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Working Group : Compilation of Elements

Coalition of Individuals, Organisations and Agencies of the People, for the People and by the People with Disabilities in Eastern Europe

(Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova and Poland)

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Equal rights for all

1.    Introduction

The Coalition represents over 100 organisations, government and non-government- and people with a wide range of disabilities - physical, visual, hearing, multiple and learning - and their families and friends from the above 5 countries.

The organisations came together in their respective countries to discuss the rights of people with disabilities within the legal, constitutional and social frameworks in each country.

This process was funded by the British Foreign Office through the Human Rights Project Fund and managed by the British Council in Ukraine.

Some of the countries in this region, Ukraine and Belarus in particular, are still suffering from the impact of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that took place in April 1986 and resulted in a dramatic increase in congenital birth defects. In addition, social and economic transition has led to further marginalisation of people with disabilities. And the Soviet policy of institutionalisation of people with disabilities continues even to this date. Medical, social, educational, cultural and economic support are very inadequate for people with disabilities and their families, and there is considerable stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities.

The British Council, in co-operation with its partners in Ukraine and Poland, and jointly with Open Health Institute, St. Petersburg, Soros Foundation, Moldova and the Belarusian Association of Assistance to Handicapped Children and Young People in Belarus, organised a series of meetings during which the participants

  • shared common concerns
  • discussed violations of rights of people with disabilities that are experienced on a daily basis
  • examined existing international conventions and covenants to see whether or not they were relevant to the needs and rights of people with disabilities
  • identified gaps in existing international conventions and covenants
  • discussed the legal and social frameworks in each country and the laws and attitudes that support or discriminate against people with disabilities.

Important Comment:

It was generally agreed that if the existing international treaties were to be implemented in the true spirit in which they have been drawn up, there would be no real need for a separate convention for people with disabilities. However, the reality is that despite the fact that each of the 5 countries are signatories to the various conventions, people with disabilities continue to feel socially, economically, politically and culturally excluded.

What is lacking is a strong national or international mechanism to guarantee that people with disabilities are given the same rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Convention on the Rights of the Child; Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights. In addition there is no monitoring/reporting body or court that can be accessed by people with disabilities when their rights are violated.

What is also lacking is specific reference to people with disabilities in the existing Conventions (with the exception of the Convention on the Rights of the Child). The rights of people with disabilities should be incorporated into ALL the Conventions so that they read that ALL people have equal rights regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, level of ability or disability, caste or nationality.

Therefore this coalition strongly urges that:

  • the purpose of the new Convention that is formulated should be to ensure that any human being with any kind of disability, as a member of the whole community, may exercise the same rights and freedoms and have the same obligations as others. It is a political and juridical commitment from all Member States to take action for the equalisation of opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • It should also categorically state that all the existing Conventions and Covenants should be extended to cover the rights of all people with disabilities.
  • the UN or a body established by the UN, proposes an effective machinery to monitor the implementation of this convention in the Member States, and takes responsibility for reporting cases of violations to the UN
  • people with disabilities are made aware of this new convention and the rights contained therein
  • people with disabilities have access to the body established by the UN for support and information

In order to ensure the above, this coalition recommends that the new Convention incorporates the following Core Rights for People with Disabilities that they are guaranteed within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but that need to highlighted in the new convention:

  1.     Right to equal citizenship and social inclusion in all societies
  2.     The right to life, liberty and security of person to any person with disabilities
  3.     The right to all the rights laid down in the 4 major conventions and covenants in order that people with disabilities are able to lead full lives and contribute to their maximum potential to their country's social, economic, political, civil and cultural development.
  4.     Right to equal recognition and protection by the law
  5.     All men and women, without any limitation due to disability, race, nationality, religion have the right to marry and to found a family.
  6.     All people, regardless of their disability, have the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Specific provision on the implementation process of the rights of people with disabilities:

(a) Equality before the law and entitlement to an equal protection of the law
States Parties should ensure that national legislation includes the rights and obligations of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with the other members of the community. Thus, States are obliged to ensure that people with disabilities exercise their rights, including their human, civil and political rights, on an equal basis with other citizens. States must ensure that organisations of persons with disabilities are involved in the development of national legislation regarding the rights of people with disabilities, as well as in the ongoing evaluation of that legislation.

