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					Our Rights - issue 16, November
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     Sign ups
     Reports on CRPD submitted to the Office of the UN High
     Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR)
     WHO - Task Force on Disability
     Police accept failures in Pilkington case but say Fiona
     partly to blame
       Editorial comment
     All children admitted to secure units in Scotland are
     Disabled people hit hard by new benefit test
       Editorial comment: Love is Hate! War is Peace!
     EHRC Disability Committee publishes work plan
     Not Aliens…. Human Rights Training by DDA for Disability
     Palestine: UN report finds disabled people hit hard during
     siege of Gaza
     Bulgaria, Serbia, Rumania: Disabled people remain trapped
     in institutions
       Editorial comment
     USA: Campaign against rebuilding of institution for people
     with learning difficulties
     USA: Emphasis on prevention and cure leads to health
     inequality for disabled people
       Editorial comment
     USA: Disabled people face higher rates of crime
       Editorial comment
  USA: Congress passes hate crime bill
  Chile: Despite legislation, thousands of buildings remain
  New Zealand: Disabled children's right to education
  Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Disabled children in
  Niger: Begging rather than education for most disabled
  Salamanca revisited
  New International Deaf Information Project
  New videos on disability

Sign ups
     143 signatories to the Convention
     87 signatories to the Optional Protocol
     71 ratifications of the Convention
     45 ratifications of the Optional Protocol
Reports on CRPD submitted to the Office of the UN
High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR)

In our August newsletter we reported that the OHCHR was writing
a report on the progress of the CRPD and had asked for
submissions from all stakeholders. These submissions are now on
line. While the quality is uneven, for those concerned about what
governments are doing on the Convention, they are interesting.

 Unfortunately, although many national human rights organizations
have reported to the Commission, only a handful of national DPOs
have done so.

The OHCHR final report will be produced at their meeting in March

 The submissions can be downloaded from:
WHO - Task Force on Disability

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General has
established a Task Force on Disability to lead the organization's
efforts and acknowledges that the Convention will change the way
WHO works. The Task Force, which includes representatives from
all levels of the organization, aims to ensure that WHO policies,
programmes and projects are designed and implemented taking
into account disabled people. During its first year, the Task Force
achieved significant results in key areas, including information
access, physical access, awareness-raising and technical
programmes. A work plan has been drawn up for the second year.
For more information contact Tom Shakespeare

Police accept failures in Pilkington case but say Fiona
partly to blame

As reported on our website, following the Coroner‟s hearing into
the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, Leicestershire
Police Authority convened a special meeting on October 13th to
receive a report from the Constabulary.

At the meeting the Chief Constable offered his report of the events
leading up to the deaths. He also set out at some length what was
being done to ensure hate crimes would be more effectively
identified and the victims supported.

The key finding of the police review was that „… failure to
recognise that the victimisation was related to disability resulted in
the hate crime policy not being adhered to.” This came about
because the reported incidents were not linked, information about
offenders was not shared between different agencies and disability
was not identified as an issue. They also say that Fiona herself
was partly to blame because she refused to pursue a criminal
prosecution against her family‟s tormentors. (See comment below)
The full police report can be downloaded at:

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is also to
investigate the case. IPCC Commissioner Amerdeep Somal said
they would be examining, "how seriously the police responded to
her calls for help, whether the action was appropriate and what
actions they did or did not take".

The Equality And Human Rights Commission is to ask Hinckley
and Bosworth Council to provide evidence it is compliant with its
legal duty to eliminate disability-related harassment. It will also be
contacting the Independent Police Complaints Commission to find
out the scope of its inquiry before deciding whether to take any
further action.

Editorial comment: The police‟s multiple failures in this case are
clear from their own report. But the attempt to shift some of the
responsibility onto Fiona is outrageous. As the police must know,
someone who is vulnerable, terrified and living under siege from
their neighbours is unlikely, without a great deal of support, to want
to enter into the lengthy and complex process of a criminal
prosecution. As she had been given no real protection, despite her
previous complaints to the police, what was Fiona to expect from
such a move but more harassment?

