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East Kilbride teenager with sight loss will be heard at UN meeting on children and adolescents with disabilities

An East Kilbride teenager who is partially sighted will contribute her thoughts to a global online meeting today to launch a new United Nations manifesto for children and adolescents with disabilities.

Kerry Burke is a 17-year-old school pupil who has albinism, with nystagmus and photophobia affecting her vision.

As a member of the youth forum run by sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, she has been invited to share her own experiences in a short video, to be shown at a session organised by Professor Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, UN Special Envoy on Disability and Access.

“Children and Young People with disabilities have additional barriers that they’ll have to contend with throughout their lives. This manifesto will help aid our fight against these barriers."

Kerry Burke

"I'd like schoolteachers to have a better understanding of disability, including sight loss, as part of their initial training and ongoing professional development.

"Extra-curricular activities for instance, like sports and arts, can be an important part of school-life but these aren't always accessible, due to a lack of awareness of how to involve those with a visual impairment. The manifesto might place more emphasis on the need to ensure these activities are inclusive."

The manifesto will include calls for worldwide recognition of the right to access the same educational opportunities as those without disabilities, and for more awareness of the needs of pupils with physical or sensory impairments.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities approached RNIB Scotland about inviting a young Scot with a disability to comment for today's virtual UN meeting.

Its president, Councillor Alison Evison, said: “I am pleased to be representing COSLA at the launch of the of the Declaration of Children and Youth with Disabilities in the World, and delighted to be sharing that platform with Kerry Burke, representing RNIB Scotland, and providing her perspective as a young person in Scotland. The voices of children and young people are vital in important discussions such as these, and I look forward to today’s event.”

Kerry, who was last month elected as a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, is an active participant in RNIB Scotland's award-winning Haggeye youth forum, set up to give a campaigning voice to young people who are blind or partially sighted.

Today's event will also celebrate 15 years since the adoption of the UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.