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first-ever internat. rights treaty for disabled

Meeting on first-ever international rights treaty for disabled persons opens at UN

Pledging to complete a full draft of a first-ever international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities, the General Assembly committee charged with that task opened a marathon three-week meeting at United Nations headquarters today.

The draft Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities deals with such issues such as physical access to public facilities, the right to life and non-discrimination for persons with disabilities, liberty of movement, awareness regarding disability, equal recognition before the law, independent living and inclusion in the community.

During its session, which is scheduled to conclude on 3 February, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Convention is expected to review a 34-article text proposed by the Committee’s Chairman, Don MacKay of New Zealand.

Addressing participants today, Mr. MacKay said that, in fact, the General Assembly had authorized a longer session for the meeting based on the expectation that it would complete a full reading of the working text.

Given that the session would last 15 days and that the draft convention contained 34 articles, the Committee would have about two hours to discuss each article, he noted.

To keep visually-impaired participants on the same page in that quick pace the Committee had for the first time a direct-to-Braille printer at its disposal, which was donated last week to the UN by the United States-based non-governmental organization (NGO) Services for the Visually Impaired.

Already, at today’s opening, Braille copies of the proposed text were available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Braille versions of the position papers of the European Union and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights were being printed in English, since the digital text was submitted in that language.

Beside national delegations, some 500 representatives of disability NGOs are expected to attend the session.

There are about 10 visually-impaired NGO representatives, with around 12 members of country delegations in need of the Braille text, according to the Ad Hoc Committee.

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