Apparently, the Leicestershire police still don‟t get it!

All children admitted to secure units in Scotland are

A Scottish government report reveals that in 2008 all the children
sent to secure units were disabled. Secure units are residential
homes that cater for children at risk and offenders under the age of

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo‟s Scotland, said: “We are not
surprised to learn that all the young people who were in secure
accommodation last year had a „known‟ disability. Our experience
of working with young people who have social, emotional and
behavioural difficulties show that they have complex backgrounds
and that earlier the support is given, the easier it is to help them
reach their full potential.”

Disabled people hit hard by new benefit test

Two-thirds of applicants are being refused the new sickness-
related benefit ( employment support allowance, ESA). This means
that many of the 2.6 million existing incapacity benefit claimants
will probably have their benefits cut as they are reassessed over
the next two to three years.

Last year only 5% of those seeking ESA were assessed as totally
incapable of work and entitled to the full benefit of £108.55. A
further 11%, potentially capable of work, were put on a rate of
£89.80 a week, and were expected to co-operate with efforts to
ready themselves for work. A third of the initial claimants dropped
out before completing the claim, and a further third were seen as fit
for work.

While the figures and independent reports indicate that the new
tests are causing real hardship for disabled people, the
government claims that they show the new benefit “…is stopping
more people getting trapped on long-term sickness benefit, a key
aim of the Government‟s major welfare reform programme.”

But Mark Baker, chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium, says,
“We believe, as we said all along, that it (ESA) would lead to
people being put on to other inappropriate benefits where they
don't get the support or help they need….".

Because the government‟s main concern was to slash spending,
Baker fears that most disabled people will eventually "… end up at
the feet of informal carers or local last-ditch charities. People will
effectively drop out of society."
The government‟s analysis of the official figures can be found at:

Editorial comment: Love is Hate! War is Peace!
Disabled people, one of the poorest groups in the UK, seem set to
become further disadvantaged by the government‟s harsher
benefit regime. Conditions will be made worse as local social
services, providers of essential care and support for disabled and
older people, are faced with having to cut spending by between a
quarter and third over the next few years.

The new benefits process, the tests and how they are
administered – for example, people being asked to fill our their
claims over the phone without the benefit of independent advice –
is no more than a brutal cost cutting exercise. That the government
is trying to sell this as something positive that will stop people
„getting trapped on long-term sickness benefit‟, is worthy of George
Orwell‟s 1984.
EHRC Disability Committee publishes work plan

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Disability Committee,
hit by high profile resignations during the year (see August edition),
has just published its work plan for 2009/2010. Publication comes
six months into the period covered by the plan.

Among its 12 main priorities are;
   To ensure real disability equality is captured within the
    government‟s forthcoming Equalities Bill
   To promote and monitor the implementation of the UN
   To help improve the disability equality schemes that all
    statutory authorities are required to implement
   To influence public service reform and support independent
   To improve access to employment
   Develop rights focused account of the position of disabled
    children in the UK
   Formulate a considered perspective on end-of-life decisions.
For further details and the full report:
Not Aliens…. Human Rights Training by DDA for
Disability Lib

DAA is planning further Disability Lib human rights training at the
Park Farm Hotel, Hethersett, Norwich, Norfolk on November 20 -

This three-day training is absolutely free and open to disabled
representatives of DPOs in the region who can then use the
training to help build the capacity of their organisations.

Training sessions start at 2.00 pm on Friday and end at 12.30 on
Sunday, followed by a parting lunch.

Please contact for registration. We only have 15
places available - so book early.
Further training sessions will be in the North West England in
March, and the North East in May.

Palestine: UN report finds disabled people hit hard
during siege of Gaza

A recent UN human rights report on the Israeli siege of Gaza
details the horrendous plight of civilians, many of whom were
severely injured, unable to get medical attention and consequently
will become permanently disabled.

