SEN Rights is a charitable NGO established by a group of parents and family members of children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities. We are part of the SEN/ disability communities and come from a range of professions: law, education, architecture and social services. Our aim is to promote the equal rights of students with SEN/ disabilities to quality education. One of the purposes is to monitor the implementation Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in Hong Kong.
SEN Rights are particularly interested in the reform of the law related to disability equality and rights. We wish to state the following positions regarding the Discrimination Law Review:
1. The Equal Opportunities Commission’s initiative to review the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) to bring it in line with the global trend of advancement of disability equality and international standards should be welcome.
2. However, we have concerns and doubts that the consultation exercise in this Review is not very effective in facilitating well focused and deep discussion. There are a lot of issues even only in the area of disability equality that deserve more time for deliberation. An overhaul of all the discrimination laws within a relatively short period of time appears to be too hasty.
3. In principle, however, SEN Rights supports “modernizing” the provisions in the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, meaning the law shall be reformed in order to bring it in line with the UNCRPD and other international standards which Hong Kong has obligations to ensure compliance. SEN Rights is of the opinion that it is an important step for the building of a more tolerant, inclusive and equal society.
4. SEN Rights supports the proposal to introduce a purpose provision that includes values and concepts such as human dignity and equality etc. at the commencement of the disability discrimination/ equality legislation in proper and elaborate legal language. As far as disability equality and rights are concerned, we propose that there should be an explicit provision spelling out that one of the purposes of the law is to give effect to the HKSAR Government’s obligations under the UN Convention of the
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Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other international human rights instruments to which the HKSAR Government owes obligations.
5. SEN Rights supports fully the introduction of a statutory duty to provide reasonable adjustments/ accommodation in the areas of education, employment and service provisions into the disability discrimination/ equality law, in order to comply with the UNCRPD Article 2 requirements.
6. SEN Rights demands the Equal Opportunities Commission to repeal the current Code of Practice of Education under the DDO and introduce a new Code of Practice under the reformed law based on respect for learning diversity, equal rights to quality education and individual learning needs and the statutory duty of reasonable adjustments/ accommodation. The ultimate purpose is geared towards the spirit and purposes of Article 24 of UNCRPD and other related international human rights instruments under which HKSAR has obligations to implement.
31 October 2014