Why civil rights is an issue
At one extreme, there are state, municipal and tribal governments that either tacitly or explicitly support the lack of fundamental rights, and even the outright stigmatisation of people with CP. It can be because they are too preoccupied with the challenges of overcoming poverty and/or civil strife, or because their civil systems are founded in cultural superstitions or dogma. The rights of all people in such circumstances are vulnerable at best, and the plight of people with CP even more so.
At the other end of the spectrum are countries who have cemented the rights of the disabled with specific legislation or constitutional guarantees, and who have taken significant action to ensure those rights are protected. In these cases people with CP have basic rights to vote, and ever-more-equal access to information, public transportation and protections in the workplace. But even in these countries, many of these protections take too long to implement, and there are subtle undercurrents—from policies governing the number of therapeutic visits available through an insurance plan, to the kinds of workplace and education accommodations necessary for people with CP—that require us to be diligent.
And there is the well-intentioned, but much too passive, centre of the spectrum. Many countries have gone so far as to offer broad proclamations and legislative protections that could help people with CP. But there is no real commitment to enforcement or funding of the practical steps that must be taken to make the proclamations meaningful in people’s lives. In these cases, a child with CP can sit in the back of a classroom because the law requires that they receive an education, but there are no teachers trained to provide that education. Similarly, adults can apply for work, with no ability to get to or from a job, or have their personal care needs accommodated they can contribute their intellectual abilities.
Stories of change and challenge
Many countries in the world are making real progress on civil rights for people with disabilities, including people with cerebral palsy. These stories show that ordinary people with a vision can galvanise others to create change.