Blog 1: 27/06/22

My internship is with the Legal Clinic of Disability and Human Rights of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Much of the focus of the internship has been course-based, with a light shed on disability law in the mental health arena. With an undergraduate and graduate degree in psychology in hand, I thought there would be quite an overlap with what I have learned and what the course might offer. Wrong I was. Instead, I take with me that greater collaboration is needed among professionals in different spheres, working with the same goal of pushing human rights work forward.

“Does having a disability warrant limiting someone’s freedom?” asked the Professor to the class. I stared at my camera on Zoom blankly, realizing this was never discussed in any course I had taken prior. I thought back to the cases of petty crimes that resulted in the criminalization of people living with mental health. I tell myself the answer should be no. But what if they are a danger to themselves? Is it fair to allow authorities to make such a determination?

These thought-provoking discussions occur weekly. I am pushed to challenge my own beliefs about disability and the negative associations related to it. Through this experience, I have also seen the importance of an interdisciplinary approach in human rights work. I look back and wish I had been exposed to such questions throughout my prior academic training. I look forward and see the benefits of having lawyers work with other professionals, including psychologists in disability law, to strengthen their arguments. When trying to push Courts to adopt a social model of disability consistent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), for example, I now more clearly see the benefit of an interdisciplinary approach. When hearing parents talk about the struggles of accessing inclusive education for their children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, I want to form a team of lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health advocates to find solutions.

This experience has gifted me many gems. One of the most meaningful is the need for collaboration.