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Norway needs to bridge disability rights implementation gap

GENEVA / OSLO (11 October 2019) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas, has commended the Norwegian Government for its comprehensive social protection system and for providing education in regular schools to the majority of children with disabilities.

“I noted the commitment and political will to include people with disabilities in Norway, which is reflected in legislation and policies in areas such as education, social protection, healthcare and universal design to ensure that people with disabilities can access products and buildings,” Devandas said, presenting a statement at the end of a visit to the country.

“However, I also noted a disconnection between this commitment and everyday implementation in practice at the county and municipal levels, with the availability and quality of services varying considerably depending on where a person lives. Access to culturally sensitive services is also a concern for Sámi community members with disabilities,” she said.

Devandas called for more progress in giving people with disabilities full citizenship rights. “Legislation and practice need to change to ensure that people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities can get support to make their own decisions, and to have them respected,” she said.

During her visit, the UN expert noted the extensive use of coercion in mental health and social care services, including involuntary medication, and received several related complaints.

"Instead of focusing on regulating coercion, I urge the Government to invest in non-coercive responses that are respectful of the will, preferences and integrity of the person, in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” Devandas said.

The Special Rapporteur stressed that further efforts were now needed to make the physical environment, the transport system, schools, and private buildings that were open to the public accessible to the full range of people with disabilities.

Devandas will present a detailed report of her findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in March 2020.

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