Developing indicators to measure implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities

By Maria Ventegodt Liisberg, Danish Institute for Human Rights

The UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) requires that States work for inclusion and equal rights of persons with disabilities, but very little data exists about which policies work in practice. The gold indicators project seeks to identify a set of 10 statistical indicators, which will give an overview of the gap between persons with and persons without disabilities in relation to 10 key human rights.

The gold indicators project is a collaboration between the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Danish National Centre for Social Research and we are now working closely with the Danish government and Danish disability organisations to identify a Danish set of gold indicators. However, we hope very much that this set of indicators will be used in other countries and that we thereby will be able to compare efficiency of different policies.

For example, the UK has relatively strong protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability and even provides a duty for providers of goods and services to make reasonable adjustment to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities to goods and services. Denmark has no protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability out side of the labour market. If we had data showing clearly that persons with disabilities had better access to goods and services in the UK, it would be easier for us in Denmark to argue for strong protection against discrimination. We already do so, but we would have stronger weight behind our words if we had good statistics as well.

Also in a national context, data is important to create more momentum. Data collected regularly allows for measuring progress and lack here of. In the UK, the Equality and Human Rights Commission does this in relation to many different groups, including persons with disabilities. But in many countries, including Denmark, there is insufficient data measuring the gap in enjoyment of human rights of persons with and without disabilities.

There are many reasons for this. The first is that it is only recently that persons with disabilities have been recognised as a group subjected to discrimination and social exclusion. Before then disability was seen as a medical condition and not a common characteristic for a social group. The UN Washington Group on disability Statistics, the WHO and others are currently working on international standards for identifying persons with disabilities as a group for the purpose of collecting data.

Until now the data that has existed on persons with disabilities has been limited to specific groups of persons with disabilities, such as groups of persons with a specific medical diagnosis. Also the surveys have related mainly to economic and social rights, such as employment, education and health, and not so much to civil and political rights.

Our hope is that the set of just 10 gold indicators will be simple and feasible enough to be carried out in many countries, both in the EU and outside. We would also hope that Eurostat and perhaps the World Bank take a liking to the gold indicators and carry out the necessary surveys in many countries at once and on a regular basis. If so, it might even be possible to grade each country a one-figure disability coefficient inspired by the Gini-coefficient which measures income disparity.

So far we have chosen nine of the ten rights which will be covered by the gold indicators project. They have been chosen because together they cover all the main areas of the CRPD as well as covering some of the most significant human rights problems faced by specific groups of persons with disabilities, namely children with disabilities, persons with intellectual disabilities (independent living) and women with disabilities (violence against women with disabilities). We have also had to take into account that some rights are very difficult to quantify, such as article 13 on access to justice.

The indicators that we have chosen are: art. 5 on discrimination, art 8 on awareness, art 9 on accessibility, art 16 on freedom from violence, art. 19 on independent living, art 24 on education, art 25 on health, art 27 on employment, art 28 on social welfare and art 29 on political participation.

We are still not sure that we should have both an indicator on article 5 on discrimination and article 8 on awareness which will be relatively similar as it will deal with negative attitudes to disability. Is it a good idea to have an indicator on violence against women with disabilities? Would it be better to focus on use of forced treatment in psychiatry? The problem with this indicator is that so little data exists on this topic and that it doesn’t lend well to the idea of comparing persons with and persons without disabilities which is how the other indicators work.

Read more on the gold indicators here:

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Contact: Maria Ventegodt Liisberg,

Team Leader, Disability, PhD,