Report on habilitation and rehabilitation under article 26 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

21 January 2019
To the HRC at its 40th session, 6 March 2019


In its Resolution 37/22, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to prepare a thematic study on article 26 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (hereon, CRPD or Convention) for submission prior to its fortieth session.


For the first time in the international legal framework, the obligation to provide habilitation and rehabilitation to persons with disabilities is enshrined in a stand-alone provision. While it has been referred to in other human rights instruments as an element of the right to health or as a component of services conducive to the fullest possible development of children with disabilities, article 26 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities increases the visibility of the obligation to provide habilitation and rehabilitation as an important strategy for ensuring the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities to attain, maintain, and maximize their independence, full physical, mental, social, and vocational ability, and full inclusion and participation in all aspects of life. 

Habilitation and rehabilitation are understood as a set of interventions designed to optimize functioning of individuals with impairments in interaction with their environment. Habilitation aims to assist individuals who acquire impairments congenitally or in early childhood to learn how to better function with them. Rehabilitation, in the strict sense, aims to assist those who experience a loss in function as a result of acquiring an impairment to relearn how to perform daily activities to regain maximal function. By providing and/or restoring functions, or compensating for the loss or absence of a function or a functional limitation, habilitation and rehabilitation ultimately equip persons with disabilities to achieve a higher level of independence.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes and reinforces a cross-sectoral approach to rehabilitation. While habilitation and rehabilitation also figure as components of other Convention rights relating to health, employment and education, article 26 establishes a unifying framework for the provision of coordinated and comprehensive habilitation and rehabilitation services that are voluntary, individualized and community-based, and which are embedded in human rights through respect for free and informed consent, non-discrimination, participation, availability, affordability and accessibility. Habilitation and rehabilitation are an important element of community based inclusive development strategies.

In order to implement article 26 of the Convention, States should take measures to: review their legal and policy frameworks; ensure cross-sectoral coordination; develop a multidisciplinary and trained rehabilitation workforce; establish funding mechanisms to ensure adequate access to affordable rehabilitation services; conduct awareness-raising with a human rights based approach; and carry out reliable research and data collection for improving the quality of, and access to services.

In preparation of the study, OHCHR invited States and relevant stakeholders to present submissions by transmitting a set of questions related to existing legislation and policies regarding habilitation and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. As a result, OHCHR received the responses listed below.

Inputs received

Member States

NGOs and Civil Society Organizations