Disability Representation in Laws Around the World

I am constantly researching and attempting to improve my knowledge about what my rights as a disabled citizen are. As I am still learning at the speed of life, what’s promised to those individuals without disabilities are not necessarily what’s promised to those with extra challenges. Luckily there are laws in place to ensure that there is special attention, consideration and in some cases enforcement to work towards the realization of equality in our country. I began to think about some of the disability laws in place for those in other countries living with disabilities.

I visited the website for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. My research led me to a wealth of information about disability rights all around the world and legislation created in many nations to address inequality.

There is a document called the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol (A/RES/61/106). This document was adopted on December 13, 2006, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and was opened for signature on March 30, 2007. There were 82 signatories to the Convention, 44 signatories to the Optional Protocol, and 1 ratification of the Convention. It is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century and is the first human rights convention to be open for signature by international and regional integration organizations. This awesome undertaking went into force on May 3, 2008. It took decades of work for the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to those with disabilities. If you have not read this international legislation and the standards and progressive views set forth by this monumental effort, you should really take some time to look it over.

This legislation includes countries from Afghanistan to Vietnam that have disability laws and acts to help get rid of discrimination and mistreatment against people with disabilities. These laws act as a wrecking ball to break down barriers in the way of the full enjoyment of disabled persons rights and full inclusion in society. There are way too many countries’ laws to name today so I have compiled a few according to countries that I have not travelled to but are on my bucket list.

I started with the United Kingdom. They have the Equality Act of 2010. This 251-page document starts out with: Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows.” This is an act to require Ministers of the Crown and others when making strategic decisions to regard socio-economic inequalities. It is also designed to reform and harmonize quality law and restate the greater part of the enactments relating to discrimination and harassment. It goes on to include many of the stipulations we have in our Americans with Disabilities Act. Some issues include health care, education, marriage, transportation, terms of work, occupational pension and adjustments to private premises and workspaces. These laws include England, Wales, and Scotland.

South Africa is next on my short list. Their disability law is called the Code of Good Practice: Key Aspects on the Employment of People with Disabilities. There is also an additional act called The South African Library for the Blind Act. The best part about the research portion of this country’s disability laws was that the official law posted online was in English and Afrikaans. Afrikaans is a simplified, creolized language that had its roots mainly in Dutch, mixed with seafarer variants of Malay, Portuguese, Indonesian and the indigenous Khoekhoe and San languages. As the title states, this law/act deals with reasonable accommodations and definitions as it pertains to fairness in employment. South Africa’s many law proceedings are handled by courts and tribunals. Tribunals have served as an intricate part in South African law. I guess when I finally drop this trip in the bucket, I will have to sit in on a tribunal and see what it’s all about!

The last country on my short list is the land of the rising sun, Japan! The law listed is called the Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities. Upon perusing the translated document, I found it to be very specific and descriptive. Refreshingly enough, it outlines prohibitions of discrimination against those with disabilities. The government has developed a commission to ensure policy is effectively followed and that the public is sufficiently educated. Some specifics outlined are measures to support the independence and social participation of persons with disabilities and measures relating to the prevention of injuries and diseases causing a disability. Japan seems like a place in which a person with a disability may have one less thing to worry about. Meanwhile, I plan to travel to several castles, temples, and technological wonders that Japan has to offer.

In writing this blog, I have expanded my knowledge of international efforts by many nations to ensure there is a level of equality and inclusion in the world’s village. I think I will research some of the worst countries to visit for someone with disabilities. Finally, I am well on my way to becoming an intrepid citizen of the world!

About Merlisha Henderson: Merlisha uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility and lives in Arizona with her family. As a wife, mother and disability advocate in her community, she stays active and independent, working toward bringing equality and access to all. Click here to learn more about Merlisha.