9 August 2005

Disability Convention Committee Forges Ahead on Articles Affecting Daily Life of People with Disabilities

NEW YORK, 8 August (UN Department of Public Information) -- During the first week of its current session, the General Assembly Committee that is drafting the first-ever treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities conducted a second reading of articles 15 through 20 and 24 bis, which deal with living independently and being included in the community, women with disabilities, children with disabilities, education, participation in political and public life, personal mobility and international cooperation.

The leaders of the global disability movement, themselves persons with disabilities, are attending the sixth session of the General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. Many countries are represented by persons with disabilities.

Negotiations are moving forward at a sustained pace, and see wider participation by developing countries, women with disabilities and advocates for persons with different kinds of disability. Leading disability organizations -- such as Inclusion International, Disabled People International, the International Disability Coalition and the World Federation of the Deaf -- continue to provide their expertise and insight.

The Committee Chairman, Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand, highlighted the need to focus on potentially divisive issues. Stressing the need to achieve consensus, he reminded participants that "perfect is the enemy of the good" and that "you don't have to love everything, you just have to be able to live with it".

One goal of the negotiations is to achieve a broad, flexible treaty that "does not end up time-locking this convention into how things are now", in the words of the representative of People with Disability Australia.

The second half of the Convention deals with issues that affect the daily life of persons with disabilities. Draft article 15 provides that persons with disabilities be enabled to live independently and be fully included in the community, by ensuring that they can choose their place of residence and living arrangements, are not obliged to live in an institution and have access to a range of community support services.

Draft article 15 bis obligates States to eliminate discriminations against women and girls with disabilities. Laws and other measures should guarantee equal access and enjoyment of rights in all areas of life, as well as equal freedom, safety, autonomy, independence, respect and dignity, including through proactive measures and policies.

Specifically, women and girls with disabilities should enjoy full access to programmes and measures related to information, finances, family relations, education, training, health care, rehabilitation and employment; right to sexuality, motherhood, adoption, support during pregnancy and childbirth, and child care; freedom from abuse, violence, sexual exploitation, marginalization and forced medical and pharmaceutical experimentation; access to development and independent economic viability programmes; and participation in decision-making, policymaking and self-representation.

Draft article 16 provides that each child with a disability shall enjoy the same rights as other children.  Children with disabilities should enjoy care suited to their needs, including provision of appropriate and comprehensive services and assistance. Children should have access to education, training, health care, rehabilitation, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner leading to the fullest possible individual development and social integration.

Draft article 17 affirms the right of persons with disabilities to quality education -- a right still far from being achieved, with 40 million children with disabilities around the world not attending school. States are to ensure an inclusive education system, including vocational training and lifelong learning, directed to the full development of a student's personality, talents and abilities, potential and sense of dignity and self worth.

Persons with disabilities should have access to inclusive and accessible education in their own community and reasonable accommodation of their needs, including specialized teachers, an accessible curriculum, accessible teaching mediums and technologies, alternative and augmentative communication modes, alternative learning strategies and an accessible physical environment. No child with a disability should be excluded from primary or secondary education on account of disability.

Under draft article 18, States recognize the political rights of persons with disabilities without discrimination. States must promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can fully participate in political and public life, directly or through representatives, have the right and opportunity to vote and be elected, have access to voting procedures and facilities that are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand, and receive, where necessary, assistance in voting.

States should also promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can fully participate in public administration and public affairs, in political parties and civil society, in disability organizations, and in all decision-making processes, especially those affecting them most.

Draft article 19 provides for measures to ensure accessibility, including by eliminating architectural, sensorial and cultural obstacles, and to promote equal access to information and communication. Persons with disabilities should have access to services and facilities provided to the public, as well as mobility through access to mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies. National standards and guidelines should ensure accessibility of facilities and services and promote universal design; private companies that provide public facilities and services should take into account accessibility needs; and universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities should be made available.

Under draft article 20, States are to take measures to ensure liberty of movement with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, including by facilitating access to mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries. States should promote universal design, as well as research, development and production, for mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies; and provide training in mobility skills to persons with disabilities and to specialist staff working with them.

Draft article 24 bis obligates States to promote international cooperation and take appropriate measures in coordination with each other, as well as with international organizations and other parties, to put into practice the provisions of the convention. States are to exchange best practices on measures, legislation, policies, programmes and projects; ensure that international cooperation programmes include persons with disabilities; encourage the provision of technical cooperation, economic assistance and technology transfer to developing countries; and promote research and application of accessible and assistive technologies.

"It is fair to say that the main theme of the convention is inclusiveness", Mr. MacKay said.  "This has come through in the discussions on all articles we have had."

The draft text of the convention is at .

For information, please contact Edoardo Bellando, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.:  (212) 963-8275, e-mail: .