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

Daily summary of discussions related to

UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
Third session of the Ad Hoc Committee - Daily Summary
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Volume 4, #5
May 28, 2004

Commenced: 3:01 PM
Adjourned: 6:00 PM

The Russian Federation asserted that Article 17 must address the education of persons, not children, with disabilities and proposed changes throughout the article accordingly. It noted that some people remain in secondary education beyond the age of 18. 17.1 (d) should be appended with “and granting, if need be, possibilities of education at home." A new subparagraph 17.1(e) should be added: “Granting to all persons with disabilities a professional training and retraining taking their physical and psychological limitations into account.” The words “taking account of medical and social recommendations” should be appended to 17.2(a).

Sierra Leone reserved the right at a later stage to propose removing or canceling all references to children in this article, and directed the attention of the Committee to footnote 56, which mentions the WG's discussions about this in January. Sierra Leone also cautioned against making specific references to technology, since they may eventually become obsolete. “Children cannot wait for progressive realization” and references to it in 17.1 could diminish the obligation to action and should be deleted.

Ireland called for removal of the reference to progressive realization in the chapeau of 17.1 to replace the second sentence with “The education of persons with disabilities shall be directed to:” On a linguistic note, the EU clarified that once something is full, it cannot be made “fullest,” so “fullest” in 17.1(c) should be replaced with “full.” In 17.1(d), “take into account” should be replaced by with the more positive “promoting.” The chapeau of 17.2 should be revised to read: “In realizing this right, States parties shall endeavor to ensure:” The goal of 17.2(a) is inclusive and accessible education, but availability and location should be separated; therefore 17.2(a) should be revised as follows: “that persons with disabilities can avail of inclusive and accessible education (including equal access to early childhood and preschool education) and that such education shall be provided to the extent possible in the communities in which they live.” In 17.2(b) the words “the provision of required support, including the specialised training of teachers, school counselors and psychologists” should be replaced by with “Appropriate support including specialized training for teachers and other staff.” The EU further suggested that 17.2(c) should be moved up to become the first subparagraph, as it is an absolute right. The chapeau of 17.3 should be revised, in response to the debate about whether and how alternative education should be provided, to read as follows: “Where the general education system does not yet adequately meet the needs of persons with disabilities States Parties shall take appropriate measures to promote alternative forms of education. Any alternative forms of education provided under this article should:”
In order to conform with the Education clause of the Standard Rules, 17.3(a) should be revised to read: “be closely linked to and reflective of the same curriculum and aim to reflect the same standards and objectives provided in the general education system, taking into account the learning and development needs of persons with disabilities.”
The text of 17.3(c) be reworded: “allow for choice between general and special education systems." Paragraph 17.4 should be expanded and reworded as follows: “States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities may choose to be taught using a variety of communication modes and shall work to ensure quality education to students with disabilities by ensuring that teachers are able to use different communication modes.” The EU expressed concern that there is no reference to secondary education, and recommended inserting draft language on this in 17.5. It replaced the last sentence in this paragraph with “To that end, States Parties shall ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided.”

Argentina also suggested modifying the first paragraph to address “persons with disabilities.”

Costa Rica called for the inclusion of university education and technical training as well as primary and secondary education, and proposed inserting in the first sentence of 17.1, after "education," the words “all stages of life and all educational levels and services." A new subparagraph should be inserted between 17.1(a) and (b), reading: “address the issues of disability, persons with disabilities and human rights in the curriculum of all educational programs." In 17.1(c), “self identity, talent, creativity” be inserted after “The development of.” Costa Rica supported the EU’s proposal to replace “ensure” with “endeavor to” in the chapeau of 17.2. In 17.2(a), the EU’s proposed language should be amended by inserting “maximum” before “extent possible.” In 17.2(b) “instructors” should be added after “teachers”; and “materials” should be inserted after “medium." In 17.4, to allow for the possibility of future technological developments, the words “using alterative modes of communication, including” should be inserted after “curriculum”; and "as appropriate” should be inserted after “Braille.” An additional subparagraph should read: “Deaf and deaf blind persons have the right to receive education in their own groups and to become bilingual in sign language in their national spoken and written languages.”

