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Bruyère educates Saudi officials on disability rights

Susanne Bruyère, a disability rights activist who has spent her career researching and advocating for policy change around inclusive hiring, recently assisted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote disability rights.

Invited by the U.S. Department of State to participate in the U.S.  Speaker Program, Bruyère, the academic director of the ILR School K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, spent five days in the cities of Riyadh, Damman and Jedda working with U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate staff members to give a series of 15 presentations. Representatives of government agencies, employer associations, local area voluntary organizations serving individuals with disabilities and higher educational institutions attended.

“To be successful in improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities, it is necessary to engage in a comprehensive approach,” Bruyère said in an interview. “We must garner government and related legislation support to ensure rights and inclusive educational preparation institutions.

“Additionally, there must be meaningful engagement from employers and a voluntary sector of community organizations that can assist with job training, development and placement support. So, it was important that the embassy team and I had an opportunity to engage with all these significant stakeholders.”

According to Bruyère, people with disabilities comprise 15% of the world’s population – over one billion people. The disparity of access to work between people with and without disabilities is a universal social and labor market challenge for policymakers.

To address the disparities, the United Nations in 2006 passed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Article 27 of that resolution states that the rights of people with disabilities to work must be actively supported by legislation. As a result, the countries that signed the resolution must put legislation in place that will assure that these rights are being executed at the country level, and among those countries is Saudi Arabia.  

Bruyère met with representatives of several Saudi agencies – the Ministries of Human Rights, Human Resource and Social Development, and the Saudi Authority of People with Disabilities – that create the legislation governing the employment of people with disabilities.

“During a time when there is such conflict in the Middle East, we must not lose sight of the fact that disability rights are also human rights,” Bruyère said. “It is a potential point of common understanding of the human condition that binds us all and transcends political and socio-cultural differences.

“Opportunities like these allow institutions like Cornell to contribute to a broadened understanding between countries and people and, hopefully, further advance the rights of people with disabilities globally.”

Read the full story on the ILR website.
Julie Greco is a senior communications specialist in the ILR School.

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