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UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The recent UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides a powerful vision of the opportunities and support that should be available to disabled people and their families, based on a commitment to equal citizenship.

This Convention was negotiated by governments with the active participation of disabled people’s associations across the world. It is a global response to the recognition that, taking a wide view of disability, some 10% of the world's population are affected and their human rights have often been overlooked in implementing existing UN Conventions addressed to all of humankind. Thus the new Convention doesn’t so much create new rights as set out in explicit, practical terms the legal obligations on governments in relation to all disabled people.

Article 1 establishes the purpose of this Convention as 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 inherent dignity."

Other Articles define these rights in more detail to include:

  • Having legal capacity on an equal basis with other citizens, individual autonomy and freedom to make one’s own choices.
  • Being supported to grow up in families and enjoy family life.
  • Fully developing one’s potential through inclusive education and other means.
  • Getting the personal support required to live independently and be included in the community.
  • Being employed.
  • Enjoying the highest attainable standard of health.
  • Being protected from discrimination and having good access to information, services and the wider environment.
  • Participating in public life.

The Convention is not just a statement of rights, it is also a broad route map for government leadership in implementation.

Taking Article 19 on living independently and being included in the community as an example, the Convention envisages a multi-dimensional set of interventions.

These include:

  1. Ensuring disabled people have an equal right with other citizens to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live.
  2. Making community services for the general population available on an equal basis to disabled people.
  3. Providing the services including personal assistance necessary to support living as part of the wider community.

Both because of its United Nations origins and its legal status in countries like the United Kingdom, which has ratified it, the Convention provides a powerful underpinning to the seven principles which the Campaign offers as a compass to a better future.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is available to read in full and in easy read on the UN's website.

The Campaign for a Fair Society believes that the UN Convention should underpin any reforms made to the current welfare systems in the UK.


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform. 

UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities © David Towell 2011. 

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.


The Campaign for a Fair Society is currently hosted by the Centre for Welfare Reform. Views expressed by the Centre for Welfare Reform (www.centreforwelfarereform.org) may not represent the views of the Campaign for a Fair Society.