Interactive debate on the work and employment of persons with disabilities

Wednesday, 6 March 2013, 12:00 to 15:00, Room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva

The next interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities will be held at the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council, and will focus on the work and employment of persons with disabilities.  The panel and its web cast will be made accessible through international sign interpretation and real time captioning.

The debate draws upon a thematic study on work and employment of persons with disabilities, prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in consultation with relevant stakeholders.


The human right to work is a fundamental right enshrined in a wide range of international human rights instruments. It is essential for realising other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) establishes that persons with disabilities have the right to work on an equal basis with others. This includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work that is freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. Article 27 of the CRPD requires States parties to take adequate measures to safeguard and promote the realisation of the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others, and to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in the field of employment.

Notwithstanding these international normative safeguards, the labour force participation rate of persons with disabilities continues to be low in most countries. When persons with disabilities are employed, they are more likely to be in low-paying jobs, at lower occupational levels and with poor promotional prospects and working conditions. One of the core challenges lies in negative attitudes, stigma and stereotypes of persons with disabilities being in some way “unsuitable” to participation in working life, on an equal basis with others. This translates into continued marginalization and discrimination of persons with disabilities in the area of work and employment, and for many persons with disabilities, denial of their right to work as defined in article 27 of the Convention.  In light of this, in its resolution 19/11, the Human Rights Council decided “that its next annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities will be held at its twenty-second session, and that it will focus on the work and employment of persons with disabilities”.


The debate will seek to identify good practices in promoting employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, in the public and private sectors alike. It will also contribute to raising awareness of the challenges that persons with disabilities continue to face in employment, and to highlight the measures that States and employers can take with a view to ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoy access to, retention of and advancement in employment on an equal basis with others. Finally, the debate provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of including the rights of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda.


The debate will be opened by Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. H.E. Mr. Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, will moderate the discussion.

The panel comprises five experts on the issue of work and employment of persons with disabilities:

Mr. Frederick Ouko Alucheli is the Executive Director of Action Network for the Disabled in Nairobi, Kenya, with a background in political science and business administration. He was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2012 for his role in creating a barrier-free society for youth with disabilities, both inside and outside of the formal workspace. Within the Action Network for the Disabled, he runs a project that challenges the myths surrounding employability of persons with disabilities.

Mr. Ronald McCallum is Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Law of the University of Sydney. He chairs the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As a person with a disability since birth, Mr. McCallum has a special interest in increasing employment for persons with disabilities. Having dedicated his professional and academic career to labour and employment law, he was the inaugural President of the Australian Labour Law Association from 2001 to 2009. The Prime Minister of Australia awarded Mr. McCallum the title of Senior Australian for the Year 2011, in part for his work for persons with disabilities.

Ms. Barbara Murray is Senior Disability Specialist at the International Labour Organization, working primarily on disability issues in training and employment. Key elements of her work with ILO have included the development of the ILO Code of Practice on Managing Disability in the Workplace, promoting ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No. 159 concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons), and representing the ILO at the negotiations of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ms. Murray has worked in the area of disability for over 25 years in Africa, Europe and the Asian and Pacific region.

Mr. Valery Nikitich Rukhledev is President of the All-Russian Society of the Deaf, the aim of which is to promote and protect the rights, including the right to work, of deaf persons and persons with hearing impairments in the Russian Federation. A former board member of the World Federation for the Deaf, Mr. Ruhkledev was involved in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and continues to be active in the promotion of sign language interpretation and the rights of deaf persons in Russia and globally.

Ms. Susan Scott-Parker is the founder and Chief Executive of the Business Disability Forum, the world’s leading enterprise membership ‘federation’ working to the mutual benefit of businesses and persons with disabilities. Ms. Scott-Parker is currently working with GlaxoSmithKline to establish a Global Business Forum which will enable multinational corporations to understand how managing disability as a civil and human rights priority benefits business, people with disabilities and the societies in which they operate.

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