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Back to: Fifth Session of the Ad Hoc Committee
Summaries of the Fifth Session

Daily summary of discussion at the fifth session
1 February 2005


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UN Convention on the Human Rights of People with Disabilities
Ad Hoc Committee - Daily Summaries

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Volume 6, #7
February 1, 2005




The Coordinator summarized the discussions from the preceding day concerning the chapeau and 13(a) of the WG text. The Committee will return to its discussion of the chapeau when all provisions have been discussed as a whole, specifically the reference to Braille. Several issues arose concerning 13(a). The first was the question of whether the term "public information" should be qualified with the term "official." Public information may be provided by either the state or the public sector, whereas "official" connotes governmental information only. There may be practical problems with mandating the private sector to make accessible formats available at all times. Also, "timely manner" needs clarification because it raises a practical issue with regard to printing in various formats. For example, legislation is often not available in accessible formats initially; thus there may be a lag time between the request and the receiving of information in accessible formats.

Thailand asserted that the substance of Article 13 reflects the fact that people are ignorant about how to make information accessible at the design stage. For example, Braille can be printed simultaneously with other formats if the technology is available. Technology for immediate production may cost more, but if this Convention is going to take effect then the market will respond and the price will decrease. Information availability is often delayed because of the cost and burden to the producer, but this results from a lack of understanding rather than from a small market. Websites can be accessible to PWD if designers follow accessibility standards. Many people still believe that accessible design is unnecessary, or that it can be done later by offering text-only web pages. However, this is not a satisfactory solution.

The Coordinator asked Thailand if the written word can be transferred into Braille electronically.

Thailand asserted that electronic translation software allows Braille text to be printed at the same time as the printed text. Braille conforms to the grammar and semantics of the spoken word.

The Coordinator asked for clarification concerning websites, particularly whether access could be gained through voice streaming for the visually impaired.

Thailand stated that there are International Accessibility Standards for websites. The UN is currently exploring adopting these standards, which have already been adopted by many organizations. Access is most likely to be achieved if website designers follow universal design standards from the beginning. This avoids the necessity of making adjustments later on, and allows easy and equal access for the largest possible number of people. However the majority of commercial designers ignore the need for equal access to web content.

India proposed including the words “freedom of thought” in the title and in the chapeau. It also proposed a new subparagraph reading as follows: " (bis) States Parties shall protect the freedom of thought of persons with disabilities, including: (a) the freedom of choice whether to consider oneself a person with disability; (b) the freedom to adopt and hold opinion and beliefs about the experience of disability."

The Coordinator explained that the chapeau follows the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ( ICCPR) language, which does not include freedom of thought. A separate paragraph on this aspect might be useful.

Republic of Korea supported Thailand’s intervention, because publishing companies increasingly use digital data to print and this technology could benefit visually impaired people. In 12(a) of the facilitator's text, for the sake of consistency, the words “different kinds of disability" should be replaced with “different types or forms of disability."

The Coordinator said the reference to “different kinds of disabilities” is a drafting issue that will be examined later to ensure consistent text. He asked whether the Republic of Korea agrees with the facilitator text's formulation of 13(a). The Republic of Korea responded that it did.

Luxembourg,on behalf of the European Union (EU), stated that the facilitator's text 13(a) would be clearer if it used the words "provide official information,” instead of “provide official public information” because States can be expected to make government documents accessible for which they are the source. On the other hand information from the private sector has a broader scope. The words “to PWD” should be inserted after “provide in a timely manner and without any additional cost.” Paragraph 13(a) addresses fundamental civil and political rights; access should not be conditional on money or ability.

New Zealand proposed replacing the words “official public information” with “publicly available official information,” because not all official information is publicly available to the general population. This proposed narrower formulation in 13(a) would be complemented with the facilitator’s language for 13(f): “urging private entities that provide services to the general public to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for PWD.” Between13(a) and 13(f) of the facilitator's text the range of publicly available information is covered, taking into account the reality of the kinds of information that governments can readily provide. The EU's suggestion to add “to PWD” after "without any additional cost" offers a useful clarification.

Namibia agreed with Thailand that the purpose of this Convention is to protect the interests of PWD not that of public institutions. As explained by Thailand accessible information can be provided to PWD at the same time that information is provided to the general public. PWD are not second class citizens and deserve equal access to all information. The term “official” should be deleted when referring to public information. Despite the cost, informational resources for persons with and without disability must be designed together.

The Coordinator reminded delegates that it is very difficult to make available all information to all PWD in accessible formats. The limiting language in 13(a) is a reflection of the fact that it may not be possible to get the private sector to comply. This Convention must not impose such a high burden on states that they may not become party to it. For example, when sessions of Parliament are broadcast on the radio, there could be problems making the broadcast accessible to hearing impaired persons. The Coordinator agreed with Namibia about the importance of bearing in mind the objectives of this Convention.

Russian Federation proposed including in the chapeau of Article 13 the words “dissemination of ideas,” following the ICCPR which provides for the right to freedom of expression, conviction and opinions, as well as the right to receive information. Article 13 should recognize the right to “ideas” as well as information because these 2 elements are not the same. In 13(a) a practical problem could arise in obligating States to “guarantee” accessible public information because this may involve both State actors and those who act independently of the State. The Convention should distinguish between official information provided by States to citizens from that information which is unavailable to people outside of government, with or without disabilities. There are several problems with 13(a). First, the phrase “timely manner” could pose practical problems. The words “taking appropriate steps” should be added in order to be more sensitive to the broad range of information dealt with in this Article. Finally, the meaning of “without additional cost” needs clarification: Is the State's financial obligation total or partial?

The Coordinator stated that “taking appropriate measures” was not included in 13(a) because it is in the chapeau. However, if the inclusion of this phrase provides additional assurance, then it can be added. The inclusion of the phrase “publicly available information” from the NZ text would ensure that official information made available to the general public is also made available in accessible formats and technologies to PWD. The phrase “without additional cost” relates to the fact that in some countries PWD are charged a fee for accessible formats because of the time expended to format the information. However, PWD should only be charged the same amount charged to the general public. The goal of this Convention is to place PWD in the same position as the general public.

