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

Memorandum submitted by RNID


  RNID, the UK's largest charity dedicated to the UK's 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people, welcomes the Government's intention to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We would like to offer the following comments:


  We urge the Government to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol. This would allow individuals to take a complaint to a Monitoring Committee once the legal process in an individual's own country has been exhausted. We do not believe that there would be a high volume of complaints to this Committee, following the example set by the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Government has signed and ratified the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW and few individuals appear to have used this avenue. The Monitoring Committee would only have the power to comment on a case and there would be no mechanism for compensation.

  Individuals cannot use the UN Disability Convention in domestic proceedings (although the provisions can provide an interpretative guidance). That means that there may be an issue about the right to an effective remedy in respect of the Article 6 (the right to fair trial) of the Human Rights Act (HRA).


  As you are aware, States can make reservations or interpretative declarations with regards to certain parts of the Convention that they do not feel able to endorse, while ratifying the remainder of the UN Convention.

  We would want to know what reservations the Government is planning to make with regards to the UN Disability Convention, and what the rationale is behind the reservations. Where there are grounds for a reservation, we would urge the Government to explore other means to achieve the same objective without making a reservation, I would be interested to know if this is something the Government has looked into.

  It is important to bear in mind that the UN Disability Convention requires progressive realisation, ie that signatories are expected to have achieved or to be working towards achieving the rights and responsibilities set out in the convention.

  If the Government believes they have a good case, then they should be confident that their approach will be recognised by the monitoring body of the UN Disability Convention.


  We would like to know what guarantees the Government will put into place that the UN Disability Convention will protect members of the Armed Forces. The UK Government has traditionally resisted calls to extend disability discrimination legislation to the armed forces, and it appears likely that they will make a reservation to the UN Convention for the armed forces. However, war and conflict have always been a major cause of disability. There are also issues around the level of support that the armed forces are able to provide to people who have become disabled through war and conflict and a recent report in the Times indicated that there is large scale problem with deafness amongst veterans of the current conflict in Afghanistan.


  We would urge the Government to make no reservation with regards to immigration.

  A small minority of people who arrive in the UK for long-term purposes are deaf. Some will have suffered noise induced hearing loss, whilst others will have been profoundly deaf from birth or a young age. Illness is a major cause of deafness, particularly in underdeveloped countries where vaccines against deafness-related diseases such as German measles or mumps aren't readily available.

  The Government has recently announced that they will remove the reservation on immigration from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is an encouraging sign that they will not make a reservation on immigration for the UN Disability Convention. Immigration is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), so even if the UN Disability Convention does not apply, then the immigration services would still have to comply with the DDA.


  We would like to ensure that if the Government is planning to make a reservation or interpretative declaration around education they will take steps to make sure that disabled children and adults will have full educational opportunities and be allowed to realise their full potential.

  The Government may make a reservation or interpretative declaration with regards to the right to be schooled in the local authority area of the child. They want to enable local authorities to pay for the child's education outside their area. I don't believe that there is anything in the UN Convention that stands in their way as long as the best interest of the child is at heart. We are concerned that there may be a situation of a local authority refusing to pay for support in a local school and instead requires the child to be schooled at a different school against the best interest of the child (and against the wishes of the parents), on the ground of costs.

3 November 2008

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