A global plan is needed for employment of people with disabilities, French activist Dr. Jean-Baptiste Richardier told the Business Record during a visit to Des Moines to speak at the Sussman Lecture hosted by the Harkin Institute at Drake University. 

He shared thoughts, photos and videos about his life’s work Wednesday night at Drake. 

Richadier co-founded Humanity & Inclusion (formerly known as Handicap International) while working to support Cambodian refugees along the Thai border who had been maimed by landmines, saved by doctors, but then offered no specific assistance as they left the hospital. His family and colleagues eventually created rehabilitation centers.

Under his leadership in 1992, Handicap International joined forces with five other nongovernmental organizations to form the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was collectively awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. His speech, however, was particularly timely as the White House in January reversed a prohibition on the use of landmines by the U.S. military, saying the restrictions create a disadvantage for American forces.

“It's very bizarre from the French perspective to see a president coming back on the words of his own [country]. ... Usually foreign relations are sacred,” he said of the Trump administration’s decision to defy the prohibition and go against the conglomerate of countries. “So, you can appreciate the moral value of the U.S. leadership.”

While Richadier’s work primarily focused on people in war-torn or developing countries, he told the Business Record there must be a global solution for employing people with disabilities. Society “doesn't sufficiently contribute to the promotion of the idea that these people are employable … and it's a deeply cultural matter of a given society,” he said. Anything to enhance understanding and the visibility of success stories with hiring people with disabilities is important, he said.

Humanity & Inclusion is a partner in the planning of the Harkin International Disability Employment Summit. This Sussman Lecture is one of many disability-themed events the Harkin Institute will host in 2020 in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

READ MORE: See the Business Record’s coverage of the ADA anniversary here.