Since 2014, Keystone Human Services International (KHSI) has had special consultative status with the United Nations, which allows the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to seek expert information or advice from KHSI and gives us the opportunity to participate in events, conferences, and activities of the United Nations.
A major focus of the United Nations are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calling for a more inclusive world and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to protect the rights of people with disability and end institutionalization. Disability is part of the human experience, and we recognize that developing and transforming the world is directly linked to disability rights and inclusion for all people.
We are pleased to have this opportunity through our special consultative status to participate in UN activities and continue to promote inclusion for all people across the globe.
Read our contribution (page 166-167) to the EOCSOC statement for the July 2020 High Level Political Forum of the UN.
Keystone advocates for funding policies and models that ensure sustainability, reflect a life span perspective, and support the commitments made to the people and families we support. Keystone also advocates for increased wages for those providing direct services to ensure quality, sustainable support services. In Moldova, Keystone’s work has involved the initial mapping and cost analysis for the transformation of social services. This work has resulted in redirecting funding from institutions to new community-based services developed at the local level. Keystone Moldova is a coordinating member of the Gender Budget Watchdog Network, a group of non-governmental organizations in the Western Balkans and Moldova that promote gender-based reform of public finances on a national and local level. Civil society organizations receive support to strengthen their capacity for gender equality, networking, and mobilization of citizens for advocacy through the use of Gender Responsive Budget tools.
People with disability have the right to live in the community, and have the right to life, family, children, work, and health, says Diana Zgherea. “Our voice matters!”
At KHS, we see ourselves as an ally in supporting the advocacy efforts of people with disability. We work alongside people with disability to expand and strengthen advocates in exercising their rights to participate in society as full and equal citizens, and build social and physical environments to change mindsets and foster inclusion.
Watch advocacy videos from Keystone Moldova
Certified Peer Specialists bring valuable, lived experience to their individualized advocacy work. Each Certified Peer Specialist works one on one with people with mental health conditions, not only offering empathy, support, and hope, but encouraging them to advocate for themselves. This peer to peer relationship is a critical part of the recovery journey.
Jennifer Araugo, a Certified Peer Specialist, spoke during the 2021 Zero Project Conference as part of an international panel discussion on the right to employment for people with disability and innovative policies and practices for inclusion in the workforce. “I encourage them to have self-advocacy, to have empowerment. I set goals with them that are attainable, and I work with them on wellness tools….I encourage them to get back into the workforce because employment is…so important for your mental health.”
Parents and guardians play an essential role in directing Capital Area Head Start’s program and advocating for families and students. The Policy Council is a parent and community board that advises our Head Start program on program planning, services, classrooms, home visits, staffing, budget priorities, and other topics that need attention throughout the year. Parents of children at each Capital Area Head Start location elect a parent or guardian representative to serve for one year.
Children, parents, and the program all benefit when parents take on leadership roles. Children can learn more and experience healthier development at school and home. Parents can become more confident, gain skills, and connect with other parents and staff. Program staff learn the strengths, interests, and needs of the children, families, and community they serve. Families build valuable strength, confidence, and resilience through the experience of working together on educational and family goals.
Learn more about Capital Area Head Start
Dogs change lives, and Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD) offers presentations on the many ways assistance dogs transform the lives of people with disability. Specially trained volunteers and dogs are available within parts of Pennsylvania not only to demonstrate specific skills and tasks assistance dogs can learn to support their partner, but also to share how people with disability gain confidence and become more fully included at home, school, work, and in the community.
SSD also offers education opportunities for businesses on the Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to assistance dogs, as well as assistance dog laws and etiquette.
Advocates for community alternatives to institutionalization for children and adults with mental health and developmental disability founded Keystone in 1972. Deinstitutionalization remains central to our advocacy work as we support governments and organizations around the world to close institutions, develop community-based supports, and ensure everyone can exercise their rights and live meaningful lives in the community.
Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) reinforces the right of people with disability to live in the community. More than a decade after the adoption of the CRPD by the UN and nearly global ratification, however, people with disability continue to be placed in institutions in every region of the world, in violation of their rights. Everyone, even people with multiple and profound disabilities, can be supported to live in the community. But without strong and inclusive community services, including supports for families, institutions are too often seen as a “solution.”
Keystone stands firmly against this segregation, and employs a holistic, systemic approach to deinstitutionalization. We provide technical assistance to develop legal frameworks that align with the CRPD, community-based supports, and sustainable financing models. We support prevention measures and family strengthening efforts. Disability rights and awareness programs shift mindsets and attitudes towards people with disability, so that everyone can embrace diversity in an inclusive society. We amplify the voices of people with disability so we can be effective advocates together. Deinstitutionalization is not easy, but it is possible. It is the right thing to do, and has been at the heart of Keystone’s work for five decades.