Santiago's quest to change the lives of many

07 June 2019

Brisbane’s Santiago Velasquez Hurtado is set to use his lived experiences to help improve the rights of people with disability at an international level.

An electrical engineering student and app developer, Santiago lives with just two per cent usable vision and has been selected as a representative for the United Nations’ (UN) Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York this month.

Santiago is a tireless disability awareness advocate in his local community and will now take that message to the global stage, after being nominated for the convention by Vision Australia.

“The purpose of the convention is to have an outlet at the UN, the biggest table in the world, such that people with disabilities have their rights recognised,” Santiago said.

While there have been long-term conventions for the rights of women, children and other minority groups, the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was only introduced by the UN in 2006.

The 2019 conference will bring together representatives from 176 countries to discuss recent disability rights developments and what still needs to be done to further improve the quality of life for people living with disability.

“This is a conference where it’s an exchange of ideas, and it’s saying, ‘what do we need to do to stay ahead of the curve when talking about and implementing rights for persons with disabilities?,’” Santiago said.

One of the key aspects of this year’s conference will be a discussion around technology and how it can assist people with disability.

“If we are able to integrate people with disabilities in the STEM fields, or assist them in other fields with technology, it means that they won’t have to rely on other people for doing basic tasks and they will be able to be more independent,” Santiago said.

There will also be discussion about how different countries remove barriers to education for people with a disability, something Santiago says is extremely important.

“If you have a good education, and if you have a good foundation, you’re pretty much set to succeed,” he said.

Santiago said he’s also interested in a discussion about the accessibility of public infrastructure across the globe and whether that impacts how societies perceive people with disability.

“I want to learn from countries where, regardless of whether the infrastructure is implemented or not, if the perception of people with disabilities that the regular public has is ‘they’re just like one of us,’” Santiago said.

“I think the biggest thing for me is seeing that light bulb moment when you’re speaking to people and you explain ‘I can’t see but I still get around, I still do normal things’ and they get amazed when they realise ‘it can be done.’ I think for me that is the biggest reward.”

Santiago is one of the many people Vision Australia supports to live the life they choose. Find out how we could do the same for you on our website or get in touch via 1300 84 74 66 or info@visionaustralia.org