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Back to: Third Session of the Ad Hoc Committee
Daily summary of discussions

Daily summary of discussions related to Article 13

UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
Third session of the Ad Hoc Committee - Daily Summary
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Volume 4, #4
May 27, 2004

Morning Session
Commenced: 10:13 PM
Adjourned: 1:02 PM

Yemen proposed that Article 13(c) should add “and providing opportunities for those concerned with persons with disabilities to be educated in augmentative and alternative communication modes.” Also, Yemen suggested in 13(f) to replace “encouraging” with “obliging,” and noted that governments can use their authority, including taxation, to compel private entities to provide accessible communications.

Sierra Leone stated that this is a technical Article but an important one that involves the capacity to access technology, which most PWD in Africa lack. So before making any specific recommendation for this Article, Sierra Leone requested that those countries that have technological expertise assist it in understanding technological terms. Sierra Leone directed the Committee’s attention to footnote 42, which discusses plain language, and stated that this discussion might be too technical for some states, and if they are going to be involved, they would like assistance, based on the report of the WG, to understand these terms. Sierra Leone then directed the attention of the WG to footnote 41 and asked the Committee whether it preferred using the term “mode of communication” or “format.”

Lebanon stated that in light of footnote 43 language should be appended to 13(e) to provide for the provision and training of assistants and intermediaries such as sign language and tactile interpreters, note-takers, readers, and others. It also supported Yemen's proposal for 13(c), and then proposed a further amendment to 13(c), to add after “educating PWD,” the words “and non-disabled persons wishing to communicate with PWD.” Lebanon then proposed a new paragraph related to inclusiveness: “States Parties will take all appropriate measures to ensure that accessible information and communication technologies be designed, developed and produced at an early stage so that the information society becomes inclusive at minimum cost.”

Trinidad and Tobago supported this Article, as information technologies can pose barriers to PWD in developing countries, and supported Yemen’s amendment to 13(c) but with “their families and the general public” appearing after “educating PWD.” It also recommended that “and public” be added after “private” in the text of 13(f).

Namibia proposed the deletion of “on request in a timely manner,” as documents should be accessible to everyone at all times. When “on request” and “in a timely manner” are used, issues of funding might be used by States to claim that that it is not possible to make documents accessible. Namibia supported the proposal by Yemen for 13(f), that private agencies should also be obliged to provide information to the public in accessible formats. Namibia supported Yemen’s comments about the mass media, and also supported Lebanon’s proposal.

Japan stated that although it understood the thrust of 13(a), it noted that governments may sometimes leave the task of translation to private organizations. Therefore Japan suggested substituting “Taking appropriate steps to provide public information” for “Providing public information.” This would leave room for interpretation as to whether the government or private organizations should do translation in any given case. Japan suggested that 13(e) would be more appropriately placed in Article 19.

Argentina proposed amending 13(a) to add “and technologies” after “accessible formats,” and to substitute “and technologies appropriate to different disabilities” for “taking into account different kinds of disability.”

Ireland, on behalf of the EU, suggested amending 13(a) to replace “public" with “official” in describing the type of information that States Parties should provide. The EU also suggested deleting the words “of their choice,” as sometimes it may not be viable to have a choice of formats. The EU proposed a new beginning for 13(d), “Promoting and where appropriate undertaking the research,” as it may not be necessary for States to undertake research that may already be undertaken in other countries or by organizations.

Thailand supported the WG draft but suggested the deletion of “on request,” as there may not always be time for PWD to make requests. Thailand also proposed substituting, in 13(f), .“Requiring” or “Ensuring” for “Encouraging,” as this document is not a policy statement, it is a legally binding document and “encouraging” is not a strong enough word.

Costa Rica expressed concern that the title of the Article might limit access to and development of rights. It therefore suggested that the title be changed to “Right to information and communication.” Ensuring access is an important component of the right to information. The EU has developed that entitlement to communication as a fundamental right and urged the Committee to further develop and incorporate this concept in the WG draft. Costa Rica suggested modifications to the chapeau, to read as follows: “States Parties undertake to ensure the enjoyment of the right to information and communication to PWD. In this regard States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion through alternative modes of communication of their choice, where appropriate, including Braille, sign language and to seek, receive and impart information, on conditions of equality, including by...” Costa Rica then addressed 13(c), stating that discussing only teaching or education seemed “paternalistic” and suggested amending 13(c) to read as follows: “Providing education programmes aimed at teaching PWD and their families in the use of alternative and augmentative modes of communication.” It further suggested appending to 13(e) the words including training of interpreters, and access to new information and communication technologies." The digital divide does not just run north and south, but also exists within the south, and affects PWD who do not have access to technologies.

