General comment NR5
“Independent living/living independently means that individuals with disabilities are provided with all necessary means to enable them to exercise choice and control over their lives and make all decisions concerning their lives. Personal autonomy and self-determination are fundamental to independent living.”
The Committee distances itself from different forms of institutions and says, among other things, in 16 c.:
“Both independent living and being included in the community refer to life settings outside residential institutions of all kinds. It is not “just” about living in a particular building or setting; it is, first and foremost, about not losing personal choice and autonomy as a result of the imposition of certain life and living arrangements. Neither large-scale institutions with more than a hundred residents nor smaller group homes with five to eight individuals, nor even individual homes can be called independent living arrangements if they have other defining elements of institutions or institutionalization. Although institutionalized settings can differ in size, name and set-up, there are certain defining elements, such as obligatory sharing of assistants with others and no or limited influence over whom one has to accept assistance from; isolation and segregation from independent life within the community; lack of control over day-to-day decisions; lack of choice over whom to live with; rigidity of routine irrespective of personal will and preferences; identical activities in the same place for a group of persons under a certain authority; a paternalistic approach in service provision; supervision of living arrangements; and usually also a disproportion in the number of persons with disabilities living in the same environment.”
According to the Committee personal assistance distinguishes it from other types of support efforts. The funding is to be allocated to the individual with the purpose of paying for any assistance required. The funding is to be based on an individual needs assessment. The service must also be controlled by the person with disability, meaning that they can either contract the service from a variety of providers or act as an employer, as well as have the option to custom design their own service, i.e., design the service and decide by whom, how, when, where and in what way the service is delivered and to instruct and direct service providers. The Committee has in addition to these also several other quality requirements on personal assistance.
In the general comment the Committee also takes a stand on support services it sees as not fulfilling the requirements in Article 19. This concerns for example “package solutions” which, among other things, link the availability of one particular service to another, expect two or more persons to live together or can only be provided within special living arrangements. According to the Committee these are not in line with Article 19. Concepts of personal assistance wherein the person with disabilities does not have full self-determination and self-control are also not considered to comply with Article 19. The Committee also takes a strong stand against all forms of collective solutions such as institutional living. Also support services in institutional form are not allowed according to the Convention since they segregate and limit the personal autonomy.
Individualised support services
Regarding other support measures the Committee emphasises in Article 19b that individualised support services must be considered a right. This means that persons with disabilities have the right to choose services and service providers according to their individual requirements and personal preferences. Individualised support should be flexible enough to adapt to the requirements of the “users”. This places an obligation on States Parties to ensure that there are a sufficient number of qualified specialists that are able to identify practical solutions to the barriers to living independently within the community, in accordance with the requirements and preferences of the individual.
Individualised services are not to be restricted to services inside the home but must also be able to be extended to a large spectrum of employment and education, as well as travel and recreation. While individualised support services may vary in name in different countries, they must be designed to support living within the community, preventing isolation and segregation from others, and aiming at the realisation of full inclusion within the community.
Equal access to community services
Article 19c states that persons with disabilities must have the right to community services and facilities intended for the general population and that they must be available on equal terms as well as meet their needs. This right covers all community services, and they must also be available and designed to be adaptable in practice. Article 19c is central and individual measures for persons with disabilities do not replace the right to be included in what is offered to the general public.
CRPD and the Nordic countries
Denmark ratified the convention on 24 August 2009. Denmark submitted its first report in 2011 with a chapter on the development on Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Denmark received questions from the Committee in 2014. Denmark answered these questions later in the year. After the review in Geneva the Committee sent its closing observations. In 2020 Denmark submitted a combined second and third report, including the report for Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
In Finland the Convention and the additional protocol came into force for ratification on 10 June 2016. The government of Åland reports on the implementation of the Convention in a separate report. Finland submitted its first report, including the development on Åland, to the Committee in 2019.
Iceland ratified the CRPD 2017 and submitted its first report in February 2021.
Norway ratified the CRPD in 2014, submitted its first report in 2015 and received questions from the Committee in 2017. Norway answered the questions in 2019, the same year the review in Geneva took place.
Sweden ratified the CRPD in 2008, submitted its first report in 2011 and received as well as answered the Committee’s questions in 2013, the same year the first review in Geneva took place. Sweden submitted its combined second and third report in 2019.