David Morrissey Visits Iowa City

David Morrissey, Executive Director of the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD), addressed the current state of the global disability rights movement for the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council on Wednesday, September 28. Morrissey's visit to Iowa City comes on the heels of the official launch of the Global Disability Rights Library (GDRL), born out of a partnership between the WiderNet Project at the University of Iowa and USICD which is based in Washington, D.C.

"This is an exciting moment," Morrissey said. "Traditionally people with disabilities have been invisible by international rights standards." Morrissey focused on the subject of the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its overwhelming acceptance on the international stage. "It is the fastest treaty to receive signatures of any human rights treaty," Morrissey said.

Morrissey said 15 percent of people are disabled around the world. Roughly, that means at least 1 billion people live with some sort of disability. Morrissey works to empower people with disabilities to demand equality and work with their governments to advance their status in society guided by the motto, "Nothing about us without us."

"After our first phone call with Cliff Missen, we had a clear concept," David Morrissey said of the partnership. Developing a proposal for the GDRL project was a priority from his first day at USICD. "We spent three months hammering out a proposal for the U.S. Agency for International Development," Morrissey said.

This spring the WiderNet Project began taking applications from disabled persons organizations around the world who wanted a GDRL digital library. No one predicted that the team would receive over 700 applications for the 60 libraries funded by USAID.

"The application process helped us learn more about the field," Morrissey said of the astounding amount of applications received. "We knew there was demand for access to information about disability rights, but this blew our minds."

"Clearly people are hungry for information and the Global Disability Rights Library addresses a gap," Morrissey said, stressing how it is up to the disabled persons organizations and social entrepreneurs in the field to take the information from the libraries and use it to bring about social change.

"I want to encourage young people to work in human rights and disabilities rights," Morrissey said. "The goal is to move forward and advance the rights and status of people with disabilities."

"There is a lot of opportunity with the GDRL ahead of us," Morrissey said. "The GDRL is an excellent resource for communities at large."

Morrissey hopes it will help bring disability rights to national level discussion in many countries and raise visibility to positively impact disabled persons at the local level.