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‘The United Nations’ is an organisation
which wants to make the world a better place for all.

They made a law which says
that people with disabilities have equal rights as others.

Government in Austria accepted this law.

Now the government must make sure that
people with disabilities have the same rights to:

  • go to school

  • have a job

  • live as they want

 

On 17 September 2013, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted concluding observations on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Austria. The Committee highlighted a number of positive findings which were achieved in the country since the Convention entered into force. Also, it pointed out the main challenges which are yet to be overpassed in respect to specific rights.

 

The interpretation of the Convention

One of the biggest issues appears to be the translation of the Convention to German language itself. The meaning of many parts of the legislation is completely different from its original version. For example, the word 'inclusion' is replaced by the word 'integration' which represents a different type of society than the Convention actually tries to achieve.

Misinterpreted in this regard is also 'integrated education' instead of 'inclusive education'. Despite that inclusive educational models were set off in some regions, many teachers and professionals lack the training on how to give inclusive classes.

 

From old-fashioned to mainstream

The time when society perceived people with disabilities as the receivers of charity help must pass away. Instead, the image of rights-holders with specific needs should be put forward to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. In 2012, more than 55 000 Austrians with disabilities were under a guardianship. The Committee therefore welcomes the governments’ decision to implement the National Disability Action Plan which will encourage the development of pilot models of supported decision-making and thus prevent the guardians from intervening in all aspects of life of people with disabilities. “The Committee recommends that the State party replaces substituted decision-making with supported decision-making for persons with disabilities, and do more to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to supported decision-making and are not placed under guardianship. The Committee also recommends that disabled persons’ organizations be involved in all aspects of the pilot project on supported decision-making. The Committee further recommends that the State party provide training, in consultation and cooperation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, at the national, regional and local levels, for all actors, including civil servants, judges and social workers, on recognition of the legal capacity of persons with disabilities and on mechanisms of supported decision-making.”

The recognition of such measures is stated in the UN Convention as: “States Parties shall take appropriate measures to provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity.”

Personal assistance programmes can support people with disabilities to live independently. However, these programmes include only a part of the population with intellectual disabilities. The Committee recommends applying these services to all people with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities and to ensure that the programmes can cover the financial costs of independent living sufficiently.

 

Taking part in society

Austria is among the first countries which established a monitoring body to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities can exercise their right to vote and be elected. This great success must go further and the monitoring body should ensure that all voting stations are fully accessible and information about elections is provided in accessible and understandable formats.

Having a job is another way a person can contribute to society. Around 19 000 Austrians with disabilities work in sheltered workshops, receiving a small financial compensation for their job. The Committee orders to bridge the gender pay gap which exists also among people with disabilities and to create other job opportunities than sheltered workshops which do not undermine the social inclusion of people with disabilities.

 

Children’s rights

The rights of child with disabilities should not be left behind. The Committee stressed the importance of the observation document of another UN body - The Committee on the Rights of the Child in Austria. Non-discrimination of children with disabilities and juvenile justice must apply to the violations of the rights of children with disabilities as well. The Committee recommended applying these changes as soon as possible.

You can read the full text of the concluding observations on the website of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.