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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Protection at international level of the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities

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Protection at international level of the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities

The European Union is a member of the United Nations Convention which is intended to guarantee respect for the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities. The Convention also aims to ensure their social welfare and legal protection.


Council Decision 2010/48/EC of 26 November 2009 concerning the conclusion, by the European Community, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


The European Union (EU) has acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This international Convention is intended to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities.

To this end, the Convention is based on a series of principles:

  • respect for the dignity, autonomy and independence of persons;
  • non-discrimination;
  • participation and inclusion in society;
  • respect for difference and acceptance of persons;
  • equality of opportunity;
  • accessibility, in particular access to transportation, information and communications, public facilities and services, in urban and rural areas;
  • equality between men and women;
  • respect for the identity of children with disabilities and for their evolving capacities.

States which have acceded to the Convention shall take all necessary measures to ensure respect for these principles on an ongoing basis. They also undertake to support the economic, social and cultural rights of persons with disabilities.

In addition, persons with disabilities should be consulted in the development and implementation of legislation and policies relating to them.

Protection against discrimination

All discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited and persons with disabilities are to receive equal and effective legal protection.

The Convention contains specific provisions in relation to two population groups:

  • women with disabilities, who are subject to multiple discrimination. Measures are to be taken to ensure their full development and their autonomy;
  • children with disabilities, who are entitled to protection of their best interests in decisions affecting them, also have the right to express their views freely and to be provided with appropriate assistance.

States which are Parties to the Convention undertake to combat stereotypes and to promote awareness of the capabilities of persons with disabilities.

Rights recognised by the Convention

The Convention lays down a series of rights and freedoms to which persons with disabilities are entitled. These include:

  • the right to life;
  • protection in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies;
  • recognition as persons before the law and of legal capacity, especially with a view to owning property and freedom to manage their own finances, while being protected against abuse;
  • access to justice, thanks to procedural accommodations;
  • liberty and security;
  • freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse;
  • protection of physical and mental integrity;
  • liberty of movement, the right to choose place of residence and nationality;
  • living independently and being included in the community;
  • personal mobility, especially through mobility devices and technologies;
  • freedom of expression and access to information;
  • respect for privacy;
  • respect for home and the family;
  • the right to education;
  • access to health services;
  • habilitation and rehabilitation, by attaining full physical, mental, social and vocational ability;
  • the right to work, without discrimination and under just and favourable conditions;
  • the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection;
  • participation in political and public life, including by voting and being elected;
  • participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.

Implementation of the Convention

International cooperation action may be undertaken for persons with disabilities, notably in partnership with relevant international and regional organisations.

States shall provide for one or more national focal points in order to inform the public about the Convention. They shall establish an independent mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Convention. Civil society shall be fully involved in monitoring action.

Finally, each State shall submit a comprehensive report on measures taken to fulfil its obligations, within two years of its accession to the Convention.


The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability (Article 21). Similarly, it recognises the right of persons with disabilities to independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community (Article 26). The Lisbon Treaty accords the same legal value to the Charter as to the Treaties (Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union).

See also

  • The Tackling discrimination website of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equality.

Last updated: 22.04.2010