Serbia and Montenegro supported the NZ proposed 13(a) language, “publicly available information,” because it is more precise. It also agreed with the Coordinator’s point that the Convention should not include onerous restrictions that might discourage States from ratifying it. There should be no additional cost for PWD. The phrase “timely manner” is open to interpretation; it should not be used as an excuse for failing to fulfill the obligations. Uniform language should be used with regard to types or kinds of disabilities.

Costa Rica stated that as a developing country it understands the enormous burden of making information accessible but this challenge must be taken on. As noted by the Russian Federation, this will require commitment, resources and progressive steps to implement this Convention. Article 13 must address all aspects of society, both public and private. A group of consumers should not be denied information based on disability. Absolute rules cannot be imposed because this might deter some states from participating in this Convention, but “the boundaries of this Article must not be so loose as to nullify the purpose of this Convention.” Language should be added to refer not only to different types of disabilities but also to the different needs of PWD.

EU stated that 13(a) should include a provision obliging authorities to make information available to PWD upon request.  

Thailand emphasized that Article 13 should prevent inaccessible formats from being chosen at the beginning stages of production. Legislative means, as asserted in Article 4, can mandate information being formatted for PWD at the initial stages of design. Information in accessible formats should not be made proprietary so as to ensure that is equally available for all. For example, a newspaper which costs a nondisabled person $2 might cost $100 for a person needing Braille, but this latter cost would be lower if access was considered at the initial stages of design. This Convention should not fail to address the fact that public information, which is crucial to everyone, is often outsourced to private agencies. The Convention's provisions should be realistic, but public information which is available to people without disabilities must also be available to PWD, and at no additional cost. The phrase “timely manner“ should be retained but this should not lower the standard of equal access to information between PWD and the general public.

Chile suggested that 13(a) should recognize sign language as the natural language of Deaf persons, although its exact placement is not as important as its inclusion somewhere in this Article. This recognition allows access to education, which is a basic need in order for Deaf persons to exercise their rights equally with all other persons.

Canada proposed language in 13(a) that was more consistent with 13(f) and the purpose of this Article: “ensuring that the information that States Parties and other public authorities provide to the general public is made available without additional costs to PWD…” followed by the rest of the facilitator's text. There should be no additional cost to PWD. Canada agreed with Thailand that accessibility does involve cost but as technology improves the cost decreases significantly, particularly if access is built in at the design stage. Costs rise when accessibility must be implemented after the design process is complete. The words "and other public authorities,” following “States Parties," will include federations or other public agencies in the Article's obligations. The phrase “general public” is intended to avoid problems arising from the phrase “official public information.”

Jordan suggested amending the chapeau by replacing the words "taking all appropriate measures" with "States Parties shall ensure,” and adding the word “knowledge.” Paragraphs 13(a) and 13(b) should be merged because they both deal with official information and transactions. The chapeau of Article 13 requires information to be available to PWD on an equal basis with others, so “timely manner” and “without additional costs” should be deleted from 13(a) of the facilitator's text. Both 13(a) and 13(b) should be made more concise. This Article may encourage the private sector to provide more accessible information because the market will respond to the obvious need in society.

Yemen asserted that states should be “committed to” taking measures. Once the means to make information accessible are available, non state entities will use them. As Thailand said, the ability to provide access has much to do with the “will to provide it.” Yemen agreed with the Russian Federation's suggestion to include "ideas," which are a result of human interaction, whereas information can include facts, mathematical equations, and more. Public information is extremely important because it promotes the accumulation of knowledge. The expression “minimum additional cost” could be an alternative to the phrase “without additional cost,” and might raise fewer objections among States and make them more likely to support ratification of this Convention.

Japan stated that this is a cross-cutting Article, both essential to civil and political rights, and also logically tied to social, cultural, and economic rights. Many countries have legislation requiring disclosure of specified public information, and these laws allow adequate time for translating the documents into accessible formats. As the Costa Rican and Russian delegations asserted, these progressive requirements should be realistic rather than simplistic. The wording “timely manner” makes clear that States should not wait too long to provide accessible information, but that some situations will require more time to provide the information requested.

Israel supported Thailand's emphasis on the concept of universal design, in which equal access is incorporated at the initial stage of design; and it agreed with New Zealand's suggestion to distinguish between general public information and specific information needed by PWD. In 13(a), such disability-specific information could be referenced by adding the following language: “rights, services, information on available assistive technology, and information technology.” Reference to different kinds and levels of disabilities should also be added to this provision.

Kenya reiterated the importance of this Article, which deals with an important civil and political right; and supported India’s suggestion to add “freedom of thought,” before the word “expression” in the chapeau. PWD often are dismissed; thus protection of freedom of thought is very important. The phrase "public information" should not be qualified because it may include private information, particularly with the trend toward privatization of governmental agencies. The privatization of information could lead to the justification of inaccessible information based on the argument that it is not “official public information.” The words “on request” should be added to 13(a) because it would be wasteful to produce all documents in all accessible formats without knowing that they would be utilized. The language “no additional cost to PWD“ should be retained; Yemen ’s proposal to change it to “minimum cost” should be rejected because there would be no standards to define or establish minimum cost. Any information production has cost implications, but PWD should only be charged what other people are charged.  

Coordinator said the issues raised during this very thorough discussion will be revisited later.

Mexico stated that Article 13 addresses two types of information that cannot necessarily be combined in 13(a) and should be dealt with in two paragraphs, one dealing with information intended for the general public, and another dealing with official information produced by the state which is “intended for” the general public subject to the state’s internal regulations. Mexico agreed with Costa Rica that all information available to the general public should be provided to PWD on an equal basis with others, in a timely manner and with no additional costs.

