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Implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons : report of the Secretary-General

UN Document Symbol A/54/388
Convention Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Document Type Report of the Secretary-General
Session 54th
Type Document

10 p.

Subjects Persons with Disabilities, Disability Statistics, Non-Governmental Organizations

Extracted Text

United Nations
General Assembly Distr.: General
16 September 1999
Original: English
Fifty-fourth session
Agenda item 106
Social development, including questions relating to the world social
situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family
Implementation of theWorld Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons
Report of the Secretary-General
Paragraphs Page
I. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2
II. Overview of recent policy and programme activities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2–19 2
A. Activities of Governments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2–9 2
B. Activities of the United Nations system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10–17 4
C. Activities of non-governmental organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18–19 6
III. International norms and standards related to persons with disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . 20–26 6
IV. Data and statistics concerning persons with disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27–32 8
A. Activities of the United Nations Statistics Division . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27–31 8
B. Selected activities of non-governmental organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 9
V. Accessibility at United Nations Headquarters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33–37 9
VI. United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 10
99-27385 (E) 041099
I. Introduction
1. The present report has been prepared pursuant to
General Assembly resolution 52/82, in which the Assembly
requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the
implementation of that resolution to it at its fifty-fourth
session through the Commission for Social Development. The
Secretary-General submitted an interim report
(E/CN.5/1999/5) to the Commission, which focused on
progress in implementing the priorities for action to further
equalization of opportunities of persons with disabilities, as
identified in operative paragraph 4 of the resolution. The
present report should be read in conjunction with that report.
II. Overview of recent policy and
programme activities
A. Activities of Governments
2. In paragraph 4 of its resolution 52/82, the General
Assembly encouraged Governments to examine key social and
economic policy issues related to equalization of
opportunities for persons with disabilities, in particular
(a) accessibility, (b) social services and safety nets, and
(c) employment and sustainable livelihoods. In response to
a note verbale, replies were received from 24 countries or
areas: Armenia, Austria, Argentina, Belarus, China, Cyprus,
Finland, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Honduras, Hong Kong
Special Administrative Region of China, Israel, Japan,
Mexico,Malta,Mongolia, Norway, Philippines, Republic of
Moldova, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.
Information provided suggests that much governmental action
centres around formulation of national plans of action and the
establishment and strengthening of national coordinating
bodies, legislative measures and cultural activities, both to
promote awareness of disability issues and to engage persons
with disabilities in cultural and social life.
1. Accessibility
3. Replies from States members of the European Union
indicate that a number of national codes have been adopted
for accessibility and barrier-free environment based on the
principles of securing mobility and full accessibility for
persons with disabilities. In this regard, implementation of
accessibility codes and regulations aims to create an obstaclefree,
safe environment for persons with disabilities. For
instance, many roads and public areas have been designed
with a view to responding to the needs of persons with
disabilities. Most public buildings are now easily accessible
to persons with disabilities in Germany. In Austria,
accessibility codes and regulations have been adopted, by
which architects and buildings engineers are required to
receive training in accessibility standards as parts of their
professional qualifications. To meet the requirements for
persons with disabilities with regard to accessibility, Greece
has enacted law 2430/96 implementing theWorld Programme
of Action concerning Disabled Persons, stressing the
importance of integrating disability in the policies of the
Government. In this regard, a new institutional framework has
been created to ensure equal opportunities for persons with
disabilities and to guarantee their equal rights in various
aspects of social and economic life. During the biennium
1998-1999, the reforms of the general building codes were
adopted to improve accessibility to public buildings and other
public areas removing architectural obstacles and barriers.
New public transports provide full accessibility to persons
with disabilities. In Finland, the disability policy programme
prepared by the Finnish National Council on Disability in
1994-1995 is based upon the United Nations Standard Rules
on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with
Disabilities. In an effort to enhance awareness and develop
accessible transportation, theMinistry of the Environment has
set up working groups on accessibility and launched pilot
efforts throughout the country. Spain has created a special
commission, whose functions encompass the competencies
of all Ministries of Government.
4. A number of countries or areas are addressing
accessibility of persons with disabilities by means of new
legislative measures to change infrastructure in rural areas
as well as in urban communities, as reported by Armenia,
Belarus, China, Cyprus, Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region of China, Israel, Japan, Malta, Mongolia, the
Philippines, and Singapore. For example, Belarus reports on
modification of construction codes for public areas, which
build upon earlier national legislation on social protection and
rehabilitation of disabled persons. In Japan, governmental
support has been given to independent regional programmes
to improve the well-being of people with disabilities.
