In Dialogue with Switzerland, Experts of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Commend COVID-19 Protections and Ask About Rise in Institutionalisation
Also congratulate the State party for welcoming Ukrainian refugees, especially refugees with disabilities, during the humanitarian crisis.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this morning concluded its consideration of the initial report of Switzerland on how it implements the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, commending the State party on its COVID-19 protections, and asking about a rise in institutionalisation. Experts also congratulated the State party for welcoming Ukrainian refugees, especially refugees with disabilities, during the humanitarian crisis.
A Committee Expert welcomed that Switzerland had taken measures to protect people with disabilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another Committee Expert asked how many persons with disabilities had passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic? If persons with breathing disabilities needed a ventilator, had they been provided with one? Were organizations for persons with disabilities consulted about preventative measures against COVID-19? The number of persons with disabilities in institutions was increasing. What measures were in place to stop that trend? How were institutions monitored, and who monitored them? Another Expert said that Switzerland’s plan to build 400 more institutions ran counter to the Convention.
In the ensuing discussion, the delegation said that regarding the situation in Ukraine, many persons with disabilities could not leave that country, and so Switzerland had provided support for those people to leave Ukraine, also raising awareness with partners in the field on the needs of persons with disabilities.
Switzerland was collecting data on refugees arriving in the country. Statistics on the local situation were changing rapidly due to the unstable circumstances. It was important to provide help to Ukrainian refugees with disabilities, and the State was doing so with the support of non-governmental organizations and United Nations partners. Ventilators had been provided for all persons with disabilities who needed them after contracting COVID-19. The pandemic had increased inequality, particularly for persons with disabilities, and Switzerland had adapted its programmes to ensure that persons with disabilities had access to necessary services. In response to questions about institutions, the delegation explained that the Civil Code for Adult Protection held protection for persons in institutions. Placement in institutions was lifted when it was no longer necessary. There had been criticism regarding individuals’ placement in institutions, so the Federal Office of Public Health had set up a working group. Based on its conclusions, it would determine what steps to take.
Introducing the report, Lukas Gresch-Brunner, Secretary-General, Federal Department of Home Affairs of Switzerland and head of the delegation, said that one of the main developments since the submission of the initial report was the adoption of a policy which emphasised the obligation of all authorities to uphold and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in their respective areas of competence.
Also introducing the report, Matthias Reynard, State Councillor and member of the Committee of the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Social Affairs of Switzerland, said that a significant number of cantons had launched pilot projects on issues such as housing, work, outpatient provision and autonomous schools for persons with disabilities.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Gresch-Brunner said that the recommendations of the Committee would help guide the disability policy of the Confederation and the cantons toward improving the living conditions of people with disabilities in Switzerland.
Rosemary Kayess, Committee Chair and Country Rapporteur for Switzerland, encouraged the State party to end institutionalisation and facilitate independent living, provide uniform accessibility standards, and implement a human rights model of disability across all public systems in cooperation with organizations of persons with disabilities. She wished the State party the best in its endeavours.
The delegation of Switzerland was made up of representatives of the Federal Department of Interior; Department of Justice and Police; Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication; Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport; Department of Foreign Affairs; Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research; Department of Finance; the Federal Chancellery; Swiss Conference of Health Directors; the Conference on the Protection of Minors and Adults; the Committee of the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Social Affairs (CDAS); Department of Health, Social Affairs and Culture of the Canton of Valais; Department of Social Insurance and Disability, Canton of Geneva; Swiss Center for Special Education Foundation; and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Switzerland at the end of its twenty-sixth session, which concludes on 25 March. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee is next scheduled to meet in public at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 17 March, to begin its consideration of the combined second and third periodic reports of Mexico (CRPD/C/MEX/2-3).
The Committee has before it the initial periodic report of Switzerland (CRPD/C/CHE/1).
Presentation of the Report
LUKAS GRESCH-BRUNNER, Secretary-General, Federal Department of Home Affairs of Switzerland, and head of the delegation, said that Switzerland was pleased to be able to present its initial report and explain the progress made in recent years. The report had been drawn up in cooperation with all the relevant departments of the Confederation and the cantons, and organizations of persons with disabilities. One of the main developments since the submission of the initial report was the adoption by the Government in 2018 of the Federal Policy for Persons with Disabilities. That policy placed particular emphasis on close cooperation between the Confederation, the cantons and the communes. The policy emphasised the obligation of all authorities to uphold and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in their respective areas of competence. The policy had three priority themes: autonomy, equality in work and digital accessibility.
