Adopt UN convention on disabilities: groups

PROACTIVE::The current act is passive, aiming more for ‘welfare,’ while the UN’s convention sets out what is needed for disabled people’s participation, the groups said

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Nov 23, 2013 - Page 3

The League of Welfare Organizations for the Disabled and 10 other groups representing people with disabilities yesterday urged the legislature to adopt the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 and entered into force in 2008.

The People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act (身心障礙者權益保障法) is limited, League president Ma Hai-hsia (馬海霞) said, citing an incident that occurred in June in which a woman with Down syndrome dining at a McDonald’s franchise was escorted out by police.

“The act could only, at best, impose a fine on the fast-food outlet of between NT$100,000 and NT$500,000, but the local authority only asked it to improve [its service],” Ma said, adding that a similar incident in the US ended with a Illinois court ruling the restaurant was in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act for Discrimination and awarded the plaintiff US$65,000 in damages.

As of last month, the CRPD had 158 signatories and 138 ratifying parties worldwide, according to the groups.

League secretary-general Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋) said the groups have been calling on the government to sign the convention after its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (known as the “two covenants”) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, but received no positive response.

“In the wake of the government’s deferment, we have decided to take it upon to ourselves to push for endorsement starting from the local level. So far, the Pingtung County Mayor has signed the agreement and the Lienchiang County [Matsu] Council has made a resolution calling for the central government’s signing of CRPD,” Wang said, adding that they are also inviting political parties to propose the bill for the domestic implementation of the convention.

Lee Bing-hung (李秉宏), the nation’s first visually impaired lawyer, said the two covenants have not covered thoroughly what might be needed by people with disabilities, such as a barrier free environment and regulations curbing discrimination against them.

He said that the act is “passive” and directed more toward “welfare,” whereas the CRPD is “proactive” in its emphasis in setting down the changes to the social structure that are needed to ensure people with disabilities have rights to equal social participation.