UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 and came into force in May, 2008. Once a country ratifies the UNCRPD, it has a legal duty to make sure it is being honoured in the country.
Articles 10 to 30 of the UN cover the rights guaranteed to persons with disabilities as follows:
- Article 10 – Right to life
- Article 11 – Situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies
- Article 12 – Equal recognition before the law
- Article 13 – Access to justice
- Article 14 – Liberty and security of the person
- Article 15 – Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- Article 16 – Freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse
- Article 17 – Protecting the integrity of the person
- Article 18 – Liberty of movement and nationality
- Article 19 – Living independently and being included in the community
- Article 20 – Personal mobility
- Article 21 – Freedom of expression and opinion and access to information
- Article 22 – Respect for privacy
- Article 23 – Respect for home and the family
- Article 24 – Education
- Article 25 – Health
- Article 26 – Habilitation and rehabilitation
- Article 27 – Work and employment
- Article 28 – Adequate standard of living and social protection
- Article 29 – Participation in political and public
Persons with disabilities, disability organizations and their allies played an active role in deciding what would be included in the UNCRPD. The UNCRPD does not create new rights for persons with disabilities. Instead, it explains what existing civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights mean in situations faced by persons with disabilities. The rights covered by the UNCRPD are outlined in the text box on this page. But remember that all other UN Conventions also apply to people with disabilities.
Videos: UN CRPD
Watch this video and think about what UNCRPD means to you. Discuss with your group. If you are going through the training by yourself, take some time to reflect on these questions.
This video shows us some of the positive changes in the lives of persons with disabilities after many countries have ratified the UNCRPD.
For a reminder on how to turn on AMARA close captions, visit the FAQ page by clicking here (Question 9).
Transcript of Video
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A lot of people doubted me. They laughed in my face. Said there ain’t no way I would finish that race. But I kept my head down
and laced up my shoes. I ran a marathon when no one thought I could. I didn’t always want to but I said that I would. And I learned a lot about what I can do. It doesn’t matter if they don’t believe. It doesn’t matter if they do not understand.
Cause every dream that I’m trying to achieve I can, I can, I can. I can, I can, I can. So make a list and do not make it brief. Write down every single wish and every little thing that you want. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t ever hesitate if people turn you down. Do not settle, do not wait, don’t ever turn around cause you’re almost there, I swear, I swear it’s yours. And all that matters is there’s no regrets. It doesn’t matter if they do not understand cause everything you want you haven’t gotten yet. You can, you can, you can. You can, you can, you can. Right now on this planet there are things that we can fix. There are people going hungry, a lot of them are kids. And it’s so unfair they’re scared and all alone. Wars are being fought over land and over God and we need a different plan cause I think that we’ve forgot that we’re all the same. We’re just love and blood and bones. It doesn’t matter if they think we’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if they do not understand. Cause every obstacle we need to overcome. We can, we can, we can. It doesn’t matter if they think we’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if they do not understand. Cause every obstacle we need to overcome. We can, we can, we can. We can, we can, we can. We can, we can, we can. We can, we can, we can.
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It is important to know whether your country has signed and ratified the UN. If a country has only signed the UN, it does not have a legal duty to do what it says. But, by signing, the country takes on a moral duty to not take actions that go against the treaty. Signing also shows that the country is willing to consider the next step to ratify the UN. Once a country ratifies a Convention, it has a legal duty to do what it says.
An updated list of the countries that have signed and ratified the UNCRPD can be found on the website of the United Nations Treaty Collection.
Another place to find this information is on the United Nations Enable website.
Other United Nations Human Rights Treaties: TWIN TRACK
DRPI has adopted the ‘twin-track approach’ to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities:
- Track One involves using the UNCRPD
- Track Two involves using the other important United Nations human rights treaties that also protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities.
Both tracks are followed at the same time because there are many people who have more than one identity. Women with disabilities, for example, are covered by the UNCRPD and CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women). Children with disabilities are covered by the UNCRPD and CRC (Convention of the Rights of the Child). Migrant workers with disabilities are covered by the UNCRPD and the CRMW (International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families). People with disabilities are part of many groups and are impacted by all of these treaties.
These other important treaties apply to all persons, including all persons with disabilities:
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976) (ICESCR)
This treaty deals specifically with economic, social and cultural rights.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) (ICCPR)
This treaty deals specifically with civil and political rights.
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (1984) (CAT)
Persons with disabilities and especially those who live in institutionalized settings, are particularly vulnerable to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This type of treatment is not allowed under the CAT.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1981) (CEDAW)
This treaty applies to all women and girls, including women and girls with disabilities. It covers all types of rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social.
Convention of the Rights of the Child (1990) (CRC)
This treaty applies to all girls and boys, including girls and boys with disabilities. It covers all types of rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social.