Switzerland recognised that the situation of persons with disabilities needed to be further improved in those and other areas. In order to achieve that, the State needed to obtain a more accurate picture of the situation and needs of different groups of persons with disabilities by developing corresponding statistics and analyses. It also needed to provide opportunities for the participation in social and political life of persons with disabilities.
Although the Government and the cantons took into account the needs of people with disabilities as much as possible, Government groups had adopted measures that restricted the rights of persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of 2022, the Government would decide on the next stage of its policy for people with disabilities. The exchanges with the Committee and its observations would help Switzerland define future policy, and thus to strengthen and improve the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities.
MATTHIAS REYNARD, State Councillor and member of the Committee of the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Social Affairs of Switzerland, said that Switzerland had a well-organised and active civil society and a strong lobby in the field of disability inclusion. There was a constant dialogue between the cantons and organisations defending the interests of people with disabilities. Some shortcomings still existed, but the Swiss authorities, particularly at cantonal level, had been very active in that area in recent years. The national dialogue on social policy ensured a constant exchange between the federal, cantonal, and local levels to improve policy for people with disabilities.
In 2021, 17 out of 26 cantons had actively implemented the Convention at the legislative level. Since 2019, eight cantons had adopted, or were in the process of drafting, new legal rules to promote outpatient care for people with disabilities. A significant number of cantons had launched pilot projects on issues such as housing, work, outpatient provision and autonomous schools for persons with disabilities. Cantons had also prepared inventories of measures taken or action plans.
On 1 January 2022, a new law on the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities had entered into force. That law established "world cafés" to listen to and identify the needs and demands of people with disabilities and the associations that defended them. It made inclusion mandatory and allowed persons alleging discrimination to take legal action in the face of inequality. Under that law, an Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was being established. The canton of Valais placed strong emphasis on home support over institutionalisation. The cantons, with the support of the inter-cantonal bodies and the federal authorities, were thus on the right track toward improving protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert noted that Switzerland had an abundance of natural beauty and was ranked third on the World Development Index. The Committee welcomed that Switzerland had taken measures to protect people with disabilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. State parties should stop seeing persons with disabilities as being different, and rather as a natural part of society. Switzerland needed to introduce reforms to achieve that goal. How could Swiss adherence to the Convention be harmonised between federal and cantonal levels? Did Switzerland plan to ratify the Optional Protocol on individual communications? Would Switzerland implement legislative measures to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination? Would the State guarantee that persons with disabilities received critical medical care on an equal basis with others?
Another Committee Expert asked the delegation whether persons with disabilities were being consulted regarding decisions that affected them. Various awareness-raising measures had been taken, but many persons with disabilities were still not aware of their rights. Further, stigmatisation of persons with disabilities had increased. What measures had been implemented to raise awareness among public officials regarding the rights of persons with disabilities?
Another Committee Expert said that women with disabilities were subject to multiple forms of discrimination. What measures had been taken to prevent that?
Another Committee Expert asked whether the State party had developed an action plan for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and consulted with civil society groups containing persons with disabilities. What measures had been taken to protect children with disabilities against violence? How many children with disabilities had been placed in institutional facilities? Reports indicated that that number was rising.
Another Committee Expert asked what efforts had been made to ensure that the issues of women and girls with disabilities had been included in the National Action Plan on Disability Support? What steps had been taken to review the 2017 Strategy on Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls to include protections for women and girls with disabilities?
Another Committee Expert said that there were shortcomings in the accessibility of public and private infrastructure. Measures taken hitherto had been insufficient for allowing access to public facilities for all persons with disabilities. What measures would be taken to allow access for persons for multiple disabilities?
Another Committee Expert said that the Convention was not being implemented for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities were still placed in institutions, and there were cases of abuse of such. What measures had been taken to protect the rights of children with disabilities in institutions?
Another Committee Expert said that no substantial steps had been taken to include a human rights model of disabilities within Swiss legislation and the justice system. What measures would be taken to include that model? What measures would be taken to ensure that the rights of the child were protected and included within a human rights model of disability rights legislation?
