First Regional Recommendations on the Intellectually Disabled Adopted

A United Nations sponsored meeting has made recommendations on ways to empower persons with intellectual disabilities and their families in Asia and the Pacific. A first in the region, the Shanghai Recommendations were adopted at a workshop organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the China Disabled Persons’ Federations (CDPF) which took place from 11 to 13 October in the Chinese city.

The meeting brought together people with intellectual disabilities, their families, experts and policymakers from China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. The participants also attended the closing ceremony of the Special Olympics in the evening of 11 October.

“Many people think that we intellectually disabled persons cannot do anything”, said one participant, Robert Martin from New Zealand. “What we want is not pity, but empathy.”

“I have a dream”, said another participant with intellectual disabilities, Ms. Mayumi Narasaki from Japan. “I want to study at the university; want to be friends with a lot of people and want to be a professor of law so that I can explain laws to persons with intellectual disabilities in an easy-to-understand manner.”

“Voicing their concerns themselves at a UN forum provides them with a sense of legitimacy and confidence, which they have been often denied to have”, said Aiko Akiyama of UNESCAP, one of the organizers of the meeting.

Persons with intellectual disabilities face prejudice, discrimination, abuse and various barriers to enjoying equal legal protection. They are also denied access to quality and affordable health cares, education, training that leads to gainful employment, living as part of a community, enjoying family life, and an adequate standard of living.

Due to stigma and a lack of social support in the region, care for persons with intellectual disabilities is usually left entirely to their families, often causing financial and emotional stress. Many care-givers are worried about what would happen to their children or siblings with intellectual disabilities after they themselves become old or die.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the UN last December, supports the realization of rights by persons with all disabilities, and affirms supported-decision making instead of substitute decision-making by persons with intellectual disabilities.

The Shanghai Recommendations on the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities will have a user-friendly version for persons with intellectual disabilities.