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The national association of disabled people's organisations

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A layperson’s guide to: The UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People

Using our preferred language in the social model, we refer to the Convention as the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (also known as Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). The Convention sets out what human rights means in the context of disability. The UK ratified (signed up to) the Convention in 2009.

This means that the UK has committed to promoting and protecting the full  human rights of disabled people and to ensure we have full equality under the law. The Convention is a document that covers a wide range of areas including:

  • health
  • education
  • employment
  • access to justice
  • personal security
  • independent living, and
  • access to information.

An easy read version can be downloaded here. (PDF)

BSL translation of this page:

The rights of disabled people are the same as all people. Our rights are often not given to us in the way that we are entitled to.

The Convention is important for disabled people because it tells us what our Government is expected to do to make sure we have access to our human rights.

The rights we have and the actions the Government should take to meet our rights are explained in ‘Articles’ in the Convention. For example, Article 19 is the right to “Living independently and being included in the community”.

Government policies and how they are implemented should ensure that all disabled people are able to exercise their rights.

A guide to our rights for disabled children.

Monitoring our Rights

Every 4 years, the UK and devolved Governments should report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People on what is being done to ensure that disabled people can access their rights under the Convention.

The Committee is made up of 18 independent experts from around the world, whose own countries have also ratified the Convention. They take evidence from the UK and devolved Governments, Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations and the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM) which consists of the various equality and human rights Commissions.

The infographic below sets out the process. The text only version is available here.

1. UNCRDP infographic 1

The Government submitted a ‘State Report’ in 2011 which set out the laws and policies put in place to implement the Convention and their impact on the rights of disabled people.

Optional Protocol

The monitoring process was delayed because the Committee received complaints under a process known as the Optional Protocol. The Optional Protocol means the Committee can investigate allegations of serious or systematic violations of Convention rights.

This complaint asked the Committee to look specifically at the impact that austerity policies were having on disabled people in relation to Articles 19, 27 and 28.

The Committee carried out an Inquiry and in October 2016 released a report which stated that the austerity policies and welfare reform amounted to “grave or systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights.

The UK Government dismissed the findings of the Inquiry.

Grave and systematic violations of the rights of people with disabilities

Defending Our Rights

Disability Wales has been working with Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) around the UK on this first ever Review of how the UK and devolved Governments are implementing disabled people’s rights under the Convention.

In March we visited Geneva to present evidence to the Committee. The Committee published a List of Issues which asked the Governments for more information on actions they are taking to improve access to our rights. DDPOs have responded to the List of Issues (LOI) and to the Government’s response to the LOI.

Our response outlines a number of concerns we have with the Government’s failure to respond to many of the questions asked by the Committee. We also provide further information on the violations of our human rights in the UK. The Committee will take our evidence into account when it questions the Government during the Examination.

The video below explains why it is important to engage with the Review process and why our rights under the Convention are important.

What happens next?

In August Disabled People’s Organisations will visit Geneva again to provide further evidence and lobby the Committee on the recommendations we would like them to make to the UK and devolved Governments to take more action on giving disabled people access to their rights.

The Committee will conduct an Examination of the Government and this will be live streamed – anyone can watch the proceedings online here: webtv.un.org – .

In September, the Committee will publish their Concluding Observations which will list the recommendations for action that the UK and Devolved Governments should take to ensure our human rights are being met.

Then, we monitor the actions taken and we can use the Convention and the Concluding Observations to challenge and hold the Government to account.

This is just the start of a process of using the Convention and other tools such as the Supreme Court to challenge policies. We will also need to collect evidence on whether life is improving for disabled people or if more still needs to be done for us to have full enjoyment of our human rights.

Disabled people's human rights are being breached in the UK. Call it out







Join our Conversation

Check out the Disability Wales YouTube channel and our Facebook and Twitter for updates our work on the Convention and what it means to disabled people.

We will live tweet as we watch the examination, please share your thoughts with us and help to raise awareness of the Convention and our human rights.

You can also add a twibbon to your profile picture to support our work in Geneva.


Our journey to Geneva

Take a look at our previous blog posts from our visit to the United Nations in Geneva to find out more about what we did in March:

Disability Wales head to Geneva

How our rights are monitored

Journey to Geneva

Disability Wales takes evidence to the UN

Wales report on disability rights is launched

Driving Forward Disability Rights

Other resources

EHRC Guide to the Convention