Following the proclamation of the Asian and Pacific Decade
of Disabled Persons (1993-2002), the Government of
Mongolia adopted in 1998 the national plan of action for the
improvement of the situation of persons with disabilities
1999-2004. The Government of China is improving
environmental accessibility for persons with disabilities
through adoption of the design code of urban roads and
buildings for the accessibility of persons with disabilities; and
barrier-free design has been introduced in the academic
curriculum of the construction design. The Ministry of Home
Affairs of Malta recently declared that all new public the development of the general welfare system, which takes
buildings of “major use” must be accessible, with immediate specially directed efforts to advance the status of persons with
effect; the Ministry also is speeding the process of disabilities. In Norway, the main goal of Government policy
implementing building regulations to promote access for all. concerning persons with disabilities is full participation and
5. The data indicate that countries in Latin America are
emphasising the importance of engaging persons with
disabilities in all aspects of social life. Special committees
have been created in Argentina to improve the coordination
of disability issues, in close cooperation with the
governmental and non-governmental communities; and
catalytic activities are being undertaken in such areas as
transportation, housing and telecommunications.
2. Social safety nets and social services
6. Replies from Governments suggest concern with
establishing legal protection and guarantees regarding social
safety nets for persons with disabilities. The replies also
indicate a focus on medical, social and psychological
rehabilitation services to improve the lives and well-being of
persons with disabilities. The Government of the Republic
of Moldova reports on the development of social networks,
involving both governmental and non-governmental bodies
and organizations, and the decentralizing of social services
for persons with disabilities. The Government of Armenia
reports that it has taken numerous measures to guarantee a
social safety net for persons with disabilities.
7. Innovative arrangements by many Governments have
been introduced to provide for long-term care through a
combination of benefits in cash and in kind. These may be
provided as an integral part of social services, such as
measures to assist persons with disabilities to participate in
community life. Other approaches include legislation and
measures to promote social integration of persons with
disabilities. For instance, in Georgia, legislation has been
adopted on medical and social expertise concerning persons
with disabilities. The Philippines promotes policies on access
to education, health care, professional training, and
information towards the integration of the concerns of persons
with disabilities in various agenda and plans. The Ministry
ofHealth of Israel reports that it has enriched rehabilitation
services for persons with mental disabilities, occupational
rehabilitation, and social and housing services. The
Government of Honduras is supporting the introduction of
classes on rehabilitation and disability in the curriculum of
the primary and secondary schools as well as in the
8. The Government of Sweden reports that in many
respects, Swedish society has become more accessible to
persons with disabilities over the last decade, mainly through
equality. Disability is integrated in the policy-making of all
branches of the Government and is not exclusively a question
of health and social affairs. The Government of Singapore has
also adopted the goal of full participation of persons with
disabilities and equality. Singapore has initiated several
measures based on the principle that the care and welfare of
persons with disabilities should be the concern of the family,
the community and the Government. To further implement
the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled
Persons, Uruguay focuses on promoting equalization of
opportunities for persons with disabilities, and has created
a national commission for persons with disabilities to pursue
the goal of raising public awareness and integrating persons
with disabilities in society.
3. Employment and sustainable livelihoods
9. Replies suggest a number of innovative measures taken
to integrate persons with disabilities in a social and economic
life. For instance, several countries or areas reported on
recently enacted legislation or amendments concerning the
employment of persons with disabilities. For example,
Austrian policies are based on the equalization of
opportunities for persons with disabilities and their
integration into the mainstream labour market. Germany
reports that persons with disabilities are guaranteed to enjoy
a “social right”, independent of the cause of their disability,
to be secure of their place within the community, particularly
in employment. In Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,
the Equal Opportunities Commission, a statutory body,
promotes equalization of opportunities, inter alia, by means
of assisting in advocacy, monitoring and initiating catalytic
actions within the framework of relevant legislative
instruments. The Parliament of Greece enacted law 2643/98
to promote employment of persons with disabilities in the
public and private sectors. The law provides an innovative
ways for persons with disabilities to be part of the mainstream
workforce and strengthens opportunities for self-employment
through subsidy programmes. The Government of Cyprus
reports on the recent adoption of a policy to promote full and
equal participation of persons with disabilities in the social
and economic life of the country. In Mexico, a new
programme of scholarships was designed for persons with
disabilities to facilitate their integration in the labour market
during their unemployment.
