Rights of persons with disabilities: a few notions
According to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, these are persons who:
- have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments;
- and this in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
Around 10% of word population have disabilities and are particularly vulnerable in the daily exercise of their rights. A few years ago it became apparent that it was no longer sufficient to emphasise respect for human rights in general to improve their living conditions. Since then, specific recognition of their rights was undertaken, which however does not grant them a new form of human rights. The aim of this recognition is to ensure full and equal enjoyment of all human rights for persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their intrinsic dignity.
Belgium defends the promotion and protection of the rights of this vulnerable group in its international initiatives. At UN level, several action programmes have been implemented over recent years to improve their living conditions.
In 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. European Union Member States were very active in the negotiations for this project, which was initiated by Mexico. Disabled persons’ organisations were also involved in the process.
The Convention emphasises different principles such as:
- accessibility in different fields including transport, information or public services;
- the social integration of persons with disabilities;
- their personal autonomy;
- non-discrimination and equal opportunities.
The situation of women and children with disabilities is also addressed and given special attention. Party states commit to taking the necessary measures to guarantee full exercise of rights to persons with disabilities.
This Convention was followed by an Optional Protocol which decrees that individuals or groups of individuals who are victims of the violation of one of the rights set out in the Convention may submit a claim to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Belgian and European Union initiatives
Belgium signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol in March 2007. These instruments have been ratified on 2 July 2009.
The European Community also signed this Convention, and its ratification is open to any regional integration organisation. This was the first time that the European Community signed a Convention on human rights, and this instrument is in the process of being ratified at this level.