Israel recommended qualifying the chapeau of 17.1, so that “take all possible steps” would replace “ensure.” In the first sentence in 17.2(a) “their own” should be replaced by "each." A new subparagraph should be added between 17.2(a) and (b), reading: “Priority is given to the integration of children with disabilities in the general school system.” Two new subparagraphs should be inserted after 17.2(b). The first should read: "Accessibility of the school system to persons with disabilities whose children study in the school, on an equal footing, with other parents." The next new subparagraph should read: "Appropriate representations for teachers with disabilities in the school system, including by way of prevention of discrimination on the basis of disability in recruitment and throughout the course of employment and making reasonable accommodations in recruitment and throughout the course of employment.” 17.2(c) should be appended with “unless accommodation of the child’s needs on account of his or her disability would impose an extremely unreasonable burden." In 17.5 “ensure” should be replaced by “take all possible steps”; “may access” should be replaced by “in relation to”; and “To that end” should be replaced by “In order to secure the implementation of the provisions of the paragraph.” After 17.5, two new subparagraphs should be added, as follows:
“(a) Persons with disabilities have access to all such systems including by way of accommodations in examinations and in the curriculum on an equal basis with others;
(b) appropriate representation for persons with disabilities and staff in all of the above systems, including by way of prevention of discrimination on the basis of disability and the making of reasonable accommodations in employment and recruitment in such systems.

Morocco suggested rewording the chapeau of 17.3 to read: “Acknowledging that education of persons with disabilities in the general education system should be the rule, and the provision of specialist education services the exception.”

Brazil supported existing language in 17.2 (a) because it adequately represents the choice between general and special education systems. It supported existing language in 17.3 because it adequately reflects the idea as stated in footnote 62 that these education systems are not two mutually exclusive options.

Yemen suggested adding “sociologists” after “psychologists” in 17.3 (b) and made recommendations related only to the Arabic version of the draft Convention text for 17.3, including among other things mentioning “apprenticeship.”

China circulated new draft language for this Article. The chapeau of 17.1 should be retained, while all its subparagraphs should be deleted and replaced with:
"a. education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and sense of dignity and strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
"b. education shall enable all persons with disabilities to participate effectively in a free society,
"c. education shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and
"d. education shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace."
Paragraphs 17.2 and 17.3 should be deleted and replaced with a new paragraph 17.2:
"States Parties shall take effective and appropriate measures to progressively realize the rights of PWD to education on an equal basis:
"a. In order to develop an inclusive and accessible general education to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, States Parties shall provide support, including the specialized training of teachers, school counselors and psychologists, an accessible curriculum, an accessible teaching medium and technologies, alternative and augmentative communication modes, alternative learning strategies, accessible physical environment, or other reasonable accommodations to ensure the full participation of students with disabilities;
"b. Where the general education does not adequately meet the needs of persons with disabilities, States Parties shall develop special or alternative forms of education. Any such special or alternative forms of education should:
"(i) Adhere to the standards and objectives provided in the general education system, and
"(ii) In no way be a barrier for persons with disabilities to participate in the general education."
Paragraph 17.4 and 17.5 would then be renumbered as 17.3 and 17.4, respectively. In the new paragraph 17.4, “shall” is replaced by “take appropriate measures to,” and “may access general” should be replaced by “have equal opportunity to access.” The final sentence -- " To that end, States Parties shall render appropriate assistance to persons with disabilities." -- should be deleted.

New Zealand explained that 17.1(a), (b), and (c) are based on Article 29 of the CRC, and were included in the draft text because these aspects of a child’s development seemed particularly pertinent to persons with disabilities. Those components -- a sense of dignity and self worth, human potential, participating effectively in society, and the development of a child’s mental and physical abilities -- are often neglected in the education of persons with disabilities. The Chinese proposal, on the other hand, while similar to Article 13 of ICESCR in mentioning understanding among all nations and racial, ethnic, and religious groups, and furthering the objectives of the UN for the maintenance of peace, is not disability-specific. New Zealand proposed deleting 17.1(d), as the obligation related to the best interests of child is adequately addressed elsewhere in the draft and in the CRC. Furthermore, the notion of “individualized education plans” go beyond the rights granted to other children and are pedagogical tools that are go in and out of fashion, so should not be included in a legally binding treaty but should instead be addressed in national action plans. New Zealand supported the EU's suggested reordering of subparagraphs, which it said would do "less damage to the original text" than Israel's proposed addition to the end of 17.2(c). In the chapeau of 17.2, “ensure” should be replaced by “endeavor.” In 17.3, both instances "learning" should be replaced by "education." While the difference in meaning between the two is uncertain, using the same word throughout would make the document more consistent. The last sentence in 17.5 should be reformulated according to the EU's proposal given the uncertainty of what was meant by “appropriate assistance”.

