Press Release

IACHR Urges States to Ensure Full Exercise of Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities

December 2, 2014

Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is December 3, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) to ensure the full exercise of human rights for persons with disabilities, who historically have faced serious physical and social obstacles that keep them from fully exercising their rights.

According to United Nations estimates, around one billion people - approximately 14 percent of the world’s population - live with some type of disability. In Latin America and the Caribbean specifically, people with disabilities comprise an estimated 12 percent of the population, or around 66 million people.

The Commission notes that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has been ratified by 28 of the 35 OAS Member States, establishes a paradigm shift with regard to the treatment of persons with disabilities. This change approaches the subject from a social standpoint, one that understands that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and the various barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society. As a result, persons with disabilities are no longer regarded as “mere objects of protection” but as “subjects of rights and obligations.”

This Commission has addressed this important issue through its promotion and protection mechanisms, and has received information concerning multiple violations of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Americas. These include a failure to recognize their legal capacity; a shortage of community services conducive to the integration of persons with disabilities into the community; their short- or long-term institutionalization without consent; the lack of health, habilitation, and rehabilitation services; the inaccessibility of the physical environment, transportation, and information and communications; obstacles to access to justice; the lack of reasonable accommodation in employment and education; and limited political participation.

In marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Commission urges the OAS Member States to adopt any legislative, administrative, or other measures needed to ensure the effective protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities, in accordance with the international standards that provide the most protection. This should be done with the participation of persons with disabilities as actors in their own lives, and taking into account the main guiding principles of the social approach to disability, such as the autonomy and independence of persons with disabilities, non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility, and full and effective participation and inclusion in society.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 145/14