Questions and Answers
Questions and Answers
1. Why do you want to serve on the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
I would very much appreciate the opportunity to represent a hidden minority within the disability movement - as a hearing impaired legal professional – on the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Having studied law in Hungary, I went on to complete my Ph.D study with special regards to disability-related legislation and the international disability movement. This means that I am now not only among the youngest scholars with a Ph.D in this domain in Europe but I can also represent the hearing impaired experts in the world of science. I have been working at the European Parliament, a very important international and regional institution, for 3 years and I believe that this position at the UN will allow me to enlarge and deepen my existing experiences with working with disability related issues.
Like the United Nations, I am as eager to promote human rights, but particularly those regarding everyday approaches to disability. It is also my understanding that the United Nations is not only a unique forum in which disability, as a concept, can be transformed into a revolutionary magnet for an ever evolving convergence of new visions in this field, but it can also provide the opportunity to improve other human rights related treaty applications. As such, the “investment-related” strategy already garnered by the UN legislation should be strengthened, where people with disabilities are not only so-called “citizens” and “rights-holder individuals”, but they are more than that, they are recognized as “living opportunities” to be invested in.
To sum this point up, there are many advantages that the disabled community can offer, and special attention to new approaches should be able to trigger a real and useful impetus for the 21st century. In only one example, addressing the disability issue is imperative; as mankind’s longevity increases, disabilities and associated concerns should be addressed sooner, rather than later.
According to WHO predictions: "hearing impairment leads to one of the most widespread disabilities" (Active ageing - a policy framework, 2002, p. 36).
My personal disability (I am hard of hearing, which has been a godsend in some ways because it has upped my drive to do more, better), coupled with efforts of my parents, my level of education, achievements and experiences make me uniquely qualified for this position. I would be an ideal member to the CRPD who can unequivocally contribute to an agenda in accordance with the United Nations legislation, and I would be honoured to work under its flag as an independent, non-governmental expert.
2. What is your experience of working within the disability rights movement?
In contrast to my relatively young age of 40, I have been an active stakeholder for as long as I can remember, and I have developed extensive networks with other like-minded associations; in particular, I have the following experiences:
a) Following my Ph.D studies, I have taken opportunities to deliver presentations and lectures at universities and educational institutions, as well as, to publish papers on disability rights with special regards to international and EU legislation and practices. Regarding my Ph.D paper itself, I was lucky to have professor Könczei, the first Hungarian delegate to CRPD and founder of disability studies in Hungary, to sit on my thesis jury in 2006. During this work, I was supervised by professor Czúcz, the re-elected judge on the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
b) While preparing my Ph.D thesis, I worked for the Ministry of Social and Labour Affairs, which is responsible for projects and legislation aimed at supporting people with disabilities, for almost 6 years. During this period, I learnt how a government body operates in the real world, and how legislation is adopted at a national level within the framework of the National Disability Council in cooperation with, and with the involvement of, the civil society and umbrella organizations of people with disabilities.
c) Apart from my past career in the public administration, I also personally gained civil-related experience as a member of the board of the National Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SINOSZ) between 2007 and 2010 after having left the Ministry responsible for social and labour affairs. I have been a member of SINOSZ since 1996 and an active member of the Youth Committee for many years until 2001 when I received my law degree.
d) As an adviser I have been currently working for the first deaf member of the European Parliament since 2009, who is, in fact, the president of the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament. Within the framework of this Intergroup, I took part in organising close consultations with the civil society regarding discussing proposals set forth by the European Commission. Apart from this, I have also taken part in organising a great deal of conferences and workshops at the European Parliament at a national level in order to ensure that DPOs have a stronger voice in the European politics.
3. What do you think you can contribute to the Committee's work?
I believe I can bring an entirely refreshing approach to the Committee as the first hard of hearing (deaf-related) expert if I am selected. Using my experiences in administration and media coverage, I will work to mainstream and streamline accessibility and info-communication related issues in order to help member states realise and understand the importance of these fields in an ageing world. Having worked with an increasing number of challenging legislative and project-related proposals on the issues while working as a public administrator at the Social and Labour Ministry, I am well aware of important government-related challenges, and therefore possible and practical solutions arising from current events. Knowing what I know of civil and private organizations, I know that overcoming these barriers may be one of the greatest feats of this century, but I am up to the challenge in so far as my new post will harness. In other words, I have experience in the difficulties and hardships of civil organizations for people with disabilities.
