There is an easy way to understand the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was ratified by the European Union (EU) just before Christmas Day 2010:
For a sizeable group of vulnerable people in all of our societies, the sole route of access to many, if not most, of the Human and Social Rights set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) … is the UN CRPD … which only became an International Legal Instrument on 3 May 2008 … just short of 60 Years after the UDHR was adopted on 10 December 1948 !
That is precisely why Accessibility is such a critical component of the 2006 UN Convention … which has already been described, here, as a ‘Mixed Agreement’ (see the post of 5 February 2011).
Accessibility is the principal, common ingredient in ‘fields that fall in part within the competence of the European Union, in part within that of the Member States and in part within the shared competence of the EU and its Member States’. Accessibility has an impact … and always will have an impact … on all of these fields.
Policy and Decision Makers at every level within the European Union and the EU Member States would need to become accustomed to this new concept very, very quickly.
It is also essential, therefore, for the EU and the Member States to closely co-operate in implementing legislation which stems from the UN CRPD in a coherent manner … and to ensure unity in the international representation of the Union.
APPROACHING THE TASK OF ACCESSIBILITY IMPLEMENTATION
1. Establishing an Initial Framework …
Exactly how should we make sense of … bring order and assign priorities to … the Accessibility-related Articles in the UN Convention … using the different terms ‘Accessibility’ and ‘Accessibility-for-All’ … ‘People/Persons with Disabilities’ and ‘People with Activity Limitations’ (2001 WHO ICF) … in relation to the different components of the Human Environment, i.e. the Built, Social, Virtual and Economic Environments ???
Our recommendation … SDI’s Recommendation … is to refer, in the first instance, to this ‘Accessibility-for-All’ Matrix … which we developed a few years ago … in preparation for this crucial period of implementation …
If we then drill down … in order to fully understand ‘Accessibility of a Building’, for example … this then comprises:
- Approach to the building ;
- Entry through principal entrance(s) ;
- Health, Safety, Convenience & Comfort in Use, including thermal comfort, indoor air quality, protection from fire, etc ;
- Egress from the building (during normal conditions) ;
- Removal from the vicinity of the building (during normal conditions) ;
- Evacuation from the building (during, for example, a fire emergency) ;
- Safe Movement to a ‘place of safety’ (during, for example, a fire emergency), which is remote from the building ;
- Each stage of a Work Process, at every level, in places of work ;
- Use of Electronic, Information & Communication Technologies (EICT’s) ;
- Management, Services, and Attitudes of People in the building ;
- Recruitment, Employment, Training & Promotion Practices.
2. Overlaying UN CRPD Article 9 – Accessibility …
Onto the Initial Framework outlined above … overlay Article 9 … and crosscheck in detail. Note well the strong language used … ‘States Parties shall’ … and do not forget that this is not a Wish List … but a clear delineation of the Scope of an Important Human and Social Right which now has a proper basis in both International and European Union Law !
1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:
(a) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces ;
(b) Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.
2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:
(a) To develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public ;
(b) To ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities ;
(c) To provide training for stakeholders on accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities ;
(d) To provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms ;
(e) To provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public ;
(f) To promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information ;
(g) To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet ;
(h) To promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.
So … what is the situation in the Member States of the European Union ?
In an upcoming post … let’s take Ireland as a case in point, just for the hell of it … and discuss some of the consequences … stemming from the EU’s ratification of the UN CRPD … on the operation of the Building Regulations and Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s).