Key recommendations from human rights defenders with disabilities

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) entering into force. To mark the occasion, I am sharing key recommendations from human rights defenders with disabilities, gathered during consultations held in 2022 for the Breaking Barriers campaign, which I carried out with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Gerard Quinn.

People with disabilities who advocate for human rights often have to do so in spaces that are ableist, with stakeholders who do not understand the need to provide resources for ‘reasonable accommodation’ or are unwilling to do so.

Participation of human rights defenders who have disabilities is crucial in building more inclusive and sustainable societies. States, NGOs, donors and others seeking to engage with human rights defenders should consider accessibility for defenders with disabilities and reasonably accommodate them in events and consultations.

The top of the image features a blue banner with the text “6 recommendations from human rights defenders with disabilities” in white. Below, a paragraph reads: States and NGOs should reasonably accommodate human rights defenders with disabilities in events and consultations. This means that States, NGOs, donors and others seeking to engage with human rights defenders should consider the accessibility for defenders with disabilities. Some steps they can take include:
1. Making websites disability-friendly [the image shows a computer screen around which appear different icons representing different ways of making websites disability-friendly (visible hyperlinks, alternative text, closed captioning, sound options, text size)]. 
2. Making buildings accessible [the image shows a wheelchair user at the bottom of a ramp leading up the stairs of an official building]. 
3. Providing sign interpretation at online and offline events [the image shows a woman speaking in front of a podium with a microphone. Next to her is a sign language interpreter translating her speech to an audience]. 
4. Providing transport for HRDs with disabilities in rural or remote areas to advocate for human rights [the image shows a wheelchair user about to get on the ramp of a taxi van while a driver points them to the van]. 
5. Ensuring video-conferencing and meetings using online platforms allow persons with disabilities to participate, by offering closed captioning and, when needed, sign language interpretation [the image shows someone seen from behind looking at a laptop screen where a video call with four participants is ongoing. Above the laptop are icons representing closed captioning and sign interpretation as well as a speech bubble]. 
6. Ensuring that participation of HRDs with disabilities is not confined to disability issues. They have the right to participate in decisions about all policies affecting their lives, just like everybody else [the image shows a variety of persons, young and old, with different disabilities, standing together].

In the consultations, defenders with disabilities also spoke of the need for States to ensure that courts and all other instances in their judicial systems can provide adequate assistive technologies to allow HRDs with disabilities to participate to the fullest and most comfortable degree. These include video conferencing for virtual participation, as well as accessibility requirements to facilitate their physical presence.

Finally, States should design HRD protection initiatives in close consultation with HRDs with disabilities. Like other groups of defenders, HRDs with disabilities are best placed to assess their own protection needs.


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