People with disabilities can and should be heard

Published: Thu 27 Sep 2018 10:35 AM
People with disabilities can and should be heard
- United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
September 27 2018
Robert Martin, a humble man from Whanganui who has been called “a national treasure” by many within the disability community, has just become the first person with an intellectual disability in history to Chair a session at the United Nations.
Robert has run many meetings throughout his 30+ year career in the disability rights movement. In practice, this one was no different. But symbolically, it was monumental.
The hugeness of the occasion was not lost of the people attending the meeting, especially when Mr Martin was told at one point in the meeting “Mr Chair, in our country people do not believe that persons with intellectual disability can make such decisions as being able to vote.”
Robert has since chaired a further session and will take the floor again tomorrow for the final session of the Committee this round. He is gaining in confidence every time and it is hoped that this extraordinary event will soon become completely ordinary.
Stig Langvad of Denmark, fellow Committee member remarked that “The first time a person with an intellectual disability is chairing a meeting within the UN is one of those days where we are all feeling proud to be a part of the event, and knowing the person who did not just make one step for himself or mankind but jumped into the new future where everything is possible if you are provided with trust and reasonable accommodation. The future of Robert Martin within the UN system has just begun.”

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