B. Activities of the United Nation system
10. Within the United Nations Secretariat, the Division for
the Advancement ofWomen of the United Nations Secretariat
reports that, at its forty-second session, in 1998, the
Commission on the Status ofWomen considered a report on
older women and support systems (E/CN.6/1998/6), which
noted that women aged 65 and above could expect to spend
a greater portion of their remaining years with functional
disabilities than men and the need for specialized support
systems. In its conclusions on the issue of “violence against
women”, the Commission recognized that women and girls
with disabilities, among other priority groups, could be http://www.unescap.org/decade
particularly affected by violence and recommended
development of special assistance programmes. At its fortythird
session, in 1999, the Commission considered the critical
area of “women and health”. In its agreed conclusions, the
Commission recommended, inter alia, that special attention
be accorded to women with disabilities to empower them to
lead independent lives. The Department of Pub1 lic
Information and the system of United Nations information
centres report organizing periodically book exhibitions and
lectures, seminars and special events to publicize activities
of the United Nations to promote equalization of
opportunities of persons with disabilities. The United Nations
Radio Service has produced more than 11 radio magazines
on selected disability issues; and the United Nations Visitors
Service has ensured that the public tour route at the New
York Headquarters is accessible. The Department distributes
its guide to the United Nations buildings and services for
persons with disabilities at all major meetings and briefings
at Headquarters. Since the adoption of the “Habitat Agenda”,2
the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements has
intensified activities related to persons with disabilities. Its
journal Habitat Debate (vol. 4, No. 4, 1998) had the theme
“Cities for all”, and included an article entitled “Disabled but
not unable”. Promotion and protection of the human rights of
persons with disabilities is an important element in the
mandate of the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights. The High Commissioner
cooperates with the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the
Commission for Social Development. In its resolution
1998/13, the Commission on Human Rights expressed
concern that the situation of armed conflict has devastating
consequences for the human rights of persons with
disabilities, and encouraged non-governmental organizations
to cooperate closely and provide information to the concerned
human rights monitoring bodies and the Office of the High
11. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) reports development of a barrier-free Beirut central district. United
that at a subregional follow-up conference to the World Nations headquarters at Beirut was designed and constructed
Summit for Social Development that it organized in
cooperation with the United Nations Development
Programme, participants recommended, inter alia, enhanced
social protection systems for vulnerable people including
persons with disabilities. ECA reports that member States in
eastern and southern Africa have instituted measures to
protect and create employment opportunities for vulnerable
groups, including persons with disabilities. The Economic
and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has
created a Web page on the Internet on the Asian and Pacific
Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002) at:
ESCAP supports the Agenda for Action of the Asian and
Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002) through
close collaboration with the Subcommittee on Disabilityrelated
Concerns of the Regional Inter-AgencyCommittee for
Asia and the Pacific (RICAP). The Subcommittee meets
biannually as a consultative forum, with working group
meetings convened to develop joint action on priority issues.
Subcommittee efforts have resulted in (a) formulation of
targets for implementation of the Agenda for Action; and
(b) identification of annual Decade campaigns, hosted by an
ESCAP member Government, and projects to address critical
regional issues and promote full participation and equality of
persons with disabilities. ESCAP has directed special
attention to promotion of accessible environments in its
support of the Decade. During 1998, ESCAP issued a revised
edition of its guidelines on promotion of non-handicapping
physical environments. In cooperation with the International
Labour Organization (ILO), ESCAP organized a regional
technical consultation on developing effective placement
services for persons with disabilities (Singapore, March
1999). The Economic and Social Commission for Western
Asia (ESCWA) co-organized, with the Saudi Center for the
Rehabilitation and Training of Blind Girls at Amman, a
vocational training project to upgrade the skills of blind girls
and women in the ESCWA region. The Center now is a
permanent regional training facility with high quality
technical equipment. Thirty-nine Arab blind girls and women
have been trained to date in basic computer skills; a training
manual has been published in Braille, Arabic and English. As
discussed in more detail in the following section, ESCWA
cooperated with theMinistry of Social Affairs of Lebanon and
the Lebanese Company for Development and Reconstruction
of Beirut Central District (SOLIDERE) to publish
Accessibility for the Disabled: A Design Manual for a
Barrier-free Environment (Beirut, SOLIDERE, 1998). The
Manual documents planning for reconstruction and
in accordance with accessibility standards discussed in the The aim of the database is to provide users with access to
Manual. selected information on the rural disability issues worldwide.
