History of United Nations and Persons with Disabilities – A human rights approach: the 1970s

The 1970s marked a new approach to disability. The concept of human rights for persons with disabilities began to become more accepted internationally.

Two major declarations on persons with disabilities were adopted by the General Assembly in the new decade. The Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons of 20 December 1971, provided a framework for protecting rights through national and international action. The Declaration stated that persons with intellectual disabilities had, to the degree feasible, the same rights as others, including a right to proper medical care and education, to economic security, to a qualified guardian, as required, to protection from exploitation and to access to legal procedures. The Declaration stated that, if possible, persons with intellectual disabilities should live with their families or with foster parents and should participate in various aspects of community life. Essentially, the Declaration paved the way for future comprehensive sets of principles, which would eventually seek to integrate persons with disabilities into society.

The Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975, encouraged national and international protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Recognition was given to the fact that persons with disabilities were entitled to the same political and civil rights as others, including measures necessary support self-sufficiency. The Declaration reiterated the rights of persons with disabilities to education, medical services, and placement service. It further recognized their right to economic and social security, to employment, to live with their families, to participate in social and creative events, to be protected against all exploitation, abuse or degrading behaviour, and to avail themselves of legal aid. Realizing the need to promote the full participation of persons with disabilities in the social life and development of their societies, on 16 December 1976, the General Assembly declared the year 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP), stipulating that it be devoted to integrating persons with disabilities fully into society.