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Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

What we do

We are experts in using the law in innovative ways to advance the rights of people with mental disabilities. Our staff are based in Budapest, Hungary and we work closely with an international network of lawyers, activists, advocates and volunteers.

We are “rights-focused”

All of Validity’s work is grounded in the rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

When the Convention was being drafted, Validity had already realised that problems like guardianship, institutionalisation, exclusion of people with mental disabilities from their communities, and barriers to accessing services and supports were human rights issues.

We were part of a large community of NGOs and others that lobbied the drafters to frame these violations as rights:

  • the right to legal capacity – this means the right to make decisions in your own life and to receive support to do this;
  • the right to live independently and be included in the community – with services to provide support rather than being forced to live in institutions;
  • the right to inclusive education for all – pushing for inclusive, mainstream schools which provide individualised support when needed; and
  • the right to reasonable accommodations – which means that public services must learn to respond to the individual needs of people with disabilities as of right

Since the adoption of the Convention, we have directed every effort towards promoting these rights and supporting people with mental disabilities to turn these rights into reality.

We are creative lawyers

Since we were founded in 2002, Validity has learned a lot about how to promote greater respect for the rights of people with mental disabilities. We have learned from listening to people with disabilities themselves, to our partners, and to experts in many fields. We have tried and tested many different strategies to discover how to be of greatest service to people with mental disabilities and to the wider disability-rights movement. Now, we have a variety of tools that we can use to tackle the most entrenched human rights violations. These allow us to create strategies for change that are tailor-made depending on the different issues and contexts we encounter.

Some of the tools we use are as follows:

  • Strategic litigation – Through taking a small number of individual cases to national, regional and international courts, Validity is a global leader in pushing for legal validation of the human rights of people with mental disabilities. Each case seeks to improve the lives of our clients and many other people who suffer similar human rights violations.
  • Advocacy – We engage with coalitions and wider movements to push for greater protection and respect of human rights by governments, policy-makers, national and international institutions. We do this through calling for change in law, policy and practice, providing feasible solutions for substantially increasing equality and inclusion of people with mental disabilities.
  • Research – We regularly undertake research initiatives to develop an evidence-base that is used to inform our strategic litigation and advocacy initiatives. Validity’s research has been central in re-framing the issues faced by people with mental disabilities as more than just matters of social justice, by grounding our work in binding human rights standards. We have also developed internationally-acclaimed monitoring methods for investigating human rights in social care institutions.
  • Capacity-building – Validity also undertakes extensive formal and informal capacity-building with organisations of persons with disabilities, lawyers and other stakeholders. We provide concrete input to help others advocate for inclusion and justice through a combination of tailored training programmes, expert seminars and promoting professional exchange through our global networks.

We are local and international

Validity is a small but specialised international non-governmental organisation. Our main activities are carried out in six core countries in Central and Eastern Europe and in Africa. Partners in these countries have asked for our support and we have been able to build sustainable interventions in each country. We also offer our specialist legal knowledge as a resource to partners in other countries when requested.

At the international level, Validity works to ensure that the issues faced by people with mental disabilities are addressed consistently:

  • We hold Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). We work closely with our partners around the world to provide detailed information on the issues faced by people with disabilities across the United Nations system.
  • We hold Participatory Status at the Council of Europe as a member of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs). This enables us to initiate ‘collective complaints’ under the Revised European Social Charter, a document which sets out rights guaranteed across 47 countries in Europe and Central Asia.
  • We also have a pending application for Observer Status at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). With Validity’s increasing experience on the African continent, we have already provided advice and guidance on the creation of a new African treaty on the rights of people with disabilities, and standards on providing redress for victims of torture and ill-treatment.

We tackle the most widespread human rights violations

Validity organises our work around three international campaigns which represent the most widespread and systematic human rights violations faced by people with mental disabilities worldwide.

Schools for All – Under this campaign, we call for a quality and inclusive education for all children, regardless of their impairments, identities and talents. Central to this is remodeling our education systems to create inclusive common learning environments in all schools, where children with and without disabilities learn, play and support each other. We call for educational curricula to be adapted to respond to children with diverse needs and talents; for teachers to receive support in achieving inclusive classrooms; and for children with disabilities to receive the support they need to learn and achieve to their maximum potential.

I’m a Person – Under this campaign, we call for recognition of equal citizenship of people with mental disabilities, including their right to make decisions about their own lives. Too often, people with mental disabilities are labelled as “incompetent” or are denied the right to decide by punitive guardianship systems. They may be denied the right to vote, to marry, to manage their own money, and even to decide where to live. Instead of systems based on restriction and control, we push governments to provide support to people to make their own decisions – so that they can be the authors of their own lives.

My Home, My Choice – Under this campaign, we demand that all people with mental disabilities can access the support they need to live independent, fulfilling lives as active participants in their communities. This includes advocating for greater accessibility of public services, the provision of individualised support to those who need it, and ensuring that people are protected against isolation and abuse. We advocate against policies which maintain institutions for people with disabilities that cut them off from their families and societies. Under this campaign, we also fight against the scourges of torture and ill-treatment which are all-too-common behind closed doors.

Each of these campaigns reflects some of the core rights guaranteed under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We have chosen these campaigns because changes in these areas have the most widespread positive impact on the lives of our beneficiaries. These are the issues that people with mental disabilities continually bring to our attention. Denying these rights has a knock-on effect on almost every other right in every other area of our beneficiaries’ lives.