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.



Issue papers

Third Party Interventions

Observations submitted by the Commissioner to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of The Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania (Application No. 47848/08) and press release


Latest News

Austerity measures weaken human rights protection in Spain (09.10.2013)
Access to justice for persons with disabilities: Commissioner Muižnieks intervenes in hearing on milestone case before the Strasbourg Court (04.09.2013)
Spain: Human rights need particular protection in times of economic crisis and austerity budgets (07.06.2013)
Czech Republic: Stronger efforts needed to end segregation of Roma
Czech Republic,  "Roma segregation remains a serious problem in the Czech Republic"  (15.11.2012)
Bulgaria, “Plans to phase out the system of institutional care of children should be pursued as a matter of priority” (22.02.2012)
Iceland, “Children with disabilities and mental health problems are a particularly vulnerable group – specific services meant for them should not be subjected to budgetary savings” (10.02.2012)
Slovakia, “Many persons with disabilities in Slovakia live in large institutions separated from the rest of society” (20.12.2011)
Moldova, Time has come to strengthen protection of the rights of people with disabilities, Roma and other vulnerable groups (21.10.2011)
Ireland, “The authorities should step up their efforts as pledged and invest in community care” (15.09.2011)


Persons with disabilities have a right to be included in the community – and others must respect this principle (13.03.2012)
Persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities must not be deprived of their individual rights (20.02.2012)
Persons with disabilities must not be denied the right to vote (22.03.2011)
Inhuman treatment of persons with disabilities in institutions (21.10.2010)
List of the Commissioner's Viewpoints on Rights of persons with disabilities from 2006 to 2010

Speeches and statements

 “Human Rights for persons with disabilities”, keynote speech at Open Society Foundations, Law Program Coordinators Meeting, Dublin (1-3.06.2011)
  “Protecting and promoting the rights of people with disabilities in Europe: towards full participation, inclusion and empowerment”, statement at a Council of Europe Conference, Strasbourg (29.10.2008)
Human Rights for persons with disabilities”, keynote speech at the “Improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in Europe” European Conference, St Petersburg (16-21.09.2006)

* "All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo."