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The Potential of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Background and aims

Pre-project (2008-2009)

Conceptions of humanity, interpretations of disability and moral arguments for special needs education, and how these relate to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

 

Background

On 13 December 2006 the UN General Assembly adopted the “UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities”. Article 1 of the Convention defines its purpose as “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”. With the adoption of the Convention and with a view to Switzerland potentially signing and ratifying it, a need arose for special needs education, as both a profession and a discipline, to address its conceptual approach and the underlying tradition of discourse.

Questions

To what extent is the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities a suitable normative foundation for special needs education? To answer this question, research focussed on the following aspects:

  • What conceptions of humanity, what interpretations of disability and what moral arguments for special needs education (as a discipline and as a profession) hold currency nowadays in German-speaking countries?
  • What is the relationship between the UN Convention and these various positions? Where is there concurrence and where are there differences in terms of the underlying conceptions of humanity, interpretations of disability and moral values?

Methods

Current discourses in special needs education were reconstructed by means of document analysis. The following were examined and categorised in line with the questions:

  • general monographs of normative character on special needs education, such as teaching resources, manuals, etc.
  • monographs on matters relating to conceptions of humanity, interpretations of disability and moral underpinnings for special needs education
  • articles in journals devoted to special needs education as a discipline or profession on matters relating to conceptions of humanity, interpretations of disability and the moral underpinnings for special needs education
  • normative documents published by professional associations

The UN Convention and the human rights documents behind it were analysed in accordance to the same categories and compared with the findings on discourse in special needs education.  

Results

The project identified similarities and differences, demonstrating that the Convention can generate valuable input for special needs education. It expands the normative discourse in special needs education in major respects. For example, human rights oriented ethics formulated on the basis of the Convention can help special needs education to accomplish its long-postulated shift from a discipline and profession that is person- and care-centred to one that is systemic and emancipatory, including at the normative level. The key to this is understanding the concept of human rights as a substantial factor in special needs education and not simply as a common catchword.

The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities offers a unique opportunity for fundamental analysis of the situation of people with disabilities in Switzerland. Building on the pre-project on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, it is essential to examine the substance of the UN Convention more closely in this respect: What material changes for people with disabilities can be expected or are desirable in Switzerland as a result of the Convention? What is the position of people with disabilities in this country if considered in the light of the Convention?

Facts

Duration
08/2008-01/2017
No.
3_9

Project Management

Prof. Dr.  Wolfisberg

Leiter Institut für Behinderung und Partizipation, Leiter Master Schulische Heilpädagogik 11/19

Project team

Kontakt

Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at]hfh.ch zfe