Our representatives are hard at work at the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the UN CRPD. You can see video of some of their speeches at the links below, with captions and sign language. We’ve also uploaded the audio below, as well as a transcript of Paige’s speech, which you can find under the read more tag.

Our COSP delegation is also taking over our Instagram and Twitter feeds this week! Check out our Insta Stories for live updates from New York, including pictures of a very cute dog. (Note: Instagram Stories unfortunately have no accessibility features such as alt text or captions. We will be sharing some of them as regular Instagram posts over the next few weeks to try and address this.)

Matthew Bowden, Co-CEO of PWDA, speaks at time stamp 2:39:57 in this video, or listen to the audio file below:

Paige Burton, Vice-President of PWDA, speaks at time stamp 14:20 in this video, or listen to the audio file below:

Statement for the Interactive Dialogue on ‘Protecting the Rights of Children with Disabilities’

Paige Burton, Vice-President, People with Disability Australia

I’m here today as a proud young person and Vice President of People With Disability Australia, a member of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations Australia. We’ve heard a lot today, and it will be said time and time again– “nothing about us, without us” – but this principle is rarely extended to children and young people with disability. Yet, it is impossible to ensure the protection and advancement of the rights for children with disability without recognising, and actively involving children and young people with disability in the processes, policies and programs designed to protect them. The Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities both stipulate that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in all actions affecting children with disability. Both documents reiterate the fact that children with disability must be not just protected, but supported to express their opinions and have those opinions considered as carefully as those of their peers.

Children and young people with disability have nuanced, and important contributions to make but too often don’t have a seat at the table in decisions that affect our lives. It is the responsibility of all to ensure that children with disabilities are supported to articulate themselves to design systems that protect their rights. If systems that aim to protect children with disabilities are established without the input of children and young people with disabilities, we will continue to see children and young people with disability left behind, and more vulnerable to segregation, institutionalisation and removal from their families.

It has been four years since the international community endorsed the 2030 agenda for Sustainable development. We cannot have a conversation about the rights of children with disability without discussing SDG 4. All children deserve inclusive, and equitable quality education opportunities for all. Every child and young person, regardless of their background, regardless of their circumstances deserve a place in a classroom in their local school– One that gives them the opportunity to reach their full potential surrounded by their peers.

States around the world, even those well-resourced and highly developed, are still continuing to invest heavily in education systems that segregate and exclude children and young people with disability. The impacts of exclusive systems are felt by all members of society, but are especially harmful to children and young people with disability. Schools can be transformative. They provide children with their first relationship with the world outside of their families, they begin the development of social relationships and interactions. Schools often play a huge role in establishing the self-esteem of confidence of children. An inclusive education empowers children to know their rights, and help them to articulate when those rights aren’t being protected.

Building confidence and agency in children with disability to express their will and preference is an obligation under CRPD articles 7 and 12.  General Comment No. 1 on article 12 stresses the role of inclusive education in providing opportunities for children and young people with disability to express their will and preferences and so build confidence in exercising their legal capacity.  And for that reason, an inclusive education system is the best first line of protecting the rights of children with disability.

It is critical that the High Level Political Forum in reviewing SDG 4 recognises the critical role of genuine inclusive education in protecting the rights of children and young people with disability.