Rights and legislation

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International treaties

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was signed by Finland in 2007 and ratified in 2016. It has strongly affected how disability is understood in Finland. 

Article 2 of the Convention states that all forms of discrimination are banned – distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination. Denying so-called reasonable accommodation is also considered to be discrimination. Reasonable accommodation means necessary modifications and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate burden to ensure participation on an equal basis.

According to Article 12, persons with disabilities have the right to equal recognition before the law. Adequate means of support is to be provided to persons with disabilities, if necessary. 

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations)

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by Finland in 1991. The Convention has affected Finnish legislation and practices. Children’s right to participate, act and be heard has strengthened. 

The core of the Convention is to ensure children and youth a provision of the society’s resources, the right to protection, and the right to participate in decision-making concerning themselves as well as participation in society.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations Human Rights)


The Constitution of Finland guarantees the inviolability of human dignity and the freedom and rights of the individual and promotes justice in society. 


Section 6 of the Constitution states that no one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the grounds of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns their person.

Educational Rights

Section 16 states that everyone has the right to a basic education free of charge. The public authorities guarantee to everyone equal opportunity to receive other educational services according to their ability and special needs, as well as the opportunity to develop themselves without being prevented by economic hardship.

Social Security

Section 19 states that those who cannot obtain the means necessary for a dignified life have the right to receive indispensable subsistence and care. Everyone is guaranteed the right to basic subsistence in the event of unemployment, illness, and disability and during old age as well as at the birth of a child or the loss of a provider. The public authorities guarantee for everyone adequate social, health and medical services and promote the health of the population. 

Constitution of Finland (PDF 422 KB, Finlex)

Non-discrimination Act

The purpose of the Non-discrimination Act is to foster and safeguard equality and enhance the protection provided by law to those who have been discriminated against in cases of discrimination that fall under the scope of the Act. According to the Act, nobody must be discriminated against on the basis of age, ethnic or national origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. 

Discrimination is banned whether it is based on a fact or assumption concerning the person in the case or another person. For instance, discrimination in the labour market on grounds that the person has a child with a disability is discrimination that is banned. 

To enhance equality, authorities must make an equality plan that must concern ethnic equality. However, the plan is more useful if it also includes other grounds of discrimination such as a disability.

Positive discrimination is a procedure where particular groups of people can be supported with special actions if otherwise they would risk falling to a less favourable position. Positive discrimination is also stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Non-discrimination Act (PDF 22 KB, Finlex) (unofficial translation by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy)

Disability legislation 

In Finland, social services of persons with disabilities are mainly arranged under the Social Welfare Act. If the services based on the Social Welfare Act or another general law are not sufficient or suitable to the person with a disability, the services are arranged under the Act on Disability Services and Assistance (380/1987, later referred to as the Disability Services Act). 

The Act on Special Care for the Mentally Handicapped (519/1977, later referred to as the Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities) lays down the special care services that are meant for persons whose development or mental activity is hindered or disturbed because of an illness or disability that is prenatal or acquired during the age of development. Another prerequisite for receiving special care services is that the person cannot get necessary services in accordance with another law.

Social services based on the Social Welfare Act and the Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities are mainly free of charge for the client. 

The social services are presented in detail in the chapter Disability services.
Disability services

Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE)

The Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE) is the Finnish national coordinating mechanism for the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Its role is to ease the national implementation of the Convention and to take into account the rights of persons with disabilities in all aspects of the Finnish government.

The Board operates under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It consists of representatives of ministries, persons with disabilities and their families, labour market organisations as well as representatives from regional and local governments.

Municipal and Wellbeing Services County Councils on Disability

Municipal and Wellbeing Services County Councils on Disability are collaboration forums for disabled associations, authorities and decision-makers at the municipal and the county level. The role of a Council is to influence planning, decision-making and monitoring in all areas of local government. The objective is that disabled persons can exercise their rights. Disabled persons as well as their families and organisations must be adequately represented in Councils on Disability. 

VANE (vane.to)