Media Advisory – Statement from 2nd Consultation on the Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities

We note that the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a core human rights treaty that all ASEAN states have signed and/or ratified. We therefore believe that it is important for Singapore to be a leader within the ASEAN family by upholding the values and obligations of the CRPD. In the spirit of greater participation and civic involvement, MARUAH, as a group focusing on the mainstreaming of human rights, and our main partner, the Disabled People’s Association (DPA) organised a consultation in February 2012 on areas where more can be done to support the rights of persons with disabilities in Singapore.

This consultation process involved persons with disabilities, including persons with sensory disabilities and physical disabilities, as well as other concerned members of the public. Following this consultation, MARUAH and DPA formulated a position paper and met with the Ministry Of Community Development, Youth and Sports [now known as the Ministry of Social and Family Development] (MSF) to highlight areas where improvements can be made to better fulfil the letter and spirit of the CRPD.

We, the participants of the 2nd consultation on the CRPD held on 1st December 2012, organised by MARUAH and DPA, would like to make the following points in this public statement.

1. We applaud the Singapore Government’s signing of the CRPD. The CRPD is an international human rights instrument of the UN intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

2. We note the State’s Obligation under the CRPD to promote, protect, respect and fulfil the full enjoyment of human rights for persons with disabilities and ensure that they enjoy full equality under the law.

3. We acknowledge that the State has made significant improvements – recently in the 2012 Budget and the launch of the Enabling Masterplan (2012-16) – and welcome the commitment shown by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and its predecessor, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

4. We hope that both the CRPD and Enabling Masterplan are instruments that will enable persons with disabilities to become empowered, independent and recognised as integral and contributing members to society.

5. We urge the MSF to be transparent and inclusive in its processes to enhance the lives of people with disabilities, especially in its information gathering approaches and in how information is used and disseminated.

6. Advocacy-oriented civil society groups and service providers play a crucial role in implementing the CRPD. We ask for greater collaborative efforts and dialogues with the various Ministries, statutory boards and the National Council of Social Services as we all together seek to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Singapore. We believe it is the moral duty for both the community of people living with disabilities to own the process for themselves and also for community as a whole to participate in this effort fully.

7. As we go forward in this journey to further improve the lives of people with disabilities, we highlight the following areas as our concerns:-

(i) Definition
The CRPD does not explicitly define disability but we note that its Preamble recognises that “disability is an evolving concept, and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” We also urge that persons suffering from any form of mental illness be recognised as having disabilities and due processes of protection be accorded them.

(ii) Accessibility Rights (Article 19)
The CRPD defines the rights of persons with disabilities to have accessibility to transport, infrastructure, information, and services as a means to live, work and play more independently and be included in society as a whole. We urge the government to fulfil this obligation fully.

(iii) Right to Education (Article 24)
We register our disappointment that though the Enabling Masterplan (2012-2016) is an instrument designed to ensure that all children have access to education, we still have not protected children with disabilities, by providing them the legal rights to be educated. We hope children with disabilities will soon be included under the Compulsory Education Act. We ask for a review of the current provisions and hope that opportunities and access to education – including enrichment programmes – are offered to children with disabilities. We ask for special attention to make all educational institutions fully accessible to everyone.

(iv) Employment Rights (Article 27)
We are concerned at the employment rates among persons with disabilities. We urge the government to do more, offer deeper incentives for employers and to put into effect an anti-discrimination law that will protect any person from being marginalised.

(v) Participation in political and public life, and cultural life, recreation and sport (Articles 29 and 30)
We urge the Government as part of its State Obligation under the CRPD to create opportunities for persons with disabilities to enter public life, raise awareness of their human rights and also that Singapore will have more persons with disabilities in public life.

(vi) We urge the government to undertake sustainable Comprehensive Public Education in our society so that we enable a paradigm shift in the mindset of the community towards people with disabilities, seeing them as fellow citizens with equal rights rather than objects of charity.

8. We acknowledge that persons with disabilities may incur necessary expenses for their daily life activities. We recognise a disparity in the application of means-testing to persons with disabilities versus able-bodied persons. We ask the government to equalise the treatment for all persons and urge the government to work towards offsetting these necessary expenses for persons with disabilities.

9. We note that the government has placed reservations on some clauses of the CRPD. These reservations should be made public and we ask the government to have consultations on the rationale for the reservations.

10. We know that many of the above recommendations and concerns raised are not new. We urge the government and other stakeholders to take steps to make it right for our fellow persons with disabilities to full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, affecting their inherent dignity. We understand that this process takes time, but are also aware of the urgency of the task.

11. We also ask the government to ratify the Optional Protocol in the interests of greater accountability.

12. In conclusion, we once again applaud the government on its decision to ratify the CRPD and welcome the willingness of MSF to dialogue with civil society groups. We look forward to additional public discussions between the people and the government. Thanks are due to all who have participated in our dialogues to produce this document that reflects the views of those with disabilities and others who care. We hope the changes that we seek will be implemented, and look forward to contributing to the larger process of protecting and empowering the inherent human rights of those who are often marginalised and not as able to have their voices heard.

This statement is issued on behalf of the participants of the consultation by -

Braema Mathi
President
MARUAH
Marissa Lee Medjeral
Executive Director
Disabled People’s Association
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