Responses from the Delegation
The delegation said that Switzerland’s policy was based on a prohibition of discrimination, and there were legal measures to tackle discrimination against persons with disabilities. Switzerland had a long-standing tradition of involving all stakeholders in consultation regarding legislation. Last year, consultations had led to changes in the insurance scheme for persons with disabilities. Preparatory work for the next phase of the policy on persons with disabilities was underway, and that development included representatives of persons with disabilities.
Many cantons had started to review their legislation to reflect the rights of persons with disabilities. For example, the canton of Zurich had drafted an action plan to implement the Convention, in cooperation with the Disability Rights Conference of Switzerland.
The Federal Council aimed to develop coherent policies on equality for persons with disabilities, in coordination with stakeholders. Switzerland would decide whether to ratify the Optional Protocol after examining its feasibility. The federal Government worked closely with Switzerland’s cantons, many of which had implemented campaigns to raise awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities. Information on events held for persons with disabilities was available in easy-to-read formats and in Sign Language. Half of all funds for persons with disabilities were provided directly to individuals as support, and the remainder was used to fund campaigns and development projects.
Conferences were held to improve legislation on persons with disabilities. A recent survey had found that the majority of Switzerland’s cantons had taken steps to implement the Convention, and there was a great deal of awareness of the Convention at cantonal level. The absence of comprehensive legislation against discrimination was due to ongoing deliberations related to the new legislation and the Constitution. The Federal Council had fully reviewed the legislation and was working to protect against discrimination, although there was no formal law.
Bus stops and stations were in line with legislation on the rights of persons with disabilities. Detailed guidelines were being established to allow for autonomous use by persons with disabilities of public transport; Switzerland was one of the few countries to have included autonomous use in its public transport legislation.
Switzerland had faced unprecedented challenges regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. There had been problems concerning protection measures, but information was provided quickly.
In response to questions about discrimination against women, the delegation explained that while there were no plans to establish a federal office for women with disabilities, steps were being taken to ensure equality for all people with disabilities, which was ensured by the Constitution. In 2021, the State had submitted a report on its progress in preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence. One of the State’s priorities was to examine violence faced by persons with disabilities. As discrimination was a factor for exclusion, detailed documents and workshops had been prepared to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked the delegation to provide an update regarding the development of guidelines for special needs by the State Secretariat for Migration, and the establishment of a single point of contact for persons with disabilities in asylum centres. What measures had the State taken to address the shortage of staff in federal asylum centres, where the care ratio was one staff member per 100 asylum seekers? How would the State party resolve legislation that required financial independence or family reunification to obtain or maintain a residence permit as it related to the situation of persons with disabilities?
Another Committee Expert said that the Switzerland’s laws allowed for the removal of persons with disabilities’ legal capacity. For how long could legal capacity be removed? Were there measures available to assist people under guardianship? The number of persons with disabilities in institutions was increasing. What measures were in place to stop that trend? How were institutions monitored, and who monitored them? There was also a lack of accessible housing and services for people with disabilities. What measures were in place to rectify that?
Another Committee Expert asked how many persons with disabilities had passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic? If persons with breathing disabilities needed a ventilator, had they been provided with one? Were organizations for persons with disabilities consulted about preventative measures against COVID-19? What measures had Switzerland taken to respond to the criticisms of the United Nations Committee against Torture about the treatment of persons with psychosocial disabilities? Had the isolation of such persons in institutions been prohibited?
Another Committee Expert asked the delegation to describe steps taken to ensure that people who committed violence against persons with disabilities in institutions were held accountable. The Expert also asked for data on persons with disabilities subjected to involuntary medical interventions and forced treatments. What measures were in place to prevent such practices?
Another Committee Expert asked about persons with disabilities’ access to accommodation. What measures were in place to train persons with disabilities to join the judicial system? What measures were in place to make training and mobility services available to persons with disabilities in rural areas? What steps had been taken to ensure access to justice for persons with disabilities, particularly persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities? How did the Swiss system intend to give greater choice regarding housing for persons with disabilities? How was “reasonable accommodation” provided? Had the State party taken steps to prevent the removal of liberty through involuntary treatment and non-consensual commitment in mental health institutions on the basis of impairment? Did the State party intend to oppose the adoption of legislation that legitimised discrimination of persons on the grounds of psycho-social impairment?
