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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality


Article 2 - Definitions

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Third Session


Compilation of proposed revisions and amendments made by the members of the Ad Hoc Committee to the draft text presented by the Working Group as a basis for negotiations by Member States and Observers in the Ad Hoc Committee

(updated after the completion of the first reading at the Fourth Session, 26 August 2004)


[Article 3
Definitions 1

“Accessibility” 2

(“Accessibility” shall include aspects and/or services that are inclusive, equal, appropriately used or readily reached and benefit people with disabilities, including promoting safe, healthy and barrier free access to physical environments and public transportation as a standard. These aspects include, social and economic empowerment, information, communication and assistive technologies, universal design and adaptation. – South Africa)

“Communication” includes oral-aural communication, [communication using – South Africa] sign language, tactile communication, Braille (system – Yemen), large print, audio, accessible multimedia, human reader and other augmentative or alternative modes of communication, including accessible information and communication technology. 3

“Disability” 4
(“Disability” means a functional status of human individual, which is the outcome of the interaction between the individual and the society and environment, manifested as physical, sensory, mental, intellectual impairment that limits the capacity to perform daily life and social participation and which can be aggravated by the economic and social environment. – China, Rep. of Korea)

(“Disability” is the loss or elimination of opportunities to take part in the life of the community; equitably with others that is encountered by persons having physical, sensory, psychological, developmental, learning, neurological or other impairments, which may be permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, thereby causing activity limitations and participation restriction within the mainstream society. These barriers may be due to economic, physical, social, attitudinal and/or cultural factors. - South Africa)

(“Disability” means:
(a) total or partial loss of the person's bodily or mental functions; or
(b) total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
(c) the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or
(d) the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or
(e) the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person's body; or
(f) a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
(g) a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in
disturbed behaviour;

and includes a disability that:
(h) presently exists; or
(i) previously existed but no longer exists; or
(j) may exist in the future; or
(k) is imputed to a person; - Australia)

(States Parties should adopt definitions of “disability” that take into consideration economic, social, cultural and social barriers, and that are in line with the principles highlighted by this convention. – Lebanon)

(The term “disability” means a physical, mental or sensory impairment, whether permanent or temporary, that limits the capacity to perform one or more essential activities of daily life, and which can be caused or aggravated by the economic and social environment. – Argentina)

“Persons with disability” 5

(“Person with disability”
A person that presents a physical, mental, intellectual or sensorial impairment; whether congenital or acquired, temporary or permanent that limits his/her capacity to perform some essential activities of daily life and that requires specific support to achieve his/her full development, integration and inclusion in the social, cultural, political and economic fields. – Mexico)

(“Persons with Disabilities” are people who have long-term or recurring, physical or sensory impairment which substantially limits the prospects of equitable participation in society – South Africa)

“Discrimination on the ground of disability” 6
(“Discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, additional obligations or burdens, restrictions or acts which have the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by persons with disabilities, on a basis of equality with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. – South Africa)

(“Discrimination against persons with disabilities”, means any forms of distinction treatment, exclusion or restriction based on a disability, which has the effect of impairing the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. - China)

(The term “discrimination against persons with disabilities” means any distinction, exclusion or restriction based on a disability, record of disability, condition resulting from a previous disability or perception of disability, whether present or past, which has the effect or objective of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by a person with a disability of his or her human rights and fundamental freedoms.

A distinction or preference adopted by a State Party to promote the social integration or personal development of persons with disabilities does not in itself limit the right of persons with disabilities to equality and that individuals with disabilities are not forced to accept such distinction or preference. If, under a State’s internal law, a person can be declared legally incompetent, when necessary and appropriate for his or her well being, such declaration does not constitute discrimination. – Argentina)

“Language” (shall – South Africa) includes oral-aural language and sign language. 7

“Reasonable accommodation” 8

(“Reasonable Accommodation”:
Any modification or adjustment to an environment that will enable a person from a designated group to have access to and/or participate equitably as part of mainstream society. - South Africa)

“Universal design” and “Inclusive design”. 9
(“Universal design” is a worldwide concept, which promotes a holistic design such that all products, environments and communications are to designed to consider and provide for the needs of the widest possible array of users. It is considered as a design for all, as an inclusive design and also as a lifespan design. - South Africa)

(“Rehabilitation” – South Africa)

(“Associate”, in relation to a person, includes
(a) a spouse of the person; and
(b) another person who is living with the person on a genuine domestic basis; and
(c) a relative of the person; and
(d) a carer of, or assistant to, the person; and
(e) another person who is in a business, sporting or recreational relationship with the person. – Australia)

(States Parties to this Convention shall:

h) seek to remedy the economic, social, cultural, material and personal disadvantages experienced by persons with disabilities by measures that include the implementation of this Convention;

i) recognise that all ages and any population or group of people can experience disability;

j) interpret broadly all clauses in this convention in order to assist people with disabilities who require its protection, taking into account their diversity and individuality;

k) define a person with a disability as an individual whose capacity to lead an inclusive life in the community of his/her choice is limited by the cumulative impact of physical, political, economic, social and cultural environments and personal factors that arise from physical, sensory, psycho-social, neurological, medical, intellectual or other conditions that may be permanent, temporary, intermittent, perceived or imputed;

l) recognise that no individual shall be considered a person with a disability contrary to his or her own choice;

m) ensure that any definition of disability that is applied in their countries' courts of law is at least as inclusive and broadly based as the definition contained in this Convention, and takes full account of the physical, economic, social and cultural environments and personal factors that create disabling conditions;

n) recognise that an individual may claim rights under this Convention if she or he can be considered a person with a disability or has experienced a past disability, within the terms of the legal definition of disability that is applied in her/his country of residence and if such a definition does not exist, or if the person can be considered a person with a disability under Paragraph d) of this Article, the definition in this Convention shall be applied. – Kenya)

- EU, India, Norway, Bahrain]



1. In the consideration of this article, the Ad Hoc Committee may wish to take into account the different proposals that were presented to the Committee and the Working Group regarding the specific definitions of the concepts herein contained.

2. The need for a definition of “accessibility” and the content of any definition will depend on the outcome of the discussion in the Ad Hoc Committee on draft article 19 on accessibility.

3. The Ad Hoc Committee may wish to consider the need for a definition of “communication” (separate from draft article 13 on freedom of expression and opinion), and if so, the content of that definition.

4. Many members of the Working Group emphasized that a convention should protect the rights of all persons with disabilities (i.e. all different types of disabilities) and suggested that the term “disability” should be defined broadly. Some members were of the view that no definition of “disability” should be included in the Convention, given the complexity of disability and the risk of limiting the ambit of the Convention. Other delegations pointed to existing definitions used in the international context, including the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). There was general agreement that if a definition was included, it should be one that reflected the social model of disability, rather than the medical model.

5. Some members of the Working Group considered that it was more important to include this definition than the definition of “disability”. Other members were of the view that a definition of this term was not necessary.

6. This definition is addressed in draft article 7 on equality and non-discrimination. The Ad Hoc Committee may wish to consider the best placement for this definition.

7. Some delegations were of the view that the separate draft articles of the Convention specified that language included sign language, and questioned the need for that definition in the present article. Others expressed the view that the definition was needed.

8. The definition of this concept was not discussed beyond the definition that is included in draft article 7, although the Working Group considered it necessary to include it.

9. These definitions were not discussed, but the Working Group considered that they would be useful.


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