Date: 
Monday 6 March 2017

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin has contributed to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The debate – held in Geneva on Friday – focussed on article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities regarding equality and non-discrimination. Article 5 of the CRPD calls for both the elimination of discriminatory laws, policies and practices, as well as the development of proactive policies for achieving equality for persons with disabilities

Commissioner McEwin added to the discussion via video, with this statement:

Thank you President.

This statement is made on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Australia’s ‘A-status’ national human rights institution.

Everyone is entitled to the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination, including people with disability.

We know that historically the law has not always offered the same protection for people with disability as it has offered to others. And even now, in Australia, many people with disability do not enjoy their right to equality before the law.

At least half of all people imprisoned in Australia have some form of psychosocial, cognitive or physical impairment. There is a significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in Australian prisons. People with disability often do not receive the supports and services they need to access effective justice. Justice processes are often inflexible and antagonistic to the needs of people with disability.

The case for change is clear.

To put article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into practice, states must implement measures to ensure people with disability can access support, services, and programs that can prevent disadvantage and address risk factors. Access to early, holistic, community-based and flexible services and person-centred support that is appropriate to a person’s culture and context is critical to addressing disadvantage and ensuring people with disability are able to enjoy all of their rights on an equal basis with others.

We will know that people with disability are enjoying their right to equality and non-discrimination when people with disability report that:

  • they are safe and free from violence,
  • they have their inherent dignity and individual autonomy respected and
  • they are able to fully and effectively participate in their communities.

Thank you.

Watch the video here: