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IHC advocate campaigns for the right to work

Media release
2 December 2007

International Day of Disabled Persons
3 December 2007

IHC advocate campaigns for the right to work

Robert Martin is spending International Day of Disabled Persons representing people with disabilities at an Inclusion International meeting in London.

Robert, 50, has beaten the odds. While the vast majority of working age adults with an intellectual disability are unemployed, Robert has worked for IHC for the past 15 years, working to change the odds at a national and international level.

The annual observance of International Day of Disabled Persons, on Monday 3 December, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

This year's International Day of Disabled Persons turns the spotlight on the need to give people with disabilities access to decent work opportunities.

Robert was born with an intellectual disability and he now campaigns for the rights of other people with intellectual disabilities to make decisions about their lives and to be full participants in society.

He is passionate about the need to fully include people with disabilities in society because he says he knows what it is like to be excluded.

"I was put into Kimberley, at Levin, when I was 18 months old. I was placed there alongside older children who had an intellectual disability."

As an adult, the exclusion continued with Robert and his friends putting in long days working in various sheltered workshops and schemes, but not receiving the pay or conditions that other workers regarded as their right.

"We want to live in a community with the opportunity to work in a real job in the workforce alongside our peers who do not share our disability."

In 1993, Robert was offered a job by IHC promoting self advocacy a movement that encourages people with intellectual disabilities to become involved in all the decisions that affect their lives.

The same year he also started working on the international stage. He was chosen to be a self advocacy representative for Inclusion International, an umbrella group of intellectual disability organisations that published Beliefs, Values and Principles of Self Advocacy. Then, in 1996, he was appointed to the council of that group.

He has been the Chairperson of the International Taskforce on Self Advocacy, a member of the committee of the International Disability Alliance, and a member of the Panel of Experts who support the work of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Disability.

For the past five years he has been going to the United Nations in New York to work on the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The convention was opened for signatures in March this year.

Work for Robert is more than just a job it is part of who he is and being part of the society he lives in.

According to the UN, very few people with disabilities are gainfully employed. In most countries up to 80 percent of working age people with disabilities are unemployed. Most others are under-employed or will never have access to the labour market.


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