The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international human rights treaty, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2006. The UNCRPD sets out what countries need to do to ensure that people with disabilities (including autism) can exercise their human rights on a full and equal basis as everyone else. It is the first international human rights treaty of the 21st century, and disabled people were engaged and actively involved in its drafting, consultation and negotiation. To date, over 182 countries have ratified the Convention, along with the EU in 2010, meaning that they have signed onto the Treaty and agreed to make it part of their laws. It was officially ratified by Ireland in 2018.
The UNCRPD makes sure that disabled people, who comprise over 20% of the world’s population and 13.5% of the population in Ireland, have access to the same rights as their non-disabled peers. It covers a wide range of areas where disabled people are discriminated against on a daily basis. The Convention should be used as a planning framework for both disability-specific laws and policies and for ensuring all laws are developed with disability in mind. As a result, the Convention emphasizes that every issue is a disability rights issue, and that disability rights issues are everybody’s issues.
The UN Convention does not create any new rights, but it is really important for disabled people as it outlines the many steps necessary to ensure people with disabilities are included and engaged within their society, including how to proactively combat discrimination.
Since the UNCRPD highlights the importance of lived experience and an overall shift towards the social model of disability instead of medical, it is an important resource for autism-friendly best practice. Countries who have signed onto the Convention must therefore consult with disabled people and their representative organizations (such as AsIAm, Down Syndrome Ireland and Inclusion Ireland) when developing laws and policies that impact the lives of disabled people.
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