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Remarks by AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk at the Opening for the Virtual GCTF
November 4, 2021


 Remarks by AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk at the
Opening for the Virtual Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) on
“Implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”


Foreign Minister Wu, Representative Izumi, Representative Bloomfield, Representative Caspi, honored guests, I am glad to join you in opening this important Global Cooperation and Training Framework workshop on “Implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” [1]

A special thanks to the Eden Social Welfare Foundation and the National Human Rights Commission for helping to organize this event to underscore how we can ensure that persons with disabilities are able to fully participate in society on an equal basis, free from discrimination.

In the United States, our efforts to achieve these goals are centered around the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed 31 years ago – legislation co-sponsored by then-Senator Joe Biden.  This Act guaranteed unrestricted access to public buildings, equal opportunity in employment, and equal access to government services.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also signed into law in 1990, codified the provision of free appropriate public education tailored to individual needs.  These laws not only enable persons with disabilities to access opportunities and foster self-sufficiency but also expand their economic participation and unlock their contributions to American society.

These principles – of equality, independence, respect, and reasonable accommodation – also lie at the heart of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities and have been codified in Taiwan’s own laws and regulations.  Taiwan’s exceptional commitment to align its domestic practices with international standards on upholding the rights of persons with disabilities, based on years of campaigning by activists and disabled persons organizations, underscores the respect for human rights that Taiwan shares in common with the United States and other like-minded democracies.  By leading with national legislation, like the United States, rather than international treaty accession or ratification, Taiwan has placed a premium on practical implementation. I look forward to learning from Taiwan’s experiences.

I also want to highlight the particular vulnerability of persons with disabilities to the disruptions of the global pandemic.  They have faced heightened risks, with a higher share employed in the industries hit hardest by COVID-19, and from drastic changes that have occurred in the workplace.  Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that persons with disabilities thrive and deploy their talents and skills to help speed the global recovery from the pandemic.  Our societies will build back better and stronger when we ensure that everyone is included and empowered with appropriate tools and technologies.

Thank you to everyone joining us for this discussion.  I hope that the diverse experiences shared today and tomorrow inspire you in our shared quest for equality for all.

[1] Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Ho-jen Tseng delivered the opening remarks.