Canada stated that the ideas expressed in Article 13 are important for the full equal participation of PWD, but felt that components of Article 13 overlap with provisions of Article 19 and would suggest that the two Articles be considered together, taking into account the provision of reasonable accommodation. It further suggested that “suitable for PWD” be replaced with “in consultation with PWD” in order to bring PWD into the process of research and development of technologies which would make technologies and products more accessible. In the chapeau, the words “on an equal footing” should be replaced by “on the basis of equality with others.”

Korea supported Costa Rica in its proposal for 13(e) and Lebanon for its ideas about training interpreters, and proposed adding, after the words "people with disabilities," the words “including expanding the necessary level of expertise to assist persons with disabilities."

Israel supported Costa Rica, especially in its rewording of the chapeau. Israel stated that the title deals with two separate, but equally important issues, and proposed changing the title of the Article to “The right of access to information,” because it feels that this Article deals with the means to ensure accessibility to information and to facilitate the exercise of freedom of expression.

Uganda stated that it would like the word communication to be defined, and that this definition could be transferred to the definition Article (3). Uganda suggested the following definition: “oral, aural communication, communication using sign language, finger Braille, Braille, large print, audio, accessible multimedia, human readers, and other augmentative modes of communication, including accessible information and communication technology.” Uganda also proposed inserting in 13(e) “and where necessary their parents and caregivers” after PWD, and in 13(f) replacing "Encouraging" with “Ensuring."

Uganda proposed a new paragraph, 13(h): “Developing a national sign language,” as in many countries there have been no steps taken toward the important goal of developing a national sign language.

Mexico stressed the fundamental importance of this Article. It supported Costa Rica's proposals both for the chapeau and for the title. It supported the proposals of Japan, Namibia, and the EU to make a reference to information of an official, rather than of a public, nature. In 13(b) Mexico recommended inserting “and promoting” after “accepting.” Mexico then proposed a new paragraph, “Promoting that persons with disabilities enjoy the new information and telecommunication technologies.”

South Africa supported the content of the chapeau as it seeks to ensure that States take practical measures, and proposed adding a new paragraph, “Providing information to persons with disabilities about mobility aids, devices and other forms of assistive devices and technologies.” South Africa recommended that 13(e) be placed in the Article on accessibility and supported Uganda’s proposal for including families and caregivers.

stated that this Article focuses more on the means of freedom of expression rather than the freedom itself. As a result, Jordan stated that the chapeau needs to be strengthened to reflect this right, that there is a need to reorder the subparagraphs, and that there is duplication between this Article and Article 19. In regard to 13(d), research and development are issues of general concern and should be placed in the Article on obligations (4) so that it would apply to all articles. Jordan suggested replacing all instances of the word “Encouraging” with a stronger word such as “Requiring” or “Ensuring." Jordan proposed the substitution of “Providing education and learning to” for “Educating” in 13(c), as it considers learning to be interactive, while education is more passive.

New Zealand supported most of the WG text but shared Sierra Leone's concern about the confusing use of such terms as format, mode of communication, and alternative and augmentative communication. The WG had had difficulty in distinguishing among these terms. New Zealand then suggested that “alternative,” which may have a pejorative connotation, be replaced in all instances with “a variety of." It also suggested deleting the word “augmentative” in all instances from the text, because “augmentative” is one specific mode of communication, and placing it alongside "alternative" in the text gives augmentative communication a “greater status” than other forms. New Zealand also supported the EU's proposal to delete “of their choice” from the chapeau, and the EU's proposed rewording of 13(d).

Philippines proposed the addition of “affordable” after “suitable” in 13(d).

India supported Costa Rica's proposed amendment to the chapeau, and the inclusion of families in the text. India also supported the title proposed by Israel, but recommended appending to it the words “and to promote facility of expression."

Morocco supported Yemen’s proposal for 13(c). It suggested adding “nor taxes” after “additional costs” in 13(a), as taxes on technologies can sometimes reach 150%, which may prevent PWD from accessing needed instruments and supported.

Kuwait supported the title proposed by Costa Rica, and Yemen's proposed additions in 13(a) with respect to families and caregivers. The words “on request” should be deleted from 13(a).

Viet Nam supported Costa Rica's proposed title, and Uganda’s proposal on the development of national sign language. Viet Nam also stressed the necessity to develop an international sign language.

Kenya supported replacing “Encouraging” in 13(f) and (g) with imperative language so that States will find it necessary to encourage private actions that will enable PWD to communicate. It also supported the idea that parents and caregivers must be able to learn appropriate modes of communication so that PWD can communicate with the rest of society. The Convention should include language supporting non-disabled people's opportunities to learn Braille, sign language, and other appropriate modes of communication. The Committee must focus not only on high-profile disability sectors, such as blindness and deafness, but must also take into account other disabilities.