12. Treaty bodies of the United Nations system continue
with their efforts to improve the situation and human rights
of persons with disabilities. The Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights considers the situation of persons
with disabilities in the general trend of development and
discusses promotion and protection of their rights (see
E/1999/22). The Committee on the Rights of the Child
examines the situation of children with disabilities while
considering reports of States Parties (see A/53/41). The
Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
againstWomen adopted general recommendation No. 24 on
article 12 (Women and health) of the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
at its twentieth session in 1999, which acknowledges that
women with disabilities often do not have physical access to
health services. The Committee noted that States Parties
should take appropriate measures to ensure that health
services are sensitive to needs of women with disabilities and
respectful of their human rights and dignity.
13. Among the funds, programmes and specialized agencies
of the United Nations system, the United Nations Children’s
Fund reports that it is directing special attention to disability
prevention and to the care and protection of children with
disabilities. Major progress is reported in addressing vitamin
A deficiency, a leading cause of blindness, mental retardation
and stunting; in accelerating polio vaccination; and in
preventive measures for elimination of guinea worm. Efforts
also focused on improving access to basic education and
community-based services for children with disabilities,
which included (a) training teachers in Mali to detect
disability among school children, assisting teacher training
in Bosnia and Herzegovina; (b) conducting a national
disability study in the Gambia; (c) assisting studies on
childhood disability in Armenia, Jordan, Rwanda, the Syrian
Arab Republic, and the United Republic of Tanzania; (d)
supporting a pilot initiative to include children with
disabilities in mainstream schools in the former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia. Egypt undertook an evaluation of
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-supported
community rehabilitation efforts for children with disabilities.
UNICEF continued support of mine-awareness programmes
in several countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations (FAO) launched on 28 May 1999 a
World Wide Web-enabled database on the rural disabled
located at the following location:
FAO observed the 1998 International Day of Disabled
Persons, on 3 December, with a seminar in cooperation with
the Italian Red Cross on the theme “Anti-personnel mines:
a major cause of handicaps; what can we do about it?”. The
International Civil Aviation Organization continues
development of international standards and recommended
practices, which address accessibility by persons with
disabilities in all aspects of the air transport chain. The
standards require contracting States to take all necessary steps
to ensure that persons with disabilities have adequate access
to all air services. The International Labour Organization
reports that an emerging area of concern is rapid responses
to employment needs of persons with disabilities in countries
emerging from armed conflict. The ILO code of practice on
the management of disability-related issues in the workplace,
scheduled for completion by 2000, combines all areas of ILO
action on disability issues and provides guidance on effective
management concerning disability issues. In connection with
preparations for the upcoming global conference on the theme
“Education for all: assessment 2000”, the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
will include a thematic study entitled “inclusive education”
to highlight developments worldwide over the past 10 years
with respect to the participation of disabled learners in
education. The disability and rehabilitation programme of the
World Health Organization (WHO) reports special attention
is directed to low-income countries in its global disability and
rehabilitation activities. WHO established in 1998 a global
network for monitoring disability issues and trends in
rehabilitation. During 1998,WHO initiated cooperation with
the Special Rapporteur on disability of the Commission for
Social Development to collect information for monitoring the
implementation of four of the Standard Rules—medical care,
rehabilitation, support services and personnel training. WHO
circulated for comments during 1999 its draft “policy on
disability” that addresses medical and social aspects of
14. TheWorld Bank reports that it has identified a total of
11 ongoing projects, as well as several others in the pipeline,
that directly benefit persons with disabilities, and is currently
preparing a brochure on this topic for public distribution. A
major goal of the World Bank is to raise the quality and
quantity of Bank products serving persons with disabilities,
which is to include strengthening the link between the United
Nations Standard Rules and the poverty alleviation mission
of the Bank.
15. Inter-agency cooperation during the period under
review was task-based and involved projects of interest to
selected programmes and specialized agencies of the United handicapped. International and regional WBU leaders have
Nation system. For instance, UNICEF and WHO report been contributing to the implementation of the Asian and
co-sponsoring training workshops for East and West Africa Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002). The World
(Zimbabwe and Benin, respectively) on community-based Federation of the Deafblind was established in 1997 with the
rehabilitation. UNICEF and UNESCO collaborated in the objective of advancing the rights of deafblind persons at the
organization of an international consultation on “Early international level. Information is disseminated through
childhood education and special educational needs”. ILO, publication of The International Newsletter of the Deafblind.