The Holy See affirmed the importance of achieving coherence with other international texts. In order to be consistent with the ICCPR, the ICESCR, the CRC, and the UDHR, this Convention's subparagraph 17.1(d) should be modified by inserting, after the words “the best interest of the child,” the words “while respecting the rights and responsibilities of parents and legal guardians concerning the child’s education.”

Bahrain also suggested modifying the first paragraph to address “persons with disabilities.”

Kenya proposed the deletion of “progressively” from the chapeau of 17.1, to clarify that the right to education is expressly given. In 17.5, “professional training” should be inserted after “vocational training.”

Japan supported the EU proposal for 17.2, as it strikes a balance between the availability of the educational system and that which is targeted to be achieved. Language in 17.3, (a) and (b) should however be retained. The EU’s proposal for 17.3(c) should be appended with “upon careful consideration of the best interests of students with disabilities” as these decisions cannot be made whimsically or capriciously. 17.4 should be amended according to the EU proposal as the Convention should not limit itself to sign language or Braille when other forms of communication might be necessary. Language in 17.5 should be retained.

Canada affirmed that every child should be included in an education system that meets his or her individual needs, optimizing the opportunity to learn and be included in a supportive education system. This will benefit all people with disabilities and society as a whole, as school is where attitudes can be formulated that will result in real change. Substantial work needs to be done on this Article, but Canada does not have a specific proposal at this time.

Australia suggested adding “Training” after “Education” in the title and elsewhere to be consistent with its general applicability to all PWD. Language to “ensure” was qualified in 17.2 as per the EU proposal with “endeavour to”, and in 17.4, to be replaced with “encouraging and promoting.” It supported Costa Rica’s amendments regarding communication in 17.4. In 17.5, the words “and with appropriate assistance” should be inserted after “others,” and the remainder of the paragraph should be deleted.

Lebanon proposed the replacement of “school counselors and psychologists” in 17.2(b) with “other educational staff as needed.” In 17.5, the word “general” should be replaced by “all academic and technical education in public or private institutions at all levels of education.” At the end of 17.5, the following sentence should be appended: “States parties shall guarantee that their national education systems recognize and certify skills acquired through alternative forms of vocational training for persons with disabilities.”

South Africa also called for the addition of “and Training” to the title, in keeping with the principles of lifelong learning, the Convention should provide a spectrum of educational processes across a range of ages. In 17.1(b), after “effectively,” the words “and equitably” should be inserted, to allow for fair provisions and to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to participate in an equitable manner. 17.2 should be retained but its provisions especially in 12.2(b) should be the prerogative of national policies. 17.4 should be deleted as it is specific a type of disability, and this Article should address all disabilities. In 17.5 “general" in relation to tertiary education is unclear and should be deleted. In 17.5, after “life long learning,” the words "and teaching" should be inserted in order to ensure that the delivery of teaching methods would include adult education, though this “would not be provided on an equal basis but on an equitable basis.” In the same paragraph "assistance" should be replaced by “support,” which is a more comprehensive concept. Students will continue to be excluded from education unless there is a provision for equitable education, and thus South Africa proposed a new paragraph 17.5 bis, as follows: “a) ensure non discriminatory access to the learning environment; b) ensure an enabling environment that ensures equitable participation of students with disabilities in the learning process.”

Serbia and Montenegro supported the proposal of the EU for 17.3, but retaining the words “free and informed choice.” The concept of professional training is better placed in Article 22, "Right to Work." In 17.2(b), the concept of long distance education could be included.

Thailand emphasized the right to an education on an equal basis with others, one that is responsive to the needs of individuals, and called for deletion of “progressively” from 17.1. In 17.2 Thailand agreed with the EU’s amendment, except that “needed,” a student-centered term, should replace “appropriate” which could be open to too much interpretation. The text in 17.3 values the importance of choice, does not align itself with any specific educational model, and should be retained. While acknowledging the importance of keeping the concept of alternative communications as broad as possible, it endorsed Costa Rica's additional language recognising sign language. This is part of the cultural heritage of the Deaf community, a visual language with its own grammatical structure, and a basis for cultural and spiritual growth. Likewise, Braille is the tactile representation of written script, and a fundamental tool of literacy, equivalent to the ability to read and write print. South Africa’s amendment regarding “support” should be incorporated, as should the EU’s reference to secondary education and Australia’s additional language on training.

