This section provides an overview of the laws and policies that guarantee disability rights in Taiwan.
The disability field in Taiwan has seen a gradual movement towards the human rights model in the past three decades. Tsai and Ho recount that until the mid-1990s, the Taiwanese government traditionally adopted a charity model in respect of persons with disabilities. Welfare laws, such as the Disabled Persons Welfare Law (“Welfare Law”), were only enacted in 1980and provided minimal actual support with most articles being “exhortative”.
In the 1980’s, newly formed disability self-help societies began to launch protests against the disenfranchisement of persons with disabilities in areas such as education, transportation, and employment. But the dominant notion of the charity model was unshaken until the 1990s. Under the wave of neo-liberalism, the Taiwanese government began to outsource its social services to the private sector. A large number of disability organizations became service providers (with many adopting a social model of disability). These organizations successfully campaigned for the removal of restrictions for persons in disabilities in public exams and elected offices.
A watershed moment came in 1997 when the Welfare Law was substantially revised. The newly-renamed Physically and Mentally Disabled Citizens Protection Act explicitly adopted rights-based language and contained equal opportunity provisions. Reforms were also instituted to enhance the enforcement and implementation of the Welfare Law. The Welfare Law was further reformed in 2007 to become the People with Disabilities Rights Protection Law.
2. Domestic legislation
The People with Disabilities Rights Protection Law (“Rights Protection Law”) provides a framework for the distribution of responsibility to 17 types of agencies. Whilst the government is in charge of creating policies, the implementation of such policies is undertaken by county and city governments. This has led Zhou and Zhu to argue that large regional differences exist for the actual realization of rights.
After a 2012 reform, the current definition of ‘disability’ is found in Article 5 of the Rights Protection Law which sets out eight categories of disability. The government claims that this follows the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). The eligibility for the various protections under the Rights Protection Law hinges on a disability identification assessment based on criteria under Article 5. The assessments expire every 5 years.
The Rights Protection Law covers 6 areas: medical rights, educational rights, employment rights, supportive services, economic protection, and protective services. Most articles only set out standards that the implementing authority is expected to put in practice through subsidiary legislation or government policy. Substantive requirements include a mandatory hiring quota of 3% in government entities with more than 34 staff. Entities which contravene this rule must pay a fine to a disability employment fund.
3. Taiwan and the CRPD
Taiwan is not eligible to become a State Party to the major human rights treaties as it is not a member State of the UN. Nonetheless, the government has given effect to international human rights treaties through its domestic legislation. In 2009, the Taiwanese legislature passed a law that incorporated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”) into domestic law. Laws implementing the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (“CEDAW”) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”) were implemented subsequently.
In 2014, the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons Implementation Law (“Implementation Law”) was passed and Article 2 provides that the CRPD provisions “shall have domestic legal status”.
Notably, the Implementation Law provides for its own reporting obligations. Pursuant to Article 7, the government shall file a report every four years after submission of an initial report within the first two years.
The Taiwanese government appears to have undertaken the task of producing the Initial State Party Report (“Initial Report”) seriously. Starting from late 2015, a series of training workshops were held for government officials responsible for drafting the Initial Report. A first draft was publicized in early 2016. This first draft was followed by consultative meetings with relevant stakeholders. The final Initial Report was published by the Executive Yuan in December 2016. According to information provided by the government, the English translation of the Initial Report was provided to an International Review Committee (“IRC”) in April 2017 together with shadow reports drafted by civil society. The IRC held an interactive dialogue with the government over three days from 30 October to 1 November 2017. The Concluding Observations adopted by the IRC were published on 3 November 2017.
The government is also undertaking a review of its laws and regulations for their conformity with the CRPD, in accordance with Article 10 of the Implementation Law. The review and revision process is expected to end in 2019.
CRPD Website of the Taiwanese government (http://crpd.sfaa.gov.tw/)