4. In which areas of the CRPD do you feel you have the strongest understanding or expertise? Please describe.
I believe I have developed a close working knowledge of the international disability movement and the national disability policies altogether. I am therefore aware of the difficulties in terms of national policy-making and the obstacles the relevant NGOs face on the daily basis. Since one of the most important tasks of the Committee is to review national reports on the implementation of UNCRPD, these aforementioned experiences will be very relevant. In addition to that, I have also scrutinized challenging legal questions, for example, reasonable accommodations, early recognition and prevention, inclusive education, legal capacity, respect for the family (I have been happily married since 2004), and particular questions to the right to life or different arguments regarding the right to human dignity. Due to my own personal work, I do fully understand the challenges of hearing difficulties and their consequences, not only at the personal level, but also at the community level.
5. What has been the best achievement of your career, and how does that contribute to your strength as a member of the CRPD Committee?
Firstly, I became the first hard of hearing person with a Ph.D in law in 2007 in Hungary. Secondly, apart from being a guest lecturer invited to universities and courses, I have managed to publish more than 20 papers and publications in my country's most notable and respected professional reviews, journals - even before completing my Ph.D. Thirdly, regarding my carrier in public administration, I took part in the programming activity in the EU structural funds related projects aimed at the mainstreaming of the needs of people with disabilities. This entailed social and infrastructural projects co-financed by the European Union for the disabled. In addition to this, I am proud of the fact that I have contributed to preparing a great deal of higher education projects helping disability-related topics to be mainstreamed in curricula at universities, their different faculties and programmes. I think that delivering a speech on the interconnectedness of ageing and disability in the presence of Mrs Viviane Reding, the Vice President of the European Union, was also a remarkable moment in my life. Finally, a new university textbook chapter I recently wrote for the Sociology Faculty of ELTE University was just published this summer (July 2012), two months after my candidacy was officially communicated to the United Nations which, in fact, is my second university textbook I have published since 2009.
6. Do you have lived experience as a person with a disability or as a family member or close associate of any person(s) with disabilities?
I had lost almost 80% of my hearing capacity when I was several days old. Therefore, yes, I have never experienced clear and real voices, including sounds and the wonder of full enjoyment of music. In fact, I can be considered deaf, based on my pure medical conditions, although I have been told that I am able to speak vocally relatively clearly. I started learning English in my late teen age years when I was around 19, for which I personally thank Paul McCartney, who via his wonderful and encouraging art of music, I became interested in the English language – interestingly enough, his recent video clip was made in sign language with Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4dzzv81X9w.
This passion and longing for understanding English texts and songs eventually inspired me to seriously learn English, which led to achieving a professional level in this language – against all odds that were also echoed by professionals during my early years of life. This passion was fuelled by that experience - of my family shocked to hear that I would never be able to complete normally, even in elementary school due to my serious hearing impairment; thus, before going to elementary school I learnt sign language. However, I was fully integrated into normal schooling later without any inclusive circumstances or help, which made me face enduring challenges.
7. Which disability rights issue do you feel needs more attention?
All disability rights should be strengthened in one way or another; nevertheless, I think that accessibility should be on the front burner as a key measure to the world in which ageing will be a very important phenomenon very soon. Ageing, in fact, could be the notion and real experience as well as a prospect in everyone’s life; in general, it can be understood and accepted as not only a challenge but also a phenomenon affecting everyone personally. The ageing approach will need to be addressed by the societies of the World to accommodate this notion’s importance and get themselves ready to respond to its challenges. People may also face never before seen difficulties in the future in terms of fluctuating working populations and rocketing numbers of older people demanding more social and health-related services, which will challenge the very fibers of political systems, their economic and social policies regarding good governance of limited resources. In the short run, a key solution should be to increase the need for accessible products and services applying the concept of independent life for all. (After having completed my Ph.D studies in 2007, I was interviewed by one of the largest nationwide television programmes in 2008 in which I talked about my Ph.D and, in particular, the topic of ageing and its consequences. In particular, it will be true in the case of the expected and continuously increasing expenditures of social systems. See more (in Hungarian) from 11min 10sec: https://tv2.hu/strucc/video/strucc-egyenlo-banasmod-2)
This general challenge is going to be a common one, not only for the European or American countries, but also for other non-American and European countries with shrinking populations in the world. Moreover, due to ageing, and in accordance with WHO, hearing difficulty will be one of most prevalent disabilities in the near future. Therefore, bearing in mind that responding to such kind of challenge and measures can be applied here will also be a very important issue very soon. Regarding the disability rights themselves, I believe, as I noted earlier, the concept of the right to reasonable accommodation is one of the most important ones among rights enshrined in the Convention. This concludes that societies shall have to more often consider accessible workplaces for people with disabilities, and elderly alike, and their particular circumstances. In addition to that, jobs are the most important guarantees for better and more opportunities in fighting discrimination, poverty and exclusion.
