Fundamental Rights of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and Mental Health Problems

Project Research Manager: Rachel Stevens

This project was funded by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)* in July 2010 and is co-ordinated by a consortium partnership between the National University of Ireland Galway (Centre for Disability Law and Policy), Human European Consultancy, Leeds University (Centre for Disability Studies), and the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC). 

The project aims to gather information about the extent to which, in practice, the rights of people with intellectual disabilities and people with mental health problems are realised in four situations or areas of life as follows:

  • Independent living in the community
  • Entry into institutions and conditions of life within them
  • Legal capacity and freedom to make one’s own decisions
  • Access to justice

The project will explore any ‘implementation gap’ between the letter of the law (within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities) and the position on the ground.  It also aims to identify examples of good practice and to make recommendations as to how the position might be improved.

The project has three main phases.  The first consists of the gathering of information (in the form of reports based on desk research) about the situation in all European Union countries and a separate report about the developments at the international and European levels.  The second consists of empirical research in nine of those countries (Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom).  This will consist of interviews, focus groups and photovoice observation.  The third phase will consist of the writing of a final report, a draft of which will be explored with research participants and other stakeholders in a conference in Vienna.

For further information regarding FRA and this project please refer to the following website:

* The European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) was established by a Council Resolution in 2007 to assist Member States and the institutions of the European Union to ensure the full respect of human rights (as laid out in EU treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter). Amongst the key activities of the FRA are research and analysis, and communication and awareness-raising. 

Disability discrimination is one of the themes included in FRA’s 2007-2012 programme. In addition, the FRA is keen to assist Member States and the EU in their efforts to implement obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This project forms the second element of a three-stage FRA work programme focusing on the rights of people with intellectual disabilities and people with mental health problems. The first stage consisted of the preparation of reports on relevant laws within each Member State at the European and international level. This second stage focuses on the gathering of evidence of the social impact of those laws in practice. The third and final stage will be concerned with the development of relevant networking and awareness-raising activities.