Uganda supported the addition of “training” to the title and supported the deletion of “progressively” as recommended by other delegates. 17.2 should be appended with: “States Parties shall encourage the employment of teachers with disabilities in their general education systems and shall ensure the removal of legislative barriers to persons with disabilities becoming teachers and shall raise awareness on the needs of children with disabilities.” 17.2 (c) should be appended “and measures shall be taken to meet their educational needs” because without this students with disabilities cannot benefit form free education. Uganda also proposed text for 17.5(bis): “States Parties shall ensure that vocational rehabilitation, training and retraining opportunities are open to people who acquire a disability in the course of their working life.”

India recommended the following provision to appear after 17.5: “The State shall provide for functional education to persons with severe, intellectual and multiple disabilities on a continued basis.”

Mexico supported Costa Rica’s amendment so that the Article would encompass all educational levels. In 17.1(b), the words “and inclusive” should be inserted after “free.” Text in 17.1(d) on “individualising educational plans” should be replaced with “satisfying the special educational needs of PWD.” Mexico supported Costa Rica’s addition of “materials” to “methods and technologies” in 17.2(b). A new subparagraph 17.2(d) should read: “promoting access to scholarships and financial resources for persons with disabilities, without restricting them solely to those who are attending mandatory education.” In 17.3, in light of footnote 60, “learning” should be replaced with “teaching.” The first sentence in17.4 should be rewritten: “States Parties shall ensure that persons with sensory disabilities have access to sign language or Braille as appropriate to encourage their learning and to continue in their program of studies."

The Republic of Korea also suggested modifying the first paragraph to address “persons with disabilities.”

China responded to New Zealand’s comments on its draft of this Article by emphasizing that education is an economic, social, and cultural right that should also apply to PWD.

Trinidad and Tobago supported adding “and training” into the title, as well as the inclusion of a reference to all levels of education so the text is not confined to specific levels. While the Article should be amended to address all PWD, the text of 17.1(d) should retain the reference to children so as not to appear to allow others to determine the best interests of a child.

Yemen called for the incorporation of “Training” to this Article: the objective of training is “know-how," whereas "education is to train a person in thinking.”

Libya amended 17.3(c) such that “The level of specialized education must be identical to the one of general education so as to be able to raise persons with disabilities to the level of non disabled people and give them access to higher education.”

Jordan amended the title to “Education, training, and life long learning,” added “and education” after “learning” in the chapeau of 17.3 and deleted 17.3(c), as both 17.2(a) and (c) both address choice, and the latter was redundant.

The floor was opened to comments from NGOs.

World Blind Union speaking also on behalf of the International Disability Alliance and the Preparatory Committee of Japan Disability Forum insisted that the concept of education should not be watered down to “learning." They called upon States to recognize their jointly agreed upon text calling for education to be provided both in inclusive school settings as well as in groups for blind, deaf-blind, and Deaf persons.
World Federation of the Deafblind emphasized that that no education for deafblind people means no communication, no development, and no information. Deafblind individuals are often excluded, even within the disability community. This document and these negotiations have brought the disability community to a consensus that is more than a compromise.

International Labor Organization strongly agreed that references to “training” should be incorporated into this Article and its title and called for an added reference to the specialized training of trainers and instructors to 17.2 (b)’s reference to teachers. Trainer qualifications should be covered in 17.3, which deals with alternative forms of training. Any alternative, non formal training including workplace training shall be made available to provide opportunities for the development, recognition, and certification of skills relevant to the labor market and to the national qualifications framework, as many PWD train for years for jobs which are irrelevant or unavailable. The EU’s amendments on reasonable accommodation is insufficient, and the last sentence of 17.5 should be revised: “To that end, States Parties shall develop equal opportunity strategies, measures, and programmes to promote and implement training for PWD, with the objective of reducing inequalities.” There should also be inclusion of vocational and career guidance and information in accessible format, and employment counseling for persons with disabilities.

National Human Rights Institutions, and the Asia Pacific Forum of the National Human Rights Institutions expressed concern that a linkage between progressive realization and the right to education is “unsuitable” and hoped that this will be addressed in informal consultations. The Convention should offer options for many approaches to the right to education because often a model is not determined by the characteristics of a person, but also by circumstances of families and parents who may choose one model over another. In this regard the EU’s text strikes a balance among various approaches to education, removes any prejudice for one approach over the other, and builds on the UNSR. The EU’s text also addresses NHRI / APF’s concern regarding the quality of education because it ensures an equal standard regardless of placement, model or delivery. To support the position of Mexico and Thailand, the linguistic needs of various disability groups especially those with hearing impairments should be recognized along with references to specific scripts and languages, as education has no meaning if it is not delivered in a language PWD can comprehend.