Another Committee Expert called for streamlining of policies and programmes to guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities. What steps had been taken toward that goal? Did the State party truly intend to guarantee that persons with disabilities had access to the provisions available to them under the Optional Protocol?
Another Committee Expert asked the delegation to provide information on a national plan for accessibility to ensure equality of access in line with the Convention. How would the State enable independent access of persons with disabilities in line with European Union standards?
Responses from the Delegation
The delegation stated that Swiss policy was being streamlined with the Convention to foster equality for persons with disabilities. In 2018, the State had reviewed legislation related to persons with disabilities; it would do so again in 2022. Switzerland would take on board the Committee’s concerns regarding the terminology in the legislation.
Switzerland had “invalidity insurance,” a key part of its policy on persons with disabilities. “Invalidity” related to social security. There were dissenting opinions about whether that terminology was problematic, so the State was reviewing the use of the terminology in legislation.
The national plan on accessibility aimed to gradually improve access to public buildings. There were bus and tram stations that had not yet been modified for access by persons with disabilities, but the public transport system allowed for autonomous use. Stakeholders and Government bodies were being consulted regarding station modifications.
Switzerland had no statistics regarding people with disabilities who had been infected with COVID-19. Ventilators had been provided for all persons with disabilities who needed them after contracting COVID-19. The pandemic had increased inequality, particularly for persons with disabilities, and Switzerland had adapted its programmes to ensure that persons with disabilities had access to necessary services. It had also provided financial support to people with disabilities who needed it.
Measures on guardianship were in place to ensure that the interests of the persons with disabilities were safeguarded. Guardianship was only implemented when other options were not available. “Light” forms of guardianship were used when possible. Guardians provided for supportive decision-making, acting as coaches for the person concerned. The will of the person concerned was respected in all decisions. Guidelines had been sent to medical professionals and guardians to ensure that the person concerned was allowed to make decisions regarding vaccination against COVID-19. The person concerned had freedom to choose guardians, holding options to nominate a guardian, and to ask to be released from a guardian. Guardianship was not total or definitive, and only lasted for as long as necessary.
Persons with disabilities had access to fair treatment in courts. The right to be heard was guaranteed in the Constitution, as was the right to free legal aid. If persons--for physical or psychological reasons--could not defend their interests, they were represented by the Federal Council. They could also request to be assisted by family members or experts. Legal representatives needed to take stock of the person they were representing. There were special proceedings for persons with disabilities. For example, a Sign Language interpreter was summoned for persons with hearing disabilities.
The Civil Code for Adult Protection held protection for persons in institutions. Placement in institutions was lifted when it was no longer necessary. There had been criticism regarding individuals’ placement in institutions, so the Federal Office of Public Health had set up a working group. Based on its conclusions, it would determine what steps to take.
According to Switzerland’s Criminal Code, if persons who had committed a crime had a psychological impairment, they were placed in an institution where they could receive psychological treatment. Their release was reviewed once a year. Detainees had the same rights as other patients to receive medical care, but could not choose their physician. The Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences stipulated that treatment for detainees must follow the same rules as those for the rest of the population.
All victims in Switzerland received support from the cantons, as stipulated by the Victim Support Act. The State was working to improve access to victim support measures. Information had been prepared in Sign Language, as well as easy-to-read language. Campaigns were being carried out on social media.
No surgery on intersex persons could be carried out without the prior consent of the patient. There could be no pressure from health professionals. If a child was of indeterminate sex at birth, discernment of sex could only be undertaken by the person concerned. Gender-assignment surgery without consent was considered a crime. There were no statistics on the number of intersex people in Switzerland.
Cantons had programmes supporting independent living. There were some shortcomings in housing legislation, so the State was reviewing legislation to allow persons with disabilities to choose their accommodation freely. Several cantons were amending their legislation to ensure freedom of choice. The availability of housing for persons with disabilities had diversified due to an increase in the number of services which could now be offered at home. The transition from institutions to home care was to be encouraged.
Disability insurance provided support for adapting bathrooms, installing ramps or lifts, and making other renovations to ensure the accessibility of housing. There was also an assistance allowance launched in 2012, which allowed persons with disabilities to hire an assistant. Switzerland had adopted a vision for housing to address the issue of institutionalisation. There were around 34,000 people with disabilities living in institutions, including 1,600 children. An increase in housing and home support would lead to a decrease in those figures in coming years.
