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Evelyn Glennie, defying odds and challenging discrimination against people with disabilities


Evelyn Glennie could be seen as a successful example of inclusive education at work.

Developing a hearing impairment at an early age, Glennie continued to pursue her love for music, particularly the percussions.  She challenged the entry system for the Royal Academy of Music in the United Kingdom at a young age, speaking out against the discrimination

“The Royal Academy declined my first audition; I wanted to know whether that was because I wasn’t good enough to get in or if there was another reason. And there was the other reason, where they couldn’t quite see how a professional orchestra would hire a hearing impaired person,” she said.

Glennie insisted on being judged on musical capability alone and not only convinced the Royal Academy to accept her application but subsequently changed the admission policy of musical institutions all over the UK.


Glennie was in Geneva recently to perform as part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The convention is a pivotal document in equating disability rights with human rights, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussien.

 “Ten years after the adoption of the convention, rights and obligations are gaining strength,” he said. “We can see the shift from a medical and charity approach to a human rights approach as promoted in the convention.”

Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, the out-going Chairperson of the CRPD Committee echoed this sentiment.

“The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is not an island in human rights, but an integrated standard inside the international system of promotion and protection of human rights,” she said.

Glennie said her mission is to teach the world to listen.

 “Listening is the crux of all of our lives; it is the one ingredient which glues us all together.”

 She believes that people need to listen in different and varied ways. “Listening is not always about the spoken word or a sound. It is the observation; it is the awareness and the opening up of all of our senses.”

The committee sessions on CRPD leading to the tenth anniversary celebrations, held from 15 August to 2 September 2016, adopted two general comments regarding the issue of women and girls with disabilities as well as the right of inclusive education.

23 September 2016

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