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Youthink! Teacher Module: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Overview and Objectives: Students will be introduced to the international convention which sets forth the rights of people with disabilities (PwD). Through examining this (primary source) document, students will learn about the rights of PwD and the obligations of states to protect those rights, as well as the obligations of states to take active measures to create an enabling and prejudice-free environment. This exercise will also shed light on the evolution that has taken place in thinking about disability. Students will be asked to respond to a set of four questions.

Related Issue: Disabilities

Level: Upper (15-18 yrs)

Subject: Government and Citizenship

Learning Activity: Research

Learning Tool: Quiz


Step 1:
Display or distribute copies of the Convention.

Explain to students that the convention is an international treaty that promotes and protects the rights of persons with disabilities. Ask students to review the convention and to answer the following questions:

1. What rights does the treaty protect? List at least 10.


  • Equality before the law without discrimination
  • Right to life, liberty and security of the person
  • Equal recognition before the law and legal capacity
  • Freedom from torture
  • Freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse
  • Right to respect physical and mental integrity
  • Freedom of movement and nationality
  • Right to live in the community
  • Freedom of expression and opinion
  • Respect for privacy
  • Respect for home and the family
  • Right to education
  • Right to health
  • Right to work
  • Right to an adequate standard of living
  • Right to participate in political and public life
  • Right to participate in cultural life

Note that the convention does not establish any new rights. All the rights covered by the convention are already enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the convention does set out more clearly the obligations of states to not only promote and protect the human rights of PwDs, but to proactively create an “enabling” and prejudice-free environment.

2. Which article calls upon states to combat stereotypes and prejudice and to promote awareness of the capacities of persons with disabilities?

Article 8

3. Are the terms disability and disabled defined in the convention? Look particularly at Article 2 on Definitions, and line ‘E” of the Preamble.

No, the terms are not defined outright. Defining these terms has turned out to be quite a complex and controversial undertaking. In earlier times, people with disabilities (PwD) were referred to as ‘handicapped’ because they were viewed from the perspective of what they could not do. The evolved thinking and understanding of today sees disability as the intersection between a person’s difficulty (as a result of a physical, cognitive, sensory, or mental impairment) and their environment, which may or may not accommodate them, and the attitudes of the individuals and society around them. Think about the dramatic difference that a simple pair of glasses, a ramp, an individualized learning plan, or a welcoming unprejudiced attitude from a classmate can make in the life of a person with a difficulty. So the focus has shifted away from what PwD cannot do, to what governments, individuals, and society can do to remove obstacles so that opportunities are equalized, so that people with disabilities can live the most fulfilling, productive, and prosperous lives possible. The convention also goes a far way in mainstreaming disability by pointing out that disability is often just part of the human experience, and that almost everyone will experience limitations and/or restrictions due to impairments within the course of their lifetime, especially as we age.

4. What preceding documents is this convention based upon? See line “f” of the Preamble.

The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (1981) and the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993)

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