Ambassador Galt’s Remarks at International Day of Persons with Disabilities Reception

AMBASSADOR GALT: Good evening, everyone. Оroin mend. (Оройн мэнд). Thank you, Chris, for the kind introduction, and thank you to the musicians for the beautiful performance.

Thank you for joining me to mark the 23rd International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Every year, the U.S. unites with the global community to recognize the dignity, rights and well-being that everyone should enjoy, including persons with disabilities.

This summer, the U.S. celebrated the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was the world’s first comprehensive law that guaranteed equal rights and access to persons with disabilities.

A democracy aspires to attain equality and inclusivity to enable full participation for everyone; the achievement of the ADA was a long time in the making for the U.S. I am impressed at how quickly Mongolia has embarked on this path after its decision for democracy.

When I was named Ambassador to Mongolia, I was pleased to learn about the U.S.-Mongolia efforts to advance disability rights.

The 2015 theme of this International Day is “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities.”

By encouraging an active citizenry and ensuring the right to participate in public life to everyone, Mongolia empowers its entire population to contribute to Mongolia’s development.

Related to the main theme, the U.N. raises three key ideas which have driven disability rights advocacy by people in this very room.

First, “making cities inclusive and accessible for all.”

Through the Department of State sponsored Arts Incubator Project, Bid Chadna, a Mongolian NGO established to raise the social participation of people with disabilities, conducted an art project to raise awareness about the accessibility of public infrastructure and transportation.

Over 150 photos were posted online and exhibited publicly.

Second, “improving disability data and statistics.”

Data drives decision-making.

A group of Mongolian Association of State Alumni (MASA) alumni received a State Department grant to create a user-friendly mapping tool for wheelchair users and to provide information about wheelchair accessibility of buildings in Ulaanbaatar.

The project launches this month and will include workshops to further increase public awareness.

Third, “including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development.”

The Embassy co-sponsored a delegation of 14 Mongolians to participate in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games this summer.

One athlete, Ms. Davaajargal, earned a silver medal in track and field.

There are many more examples of initiatives that advance disability rights.

We began this event by listening to the beautiful performance of musicians from the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind.

The sheet music that they used to learn their music was produced by a braille-type machine which was donated by Dr. Ann Altman who is with us this evening.

The Embassy provided the software for this machine so that it would enhance their ability to learn.

The gorgeous artworks that you see in this room, which will be featured on the Embassy’s Facebook and Twitter over the next 3 weeks, were produced by students of the Anima Art Design School.

Anima is a fully-inclusive institution that provides quality arts education to its students, including those with disabilities.

Tonight, we give tribute to some of the achievements that Mongolians have attained in the area of disability rights.

I am energized by the diversity of projects and their positive impact.

Tonight, we also recognize that there remains much to be done.

I am optimistic by the hope of what is yet to be accomplished.

Tonight, I encourage you to meet your fellow advocates and to exchange your experiences and ideas.

I hope that tonight’s remarks, presentations, and beautiful artworks will inspire you to continued activism and action in pursuit of our shared goal: a fully inclusive Mongolian society, a fully inclusive world.

Thank you very much.