The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Janet Burton

  I understand you have invited comment on the following issues for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People:

    1.  Timetable for ratification;

    2.  Proposals for reservations and interpretative declarations;

    3.  Ratification of the UN Convention by the European Community;

    4.  Compatibility of existing UK laws and practices with the UN Convention;

    5.  Ratification of the Optional Protocol and the right to individual petition.

  1.  I would urge on the first point that the UK ratify the convention as soon as possible. As I understand it, the Convention puts disability firmly as a Human Rights issue. The existing core human rights treaties do not adequately address the physical, social, cultural, economic and legal barriers to inclusion of, and participation by, people with disabilities in all aspects of life. However, the Convention does not provide that they have more rights; just that the barriers to inclusion are addressed in order they can access their rights. It is absurd to hold back from agreeing that disabled people have the same human rights as everyone else; any attempt to do so breaks the Human Rights Conventions already ratified. This Convention empowers disabled people to access their Human Rights, which by ratifying the Convention on Human Rights this country is already agreed that they have.

  2.  I believe that some Government departments are urging reservations or special interpretations. Please do not permit these to be incorporated into our ratification of the convention.

  My issue is that as soon as we grant one exemption or reservation to someone's Human Rights, we are creating a dual society, where some have more or different rights to others.

  I know that there may be some incompatibility between the terms of the Convention and the way some organisations operate, just as there are differences between our own Disability Discriminatioh Act (DDA) and the way organisations operate at present. Ten years after the DDA was made law, discrimination is still rife in our communities, from public authorities, transport companies, housing associations—everywhere. Despite the DDA, we have some inaccessible public buildings, inaccessible public transport, and inaccessible social housing—just ask disabled people.

  But it is the principle which is vitally important—it is a discrimination-free UK we are working for—and we want the Convention ratified to set that principle in stone, without any "maybe" or "perhaps" such as reservations or exemptions would provide.

  3.  The European Community equally should ratify this Convention; indeed some members of it already have ratified it individually, and anything less than full ratification makes a mockery of the EU and its standing as a World force.

  4.  I have already said that I recognise there is disparity between current practice and our current legislation. I do not believe there is any disparity between the purpose of our current legislation and the UN Convention; both are intended to ensure disabled people both have, and can access, the same rights and protections as everyone else.

  I very strongly believe that just because current practices differ from both our own legislation and that of the Convention, there is no reason to limit ratification of the Convention.

  For example, I believe that everyone has the right to travel freely on public transport in this country; just because some people have to call ahead and get special "approval" to travel (eg check that wheelchair space and support is available where necessary) does not mean that they do not have that nght to travel freely too. It is a sign that the travel company has a long way to go to improve its facilities; not that the law should be amended so that that group of people have different rights.

  5.  The optional protocol is essential if there is any point to ratifying the Convention. Without it, the organisations in this country who are still not meeting the DDA and similar legislation will have carte blanche to ignore the UN Convention too. We must support the right of the individual to obtain justice, and therefore their right to take their case to the highest court we recognise.

  I know as an individual my case will not hold as much weight with the Committee as representatives from organisations and Government Departments, but please consider the Human Rights of the people it most concerns. The Convention on the Rights of Disabled People deserves to be ratified completely, not amended to meet the requirements of business or Government; just as the Convention on Human Rights was ratified without amendment.

  People with disabilities are human too; give them full access to their human rights by ensuring the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People is fully ratified.

Ocotber 2008

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