UNESCO, UNICEF and WHO co-sponsored a Central Asia As a result of its promotional efforts, the World Federation
subregional seminar on the theme “Multi-sectoral reports increased interest in deafblind issues; for instance
collaboration for equalization of opportunities for persons several Latin American countries have formed national
with disabilities” at Bukhara, Uzbekistan. organizations. TheWorld Federation is scheduled to hold its
16. The International Initiative Against Avoidable
Disability (IMPACT) is a joint initiative and continues under
co-sponsorship of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), WHO and UNICEF. IMPACT reports
that its current priorities include: immunization in areas of
low coverage; control of disabling consequences of micro- 19. The Open-ended International Working Group on
nutrient deficiency; safe motherhood initiatives, including the Disability and Development represents a hybrid form of
training of traditional birth attendants; early identification, cooperation between the non-governmental community,
treatment and curative interventions; and research on the link bilateral donor agencies and interested international
between disability and ageing. organizations. TheWorking Group was established following
17. On 15 and 16 June 1999, UNDP convened at Geneva
an inter-agency consultation on disability, with
representatives of selected United Nations programmes and
specialized agencies, the World Bank and the Special
Rapporteur on disability of the Commission for Social
Development. However, a report on the proceedings and the
results of the consultation have yet to be issued.
C. Activities of non-governmental
18. Inclusion International, which is concerned with
intellectual disability issues, supports its membership by
focusing on human rights issues, organizing seminars and
conferences in developing countries, and promoting
information exchanges. Inclusion International
representatives participated in discussions on the design of
policies on bio-ethical concerns, family support, inclusive
education, employment and health promotion. The
International Disability Foundation (IDF) reports that its
advocacy and action programme directs special attention to
increase awareness and support for implementation of the
United Nations Standard Rules in developing countries. IDF
used the occasion of the 1998 observance of the International
Day of Disabled Persons to launch its World Disability
Report. The World Blind Union (WBU) is developing
strategic options to address the full spectrum of blindness,
such as youth, blind women, the elderly and the multiple
first General Assembly in 2001, in connection with the sixth
Helen KellerWorld Conference on the Deafblind. The World
Federation of the Deaf cooperated substantively with a
number of international organizations, including the UNDP
assistive technology project.
the 1997 Global Workshop on Children with Disabilities in
Developing Countries (Washington, D.C., 5-7 February
1997), which was co-financed by the United Nations
Voluntary Fund on Disability. The Division for Social Polic3 y
and Development represents the Department of Economic and
Social Affairs in meetings of the Working Group and
provided a venue for its spring 1998 meeting. UNESCO
provided the venue for the April 1999 meeting of theWorking
III. International norms and standards
related to persons with disabilities
20. The third quinquennial review and appraisal of
implementation of the World Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons (A/52/351) discussed the
emergence of awareness of a broad human rights framework
to promote the social, economic and cultural rights as well as
the civil and political rights of persons with disabilities. The
broad human rights framework for persons with disabilities
draws upon the considerable body of international norms and
standards in the social, economic, cultural, civil, and political
fields, and reflects international concern with development
agenda that are participatory and inclusive and contribute to
improved well being and livelihoods for all.4 Inclusion of the
human rights of persons with disabilities as specific policy
concerns, in such documents as the Vienna Declaration and
Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on with Disabilities (Santo Domingo, 13-18 April 1998). Jaime
Human Rights, the Copenhagen Declaration on Social David Fernández, Vice-President of the Dominican Republic5 ,
Development and Programme of Action of the World Summit opened the seminar, which provided a forum for a wide range
for Social Development,6 and the Beijing Declaration and of interested communities to share experience and formulate
Platformfor Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference action plans to promote equalization of opportunities by, for
onWomen7 reflect international recognition of a broad human and with persons with disabilities. As a follow-up, the
rights approach to advance the status of persons with international consultant team for the seminar recently
disabilities in mainstream development. published on the Internet an English version of the substantive
21. There is growing recognition in contemporary
international law that States should incorporate international
norms and standards in their national legislation. While means
chosen to promote full realization of economic, social and
cultural rights of persons with disabilities will differ from one 24. As a means to identify priorities for research and action
country to another, data suggest that there is no country in to further implement international norms and standards
which a major policy or programme effort is not required. The concerning persons with disabilities, Boalt Hall School of
obligation of States Parties to international legal instruments Law of the University of California at Berkeley, in
to promote progressive realization of relevant rights to the cooperationwith theWorld Institute on Disability, organized
maximum of their available resources requires Governments an international expert meeting on international norms and
to do more than simply abstain from taking measures that standards relating to disability (Berkeley, 8-12 December
might have a negative impact on persons with disabilities. 1998). The meeting brought together leading experts in law
22. The Charter of the United Nations identifies
fundamental obligations of Member States to ensure respect
of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. While not
