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Persons with disabilities face discrimination and barriers every day that restrict them from participating in society on an equal basis with others. For example, they are commonly denied their rights to be included in school and the workplace, to live independently in the community, to vote, to participate in sport and cultural activities, to enjoy social protection, to access justice, to consent or refuse medical treatment or to enter freely into legal commitments such as opening a bank account, and inheriting or buying property.

A disproportionate number of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, often marginalized and in extreme poverty. During humanitarian emergencies, persons with disabilities are recurrently left behind, with little or no say in the rebuilding of their lives and communities.

The protection guaranteed in other human rights treaties, and grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should apply to all. Persons with disabilities have, however, remained largely ‘invisible’, often excluded in the rights debate and denied from enjoying and exercising the full range of human rights.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2006 and entered into force in 2008, signaled a ‘paradigm shift’ from traditional charity-oriented, medical-based approaches to disability to one based on human rights. It calls for the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities across the human rights, development and humanitarian agendas and highlights the rights and empowerment of women with disabilities and children with disabilities as groups which face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, affirmed, “The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is not only an instrument for persons with disabilities. Its principles and provisions benefit the entirety of the human family because it strengthens our responses against exclusion, and segregation and indeed, like the Sustainable Development Goals, it illustrates that reaching the furthest behind first is the key to leaving no one behind.”