The Coordinator noted that 13(g) on the mass media may be relevant in this regard

Thailand endorsed Costa Rica’s proposed language “information intended for the general public” because it broadens the term beyond just official information. The wording of States obligations in 13(a) should be made consistent with that in Article 4, and should begin with “undertake to provide information intended for the general public to PWD in accessible formats…”. Thailand remains flexible regarding the phrase “timely manner.” It endorsed India’s proposal to add “freedom of thought.” The Article s currently lacking in emphasis on this aspect, and should be restructured to include a second paragraph dealing with freedom of thought, following the ICCPR and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Coordinator noted that in the ICCPR “freedom of thought,” rather than pertaining to access to information, is dealt with in Article 18, “Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion.”

Republic of Korea expressed reservations on proposed language to include “public information pertaining to PWD.” This takes the focus away from information available to the general public. It would be best to place this concept in a different article. “Timely manner” should be retained.

The Coordinator noted general support for language requiring certain types of public information be made available in accessible formats for PWD. This was an “extremely revealing discussion with regard to technologies” for producing information in accessible formats. The Israeli delegation referred to universal design, which came up in the WG and is dealt with in a later Article. There are substantive issues regarding the breadth of 13(a), whether it should pertain to public information, publicly available information, or other types of information; this should be discussed in the intersession. The addition of “upon request” lacked unanimous support, and could be regarded as either restricting or broadening 13(a). There is general support for the concepts of no additional cost to PWD, accessible formats for different kinds of disabilities, and provision of information in a timely manner. Discussion of the other subparagraphs of Article 13 may shed more light on 13(a); for example, 13(g) addresses issues involving mass media. Discussion moved on the 13(b) of the facilitator’s text which reads: “accepting and promoting the use of a variety of modes of communication by PWD in official interactions.”  

Costa Rica inquired as to the meaning of “official interactions.”

The Coordinator responded that the phrase “official interactions,” which came from the WG text and not from the facilitator, means dealings or interactions with official actors, such as meeting or corresponding with governmental officials.

New Zealand agreed with the Coordinator's definition of “official interactions.” An example is providing interpretation in courts. The words “variety of modes of communication” should be replaced by the language used in the chapeau, “ through sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative and alternative means of communication of their choice…”

Norway agreed with New Zealand that the language of 13(b) should reflect the content of the chapeau. Sign language is more than a mode of communication, it is a language in itself, and this should be recognized.

EU preferred the WG formulation for 13(b), because it focuses on the relationship between modes of communication and official authorities, with the addition of “modes and means” of communication to replace “a variety of modes of communication…” It opposed the reference to “and promoting” in the facilitator’s text because this subparagraph is about the interaction between disabled persons and authorities, and availability of means of communication, when the authorities have already accepted the underlying principle as stated in the chapeau. The Coordinator clarified the EU’s proposal for 13(b) in relation to language proposed by Norway and New Zealand to repeat language from the chapeau. The EU preferred its own formulation: “accepting the use of alternative modes and means of communication by PWD in official interactions.”  

The Coordinator asked the EU and other delegations to keep in mind that “alternative mode or means of communication” does not include sign language.  

Thailand suggested adapting text from the International Disability Caucus so that 13(b) could then read: “variety of languages, scripts, modes and means of communication, including ICT.” This language is not consistent with the chapeau which does not include ICT; however Braille is mentioned in the chapeau so it has recognition there, and the reference to "languages" here would cover sign language. Thailand emphasized that sign language is not a mode or means of communication.

The Coordinator enquired whether delegations seeking to have language in 13(b) that is different from that in the chapeau are doing so with the intent to limit the range of communication used by PWD in official interactions, over the broader language in the chapeau. The chapeau is attempting to lay out a general rule about appropriate modes of communication. By using a different expression of this rule in 13(b) there is the risk of inconsistency and of limiting the scope of 13(b).

Honduras suggested replacing “accepting” at the beginning of the paragraph with the word “promoting” as states have already accepted this obligation in the chapeau.

Serbia and Montenegro supported proposals to use language in 13(b) that is consistent with that in the chapeau. It also supported the EU proposal to delete the word “promoting.”

Australia called for consistency between references in the chapeau and those used elsewhere in the Article. While Australia understands the intention of the IDC to promote sign language as a language, it had reservations about the IDC proposal calling for the recognition of “a variety of languages.” Deriving from this would be an open-ended commitment from states to accept the use of any number of languages in their official communication – something that most states don’t do.  

Kenya drew an analogy between the proceedings at the AHC and the commitments in this Article. The AHC accepts that various languages are spoken in these meetings and has provided for interpreters accordingly. PWD know their modes of communication best and it is the role of government to “recognize and facilitate” this rather than “accept and promote.”

EU opposed the idea of “recognition” as inadequate because this paragraph deals with the problem of public authorities “not accepting” PWD modes and means of communication. The phrase “variety of modes and means” is too general and should be replaced by “modes and means.” In light of Norway’s and New Zealand’s comments, the EU will consider the logic of consistency with the chapeau, and agrees to the phrase “alternative modes and means of communication”, which in the EU’s point of view, includes sign language.

Japan asserted that the various modes and means of communication need to be treated equally in this Article. Privileging sign language and / or Braille over other means of communication or over one another would be strange. For example, those members of the deaf community who have lost their hearing over the course of their life would then face the additional burden of not being “native speakers” of sign language. In addition, the means of communication for PWD should be treated equally with that for other people. Japan also enquired as to the difference between "modes” and “means” of communication. In its understanding from previous discussions the term “modes of communication” would include all languages, including sign language, Japanese, English etc. However this contradicts the recent position of some delegations. Finally, Japan agreed with Australia's comment on the Article’s reference to language.

The Coordinator enquired whether there were experts who could clarify this question of whether sign language could be considered a mode of communication.

