Society for Public Health Education Disabilities

Society for Public Health Education (
Comments to Draft Article 9: Accessibility of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities CRPD/C/11/3.
1. Favorable aspects of draft Article
The Society for Public Health Education, an NGO accredited by DPI, recognizes that persons living with
disabilities will increase worldwide due to population growth and medical technology that extends
lifespan. These rates will increase In addition to children born with disabilities, we are concerned about
the population of adults ages 60 and older, who are more prone to disabling injuries and illnesses.
Home, work, leisure and agency environments can be designed to assist children, youth and adults with
short-term and chronic disabilities to achieve independence and contribute as full members of society.
The draft Article includes a broad and necessary definition of accessibility to include physical, social,
cultural, recreational, healthcare environments and information/community infrastructures. The SOPHE
agrees with the expanded emphasis on insuring dignified access to “goods, products and
services…regardless of whether they are owned and/or provided by a public authority or a private
In 2006, Member States ratified The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, calling upon
Member States to guarantee all human rights and a life free of discrimination, recognizing the rights of
persons with disabilities. Basic rights include access to health, education, work and employment, an
adequate standard of living and social protection, and participation in political and public life.1,2 The next
step is implementing legislation within States, for instance laws mandating how health education and
services are provided to children and adults with disabilities in the U.S. These include the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794d), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA). The intent of these laws is to permit full participation in society by people with
disabilities of all ages. Challenges remain, preventing equal access to information and services within
2. Challenges to attaining full accessibility
The draft article acknowledges existing barriers to accessibility, including lack of signage, directions,
parking, staircases, narrow doorways, and antiquated public transit and communication infrastructures.
We recognize that a digital divide remains for persons with disabilities, despite the growth of new
consumer information technologies. Installing computing hardware and software does not guarantee
equal access and use.3 Despite the volume of available information, many special populations find the
process of retrieving accurate and useful online health information to be time-consuming and
Several issues are of primary importance, i.e., active participation by persons with and without
disabilities, conducting community-level assessments, prioritizing rehabilitation of existing structures
and functions, and obtaining sufficient support from public and private funders.5 In brief, improvements
in accessibility will require:
a) Collaboration among those with and without disabilities to conduct assessments, implement
changes, and determine effectiveness of improvements to accessibility of programs, services
Comments to Draft Article 9 -- pg. 1
SOPHE, 10 G Street, NE, Suite 605, Washington, DC 20002,
and places. A first step may be overcoming resistance from those who harbor
misconceptions about disabilities and gender. Some employers prematurely dismiss those
with disabilities as being unable or unwilling to work. We have observed transit operators
who pass by riders with mobility impairments waiting at public bus stops. Perhaps some
providers of good and services fear loss of income after making improvements to
A second step is providing training to elected officials, program administrators and
consumers about accessibility law, barriers and solutions, including awareness of the
collective buying power of persons with disabilities. Third, those who have been victims of
discrimination due to disability and gender require access to justice and legal redress.
b) Ongoing community-level assessments to determine the extent of barriers limiting access to,
and use of structures, and restricting program participation. Assessments will indicate levels
of understanding and compliance, revealing needed improvements. Data may expose lack of
enforcement of State and local laws concerning equal access. Legal redress may be
necessary for those with disabilities who are discriminated against by repeat violators.5
c) Prioritization of when and how public and private buildings, programs and services will be
made accessible. Determinants may include intended purpose, community demand/need,
capacity and usage, etc. For instance, a first priority is insuring that emergency shelters,
warning systems and services are accessible.
d) Public and private funding to retrofit public and private buildings and expand reach of
community programs and services. Accommodating needs of all will likely be expensive.
What improvements may be made to increase accessibility for most members of the group
over a planned time period? Individual property owners/managers may lack sufficient funds
to rehabilitate single buildings and small businesses.
