Syracuse Professor, Alumnus Co-Found Group to Address Rights of People with Disabilities Worldwide

Tangata Group

The Tangata Group, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the proposition that disability rights are human rights, has been created to assist nations in successfully adhering to international disability law and policy, disability inclusive development and participatory human rights education.

The establishment of the new organization, by University of Maryland Professor Janet E. Lord, Syracuse College of Law Professor Michael A. Schwartz and Rowan University Professor and Syracuse alumnus Brent C. Elder ’16 Ph.D., was announced on Dec. 13, the tenth anniversary of the groundbreaking United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)—a 2006 United Nations treaty ratified by more than 165 nations.

Tangata Group envisions a world where people with disabilities live self-directed and dignified lives that are free of oppression, exploitation and discrimination. The organization provides consultant services on domestic and international issues related to disability and human rights including the CRPD and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and provides technical assistance to nations around the world in enhancing compliance with the treaty through research services and interdisciplinary collaborations focused on disability rights, international human rights law, inclusive education and access to justice.

The name Tangata derives from the Maori language, and may roughly be translated as “the essence of being human.” “Tangata Group is founded on the idea that disability rights are human rights, which need to be carefully applied in local contexts around the world in ways that construct disability as a facet of one’s identity that adds value to society,” says Elder.

Janet Lord, Michael Schwartz, Brent Elder“This organization fights for the elimination of all forms of discrimination: systemic, individual, physical, attitudinal and legal,” says Schwartz. “The tenth anniversary of the United Nations treaty provides us with an opportunity to provide technical assistance to nations around the world in enhancing compliance with the treaty.”

The three founders reflect a diversity of backgrounds, experience, knowledge and skill. Lord is a renowned international human rights attorney and a key drafter of the CRPD. She focuses her work on providing technical assistance to over 30 countries around the world as they work to comply with this major treaty. Earlier in her career, she worked on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, focusing on landmine survivor rights in mine-affected countries, and served as legal counsel to NGOs and lead governments in the negotiation of the CRPD. She is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law.

Schwartz, a professor in Syracuse’s College of Law, is the only culturally Deaf law professor in the United States. He supervises law students in the College of Law’s Disability Rights Clinic, a free clinic that provides legal representation to clients with disabilities. He holds five academic degrees and was a Fulbright scholar in Northern Ireland, where he studied Deaf access to health care.

Elder is a professor of inclusive education at Rowan University. He has a doctorate from Syracuse University’s School of Education and has extensive international experience in inclusive education. He was a Fulbright scholar in rural western Kenya, where he studied the development of sustainable inclusive practices.

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