Thailand suggested that if 13(b) does not deal with language at all, referring only to “modes and means of communication,” then it need not mention any particular language. In such a situation however, without an inclusive list, there is the risk that the Committee will have to return to this issue again and again to point out how sign language is different. Thailand recommended consulting with PWD. Thailand did not consider it necessary to follow the chapeau since the intention of 13(b) is different. If 13(b) is to parallel the chapeau then it should specify and begin with a list: accepting and promoting “sign language, Braille … etc” rather than use an all-inclusive term.

The Coordinator stated that for clarity the chapeau should offer a formulation, which can then be used throughout the subsequent subparagraphs.

Norway asserted that sign language is similar to national languages, but different from, for example, English and French. It is the language that Deaf people use to express themselves. The inability to use sign language is what makes deaf people disabled. This is why it is required for this Convention to strengthen its reference to sign language. Accordingly, Norway proposes the following text: “accepting and promoting the use of sign languages and a variety of modes of communication …”

Yemen agreed with the EU and proposed “accepting and promoting the use of a variety of means and modes of communications by PWD” for 13(b). Specific examples such as Braille and sign language should not be included, as they are implied by the word "means." In addition, the chapeau mentions sign language and Braille so 13(b) does not need to repeat this. Finally, sign language is not a universal language. In the Arab world the dictionary of sign would be different from that in Japan. The question of whether sign language is equivalent to a spoken language still needs to be answered. There are many sign languages. Sign language is not comparable to a national language.

The Coordinator suggested that given the way the discussion was unfolding, the chapeau’s language needs to be agreed upon in order to proceed to the subsequent paragraphs. He read out the following language that was the outcome of a facilitators discussion: “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that PWD can exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others through sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative and alternative means of communication of their choice.” He inquired whether this formula might be used in 13(b), as follows: “accepting sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative and alternative means of communication of their choice, by PWD in official interactions.”

Thailand noted that it had proposed a similar formula at an earlier session, but there is a problem with ending with "augmentative and alternative means of communication." This terminology has a particular meaning, describing a subset of technologies targeting people with specific communication disabilities. The meaning of sign language and Braille is clear, but this list needs to be formulated so as not to be exhaustive, and in order to apply in general circumstances.

The Coordinator asked Thailand to meet with interested delegations and the facilitator to work out its additional concerns. He asked whether the formula for the chapeau is acceptable.

Uganda supported for the formula read by the Coordinator, subject to future deliberations. It suggested correcting a small oversight: Along with sign language and Braille, the list should also mention tactile language, which used by deafBlind people.

The Coordinator expressed concern about over-drafting the list and suggested Uganda join Thailand to meet with the facilitator.

Syria supported the formula read by the Coordinator for the chapeau, but preferred the more concise formulation of 13(b) as put forth by Yemen for "various means and methods of communication."  

Republic of Korea supported the Coordinator’s formulation of the draft, and echoed the concerns about trying to create an exhaustive list. It endorsed the WG text's treatment of “alternative means of communication,” which does not exclude other means of communication.

The Coordinator requested that delegates first address the substance of each subparagraph, followed by a discussion of drafting matters.

EU called the Coordinator’s text a good formula which can lead to progress.

Costa Rica supported the Coordinator’s formulation in order to reach consensus. Sign language should always be treated as a natural language and not merely as a mode of communication. This formulation could include language like: “all other augmentative and alternative modes of communication,” which would encompass all of the various alternative means of communication.

Canada suggested that one solution to the problems posed by a list would be to insert “accessible” before “communication.”

The Coordinator expressed the opinion that a list cannot be avoided in the chapeau, and the same language should be used in the subparagraphs that follow. He suggested replacing “accepting and promoting” with “accepting and facilitating,” and heard no opposition. The discussion then proceeded to 13(c) of the facilitator's text: “providing education programs aimed at teaching PWD and where appropriate, other concerned persons, to use [sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative and alternative means of communication of their choice]." The bracketed text at the end is subject to change depending on the opening phrase in the chapeau of “all appropriate measures...”

Israel suggested that the references to education should not be restricted to sign language, but should also address multiple means of presenting information, that is, not only through visual or audio means.

The Coordinator stated that 13(c) is focused on how to educate PWD to use modes of communication. This is different from the issue Israel is raising, which relates to universal design and is dealt with later in the text.

Serbia and Montenegro suggested that “where appropriate” might be redundant.

The Coordinator explained that qualifying the phrase “other concerned persons” with “where appropriate” clarifies that States are not obligated to teach sign language, Braille, or other modes of communication to any concerned person, but only to PWD.  

EU stated that 13(c) deals with education and training of PWD in the use of means of communication. Other persons wishing to communicate with PWD should also have access to these means, but no obligations should be imposed. The Coordinator explained that the EU’s concern is addressed in the reference to “other concerned persons.” This phrase would include those who want to communicate with PWD, such as caregivers and family members. The EU clarified its proposal, which reads: “promoting opportunities for training to use alternative communication modes and means.” This is a broader formulation of the facilitator's text of 13(c) which implied a preference for education programs. The EU’s proposed text on the other hand refers to all of the means available to train persons who have a need to communicate as well as persons directly concerned with the use of those means communication. The Coordinator clarified that the EU’s proposed language would replace 13(c), and noted that the EU’s language is also compatible with the generic language from the chapeau and elsewhere on “sign language, Braille, etc.”

Yemen reiterated th at the chapeau's mention of Braille and sign language was a point of reference, making it unnecessary to repeat these in every subparagraph. Nevertheless Yemen remains flexible regarding the repetition of the list.

The Coordinator asserted the need to repeat the formula in each subparagraph. Until consensus is reached concerning the substance of each subparagraph, the drafting should not be altered. Technical drafting issues can be resolved in small group discussions. The education of children and adults with disabilities is addressed in Article 17; including it in Article 13 could produce overlap.

The session adjourned.



