Approximately 15 % of Norwegians live with disability. Norway has ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), as well as Agenda 2020, the UN’s sustainable development goals.
Norway and international treaties
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
The UN General Assembly adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 13 December 2006. Norway signed the convention on 30 March 2007 and ratified it on 3 June 2013.
Prevention of discrimination on the basis of disability is the CRPD’s goal. The Convention is to ensure respect for the prevailing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of persons with disabilities.
The Ministry of Children and Equality is the national contact point for the Convention and has the overall responsibility for implementing its provisions throughout Norway. The Ministry reported on Norway’s implementation of the convention’s provisions in 2015 (Link to the report). The report is intended to give a general picture of Norwegian policy for persons with disabilities as well as an account of measures and challenges posed by the respective individual articles.
Sustainable Developments Goals
On September 25th 2015, countries adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.
There are 11 explicit references to persons with disabilities in the 2030 Agenda, and disaggregation of data by disability is a core principle. The Sustainable Developments Goals are relevant to ensure the inclusion and development of persons with disabilities all around the world, also in Norway.
The concept of disability
In Norway, the social model of disability is commonly agreed upon. Disability was previously understood as a property of the individual, and thought of in merely a medical context. This medical model of disability is challenged by the social model, where the frame is moved from the individual to the societal.
The social model is relational in its approach, meaning that disability occurs due to an uneven relationship between the individual’s abilities and the construction of the physical environment or its requirements for ability. In other words, in this understanding, disability occurs at the intersection between the individual and physical surroundings which are not properly adjusted to differing abilities. When a person is disabled, we are referring to a barrier-producing context in the physical environment rendering someone disabled in their interactions with it.
A wheelchair user being unable to enter a building because of a set of stairs in front of the entrance, or a person with hearing loss not being offered an interpreter or the necessary technological equipment are examples of contexts where disability occurs due to an insufficiently accessible environment.
Legislation and policy
The rights of Norwegians with disabilities are protected through several laws and policies. The main law is the Discrimination and Accessibility Act.
The Discrimination and Accessibility Act
This law functions to promote equality and equity, ensure all citizens the same opportunities and rights to societal participation, increase accessibility, and to ensure that the social and physical environments are accessible. In addition to this, the law contributes to the removal of socially produced barriers, and prevents new ones from being formed.
Both direct and indirect discrimination are prohibited. Direct discrimination occurs when one person is treated worse than another person in a similar situation, and this differential treatment is directly related to the first person’s disability. One example of this is an employer arranging meetings to occur on the second floor, only accessible by a flight of stairs, rendering disabled employees unable to access the meeting. Indirect discrimination constitutes a ‘neutral’ decision which disfavours disabled people compared to (temporarily) able-bodied people. A restaurant prohibiting dogs due to concerns over food hygiene negatively affects individuals with guide dogs, with the person being unable to enter the restaurant.
Positive discrimination is allowed in accordance with the law’s intent of ensuring the same opportunities and rights to all citizens. Positive discrimination can only occur when the action adequately addresses the law’s purpose
Positive discrimination is allowed in accordance with the law’s intent of ensuring the same opportunities and rights to all citizens. Positive discrimination can only occur when the action adequately addresses the law’s purpose and is realistically able to attain its intended goal. When the goal of the action is achieved, positive discrimination is concluded. An example of positive discrimination is people with reduced mobility being allocated parking spaces closer to a shop entrance.
The Inclusive Working life Agreement
Work life is for many people an important aspect of participating in society. An initiative to improve the inclusion of people with disabilities is The cooperation agreement on a more inclusive working life (the IA Agreement). The agreement on an Inclusive Working life (IA Agreement) was signed between the authorities (the government represented by the Minister of Labour) and the parties in working life first time in 2001.
The IA agreement is based on cooperation and trust between authorities, employers and employees. One of the goals of the IA Agreement is to prevent withdrawal and increase employment of people with impaired functional ability.
By entering into the cooperation agreement to become an IA enterprise each enterprise supports the goals of the IA Agreement. And have to strive for achieving the goals. In return, IA enterprises receive rights that are reserved for such enterprises: Like an own contact person and subsidies from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service
A survey from 2013 showed that 70 % of employers iin Norway had joined the IA agreement (Svalund & Hansen, 2013).
Bufdirs work on disability
Enhancing equality for people with disability in Norway is a cross-sectorial responsibility. The Norwegian Directorate for Childeren, Youth and Family Affairs’s (Bufdir) responsibilities with regards to disability are coordinating the various sectors, filling knowledge gaps, and to advise other government bodies on matters pertaining to disability. We are responsible for promoting equality and stopping discrimination based on disability.
The aim of our work is to improve the lives and living conditions of people with disabilities. We cooperate with government agencies, research institutions, organisations/civic groups and volunteers to reach this aim, and aid the Ministry of Children and Equality in the development of policy.
Bufdirs primary tasks are:
- Initiating policies that improve the living conditions of people with disabilities. We support targeted information, research and development policies and projects that contribute to improving living conditions.
- Documenting the living conditions of people with disabilities. Our statistics page presents up-to-date knowledge and research on the living conditions of people with disabilities.
- Managing grants. The Directorate for Youth and Family Affairs provide annual grants to organisations for people with disabilities, totalling 178,6 million kroners (approximately 20 million dollars).
Disabled people are a diverse group
People with disabilities are not a homogenous group. The concept of disability encompasses a vast range of disabilities, for instance reduced hearing, congnitive difficulties, and reduces mobilities. People with disabilities have the same identity markers as the rest of the population, including, but not limited to, gender, sexuality, and race. These identity markers intersect to produce discrimination in different ways for different people, rendering them “multiply-burdened” (Crenshaw, 1989). This internal diversity within the group means that one person’s experience of disability will not be the same as the next.
The Directorate for Childeren, Youth and Family Affairs works to improve the living conditions of all people with disabilities, and address the need for research on the intersections of gender and race with disability. One example of this work is a multilingual video outlining rights and services, made for ethnic minority families with children with disabilities, which is available at this YouTube-link.