Welcome to the 2011 International Disability Summer School

6-11 June 2011

School Directors: Professor Gerard Quinn (NUI Galway, Ireland) & Professor Michael Stein (Harvard Program on Disability, USA)

The Centre for Disability Law and Policy, at the National Univeristy of Ireland, Galway, ran its third Summer School in June 2011. The purpose of this six day Summer School was to equip participants with the insights and skills necessary to translate the generalities of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into tangible reform for persons with disabilities.

The participants  included persons with disabilities, their families, civil society groups of persons with disabilities as well as advocates for disability law reform, lawyers, policy makers and policy analysts and others.  A legal background was not assumed. It was open to all who are interested in how law and policy can advance the status of persons with disabilities.

The Faculty included senior academics, practitioners and policy makers from around the world who have been directly and actively engaged in drafting and implementing the Convention.

They included Michael Bach (Inclusion International), Andrea Coomber (Interights, London), Christian Courtis, (Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights), Dr. Gauthier de Beco (University of Louvain), Dr. Eilionoir Flynn (NUI Galway), Rosemary Kayess (University of New South Wales, Sydney), Janet Lord (University of Maryland, BlueLaw International LLP), Mark Priestley (University of Leeds), Prof. Gerard Quinn (NUI Galway), Eric Rosenthal (Disability Rights International), Prof. Michael Stein (Harvard Law School Project on Disability), Lisa Waddington (Maastricht University), Sir. Michael Wood (Essex Street Chambers, London, Member of the International Law Commission).

The Programme introduced participants to the nature of the convention, to treaty interpretation in general, to the general concept of equality in the convention (and some of the relevant innovations in the CRPD). It  drew out the differences between obligations of immediate effect (non-discrimination) and obligations of conduct (to ’progressively achieve’) social and economic rights and how to identify which provisions in the convention create which kinds of obligations. It  focused on certain core rights such as the right to legal capacity, the right to independent living, and the right to inclusive education. It  also focused on important provisions in the convention protecting people with disabilities against violence, exploitation and abuse. It  looked at the practical institutional changes needed to give effect to the convention at national level (the obligation to create a ’focal point’, etc). And it  explored the implications of the CRPD for development aid programmes throughout the world.

A key feature of the Summer School was its emphasis on imparting practical skills in using the convention – no matter your region or country. There were sessions on how to interact with the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the relevant treaty monitoring body), how to draft Shadow Reports, how to craft effective Complaints under the Optional Protocol and how to influence the drafting of Questions by the UN Committee to the States Parties.

In keeping with the practical orientation of the Summer School there was a Participatory Exercise based on a problem disseminated at the beginning of the Summer School and culminating in a hearing at the end. All participants were expected to be involved at some level. Prior legal knowledge or experience wass not required. The aim wass to provide the participants with a forum to sharpen their argumentative strategies based on the CRPD and to identify weaknesses as well as strengths in the different argumentative approaches. They were mentored throughout the week in crafting their arguments by the international Facult

This year we were particularly honoured to have our Summer School launched by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. President Higgins has great interest in disability issues and has been a tireless campaigner throughout his long political life for the rights and interests of persons with disabilities in Ireland and indeed throughout the world.