Equality Still Eludes People With Disabilities: Advocate

Anne MacPhee, past president of the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities, thanks international expert and guest speaker Vangelis Nikias during the
Council’s annual meeting in Georgetown Saturday.

Published on June 13, 2011
Steve Sharratt  

GEORGETOWN — Full equality is still eluding people with disabilities, but the struggle must continue, says an international advocate serving with the United Nations convention on disability issues.

Vangelis Nikias was the guest speaker at the annual meeting of the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities held at the Kings Playhouse here Saturday.

A veteran of disability issues, Nikias lauded achievements for the disabled at home but also recognized existing shortfalls in the case of travel havoc
that faced the former chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, who is disabled.

“We are not enjoying full equality when a distinguished Canadian like the former chief commissioner or anyone else for that matter can’t go from the Atlantic to the Pacific in our own country,’’ he said.

“The Canadian transportation system could not accommodate her trip from east to west and she had to re-route to Chicago and go through the United States to Washington and drive to Vancouver.”

Nikias has been active in human rights and disabilities rights for many years and is currently working for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities to
raise awareness.

During the United Nations negotiations on disability issues, he was the content expert with the official Canadian delegation. He is working on the convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

“I am very optimistic of our opportunities to achieve an accessible and inclusive Canada, but I think progress can only be based upon the realizations of
what we experience right now.”

Nikias, who is visually impaired, said even using the elevator in the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown can prove a daunting task for a disabled person. He noted there is no Braille indicator in the unit.

“I am an experienced traveller so I realized when the elevator stopped on my way down for breakfast that it wasn’t the right floor,’’ he said. “The lobby
would have music or other sounds, so I waited and the elevator doors closed and got me there.”

“We have to make sure our practices measure up to our standards and measure up to international standards that we have agreed to. We are not going to do this overnight, so we focus on progressive realization.”

Nikias said the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms is being heavily used in the development of the UN convention since Canada was one of the first
countries in the world to protect the disabled.

He said the convention must also work towards the improvement of living conditions for the disabled in poorer countries where many are treated as slave labour.

“I suggest you work with your government and ask what they are putting into the Canadian report when it comes to addressing equality, poverty, living issues, pensions etc. I think we all want to help improve conditions here and around the world.”

Reproduced from http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2011-06-13/article-2579891/Equality-still-eludes-people-with-disabilities%3A-advocate/1