State Parties should have the duty to ensure the right of people with disabilities to a fair juridical defence and assistance from the office. State Parties should also have the duty to ensure the right of people with disabilities to special treatment during arrest and detention. States may also consider establishing formal statutory complaint mechanisms in order to protect the interests of persons with disabilities.

(b) Accessibility as a way to equal participation
For people with disabilities of any kind, States should (1) introduce programmes of action to make the physical environment accessible, and (2) undertake measures to provide access to information and communication.

(1) Access to physical environment
State Parties should ensure specific measures to remove all obstacles to participation in the physical environment. Such measures should be to develop standards and guidelines and to consider enacting legislation to ensure accessibility to various areas in society, such as housing, buildings, public transport services and other means of transport, streets and other out-door environments. Member States should aim for the gradual use only of those public transport as well as other equipment for public use that are convenient for the specific needs of persons with disabilities.

(2) Access to information and communication
Persons with disabilities and, where appropriate, their families and advocates should have access to full information on diagnosis, rights and available services and programmes, at all stages. Such information should be presented in forms accessible to people with disabilities. State Parties should develop strategies to make information services and documentation accessible for different groups of persons with disabilities.

State Parties should ensure that the media, especially television, radio and newspapers make their services accessible and should also ensure that new computerised information and service systems offered to the general public are either made initially accessible or are adapted to be made accessible to the persons with disabilities.

(c) The right to education
State Parties should ensure the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities, in integrated settings. Education for people with disabilities should constitute an integral part of national educational planning curriculum development and school organisation.

In situations where the general school system does not yet adequately meet the needs of all people with disabilities, special education may be considered. The quality of such education should reflect the same standards and ambitions as general education and should be closely linked to it. State Parties should aim for the gradual integration of special education services into mainstream education.

(d) The right to medical care and rehabilitation
State Parties should ensure the provision of effective medical care and support to persons with disabilities, and that this category of persons, particularly infants and children, are provided with the same level of medical care within the same system as other members of society. Member States should also ensure that all medical and paramedical personnel are adequately trained and equipped to give medical care to persons with disabilities and that they have access to relevant treatment methods and technology.

State Parties should ensure the provision of rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities in order to reach and sustain their optimum level of independence and functioning and should develop national rehabilitation programmes for all groups of persons with disabilities, without any discrimination to those with severe and/or multiple disabilities. Such programmes should be based on the individual needs of persons with disabilities and on the principles of full participation and equality.

State Parties should ensure the provision of supportive devices and equipment, personal assistance and interpreter services, according to the needs of persons with disabilities, as important measures to achieve true opportunities.

(e) The right to equal employment and social security
The laws and regulations in the employment field must not discriminate against persons with disabilities and must not create obstacles to their employment. States Partie should actively support the integration of people with disabilities into open employment and should ensure that employment is accessible to all on the basis of professionalism. This active support could occur through a variety of measures, such as vocational training, incentive-oriented quota schemes, reserved or designated employment, loans or grants for small business, exclusive contracts or priority production rights, tax concessions, contract compliance or other technical or financial assistance to enterprises employing workers with disabilities.

State Parties should undertake their duty to create privileged conditions for persons with disabilities as with other members of the community. Also, to guarantee the right to a just and favourable remuneration ensuring the person with disability and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Member States should ensure the provision of adequate income support to persons with disabilities who, owing to disability or disability-related factors, have temporally lost or received a reduction in their income or have been denied employment opportunities. States should guarantee that the provision of support takes into account the costs frequently incurred by persons with disabilities and their families as a result of the disability. State Parties should also ensure the provision of income support and social security protection to individuals (including parents and siblings) who undertake the care of a person with a disability. Consequently, State Parties should include disability matters in the regular budgets of all national, regional and local government bodies.