The Coordinator enquired whether delegations agreed with the substance the latest formulation of the chapeau to emerge over recent facilitator sessions, to be standardized throughout Article 13 as necessary: “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that PWD can exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through sign languages, and Braille and augmentative and alternative communication and all accessible means, modes, and formats of communication of their choice, including by:” This formulation ensures that the various means and modes of communication are covered.  

EU expressed support for the proposed text contingent upon consultation with experts.

The Coordinator noted that this version seems to satisfy many of the delegations' concerns and issues, including the Russian Federation's suggestion to include the term “ideas.” This latest language will now be the basis for moving forward on discussions for the rest of Article13. He invited comments on 13(c).

Jordan stated that 13(c) should use stronger language such as “enable persons” because the provision needs to refer to promoting education skills.

The Coordinator pointed out that education is covered in another article. The EU had proposed a new introductory text for 13(c), as follows: “promoting opportunities for training to use sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative and alternative means of communication of their choice.” This may assuage the concerns raised by Jordan.

Thailand suggested adding the word “other” to the chapeau, to read: “all other accessible means, modes, and formats of communication of their choice…” This addition would appear in all subparagraphs except for 13(a), as it deals with public / official information. The reference to “accessible formats” is sufficient rather than providing an exhaustive list.

The Coordinator suggested that 13(a) should remain without the formulaic list in order to avoid extensive rewording. All other subparagraphs should conform to the language used in the chapeau. The Coordinator's report will identify this as an issue for further consideration.

Japan noted that 13(c) deals with education and should therefore be in Article 17.

The Coordinator asked whether Japan agrees with the EU's proposed introductory language for Article 13, “promoting opportunities of training” which would remove its educational context. There was no comment from Japan.

EU clarified that the phrase “promoting opportunities for training” would establish the possibility, in both state and private sector, of training PWD and those who communicate with them in using various means of communication.

Colombia said that the provision in 13(c) would be more appropriately addressed in Article 17 which deals with education.

The Coordinator noted that many delegations have suggested moving this issue to Article 17. He asked whether the EU could concur.

EU wished to maintain its proposed text for Article 13 at this time and will consider the possibility of its inclusion in Article 17.

The Coordinator changed the opening of the facilitator's text of 13(c) to conform to the EU text, to which he had heard no opposition: “promoting opportunities for training to use sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative and alternative means of communication of their choice.” A note will be included in the report as to whether this provision should be in Article 13 or in Article 17.

Costa Rica agreed with other delegations that 13(c) should be moved to Article 17. However it asserted that the substantive language of 13(c) has not been decided.

The Coordinator pointed out that he had invited delegations to comment on the EU proposed text and had heard no opposition. Given that there now seems to be opposition this too will be noted in the Coordinator’s report. He invited comments on 13(d): “promoting and where appropriate, undertaking the research, development, and production of new technologies and systems, including information and communication technologies, and assistive technologies, that are suitable for, accessible to and affordable by PWD and in consultation with them;” The formula from the chapeau will not be applicable to 13(d) because this refers to the development of new technology and systems.

Thailand agreed with facilitator's text but suggested the insertion of new language so that the last part would read: “…by PWD, following to the maximum extent possible the internationally recognized accessibility standards….” This would avoid fragmentation and duplication of standards across countries and ensure a forward looking convention.

The Coordinator noted possible overlap again, this time with Article 19, which deals with accessibility.  

New Zealand pointed out that overlap also existed with Article 4 on General Obligations with the Committee possibly “reinventing the wheel” on an issue that had already been agreed upon. NZ drew the attention of the Committee to the Coordinator 's report from AHC 4 in relation to 4.1: “ There was general agreement that the elements contained in draft articles 13 (d), 19.2 (e), 20 (c) and 21 (f) should be consolidated in subparagraph 1 (f) and a new subparagraph 1 (g). The Facilitator’s group was mandated to work on the precise wording of this proposal.”  

The Coordinator acknowledged that new technology is a constant theme throughout the text, and that 13(d) is substantially the same in the WG text and the facilitator’s text. In light of New Zealand's comment, the text of 13(d) should be incorporated into Article 4. No opposition was expressed. The discussion then proceeded to 13(e) with the Coordinator noting that language from the chapeau does not apply: “promoting appropriate forms of assistance and support to PWD to ensure their access to information, including supporting, and where appropriate, developing, training programs for assistants, intermediaries, interpreters, note-takers and readers.”

Costa Rica pointed out that “assistance and support to ensure access to information” in 13(e) is already addressed in the article on accessibility. In addition the language in 13(e) on training programs is already mentioned in the EU’s proposed text for 13(c). This Article seems to broaden the concept of support. Costa Rica supports its elements but believes 13(c),13(d), and 13(e) should be examined in the context of other articles and 13(e) should be deleted.

Jordan concurred with Costa Rica that 13(e) adds nothing new and should be deleted.

New Zealand agreed with Costa Rica and Jordan that these issues are dealt with in other articles. Delegates should be careful to not lose concepts when transferring issues to different articles. Training the professional workforce working with PWD is a much wider issue than described in 13(e), so this perhaps points to the need to consolidate all proposals relating to the training of this workforce elsewhere.

The Coordinator noted that training may not be mentioned in this way elsewhere, and asked whether any delegations want to keep 13(e).

EU urged keeping the first part of 13(e), “promoting appropriate forms of assistance and support to PWD to ensure their access to information.” The rest was substantively covered in 13(c) and could be deleted.

The Coordinator pointed out that access to information has been dealt with in some detail in 13(a) as well.

Kenya stated that 13(e) should be deleted but cautioned that the important concepts is in it should be located in the appropriate parts of the Convention elsewhere, and this should be noted in the Coordinator’s report.

Thailand suggested, instead of deleting text, moving 13(d) to Article 4, and moving 13(e) to Article 19. Discussion on them should be deferred accordingly. The substance and content of these paragraphs are worth keeping, but their placement should be negotiated in order to avoid repetition and achieve clarity, and the relocation should be noted.

