The 10th of December is International Human Rights Day and honours the creation of the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. While most of us are aware of some of the most famous human rights, e.g. freedom of expression, right to equality and right to education, some of us may not be aware of a UN Convention which protects the rights of disabled people.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted on the 13th December 2006 and came into force in 2008. (We would say “disabled people”). The Convention continues decades of work by the United Nations, charities and non-governmental organisations to recognise and promote the rights of people with disabilities. One of the main challenges for disabled people in gaining this lesser-known piece of legislation was overcoming the tendency for governments and organisations to treat disabled people as objects in need of charity, instead of autonomous subjects capable of maintaining active roles in society.
The original list of Human Rights is supposed to apply to all people regardless of race, gender or ability etc. However, those with disabilities have often been subject to difficulties when trying to enjoy the benefits of these human rights. For example, if workplaces do not have provisions for those with disabilities, e.g. disabled access then enjoying Article 23 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all people have a ‘Right to Desirable Work and to Join Trade Unions’ would be difficult!
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities helps to reduce the discrimination of disabled people trying to access fundamental human rights and freedoms.
However, the Convention has not come without its own share of problems. The Convention itself has also been criticised for failing to account for those with severe mental disabilities. The Convention hinges upon the idea that all disabled people are autonomous and thus, have legal capacity at all times. Some campaigners are concerned that this means those with mental disabilities who are unable to make their own decisions (and their family) will be put in a legal grey area.
The most notable problem with the Convention has been its lack of proper implementation across the globe. The UK government has been criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (a group which oversees the execution of UN legislation) as failing to maintain the rights of disabled people in education, housing, transport and social security.
The UK government has also been criticised for failing to offer a guarantee that the rights of disabled people will be fully protected after the UK has left the European Union, we will keep you updated.