Disability Rights and Laws Internationally

Disabled people have faced exclusion, discrimination, and even attempted genocide for simply existing in the world, but various international organizations and national governments work to prevent such treatment in the future. Acts and laws regarding disability rights began to emerge in the late 20th and early 21st century, following civil rights legislation designed to prevent racial and gendered discrimination.

Disability Law in Australia

A Disability Rights Now report identified a number of human rights issues for people with a disability in Australia, including the lack of legislative protection of human rights, limitations of equality and non-discrimination laws, difficulties accessing education and employment, lack of availability of health services and support, disproportionate impacts on particular groups, such as women and children with disability; and disproportionately high rates of contact with the criminal justice system.

Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act 1992 was an act passed by the Parliament of Australia in 1992 to combat these issues by promoting the rights of people with disabilities in areas such as housing, education and provision of goods and services, as well as making disability discrimination unlawful. It includes provisions preventing direct and indirect discrimination in public life, such as employment, education, and access to premises. Sections 23 and 25 of the act also outlaw discrimination of a person due to their relation to a disabled person.

Disabled people are also included in the Australian Federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act of 1986, Federal Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, Anti-Discrimination Act of 1977, Equal Opportunity Act of 1984, Anti-Discrimination Act of 1991, Equal Opportunity Act 1984, and Discrimination Act of 1991.

Disability Law in Europe

In the UK

The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 applies to Northern Ireland, and defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” The DDA covers key areas of life such as employment and training, education, facilities and services, premises and transport. It provides legal protection from many types of discrimination, including direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, failure to make a reasonable adjustment, and victimization.

The 2010 Equality Act, applicable to residents of England, Scotland, and Wales, is an anti-discrimination act applicable in situations including being in the workplace, using public services like healthcare or education, using businesses and other organizations that provide services and goods, using transport, and contacting public bodies like a local council or government departments. It also provides protection against the four types of discrimination listed above and includes a stipulation that requires public bodies to consider how their decisions and policies affect people with different protected characteristics along with evidence to prove how it has done this.

In Italy:

The Italian Law for the Assistance, Social Inclusion, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities no. 104 of 1992 is a national policy that prescribes that all children with disabilities are to be included in day nurseries, to attend schools, universities, and any other education provider. The overall assessment of school experience by disabled people is very positive, with an average of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. Although concerns exist that Italy has still to overcome the micro exclusion that children with disabilities experience within inclusive settings, the 2015 School Reform Law 107 intensified the quality of education support, and provided more resources and data.

In 2016, Italy passed Law №112 which provides for the assistance, care, and protection of persons with serious disabilities, whether caused by natural ageing or medical conditions, to promote the well-being, full social inclusion, and autonomy of persons with disabilities through principles in the Italian Constitution. The law requires that government at all levels ensure basic health services and social care as needed by persons with serious disabilities. The law also creates a Fund for the Assistance of Persons with Serious Disabilities within the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies. The initial budget of the Fund is €90 million for 2016, €38.3 million for 2017, and €56.1 million from 2018 onwards.

The President of the Council of Ministers also began an information campaign to create awareness of the provisions of the law and other forms of public support for persons with serious disabilities, so that they may take advantage of the new mechanisms created by the Law, and to make the general public aware of the benefits of social inclusion of persons with serious disabilities.

Disability Law in Africa

In South Africa:

In the Constitution of South Africa, Chapter 2, Bill of Rights, Section 9: Equality 1, adopted in 1996, it is stated that everyone has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken. The State may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language or birth.

South Africa is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as well as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed on 30 March 2007 and ratified on 30 November 2007. The CRPD sets out international human rights standards for persons with disabilities which, like other core human rights conventions, require both national and international monitoring as well as implementation measures.

The Department of Social Development in South Africa also offers qualifying residents income support in the form of disability grants, but falls short on this front: a 2014 CSDA study showed that the grant was only received by 10% of the disabled people in South Africa, which is a significant number, as disabled people currently account for 5.1% of the population aged 5 years and older in South Africa.

In Ghana:

Ghana signed the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2007 and ratified it in 2012. In 2006, the Persons with Disability Act was passed by Parliament: among other things, the Act provides for rights such as unrestricted access to public places and buildings, free health care, employment, education and transportation. The law allowed for a 10-year moratorium, within which all public buildings were supposed to be made accessible to disabled people.

In addition to the Disability Act, Article 29 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana details the rights of disabled people. Also, there are sections of the Children’s Act 1998, the National Health Insurance Act 2012, the Education Act 2008, and the Labour Act 2003, all of which are meant to protect the rights of disabled people and eliminate social exclusion and discrimination.

