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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 23:21 GMT 00:21 UK
UK to sign disability convention
By Geoff Adams-Spink
Age & disability correspondent, BBC News website

Photo of people negotiating the UN convention
The treaty text was finalised in August last year
The UK will be among the first 50 or so countries to sign a new United Nations convention giving greater rights and freedoms to disabled people.

Disability minister Anne McGuire will sign the treaty at a ceremony in the General Assembly Chamber in New York.

The convention is a first step in ensuring that disabled people around the world have the same human rights as everyone else.

It covers education, employment and participation in public life.

About 30 countries will also sign an optional protocol on communications, which will allow people to petition a committee of experts if they feel that their rights have been violated.

The convention will come into force once it has been ratified by 20 countries.

"It's not just our citizens who will benefit from this," said Ms McGuire.

I (apparently incorrectly) assumed disabled people were human and therefore fell under the human rights act
Dan, Brighton, uk

"There are around 650 million disabled people worldwide who stand to see an improvement in their lives too - especially in the developing world where 80% of the world's disabled population lives."

The minister said prejudice against disabled people was still unfortunately far too prevalent.

"This convention at last puts disabled people's human rights on an equal footing with everyone else's," she added.

In the UK a ceremony will take place in London to mark the signing of the convention.

Pan-disability charity Scope is organising an event during which veteran disability rights campaigner Rachel Hurst will be "liberated" from a "cage of prejudices".

Photo of Rachel Hurst
Rachel Hurst has been campaigning for disability rights for several years

The bars of the cage will be labelled with examples of some of the barriers faced by disabled people around the world, including higher rates of poverty, access to jobs, difficulties with public transport and negative public attitudes.

"This is an historic day for disabled people around the world," said Dr Hurst.

"The convention recognises that disability is caused by negative attitudes and barriers within society, not impairments, and that disabled people should have the same rights and freedoms as everyone else."

Scope will be urging passers-by to sign a petition urging the British government to ratify the treaty.

"We are delighted that Britain will be one of the first countries to sign up," said Scope's executive director, Andy Rickell.

"We hope it will ratify this convention to make the rights it establishes a reality for disabled people in the UK and across the globe."

The government says that work is already under way to make sure that UK legislation, as well as policy and practice, do not contravene the convention.

Before it can be ratified, the treaty will be put before both Houses of Parliament.

The convention will promote the participation and respect of disabled people in society.

The areas it covers include:

  • Independent living
  • Equality and non-discrimination
  • The position of disabled women and children
  • Access to justice, education, health and employment
  • Participation in political and public life
  • Participation in culture, recreation, leisure and sport

This is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century and took four years to negotiate.



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