Disability Rights Defenders is a network of individuals and organizations with an interest in disability rights and disability law. The purpose of the network is to spread and deepen legal expertise about disability rights among disabled persons, disabled people’s organization, lawyers and law schools. We invite people interested in disability rights to join our closed facebook-group “Disability Rights Defenders” and to share their experiences, methods and advice. Together we spread information and knowledge on how to use the law as a tool to implement and defend the rights of disabled people. We welcome contributions in form of brief descriptions of legal cases, court decisions, references to legislation, publications, reports as well as announcements of events, learning and funding opportunities. The content shared in the facebook-group is summarized in a newsletter four times a year. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
Dear Disability Rights Defender,
We would have liked to send you a more substantial newsletter. But for that we need your help. We would like to build a network of individuals and organizations with an interest in disability rights and disability law. The purpose of the network is to spread and deepen legal expertise about disability rights among persons with disabilities and their organizations, the legal community, in particular Public Interest and Human Rights lawyers, and law schools. The network will be based on the newsletter. To make the newsletter informative and meaningful for YOU we will need YOUR help. We need brief descriptions of legal cases that might be of general interest, not only for persons with disabilities and their organization, legal practitioners in your country but also for persons interested in disability rights and disability law in other parts of the world. Below find two examples. We need your help in spreading information about training and capacity building opportunities specializing in using the law for defending the rights of persons with disabilities. Please, send us announcements about events, courses, webinars, etc that you are organizing, that you know about, that other people also should know about – no matter where they live and work. Below find a couple of examples. But most importantly at this point, we need your encouragement, your endorsement that, yes, such an effort is needed and worthwhile. Please write us.
Adolf Ratzka, Ph D
Independent Living Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
Voting rights for persons with cognitive and psychosocial impairments
Under the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 Article 21 (3) everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. To this end there shall be periodic and genuine elections by universal and equal suffrage. The principle of universal suffrage is also enshrined in Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Despite the declarations of universal suffrage the right to vote, historically, has been denied to groups of persons such as prisoners (see Hirst v. United Kingdom) or persons who are under guardianship (Alajos Kiss v. Hungary). While the European Court of Human Rights confirmed the right to vote in both instances, the Court, in the Kiss v. Hungary case, did accept the Government’s contention "that only citizens capable of assessing the consequences of their decisions and making conscious and judicious decisions should participate in public affairs". Yet the Court emphasized that ”an indiscriminate removal of voting rights, without an individualized judicial evaluation and solely based on a mental disability necessitating partial guardianship, cannot be considered compatible with the legitimate grounds for restricting the right to vote”.
Also in Denmark, the country’s constitution denies universal voting rights to persons who are under guardianship. Denmark’s Supreme Court recently decided (in decision Sag 159/2017) that the country’s constitution and guardianship laws (Vaergemålsloven 6 §) allowing the denial of universal voting rights are not in conflict with international treaties. In the Supreme Court’s opinion, the numerous conditions specified in the Danish law (Vaergemålsloven 6 §) that need to be met before a person’s voting rights can be limited, amount to an individualized judicial evaluation (Alajos Kiss v. Hungary).
LEV National Association Denmark, an advocay organization for the rights of persons with learning disabilities, intends to appeal the Danish Supreme Court decision to the European Court of Human Rights.
Universal voting rights are the cornerstone of democracy. In your country, can somebody be denied this right due to a disability? Please, share with us a brief account of the situation in your country for publication in this newsletter
Regional public transport provider’s responsibilty for outsourced services
In a recent decision by the Swedish Supreme Court (DHR vs. Region Gävleborg, Swedish Supreme Court case no. Ö 556-17) Region Gävleborg, a Swedish regional authority responsible for among other things public transit, the Court determined that the regional authority could be held to be liable for a violation of Sweden’s anti-discrimination law that may have been committed by a private bus company in carrying out a public contract concerning public transit for the regional authority. The bus company’s driver, referring to his lack of training in the use of the bus’ wheelchair ramp, had refused to let a wheelchair rider board. The issue on appeal was if the regional authority could be held liable under these circumstances. The person is represented by DHR, a Swedish organization of persons with physical disabilities.
By clarifying the potential liability concerning outsourcing and the provision of services to the public, the court has made clear that the outsourcing entity can be held liable for discriminatory acts committed by a contractor. The decision increases the individual’s legal certainty and forces public authorities to choose their contractors with care. The merits of the case will now be dealt with by the trial court, which is expected to rule on whether the person involved was discriminated against on the grounds of lack of accessibility.
Watch here our interview with Mr. Sid Wolinsky, Disability Rights Advocates, Berkeley, USA , a specialist in class action and high-impact litigation and rights of people with disabilities.
Conference 'Using the Law as a Tool for Social Change'
Disability activists, Human Rights lawyers, law students and their instructors, with an interest in combatting disability-based discrimination are invited to attend the Independent Living Institute’s international conference on strategic litigation for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, in Stockholm, May 30 - 31, 2018.
International Disability Law Summer School
The 10 International Disability Law Summer School will be held at National University Ireland, Galway 18 – 22 June 2018. Read about previous years’ Summer Schools here.
Workshop on building the Disability Rights Defenders Network
On May 31, one day after the conference on strategic litigation in Stockholm, we will meet with individuals who are interested in starting up a network on using the law for defending disabled peoples’ rights. The network would be open to individuals with disabilities and their organizations worldwide, to instructors, researchers and students at law schools worldwide with an interest in disability rights, to Public Interest and Human Rights lawyers worldwide interested in disability-based discrimination.
We cannot expect many people from outside Sweden to attend the workshop. And yet, if this network is to be of interest to people in other parts of the world, we need your input wherever you live and work.
Your input is needed on a variety of themes.
The network will consist of the subscribers of the free newsletter. What is the content YOU want to see in the newsletter? What would be useful to YOU: information about legal cases, legislation, awareness raising campaigns, training and capacity building opportunities, funding opportunities? What else?
How shall we deal with the newsletter’s language? Not everybody is comfortable reading and writing English. How can we solve this predicament with no funding, for the time being?
Is it realistic to assume that our readers will volunteer their time for sending us once in a while contributions in the form of case descriptions or announcements about events, etc. without remuneration?
Sooner or later we might need funding and/or a number of volunteers. But where do we find funding and volunteers?
Obviously, the more network members, the better our chances are of receiving interesting articles and announcements, of finding volunteers, of locating sponsors. How can we reach out and grow? How can YOU help?
Coordinating the newsletter is probably a lot of work and we need to find a way to share it among several people. How do we divide the work and how do we find these people?
We better stop here before the list becomes overwhelming. Please send us your thoughts and suggestions on these and other questions and we will present them at the workshop on May 31.