The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an example of one of the important international treaties that the UK, including Scotland, has signed up to which has relevance to the care and support of older people.

The Convention spells out what should be done to break down the barriers which people with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments may face in realising their human rights. As such the Convention is relevant to people in care who, for example, have a visual or hearing impairment, or those who have dementia.

The Convention makes absolutely clear that people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else and it sets out in some detail what is required to respect, protect and fulfil those rights in reality.

The Convention includes human rights across all areas of disabled people’s lives, including all of the rights which are set out in the following pages.

For example, the Convention provides that:

  • people with disabilities have the right to make their own decisions in all areas of life, on the same basis as other people and there are duties to provide the support people need to exercise that capacity. Decisions should only be made on behalf of people with disabilities where necessary, and with appropriate safeguards;

  • people with disabilities should have real and effective access to justice (as participants in the justice system as victims of crime or human rights abuses, witnesses, on juries etc);

  • people with disabilities have the right to live independently and be included in the community (for example the right to choose where they live and who they live with and not to be unlawfully forced into a particular living arrangement); and

  • people with disabilities have the right to be as mobile as possible.

Although the Convention does not form part of domestic law, it can help us to understand and interpret the rights in the Human Rights Act with respect to people with disabilities.

In Scotland, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission have been given a special role as independent bodies to promote, protect and monitor the Convention.