Who is Claire?
I’m Claire Azzopardi Lane and I’m 43 years old. I spent 19 years working as a front-liner in the disability sector, in Malta and abroad, in both the educational and social support fields. For the last 6 years I’ve worked in academia, heading the Department of Disability Studies at the University of Malta.
A vociferous activist
I advocate for access to the rights enshrined in Articles 23 and 25 of the Convention. I’ve been a vociferous activist for the sexual rights of persons with disabilities, especially of those with intellectual disability. I focus on the intersection between disability and gender-related issues, such as access to sexual and reproductive rights. This extends to changing attitudes and practices towards sexual minorities and towards disabled parents. Having focused my Ph.D. research on the sexual exploration and expression of disabled youth, at the University of Kent, I kicked off sex education provision for persons with intellectual disability in Malta back in 2010. I have since worked with service providers and NGO, training other professionals working in the field, to provide sex education but also to have a rights based attitude towards the sexuality of persons with disabilities that is in line with the Convention.
My work in the field of disability extends towards ensuring the parenting rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities. Availability and access to support services is one way of ensuring such rights are upheld. I am currently engaged in a project to this effect, where I am researching the support needs of disabled parents, together with the training of professionals to support disabled parents and parents to be.
Sexual health is also another area that deeply concerns me, more so when considering the barriers in the access to knowledge and information, as well as the lack of access to sexual health services that persons with disabilities experience. I am currently involved in an initiative, financed by the University of Malta, where the promotion and facilitation of breast cancer screening at a national level for disabled women is being tackled.
The transition from institutionalisation to full inclusion and participation in the community, together with the eradication of practices such as interdiction and incapacitation, is close to my heart. This is because two years ago I became the legal guardian of a young man with an intellectual disability. Legal guardianship, rather than personal autonomy, is still the only solution, due to current Maltese legislation that still lacks official supported decision-making mechanisms. However, because of this experience, I am personally affected by the implementation of Article 19 and Article 12 and hold beliefs rooted in the social and human rights models of disability.
Challenges seen by the Candidate
Globally, and in my own country, I see issues and challenges originating from the lack of understanding and acceptance of the rights of disabled persons, and of the Convention. This might also have its roots in ignorance or cultural beliefs that would require time and education to overcome. Therefore, the need for enhanced social education and service provision, as a key element of governments’ programmes to foster inclusion, is essential. These issues have driven me to want to serve on the CRPD Committee. I believe that the Committee should be closer to stakeholders, particularly to disabled persons and their representative organisations. Together, we must ensure that we have a system in place that is workable, simple and fair. We really have to make sure that No One is Left Behind.
The European Disability Forum offered the opportunity to every candidate from the EU to present themselves in our blog, #DisabilityRealities. The blogs are written by the candidates themselves. We regularly update the content when we receive a new piece.
States parties to the Convention will elect 9 independent experts to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) to oversee the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The election will be held at the 13th annual Conference of State Parties (COSP) to the CRPD at UN headquarters in New York.