The Coordinator proposed moving 13(e) to Article 19, and the Coordinator’s report will note that its provisions should be fully reflected in Article 19. No objections were raised.

India suggested keeping 13(a) and 13(b) in Article 13, and moving the other paragraphs.

The Coordinator clarified that there is no proposal to move 13(a) or 13(b).

Colombia asserted that the substance of the first part of 13(e) is already covered in 19.2(e) on research and development. The second part of 13(e) should be moved to the article dealing with education. Therefore 13(e) should be deleted.

Yemen stressed the concepts in 13(d) and 13(e) should be retained, especially in view of the importance of scientific research for PWD. 13(d) and (e) should be placed somewhere more suitable.

The Coordinator moved the discussion to 13(f): “ urging private entities that provide services to the general public to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for PWD.”

EU opposed the use of the word “urging.” The Convention’s provisions apply to States Parties, which can only “encourage” private entities to provide accessible services. States parties cannot impose on private entities and should not interfere with their free will.

Kenya was of the view the discussion on 13(a) had achieved consensus that “public information” constituted information originating from both private and government sources. Therefore 13(f) is redundant and should be deleted.

The Coordinator clarified that there was in fact no consensus on this point regarding 13(a).

Costa Rica stated its position that there is no agreement on the content of 13(a). Regarding the EU’s position on 13(f), Costa Rica noted that the Convention cannot only be implemented by states. This is the purpose behind the General Obligation in Article 4.1(a) for states “to adopt legislative, administrative and other measures…” to ensure compliance. The Convention should discourage discriminatory practices including in the provision of information. For example, food companies, which are required to provide nutritional information on their products, must be required to make that information accessible to PWD. All information, public or private, which is available to the public must be accessible to PWD. It is up to each State through its legislation to ensure compliance.

The Coordinator emphasised that there is no agreement on the scope of 13(a) and this remains open.

Jordan proposed eliminating 13(f). If it is retained it must ensure that all services need to be equalized. The trend in the third world is for government services to be privatized, in fact governments are providing support to the private sector, in essence “poor people are supporting rich people.” If services in the private realm are not required to be accessible then nothing would be accessible to PWD. Governments must regulate.

The Coordinator noted that Jordan and Costa Rica support language “requiring” entities that provide services to the general public to do so in accessible and usable formats. The EU supports the word “encouraging.” An alternative language would be to use “urging” as a middle ground.

Philippines supported language “urging” private entities in 13(f), which should be retained, because 13(a) deals more with official information.

Republic of Korea suggested retaining 13(f) until a decision has been reached regarding 13(a). It preferred using “encouraging” relating to the private sector. To be more succinct, 13(g) and 13(f) could be combined. The reference to “mass media” in 13(g) could be added to 13(f) and the 13(g) should be deleted.

Thailand recommended retaining 13(f) until 13(a) is resolved. E ntities providing services to the general public must be required by legislative measure to make this accessible. Otherwise there is the risk of "killing the spirit of this convention." The principles of equality and non-discrimination would be meaningless when PWD don’t have equal access to information, including information about their equal rights.

Guatemala stated that PWD must be duly informed; therefore all entities that provide information must do so in an accessible manner and supports Costa Rica’s position. For example, in the pharmaceutical sector medications may have dangerous side-effects of which PWD should be aware.

Yemen expressed support for the term “urging,” and for keeping both 13(a) and 13(f) which deal with different types of information.

Jamaica stated that the WG deliberations found the issue of public information to be very important. States Parties have the power to require private entities to conform to standards of accessibility. Subparagraphs 13(a) and 13(f) need to be examined together. If the word “official” is deleted from 13(a) then it becomes clear that public information is for the general public regardless of its source. But if it is restricted to government information, then 13(f) is necessary and must be strongly stated. Some private entities, such as chemical industries and emergency broadcasters, provide essential safety information to the public. Thus the private sector cannot be exempted from providing accessible information because this would result in denying PWD access to information essential to the general public.

The Coordinator noted that 13(f) reads "services," but that the Philippines has proposed that it refer to "information and services."

South Africa asserted that this Convention must ensure access for PWD to information provided by both the public and private sectors. It expressed support for the facilitator's text and for 13(f). If 13(a) is kept, then 13(a) and 13(f) should follow sequentially, but this a structural matter which can be discussed later.

New Zealand , remarking on 13(f) of the facilitator's text, expressed approval of the word “urging” as a viable compromise between “encouraging” and “requiring.“ This does not prevent States from requiring private entities to meet the standards, nor does it oblige States to do so.

EU advocated retaining 13(a) and 13(f) as both States and private entities have an obligation to provide information and service to PWD that is accessible. It prefers the word “encouraging” in 13(f).

Serbia and Montenegro supported retaining both 13(a) and 13(f). It endorsed the Republic of Korea's proposal to merge 13(g) and 13(f) so the text should read: “ urging private entities that provide services to the general public and the mass media to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for PWD.” It prefers the word “urging” but remains flexible.

Mexico said that 13(f), 13(a) and 13(e) should all be retained because they encompass public information provided by both public and private entities. The facilitator's word “urging” could offer a good compromise, but words like “encouraging” and “urging” are usually used in resolutions or non-binding declarations. This instrument cannot impose obligations on non-state actors; however 13(f) directs States to require non-state actors to provide accessible information. The word “requesting” would be the most appropriate text because it could lead to something concrete.

Thailand asserted that ensuring equal and effective enjoyment of human rights by PWD requires a stronger mandate on access to information, which is a human rights issue. If it opts to use the word “encouraging,” then the Committee would be "killing the whole spirit of this Convention.” The term “encourage” is not used when mandating that private entities protect the environment or pay taxes.