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969) (CERD)
This treaty applies to all members of racial groups and/or minorities, including members of racial groups and minorities with disabilities. It applies to persons with disabilities who suffer discrimination because they are part of a racial group or minority.
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families (2003) (CRMW)
This treaty applies to all migrant workers and their families, including all migrant workers who have disabilities and their families. It deals with rights violations faced by persons with disabilities who are migrant workers or part of the family of a migrant worker.
As with the UN, it is important to know whether your country has ratified these treaties. If your country has ratified any of these treaties, it is legally required to do what the treaties say and to include people with disabilities. What year did your country ratify the UNCRPD. What other conventions has it ratified?
Updated lists of the countries that have signed and ratified each of these treaties can be found on the website of the United Nations Treaty Collection.
During this activity were there any particular questions that really stood out to you? Which questions? Why do you think these particular questions stood out to you? Share your opinions and discussions with us.
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General Human Rights Principles
In addition to guaranteeing specific rights like ‘the right to health’, the UN and other human rights treaties also include general principles that can be used to address many areas of rights. The general principles provide guidance about how each right in the treaty can be understood and ensured.
Here are the general human rights principles found in the UN and other United Nations human rights treaties that are important to persons with disabilities:
Dignity refers to the inherent worth of every person. Human rights are about protecting and promoting the self-respect of all person. Everyone should feel respected in their community and their society and in their everyday activities.
Example: Mirela was in a fire and has scars that cover her head and upper body. She has had difficulty finding a job and she is very poor. Because of the respect her friends and colleagues have for her, she is not forced to live in an institution or beg for money. Instead, she is invited to join a group of women who have a business raising chickens and selling their eggs. In this way, she is able to make the money she requires to meet her basic needs, and she has a sense of dignity.
Autonomy is the right of a person to make his or her own choices independently or with support. Autonomy means that the person is placed at the centre of all decisions affecting him or her.
Example: Robert has speech that is difficult to understand. When he goes to the community clinic, the doctor or his family or friends makes sure that Robert has someone with him who Robert trusts and who can assist Robert to communicate. With that support, Robert can ask the doctor questions and make decisions about his treatment.
Participation, Inclusion & Accessibility
Inclusion is the right of all persons to participate fully and effectively. It involves making sure that society is organized to be accessible and is without physical or social barriers. This includes access to transportation; elections; clean water; sanitation; technology; appropriate sources of communication and media to ensure information. It also means that there have to be non-discriminatory attitudes and facilitation or accommodation.
Example: Priyanga, who is blind, is welcome to attend the same school and classes as her brothers and sisters who are not blind. The school and the teacher think it is important for all children to have a chance to learn and so they try to accommodate her not being able to see by having Braille books and tactile learning tools.
Non-Discrimination & Equality
Rights are guaranteed to everyone. It is discrimination for people to be denied their rights based on disability, race, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or age.
Discrimination happens when favouritism is shown to one group of people over another. It may be based on prejudice and is unfair. Laws, policies, programs, actions or failures to act that result in denying certain persons the ability to exercise their human rights, is discrimination.
Everyone has the right to enjoy human rights equally. Rights, responsibilities and opportunities do not depend on whether someone is born with or without certain qualities. Society must be sure that everyone has what they need to exercise their rights fully – sometimes what a person needs to exercise his or her rights equally will be different from what is needed by another person.
Example of non-discrimination: Anna, a woman with an intellectual disability, is able to marry and have children. The laws of her country allow her to exercise these rights even though she has an impairment. Also, Anna knows that if her husband beats her, the police must act to protect her. They cannot ignore the abuse because she has a disability.
Example of equality: Nak, a man who is deaf, and his friend Dusit, who does not have a disability, are both able to get enough information about the candidates who are running for election to be able to exercise their right to vote. Both Nak and Dusit travel to a gathering where the candidates are speaking by using the same public bus. Since both sign language interpretation and a loudspeaker have been arranged by the event organizers, both Nak and Dusit can understand what the candidates are saying.
Respect for Difference
Respect for difference involves recognizing and accepting differences or variations among people as part of human diversity. Difference is not a reason to deny someone his or her rights and dignity. The responsibility to change does not fall on the individual but on the community and the government and society who must recognize diversity and find ways to be inclusive of human differences.
Example: Eghosa has a disability that requires him to walk with a cane. In order to remain mobile and self-sufficient, the buses in his community have to be accessible. The bus driver on Eghosa’s regular route recognizes his needs and allows him time to walk from where he waits to the bus. The driver also allows Eghosa the extra few seconds it takes to reach his seat before starting to move the bus. Instead of worrying about losing time on his route, the driver thinks about the individual needs of his passengers.
All of the general human rights principles apply equally to men, women, boys and girls, aboriginal people, children, people of all races and cultures..
Disability rights monitors will use these general human rights principles when collecting information about the human rights situation of persons with disabilities in their countries.