants to make a difference in their communities and the world.

Many of you recently returned from our Independent Living Exchange Program in the United States.  We are pleased to learn about the success of your program and look forward to hearing about the work you will do here in Pakistan, in particular through your collaboration with the Pakistan Architecture Council.

Discrimination against people with disabilities is not only unjust.  It hinders economic development, limits democracy, and weakens communities.  That is why we campaign to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities.  And that is why promoting disability rights is an integral part of our promotion of human rights.

Removing barriers and creating a world in which disabled people enjoy dignity and full inclusion is our goal.  To achieve it, we work with governments and organizations like STEP, to protect and promote the rights of disabled persons and provide practical support to facilitate their integration, inclusion, and participation in society.

In America, our own path to social inclusion for disabled persons has been long and, at times, difficult.  This journey culminated in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act nearly 30 years ago – legislation that enshrines the rights of disabled people into law.  But simply passing a law is not enough.  That is why there are many organizations in America and around the world that, like STEP, continue to advocate for the rights of the disabled.

The work of these organizations, as well as our diplomatic engagement  is driven by our belief that protecting the rights of disabled persons is not only the right thing to do, but because it also includes tangible economic and social benefits.

I commend you for your efforts.  America is stronger and more vibrant with the full contributions of persons with disabilities, and Pakistan is, too.

I wish you the best as you continue to discuss the rights of persons with disabilities in Pakistan.