Follow-Up Questions by the Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked what steps Switzerland had taken to implement the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in humanitarian action?
The Federal Council had recognised that substitute decision-making mechanisms were incompatible with Article 12 of the Convention, but had not taken any concrete action to correct that, as it was waiting for the recommendations of the Committee. The Committee’s position on substitute decision-making and the need to replace it with supportive decision-making had not changed, and it had requested the State party to take concrete action. When would Switzerland do this?
What measures were in place to prohibit the sterilisation of people with disabilities without their consent, and to prevent guardians from making decisions on forced sterilisation? Would the State party collect disaggregated data on victims of forced sterilisation?
Another Committee Expert said institutionalisation undermined the rights of persons with disabilities. What was being done to protect people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities from torture?
Another Committee Expert asked why disability protections had not been included in Switzerland’s 2030 National Plan? How did the State party determine whether persons were capable of discernment? Had disability perspectives been included in the Sterilisation Act? What supports were in place for women and girls who were in undergoing sterilisation?
Another Committee Expert asked for information about legal assistance provided to persons with disabilities whose rights had been violated, the mechanisms in place to submit complaints, and redress provided.
Responses by the Delegation
Goals and strategies to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities had been included in Switzerland’s Draft Strategy for Sustainable Development for 2030, the delegation said. The notion of women with disabilities was included in the National Plan of Action; in time, other aspects related to disabilities would be added.
The State had taken steps to reduce the number of people under guardianship, and had considered measures taken in other countries. Switzerland was waiting for an external report regarding regulations about institutionalisation, and would decide on reforms after receiving the report.
The priority aim of disability insurance was to compensate persons with disabilities who could not find work. There were medical and training measures available to help people on that insurance programme to find work. Employers of such people would also benefit from certain measures. One of the characteristics of the Swiss insurance scheme was that even after finding work, persons could receive a partial benefit from it.
In 2021, together with non-governmental organization partners from various States, Switzerland had co-founded a project working to end disability-based discrimination. Awareness-raising campaigns had been launched, and foreign non-governmental organizations had met with local, Swiss organizations to provide training on the rights of persons with disabilities.
In response to questions about asylum seekers, a guide on points of contact had been set up, and a guide on training had been released. There were procedures for healthcare in asylum centres, and the State had recruited staff and trained security officers to prevent violence. Persons with disabilities were treated without discrimination, in proportion with their needs. They were exempted from certain asylum rules. The needs of persons with disabilities were taken into consideration when it came to their integration into society. Measures were being proposed to prevent domestic violence within asylum facilities and to provide care for persons with disabilities who had experienced trauma.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that arguably, Switzerland collected more personal information on persons with disabilities than was required. What was being done to change that? In 2020, the canton of Geneva had abolished regulations preventing persons with disabilities from voting. What were other cantons doing to ensure that persons with disabilities were able to vote?
Another Committee Expert asked what measures were offered to support families with children with disabilities? What legal and other measures were in place to prohibit the separation of children with disabilities from their parents? What measures were in place to provide sexual education to persons with disabilities? What measures were provided to assist persons with disabilities to access the labour market, and ensure equal pay for equal work?
Another Expert said that Switzerland’s plan to build 400 more institutions ran counter to the Convention. What measures were being taken to develop inclusive education?
Another Expert said that often, it was for financial reasons that persons with disabilities were not able to obtain health care. What measures were in place to ensure universal access to health care and life insurance for persons with disabilities?
Another Committee Expert asked the delegation to describe measures to make official information accessible. What was the status of Braille in Switzerland? What measures were taken to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, and to recognise the rights of the deaf and the rights of children with disabilities? What strategies had been implemented to include persons with disabilities in planning for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?
Another Expert expressed concern that many cantons did not have points of contact for implementation of the Convention. What measures were in place to ensure that such points of contact were available in all cantons?
Another Expert asked the delegation to provide information on concrete measures in place to legally recognise the three varieties of Sign Language used in the country. How would the State party ensure the bilingual education of children with disabilities?
Responses from the Delegation
The delegation stated that one of the State party’s major tasks had been to make information on COVID-19 more accessible. It had provided easy-to-read information and information in Switzerland’s three Sign Languages, in cooperation with organizations for persons with disabilities. Voting material and information on cantonal services was also being made available in easy-to-read format and in Sign Language. The National Broadcasting Service provided Sign Language and captioning for prime-time television broadcasts. Regional television programming also provided captioning in repeat broadcasts.
