Human Rights Day 2019

Posted in Blog

Human Rights Day 2019

Every second a Neuro OT spends rebuilding the life of a brain injured person is a second spent shoring up their human rights.

Their work is infused with the essence of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

But did you know there is another international treaty that specifically upholds the additional rights of people with disabilities?

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is celebrated annually on 03 December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), and this year, the power of participation – intrinsic to occupational therapy – is the prime focus.


   We believe in protecting the rights of individuals to make unwise decisions, and safeguarding the vulnerable.   

Jo Throp, Krysalis Clinical Director. 


What rights?

The CRPD broke two global records when the call went out for countries to sign up to it, and,12 years later, it remains the treaty attracting the most signatories on its opening day, and the fastest one to come into force.

The treaty places a legal obligation on governments to ensure all disabled people have the right to:


  • A decent standard of living.
  • Support to participate and live in the community.
  • Accessible environments and information.
  • Equality without discrimination.
  • Decide for themselves.
  • Respect for their family life.
  • Freedom from violence, abuse and exploitation.
  • Equality of opportunity.
  • An inclusive education.


Within the UK, both the CRPD and the Human Rights Act 1998 have had an immense impact in the way people with mental health problems, cognitive and physical disabilities and diseases are treated.

The UK’s Mental Health Foundation upholds these mandates, along with others such as the Equality Act 2010 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005, as central in the empowerment of people with disabilities.

The charity, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, points to specific freedoms and rights being afforded protection within the care sector, including:


  • Enabling people with disabilities to live independently.
  • Ensuring they are kept clean.
  • Protection against verbal and physical abuse.
  • Open access to information, including medical records.
  • Maintaining family links.


The right to participate

‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership is this year’s IDPD theme.

The hope is to empower people with disabilities for ‘inclusive, equitable and sustainable development’ by 2030; one of 17 goals of a 15-year plan drawn up by the UN to ‘improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.’ 


But in the context of occupational therapy practice what does this mean?

Krysalis Clinical Director, Jo Throp explains: “Empowering and enabling individuals with disability to maximise independence and promote inclusion is a primary goal for the profession. 

Occupational Therapists are well placed to take a holistic, person centred view of human rights and are keenly cognisant of the other factors that limit opportunity, potential and participation specifically within activities.


The OT process takes into account:


  • How the consequences of a disability or illness impact on the individual in relation to the activities they undertake, or wish to undertake, as part of the rehabilitation process.  
  • Wider factors, such as the social and physical environment, and political, economic and historical factors
  • Equally as impacting are sociocultural influences, such as values, rules, regulations, society ‘norms’, attitudes, morals and beliefs, to name a few. 


Often a challenge for disabled people and their families is becoming marginalised in society and finding, either by lack of opposition or positive action, their human rights gradually being eroded,” Jo said.

A key role of occupational therapy, therefore, is to empower individuals to have a voice.



   If inclusivity is about ensuring that an individual receives ‘all the services or items normally expected or required’ of the general population, then first and foremost we need to understand what those needs are.    

Jo Throp, Krysalis Clinical Director.



The OT profession, as a whole, has a part to play in educating society to the needs of disabled people due to the knowledge it has about the impact of disability on everyday activities.

But it is only by listening, Jo says, that services can be tailored to meet the disabled population’s unique needs.  

Arguably, the rise in social media is now more than ever enabling people to be more connected and empowered to personally share their story,” Jo added.

I passionately believe these powerful stories are a force for change. Only by listening to others can we truly understand their needs.

To ensure services are equitable, Jo believes they first need to be designed around the needs of the people they aim to serve. For example:



  • Individuals with acquired brain injury require services that can offer extra time for them to express their needs in the face of speech or cognitive problems.
  • Services need to be provided in an environment that promotes participation, so that skills and confidence can be developed.
  • Individuals need to be supported to adjust to changes in abilities, lifestyle, roles and routines, and this needs to be provided by specialist teams who understand. 
  • There needs to be recognition that the neuro rehabilitation process is at times slow, complex and not easily ‘fitted into a box.


Professionals and service providers must consider the needs of individuals, rather than viewing whole groups of people as a problem that should be ‘managed’ within a service with limitations or referral criteria.” Jo concluded.  

“Sustainable, equitable services are those that are designed with the user in mind.  Respect, freedom and inclusion is a birth right of each and every one of us, regardless of our abilities.


Human Rights Day

The power of participation falls under the spotlight for a second time this month with a UN call for young people of all abilities to make a stand on Human Rights Day on 10 December. 

The day marks the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, now 71 years old and the holder of a Guinness World Record as the most translated document in the world, with availability in over 500 countries.

The UK’s 1998 Human Rights Act is broadly based on the 30 rights cited within the global declaration.

And although they all affect all of us, some may prove more significant for brain injury survivors, including:


  • Article 3:  The right to life, liberty and security of person.
  • Article 12: The right to privacy.
  • Article 16: The rights to family.
  • Article 22: The right to social security.
  • Article 23: The right to work.
  • Article 24: The right to an adequate standard of living.
  • Article 27: The right to participate in cultural life


More on the Mental Capacity Act 2005 here:

More on how Neuro OTs empower people to take part in life after brain injury here: 


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