Equal rights for people with disabilities

c_Jules-Tusseau_Handicap-International__People_celebrate_the_9th_anniversary_of_the_CRPD_in_Bolivia.jpgPeople celebrate the 9th anniversary of the CRPD in Bolivia. 

On December 13, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Priscille Geiser, Handicap International’s head of the support for the civil society unit, reflects on the history of the Convention and the progress it has instigated for people with disabilities. 

Convention in brief

The Convention is a human rights treaty that was adopted by the United Nations on December 13, 2006. It reiterates that people with disabilities have the same rights as any other person. This Convention does not create any new rights, but rather states that human rights are universal and therefore also apply to people with disabilities. 

Vital to people with disabilities

The Convention was needed due to the high levels of discrimination and inequalities that people with disabilities have always been–and still are–subjected to. This discrimination is widespread and includes inaccessible public services, transport, or information. How can I take a bus with my wheelchair? How can I vote in an election if I am deaf or blind don't have accessibility options? People with disabilities find themselves in situations that prevent them from participating in a range of activities that make up people's social lives.

In practical terms

The Convention is the first article addressing people with disabilities that is legally binding for state signatories. The Convention requires states to take measures to fight discrimination. It also presents a different vision of disability by acknowledging that barriers to the full participation of people with disabilities are created by society.

The Convention invites us to celebrate diversity and encourages societies to change how they are organized to ensure that every single person can fully participate and realize their fundamental rights and freedoms. It was a major breakthrough in terms of the defense of the rights of people with disabilities.

Global support

The Convention has been ratified by 168 states, representing 75% of states in the world. It has been a success, which is indicative of the importance of this fight. The next step is to put into action the measures contained in the Convention. Handicap International receives a lot of requests like: "Help us to train the police and justice system to take statements from people with disabilities;" "How can we implement an inclusive education system in contexts where resources are very limited?" etc. This illustrates the fact that attitudes to disability have changed considerably over the past decade. This needs to be seen in the daily lives of people with disabilities, which is what Handicap International is working to achieve with numerous local disability rights organizations. 

Do some people with disabilities encounter more discrimination than others?

Yes. People with psychosocial disabilities, for example, often suffer more from exclusion as they are deprived of their right to make decisions for themselves within the justice or health systems. Often times, they do not turn to the justice system to fight against the discrimination they experience, as they are not considered to be citizens in their own right. Their voices are simply not heard.

The cumulative effect of discrimination is often underestimated. For example, women with disabilities experience different forms of discrimination: pregnant women with disabilities are often refused maternity care, young deaf women may be sexually abused because many know the police will not take their statements. 

Main obstacles and barriers today

People with disabilities are all too often excluded from decision-making bodies, including neighborhood or village meetings. Many times, they cannot take part in making decisions that affect themselves directly and aren’t always able to vote in an election.