During the fighting disabled people found it extremely difficult to
escape and many lived in continual fear of being left behind. The
lack of power supply meant vital equipment could not be used.
Wheelchair users were often stranded because of rubble in the
streets and the destruction of buildings. Many people, including
children, experienced serious psychological trauma which is
expected to result in a substantial increase in mental health
There are many terrible stories recounted in this report. For
example, the Mission heard that a pregnant woman was told by an
Israeli soldier to evacuate her home immediately with her children
and to leave behind a child with learning difficulties. She refused to
do so. In another incident a wheelchair user had to abandon his
chair and be carried from his destroyed house. A Deaf person
sheltering in a school was badly traumatised because he could not
communicate and, therefore, was unable to understand what was

Hamas, the civil authority in Gaza does not escape criticism for
human rights abuses. However, the UN Mission found that Israel
had been guilty of violating international law and many human
rights conventions by, among other actions, deliberately imposing
collective punishment on the civilian population.

The report, Human Rights In Palestine And Other Occupied
Arab Territories. Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding
Mission on the Gaza Conflict, can be found at:
Bulgaria, Serbia, Rumania: Disabled people remain
trapped in institutions

An investigation of institutions for people with intellectual and
mental health impairments in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, has
found evidence of human rights abuses, inhuman and degrading
treatment and appalling neglect. Filthy conditions, the use of
physical restraints and high-dosage drugs to control behaviour
remain routine.

The three countries, all with a grim track record with respect to
institutional care, are still failing to meet international standards.
Residents are not being treated, so much as controlled. People do
not leave their beds for years and children are being kept tied
down as a matter of course.

The European Commission has said it may suspend payments
under the European Social Fund in case of serious irregularities in
Bulgarian and Romanian institutions. However, in practice,
Brussels has been ignoring such abuses for years.
For example, Laura Parker, a social policy advisor for the
European Commission in Sofia before Bulgaria joined the EU,
says: “It is clear the decisions about enlarging the EU were
primarily political [and] human rights are simply not an EU priority.”
She suggests that European Commission officials edited her
reports so that in the end they misrepresented the reality of
conditions in Bulgaria.

Far from Brussels and the conscience of national governments,
institutions housing the most vulnerable in these countries remain
no better than dumping grounds.

For many years groups lobbying for reform have argued for
deinstitutionalisation. However, according to the Open Society
Mental Health Initiative, “none of the new EU member states have
concrete plans or financing mechanisms to develop networks of
community-based alternatives.”

All this is in clear violation of the Article 19 of CRPD which
recognizes disabled people‟s right to live independently in the

For the full report see:
For more information on human rights and mental health and the
fight for deinstitutionalisation see:

BULGARIA, Svilengrad
“Svilengrad has a dirty secret, called the pavilion for the immobile.
It‟s the stench that hits you first. The sweet and sour, aggressive
stench that is the oldest resident of almost any institution – sticky
and sickening, stench of urine and faeces, of drenched floors and
mattresses, of something rotting. Women are packed in rooms,
where beds are the only piece of furniture.”

From Yana Buhrer Tavanier's photostream, “Dumping grounds for
people”, which accompanies the report. This and many other
photos can be found at

Editorial comment: The issue of institutional segregation is not
confined to the east of Europe. For example, more than 1.2 million
disabled people are in institutions throughout Europe. In some
countries numbers confined to institutions are increasing and/or
conditions becoming more oppressive.

As the next piece indicates, the fight against institutionalisation is
not confined to Europe.

USA: Campaign against rebuilding of institution for
people with learning difficulties

The Virginia Alliance for Community is fighting against plans by the
state to rebuild an institution for people with learning difficulties.
They argue this represents a reversal of the state‟s policy of
moving to community-based solutions.

Not only are the state‟s plans much more costly than providing
support in the community, but the Alliance also claims that putting
disabled people in such segregated institutions violates federal
disability laws.

