Article 15: Living and Being Included in the Community
Prepared by the International Disability Caucus
Institutionalization undermines human rights:
Too often, institutions are the only option offered to people with disabilities as a place to
live. Institutions are places where some of the gravest human rights violations take place
for the following reasons:
A person cannot decide where to live, with whom to room, what and when to eat,
or when and how to come and go
A person loses individuality and becomes part of a system that they have no
A person does not leave the institution to go to the doctor, the barber, school or
work; everything happens inside the institution
A person seldom sees their family
Because everything takes place inside an institution and away from the public eye, a
person is more vulnerable to sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse
In effect a person living in an institution is isolated from the community in a setting where
self determination cannot be exercised.
The right to live in the community - for every person
Frequently, the need for support or assistance is used to argue that placement in an
institution is necessary, or that the person is ineligible to live in the community in the living
arrangement of their choice.
The Convention should correct this misconception, and determine that:
Every person has the right to be included in the community, regardless of his or her
need for support; and, linked with that –
Every person has the right to receive the assistance to enable them to live in the
community – including personal assistance and peer support, and access to information
regarding such support services.
Every person is entitled to determine and direct the support they need. In no case shall
support be imposed against the person’s will.
As in other articles, there is no “one size fits all formula” for type and level of assistance
required. For some, monthly peer support sessions would suffice; for others, daily support
may be required. All assistance, services and supports should be provided in a manner that
strengthens the autonomy, individuality and dignity of the person with a disability.
IDC Draft Article 15
LIVING AND BEING INCLUDED IN THE COMMUNITY
1. States Parties shall reaffirm the rights of persons with disabilities to liberty of
movement, to live in the community, and the freedom to choose his or her
residence. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities have equal
opportunity to determine how, where and with whom they live.
2. States Parties shall take effective and appropriate measures to enable persons with
disabilities to live and to be fully included as members of the community. States
Parties shall take measures to ensure that:
(a) persons with disabilities are not obliged to live in an institution or in a
particular living arrangement, or to be otherwise segregated within the
(b) community services and facilities for the general population, including
government housing, are available on an equal basis to persons with
disabilities and are responsive to their needs.
3. States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure the provision of services,
including personal assistance and peer support, necessary to support persons with
disabilities to live and participate in the community with choices equal to others,
and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community, or within the
community. In particular States Parties shall ensure that:
(a) Persons with disabilities have access to information about
community services, including support services.
(b) Persons with disabilities are entitled to determine and direct the
support they need;
(c) Supports are provided in a manner that recognizes the autonomy,
individuality and dignity of persons with disabilities;
(d) The support provided is consistent with the right to liberty of
movement, to live in the community, and the freedom to choose his
or her residence.
(e) Persons with disabilities have access to needed aids, devices and
4. States Parties shall take all appropriate and effective measures to ensure the equal
right of persons with disabilities to opportunities for economic development and
financial independence including to rent, own or inherit property, to control their
own financial affairs, and to have equal access to bank loans, mortgage and other
forms of financial credit.
The Right to Live in Your Own Community
I was placed into an institution as a baby because my mother was unable to provide
the necessary care for me. The point I wish to make is that I was not placed there
for my benefit but rather for the benefit of my mother. Much later when I
returned to my family and my mother was unable to cope and was mentally unwell I
was the one placed in a mental hospital, not my mother. As unbelievable as this may
sound it is true.
We were put into the institutions not to meet our needs but the needs of others.
This injustice has happened throughout the world and must be stopped. No one
deserves to be institutionalised or be forced to live in an institution against their
Many people with a disability have been institutionalised. It is not just those of us
with a psychiatric or intellectual disability. I have meet people who are deaf,
deaf/blind, blind and who have a physical disability who have been institutionalised.
We have all shared similar experiences and been effected by institutionalisation, it
is no different regardless of your disability.
Many in the community have an unrealistic view of institutions and believe they are
needed to provide the care and support they perceive people with disabilities need.
For me, living in an institution meant my life was taken over by a service. The
doctors seemed to have a lot of power but I was not sure who was really holding me
there against my will. In the institution I slept in a bed alongside strangers, often
10 people in the same room. I saw no value in myself as a person and did not
understand the idea of choice. I learnt to eat quickly or my food was thrown out
or taken by others.
Like everyone else I became a slave to routine, my day was measured by the routine
of the institution, not the time of day. I never left the institution, everyone came
to the institution and I never got to go out. I seldom saw my family as my sister
was also placed in care in another institution. I personally experienced the sexual,
physical and emotion abuse that goes on in institutions.
I came to understand what happens to the staff, how they also become victims of
the institutionalisation process and become institutionalised as well. How the
institution develops a life of its own which is far removed from life in the
community. It has its own values and ways of doing things. People are no longer an
individual, they are part of a system and the system always wins. I quickly learnt
not to challenge authority. When we are forced to live in an institution we never
know if or when we will be able to leave. You look around and see people who have
lived their whole life in an institution. It is the only life they know and are often
scared to leave when this becomes a possibility.
I believe that all institutionalisation does at best is to put a person’s life on hold
and at worse it makes their needs even more profound.
What are the Alternatives
There is really only one and that is life in the community.
Locking people away from their family or friends or denying them the right to be
part of the community, taking over another person’s life and trying to say it is their
best interests or forcing people to live in an institution and being institutionalised
can never be justified.
I became the person I am to day because I finally got the support and assistance I
needed to live in the community. My friends with a disability who are still being
institutionalised or being forced to live in institutions deserve the same
Regardless of their need for support or assistance a person with a disability can
live a full and useful life in the community.
The key is providing the support and assistance they need to achieve this.
Chair Taskforce on Self Advocacy