Remarks by AIT Deputy Director Robert Forden at the “We Are Who We Are: From Participation in Cultural Life, See Our Precious Disability Culture

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Good morning.

On behalf of the American Institute in Taiwan, I would like to express our thanks to Deputy Minister of Culture Ting Hsiao-ching, our friends from the Taiwan Association for Disability Rights, and the many other officials and civil society representatives who have supported today’s conference.

It is particularly fitting that today’s conference focuses on culture, coming as it does between the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as Taipei prepares to host the 2017 Universiade Games.

Whether we’re talking about sports, theatre, music, or the visual arts, it is in all of our societies’ interest to ensure that everyone has not just equal access as an observer, but also equal opportunity to contribute their own talents. Just as importantly, equal access to cultural and historic sites, museums, and centers of learning helps all of us become more informed and aware members of our societies.

As U.S. President Barack Obama has said, the United States continues to strive for a world “where all people, regardless of country or disability, enjoy equal access, equal opportunity, and the freedom to realize their limitless potential.” After all, the way we treat people of all backgrounds demonstrates our values and defines who we are.

We are still far from a world where persons with disabilities enjoy fully equal access and opportunity. It is only through strong civil society engagement combined with government action that we will continue moving closer to that goal.

The United States is proud to partner with Taiwan in advancing human rights causes, and we applaud the work all of you are doing to build awareness and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. To convey our support, we are pleased to share a video message from my colleague Judith Heumann, the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the Department of State.

Special Advisor Heumann has made it her life’s work to advocate for the human rights of disabled people. She regrets not being able to join us in person today but had a few important words she wanted to pass along.

So with no further ado, let’s hear from Judy.

Thank you.