The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the “Convention”) came into force more than ten years ago and has been ratified by all European Union Member States (MS) and the European Union (EU) itself. The Convention reflects a paradigm shift from a medical approach to a rights-based approach, where equality should be at the centre of legislation, policies and practices affecting persons with disabilities. This is made clear from the outset of the Convention, which states that its purpose is “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”. As guiding principles of the Convention, inherent dignity, individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons are reflected throughout the text. Article 12 of the Convention is premised on these general principles and operationalises them by setting out that States Parties shall recognise that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life (this has been referred to as the “right to legal capacity”). From a human rights perspective, legal capacity – the right to make choices and be recognised before the law – is key to ensuring autonomy and inclusion for persons with disabilities, as well as equal dignity.

Author M.H.E