The United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

What is the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

The United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD or CRPD) is an international document focusing on the rights for persons with disabilities. The need for the CRPD arose because despite the existence of numerous treaties that recognized various economic, social, civil and political rights for people in general, on the ground, these were routinely denied to persons with disabilities.
For instance, while the right to vote was granted to all adult persons, persons with disabilities were either excluded because they were considered to not have the capacity to vote, or effectively excluded by not providing for accessible ways of voting.
Similarly, the right to education was guaranteed to all children – but children with disabilities were often considered to be ‘ineducable’, or relegated to special schools. The Convention clarifies the extension of all human rights to all persons with disabilities and creates an implementation process.
The Convention is guided by eight fundamental principles; dignity, non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, equality of opportunity, accessibility, equality between men and women, respect and acceptance of persons with disabilities and respect for the evolving capacity of children with disabilities and respect for the rights of children with disabilities to preserve their identity.

What does the UNCRPD include?

The convention is made up of 50 articles that are universal, interdependent and indivisible.

Article 1 states the purpose of the convention
Article 2 and 3 provide definitions and general principles
Article 4 to 32 define the specific rights and obligation of state parties
Article 33-39 set out the procedure of monitoring and reporting and
Article 40-50 talk about ratification and amendment of the convention

What does the UNCRPD offer children with disabilities and their families?

  1. Article 7 of the UNCRPD specifically concerns children with disabilities
    1. Under this, it is recognized that children with disabilities have the right to express their views on matters concerning them, and their views should be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity, on an equal basis with other children
    2. In addition to that, the State is obliged to provide disability and age-appropriate assistance to these children to realize that right
    3. States are also specifically obliged to take all necessary measures to ensure children with disabilities enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children
    4. Lastly, in actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration
  2. Article 23 concerns the right to home and family
    1. Under this, children with disabilities have the right to family life just like other children. They shall not be hidden away, or abandoned, or have their needs ignored, or be forced to live separately. No child with disability will be taken away from their family or a family lose custody of their child because of their disability. Children will not be separated from their parents against the will of the child, unless a judicial body which has the power to make these decisions and whose decisions can be appealed, comes to the conclusion after a thorough inquiry that this separation is in the best interests of the child
    2. Children with disability also have the right to be cared for in family settings and in the community in case an alternative to the family is required
    3. Among the State obligations under Article 24, the State has to provide information, services and support to children with disabilities and their families to prevent practices which result in children with disabilities being hidden away, neglected, left on their own or forced to live in segregated conditions
  3. Article 24 of the CRPD concerns the right to education
    1. Children with disabilities have the right against exclusion from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability. They shall have the right to access inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live, with reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements
    2. It emphasizes inclusive education and the provision of required support (including individualized support measures) within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education in an inclusive setting
    3. It also emphasizes the teaching of Braille, AAC, sign language and other forms of communication along with life and social development skills
    4. Other important State obligations are those concerning the implementation of comprehensive habitation and rehabilitation services and programmes (Article 26) and realizing the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection (Article 28)

What is the significance of the UNCRPD in India?

The CRPD Committee evaluates the implementation of the CRPD in States that have ratified the Convention, like India. To this end, every State has to file a country report on steps taken to comply with the Convention. Simultaneously, disabled persons and disability organizations are to be included in the implementation and reporting process through the submission of what is called a ‘parallel report’ which the Committee will use to verify the State’s claims. As India has not ratified the optional protocol which enables individual complaints to be raised before the Committee, citizens shall not be permitted to register a complaint of violation directly with the Committee.

However, the State obligations under the CRPD certainly have value when approaching the High Court or Supreme Court with regard to any instance of a government body failing to realize the rights of persons with disabilities and may lead to a more favourable approach of the Court. It can also be used to lobby with government authorities to enact laws and change resource allocation to ensure that the provisions of the Convention are implemented.