legally binding, there are in addition a number of general
conventions and recommendations and disability-specific
international instruments8 that are applicable to policies,
programmes and legislation to promote the rights of persons
with disabilities. The broad human rights approach to
disability, therefore, takes the view of advancing the rights
and well being of all people, regardless of disabilities, 25. In the light of the interest expressed by Governments,
through promotion of implementation of general and the non-governmental community, academic institutes and
disability-specific international instruments that encompass professional societies in international norms and standards
civil and political to economic, social and cultural rights for concerning persons with disabilities, the Division for Social
all. Policy and Development recently published on the
Recent activities
23. A significant initiative in promoting awareness and
building national capacities for broad human rights
approaches to persons with disabilities was taken in April
1998 by the Government of the Dominican Republic, in
cooperation with members of the non-governmental
community. The Government was assisted substantively by
Disabled Peoples International (DPI), an international nongovernmental
organization.With the able participation of the
Dominican Association of Disabled Persons (FENDID) and
the Dominican Association for Rehabilitation (ADR), DPI
planned and organized a seminar for Central America and the
Spanish-speaking Caribbean on training of trainers in
monitoring the implementation of the United Nations
Standard Rules for Equalization ofOpportunities for Persons
seminar presentations (http://www. worldenable.net) and
established an on-line forum for discussions on promotion and
monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules
(http://www. worldenable. net/ srdiscuss).
and disability policy, representing all regions and legal
systems, to review and discuss issues and trends related to the
application of international norms and standards in the design
of disability-sensitive legislation and policy options. Meeting
participants formulated recommendations on research, policy
options and technical guidelines to assist interested parties
— governmental and non-governmental — in improving
national legal and policy frameworks to further equalize
opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities.10
Internet a draft compilation of international norms
and standards relating to disability (http://www.un.org/esa/
socdev/discom00.htm. The compilation provides a brief
introduction, concise guidance and references to international
instruments, norms and standards concerning persons with
disabilities adopted by competent intergovernmental bodies
of the United Nations system and other regional systems. The
draft compilation was published on the Internet because its
size — 300 pages in draft — made wide distribution
impractical. Internet publication has contributed to
substantive dialogue among interested communities on
policies, legislation and programmes concerning persons with
disabilities, which in turn has added to its value as resource
for interested Governments and other parties to use and
26. Experience to date suggests that as a result of audience. The Manual, published in 1996 in English, has
consultation, interpretation and implementation of the vast since been published in Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish and
existing body of international norms and standards concerning Russian.
persons with disabilities by interested bodies and
organizations — governmental and non-governmental — a
new set of communities of disability-sensitized policymakers,
programme specialists, academics and advocates has
emerged. Together, they are contributing to a process of
promoting and developing international norms and standards
that are universally applicable and would thereby further the
advancement of the rights of all.
IV. Data and statistics concerning
persons with disabilities
A. Activities of the United Nations Statistics
27. In paragraph 5 of its resolution 52/82, the General
Assembly requested Governments to cooperate with the
United Nations Statistics Division to improve statistics and
indicators on disability. Implementation and monitoring of the
World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons as
well as the Standard Rules on the Equalization of
Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities place great
demands on countries and international organizations for the
development of data and statistics. Knowing the numbers of
persons with disabilities in a country and monitoring equality
of opportunity and achievements made in terms of economic,
social, political and cultural rights requires an enormous
amount of current and reliable data.11
28. One major set of activities concerns the improvement
of statistical concepts, methods and data-collection
programmes. The key initiative in the Division’s
methodological work during 1998-1999 is the preparation of
the guidelines and principles for the development of
impairment, disability and handicap statistics. This
publication is directed to statistical offices and research
organizations, and provides guidelines on the collection of
impairment, disability and handicap (IDH) statistics in
national censuses and surveys, and their analysis and
dissemination for policy purposes. Preparation of the
handbook has been supported by the Central Bureau of
Statistics of the Netherlands, the Swedish International
Development Agency (SIDA) and the United Nations
Voluntary Fund on Disability. The expected publication date
is mid-2000. The document complements the Manual for the
Development of Statistical Information for Disability
Programmes and Policies, which is aimed at a wide12 r
29. Disability was also included as a topic for the first time
in the revision of the Principles and Recommendations for
Population and Housing Censuses.13 ThePrinciples and
Recommendations were published in English in 1998 and
subsequently in Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish and
30. The Statistics Division is cooperating with WHO in the
development and testing of the International Classification
of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps — Beta-2
(ICIDH-2).14 It also is working with the United States
National Center for Health Statistics to develop standard
procedures for coding disability data to the ICIDH-2.
