National Association of the Deaf

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities



The international rights of persons with disabilities are grounded in a broad framework based on the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international convention on human rights and other human rights instruments.

On March 30, 2007, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Optional Protocol were formally opened for signature at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.  The CRPD is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century.  Several NAD representatives, including Yerker Andersson, Nancy Bloch and Alexis Kashar, were on hand to witness this historical event.

The CRPD requires participating countries to periodically report to the United Nations (UN) on their progress in implementing and enforcing treaty obligations. Treaties are a powerful tool, and are used by advocacy groups to monitor, highlight, and promote human rights.  The CRPD helps increase public awareness of barriers faced by people with disabilities; promote law and policy changes at the national level; provide remedy in individual cases of rights violations or abuses; and channel resources into programs that support the rights of for people with disabilities.  Also, the CRPD requires nations to recognize that the human rights of people with disabilities deserve the same level of commitment that governments demonstrate toward the rights of people without disabilities and society as a whole.

In essence, the CRPD is a shift from the medical to a human rights model of disability. According to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), an international, non-governmental organization, ". . . linguistic and cultural viewpoints of Deaf people are strengthened by the Convention.  The Convention is the first international treaty ever that recognizes sign languages and the linguistic human rights of deaf people."

The CRPD specifically states that governments are to recognize sign language as an official language in the Constitution and/or special legislation, ensure professional interpreter services, and guarantee education to deaf people in their sign language.

The WFD also states that, "The Convention also aims at better ensuring the right of Deaf people to get [an] education in sign language, use sign language in official interaction with authorities, promote access to interpreters and receive services as well as information in sign language.  In addition, it includes the recognition and support of cultural and linguistic identity."

The International Deaf Community

The WFD reported that there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide, with more than 80% living in developing countries.  A survey published by WFD in 1992 stated that in most countries deaf people have the freedom to assemble or establish representative bodies, to vote, to marry and have children.  Only a very few countries have made exceptions to these rights.  However, unemployment for deaf people is three times higher than world national averages.

In most countries, the government does nor recognize the value of sign language so there are no guarantees that deaf citizens have access to education or public information in their native sign language.  Also, in countries with national broadcasting services, only a few provide sign language interpretation, captions or produce news for thei