The UN CRPD marks a shift of thinking in the disability sector; it lays down the premises for the enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities and it demands State parties to put into place proper structures and services to make sure the conditions for enjoyment of human rights are respected.
From the experience of the UN Standard Rules, the United Nations have further elaborated on the current international treaty on disability, the UN CRPD, and further deepened its impact at international level.
Adapted work settings, commonly known also as sheltered workshops, are not referred to in the UNCRPD. This requires clarifications for the thousands of people that benefit from their services and whose future looks therefore uncertain.
This report focuses on the role of adapted work settings in the international framework provided by the UNCRPD; in particular, special attention has been given to Article 26 and 27, as they both deal with principles, measures and services offered by adapted work settings.
The analysis was carried out starting from three main subjects:
- what the Convention brought in general terms through its paradigm shift and the subsequent challenges for social services
- the analysis of the current text of Article 26 and 27 and the links to the role of sheltered workshop matters
- the history of the discussions around the inclusion of sheltered workshops in the UN CRPD.
Article 26 dealing with issues concerning the “functioning” of the individual, renews the entitlement to habilitation and rehabilitation service, the latter considered as going beyond the medical sense of it, keeping a connotation of a non-permanent treatment. Article 27 concerns the right to work, which should lead to the possibility to gain a living and lead a life of dignity. Most sheltered workshops, that are providing rehabilitation and work related activities, seem, according to some, to be not fully compliant with either of the two articles as they provide rehabilitation-based activities on an on-going basis and offer work without fully guaranteeing conditions applying under the labour law.
This concern emerged as well during the negotiation activities of the UN CRPD and was partly responsible for their exclusion from the current article on the right to work.
However, the implementation of the Convention presents some challenges, especially when it comes to rights and obligations concerning overlapping fields of action, as may be the case for Article 26 and 27. Services like sheltered workshops may sometimes and very often fulfill more than one function for persons with disabilities, and thus their compliance to the UN CRPD articles is particularly sensitive. In the framework of a holistic approach to persons with disabilities, where disability itself is not the focus of attention, but everything is about the individual and the enjoyment of his rights, it is of utter importance to keep a good balance between the multitude of skills, personal choices, possibilities of individual development and society’s response.
This report looks at the possible links existing between sheltered workshops and the UN CRPD in order to gain a view on the state of play and on future developments needed in the provision of work opportunities to persons with (intellectual) disabilities.