Communication to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Swedish Association of the Deaf, Swedish Youth Association of the Deaf and the non-profit association The law as a tool has submitted a communication to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, requesting the Committee to recognise that Sweden has violated the rights of Richard Sahlin under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention). Sahlin has a PhD in public law and has been working on short term contracts at different universities as a teacher, including at Södertörn University. He is currently employed at Umeå University as a lecturer (associate professor).


The subject matter of the communication is denial of reasonable accommodation, including failure to satisfactorily investigate reasonable accommodation, as a discriminatory treatment in relation to equal opportunities in public employment. Södertörn University is a public university funded through the state budget. It advertised a permanent position as a lecturer (associate professor) in public law in 2015 and Richard Sahlin was considered the most qualified applicant by the recruiters. Despite his qualifications the University cancelled the recruitment procedure, due to the anticipated costs of sign language interpretation expenses of roughly half a million SEK per year.

Richard Sahlin appealed the decision before the University Appeals Board, which dismissed the appeal. He then filed a discrimination complaint to the The Discrimination Ombudsman (DO), that decided to bring a civil suit in the Labour Court, where DO claimed that Richard Sahlin was subjected to discrimination.

The Swedish Labour Court found in a judgment on October 11 2017 that Södertörn University did not discriminate against the Richard Sahlin when Södertörn University did not finance sign language interpretation expenses to compensate the author’s deafness. The Labour Court found that it was not reasonable to demand that  of Södertörn University according to the standards in the Discrimination Act and other.


With that background, the complaint to the CRPD Committee argues that Sweden has violated Richard Sahlins rights under the Convention, because the State has failed to provide equal rights to work and reasonable accommodation in employment in contravention of the obligations of the State party according to the Convention, primarily under article 27.1 b), g) and i), and article 5.2 by failing to guarantee persons with disabilities equal and effective legal protection against discrimination, and 5.3 by failing to take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation was provided. To not be employed while being the most qualified is a violation of the right to work on an equal basis with others. The violation could have been prevented by the State party either by specifically funding reasonable accommodation directly from the State budget, or specifically ensuring that state universities and public authorities have the financial preconditions and clear obligations to provide reasonable accommodation.

The complaint further alleges that Sweden has acted outside of its Margin of Appreciation because it has not shown that the State has acted in accordance with the general obligation to take measures to the maximum of its available resources to guarantee Richard Sahlin’s rights. Södertörn University also failed in its duty to satisfactory inquiry of other possible adjustments, as the Convention explicitly recognises that sign language interpreting is a typical adaptation reasonable to demand for all deaf people.