Silvia Quan

Nov 13, 2020
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Condition: Completely Blind

1. What is your profession and why did you decide to choose this field?

I have been a disability rights activist for the last 25 years, becoming a human rights expert in the early 2000s. I started as a disability rights activist when I became a visually impaired person (VIP), and my growing discomfort with the situations I was experiencing - much discrimination and injustice - made me look for other people who were experiencing similar situations. That's how I got involved with other persons with disabilities, not only VIP, and got to know persons with disabilities beyond my own country, Guatemala. The first international event that I attended was Beijing +5, that took place at the UNHQ in New York, I had the pleasure of meeting wonderful women with disabilities who inspired me and who encouraged my participation. From there, I also was able to participate in the UN Ad Hoc Committee that drafted the text that was later adopted as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in December 2006. My profession has led me to be able to pursue a career at an international level in the human rights of persons with disabilities.

2. What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

Doing what I do is very rewarding indeed. I have the opportunity to learn from many persons with disabilities' experiences around the world. Although this may sound exciting and romantic, it's really not. Persons with disabilities face many challenges worldwide, but especially in low-income countries, like mine. So what is rewarding about my work is that I have the opportunity to do something for persons with disabilities who face hardship, whose human rights are being violated, and are in much suffering. If I can do something to change that and make things a little better for persons with disabilities, that's what keeps me going on. But the truth is that this is not about me, but about persons with disabilities and what needs to be changed in societies around the world to make this world less discriminatory, more diverse and accepting, and where persons with disabilities can participate on an equal basis with others and can make their voices be heard. There are so many challenges to be undone, so we really need to know this and hope that more persons with disabilities can feel empowered and strong enough to join in these struggles.

3. What is your advice to all the other VIP around the world who don’t believe they can be successful in the area of their interest because of their disability?

The main message for any persons with disabilities who might feel depressed due to their impairment is that everybody has to be valued, no matter what. They might be diverse, all human beings are diverse, and although humankind is still learning about disabilities, all persons must feel valued and dignified to keep moving ahead. It's ok to feel depressed sometimes, or sad or angry, but we all must love ourselves deeply as a first step to be able to love others, regardless of their diversity.