The rights of persons with disabilities

The rights of persons with disabilitiesIn 2006 the UN adopted the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. The convention was ratified by the European Union in the beginning of 2011 and in Bulgaria that happened on 26 January 2012. What are the important questions asked and answered in it?

Firstly, it must be stated that the mission of the Convention is above all to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their human dignity.

*** Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others***

The Convention also aims at changing the attitude and approaches to persons with disabilities. They’re not viewed as an “object” of charity, medical treatment and social protection, rather as a subject with rights capable of claiming these rights and making life decisions based on a free and conscious consent, as well as being active citizens in the civil society. The convention gives universal recognition to the dignity of persons with disabilities.

  • The difficulties of the persons with disabilities are actually a result of an interaction between a non-inclusive society and individuals. A person using a wheelchair might face difficulties not because of the wheelchair, but because there are environmental barriers such as inaccessible buses or staircases which complicate the access. This is no different than a case of a person with severe nearsightedness and no correction lens. Both types of people are having trouble performing their everyday tasks.

The convention is based on fundamental principles and their corresponding rights and obligations.

  • The general principle here is the participation and inclusion of the persons with disabilities. At the same time ensuring these inclusions is among the most important obligations of the countries which have ratified the convention. An example of this principle is the participation of  a person with a disability in politics, culture events, sport, leisure etc.
  • Another fundamental principle in the sphere of human rights that is also enforced here is the prohibition of discrimination. The prohibition includes direct and indirect discrimination. For the best practical implementation of the non-discrimination principle the reasonable accommodations are of great importance. Reasonable accommodation means all the necessary and appropriate modifications and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms  on an equal basis with the others.
  • There’s another principle which mustn’t be ignored, the principle of accessibility. It’s the precise tool for applying all the other principles, promoted in the convention. Persons with disabilities must have equal access to justice, education, health, rehabilitation, living independently and to be included in the community, freedom of expression and opinion and access to information, work and employment, adequate standard of living and social protection, participation in political and social life, participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.

All of these principles, rights and obligations are enforced along all the other fundamental human rights and freedoms, promoted in numerous international treaties and national legislations.

NB! The process of implementation of the convention obligatory includes people representing persons with disabilities in order to achieve the best possible results. This means that these representatives must participate in the conduction of the initiatives and campaigns related to the rights and everyday life of the persons with disabilities. They participate through organizing and realizing these events.

But what do these principles mean to me as a person with a disability? What are my rights in case the principles promoted in the conventions are violated or the country simply doesn’t respect the obligations? How can I react as a parent of a child with disability in case of no access to education, sport and leisure?

  • Although there’s national legislation concerning the rights of persons with disabilities, the convention is an international treaty and as such it has greater power.  So I can always refer to it in order to claim my rights. I can find the full content of the convention on the site of UN.
  • In case of any conflict with the texts of the convention I can seek help in governmental institutions such as the regional Directorate of Social Welfare.
  • If I am refused any help by Directorate of Social Welfare, I can appeal following the process regulated by the national legislation.
  • If I receive another decline as an European citizen I have the right to turn to DG health and consumers of European commission or directly to Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

(*) This article aims to outline some of your main rights while it has no claims on being a legal advisor. If you have any difficulties with the execution of these main rights or your case is more complicated, we advise you to consult a legal expert (*)


Denitsa Kozhuharova

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§ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

§ Administrative procedure code