The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD Committee) held its virtual session from the 8th of March to the 1st of April 2021. During the session only one European country – Estonia was under the review. This was the Committee’s first assessment on Estonia’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Estonia ratified the Convention in May 2012.
In the public dialogue which was held online and webcasted on the 12th, 15th and 17th of March, UN CRPD, which has received the country report from Estonia as well as submissions from non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders, discussed a range of issues with the State delegation and the Chancellor of Justice of Estonia.
Prior to the review EUD worked very closely with the Estonian Association of the Deaf to ensure that the issues related to the implementation of the UN CRPD in Estonia for deaf persons are properly addressed during the State Party review. EUD encouraged the Estonian Association of the Deaf to be an active player during the review and collaborate with other relevant partners to ensure that deaf people are not left behind during the process. Most importantly, EUD strongly supported Estonian Association of the Deaf when submitting the alternative report which informed the Committee in detail about the situation of deaf persons in Estonia.
After the dialogue the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published the Concluding Observations and, among others, recommended Estonia to ensure access to sign language interpretation and speech-to-text service for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons in all areas of life. Moreover, the Committee encouraged Estonia to strengthen measures, including through grants and other incentives to increase the official training of sign language interpreters, including at the university level, and adopt measures to raise awareness about the deaf culture and the Estonian sign language. The Committee also urged to ensure accessibility of all public information, including TV and media services, for all persons with disabilities through sign language, captioning, subtitles, and allocate adequate funding for its development, promotion and use. In total the Committee asked to take measures and ensure better accessibility through Estonian Sign Language when implementing five Articles of the UN CRPD: Article 13 on Access to justice, Article 21 on Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information, Article 24 on Education, Article 27 on Work and employment, Article 30 on Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.
EUD’s collaboration with Estonian Association of the Deaf can be seen as a good practice example, when joining forces lead to favourable outcomes. EUD would like to thank the Estonian Association of the Deaf for their hard work ensuring deaf perspectives were visible during the review process and encourage other members to be as active during the UN CRPD review processes.