The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently adopted its General Comment N°5 on Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on living independently and being included in the community.
Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community, with the freedom to choose and control their lives. States parties (countries who have ratified the Convention) must ensure the full enjoyment of this right by enabling persons with disabilities to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live, and not oblige them to live in a particular living arrangement; make available a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community; and ensure that the community services and facilities for the general population are equally accessible and responsive to the needs of persons with disabilities.
The UN Committee states it had observed implementation gaps and misconceptions about the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community. In order to address those concerns, the Committee set out to clarify the content of Article 19 through its General Comment N°5. General Comment N° 5 provides guidance to countries in fulfilling their obligations under Article 19 of the Convention by providing an interpretative definition of the right to independent living and other key concepts such as “being included in the community”, “independent living arrangements”, “personal assistance” and others. It also elaborates on the core obligations of States parties and the measures required to replace any institutionalized settings with independent living support services, and to repeal or reform discriminatory policies, laws and practices that prevent persons with disabilities from living independently and participating in the community.
The adoption of this General Comment was an important achievement as Article 19 is central to the Convention. It provides States parties – including Canada – with much needed guidance for the realization of the right to independent living, and particularly clarifies that the institutionalization of persons with disabilities is not in compliance with Article 19 of the CRPD.