Human Rights of Persons with disabilities
The rights of persons with disabilities to equality and inclusion are now recognised at the international level, in particular thanks to the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This human rights based approach to disability requires a complete break with traditional attitudes marked by an often well-meaning but misguided condescension towards persons with disabilities. Accordingly, past policies focusing only on institutional care, medical rehabilitation and welfare benefits must be overhauled. Instead, states must fulfil their obligation to remove the barriers that hinder persons with disabilities from taking control of their lives and becoming active citizens contributing to our societies.
Unfortunately, progress has been slow and the estimated 80 million Europeans living with disabilities are still discriminated everywhere and in many fields of life. Children with disabilities are denied their educational rights because schools are not equipped to meet their needs. Job opportunities are limited due to discriminatory practices and inaccessible workplaces, making people dependent on social benefits. Flawed systems of guardianship prevent people from taking decisions affecting their lives. Several Council of Europe member states still hesitate to close down residential institutions and develop community-based services for persons with disabilities arguing that institutional care is necessary for persons with multiple or "profound" disabilities.
The Commissioner regularly raises this topic with authorities in member states, and has expressed his concerns about these persistent problems in country monitoring reports. Through specific thematic publications, such as the issue papers on legal capacity and the right to live in the community, he also seeks to raise awareness about the extent of the states' obligations and to contribute to the process of policy change.
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