United Arab Emirates said that legal principles must not be fragmented. Access should be required from both private and public entities. Around the world, fewer services are being provided by public entities; most are now provided by the private sector. If no obligations are imposed on the private sector then this Convention would be void of substance. This notion is reinforced by 13(c), which deals with the mass media, a private sector industry.

Uganda agreed with UAE and Jamaica that services are increasingly outsourced to the private sector. These services must be accessible to PWD. Therefore the word “urge” is better than the word "encourage."

The Coordinator said that many delegations support keeping 13(f), but if 13(a) is broadened to include all public information then 13(f) can be deleted. On the other hand, 13(f) covers services as well as information so deleting it might be problematic. There are a broad range of views concerning the exact wording used to mandate state action. Given the lack of consensus for “encourage,“ “urge,“ or “required," all three choices will stay in the draft as alternatives. This is the only real issue to be dealt with in 13(f). The Philippines ' proposal to add “information” after “services” in 13(f), brought no opposition; therefore the text will read: “urging private entities that provide services and information to the general public.” The Philippines' proposal to combine 13(f) and 13(g) also had no opposition. Therefore 13(g) will be deleted and the combined text will with the words: “requiring/encouraging/urging private entities, including the mass media, that provide information and services to the general public..."

Israel explained that not all countries have a mass media controlled by the private sector; therefore 13(f) should not be combined with 13(g). The Internet should be considered part of the mass media, this is a new domain that needs to be made accessible to PWD. “Urging” is not a strong enough word.

The Coordinator noted some opposition to merging 13(f) and 13(g); therefore they will be kept separate. He invited comment on 13(g) including the Internet.

Uganda argued that access to information in 13(f) is a prerequisite for accessing other services so combining this with 13(g) might result in a conceptual loss. Therefore 13(f) and 13(g) should be kept separate.

Brazil recommended that the Internet should also be included in 13(a), as it deals with official information.

Yemen said that if the facilitator's version of 13(g) is adopted then it should “urge” mass media to make their services accessible. There is no need to reference “information” because this is the service of the mass media. Increasingly the mass media is controlled by the private sector so 13(f) and 13(g) should be combined.

The Coordinator asked delegates to consider including the Internet in 13(g). Depending on the scope of 13(a), the Internet may cover public or official information.

Thailand said the term "Internet" includes both internet service providers and web content creators and therefore could appear in 13(a), 13(f), and/or 13(g), depending on how delegates view the scope of the term. The Internet is a part of public information but there are many private entities that create websites, especially in the cross-media industry. Website owners and operators choose whether or not their websites will be accessible. If there is no requirement, they will choose inaccessible infrastructure. This blocks PWD from having access to information on an equal basis with others. If no legislative measures require access to information by PWD then for example when natural disasters occur many PWD may die because of lack of information.

The Coordinator suggested that Thailand's intervention clarifies that many Internet providers are not a part of the mass media; therefore a separate subparagraph for the Internet may be necessary. This Convention should be forward-looking, as technology is evolving.

Israel endorsed the ideas of a separate subparagraph for the Internet, and of requiring that websites be designed to be accessible.

Yemen preferred not to add another subparagraph on the internet but remains flexible.

Costa Rica endorsed the Coordinator's proposal to add a subparagraph to ensure information on websites would be accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities.

Jordan agreed with Yemen that there should not be a separate subparagraph on the internet. All modes of communication, as referenced by the term ICT, including mass media and the Internet, should be combined.

The Coordinator pointed out that normally, mass media includes print media, television, radio, etc. Some websites are media-related but most are not. He highlighted this issue as one that will need to be addressed

Thailand was against an exhaustive list, which could risk making this Convention outdated later. He reiterated that the phrase "public information" should be used in 13(a). This would then cover all information available and directed to the general public no matter the source, including the internet and website access. Thailand does not favor adding a new subparagraph.

The Coordinator pointed out that there is no general agreement concerning 13(a). He asked whether there was opposition to the substance of 13(g), except for the opening words: “requiring/encouraging/urging private entities, including the mass media, that provide information and services to the general public..." No opposition was expressed.

EU suggested that these issues of access to services, access to the internet and access to the mass media should be dealt with in Article 19 on accessibility.

The Coordinator clarified that Article 13 is focused on the provision of and access to information, whereas Article 19 deals with ICT, transportation, and built environments to ensure the capacity of PWD to live independently and participate in all aspects of life. Article 13 is more specific than Article 19.  

Canada agreed with the EU that the Internet and mass media should be addressed in Article 19 which deals with ICT. Article 13 deals with the right to expression for PWD. Accessibility is the means to realise that right; therefore the discussion should be incorporated into Article 19.

Syria agreed with Yemen and Jordan against including the Internet in a separate subparagraph. This could entail a hierarchy of modes of information as the internet is not a common means of communication throughout the world. Instead the Internet should be mentioned in the context of 13(g).

UAE endorsed a reference to the Internet in this Article given its importance; however this issue should not be limited to the subparagraphs. It should be included in mass media.

Israel expressed concern about including the Internet under "public information," which deals with content. It emphasized that the Internet is a tool along with cellular phones and other technological mechanisms. The point is all of these technologies should be designed to be accessible from the beginning. Israel suggested adding “internet and other new technologies” to 13(g) or in a new subpara 13(i).

The Coordinator summed up there is agreement on 13(g) except for the opening word. Many delegates have stressed the importance of the Internet, which could be either dealt with in conjunction with mass media in 13(g), or addressed in a separate paragraph, or moved to the accessibility article. This will be resolved later. The Coordinator then brought the discussion to the bracketed subpara in 13(h) “ developing / recognizing / promoting a national sign language.” No specific language has been drafted for 13(h). He inquired whether any delegations support adding 13(h).

Thailand said it supported the inclusion of 13(h). Regarding 13(g) it noted that if this subpara deals only with content rather than infrastructure, then the reference to “mass media” would include the Internet.

EU asserted that sign language is sufficiently dealt with in the chapeau of Article 13. Some of the ideas delegates have mentioned are already dealt with in the accessibility article. The EU opposes adding language besides what is already in Article 13 and Article 19.

