Influencing Policy to Create Inclusive Societies for Persons with Disabilities

Conversation Details

Dates of conversation: 
Monday, October 26, 2015 to Friday, October 30, 2015
Conversation type: 
Type of tactical goal: 

Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes the equal rights of all persons with disabilities to make choices equal to all members of society, and requires governments to take effective steps to facilitate the full enjoyment of this basic right by persons with disabilities. Despite the rights discerned by international law, persons living with disability still continue to be excluded in decision-making processes, requiring many needs that have not been fulfilled.

In order to address these concerns, practitioners both challenged and discussed definitions and language regarding ‘disability,’ applying UNCRDP to international and local dimensions, and difficulties organizations/communities may face in the context of independent monitoring bodies in  the New Tactics in Human Rights conversation, “Influencing Policy to Create Inclusive Societies for Persons with Disability.” Furthermore, strategies of creating better advocacy, forming partnerships, and fostering inclusivity in organizations for persons with disabilities were discussed.


Influencing Policy to Create Inclusive Societies with Persons with Disabilities

Strategic storytelling can both influence policy to be more inclusive to people with disabilities and change how people think about disability. A story should be strong, clear, specific, show need, and urgency. Storytelling can lead to stronger advocacy as participants generate lists on their experiences of discrimination. Strengthening policy relating to disability includes, among others, preparing a reasonable timetable, partnership, and finances for the purposes of implementation.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), ratified in 159 countries, is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit social development dimension that adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities. While such articles have been applied globally, outside organizations should collaborate with local cultures, but also consider cultural relativism and capital.  Protection of rights must be reinforced; persons with disabilities must be included in national, regional, and global levels where projects or laws apply to them. Networking with governments, legislatures, Amnesty International, and advocacy groups can help achieve change.

On national levels, Article 33 (2) of the UNCRPD provides the establishment or designation of independent monitoring mechanisms. Countries where DPOs enjoy good relationships with national human rights institutions and NHRIs are designated as independent mechanisms can more easily obtain allies from the judiciary and legislature through parliamentary committees. Collaboration with different DPOs is important for building strategy and obtaining a mandate to legitimize outreach. DPO engagements with both NHRIs  and NGOs  can enable effective implementation and monitoring.

Though, disability-specific state organizations can face challenges as the disability-specific human rights monitoring body will not be as broad as the NHRI and will be limited. Mainstream organizations should provide adequate resources and capacity building to persons with disability. Often, experts, facilities, and accessibility are lacking in the effort to create inclusive disability policy in ‘developing’ nations.

Finally, the word “human condition” is a better term than “disability,” as it is the lived environment that disables individuals, not an inherent incompetence or inability to be productive . Because of the current terminology surrounding disability, it can be difficult for DPOs to address legislative stereotyping; CRPD as the common language can be used.

Disability Policy in Varying Contexts

Disability, as highlighted above, is a socio-contextual phenomenon. Limited, narrow definitions of disability exclude subgroups of individuals with disabilities. Persons with invisible disability, such as a psychosocial disability, face challenges accessing benefits such as tax exemptions since it is considered a medical condition. Progress has still been made in this area as both authorities and the general publics are beginning to understand disability in a social, not just medical context.

Social models of disability are still broad enough to capture nuance. Definitions of disability should be expansive, inclusive, nuanced, and complex. Specific policies (such as employment and welfare) require strict definitions of disability, varying in context. Such specific definitions should not marginalize others types of disability or require a criteria that will disproportionately overburden people with certain types of disabilities.

Defining disability is also about who has the power to decide what is normative, what goes, and who is included. Critical disability studies can provide a useful lense in terms of analyzing disability and interrogating power relations: the hierarchy of disability includes class, race, gender, and sexual identity . Heterosexual, white men can leverage more cultural, social, political, and economic capital. The critical disabilities literature is limiting, though, as it is not tangible enough to be applied in the workplace, especially in the Global South. The term, “Global South’ may be more useful understood as a concept than a location.

Moreover, disability rights sensitizations in communities can include a stakeholders/policy maker workshop for both public and private sectors, sharing stories of persons with disability, engagement with media, and role plays.

Forming Partnerships

Organizations and institutions working in the disability fraternity should come up with strong strategies as a unifying team than as an individual to work on a specific goal. Actions taken early are important.. The Recommendations provided by CNDDHH are helpful in exploring coalition building and for advancing the rights of persons with disabilities (see: resources), including creating structures where group members can participate and react, and human rights organizations can still remain intact internally.

Limitations to building durable, strong coalitions are conditions on the ground, time, and money; time and money are perennial problems. Building coalitions at the macro level are important to building partnerships and raising awareness. Advocacy strategies that work best need to be identified; coalitions and partnerships in the area of legal capacity should be driven by self-advocacy. The fight for employment, housing, and education discrimination in the context of disability rights continues under capitalism . A challenge is also how to work across sectors successfully; human rights organizations should reach out to people with disabilities in order to build their capacities. There continue to be disputes regarding whether human rights organizations should participate in disability rights advocacy; building inclusive global human rights advocacy movements continue to be challenging. Advocates must think strategically of participation in movements.

Both accountability and sustainability can be fostered by including persons with disability at every step of a project. By including persons with disability, organizations (like those relating to foreign aid), can enhance credibility and build sustainability.


Resources Particular to Disability Studies/Decolonizing Methodologies

Conversation Leaders

Michael Schwartz's picture
Michael Schwartz
Syracuse University College of Law
Ashraf's picture
bcelder's picture
Brent Elder
Syracuse University
janetelord's picture
Janet Lord
Harvard Law School Project on Disability
obartha's picture
Orsolya Bartha
International Disability Alliance
Degold's picture
Charles Degold Gomez
Start Now Organisation
mnthenge's picture
mirriam Nthenge
Research Fellow with UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Patricia Morrissey's picture
Patricia Morrissey
U.S. International Council on Disabilities
JEntwisle's picture
Joe Entwisle
Health & Disability Advocates
Discussion topic Replies Last postsort ascending
Hot topic Influencing Policy: Strategies & Tactics 48
by bcelder
Fri, 10/30/2015 - 1:30pm
Hot topic Disability Policy in Varying Contexts 24
by Gala
Tue, 11/03/2015 - 5:13pm
Hot topic Forming Partnerships 16
by Gala
Tue, 11/03/2015 - 8:40pm