We advocate that the rights of all people with disabilities are realised

Barriers to rights

People with disabilities around the world can experience discrimination and barriers that prevent them from being able to attend school, access employment opportunities, or participate in their regional and national government elections. They can be forced to live in institutions and without independence or freedom of movement. Lack of access to health care due to discrimination can result in people with disabilities dying 20 years earlier.

There are many examples of barriers to rights faced by people with disabilities in our region. To focus on education and health:

In East and South-East Asia, 44% of countries have laws promoting segregated rather than inclusive education for children with disabilities. In Oceania, the figure is 8%.

Many Pacific Island countries still have limited inclusive education options, particularly outside urban areas, and children may stay home if they cannot access education.

Only 3.5% of schools in Fiji have wheelchair accessible toilets, and toilets in general, tend to be located away from classrooms across uneven terrain.

A 2006 study on unmet needs in Tonga found that 41% of people with disabilities reported a need for medical advice for their disability – more than twice the proportion of people who received such advice. Some 20% of people with disabilities needed physiotherapy, but only 6% received it.

(Tonga national disability identification survey. Nuku’Alofa, Tonga Disability Action Committee, 2006).

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Learn what the CRPD means to people with disabilities

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, established in 2006, promotes, protects and ensures the full and equal access of all human rights, fundamental freedoms and inherent dignity of all people with disabilities. The aim of the CRPD is for every person with a disability be able to participate in all areas of life by removing the barriers society holds in front of them. 

At the heart of the CRPD is the idea that people with disabilities are active agents, capable of claiming their human rights, and making independent decisions about their lives based on free and informed consent. It enshrines the idea that all decisions impacting people with disabilities must include people with disabilities in the decision-making process to ensure their needs and priorities are met, and no-one is left behind. People with disabilities must have a seat at the decision-making table and be included in decision-making on all topics and issues related to development cooperation, humanitarian action, foreign policy and multilateral human rights engagement, not just on those issues known to be specifically relevant to their disability.

Article 3 of the CRPD says that a person with disabilities has a right to experience:

  • Respect for their inherent dignity, individual autonomy and independence
  • Non-discrimination
  • Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  • Respect for difference and acceptance of disability as part of the human experience
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Accessibility
  • Gender equality
  • Right to protecting identity  

Signatories to the CRPD

The Australian Government is a party to and advocate of the CRPD.

There are 164 signatories to the CRPD; 14 Pacific Island Country governments have ratified the CRPD.

The CRPD is made up of two documents, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which contains the main human rights provisions expressed as a series of Articles and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The CRPD and its Optional Protocol opened for signature on 30 March 2007 and Australia became one of the original signatories. The CRPD entered into force for Australia on 16 August 2008, and the Optional Protocol in 2009. 

Making rights real

The Pacific Disability Forum, a regional non-governmental organisation led by Organisations of People with Disabilities, is leading disability advocates to making rights real for people with disabilities across the region.

Pacific Island Country governments have committed to the Pacific Framework on the Rights of People with Disabilities 2016-2025 to implement the CRPD. They are  working to make the words of the CRPD into a lived reality with people with disabilities in their countries.

The vision of the Framework is “an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for men, women and children with disabilities, embracing the diversity of all Pacific people.”

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the only Regional Commission of the United Nations that has been promoting the rights of persons with disabilities through the four consecutive regional disability decades that started in 1993. The ongoing Decade, from 2023 to 2032, is guided by the Jakarta Declaration on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2023–2032.

Access the Easy Read version of the CRPD and the full text of the CRPD here.