“The American Disability Rights Movement: A Work in Progress” was the theme of guest lecturer Sharan Brown at AUPP’s Spring Semester Speakers’ Series kickoff on January 22. Brown, who is a Research Professor at the University of Washington (UW) College of Education, provided an overview of U.S. legal and legislative history of the disability civil rights movement, from the Civil War to the present day. Despite a number of successes in American courts and legislatures, Brown was adamant that more work remained to be done. She also pointed out that the U.S.—unlike Cambodia—has still not ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which went into effect almost eight years ago.
Brown, who has taught at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and Royal University of Law and Economics, is no stranger to the Cambodian disability rights community, and she engaged the mostly student audience in a discussion about the importance of language and self- identity in how disability issues are discussed in all societies. In her capacity as Associate Director of the UW University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Brown has a particular interest in education, and recalled her days working in Cambodian refugee camps, where a movement began to meaningfully educate children with disabilities. As part of her message that the education of disabled and non-disabled students needs to be integrated—not segregated—the UW professor asked the audience, “Why do we refer to it as ‘special’ education? I like to call it simply ‘education.’”
Also in attendance were US Embassy Political Affairs Officer Jay Ramen and UW Fulbright Scholar Anne Crylen, who is working with NGOs in Cambodia on issues of deafness and traumatic brain injury.