Why a Convention was needed

Prior to the CRPD, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was the only legally binding treaty that even mentioned people with disabilities. Although other human rights conventions apply to people with disabilities, they were rarely used to promote or protect their human rights. Instead, persons with disabilities worldwide continued to experience widespread discrimination in healthcare, education, employment, and other areas of their lives. Human rights violations were not prevented, including life-threatening abuse within institutions, and denials of education.

Other treaties also did not address the social, cultural, economic, and legal barriers that prevented people with disabilities from participating in their communities and fulfilling their human rights. Societies continued to take a medical model or social welfare approach to disability, viewing people with disabilities as lacking the capacity or autonomy for social inclusion. Global disability advocates therefore fought to have the human rights of people with disabilities specifically addressed in a new Convention.

The text of the Convention was drawn up at the United Nations. Disability rights advocates had an influential role at every step of this drafting process. People with disabilities represented not only themselves and their organizations, but governments as well. This was the first time that the United Nations allowed civil society to take such an active part in influencing how a human rights treaty was written. The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on December 13, 2006.

The Convention embodies an international movement away from a medical model or social welfare approach where people with disabilities are seen as passive recipients of services, and embraces a human rights-based understanding of disability.

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