The UNCRPD and EBU – Making Rights a Reality

Our work around the UNCRPD

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol is THE landmark comprehensive human rights convention and international development tool and is at the heart of the disability rights movement. We should also remind ourselves that it is a legally binding instrument that aims to protect and promote the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. It was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and entered into force on 03 May 2008. There are currently 177 ratifications to the CRPD and 92 ratifications to its Optional Protocol.

The CRPD has of course been a cornerstone of EBU’s work since it came to be, and we have not only based much of our work around the rights it enshrines, but also specifically worked on the treaty itself and how it can assist our members in their own campaigning and advocacy work, at an international, national, local and even individual level.

Our initial work on the CRPD was to produce a series of statements which define the needs and characteristics of blind and partially sighted people in relation to specific CRPD articles. I6 articles were chosen for this exercise, and following on from this, on a year-by-year basis, EBU experts compiled questionnaires on different articles which were sent to our members, to see how the CRPD was applied in various domains in the responding countries. These articles were compiled into what we call our legislative database. This has different entry points including a specific country and/or article search tool, or a list, article by article, where all the replies are gathered. It should be noted that these replies offer a legislative ‘snapshot’ of the precise moment in time that the questionnaires were sent, and that laws are subject to evolution, hopefully in a positive sense for our community, using the CRPD as a foundation.

In a second phase, we decided to compile analytical reports comparing and synthetising the replies from each country for given articles in the database. This enables a simpler and comparative understanding of the topics covered. Analytical reports are available for 6 of the articles.

In 2017 we went on to produce a document ‘A New Look At Our Human Rights’ explaining the rights enshrined in the CRPD and what they mean in practice for people with disabilities and blind and partially sighted people in particular. This document has been progressively translated and is now available, from the link above, in Estonian, French, Italian, German, Polish, Croatian, Montenegrin, Portuguese, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Serbian and Spanish.

Then, in 2020, we produced a guidance document which sets out to provide practical information to support civil society in participating in the review process by submitting an Alternative Report in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. All of this information can be found on the dedicated CRPD page of the EBU website, alongside other relevant material.

PARVIS (Promoting Awareness on the Rights of Visually Disabled People in an Inclusive Society)

More recently, the CRPD has been the cornerstone of the EBU led PARVIS (Promoting Awareness on the Rights of Visually Disabled People in an Inclusive Society) awareness raising project. To reinforce our work with and about the CRPD, for example, the project produced awareness-raising videos on specific rights, which also enhance the above mentioned database articles, the corresponding videos can be seen for articles 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 29 and 30. More recently the project produced a video entitled “A day in life of a visually impaired person compilation video”, which details obstacles blind and partially sighted people face in their daily lives and offers solutions on how to overcome them based on CRPD articles 9 (accessibility of the built environment), 19 (living independently), 20 (personal mobility), 21 (accessible information), 24 (inclusive education), 27 (work and employment), 29 (right to join public and political life) and 30 (participation in cultural life and sports).

The Review of the EU UNCRPD Committee

In December 2021 we started to work on the ongoing review of the EU by the UNCRPD committee (hereafter ‘the Committee’). We contributed input to the European Disability Forum (EDF) for their alternative report and attended their meetings to coordinate representations from civil society organisations. We participated in the private meeting with the Committee for NGOs, and in meetings prior to that and after with the Committee’s rapporteur Markus Schefer. In our statement to the Committee, in complementarity with EDF and other EU level organisations of persons with disabilities, we focused, in relation to accessibility (article 9 of the CRPD), culture (article 30) and education (article 24) on the following issues: the default of the EU Marrakesh Treaty Directive that allows Member States to provide for compensation to rights-holders; the insufficient use of Creative Europe funding to the film industry to promote audio description and audio subtitling; and the accessibility defaults of the European Commission’s online public consultations.

The Committee published its “list of issues prior to reporting” on 19 April - in fact a list of questions to the European Commission. The questions and the replies on behalf of the EU will then form the basis of an interactive dialogue between the Committee and the Commission; that in turn will lead—probably not before the end of this year—to the adoption of the Committee’s recommendations to the EU in a document called ‘concluding observations’. We will possibly intervene again before that, should we feel the need to object to some of the Commission replies.