However, the Disability Act has been criticized as approaching the definition of disability from a biomedical perspective, defining a disabled person in Article 59 as ‘an individual with a physical, mental or sensory impairment including a visual, hearing or speech functional disability which gives rise to physical, cultural or social barriers that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of that individual.’

Disability Law in South America

In Brazil:

After being introduced to the Brazilian Senate in 2003 and forwarded to the House of Representatives in 2006, the Brazilian Senate passed the Inclusion of People with Disabilities Act in 2015. The legislation includes clearer definitions of disability and lays out quotas, including that at least 3% of public housing be available for people with disabilities, 2% of parking spots be reserved for people with disabilities, and 10% of taxis be accessible. Companies hiring will have a quote for the percentage of people they hire with a disability being between 2 and 5%. Theatres, cinemas, auditoriums and stadiums will have to have dedicated seating for people with disabilities.

The law also requires the government to collect data related to people and services for people with disabilities, and that this data will be used for research for the formulation, management, monitoring and evaluation of public policies.

In 2020, Brazil’s Congress overturned a veto from President Bolsonaro and reinstated legislation expanding access to an important monthly social pension, the Benefício de Prestação Continuada (BPC). Guaranteed under Brazil’s constitution, the BPC is granted to persons with disabilities and older people who cannot support themselves independently or with assistance from their families and is equivalent to the federal monthly minimum wage. As of June 2019, 4.5 million low-income people received BPC, including 2.5 million people with disabilities; the reform will likely increase the number of people with disabilities and older people eligible to receive this key financial benefit.

In Chile:

The ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008 led to the adoption of new policies and legislation. The Law on Persons with Disabilities sought to adopt a rights-based approach to combat discrimination. A 2009 law had established a human rights institution for the protection of human rights of all residents of Chile, while another 2012 law had provided legal mechanisms to combat discrimination. The Government was focused on programs encouraging public agencies to ensure inclusiveness, and on providing equal access training.

Law 20.422 was enacted in February of 2010. The law defines people with disability as those who have one or more types of “deficiency,” whether physical, mental or sensory which restricts their “full and effective participation in society,” and created the National Disability Service. The law also directs that television broadcasters must provide means for individuals to be able to access subtitles and sign language interpretation for programming. Law 20.422 also provides equal opportunity and social inclusion for people with disabilities and is intended to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against in employment.

Law N. 21.015 was enacted in May of 2017 and modifies Law 20.422, especially in regards to employing people with disabilities. Starting in 2018, any company in Chile with 100 or more employees must have a quota of 1% of their workforce made up of people with disabilities. In addition, discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace is not allowed.

Disability Laws in Asia

In Japan:

According to Article 1 of the Disabled Peoples’ Fundamental Law of 1993, Japan defines an individual with a disability as one “whose daily life or life in society is substantially limited over the long term due to a physical disability, mental retardation, or mental disability.” In order to prevent discrimination and address the needs of those who qualify under this definition, Japan issued measures for the social wellbeing and employment of people with disabilities.

In 2008, the Law for Employment Promotion was revised to ensure that employers would provide equal opportunities to those with disabilities both during the hiring process (article 34) and while they are in employment, including wages, training and welfare (article 35). The Act also requires that employers ensure that adequate facilities to assist the employees’ disabilities are installed. The Persons with Disabilities Employment Promotion Law includes a quota system that became obligatory in 1976, where a workforce is required to be made up of a certain percentage of workers with disabilities.

In September 2009, there was a change of government with the Democratic Party of Japan coming to power. In 2010, the new government set up the Committee for Disability Policy Reform—half of whom were disabled, themselves — with representatives of organizations for people with disabilities or families of people with disabilities. Japan signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and ratified it in 2014.

In India:

India enacted the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act in 1995 to recognize the rights and special needs of the disabled in the country and provide reservations for persons with disabilities in government jobs and higher educational institutions. The National Trust Act of 1999 created the National Trust, a government body that works with volunteer networks and organizations.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 replaced the earlier legislation and increased the number of recognized disabilities from 7 to 21, and states that all institutions of higher education run or funded by the government must reserve 5% of their spaces for enrollment for people with disabilities. The rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities are protected under the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.

Issues related to disability are addressed by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, which falls under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The government of India has also enacted initiatives such as the Accessible India Campaign to make public spaces and transportation barrier-free for persons with disabilities.

Works Cited:
















Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store