United Nations Conference on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol

Position Statement:

AG Bell recognizes and supports several articles and sections of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol as supporting AG Bell’s mission of “Advancing Listening and Spoken Language for Individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing,” including:

  • “…the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State, and that persons with disabilities and their family members should receive the necessary protection and assistance to enable families to contribute towards the full and equal enjoyment of the rights of person with disabilities.”
  • “To undertake or promote research and development of, and to promote the availability and use of new technologies, including information and communications technologies, mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, suitable for persons with disabilities, giving priority to technologies at an affordable cost.”
  • “To provide accessible information to persons with disabilities about mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, including new technologies, as well as other forms of assistance, support services and facilities.”
  • “To promote the training of professionals and staff working with persons with disabilities in the rights recognized in the present Convention so as to better provide the assistance and services guaranteed by those rights.”
  • “Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability.”
  • “Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live.”
  • “Reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements is provided.”
  • “Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education.
  • “Effective individualized support measures are provided in environments that maximize academic and social development, consistent with the goal of full inclusion.”
  • “Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children…is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual and in environments that maximize academic and social development.”
  • “…shall take effective and appropriate measures, including through peer support, to enable persons with disabilities to attain and maintain maximum independence, full physical, mental, social and vocational ability, and full inclusion and participation in all aspects of life.
  • "To that end, States Parties shall organize, strengthen and extend comprehensive habilitation and rehabilitation services and programmes, particularly in the areas of health, employment, education and social services, in such a way that these services and programmes.”
  • [Habilitation and rehabilitation] “…shall begin at the earliest possible stage, and are based on the multidisciplinary assessment of individual needs and strengths.”
  • “Support participation and inclusion in the community and all aspects of society, are voluntary, and are available to persons with disabilities as close as possible to their own communities, including in rural areas.”
  • “States Parties shall promote the development of initial and continuing training for professionals and staff working in habilitation and rehabilitation services.”
  • “States Parties shall promote the availability, knowledge and use of assistive devices and technologies, designed for persons with disabilities, as they relate to habilitation and rehabilitation.”

While the above statements of the Convention and Optional Protocol are in line with AG Bell’s mission of “Advocating Independence through Listening and Talking,” AG Bell recognizes that the document fails to adequately address the specific needs of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing who choose a listening and spoken language outcome. AG Bell encourages those States who ratify the Convention to be mindful of the changing dynamic of the deaf community, particularly the increasing number of individuals who use listening and spoken language. AG Bell asks participating States to address the growing acceptance of listening and spoken language as a viable option for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing by supporting access to advanced hearing technologies and to qualified professionals. AG Bell believes that the increased proliferation of advanced – and increasingly affordable – hearing technologies in developing countries will only continue to add pressure to existing systems that are currently built around alternative approaches.

AG Bell recommends that States participating in the Convention implement legislative and administrative initiatives to:

  • Facilitate implementation of universal newborn and well-baby hearing screening programs to promote early detection of hearing loss, and build and maintain systems to prevent loss to follow-up.
  • Provide comprehensive and appropriate early intervention services for families with newly identified infants and children with hearing loss capable of meeting the needs of families and individuals across the continuum of communication and language modalities, including those who choose a listening and spoken language outcome.
  • Promote family-centric choice by providing complete and unbiased information on the full spectrum of communication and language options to parents of newly identified infants and children.
  • Encourage professional development of individuals qualified to provide (re)habilitative support in all modalities of language and communications for the deaf and hard of hearing, including those trained to support a listening and spoken language outcome. The Board of Directors of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing hereby supports the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol and provides additional guidance for consideration by States as they work with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing who use listening and spoken language.