UK ratifies human rights treaty for disabled people
No matter how finely tuned your news radar is, it might have slipped your notice that two days ago on Monday 8th June, the UK finally ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Perhaps it's not so surprising that many missed this important story, since it doesn't seem to have been reported on very widely.
The Convention is a landmark agreement that aims to give the world's 650 million disabled people full equality, and ratification means that a country accepts its legal obligations under the treaty and ensures that any necessary laws are passed.
But what rights are guaranteed for disabled people by this Convention? Well, in summary, it's about protecting your rights when it comes to making your own decisions; saying no to being placed in an institution; saying no to medical or psychological treatment; and living in the community. It also seeks to remove barriers to participation in daily life and enable equal opportunities for all.
Getting to this point has been a slow process, though. The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the treaty way back in December 2006; it was opened for signatures by UN member countries in March 2007; and it came into force in May last year when Ecuador, the twentieth of the 139 signatories to the Convention, ratified it.
The UK government, meanwhile, has been criticised in recent months for delaying our ratification - although it was one of the first countries to sign the original treaty - and for seeking a series of 'reservations' or opt-outs to particular parts of the Convention relating to immigration, education and the armed forces. (If you want to read more about these, there are details on the government's Office for Disability Issues website.)
But after all the official discussions and debates, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is finally here. We're interested to know what you think of it, and whether you foresee it bringing about any big changes in the lives of disabled people. Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
• In March 2008, Ouch's own Tom Shakespeare wrote about the UN Convention, saying: "Passing disability civil rights statutes is relatively simple and looks nice. Doing something to improve the situation for disabled people is complicated, costly and difficult. So expect lots of the former and less of the latter in future". Read the full article here.