Disability Human Rights

63 Pages Posted: 4 May 2006

See all articles by Michael Ashley Stein

Michael Ashley Stein

Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School; University of Pretoria Faculty of Law, Centre for Human Rights


Responding to the absence of an international treaty expressly protecting people with disabilities, the United Nations is sponsoring a disability-based human rights convention. The Article examines the implications of adding disability to the existing canon of human rights by adopting a disability human rights paradigm. It argues that, because disability rights necessarily invoke civil and political rights, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights, a disability framework presents a strong exemplar for viewing established human rights protections as being similarly indivisible. Hence, groups whose rights historically have been divided, for example, women, could be strengthened. Moreover, utilizing a disability-based perspective could also extend human rights to currently unprotected individuals, including sexual minorities and the poor. Building on (as well as critiquing) the feminist political philosophy of Martha Nussbaum, the Article maintains that the "capability approach" provides a cogent space for understanding the scope of disability-related, as well as general, human rights. It demonstrates that, because a capabilities framework values each person as his or her own end, it can be combined with a disability framework to offer a normative theory of human rights that enables individuals to flourish more completely. The Article concludes with some thoughts on the broader ramifications of viewing disability as a universal experience. In arguing that disability-based rights concepts should be extended to other groups (rather than the reverse), the Article stakes out a unique perspective.

Suggested Citation

Stein, Michael Ashley, Disability Human Rights. California Law Review, Vol. 95, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=900014

Michael Ashley Stein (Contact Author)

Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School ( email )

1585 Massachussetts Avenue
Austin Hall 305
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1726 (Phone)

University of Pretoria Faculty of Law, Centre for Human Rights ( email )

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Hatfield 0028
South Africa

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