The Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons was adopted in 1971. The Declaration proclaims that the mentally retarded person has, to the maximum degree of feasibility, the same rights as other human beings. This includes the right to proper medical care and physical therapy, education, training, rehabilitation, and guidance. The rights also extend to economic security, the right to perform productive work, and the right, when necessary, to a qualified guardian and to protection from exploitation, abuse, and degrading treatment. Whenever mentally retarded persons are unable to exercise all their rights in a meaningful way or if it should become necessary to restrict or deny them, the procedure used must contain proper safeguards against abuse.
In terms influenced by professional principles of normalization and rehabilitation, Article 4 of the Declaration put forward the view that disabled persons should receive home-based care, either with natural families or foster families that obtained practical assistance.
This document however has its own shortcomings. The reason for this is that, to gain more acceptance, this document has been burdened with a number of caveats.
However, despite its shortcomings, the Declaration laid down many guidelines and called for international and national actions to protect the rights of all persons with physical and mental disabilities. The Declaration is sweeping in its functional definition of ‘the disabled person’ and its enumeration of their rights. Moreover the Declaration grants these rights regardless of the degree, origin or type of disability.
The Declaration also stresses liberty interests. It prohibits all exploitation, discriminatory, abusive or degrading treatment and regulations as well as unnecessary differential treatment in residence. The Declaration also demands that all persons with disabilities become ‘as self reliant’ as possible and have their ‘special needs taken into consideration at all stages of economic and social planning’.
The Declaration also recognizes that advocacy and empowerment are critical to meeting its goals. The Declaration also requires “qualified legal aid when such aid proves indispensable’ for personal or property protection. The Declaration also requires full information to be given to disabled persons and their families on the declared rights and urges governments to consult with organizations of disabled persons on all matters regarding their rights.