Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the HandiKos Exhibition, October 26, 2017
Good evening, everyone. Congratulations on this incredible exhibit. What a testament to the talents of Kosovo’s disabled citizens, and what a great reminder of what can be achieved through the collaboration of artists and activists.
I’m happy to be here at HandiKos. It’s nice to spend an evening with the “do-ers:” the people who continue to fight for what’s right no matter what’s going on in the world of politics.
The folks at HandiKos are among the best. Your tireless advocacy for the rights of the disabled has changed Kosovo for the better time and time again. Just look at the 2016 Law on Paraplegic and Tetraplegic Persons. It never would have happened without you and your commitment to making Kosovo accessible to all its citizens.
But I don’t have to tell you that passing a law is only the first step on the road to equality. It has to be funded and implemented, of course, but we also have to keep pushing for changes in society; in priorities and attitudes.
Just look at our experience in the United States. We achieved something incredible with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, and it happened because of tireless advocates like the folks in this room. But it didn’t end there.
Those same people and many others had to keep pushing for years to translate their legislative victories into better lives. Accessible buildings, employment accommodations, and other rights for the disabled required persistent advocacy at the local and federal levels. It also required difficult conversations among citizens to enshrine the idea that disabled rights are civil rights. Ask any disabled person in the United States: much has been achieved, but huge challenges remain.
So know that there are thousands of Americans right there with you, who continue to fight for equality even 27 years after the ADA’s passage. As the U.S. government, we’ll do everything we can to stand by your side as you make Kosovo a more inclusive place.
I can tell you that the new embassy, we hope to move in during next summer, will be fully accessible. I recognize that our current embassy building has too many stairs for many handicapped people, but we are working and by next summer we should be in a building that anyone can get into.
Thank you very much, and have a great evening.