31. The second principal set of activities concerns the
compilation and dissemination of statistical data on disability
to make these available to a wide set of users. A first output
will be a Web site on the United Nations Statistics Division
home page on the Internet (http://www.un.org/Depts/unsd),
containing statistics on national prevalence of disability by
sex and age, scheduled for publication before the end of 1999.
The data are part of the Disability Statistics Database
(DISTAT), version 2, which is currently being prepared.
DISTAT, version 2, includes data from over 100 countries,
up from 55 in the previous version, and about 186 studies,
more than double those in DISTAT, version 1. Given new
developments in database software, DISTAT 2 is a more
flexible system than the previous version. The next phase of
work on DISTAT 2 will involve developing dissemination
plans and data checking. It will begin late in 1999 once the
Internet site is completed. This work has been supported by
SIDA and the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability,
and has been undertaken in cooperation with the Disability
Unit of the Division for Social Policy and Development.
B. Selected activities of non-governmental
32. As part of the follow-up to theWorld Summit for Social
Development, the Danish Council of Organizations of
Disabled People (DSI) commissioned in 1995 the Institute
of Political Science at Aarhus University to develop an index
through which implementation of the United Nations Standard
Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with
Disabilities could be monitored. The project was funded by
the Danish Development Agency, Danida. The index consists
of 25 questions about the 22 Rules. Because so much
importance is given to access (Rule V), education (Rule VI) maintenance work, which is being accomplished through
and employment (Rule VII), two questions are included on regular maintenance staff. Certain items are to be corrected
each of these. Each question is to be answered by rating the as renovations occur. One example is door hardware:
degree of fulfilment on a scale from 0 to 6, with a maximum conventional door knobs are replaced with lever hardware
possible score of 150 points. By adding all 25 scores and when office renovations are scheduled. Should the long-term
dividing the total by 1.5, a country’s result is obtained. As capital master plan proceed or in the course of future largereported
in Disability’99: The World Disability Report, scale renovations in general, entire areas will be taken out 15 of
published by the International Disability Foundation, statistics service for improvements to all services, including sprinklers,
from 46 countries have been analysed by the University of fire alarms, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning, lighting
Aarhus. Their findings indicate that just over half of the replacements, information cabling and any safety corrections.
surveys in support of the index have been conducted in During the course of the renovation work, remaining
“industrialized countries” and 25 per cent are from accessibility deficiencies will also be corrected in each area.
developing countries, which suggests strong global awareness Accessibility requirements also form a constituent standard
of the human rights of persons with disabilities.16 in the design of building infrastructure replacements. Work
V. Accessibility at United Nations
33. In paragraph 9 of its resolution 52/82, the General
Assembly requested the Secretary-General to develop a plan
to increase the accessibility of the United Nations, its offices
and meetings. In cooperation with the Department of
Economic and Social Affairs, the Department of Management
of the United Nations Secretariat reconvened the Task Force
on Accessibility at United Nations Headquarters. Also
participating in Task Force meetings were representatives of
the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference
Services, the Department of Public Information, the Office
ofHuman Resources Management and the Office of Central
Support Services.
34. A new perspective on accessibility at United Nations
Headquarters in New York is provided by the preparation of
a long-term capital master plan by the Office of Central
Support Services. The intent of the plan is to prepare a
coherent programme of physical improvements required over
a 25-year period to bring United Nations facilities into
conformance with relevant building codes and standards as
well as to allow for cost-effective operations and support of
the needs of various building users. The plan focuses on the
immediate United Nations Headquarters complex and the
United Nations Institute for Training and Research
(UNITAR) building in New York. Findings from the initial
phase of the plan (overview report and conditions assessment)
indicate that the United Nations Secretariat has achieved a
modest level of physical accessibility either through service
policy or through physical changes, partly because of the
generous spaces of the original buildings. Work remaining
to be done to achieve more accessible facility falls in several
categories. For instance, many remaining items are essentially
expected to be performed under the plan includes an
accessible entry to the Dag Hammarskjöld Library at 42nd
Street, improved accessibility to the conference rooms, and
the addition of accessible toilet facilities in areas where this
requires significant construction. As a result of discussions
of the Task Force, the issue of improving accessibility within
the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and between the Library and
the remainder of the United Nations Secretariat complex may
be prioritized in advance of implementation of the plan.
