Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international treaty that identifies the rights of persons with disabilities as well as the obligations on States parties to the Convention to promote, protect and ensure those rights.  The Convention also establishes two implementation mechanisms: the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, established to monitor implementation, and the Conference of States Parties, established to consider matters regarding implementation.

What is disability and who are persons with disabilities?

The term persons with disabilities is used to apply to all persons with disabilities including those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various attitudinal and environmental barriers, hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. However, this minimum list of persons who may claim protection under the Convention does not exhaust the categories of the disabilities which fall within the it nor intend to undermine or stand in the way of wider definition of disabilities under national law (such as persons with short-term disabilities). It is also important to note that a person with disabilities may be regarded as a person with a disability in one society or setting, but not in another, depending on the role that the person is assumed to take in his or her community. The perception and reality of disability also depend on the technologies, assistance and services available, as well as on cultural considerations.

Do I have to disclose my disability to potential employers or interviewers?

In a simple word ‘no’. You are under no obligation to disclose anything about your disability to anybody. You may, however, choose to disclose as you will then be protected by the Equality Act 2010 and can also discuss any reasonable adjustments or support you may need from the moment you disclose. If you do not disclose a disability and your performance is affected by your disability and lack of adjustments, leading to rejection at recruitment stage or dismissal from a job at a later date, you will not be retrospectively covered by the EA. If you have epilepsy it is important to note the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) requires that both employers and employees declare factors which might prejudice the safety of employees and epilepsy is regarded as a relevant factor. A failure to declare can result in instant dismissal which would not be considered unfair if brought before an industrial tribunal.

What is the Optional Protocol to the Convention?

The Optional Protocol is also an international treaty.  The Optional Protocol establishes two procedures aimed at strengthening the implementation and monitoring of the Convention.  The first is an individual communications procedure allowing individuals to bring petitions to the Committee claiming breaches of their rights; the second is an inquiry procedure giving the Committee authority to undertake inquiries of grave or systematic violations of the Convention.

What has the UN done for persons with disabilities?

During its first three decades, the United Nations moved from a welfare perspective on disability to a development and human rights perspective. This approach was promoted during the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981 and embodied in the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons adopted in 1982. This approach was further development during the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992) and led the adoption of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in 1994. It is widely agreed that, since its adoption, the application of the principles expressed in the Standard Rules has greatly contributed to the diffusion of best practices on equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities. In 1992, the United Nations proclaimed 3 December of each year as International Day of Disabled Persons with the aim of promoting a better understanding about disability issues and increasing awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities.

If I do disclose my disability does that mean everyone will know and see me as different?

Disclosure of disability is confidential information. The only people who should know about this are those you choose to tell. It may be that you tell HR or recruiters or your line manager, and ask for it to go no further. Your colleagues should not be told unless you wish to tell them.

If you have a visible disability or have obvious reasonable adjustments colleagues may realise but how much or how little you choose to discuss is up to you. In these cases it may be worth considering openness. However, once adjustment information has been shared, you should then get on with the job and be viewed as a colleague like any other, judged on your ability not your disability.

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