UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted on 13 May 2006 by the UN General Assembly in New York based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and took effect on 3 May 2008. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international law treaty, concluded by 177 states and the European Union by ratification, accession or (in the case of the EU) formal confirmation. It spells out in concrete terms the eight human rights conventions existing to date for the life situations of persons with disabilities.
Article 3 of the Convention lays down the guiding principles:
a) Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;
d) Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
d) Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
e) Equality of opportunity;
g) Equality between men and women;
h) Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
Article 4 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reads: “the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind of the basis of disability.”
According to Article 4 (2) of the Convention, these rights need not be realized immediately but “progressively” — without prejudice to those obligations contained in the Convention that are immediately applicable according to international law. The Convention may thus be realised by a State Party progressively “to the maximum of its available resources”.
This limitation clearly shows that while the Convention should be practically implementable, it is well understood that any change of laws for inclusion and the implementation of accessibility takes some time as well as construction measures, training, or staff.
Progressive realisation relates to economic, social and cultural rights; it therefore refers to the human rights laid down in the UN Social Covenant.
Convention and texts on the Convention
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Austria
Optional Protocol (additional voluntary commitment)
Austria ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 26 October 2008. In addition to the CRPD, Austria also signed the additional Optional Protocol. This protocol enables individuals and groups of persons to lodge an individual complaint with the Geneva-based UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Every state must define at least a national point of contact. In Austria, the federal contact point is the Ministry of Social Affairs. Conforming with Article 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Austrian Federal Constitution, the Austrian laender have set up their own contact points for their sphere of responsibility.
In December 2008 a monitoring mechanism was set up for the federal level, the Monitoring Committee (sections 13 et seqq., Federal Act on Persons with Disabilities, Bundesbehindertengesetz). The laender have also set up monitoring bodies for their sphere of responsibility.
The Austrian Monitoring Committee is an independent body which oversees compliance with the UN CRPD in legislative and executive matters reserved to the federal level (administration and judiciary).
The Monitoring Committee
- may obtain opinions from government bodies on a case-by-case basis;
- issues recommendations and opinions on the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of UN CRPD matters;
- regularly reports to the Minister of Social Affairs on its deliberations;
- maintains an informed dialogue with civil society in matters of the UN CRPD.
The Committee is composed of:
- four representatives of organisations of persons with disabilities (and one substitute member each)
- one representative of an NGO in the area of human rights (and one substitute member)
- one representative of an NGO in the area of development cooperation (and one substitute member)
- one representative of academic teaching (and one substitute member).
The Ministry of Social Affairs and the government department concerned or the supreme executive body are represented in an advisory capacity.
“Inclusion describes how we want to live as members of society:
In coexistence where no person is excluded.
Every person is a recognized part of society.
Regardless of origin, disability, sexual orientation or age.
All people are different. Society benefits from the diversity of individuals.”
National Action Plan on Disability 2012-2020 (NAP)
The National Action Plan (NAP) on Disability was adopted in 2012. It reflects the objectives of Austrian disability policy up until 2020. A major chapter in the NAP is dedicated to accessibility. In addition to wide-ranging measures, the plan is to raise awareness among the various levels of government, business, and the population at large for the issue of accessibility.
In general terms, all persons with disabilities enjoy access to general labour market policy measures and adequate support within the meaning of disability mainstreaming. However, particular life situations, age and the individual’s course of life, particular forms of impairment, or the combination of disabilities with other settings that may make participation difficult give rise to specific support needs in the workplace or during reinsertion in the labour market.
With the inclusion package adopted by the National Council in October 2017, the strengthening of participation in working life and the further development and continuation of existing offers for persons with disabilities will in future be at the centre of disability policy.
Martin Ladstätter, chairman of the association BIZEPS (Centre for Self-Determined Learning) and member of the Human Rights Advisory Council of the Austrian Ombudsman Board, is critical when he states:
“Under international law we have an obligation to inclusion, but we do not fulfil it. This is by no means restricted to the education sector. In Austria there is a gap between self-perception and the perception by others. We see the welfare benefits and we overlook existing barriers. We mistake care for inclusion.”