35. As in many existing buildings, at United Nations
Headquarters there are several accessibility conditions that
cannot be ameliorated through physical alterations but which
must be addressed by the use of technology. The most direct
example is the interpreter booths, which by their very purpose
overlook conference rooms. The booths are small and are
generally reached through stairways and comparatively
narrow corridors. Should a wheelchair user be employed as
an interpreter or should a current interpreter become
wheelchair-bound, the physical setting of interpreter booths
poses a significant barrier to employment. In the present
configuration of the conference rooms, rebuilding to alleviate
this condition would require a complete rebuilding of the
entire conferencing facilities. However, technological
advances in interpretation equipment mean that new
interpretation areas, constructed as part of the implementation
of the long-term capital master plan, could be made accessible
and thus would permit barrier-free interpretation in any
conference room at United Nations Headquarters or
elsewhere. Although existing buildings may present
apparently unsolvable physical accessibility problems,
technology rather than major reconstruction may present the
best total solution to improved accessibility.
36. Task Force meetings also discussed issues related to
information technologies to promote accessibility for persons
with disabilities within and outside the United Nations
37. The meetings noted that accessibility is a means and an
end of the goals of full participation of persons with
disabilities and equality. Accessible information and physical
environments reflect as well the fundamental concern of the
Organization with equality and the entitlement to human
rights for all.
VI. United Nations Voluntary Fund on
38. The Fund became operational in 1980, in connection
with the 1981 observance of the International Year of
Disabled Persons, and its resources have since supported
catalytic and innovative action to further implement the World
Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. By its
resolution 52/82, the General Assembly identified three
priorities for action to further the equalization of
opportunities for persons with disabilities, which have guided
activities of the Fund for the biennium 1998-1999. During
the 20-month period up to 31 August 1999, the Fund
provided nearly US$ 1 million to 35 disability- related
projects. Full details are set out in an addendum to the
present report.
See Economic and Social Council, Official Records, 1 1999,
Supplement No. 7 (E/1999/27), chap. I.
2 Report of the United Nations Conference on Human
Settlements (Habitat II), Istanbul, 3-14 June 1996 (United
Nations publication, Sales No. E.97.IV.6), chap. I,
resolution 1, annex II.
3 The report of the workshop is available at:
4 See “Overview of international legal frameworks for
disability legislation (August 1998)”, at:
5 Report of the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna,
14-25 June 1993 (A/CONF.157/24 (Part I)), chap. III.
6 Report of the World Summit for Social Development,
Copenhagen, 6-12 March 1995 (United Nations
publication, Sales No. E.96.IV.8) chap. I, resolution 1,
annexes I and II.
7 Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing,
4-15 September 1995 (United Nations publication, Sales
No. E.96.IV.13), chap. I, resolution 1, annexes I and II.
8 General, universal and international human rights
instruments include the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (General Assembly resolution 217 A (III)), the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(General Assembly resolution 2200 (XXI)) and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (General Assembly resolution 2200 A (XXI)).
Disability-specific international instruments that address the
rights and status of persons with disabilities have been
adopted as declarations, resolutions and guidelines by the
United Nations General Assembly and include the
Declaration of the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons
(General Assembly resolution 2856 (XXVI)), Declaration
on the Rights of Disabled Persons (General Assembly
resolution 3447 (XXVI)), World Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons (adopted by the General
Assembly in its resolution 37/52), the Tallinn Guidelines for
Action on Human Resources Development in the Field of
Disability (General Assembly resolution 44/70), annex, the
Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness
(General Assembly resolution 46/119) and the Standard
Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with
Disabilities (General Assembly resolution 48/96, annex).
9 The report of the seminar is available, in Spanish, at:
10 The report of the expert meeting is available at:
11 The need for conceptual and methodological work on data
and statistics concerning persons with disabilities is
suggested by the discussion on data collection and
development of indicators in the social and economic
sectors, which notes that sample surveys and qualitative
studies are not always large enough to provide reliable
estimates on indicators or such characteristics as disability
that affect a very small proportion of the population (see
E/1999/11, para. 20 (b)).
12 United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.XVII.4.
13 ST/ESA/STAT/SER.M/67/Rev.1.
14 ICIDH-2, at: http://www.who.int/icidh.
15 London, The Winchester Group for the International
Disability Foundation, 1999.
16 See ibid. pp. 19-20; see also “Rating the rules”, by
H. Kallehauge, President of the Danish Association of Polio
and Accident Victims, at: http://www.dpi.org/rating.html.