8. Which provision of the CRPD would you consider most in need of further interpretation by the Committee through a General Comment and why?
Which provisions should be interpreted better? That is certainly a question that needs to be posed; however, we should first bear in mind some other things. Since the Convention itself can be considered a unique framework for the first human rights instrument in this century, almost all articles can be interpreted more or less in different ways. Regarding the fact that different legal practices and institutions have been put into the text, it can be noted that differing legal features of the continental law of (Central) Europe and the common law of English-speaking countries should be understood clearly first, not to mention different and conflicting legislations coming from such diverse political bodies. Therefore, differences in legal systems across the globe should be understood and acknowledged first.
In my country, for example, which always has been a borderline between cultures and religions during the past centuries, the Hungarian culture as well as its legal system have an interconnection between different cultures and foreign legal systems. That is why the Hungarian legislation on people with disabilities has models and instruments taken from both the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria) and the English-speaking ones (United Kingdom, the USA). Hungary also has a heritage stemming from the Ottoman (Muslim) Empire, an occupying force lasting about 150 years. These influences contributed to a greater diversity and flexibility in Hungary which also permeates throughout everyday life.
In my CV you can see some references to these topics regarding my publications. Apart from my papers on US anti-discrimination policies, starting from the famous case of Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, and the innovative instruments on equal opportunities of the JFK and Nixon administrations, I was selected to be one of the professional and official proofreaders for the Hungarian edition of Human rights - YES! - Action and Advocacy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009. (See more at
Secondly, a united standpoint on the application of definitions at national and regional levels is also required in order to help state parties adapt to the rules enshrined in the Convention. This serves the purpose of the mutually learning between states and NGOs via the involvement of the CRPD. Apart from the rules set forth by the Convention, we should respect the obligations of people declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Rights and obligations should be in harmony and well-balanced because each individual also has their responsibilities, not only rights since they live in communities and societies respecting the rights of one another. In addition to that, individual rights cannot be guaranteed without reasonably and justifiably applied affirmative action. These actions cannot be successful without the real and effective involvement of and commitments from the people with disabilities and their representatives.
Finally, if I were elected to the committee, based on my personal background and my Ph.D, I would like to bring your attention to the interpretations of the following articles:
1. general obligations (Article 4), due to my experience in government,
2. equality and non-discrimination (Article 5), due to the topics I covered in my Ph.D,
3. children with disabilities (Article 7), due to my personal experience regarding my childhood,
4. awareness-raising (Article 8), due to my skill at writing and publishing in media and professional journals (having got more than 20 publications so far),
5. accessibility (Article 9), due to my experience in programming of the EU structural funds and I also contributed to the opinion of the EMPL Committee on the new proposal for a regulation regarding the cohesion policy for 2014-2020 (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-486.190+02+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN),
6. right to life (Article 10), due to the fact that Szeged University held a seminar on this topic built on relevant articles, including mine (see more (in Hungarian): https://www.juris.u-szeged.hu/karunkrol/szeminariumok-2010-2011-110203/2-elethez-emberi?objectParentFolderId=14232)
7. situation of risk and humanitarian emergencies (Article 11), due to the so-called written declaration on 112, partly written and organised by the office of Ádám Kósa in the European Parliament (see more at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+WDECL+P7-DCL-2011-0035+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN )
8. access to justice (Article 13), due to my law degree, I would be able to scrutinise this article’s interpretation and application,
9. personal mobility (Article 20), due to the fact that I contributed to the writing of the Ádám Kósa’s report on mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities and the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (link: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2011-0263+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN),
10. education (Article 24), due to my personal experience in this field and I believe inclusive education as well,
11. work and employment (Article 27), apart from the fact that I have written many articles and papers on this topic and having worked for the ministry responsible for employment and social affairs in my country for years, I have now been working for Ádám Kósa who is a member of the Committee for Employment and Social Affairs in the European Parliament,
12. participation in political and public life (Article 29), since I was already a board member of a national wide umbrella disability organisation in Hungary, I would be able to understand the challenges of the interpretation of this article,
13. statistics and data collection (Article 31), as an adviser, I contributed to the official opinion of the EMPL Committee written by Ádám Kósa MEP in the European Parliament (see more: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-483.792+02+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN)
14. national implementation and monitoring (Article 33), due to the fact that when working for the ministry before 2008, I was partly responsible for organising the meetings and the drafting of documents and proposals for the National Disability Council recommended, which is, in fact, now a focal point in terms of the Convention.