Collaborative funding solutions are necessary, for instance, combining federal and local-level
funds to wire older schools and provide assistive communication devices for effective
computing. What innovative and low-cost solutions may be shared among Member States
and communities? Is there a role for micro financing?
e) Providing equal opportunities for primary and secondary health education for all children,
including those with disabilities. Affordable educational programs must reach girls and boys,
enhance access to needed programs and services, including in integrated settings, promote
vocational opportunities and reduction in child mortality and infectious diseases, locally and
3. Recommendations to facilitate work of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with
The Committee may recognize exemplary programs, sharing lessons learned about: training elected
officials, program administrators and consumers about rights of males and females with disabilities;
obtaining funding for new construction and time-phased rehabilitation of existing structures; affordable
improvements increasing accessibility of structures and services; providing quality health education to
girls and boys; and monitoring satisfactory outcomes, including self-determination effects on children
Comments to Draft Article 9 -- pg. 2
SOPHE, 10 G Street, NE, Suite 605, Washington, DC 20002,
and women with disabilities.5,6 The Committee may promote guidelines to insure physical accessibility of
the built environment. For example, standards implemented by federal agencies in the United States
address new construction and alterations across different settings including facilities for public transit
and recreation.7,8 Promote opportunities for universal design competitions among university students,
municipal planners, engineers and architects!9,10
In addition, the Committee may disseminate guidelines for health and wellness education, including
accessibility of online information for consumers with disabilities. Consumers seek information about
illness symptoms, health insurance benefits, qualified providers and services, prescription medications
and alternative treatments.11,12 Pew data from 2013 indicate that 72% of adults in the US searched
websites for information about health during the past year; 35% looked online for specific information
about their own medical condition or that of someone close to themselves.13
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines developed by The Worldwide Web Consortium emphasize
four accessibility principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. A perceivable web site
is available to vision and hearing senses through the browser or by using assistive technologies such as
screen readers. A web site is judged to be operable if users can use the mouse, keyboard or assistive
technology to interact with all elements and obtain important content. Understandable web sites
present clear content without ambiguity or distractions. Finally, a robust web site permits access for
those using new and older technologies.14 Accessing private and public websites is increasingly
important for all persons, including those with disabilities. Consider My web my way© web page
developed by the BBC as a model of good practice. Options permit users to retrieve multi-media content
according to individual needs (difficulties with vision, hearing, language preference, and motor skills).15
Society for Public Health Education. 2013, August 14. Health Education for Peace (HE4P). A Resolution. Accessed February 11, 2014.
Flowers, N, editor. Human rights. YES! Action and advocacy on the rights of persons with disabilities. 2nd ed.
Human Rights Education Series: Topic Book 6. Minneapolis, MN: the University of Minnesota Human Rights
Center; 2012.
Geiger, B.F., Evans, R.R., Cellitti, M.A., Hogan Smith, K., O’Neal, M.R., Firsing III, S.L., Chandan, P. The Healthy
Web – Access to Online Health Information for Individuals with Disabilities. International Electronic Journal of
Health Education, 2011; 14:93-100.
Nachmias, R., Gilad, Amir. “Needle in a hyperstack: Searching for information in the Wide World Web.” Journal
of Research on Technology in Education, 2002; 34: 475-486.
Lockwood, E.M. World We Want 2015. CBM Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals policy brief: Gender
equality and women’s empowerment: women and girls with disabilities. Accessed February 10, 2014.
International Day of the Girl Child 2013 – Innovating for Girls' Education “Innovating for Girls’ Education” Ediscussion on the World We Want Platform Accessed January 31,
U.S. Access Board. ADA Standards for Transportation Facilities. Washington, DC. 2001. Accessed February 2, 2014.
U.S. Department of Justice. 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Washington, D.C. Updated December 7,
2012. Accessed February 2, 2014.
A-Design Award and Competition. 2014. Accessed
February 2, 2014.
Comments to Draft Article 9 -- pg. 3
SOPHE, 10 G Street, NE, Suite 605, Washington, DC 20002,
10. Next Generation Design Competition. 2014. Accessed February 11, 2014.
11. O’Neal, M.R., Geiger, B.F., Cellitti, M.A., Chandan, P., Hogan Smith, K. 2012. Web Sense: Assisting Family
Caregivers of Children with Disabilities to Find Online Health Information. Journal of Consumer Health on the
Internet, 16(3), 1-12.
12. Baum, L.S. “Internet parent Support Groups for primary caregivers of a child with Special Health Care Needs.
(Continuing Education Series)” Pediatric Nursing 30 (September 1, 2004): 381-401.
13. Pew Research Center. 2013, January 15. Health Online 2013. Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet & American Life
Project. Accessed February 12, 2014.
14. Utah State University, Center for Persons with Disabilities. Constructing a POUR Website. Putting People at the
Center of the Process; 2010. Accessed February 12, 2014.
15. BBC. (2012). My web my way – Making the web easier to use. How to guides. Accessed February 12, 2014.
Comments to Draft Article 9 -- pg. 4
SOPHE, 10 G Street, NE, Suite 605, Washington, DC 20002,