The Government provided funding for training for persons with disabilities in sports and cultural activities. Persons with disabilities also took part in sports camps. Around half of the funding came from private donations. Under invalidity insurance, supplementary aid was provided to adapt houses, as well as for personal assistants and counselling for children. Personal assistants allowed disabled persons to live at home. Older children who had difficulties in school were encouraged to undertake vocational training. The Swiss Sexual Health Organization promoted sexual health education. Since 2004, the Organization had received financial support to provide education to persons with disabilities.
There was a 40 per cent drop in the number of students in special education. Cantons harmonised activities through cantonal conferences, with Federal entities involved in that dialogue. Cantons were finalising a programme for supporting school education for children with autism. Switzerland aimed to have an inclusive schooling system. It was working on bilingual education for persons with hearing disabilities.
Mandatory insurance took care of expenses in the case of an accident. Complementary insurance was optional, and was not subject to public law. The Federal Council had adopted report measures to improve psychiatric care, and was currently implementing those measures at the cantonal level.
Access to the world of employment for persons with disabilities was extremely important, but the State still had a way to go, and was working to eradicate obstacles through various measures including a survey of employees and workshops. Public law provided appropriate protection against discrimination, but many employers were not aware of the rights of persons with disabilities, so the State was conducting awareness-raising campaigns aimed at employers.
Training was being conducted for young people with psychological disabilities, to integrate them into the labour market. An increasing number of protected jobs were being made available. A new project had been launched to support the transition from the protected labour market to the primary labour market.
The Swiss Constitution guaranteed support to persons in all difficult situations through the Swiss social security system and cantonal social security. Health care, support for the elderly, and invalidity insurance were part of the Swiss social security system. When those services did not cover the basic needs of the beneficiary, other benefits were provided. When persons with disabilities could not receive benefits from the Federal social security system, they could access support from the cantonal social support system.
Accessible voting formats were available to Swiss voters with disabilities. The Federal Parliament had tasked the Government to support people with intellectual disabilities to participate in elections. Each local authority decided how its electoral board was established, but there was a willingness to make the voting process inclusive. The Canton of Geneva had already removed restrictions on voting, and the State expected other cantons to do the same in the near future.
The curriculum for sports teachers included education guidelines for persons with disabilities, and there were initiatives for including and training persons with disabilities in local sporting associations. Special Olympics Switzerland was organising the Winter Olympic Games to be held in 2022.
Switzerland had a vast system of public statistics, and the Office of Federal Statistics was tasked with managing the system. There were a variety of disaggregated indicators on persons with disabilities, providing information on persons with disabilities in a number of areas of public life. Those included labour participation and social welfare receipt. The Office of Federal Statistics was intensifying its efforts to share information, and a working group had been established toward that aim. To remedy the State’s change in strategy on statistics gathering, the State had identified key statistical areas to pursue.
All international cooperation activities were relevant when implemented in conjunction with organizations for persons with disabilities. Organizations for persons with disabilities provided valuable information on what the needs were of persons with disabilities. Regarding the situation in Ukraine, many persons with disabilities could not leave that country, and so Switzerland had provided support for those people to leave Ukraine, also raising awareness with partners in the field on the needs of persons with disabilities. Switzerland was also working on collecting appropriate data to take suitable action. The State party was working with around 40 organizations for persons with disabilities to provide support internationally.
There were focal points in the cantons for persons with disabilities, and a coordinating body for implementation of the Convention. The persons responsible at various levels were actively working to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. On October 1, 2021, the Parliament had launched a pluralist institution for protecting human rights. Organizations for persons with disabilities would be represented on the Committee of that institution, which would also work to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
Questions from Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked for more information on the State’s discrimination protection law, saying that laws differed greatly between cantons. Discrimination protection laws did not cover non-State actors or multiple and intersectional discrimination. What was the State party doing to harmonise laws at the Federal and cantonal level?
Security staff at psychiatric facilities were equipped with truncheons, handcuffs and pepper gel, and persons with cognitive impairment were placed in isolation. What was being done to protect patients in those institutions? Were unannounced visits carried out by the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture? Were its recommendations acted upon?