9. What do you think is the biggest challenge the Committee faces?
The main difficulty might be the increasing volume of the state reports submitted to the CRPD in the future. Due to the increasing number of state parties which are expected to face similar challenges that we face today, at least for the time being, management of limited resources (i.e., reports, manpower, financial challenges, research, guidelines and taskforce documents), In other words, the challenges are just as comprehensive as the resources themselves. On the other hand, I believe the fast speed in which the science revolution is taking off, and the new resources that are stemmed from out of it will also need to be taken into account by the Committee, and advantages can also be harnessed from this field – a modern world with dynamically new prospects.
Human beings, as individuals, should remain at the centre of mankind, regardless of religion, race or culture. That is why we should consider general safeguards, as well as, better applications and practical practices for checks and balances at a systematic level during the implementation of the UN Convention in different countries and legal systems. Finally, people without disabilities will surely be faced with economical problems and solutions to the ever growing old-age and disability issues of the day, or ignore them and wait until the challenges overwhelm their governing systems even more than they do today.
10. What do you consider is the biggest challenge for CRPD implementation?
I think there are three parts of this question to be answered:
Firstly, there is an ongoing argument on the human rights treaty bodies at the UN. I think that experts shall also have to look at each other’s in as many committees at the UN as possible in order to develop a common and mutually agreed upon grounds for interpreting and handing similar challenges in terms of general applications for human rights. Secondly, the quality of communication should be strengthened between experts and the state parties. Thirdly, I believe that the aim of the Convention or the Optional Protocol should not be a part of an unjustified political influence or threat. The so-called double standard should be avoided. On a side note, I would like to say that since I am not currently a member of the CRPD, I am not in the position of measuring the administrative burdens experienced in the CRPD.
11. In your view, what does the social model approach to disability entail? Describe an area where fulfilment of the social model would make a significant change in the place of persons with disabilities in society.
For example, let’s see the application of induction loop. It is basically not a question of money. Before the system changed in Hungary in 1989, a lot of cinemas had been equipped with this solution for hard of hearing and deaf people, which allowed them to follow dubbed movies in cinemas. Nowadays, however, in brand new and fantastically built cinemas the induction loops are not available; unfortunately, this relatively cheap technical device (100-400 USD) has been an oversight. Since the mid-1990s, I have not been able to enjoy any dubbed movies in the Hungarian cinemas due to this dilemma. Unfortunately, even the task force on accessibility at the UN seemed numb to the idea when I visited diplomats requesting support for my candidacy in Geneva this May; I hope my informal comments will lead to the improvement of this situation.
12. Do you hold any, or have you held any governmental position, or position with any disability-related industry, or any financial ties to any government or disability-related industry? What steps can be taken to maintain your independence from government as a treaty body member?
Although I was a government administrator between 2001-2008, I have been working as an adviser to the first deaf MEP since 2009 without any subordinate under me or having official responsibility for or representation of any other body or authority. I have never been a part of or received any salaries from any disability-related industries or bodies. I do not have any financial ties with, nor do I receive any salaries from any governments.
13. NGOs, particularly disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs), had an important participatory role in the negotiations of the CRPD. How do you envision the interaction of civil society with the Committee? How do you think the Committee could work more effectively with civil society?
