‘Let's talk Conventions, let’s talk equality’
by Special Needs Action Group
The Un Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was ratified by the UK in 2009.
The UK, which also made representations on behalf of Gibraltar, was one of the first signatories in 2006 moving towards its ratification in 2009.
This Convention is a culmination of years of negotiation and decades of struggles felt and fought by persons with disabilities, and their allied advocacy groups, to finally achieve global recognition of disability as a human rights issue.
In this global recognition, the Convention has managed to introduce a much needed paradigm shift, moving away from the notion in the treatment of persons with disabilities from the medical, care, social and charity perspective towards a rights based perspective which ensures that persons with disabilities have access and participation in the decisions that affect their lives, and can seek to redress any violation of these rights.
It was a few years after that our Disability Act 2017 took steps to adopt parts of this convention but failed to fully ratify it. It does not go far enough in ensuring that we are fully and wholly committed to this cause.
The purpose of said Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
It goes on to state that persons with disabilities include those who have long term physical, mental, intellectual and sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
We still have a long way to go in this regard.
Full ratification of this Convention is imperative for our disabled and special needs community locally.
It would provide a clear framework which fully protects the values of respect, dignity and independence for both children and adults with disabilities.
It will send the clear and unequivocal message that Gibraltar is fully committed to ensuring that people with disabilities have rich, full and meaningful lives as participating members of society and all it has to offer.
Above all, it would ensure that our disabled and special needs community would have their rights finally made theirs by law, and would not have to continue to rely on ministerial discretions in their struggle to have their rights and freedoms given to them.
It would bring about a much needed change in outdated laws which do not reflect the guiding principles and which should have no place in our modern day society.
Within the need for this great reform, we must ensure that legislation is updated, to reflect this shift in perception, and outlines the stately duties of our government under said Convention.
This is still not the case in Gibraltar, and we can see this in the many outdated Acts, such as the Education and Training Act 1974 which both in its wording and content, fails to promote or enforce these guiding principles.
This is only one example of our failure to fully ratify and make real commitments in regards to this imperative Convention.
As a society, we boast of our innovation, of our modern finance centre as a hub for international business investment and opportunity.
We boast of our wonderful scenery for a place on the world map as an attractive tourist destination.
We spend millions to beautify our community, and build million-pound parks which are far from inclusive for children with disabilities.
We must ensure that our society’s moral fabric does not linger behind as it has done so for many years.
The rights and freedoms of our disabled and special needs community is not a matter for those who feel it and live it exclusively.
These are now, under the Convention, matters of human rights, fundamental issues which should concern all in society, especially the elected Governments who are meant to represent our disabled and special needs population.
The fact still remains, as it has for many years, that persons with disabilities represent one of, if not the most marginalised group within our society.
They remain largely dependent on their families, with fewer employment opportunities, fewer academic qualifications and are far more likely to experience discrimination and prejudice.
This will only change with an ambitious vision which ensures that persons with disabilities have equal access to opportunities and choices, considered as equal members in our society.
This will only change when their rights are made theirs by law, so they can redress any violations.
It will change when what they need and require is their lawful right, and not a government discretion.
Ultimately, this will only change with the full ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This article was submitted by the committee of the Special Needs Action Group, whose members include Atrish Sanchez, Dhalia Cuby, Karla Imossi, Sabrina Cano and Donna Scrase.