What's Fair? Realising the right to Independent Living for people with intellectual disabilities: what Ireland needs to do.
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Ireland has a long and shameful history of providing for the support and housing needs of people with intellectual disabilities in large institutions. This is not unique to Ireland, nor to people with intellectual disabilities. In recent years these large institutions are gradually being replaced by smaller, community-based residential models. The extent to which these models, and the legislative framework which supports them, can meet the ideals of Independent Living and Community Inclusion in Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the focus of this research. The research seeks firstly, to provide a philosophical foundation for the realisation of the right to Independent Living, and proposes that a Universalist approach based on Rawls's Principles of Justice provides a good basis for this. Fairness is at the heart of Rawls's principles, and any implications arising from the realisation of the Independent Living right must be fair, not just to disabled people but to all citizens. An examination of current legislation applicable in Ireland forms the core of the work. It includes an analysis of legislation and relevant case law at UN, COE, EU and national levels. It explores those aspects of legislation which support the core elements of the Independent Living right, the gaps in legislation and the barriers in current law. Finally it seeks to identify the legislative changes which are required to enable the right to Independent Living for people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland. While robust legislation is important in supporting human rights, the research recognises that it is only one aspect of what is required, and that broader cultural perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities is equally important. In this regard enabling people to live in their communities and recognising and supporting their legal capacity are fundamental.