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Professor Lin Chao-Yin on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Human Rights Protection Committee of the Control Yuan invited Dr. Lin Chao-Yin, Associate Professor at the Department of Social Works at National Taipei University, to talk about the implications behind the articles in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), as well as the promotion and protection of the rights of people with disabilities. Among the members of the audience was Vice President and Convener of the Human Rights Protection Committee, Sun Ta-Chuan, who stayed till the end of the session and contributed to the Q&A session.
Dr. Lin began by pointing out that as the first international human rights conventions that the United Nations passed in the twenty-first century, the CRPD has two unique features: NGO’s participation and opinion input, especially during policy formulation and legislation processes, and greater emphasis on the protection of the rights of people with double or multiple disadvantages.
Citing changes in the society’s perception of mental and physical disabilities and a paradigm shift, Dr. Lin explains how the policymaking and legislation processes in Taiwan have changed over the years. Different from diseases in general, mental and physical disabilities are often irreversible. People who have become disabled will remain as such for the rest of their lives. In the past, individuals with disabilities were seen as impaired and received treatment aimed at adjusting their mental and physical conditions, so he or she can at least live in peace. In this day and age, however, the perception of disability has shifted from "the medical model" to "the social model". In other words, disability is no longer just the problem of an individual or a group of people, but rather the limitation imposed upon them as a result of discrimination or denial of social integration. The social model requires the society as a whole, rather than the individual, to change, for instance, by removing physical barriers, allowing access to information, and adjusting the regulations to accommodate different needs.
Dr. Lin says that in the early days, there was no legislation to mandate the rights of the people with disabilities. Disabled people worldwide were considered recipients of social benefits, special education or medical services; therefore subject to relevant laws. Under the social model, legislation is a form of protection, as adopted by countries like Germany and Japan. As perception of disability changes, countries like the UK and the US have legislated to protect the "civil rights" of people with disabilities, based on the principles of anti-discrimination and respect for differences. Legislation in the Republic of China (Taiwan) has also evolved from the "Welfare Law for Handicapped Persons", implemented in 1980, the "People with Disabilities Protection Act" in 1997, to the "People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act" in 2007, followed by the ratification of the CRPD in 2014.
Legislation is only the first step towards change, says Dr. Lin. CRPD is not an invention of a new set of rights, but rather a systematic rearrangement of existing rights. Protection of the rights of people with disabilities begins by addressing the root causes. We need to see changes in social perceptions, content of education, and more professional training in audio description and social works. In this way, we will eliminate, step-by-step, the barriers and discrimination that have been wrongly considered as normal, give disabled persons the rights that they are entitled to as human beings, and ultimately attain the goals set out in the CRPD.