USA: Emphasis on prevention and cure leads to
health inequality for disabled people

A massive (434 page) authoritative report from the National
Council on Disability has found that disabled people “…bear a
disproportionate burden of poor health compared with the general
population …”

The report, which contains over 40 detailed recommendations,
points out that disabled people face many barriers to obtaining
appropriate health care. For example, a lack of disability equality
training for health care professionals has resulted in “…
misperceptions and disability stereotypes that can lead to
ineffective and inappropriate care…”. Added to this, and as a
consequence of the lack of awareness, researchers discovered
there was a widespread failure to provide accessible equipment,
information and communication.

Disabled people also often cannot afford health insurance or if they
can it does not cover specialty care, medication, medical
equipment or assistive technology.

Because disability is viewed as a health issue, the report finds that
research on disparities in health care does not recognise disabled
people as a distinct group. This has meant that the barriers to
equality of treatment have not been clearly identified or addressed.

Most tellingly, the report concludes that, “The root causes of these
longstanding health and health care inequities involve multiple,
complex factors that are embedded in the historical evolution of
the nation‟s health care structure, and the parallel research and
public health emphasis on disability prevention and cure.”
(Emphasis added).

Editorial comment :
The report‟s findings provide clear evidence that seeing disability
essentially as a medical question, rather than one of discrimination
and denial of human rights, has served to do little more than
undermine the health of disabled people!

USA: Disabled people face higher rates of crime

The first national survey of crime against disabled people has been
produced by the US Justice Department. The figures relate to
2007 and are age adjusted. Among the report‟s findings are the

Disabled people are twice as likely to suffer rape or sexual assault
as non-disabled people.

Non-fatal violent crime against disabled people is one and a half
times more likely than against non-disabled people.

Disabled women are more likely than men to be the victims of
Finally, only 20% of disabled people who were the victims of crime
felt that they‟d been targeted because they were disabled.

For the full report see:

Editorial comment:
The report is important not only in giving a picture of disabled
people‟s experience of crime, but also in showing what can be
done by treating disabled people as a distinct group for the
purposes of collecting information. This is in accordance with
Article 31 on the UN Convention that calls for disaggregated data
that can help identify and address barriers that prevent disabled
people exercising their rights.

It is heartening to see, as reported below, that after many years of
lobbying, a Federal hate law, that includes disability, is about to be

USA: Congress passes hate crime bill

The House of Representatives voted on October 7th to expand the
definition of violent federal hate crimes to those committed
because of a victim‟s sexual orientation, gender or disability. This
would add to the current federal law that covers crime motivated
by race, colour, religion or national origin.

The hate crimes legislation would give the federal government
authority to prosecute violent hate crimes when local authorities
failed to act. It would also allocate $5 million a year to the Justice
Department to provide assistance to local communities in
investigating hate crimes, a process that can sometimes strain
police resources.

Despite opposition from Republicans and some conservative
Democrats, the bill was approved by the Senate on October 22nd
and now goes to the White House for President Obama‟s approval.
Chile: Despite legislation, thousands of buildings
remain inaccessible
Almost six years after the implementation of a decree to make
buildings accessible to disabled people, up to 6,000 public
buildings (58%) and apartments in Chile remain unequipped with
ramps or elevators. Santiago accounts for 2,200 of these

“Unfortunately we haven‟t advanced much,” said Luisa Revetria,
Acting Director of the FONADIS (National Foundation for the
Disabled) Judicial Department. “Furthermore, many ramps in
buildings are too steep and do not meet accessibility standards.”

According to Santiago Mayor Pablo Zalaquett, buildings that do not
comply with this decree have been fined up to US$1,400. But the
fines have been to no avail: building owners do not pay up.

The problem even extends to hospitals for people with acute
medical needs. Patricio Inostroza, who uses one such facility,
comments, “It is a scandal that there are no ramps or adequate
access for persons with mobility problems in the Trauma Institute
(Instituto Traumatológico).”

