Disability Rights International is the leading international human rights organization dedicated to protecting the rights of people with mental disabilities. Disability Rights International documents abuses against children and adults with disabilities, trains activists, and collaborates with advocacy groups working to bring about sustainable reforms in their own countries. Disability Rights International reports have brought world attention to human rights violations in twenty-two countries of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. Our video clips have been broadcast on every continent and on CNN, ABC’s Nightline, NBC’s Dateline, BBC World News. Disability Rights International has been profiled in the New York Times Magazine and our advocacy campaigns have been supported by editorials in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Disability Rights International has made enormous progress since its creation, and we are deeply grateful to the extraordinary support of our partners and friends that have made it possible. Disability Rights International’s advocacy has held governments accountable, freed people from incarceration in abusive institutions, and brought about the creation of safe and dignified community services.
These successes galvanized the human rights community and set into motion an era when disability rights are synonymous with human rights. The American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD) conferred the prestigious Henry A. Betts award on Disability Rights International’s Founder and Executive Director, Eric Rosenthal, for “pioneering the field of international human rights advocacy for people with disabilities and bringing unprecedented international awareness to their concerns.” The recent adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is, according to AAPD, “in no small part due to Rosenthal’s role promoting disability rights as a human right.”
Disability Rights International is proud of its accomplishments. Yet there are 650 million children and adults with disabilities worldwide – most still segregated from society in abusive institutions, living in poverty, or left without educational and economic opportunity. The concerns of people with disabilities are largely overlooked by the human rights community, and the threats that they face grow more serious each day.
Disability Rights International’s top priority is the Worldwide Campaign to End the Institutionalization of Children. Research has demonstrated the psychological damage caused by institutionalization, particularly for young children. There is now ample evidence that all children – including children with mental disabilities – can thrive in the community where family support programs are established. Despite this, many international charities continue to fund placements in orphanages, psychiatric institutions, and nursing homes at the expense of needed programs in the community. The new UN Convention takes a strong stand on the right of children and adults with disabilities to live in the community. Disability Rights International will use the convention as leverage to hold governments and international donors accountable. We will publicize the suffering of the vast numbers of children with disabilities improperly placed in institutions, and we will support the efforts of family members and activists working to bring about needed change.