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By Laszlo Lovaszy member of the UNs Committee on

first_imgBy Laszlo Lovaszy, member of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; lecturer at the University of Pecs, Hungary; and adviser to the European ParliamentAs a member of the CRPD committee, I am responsible for scrutinizing the implementation of the convention in those states that have ratified it, but it is not our job to extend or modify it.Ten years after the convention was introduced, we are beginning to see new issues that no-one could have predicted and that are not currently covered by the convention.This article is about one of those issues, and it is one that, as a member of the committee, I am deeply concerned about.Even though we do not all speak the same language, music can touch all of us (my mother tongue is Hungarian, a very different language to English), even those with a serious hearing impairment like me. Why is that, and what is its relevance to evolution?No-one can be sure, even though issues such as robotics, biotechnology and DNA-related scientific breakthroughs are becoming increasingly high-profile, as can be seen by the increasing frequency with which they are covered by magazines like the Economist, Newsweek and Scientific American.I am almost profoundly deaf, I can enjoy listening to music, although I also sense that the music I can hear must be more beautiful to those without a hearing impairment. It is something I regret never possessing, and something I know I will never enjoy as much as hearing people enjoy.But what if that is not true? After all, our brain can learn and understand any kind of information, as long as it is given the time to learn and adapt to it. Soon, thanks to new biotechnological innovations, we may be able to process new types of information that are currently only available to other members of the animal kingdom. We might be able to possess the navigation skills of a bat, or the eyesight of an owl.If this happens, then the degree to which we are disabled by our own impairments could soon depend on our access to modern biotechnological innovations. Humanity could soon be able to re-design itself.We will soon be developing new generations of smart software and solutions with the brain capacity of hundreds or even thousands of people, which will be able to learn from and teach each other.The field of 3D printing technology – another rapidly-growing area – is interesting. Producing missing body parts for a disabled person through such technology may soon become commonplace, and the replacement parts might even be better than the original.If this happens, people equipped with artificial body parts – or extra sensory abilities – could be in a stronger position to secure a well-paid job than those who have no such access to expensive technology. This could happen. Look at the case of Paralympic and Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. After he was fitted with state-of-the-art artificial limbs for sprinting, he had to be tested by scientists to ensure that he was not gaining an advantage over non-disabled athletes.Mankind is on the brink of being able to modify its own DNA; the British parliament has recently passed legislation to govern the procedure for modifying human DNA to create three-parent embryos, in order to “weed out” serious impairments and create “healthier” offspring.Apart from the serious ethical question of creating embryos that might be terminated because they do not prove useful, an even more serious question is this: will we soon be able to upgrade our own children’s skills, improving their sensory skills, their learning ability or their physical condition? If this is so, will we become a society in which such attributes can be purchased for the right price, and so only available to those with the necessary income? This could exclude any pretence at fair competition and social mobility within society.Of course, the cost of developing innovations and inventions must also be taken into consideration, to maintain the interest of scientists and inventors and ensure fruitful competition within these industries. We therefore need a fine-tuned, twin-track approach.But without such an approach, there is a risk that children born “healthy” but in a traditional way could find themselves disabled in comparison with children of the well-off. Will this leave the less-privileged members of society without any hope of ensuring a decent future for their own children?I hope that this world does not come to pass, but it is a risk.As a member of the CRPD committee, coming from the eastern, emergent part of Europe, I want to work for a world in which disability will not be a sign of poverty and a lack of access to innovation and inventions.The UN convention is not about preserving a right to remain disabled, but about providing choices and opportunities. How would the convention, and the committee, adapt to a world in which those who were rich enough could buy their way out of disability, while those who were poor became ever more disabled?That is why we need to consider this subject very seriously, and the sooner the better.For more information about the author, visit: www.lovaszy.webnode.hulast_img read more

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A note from the editor Please consider making a v

first_imgA note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… Campaigners have welcomed the decision to install what is believed to be the country’s first accessible parking bay for disabled people who need to recharge their electric vehicles.Only holders of blue parking badges who also need to recharge their electric vehicles will be allowed to use the space in the new NCP car park in Stanley Street, Salford.The idea came following a suggestion from disabled campaigner Helen Dolphin (pictured, right, with the new bay), and Libbie Bilyard (left), co-founders of the People’s Parking scheme.Dolphin, an independent mobility consultant and herself a disabled driver, came up with the idea when looking at how to make improvements to their car park accreditation scheme, which already judges services on their provision of electric charging points.She said: “I am only too aware of the increasing growth of electric vehicles and although I don’t have an electric vehicle myself, I knew that as a disabled person I would struggle to get out of my car in a standard sized bay.“I therefore wanted to encourage car park operators to consider the needs of electric vehicle owners who are disabled and I’m absolutely delighted that NCP have installed a dual bay in their new car park.”The scheme aims to improve car parks by highlighting those with facilities for disabled people, parents, commuters, cyclists and motorcyclists, and for electric and wheelchair-accessible vehicles, and those that can show they have good signage and pedestrian routes, are well-lit, clean and well-managed. Sean Fenney, NCP’s head of operations for Manchester, said: “Normally we have to work within the limitations of the estate that we currently have, so when we have a new-build car park it’s always a great opportunity to be able to make the space really work for all our customers. “We were really pleased to be able to add our first dual electric charging bay for our disabled customers, as we expect that to be a very real need in the near future.”The Department for Transport (DfT) welcomed the move by NCP.A DfT spokesperson said: “We welcome measures that support the use of electric vehicles and are committed to ensuring that everyone in our society enjoys the same opportunities to travel.“Our Road to Zero strategy, combined with £1.5 billion of investment in ultra-low emission vehicles, sets out a clear path for Britain to be a world leader in the zero emission revolution.”Motability currently offers three electric models to lease through the disabled people’s vehicle scheme, with 202 customers with electric vehicles at the end of December.A Motability spokesperson said: “The Motability scheme is currently in discussions with a number of other manufacturers to be able to supply full battery electric vehicles on the scheme in the future.“Motability supports initiatives, such as People’s Parking, in helping to improve facilities for disabled people.”last_img read more

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YOUR Saints are Forty20 magazines team of the mo

first_imgYOUR Saints are Forty-20 magazine’s team of the month for June – the fifth different club to win the accolade this season.A last-gasp draw in Hull at the start of a month in which unbeaten Saints notched three wins and a draw was followed by the devastating ten-try demolition of crisis-hit Bradford Bulls at Langtree Park.Saints were then pushed all the way by rising play-off contenders Salford City Reds, before Mike Rush’s side pulled away late on with tries by Jonny Lomax, Michael Shenton and Paul Wellens.And St Helens ended June as they began it, with another titanic struggle this time at home to Hull Kingston Rovers. After falling behind 26-0 in the opening half-hour, the visitors led 28-26 with just eight minutes remaining. But late tries from Anthony Laffranchi and Tony Puletua spared Saints’ blushes and staved off Super League’s biggest ever blown lead.“After a relatively quiet season so far, Saints suddenly find themselves third in the Stobart Super League table,” said Forty-20’s editor-at-large Tony Hannan. “If they can come through July in that position or better, they will seriously fancy their chances of reaching Old Trafford for the seventh year running.”June also saw the emergence of Saints’ latest rising star – Josh Jones. In the four games played, the young centre scored six tries.At the other end of the age spectrum, Paul Wellens weighed in with five.last_img read more

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