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ADHOC COMMITTEE ON
AN INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION

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Statement

Panel III
New and Emerging Approaches to definition Emerging Approaches to definitions of disability: conceptual frameworks, varying contexts of definition, and implications for promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities

SECOND SESSION OF THE AD HOC COMMITTEE ON A COMPREHENSIVE AND INTEGRAL INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON PROTECTION AND PROMOTION OF THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
New York, 16 to 27 June 2003

Views of the International Labour Organization


The International Labour Organization recognizes the diversity of definitions of disability used in national legislation and policy throughout the world, and the achievement of the World Health Organization in promoting a standardized classification for the purposes of diagnosis - firstly through the International Classification of Impairments, Disability and Handicap (ICIDH) and more recently through the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).

The ILO standards concerning persons with disabilities do not define disability, but include a definition of a disabled person. For the ILO Code of Practice on Managing Disability in the Workplace, adopted in 2001 by a Committee of Experts comprising government, employer and trade union representatives from developing and industrialized countries, a disabled person is defined as "...an individual whose prospects of securing, retaining and advancing in suitable employment are substantially reduced as a result of a duly recognized physical, sensory, intellectual or mental impairment". This definition has proven to be universally acceptable, in the context of vocational rehabilitation, vocational training and employment, while allowing for variation in national interpretations of disability.

The ILO agrees that proposed UN Convention to protect and promote the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, should take an approach which reflects the concerns expressed in the Note by the Secretary General (A/AC.265/2003/4) and, in particular, the need for definitions to reflect the social dimensions of disability, and be in harmony with human rights principles. The ILO suggests that the definition contained in the ILO Labour Standards be considered in the deliberations which take place. While dealing specifically with employment, this definition could form the basis of a more generally applicable definition for the purposes of the proposed UN Comvention. The use of such a definition in the proposed Convention would offer scope to national authorities to define disability and disabled persons according to the needs of national policy and legislation and in conformity with national practice and understanding.

Thank you.

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development