Bahrain affirmed the need to educate and support both PWD and those associated with them, including caregivers. For example, a recent effort to teach sign language to hospital nurses had been “a successful experiment.”

Liechtenstein agreed with Costa Rica's proposal for the chapeau, but suggested replacing “ alternative modes” with “appropriate modes.” It agreed with other delegations that 13(d) is not specific to freedom of expression and access to information and therefore does not need to appear in this Article. Liechtenstein proposed that 13(f) and (g) be merged by replacing “private entities” in 13(f) with “private and public entities, including the mass media.”

Thailand offered a history behind the drafting of Article 13 and the differences between it and Article 19. Article 13 was viewed as the mechanism to achieve freedom of expression; access to communication at that point was not viewed as a standalone right per se. When the WG got to Article 19, it made accessibility a disability specific issue that needed much attention. The repetitions between Articles 13 and 19 should be worked out; both Articles are important, but they need to be clarified so they can stand on their own. In 13(d) “suitable” should be replaced with “accessible,” and at the end of the paragraph should be added the words “guided by the principle of universal design.”

The Chair opened the floor for comments from NGOs.

National Human Rights Institutions supported Israel's suggestion that accessible information may be separated from this Article, as it is a means to achieve freedom of expression. Means to achieve access, and the obligations of States Parties, may differ considerably. Regarding the concerns of States Parties on the financial implications this Article entails, NHRI drew States' attention to their important role in regulating standards of basic communication, telecommunication, media and broadcast systems. States have a very important duty to guarantee these freedoms by creating standards for barrier-free information production, distribution, and services. States which do not already have accessibility standards may benefit from the experience of States which do have such standards.

World Federation of the Deaf stated that it consulted linguists at many universities around the world about the definition of language and proposed the following definition:
"The systematic use of sounds, signs, or written symbols to represent things, actions, ideas, and states, shared and understood by members of a linguistic community.” The language of footnote 40 should be included in the Article. WFD recommending deleting “sign language” from the chapeau of this Article, as sign language is a natural language rather than another “mode of communication." The Deaf community is a linguistic minority whose freedom of expression and equal access to information requires the recognition of sign language as its first language. While linguists and social psychologists view the Deaf community as a linguistic minority, society at large does not recognize this. Many people have misconceptions about sign language, believing that it slows speech development and segregates Deaf people. WFD supported New Zealand’s proposal to use “a variety of” instead of “alternative.”

WFDB stated that the right of freedom to expression is very important to deaf-blind people because many have no means to express themselves or are not understood. Many deaf-blind people endure forced measures, abuse and torture to deaf-blind due to communication barriers. The right to communicate needs to be in this paragraph. The right to form an opinion requires access to appropriate information, which many deaf-blind do not have because of the lack of interpreters and the amount of information. This is a very technical paragraph. "Mode of communication" leaves out some things, such as does not cover everything, tactile communication. The phrase "mode of communication" should be replaced by "means of communication," and footnote 43 should be added .

PWD Australia/NACLC/AFDO stated that Braille, sign, augmentative, and plain language is very important in creating the means to exercise civil and political rights.
Accessible means of communication is only one dimension of the freedom of expression. It suggested addressing accessible means of communication in Article 18 or Article 19 or by adding in the chapeau "freedom of expression and opinion includes the right to communicate by accessible means." Paragraph 13(b) needs to be strengthened to recognize that sign language is a language. It supported the Bangkok draft which requires that accessible means of communication be provided in a timely manner and without additional cost. Easy language format also needs to be an obligation of States. It proposed changing "equal footing" to "on equal terms" in the chapeau and in (f), changing "encouraging" to "requiring" that non-State actors will be bound by this Article.

Inclusion international stated that PWD are sometimes not allowed the basic right to decide. PWD know what is best for themselves and they need to access information presented in uncomplicated words, short sentences and and sometimes pictures so that it is easy to follow. Information needs to accessible for everyone so that everyone can participate in decision making.

Save the Children supported WFDB and II. Children with disabilities are denied access to information and the right to express themselves. States need to provide this information. In 13(a), it proposed adding “Providing public information to PWDs including providing age-appropriate information for children with disabilities on request in a timely manner and without additional cost in accessible format and technologies of their choice taking into account different kind of disabilities." It suggested an additional paragraph after 13(a), as follows: "Enabling children and adults to communicate on an equal footing with others by providing extra time to access, reflect and act upon information by providing plain information and facilitating augmentative and alternative modes of communication"; and another paragraph as follows: "Enabling children and adults to appoint a representative if alternative modes of communication don”t suffice to express and participate on an equal footing."

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