Key documents: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Declaration on the Rights of the Child, Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons, Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Salamanca Statement.
Characteristics: Documents adopted by the United Nations all aim to create a human rights framework that applies to education. This is done through either addressing the right to education or fundamental human rights for people with disabilities. Also, because the international documents are focused on human rights, they can be applied to all individual EU Member States and their various education systems, since the implementation of these rights is up to the Member States themselves.
The ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a critical moment that formed the basis of modern policy that addresses special education needs and the rights to education. It established the right to education internationally in Article 26, while also clarifying that some people require additional assistance during their education .
The fifth principle of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child stated that any child who is physically, mentally, or socially handicapped should be given appropriate treatment, education, and care that matches the particular condition .
Article 2 of the Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons stresses the right of people with intellectual, developmental, and learning conditions specifically to receive appropriate education in order to develop themselves to their maximum potential .
The Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons was the close successor of the Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons. This new Declaration expanded the scope of its predecessor to now include all people with disabilities . It was also this document that first introduced a definition to the term ‘disabled person’ that would autism to be included in it.
The principles set out in the Declaration on the Rights of the Child were expanded upon by the Convention on the Rights of the Child . This expansion was not necessarily aimed at improving the educational environment for the children directly, but more geared towards improving the general environment. For example, the role of the parents in the development of their child was closely explained from a human rights perspective in this Convention. Previously, it had only been established that parents play a general role in the development of the child, but it wasn’t further specified.
With the publication of the Salamanca Statement by UNESCO, the focus of special needs education shifted from enabling children to have an education to allowing all children to attend mainstream education with assistance .
Finally, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities emphasise once again that children with disabilities should be able to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms , thus cementing their rights to education and to develop their potential.