UN rights official finds disabled people in Jordan often excluded from schools and jobs

Special Rapporteur Gerard Quinn says Jordan's new anti-discrimination laws are not enough

Children play at a new park in Al Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan. Reuters
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A UN rights official praised Jordan on Thursday for passing recent laws promoting the rights of disabled people but said the country lagged behind when it came to implementation.

Gerard Quinn, UN special rapporteur on the rights of people with disabilities, said at the conclusion of a 10-day visit to Jordan that disabled people are frequently excluded from the country’s education system and job market.

“Gaps in social protection and family support mechanisms perpetuate cycles of poverty and exclusion,” Mr Quinn told reporters in Amman.

In 2017, Jordan passed the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which explicitly banned discrimination in the workforce and other fields.

A constitutional amendment this year reinforced those bans.

Mr Quinn cautioned that even “a good law” aiming to promote the cause of disabled people will not take hold unless society focuses on “rights, not charity”.

He said that, with a few exceptions, “stigma and bias” keep disabled people in Jordan “at home, out of school and unemployed and isolated from their communities”.

“Inclusive education is prioritised … in law and policy,” he said. “However, I am concerned that progress towards a fully inclusive education system is at an early stage.”

Mr Quinn reports to UN Human Rights Council and part of his job is to gather information on breaches of the rights of people with disabilities.

He said the latest Jordanian official data at his disposal show that 79 per cent of disabled Jordanians in 2015 received no education.

“Those who are in school are often in segregated schools or in regular schools without the support they require to succeed,” he said.

Including disabled people in education is a “key issue” because they can contribute to improving the economy, he said.

The conditions, he said, are more acute among the hundreds of thousands of mostly Arab refugees in Jordan, who are not covered by many protection laws.

He called for “systemic investment” to educate disabled people in the kingdom, whether they hold Jordanian citizenship or not.

“Unless those 79 per cent of kids are not included in the education system, they will not be engineers and the IT workers of future,” he said.

“I would also invest to raise the capacity of disabled people to participate in government, not just to articulate grievance but to come forward with blueprint for change.”

Updated: September 15, 2022, 7:33 PM