Were people with autism eligible for invalidity insurance and other social benefits? How many people with disabilities had been granted remedies in cases of discrimination, including in employment? How did Switzerland ensure a coherent and mainstreamed approach to disability inclusion across its international cooperation work?
Another Committee Expert said of all children qualifying for special education measures, 40.8 per cent attended special schools and 6 per cent attended special classes. The Expert asked for disaggregated data on the number of students in special schools, and for information on measures promoting inclusive education. Was there a plan to transfer resources from special schools to mainstream schools? Would the State party ensure that integrative measures were not cut back?
What was the status of the e-working system? How was the State party assisting persons with disabilities to work online? There was underrepresentation of persons with disabilities in political life. What was being done to increase the number of persons with disabilities in decision-making positions in Parliament and public service?
A Committee Expert welcomed that the number of students in special education had decreased by 40 per cent between 2005 and 2020. What was the State’s timeline for ensuring full compliance with the model of inclusive education?
The Expert also congratulated the State party for welcoming Ukrainian refugees, especially refugees with disabilities, during the humanitarian crisis.
Was there data on refugees with disabilities’ access to services, especially in the case of refugees from Ukraine? Were there any independent bodies which ensured that appropriate provisions were provided to persons with disabilities in international aid projects?
Responses from the Delegation
The system on protection from discrimination was complicated, but not a lottery. The Federal System provided legal instruments that protected against discrimination. In response to questions about psychiatric institutions, the delegation explained that under Article 78 of the Penal Code, isolation could be requested over the course of a week. Persons with psychiatric disabilities should not be placed in isolation. The Commission conducted unannounced visits, and its findings were published on its website.
There were 30,000 pupils in special education, and 17,000 in regional special education. 50 per cent had been integrated into mainstream classes. The State had room for improvement in this area. People in special schools were provided with appropriate care. The State was working to increase the number of pupils integrated into regular education. Some Cantons had higher percentages of inclusion than others. There was a focus on equality in the 2024 Education plan, and the State hoped that it would achieve a 0 per cent separation rate in future.
Children with autism benefited from all measures available under invalidity insurance.
In Switzerland, trials had been conducted on electronic voting since 2004, but those were interrupted in 2009. By the midway point to 2022, Switzerland would implement the recommendations of a working group and resume trials of electronic voting. There were no plans for the Confederation to amend cantonal laws, but some cantons were planning to implement accessible voting measures. The Federal Bureau for Persons with Disabilities was working on ways to promote the political participation of persons with disabilities, but was not yet in a position to announce those measures publicly.
Regarding the Ukraine situation, Switzerland was collecting data on refugees arriving in the country. Statistics on the local situation were changing rapidly due to the unstable circumstances. It was important to provide help to Ukrainian refugees with disabilities, and the State was doing so with the support of non-governmental organizations and United Nations partners.
LUKAS GRESCH-BRUNNER, Secretary-General, Federal Department of Home Affairs of Switzerland and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the open, constructive dialogue. The recommendations of the Committee, he said, would help guide the disability policy of the Confederation and the cantons toward improving the living conditions of people with disabilities in Switzerland. Fully implementing the recommendations would take time, but Switzerland had embarked on the path of implementation and was grateful for the support of the Committee. Mr. Gresch-Brunner thanked the representatives of the Confederation and the cantons who had engaged in the review, and the organizations of people with disabilities for their contribution. In closing, he expressed hope that the delegation would all be able to be present in Geneva for future dialogues with the Committee.
ROSEMARY KAYESS, Committee Chair and Country Rapporteur for Switzerland, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, and for its comprehensive responses. Switzerland had a mindful and considered approach to the development of law and policy, but it was important that that approach was not hampered by the process of ongoing reviews. The State had demonstrated that it had a wealth of resources regarding policy and legal reform. Switzerland should closely consult and actively involve organizations of persons with disabilities in its reform agenda. Transforming existing systems and implementing a human rights model of disability would require significant, coordinated legislative and cultural change. To achieve that goal, the State would need to harmonise Convention standards across Federal, cantonal and municipal levels; ensure comprehensive and uniform protection from discrimination; replace substitute decision-making with supported decision-making; end institutionalisation and facilitate independent living; ensure inclusive education; provide uniform accessibility standards; prohibit forced medical interventions and treatments; and strengthen disability inclusive development. She wished the State party all the best in its endeavours.
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