Brazil stated that a national language is recognised in Brazil, and therefore endorsed 13(h).

Chile offered its support for 13(h).

United Arab Emirates noted that the terminology at the beginning of this provision reflects a lack of consensus during the facilitator meeting. “Developing” is redundant because where there are deaf people sign language already exists. ”Recognising” and “promoting” is also redundant because this is already mentioned in the chapeau. There are great differences even among provinces inside a country on the type of sign language used by populations of PWD. This was a problem encountered in an Arab effort to create a unifying language. Creating a national sign language is a determination best left up to States. Furthermore each PWD should have the right to choose their mode of communication and whichever language they grew up with. Therefore 13(h) should be deleted.

Colombia agreed with the UAE and the EU that 13(h) should be deleted. Sign language is important, but making it a national or official language could be very problematic.

China noted that the core content of 13(h) is not directly related to this Article which addresses access to information and freedom of expression. Creating a national language is quite controversial. Therefore it should be deleted.

Yemen , while expressing support for the development, expansion and enrichment of national sign languages, nevertheless urged deletion of 13(h). Designating a national language requires legislation recognizing the existence of different national cultures, ethnicity, and religions. Many PWD are part of their homeland culture, similar to others except for their mode of communication. The chapeau deals sufficiently with sign language.

The Coordinator observed that there was no consensus regarding 13(h) and this will be reflected in the Coordinator's report.

South Africa emphasized the value and importance of sign language as a formal means of communication which should be promoted and developed by States. South Africa recognizes sign language as a language which can be used in all institutions especially within the education system. This emancipates the Deaf community and sign language users, and promotes Deaf culture. In addition this Convention should provide for other means of communication used by other PWD, as stated on 13(j). Therefore South Africa suggests merging 13(h) with 13(j).

The Coordinator emphasised that 13(h) is only a proposal and that there is no consensus on its retention.

Honduras said that this Convention should not only promote national sign languages, but should attempt to create an international language.

Uganda supported the formulation of 13(h) given by facilitator. All countries need to develop national sign languages for the benefit of people who are Deaf. It clarified that this subparagraph deals with developing a national sign language not a national language.

The Coordinator conveyed again the facilitator’s position that this provision is bracketed text and not a proposal as such. The Coordinator’s report will reflect the difference of view over the retention or deletion of a provision to this effect. He introduced 13(i): “promoting access for PWD to new communication technologies and systems.” He suggested that this could be discussed with subparagraphs 13(j) and 13(k), as all 3 deal with accessibility. He also suggested that they could all be moved to Article 19 and examined in that context.

Serbia and Montenegro endorsed moving 13(i), 13(j), and 13(k) to Article 19. In addition it proposed inserting a reference to “ communication technologies and systems, including the Internet” in 13(i).

Israel asserted that communication access should be addressed in Article 13, concerning communication, not in the article concerning accessibility. It would not be possible to have an article on communication without referencing access to it. It endorsed a proposal by Serbia and Montenegro to add language of the Internet to 13(i).

The Coordinator noted that these subparas deal with new communications technologies and systems, ie the architecture and mechanics of the system itself, rather than with their content -- "the pipe rather than what comes out of the pipe." He suggested that issues regarding "the pipe" itself belong in the accessibility article.

Thailand was flexible on deferring discussion of these issues until Article 19. It suggested replacing the word “new” with “and communication technologies" as this reference to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) would reflect what has become a widely used concept in the UN. The Internet must be dealt with in this Article, even if this Article is only dealing with content. The additional phrase “including information provided through the internet” could be added to 13(a),13(f), or 13(g). If it is included in 13(f) then it should be in 13(g) as well.

UAE suggested that 13(i), 13(j), and 13(k) could be consolidated and be moved to Article 19.

Honduras said 13(i), 13(j), and 13(k) refer to the same issues and therefore should be combined.

The Coordinator summed up that, except for one delegation preferring to keep 13(i), 13(j) and 13(k) in Article 13, all others supported moving them to Article 19, and therefore proposed considering these subparas in the context of Article 19. There was no opposition to the inclusion of the Internet in 13(f) and 13(g).


The Coordinator reviewed proposals for separating the two issues of Article 14 of the WG text: privacy on the one hand and marriage and family on the other. The reference to combating stereotypes in 14.2(f) and 14.2(a) might be better placed in Article 5; either way, these ideas must be included in the Convention. References to the interest of the child being paramount received a lot of support, although not unanimous. He asked delegations for comments on 14.1 of the WG text, specifically on whether people in institutions should be singled out and whether the protection of medical records should be addressed in another article.

Yemen noted that the text must consider societies' ethical and religious mores, and avoid controversial provisions.

EU pointed out that the principle of protecting PWD from arbitrary or unlawful intrusions of privacy applies in all living arrangements. Therefore, the words "including those living in institutions" should be replaced with “regardless of their place of residence.”

Holy See expressed concern that Article 14 attempts to address too many details which can create too many problems in any juridical instrument. This Convention could impose legal obligations on States, and therefore it must contain language that is consistent with existing provisions of applicable juridical texts. The draft Convention may neither create new additional rights nor diminish or interfere with existing human rights recognized for PWD. Language from existing juridical instruments should not be modified. This could well interfere with agreed upon meaning, intent and obligations presently in existence and impose non-agreed upon duties upon states.

Costa Rica suggested that privacy and family relations should be dealt with in two separate articles. It supported the EU's proposal to delete the phrase about people living in institutions. It proposed the following text for 14.1: “PWD shall not be subject to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy and they have the right to the protection of the law against such interference in all spheres. SP to this Convention shall take effective measures to protect the privacy of correspondence, information and documentation of PWD.” This covers the topic of privacy as a whole without getting into the issue of families, and intimate relationships. These can be addressed in another article.

 The session was adjourned.

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