New Zealand: Disabled children's right to education

In response to major complaints made by two national disability
organisations, the New Zealand‟s Human Rights Commission has
published Disabled Children’s Right to Education. The report
assesses how well the right to education for disabled children and
young people is being realised. The Commission and others will
use the findings to advocate for the right to education and also to
contribute to the Government‟s Review of Special Education.

The report summarises complaints and enquiries to the
Commission, New Zealand‟s legal and policy frameworks, the
concepts of inclusive and special education, the international
human rights framework and legal and policy approaches in
comparable countries.
It concludes that there are significant outstanding issues for
disabled students in the right to education including, limitations on
the availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of
education services.
The report can be downloaded from:

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Disabled
children in crisis

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA), two million people are displaced in the eastern
DRC. This means about 200,000 disabled people are among the
displaced, many of them children.

Robert Golden, a doctor, states in the 2008 UN Children‟s Agency
(UNICEF) report, Monitoring Child Disability in Developing
Countries, that the plight of disabled children in emergency
situations is an “important but largely unaddressed issue”. This is
especially true in the DRC, where child disability receives little
attention among the myriad crises befalling the country.

“Unfortunately, disabled children are more vulnerable to abuse,
exploitation, neglect and discrimination. They face reduced social
participation and have less access to education and other social
services than children without disabilities,” states Golden.

In addition, according to Handicap International and Heal Africa,
inside the camps as well as outside, disabled children struggle
daily with social stigma and discrimination.
Niger: Begging rather than education for most
disabled children

Despite efforts to accommodate disabled students in Niger's
schools, a lack of trained specialists limits the number of children
schools can serve, according to Handicap International.

"Schools for blind and deaf persons do not have qualified teachers
to work with this population," comments Abdourhamane Barké, an
outreach worker with Handicap International in the capital Niamey.

Niger has five such schools in the capital Niamey, but most
disabled children never make it to a classroom. According to Fatou
Sidibé, deputy director of the special education division, "They are
pulled out of school to beg by families who see these children as a
source of income.”

Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa, is one of the poorest on
the continent.
Salamanca revisited

In 1994 ninety-two governments and twenty five international
organizations meeting in Salamanca, Spain issued a statement
calling for full inclusive education to be promoted throughout the
world. In October 2009, 600 people representing 58 countries
returned to Salamanca to reaffirm that commitment.

The new conference resolution welcomes the UN Convention and
especially Article 24, that calls on all governments to “…ensure an
inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning…”.
Participants urged all states to ratify the Convention and set in
motion plans to implement inclusive education. They also called on
international agencies to increase their efforts in this area. Finally,
they announced the launch of INITIATIVE 24, an international
project to lobby for inclusive education.
New International Deaf Information Project

A new project has been developed to provide information on deaf
organizations and schools in 149 countries. Launched by the
Gallaudet University Center for International Programs and
Services (CIPS) in October 2009, the World Deaf Information
Resource Project provides contact information for hundreds of
international, national and local-level organizations and schools.
 The website also links to on-line reports about the human rights
conditions and living conditions of deaf people around the world,
as well as other information resources for deaf individuals and

The new website can be accessed at People are invited to submit
information about deaf organizations, schools, and deaf-related
information resources not already included in the project to
New videos on disability

Three new videos on disability issues are available on the internet.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has produced a video
on the barriers to employment facing disabled people.

The UN Department of Public Information in partnership with the
UN Department of Economic Affairs (DESA) has released a brief
video on the sigma and discrimination that disabled people are
forced to endure. (Look for
Programme #34)

A video of the meeting of disabled people in the European
Parliament on September 16th as part of the European Network on
Independent Living‟s (ENIL) Freedom Drive is available on

This newsletter is produced by Disability Awareness in Action for
the Disability LIB project. This project is funded by the Big Lottery.