Rights of people with functional impairments

Last updated: 11 8 2021

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about the rights of people with functional impairments. All of us have different levels of functional abilities, but often our surroundings have been designed as if we all had exactly the same functional abilities. This can mean that some people do not get the same opportunities, and that they become excluded in certain situations. For a person who is unable to walk, it is impossible to ride on a bus that is not adapted for wheelchairs. A person who cannot hear will have difficulties understanding what a doctor is saying, for example, unless the information is also provided as text or via a sign language interpreter.

مردی با اختلالات بینایی با سگ راهنما و پرچم سازمان ملل متحد در پس زمینه، روی نیمکت نشسته است.

The text describes various types of functional impairment and how Swedish laws protect people with functional impairments. It also describes what forms of support are available for people with functional impairments.

Different types of functional impairments

A functional impairment is an impairment of a person's physical, mental, or intellectual abilities. In Sweden, one in five people has one or more functional impairments. There are several different types of functional impairments. Some are visible and others are not. A functional impairment might be that you have difficulties:

  • hearing
  • seeing
  • understanding information
  • speaking or expressing yourself
  • moving
  • tolerating certain substances.

The life circumstances of people with functional impairments are often worse than those of other people. They have less access to education, are more often subjected to violence, and have more difficulties finding jobs than the rest of the population. Children with functional impairments more often have issues at school, participate in fewer leisure activities, and have fewer friends than other children.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The UN has a special convention on the rights of people with disabilities (another term for functional impairments). This convention is an agreement between several countries. Countries that have signed the convention are obliged to comply with what it says. Sweden has signed the convention.

One of the things the convention says is that people with functional impairments have the right to education. For example, they have to be given help in learning sign language and braille if they need it.

The convention also says that people with functional impairments must not be exploited, subjected to violence or abuse, and that they have the right to vote and to run for office in elections.

Sweden's laws protect people with functional impairments

There are laws in Sweden to protect people with functional impairments from discrimination. There are also laws to give people with functional impairments opportunities to participate in society on equal terms with people who do not have functional impairments.

Some of the things that the law requires:

  • If you have mobility problems, you must have access to aids that help you get around in society.
  • If you have hearing difficulties, you are entitled to aids and to learn sign language. You are also entitled to receive information in text form or to be accompanied by a sign language interpreter for doctors' appointments, for instance.
  • You can also be given special support in order to get a job or an occupation that works for you.
  • Schools are responsible for helping pupils with functional impairments. This might be getting extra time for tests and homework or access to aids in order to be able to participate in lessons.

The laws in Sweden also state that you must not be discriminated against due to your functional impairment. Such discrimination might be that you do not get a job because you use a wheelchair or that a restaurant refuses to let you enter because you have a functional impairment.

In spite of these laws, there are places that are not accessible to people with functional impairments. Sweden has been criticised by the UN for a lack of physical accessibility. This is because some buildings and other built environments are not accessible to people with functional impairments.

  • Questions to think about

    Can you give any examples of laws that protect and strengthen rights for people with functional impairments?

Individual support

Several individual forms of support are available in order to make it possible for people with functional impairments to participate in society on equal terms with everyone else. What forms of support are available for you depends on your functional impairment and on the type of support you need.

This means that you can get certain aids that facilitate your everyday life. If you have hearing difficulties, for instance, there are hearing aids and other devices. If you have difficulties travelling on your own, an attendant can be provided to help you. You can also be eligible for financial compensation or help to adapt your home so that it works for you.

Försäkringskassan or the social services in your municipality can provide more information about what forms of support you are entitled to.

Act Concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments (Lagen om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade, LSS)

If you have a major functional impairment, you are entitled to apply for support to allow you to live as good and independent a life as possible. This is laid down in a law called the Act Concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments (Lagen om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade, LSS).

This law states that you are entitled to receive support and service in your everyday life in order for you to live a life like everyone else. This might be help in the form of counselling and the services of an attendant. It might also be access to housing that has been adapted to your needs. You might also be given personal assistance to help cook meals, get dressed, or manage your personal hygiene.

You can apply for this support from your municipality. It is the responsibility of the municipality to find out what support you need and to offer it to you. You are entitled to have a say in how your support is drawn up. It may need to be altered over the years in order to work well for you. You do not need to pay anything for your support.