Rights concerning both our homes and the families we desire to pursue are included in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The more than 100 nations that have ratified the Convention have very clearly stated they will support these rights, while nations such as America that have signed the CRPD but have yet to ratify it have stated they will promote our rights in these areas. The importance of not only the Convention, but all of the rights within it, cannot be overstated.
The rights concerning our homes and family are presented in Article 23, and the Convention begins by saying, "States Parties shall take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships, on an equal basis with others."
What this means to you, as a person with disabilities, is that you have the same right to relationships with others as non-disabled persons. You have the right to a family life that should be respected. It means that the experience of a disability itself cannot be used as grounds for interference by the State, or for the denial of the opportunity to have a relationship with another person.
Nearly half of all parents who experience a form of learning disability have their children taken away and placed into care elsewhere by social services departments - an astonishing fact. Before this is ever done, social service departments should provide supports to the parents with disabilities, according to the CRPD. Children must not be taken away from parents with disabilities simply because the parents do experience a form of disability.
The statements in Article 23 in the Convention also mean that people with disabilities are allowed to have gay or lesbian relationships. At times we need support in order to go out and meet people. Support to meet others should be provided despite the beliefs of support workers. The relationships we as people with disabilities choose to pursue are our own and we have every right to pursue them.
The Convention says, "The right of all persons with disabilities who are of marriageable age to marry and to found a family on the basis of free and full consent of the intending spouses is recognized." What this means is that people with disabilities who are legally old enough to marry the person they choose to certainly have the right to do so. It means that if you, as a person with disabilities, desire to start a family - you have the right to do that as well. People with disabilities who are gay or lesbian can now also legally marry in some places in the world.
The CRPD continues to say, "The rights of persons with disabilities to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to age-appropriate information, reproductive and family planning education are recognized, and the means necessary to enable them to exercise these rights are provided."
People who experience forms of disabilities have the right to choose when they want to have children, according to the Convention. We have a right to access information that is appropriate for our age, as well as both reproductive and family planning education. We also have a right to the things that are needed in order for us to exercise our rights in these areas, a very important item to note.
What this means is that we have a right to the supports we need as parents. Governments have to make sure there is no discrimination against us as people with disabilities where laws concerning both adoption and marriage are concerned. Both parents who are straight and parents who are gay or lesbian who experience forms of disabilities have these rights.
The Convention also says, "Persons with disabilities, including children, retain their fertility on an equal basis with others." What this means to you as a person with disabilities is the government must make sure there is no forced sterilization of people with disabilities. It means the government has to provide information that is early and comprehensive, as well as services and supports, to children with disabilities and their families. It means that no child can be separated from their parents based simply on the fact that a parent experiences a form of disability.
The Convention continues to say, "States Parties shall ensure the rights and responsibilities of persons with disabilities, with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship, adoption of children or similar institutions, where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the best interests of the child shall be paramount. States Parties shall render appropriate assistance to persons with disabilities in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities."
When a person with a disability and their partner has a child, the nation they are a part of must recognize not only the rights the parents have, but also the responsibilities they have. Parents with disabilities are guardians; the children they have are their wards. Children of parents with disabilities are in the trust of their parents, so are adopted children of parents with disabilities, and nations that have signed or ratified the CRPD must make sure that parents with disabilities and their rights are respected and upheld.
Nations that have signed or ratified the CRPD must also ensure the rights and safety of children come first - despite the rights of parents with disabilities. What this means to parents with disabilities is they have to pursue the responsibilities associated with parenthood very seriously. Nations that have signed or ratified the CRPD have to make every effort to keep children with parents who experience forms of disabilities through provision of assistance in relation to the raising of their children, prior to any efforts to remove a child from the home of parents with disabilities.
The Convention makes another statement related to children who experience forms of disabilities - it says, "States Parties shall ensure that children with disabilities have equal rights with respect to family life. With a view to realizing these rights, and to prevent concealment, abandonment, neglect and segregation of children with disabilities, States Parties shall undertake to provide early and comprehensive information, services and support to children with disabilities and their families."
