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Professor Chang Heng-hao on Protecting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On May 19, 2017, the Human Rights Protection Committee of the Control Yuan invited Chang Heng-hao, dean and professor of the Department of Sociology at National Taipei University to talk about protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Prof. Chang received his doctoral degree from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. He is a longtime researcher in disability studies and a disability rights activist. His lecture presented these complicated subjects in an easy-to-understand manner, which the audience all found very fruitful. Prof. Chang begins with a succinct introduction to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), with a special emphasis on Articles 9 and 24, which discuss the spirit and measures of accessibility and the right to education. He points out that at the core of the CRPD, lies the principle of “Nothing about us, without us,” which means that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of those affected by that policy. He believes that experts and parents of the people with disabilities should gradually take a back seat in the current policy-making process to encourage more self-advocacy. Prof Chang notes that the CRPD, at first glance, seems irrelevant to the general public. However, in the long run, as people age and experience physical deterioration, they are likely to become one of the people with disabilities. Thus, the “respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity” as stipulated in Article 3 of the convention becomes especially important. The perception of disability should also shift from "the medical model" to "the social model," in which disability is no longer just the problem of an individual or a group of people, but rather the limitation imposed upon them as a result of discrimination or denial of social integration. The social model requires the society as a whole, rather than the individual, to change, for instance, by removing physical barriers, allowing access to information, adjusting the regulations to accommodate different needs, and enlarging public participation. Among the attendance of this lecture were President Chang Po-ya and Vice President Sun Ta-chuan, who exchanged views with Prof. Chang. The engaging two-hour session ended with President Chang presenting Prof. Chang with thematic reports on human rights protection works completed by the Control Yuan.