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This page provides an overview of the terminology and the relevant human rights treaties related to children with disabilities and feeding.


The act of eating is a complex task that involves the entire body and its organs working as one seamless unit. It takes 13 paired muscles (26 total) and six cranial nerves working in perfect harmony to move food and liquid through the body. This process takes only seconds but is the single most complex and physically demanding task an infant will complete for the first few weeks, and even months, of life.”
Source: Feeding Matters 2022, "Medical"

“Learning to eat skillfully and comfortably is rooted in the development of sensory experiences of eating and the movement skills that make it possible for an infant or child to suck, swallow, bite, and chew. Feeding skills and abilities include the social, communication, and interactive skills that integrate with mealtime skills.”
Source: Feeding Matters 2022, "Feeding Skill"

“Persons with disabilities include those with long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers,  may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
Source: UN General Assembly 2006

Examples of barriers include "negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports" among others.
Source: WHO 2021, "Disability and Health"

"Disability inclusion is the process that ensures that all persons with disabilities enjoy their full and fundamental rights and freedoms to fully and effectively participate with and within their families, communities, and societies without barriers and on an equal basis as those without disabilities."
Source: UN General Assembly 2006

Relevant International Standards

  1. “... We recognize that access to nutritionally adequate and safe food is a right of each individual. We recognize that globally there is enough food for all and that inequitable access is the main problem. Bearing in mind the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we pledge to act in solidarity to ensure that freedom from hunger becomes a reality.”

Source: FAO and WHO 1992, pg. 1

Article 7 - Children with disabilities

  1. States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children.
  2. In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
  3. States Parties shall ensure that children with disabilities have the right to express their views freely on all matters affecting them, their views being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity, on an equal basis with other children, and to be provided with disability and age-appropriate assistance to realize that right.

Article 25 - Health

  • (b) Provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities, including among children and older persons;
  • (f) Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability.

Source: UN General Assembly 2006

Article 23 - Children with Disabilities

  1. States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active participation in the community.
  2. States Parties recognize the right of the disabled child to special care and shall encourage and ensure the extension, subject to available resources, to the eligible child and those responsible for his or her care, of assistance for which application is made and which is appropriate to the child's condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others caring for the child.
  3. Recognizing the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article shall be provided free of charge, whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child, and shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child's achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development
  4. States Parties shall promote, in the spirit of international cooperation, the exchange of appropriate information in the field of preventive health care and of medical, psychological and functional treatment of disabled children, including dissemination of and access to information concerning methods of rehabilitation, education and vocational services, with the aim of enabling States Parties to improve their capabilities and skills and to widen their experience in these areas. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.

Article 24 - Health

  1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.
  2. (c) To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, the application of readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution;
    (e) To ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents;

Article 27

  1. States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

Source: UN General Assembly 1989

For more suggestions on appropriate and empowering language and communication related to persons with disabilities, please refer to the USAID Disability Communications Tips.