Just like many other international legal instruments, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has general principles that govern its implementation. The principles are outlined as follows: inherent dignity; individual autonomy; discrimination; equality; participation and inclusion; and respect for difference. These general principles are at the core of the Convention and are central to monitoring the rights of persons with disabilities.
The principle of inherent dignity refers to the worth of every person. When the dignity of persons with disabilities is respected, their experiences and opinions are valued and are formed without fear of physical, psychological or emotional harm. Respect for dignity is denied when, for example, workers who are blind are forced by their employer to wear a shirt with the word “blind” printed on the back.
The principle of individual autonomy means to be in charge of one’s own life and to have the freedom to make one’s own choices.
The principle of respect for the individual autonomy of persons with disabilities means persons with disabilities have, on an equal basis with others, reasonable life choices; are subject to minimum interference in their private life; and can make their own decisions, with adequate support where required. The principle pervades the Convention and underpins many of the freedoms that it explicitly recognises, such as the freedom from non-consensual medical intervention and the requirement that healthcare should be provided on the basis of free and informed consent.
From this perspective, for example, a person with mental disabilities should be offered a range of options for mental healthcare such as psychotherapy, counselling, peer support and psychiatric medication, and should have the freedom to make a meaningful choice based on personal preferences. Likewise, a landmine survivor with a physical impairment should be provided with devices that facilitate his or her personal mobility so that he or she can enjoy as much independence as possible.
The principle of non-discrimination means that all rights are guaranteed to everyone without distinction, exclusion or restriction based on disability or on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, age, or any other status. Discrimination on the basis of disability means any distinction, exclusion or restriction which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and includes the denial of reasonable accommodation.
Discrimination occurs, for example, when a woman is not allowed to open a bank account on the grounds that her disability would not allow her to manage her money.
Next week, we will continue providing more examples for the other remaining principles, namely, equality, participation, inclusion, and respect for difference.