Update: 08.03.2017

Equal rights for disabled persons limited in many areas

Even 13 years after the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) came into force many people with disabilities still do not have equal rights. Recent studies show they experience major drawbacks in the labour market, in education and in housing. The federal government is aware of this issue and has stated its priorities for future equality policies, but they are not entirely convincing.

External evaluation 2015

In Switzerland, 1.6 million people have a disability. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), in force since 2004, provides them with special legal protection. In 2015, an evaluation commissioned by the federal government showed that progress has been made, particularly in areas where the act has clear provisions and identifies specific responsibilities.

Büro BASS and the Zurich Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts conducted an evaluation for the federal government that critically assessed the “lack of equal rights provisions for people with disabilities in general disability policies.” The DDA has only had a limited effect on the constitutional mandate to implement equal rights for people with disabilities.

The external evaluation also contained numerous proposals for improvements, including more accessible housing, the creation of contact points and simplified access to rights.

Focus on matters of work

After the evaluation was published in 2015, the Federal Council decided to draft a report stating which measures the Confederation would take to further improve equal rights for people with disabilities in the near future. The Federal Council approved the report in early 2017, which established priorities for a future Swiss disability policy.

The federal report includes targets and measures to improve equality, networking, governance and transparency in disability policy. Promoting professional integration is the key aim. A national program will be implemented to support projects that eliminate disadvantages in the business world. The Federal Bureau for the Equality of People with Disabilities (FBED) will focus on implementing and supporting such projects over the next few years as well as publishing best practices in this field.

Further federal measures will ensure equal rights for persons with disabilities and will become a cross-sectional task on all federal levels. Cooperation among cantons will be promoted and networking between stakeholders in the disability sector improved. The Confederation will discuss these measures with the cantons, organisations and associations and plans to publish a new report by the end of 2017.

Although the federal report addresses some further issues regarding increased equality (e.g. education and self-determined lifestyle), the Federal Council does not want to tackle these issues.

Priorities of the civil society

The Federal Council report is the result of a postulate by National Councillor Christian Lohr launched in 2013 calling for a coherent disability policy. According to affected persons and their organisations, there is an urgent need for action. As a reaction to the Federal Council report, the umbrella organisation Inclusion Handicap stated that many buildings and homes are not accessible and that frequently disabled people’s financial situation does not allow them to be self-sufficient. In addition, the organisation was disappointed that the Federal Council is only taking a few steps in the work environment.

Inclusion Handicap also stated that a true disability policy needs more commitment from the entire Federal Council as well as the cantons and restated that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was already ratified in 2014 and that the government has been aware of these issues since the evaluation in December 2015. “What are needed now are binding targets and concrete measures in all spheres of life.”

In 2016, Inclusion Handicap also evaluated the current state of equality policies for disabled people. The report was based on surveys by legal advisors and other specialists and is also a collection of the concerns of people with disabilities compiled on an online platform by Inclusion Handicap. The report highlights numerous other areas with equality is an issue. Based on its own member surveys concerning self-sufficient living, the organisation Inclusion Handicap is calling for direct financing to support disabled persons instead of the financing structures that currently exist for disabled people.

UN review to follow

Three years ago, Switzerland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. People affected by the convention and human rights groups had high hopes that politicians would set ambitious targets. Some cantons and regions have proposed innovative ideas. For example, disabled persons in the canton of Bern can now decide themselves on the degree of care they would like.

As a contracting state of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Switzerland will likely be audited by the UN in 2018. Switzerland handed in its initial report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016. On the basis of its own assessment, Inclusion Handicap will hand in a supplementary report that lists shortcomings and possible solutions proposed by people with disabilities.


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