First of all, from my side, I have always paid attention to the NGOs and their involvement. During the nomination process this spring, I insisted on the close involvement of the relevant NGOs regarding my candidacy. About one month before the election procedure officially started at the UN, on 4 April 2012, as a candidate for the CRPD, I was supported unanimously by the largest disability NGOs in Hungary during an official and public hearing with NGOs in the Ministry of National Resources, Budapest. The next NGOs, who are also members of the Hungarian National Disability Council (OFT), the National Council of Disabled Persons' Organizations (FESZT) and the Hungarian Disability Caucus to the CRPD expressed formally their support for the candidate: Hungarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability (ÉFOÉSZ), Hungarian Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SINOSZ), National Federation of Disabled Persons’ Association (MEOSZ), Hungarian Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted (MVGYOSZ). The following NGOs also supported my candidacy: National Autism Association (AOSZ), National Alliance of Protected Organizations (VSZOSZ), Hungarian Sport Federation for People with Special Needs (FONESZ), Foundation BLISS, CÉHálózat, Foundation Motiváció and Ability Park. (See more at: https://www.kormany.hu/download/5/9f/80000/OFT-%C3%BCl%C3%A9s_2012-04-04_jegyz-k%C3%B6nyv_EN%20v2.docx)
I believe that without the previous good impression of the NGOs about me and my skills, which are based on the previous close cooperation with them when I worked as a civil servant and later board member of SINOSZ, I would not be able to receive their exceptionally strong support. During this aforementioned official nomination hearing regarding my candidacy to the CRPD, I gladly promised that I would cooperate with the NGOs in order to have better and mutual learning opportunities in the future. On 18 July, 2012, after having closed a series of meetings with experts and diplomats while eyeing for votes to secure a position for my candidacy this September in New York, I presented my experiences and shared my views on aforementioned topics.
Keeping in contact with NGOs would not be a challenge from my side because apart from the fact that I already know of the all players in this field, I also frequently publish my papers and studies on this topic. I am proud of the fact that in the past, not only had I many and important opportunities to publish scientific studies and papers with the leading Hungarian figures in this field (see my CV), but also my conclusions and statements were quoted even in the alternative country report of Hungary adopted by the Hungarian NGOs in 2010. (See more at https://mdac.info/en/resources/disability-rights-or-disabling-rights-crpd-alternative-report )
With regard to communication, I believe that publications and teaching materials could also serve the purpose of keeping in touch with other experts and the public. So far, my last publication as an author of a chapter in a university textbook was published in mid July this year, two months after my candidacy was submitted to the UN mentioned earlier in this paper.
Regarding the question of further cooperation and interaction between the CRPD members and NGOs, I believe members should communicate their position on certain and selected topics to be discussed with the international disability community via presenting “position papers”. This discussion may formulate an informal forum on the internet to develop a better application of the Convention via a more democratic and common interpretation with the involvement of the NGOs and legal experts or government representatives. This approach may help to avoid any misinterpretations within the Convention in advance, as well.
14. If you were not working in the field of disability rights, what would you be doing?
Apart from writing studies and professional papers, I like writing essays and stories about people, history and cultures. In addition to that, I have already published articles in economic and public affair-related weekly magazines as a journalist, too (FIGYELŐ, BANK ÉS TŐZSDE, HETI VÁLASZ, etc) – so, that is a probability.
Another likely scenario would be, that since before I started my university years, I had become a dental technician, inspired by my love and talent with art sculpture (I was awarded the second prize at an international competition in 1980). So, as a dental technician, I also had to accommodate to the heavy physical work.
For the record, I would like to state that I am fully aware of the nature of the heavy, even physical workload regarding this position and I am ready to step up onto the stage. I am proud of my experiences. I am proud of my achievements.
Finally, even though I resigned the board membership at SINOSZ in 2011 due to logistic problems, I will be happily rejoining those former colleagues when the time permits.
15. Sum up the rights of persons with disabilities in one word or phrase.
“Free at last!” – Martin Luther King (I have a dream, 1963)
„Disability affairs in Hungary and in the EU” in Developmental policy and strategic programming in Social policy, ELTE University’s Faculty of Sociology, Budapest, 2012, pp. 175-221