Disability Rights Defenders Newsletter January 2019

Dear Disability Rights Defenders

as we all have found out, laws and international agreements, by themselves, will not automatically change everyday reality. It takes awareness raising, reminding, and claiming our rights - in court when necessary. Do we have what it takes for that work? To make the most of our incipient Disability Rights Defenders network we need to know who we are, where we work, where our expertise is, what we can contribute. So, please, fill out this form.

All the best for your work in 2019

Adolf Ratzka and Selina Griesser



  • Cases and Court Decisions
  • Participate!
  • Resources
  • Fundraising
  • Questions
  • News
  • Announcements

Cases and Court Decisions

Sweden: Employer’s requirements are considered indirect discrimination

The Swedish Labour Court decided that an employer’s requirements of working hours constitute indirect discrimination on the ground of disability. A person with a disability applied with a temporary employment agency to be included in their manpower pool. The agency turned her down claiming that she did not have other employment of at least 50% of full time and that her Social Insurance Disability Benefit compensating for her diminished work capacity of 50% of full time did not constitute “main employment” in the meaning of the collective agreement. The Swedish Labour Court ruled that this eligibility requirement, in this case, constituted indirect discrimination on the ground of disability. More about the case here.

Germany: Student sued the Federal State for time in special education school

A 22 year old student took the German Federal State to court because he had to spend 11 years at a special education school for students with cognitive disabilities, even though he does not have such a disability. As a child, he fled from Serbia to Germany with his family. An anxious child who did not speak German his IQ was assessed at 59. The student’s development and needs were not annually monitored as required by federal school regulations. The court awarded the student compensation from the Federal State for denied education. The decision is based on the Federal School Act, which regulates special needs education for children with cognitive disabilities (§ 19 Abs 1 SchulG NW). The German Constitution and the Civil Code regulate the responsibility and accountability of the State for persons acting on behalf of the State (Art 34 GG, § 839 Abs 1 S 1 BGB). Here you can find more information in German.

Serbia: Discrimination of persons with psychosocial disabilities in the media

In early 2018, a popular Serbian e-magazine published an article titled „Dangerous psychiatric subjects freely roam, attack and kill: About 400.000 people in Serbia seek medical help for psychological disorders annually“. The Mental Disability Rights Initiative of Serbia submitted a complaint against the editor of the online portal, arguing that the article constitutes a breach of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, and the Law on Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities. The Commissioner for Protection of Equality ordered the e-magazine to publicly apologize for discrimination. 

France: ECHR judgment on the definition of "domicile”

A recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights regarding the definition of "domicile" decided that providing care in a residential institutional setting is not the same as providing care in a person's own home. More information here.

Portugal: Court requires the installation of a stair lift

An aged woman with mobility impairments and difficulties in climbing the stairs in her Lisbon apartment building asked the owners to install a chairlift. The owners refused, the case was taken to court and the judge ruled in her favor deciding that she had been discriminated against on the ground of her disability.

Ireland: Right to vote for blind persons

An Irish national who is blind took the Irish State to the country's High Court for failure to provide free and secret voting to individuals who are blind. Read about the case here.



Petition: The right to vote! European Union elections for all!

Next May, voters in the European Union will be able to choose the next European Parliament. However, millions of Europeans with disabilities are deprived of their right to vote and participate in elections. That's why the European Disability Forum launched the “European elections for all” petition. The petition aims at raising awareness among European leaders for democratic elections. Sign the petition here.

Survey: How do you make decisions?

Tina Minkowitz prepared a survey asking 'How do you make decisions?' for an article on legal capacity. She is interested in responses from a wide range of people with and without disabilities. Sign the survey, share it in your networks.

Call for input: Report on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials on persons with psychosocial, intellectual or developmental disabilities

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is preparing a report on the impact of the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials on persons with psychosocial, intellectual or developmental disabilities. The report will be submitted to the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in June 2019. Submit your contribution by February 1, 2019, for the consideration of the Special Rapporteur at eje@ohchr.org. Put ‘Disabilities report 2019’ in the subject line. More information here.



Adolf Ratzka at the European Parliament in Brussels, October 2018

At a meeting on Human Rights for Persons with Disabilities at the European Parliament on October 17, 2018 Adolf Ratzka gave a talk about Access to Justice. The event was organized by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, one of the European Parliamentary Groups. Adolf summarized current obstacles to justice, their effects on persons with disabilities, and what Members of the European Parliament might be able to do. You can find the text of his speech here.

Article: The purpose and use of UN Treaty Body General Comments

Stig Langvad, CRPD Committee member (2010-2018), and Marite Decker, Human Rights Adviser wrote about importance, understanding, and usage of General Comments on the CRPD in disability policies. ENIL published the article.

Comment on the European Accessibility Act

Here the comment of the European Disability Forum on the European Accessibility Act: “A provisional agreement on the European Accessibility Act was reached today by the EU Institutions. The Act fails persons with disabilities. It only covers digital accessibility and leaves out the real world environment where persons with disabilities live. [...]”. Read the full comment here.

Research Report and Framework on Supported Decision-Making

People First in Scotland has published the documents “Framework on Supported Decision-Making” and "Does it Matter?", a research report about the needs and possibilities for persons with intellectual impairments in Scotland. Both publications come with an Easy Read summary. You can find the reports here (scroll down).



EU Funding opportunities

The EU offers different funding programs such as “Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme 2014-2020” or “Justice Programme 2014-2020”. The action grant “Enhancing social rights and EU citizenship” is open for submissions until 14 March 2019. Use also this database to search for funding programs.


Grants from the Commonwealth Foundation

The Commonwealth Foundation offers grants of up to £200,000 over four years in support of innovative project ideas and approaches that seek to strengthen the ability of civic voices to engage with governments and have the potential to improve governance and development outcomes through their active participation. Deadline is the 7th of January 2019. Check the grant guidelines and criteria here.



UN: Person with a learning disability chaired a United Nations session

On 25 September 2018, Mr. Robert Martin from New Zealand became the first expert with an intellectual (learning) disability to chair a working session of an international human rights body. Congratulations!  More on these breaking news.


Peru: End of civil guardianship for adults with disabilities

Peru has adopted a long-awaited landmark reform of its Civil Code to remove all restrictions to legal capacity based on disability or the notion of ‘discernment’, and to end civil guardianship of adults with disabilities. Read Tina Minkowitz’s analysis of the Peruvian legal capacity reform.


Uganda: TV stations without sign language or subtitles will lose their licenses

In October 2018, the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) issued an ultimatum: Television stations that do not provide sign language interpretation and subtitles as required by the Persons with Disability Act (21 (2)) will lose their license as of January 1, 2019.



Conference on the Present and Future of Personal Assistance in Europe

The International conference “The Present and Future of Personal Assistance in Europe” is organized by the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) and will take place on 25 March 2019, from 13:30 till 17:30 (with a reception from 18:00), in Mundo J, Rue de l’industrie 10, Brussels, Belgium. Read more about it here.


© Disability Rights Defenders is a project of

Independent Living Institute,

Storforsplan 36  10.floor, 123 47 Stockholm-Farsta, Sweden

Staff:  Selina Griesser, Adolf Ratzka

Content contributors and volunteers are most welcome!

This Newsletter is supported by the Bente Skansgårds Independent Living Fund.

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