Rights of persons with disabilities

Source: Save the Children UK
There are an estimated 200 million children with disabilities in the world, out of a global population of about 2 billion children. In other words, approximately 10% of the total population of children, the majority of whom live in developing countries, are born with a disability or become disabled during childhood. May 2009 (pdf). [see more]
“The purpose of the convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities. It covers a number of key areas such as accessibility, personal mobility, health, education, employment, habilitation and rehabilitation, participation in political life, and equality and non-discrimination. The convention marks a shift in thinking about disability from a social welfare concern to a human rights issue, which acknowledges that societal barriers and prejudices are themselves disabling”. (UN)

A United Nations (UN) ad-hoc committee has approved the draft text of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Disabled rights groups and U.N. officials hope that the first core human rights treaty of the 21st century could finally assume legal force when world leaders gather for the 62nd. session of the General Assembly on 25 to 27 September 2007.

The convention aims to be an instrument that would make governments introduce changes to their legislation in order to improve and promote the access of disabled people to education and employment, their access to information and adequate health care systems, their mobility without facing neither physical nor social obstacles, as well as to protect and ensure their full and equal enjoyment of rights, just as the rest of people, in areas such as the participation in public life and social welfare.

Although the acknowledgement of the rights of persons with disabilities is included in other international treaties, reality has proven so far that this acknowledgement often remains on the books. This convention intends to involve countries in the elimination of stereotypes and the inclusion of disabled people in societal activities. While the convention does not create new rights, it specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas. “A universal, legally binding standard is needed to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are guaranteed everywhere. The UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Disabled Persons (1993) have served as model legislation for a number of countries. They provide policy guidelines on promoting the same opportunities to persons with disabilities that others enjoy. However, the Standard Rules are not a legally binding instrument, and disability advocates note that there are no enforceable obligations without a convention”. (UN).

Prejudices, exclusion, infantilization and the still prevailing tendency to consider disabilities from a perspective of charity or health care rather than from a conception of human rights pose a real obstacle to participation and to a full acknowledgement of rights. Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that “attitudes, rather than resource constraints, often create the strongest barriers to the enjoyment of rights by persons with disabilities” . Referring to States, she claimed that they “bear the primary responsibility for ensuring equality and eliminating discrimination, but we all must also acknowledge our own responsibility and act accordingly”. She also stated that international cooperation “must play a role in ensuring that progress is made everywhere, since empowering persons with disabilities to enjoy their human rights is a collective obligation”.

Following these steps there arises the need to implement the follow-up to commitments undertaken by countries and at the same time –beyond the existence of the convention– to mainstream these rights in other treaties, strongly linking them to development, population and human rights policies.
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Tuesday, August 19 2008
Mainstreaming disability in the development agenda
(Source: United Nations Headquarters)
Friday, May 16 2008
U.N. to focus on treaty protecting the disabled
(Source: IPS News)

Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities

Landmark UN treaty on rights of persons with disabilities enters into force (UN News Centre)

Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (U.N.)


A health handbook for women with disabilities (Hesperian)

Protection of the rights of women with disabilities (AWID)


See me, hear me: a guide to using the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights of (Save the Children UK)

The new Disability Convention and the protection of children (CRIN)


Opening for signature of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (IFSBH)

First-ever treaty for people with disabilities gains ground (IPS)

Disabled treaty to reverse years of neglect (IPS News)

Civil society involvement

Mainstreaming disability in the development agenda (United Nations Headquarters)

Protecting the rights of the disabled (Pambazuka)

Disability News (CRIN)

What does the Convention do for children with disabilities (CRIN)

ESC rights and the disability convention

DPI Disability Convention Daily Updates (Disabled Peoples' International - DPI)

A message from Venus Ilagan, Chairperson of DPI - August 25, 2006 (Disabled Peoples' International - DPI)

On the 8th Ad Hoc Committee meetings (Inclusion International)

Feminist International Radio Endeavour - Disabled Women's Section

UN Ad Hoc Committee

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (DPI)

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention - February 2006

Eighth Session of the Ad Hoc Committee - 14-25 August 2006

Statement by Louise Arbour, New York, 27 January 2006

Background conference document - January-February 2006 (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - OHCHR)

Former UN rules and declarations

Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

Principles for the protection of persons with mental illness and the improvement of mental health care

Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons

Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons

Country reports

People with disabilities in Vietnam (Institute for Social Development Studies)

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