Human Rights versus Other Approaches

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibited disability-based discrimination. The ADA has played a leading role in developing disability law outside the United States with many countries adopting formulations of the statute. Despite many positive effects, American disability civil rights legislation has not, and structurally can not, bring about equality alone. As an anti-discrimination statute, the ADA does not provide or require positive measures like job programs, and so is not sufficient to ensure equal opportunity and full equality for people with disabilities.

Instead, the situation of people with disabilities highlights the necessary indivisibility and interdependence of social, political, economic, and cultural rights. For instance, it is hard to work if you can not get there on the bus. A human rights approach combines the type of civil and political rights provided by antidiscrimination legislation with the full spectrum of social, cultural, and economic measures.

Read a comparative perspective on the differences between an anti-discrimination and human rights approach in Beyond Disability Civil Rights by Michael Ashley Stein and Penelope J.S. Stein (2007).

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