Comparative Disability Employment Law from an American Perspective
20 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2005
American disability employment law underwent a series of profound transformations during the twentieth century. A scheme of social welfare at the century's beginning, by the century's end disability law had shifted significantly toward a civil rights orientation. Similar transformations - frequently inspired by the example of the ADA, but at the same time deriving from indigenous movements of people with disabilities - have occurred throughout the world. None of these transformations has been identical to the transformation in American disability employment policy. Notwithstanding the differences, however, the overall trend is clear: across the industrialized world, disability policy is increasingly being reoriented from caretaking to work-promoting, from segregationist to integrationist, and from welfare to civil rights. Yet American scholars have made no sustained effort to assess what lessons other countries' experiences may hold for disability policy in the United States. This brief essay, which responds to papers submitted for a symposium on comparative disability law, seeks to highlight some of the dimensions along which a comparative approach would shed light on important issues in the design and interpretation of American disability law. In particular, the essay focuses on two key areas of inquiry. First, what policy tools best advance the increasingly important goals of integration and empowerment for people with disabilities? Second, what is the conception of "disability" that should underlie a disability employment law regime, and how can that conception advance or undermine integrationist goals?
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