United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Dissabilities
On September 13, 2006, the United Nations adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This legally binding international human rights treaty aims to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities.
The UNCRPD introduces a human rights based approach to disability. Instead of seeking to create new rights for persons with disabilities, the UNCRPD clarifies existing human rights obligations within the disability context. Core themes of the Convention are individual autonomy, and full and effective participation and inclusion in society. The Convention also contains innovative provisions on the rights of women and children with disabilities. Unfortunately however, legal standards do not always reflect the lived reality of persons with disabilities.
In the Netherlands, the Convention came into force on July 14, 2016.
Trains without toilets
The public transportation system in the Netherlands should be accessible to all. However, due to economic austerity, some short-ride trains have become inaccessible to certain groups. In cutting back on public transport expenses, a new range of short-distance trains was ordered without toilets aboard. For some persons with specific disabilities, as well as elderly people, it is essential to be able to access a toilet. These decisions were made without taking notice of their impact on the mobility of persons with disabilities and the accessibility of public transport for all.
Following criticism in the Dutch media in 2010, the government announced that all trains ordered from 2015 onwards should have toilets aboard. Furthermore, they determined that all remaining short-distance trains should have reintroduced toilets before 2021.
The national rail service is addressing the issues of mobility for persons with disabilities. For regional providers, some are willing to comply with the requested changes but require authorization from the Provincial government first. The direct result of this is that some regional providers have not yet agreed to reinstall toilets in short-distance trains. This lack of compliance could amount to a violation of the UNCRPD.
Accessibility & Mobility
There are two specific provisions of the UNCRPD relevant when discussing the rights of persons with disabilities in relation to trains without toilets. First of note is Article 9, which obliges State Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities equal access to transportation. Additionally, Article 20 speaks to the right to personal mobility. Under this provision, State Parties should guarantee the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities by facilitating their personal mobility. Access to transportation is key to independence and full community participation. Accessible transportation also helps to ensure inherent dignity on an equal basis with others. The PILP is exploring legal avenues to address the violation of rights for persons with disabilities.
On March 13, 2017, the PILP, together with citizens’ initiative Treinen met Toiletten, the Stoma foundation and the Patientsfederation, supported by lawyers from CMS, sent a letter to the provincial government of Zuid-Holland about toilet-less trains.
On December 20, 2016, the PILP, together with citizens’ initiative Treinen met Toiletten, supported by lawyers from CMS, sent a letter to the provincial government of Gelderland about toilet-less trains. You can also read our news message about this issue.