The Chair concluded by noting the need for informal consultations for negotiations to move forward.

Volume 4, #6
June 1, 2004

Morning Session
Commenced: 10:29 AM
Recessed: 10:31 AM
Reconvened: 10:41 AM
Adjourned: 1:01 PM

Following audio difficulties, the remaining Article 17 NGO interventions were made on the topic of education and disability. Delegates then discussed Article 18, Participation in political and public life, exploring a range of political activities and spheres. The Committee began its discussion of Article 19, Accessibility, with some delegations supporting very specific requirements while others pushed for a broader

World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) expressed support for some portions of the EU proposal, with reservations regarding incorporating 17.3 and 17.4 together. Combining communication modes is a good idea, but sign language should be left out since it is a language rather than a communication method. Most WG members supported mentioning sign language in this Article. If it is not included, the Convention will be weaker than the Standard Rules (SR) and open to the interpretation that sign language should be excluded. Since the Convention’s purpose is to “liberate us from oppression,” the linguistic rights of Deaf people should be an essential part of it. As a result of the misperception that Deaf people are unable to learn multiple languages, Deaf children are sometimes forced to stop signing.

Inclusion International
(II) urged that, in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals, the Convention should guarantee students with intellectual disabilities “the right to free and compulsory primary education without qualifiers.” In some developing countries only two to five percent of children with intellectual disabilities are in school, and in other countries their school attendance is disproportionately low. Children with intellectual disabilities should be assured equal access, and the choice of inclusion, at all levels. II supported Canada’s position that this Article requires a substantial rewrite. The members of the International Disability Alliance believe that inclusion should be the norm. Inclusive education is not only a basic right, it is good public policy. “Inclusive education is better education for all.”

People with Disabilities Australia (PWDA), also speaking for the National Association of Community Legal Centres of Australia, expressed disappointment that some delegations, including Australia, have proposed amending language regarding States' obligations to ensure an inclusive education to PWD. These obligations should not be diluted by adding qualifying phrases. “Education is essential to the realization of human rights.” States who have made an early commitment to equality should not abrogate responsibility for PWD inclusion by reducing State obligations to “mere options.” Specialized education in disability-specific languages and skills have value, but should be provided inclusively within the mainstream educational system. Children with disabilities (CWD) should have opportunities to interact with non-disabled people in order to develop social skills and be part of an inclusive society. PWDA recommended amending 17.1 to recognize the rights of all PWD to an inclusive education in a school of their choice in their local community. It also suggested deletion of 17.3, which would justify the continuing discrimination against, and segregation of, PWD. Finally, it supported the International Labor Organization’s recommendations concerning school-to-work transitional education and other vocational rehabilitation training.

Save the Children (STC) emphasized the right of children and adults with disabilities to education and training, and States' obligations in that regard. Inclusive education is essential to both academic and social development. It proposed the following revisions of 17.2(b): “The provision of adequate support for change of the education system, positive attitudes for stakeholders, appropriate training and mentoring of teachers and educational support staff, student centered curriculum, flexible teaching methods, appropriate teaching aids and equipment, alternative and augmentative communication modes, an inclusive physical and learning environment, parent and community involvement to ensure the full participation of students with disabilities.” In 17.4, it encouraged amending the wording to read: “States' Parties shall ensure that students with communication disabilities have the right to education in alternative language and/or the alternative communications systems, to become bilingual and to learn the communication, learning and mobility skills for inclusive education, and full participation within the class or school environment. States' Parties shall take appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for full inclusive education of all students with disabilities by ensuring appropriately skilled teachers and basic additional resources.” “Communication disabilities” include blindness, deafness, autism, severe spasticity, learning and intellectual impairments. The text of these proposed amendments is available online at STC also supported Kenya, Australia, South Africa, and on some issues, the European Union, World Blind Union, the ILO, World Deaf Federation and Inclusion International. It also recognized the Salamanca Statement, Dakar Framework and SR on education. The goal is to “avoid pre-selected training on the basis of perceived disability instead of the potential of the child." Special education and training should be available for persons who cannot fully develop their potential in inclusive settings because of specific learning needs, but this special education should be provided in the community and, wherever possible, within existing schools structures.

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