The statement above by the CRPD should tell you just how seriously parents with disabilities need to take parental duties. Nations that have signed/ratified the Convention must make sure that children with disabilities have rights that are equivalent with other members of the family, despite ability. Earlier the Convention stated that children's rights must be placed first above all. The statement above is saying nations that have signed/ratified the Convention must ensure the prevention of abandonment, concealment, segregation, and neglect of children with disabilities - whether this occurs on the part of non-disabled persons in society, or due to the parenting of parents with disabilities.
The Convention has also said that nations who have signed or ratified it must provide not only parents with disabilities, but others in society with adequate, early, and comprehensive information and services as well as supports in relation to children with disabilities and their families. The society that exists within a nation that has signed or ratified the Convention must be adequately educated concerning children with disabilities and their families. The same society must be provided with adequate supports for interactions with children who experience forms of disabilities and their family members. What this means is a huge step towards the integration and mainstream involvement of people with disabilities as a whole in societies within nations that have signed or ratified the Convention.
Keeping children with parents who experience forms of disabilities is very clearly a high-priority in the Convention, which says, "States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. In no case shall a child be separated from parents on the basis of a disability of either the child or one or both of the parents."
The goal of the CRPD in Article 23 is very plainly to keep children with parents who experience forms of disabilities, and to prevent governments from taking children away from their parents based simply on the fact that they experience a form of disability. Through the establishment of clear procedures that must be followed for a government to take a child from parents with disabilities, as well as efforts that must be pursued in order to keep a child with its parents, the CRPD presents a solid understanding of the rights parents with disabilities have. The last line in the statement above by the CRPD says it all, "In no case shall a child be separated from parents on the basis of disability of either the child or one or both of the parents."
The Convention is aware that situations occur where a parent or parents with disabilities may be unable to care for their children. The Convention says, "States Parties shall, where the immediate family is unable to care for a child with disabilities, undertake every effort to provide alternative care within the wider family, and failing that, within the community in a family setting."
Private Life, Family Life and Respect
People with disabilities have the right to respect for our private lives, our family lives, our homes, as well as our correspondence with others. We also have the responsibility to respect the rights of other people in society. In our private lives, we have a right to privacy - which means that we have the right to live our lives privately and without government interference as long as we respect the rights of others. Legally, this means we have the right to choose our own lifestyles, our sexual identity, as well as our appearance and the way we choose to dress ourselves.
Our right to a private life also includes who sees or touches our bodies. As an example, this means that public authorities may not do things such as leaving people with disabilities undressed in a busy ward, or take a blood sample without our expressed permission. Our right to a private life also means we have a right to our own personality and the right to develop both friendships and the relationships we choose. We have the right to participate in social, cultural, recreational, and economic activities within our own communities. The right to a private life also means the media and others in society can be prevented from interfering in our lives as individuals with disabilities.
There are; however, some circumstances when public authorities might need to take steps in order to support our rights to a private life, to include our ability to participate in society. Personal information concerning you as an individual with disabilities such as official records, letters, pictures, medical records, or diaries, must be kept securely and remain unshared without your expressed permission; except in certain circumstances.
People with disabilities have the right to enjoy family relationships without interference from the government. Our rights in this area includes the right to live with our family and - if this is not possible, the right to regular contact with our family. 'Family life,' may include situations such as a relationship between a couple that is not married, one between an adopted child and their adoptive parent, or a relationship between a fostered child and their foster parent.
Home and Rights
Unfortunately, housing is not a part of our right to respect for the home, although we do have a right to respect for the homes we do have as people with disabilities. We have a right to live in our homes in peace and without interference from the government. What this means is that public authorities are not to stop you, as a person with a disability, from either entering into or living in your home without a substantial reason. These same public authorities should not enter your home without your expressed permission; whether you are home or not, and whether you own your home or not. There are; however, times when a public authority might need to take actions to allow you to properly enjoy your home, such as when a neighbor becomes too noisy and disrupts you.
The correspondence you have with others as a person with disabilities is something that should be kept confidential and is not to be interfered with. Correspondence covers communications through the telephone, letters, email, or through fax machines. Governments who have signed or ratified the Convention are not to interfere with your correspondence.
There are certain situations where the government of a nation may interfere with your correspondence and your right to a private home and family life. The situations are only possible when an authority is able to show that its action has an appropriate basis in existing law and is necessary and, 'proportionate,' in order to protect things such as:
A, 'proportionate,' response to a problem is one that is no more than is needed. It is appropriate and is not excessive considering the circumstances.