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Communications of the ACM

Broadening participation

The Impact of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Impact of the United Nations Convention, illustration

Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international treaty that outlines the rights of persons with disabilities and how nations who sign and ratify the convention should ensure those rights. The CRPD with its Optional Protocol were adopted in on December 13, 2006. To date, 158 countries signed and 138 have ratified the convention. According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately one billion people in the world who have a disability of one kind or another. A disability may be congenital or happen during life through wars, accidents, diseases, and even life-saving medical procedures. Everyone who becomes old tends to become disabled. There was a time, and it is still the case in some parts of the world, when those with disabilities were hidden away and considered to be a burden on society. Over time there has been a realization that disability is just another dimension in the diversity of human life and that people with disabilities deserve the same human rights and dignity that those without a disability have. The CRPD is an attempt to codify those rights and delineate how they might be achieved.

In this column, I focus on two ideas in the CRPD that speak to us as computer professionals:

  • What the CRPD says about technology for people with disabilities.
  • What the CRPD says about including people with disabilities in the technology workforce.


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