(f) Family life and personal integrity
State Parties should ensure the full participation of people with disabilities in family life. They should promote their right to personal integrity and guarantee that laws do not discriminate against persons with disabilities with respect to sexual relationships, marriage and parenthood. Persons with disabilities should be enabled to live with their families and must have the same access as others to family-planning methods, as well as to appropriately designed and accessible information on sex and sexuality.

Persons with disabilities and their families need to be fully informed about taking precautions against sexual and other forms of abuse and also to be educated on how to avoid the occurrence of such abuse, recognise when abuse has occurred and report such acts. They should also have access to information about public health issues such as HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections in order to protect their health and lives.

(g) Right to political participation
State parties should ensure that people with disabilities have the right to vote and that they receive adequate education in political affairs so that they are able to make a contribution to the politics of the country. People with disabilities should be provided with the necessary tools and technologies to cast a ballot independently and secretly. They should be assisted in the right to be elected, particularly as this will give them an opportunity to voice the needs of people with disabilities.

State parties should consider reservation of national and local parliamentary seats for people with disabilities in order to ensure their participation in political dialogues within the Member States.

(h) Right to a life without stigma and discrimination
Stigma and discrimination associated with disability are barriers to people with disabilities to leading full lives and it must be the duty of Member States to ensure to remove these obstacles. This includes the use of inappropriate terminology such as defective, deficient people. Instead, it is the duty of State parties to educate the public about people with special or different needs, people with disabilities, thereby focusing on the person first and then the differences s/he has.

Member States should also ensure that people with disabilities are able to lead a life without inhumane, demeaning or humiliating treatment and that people who are receive such treatment are compensated for this either by the government or by the perpetrators of such treatment. In addition, such perpetrators must face the legal consequences of their actions.

(i) Right to acceptable standards of housing and accommodation
State parties must made adequate provision for appropriate accommodation for people with disabilities which will include access and where necessary, modified to the specific needs of individuals and their families. Such accommodation must be safe particularly in terms of fire and other safety hazards so as to enable persons with disabilities to live in a risk-free environment.

State parties must ensure that neonate children and babies diagnosed with disabilities are able to live with their families and not institutionalised and that special housing is offered to the families so that children are able to grow up in a loving and caring atmosphere.

(j) The equal right to cultural activities and recreation
State Parties should ensure that persons with disabilities are integrated into and can participate in cultural activities on an equal basis and have the opportunity to utilise their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of their community. They also should take measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal opportunities for recreation and sports.

(k) The Right to religious and spiritual beliefs and practices
State parties must ensure that all people with disabilities have the right to make choices of their faith, belief and religious practices and that they have access to places of worship. There should be no forced conversions or beliefs imposed upon them either.

The monitoring mechanism:

The monitoring process should be put into effect both through the national monitoring process and through international monitoring mechanisms.

The national monitoring process should be the responsibility of State Parties who should undertake continuous monitoring and evaluation of national programmes and services concerning the equal opportunities for people with disabilities. In doing so, State Parties should carry out their obligation to appoint an independent national authority for monitoring the finances from budgetary or/and extra-budgetary resources assigned to persons with disabilities. The independent national authorities should comprise a panel of independent experts with relevant and extensive experience in disability issues funded by extra-budgetary resources from different projects organised by the specialised agencies of the United Nations. These independent national authorities shall prepare reports and present them annually to the specialised agencies of the United Nations.

The purpose of the international monitoring mechanism is to guarantee effective implementation of the Convention, to identify obstacles and suggest suitable measures that would contribute to a successful outcome. It will assist each State Party in assessing its level of implementation of the Convention and in measuring its progress. State Parties should participate in international co-operation in order to develop common standards for national evaluation in the disability field and to ensure that the rights and needs of people with disabilities are included in all relevant policy-making and national planning.

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