Disability Human Rights
Responding to the absence of an international treaty expressly protecting people with disabilities, the United Nations General Assembly will soon adopt a disability-based human rights convention. This Article examines the theoretical implications of adding disability to the existing canon of human rights, both for individuals with disabilities and for other under-protected people. It develops a “disability human rights paradigm” by combining components of the social model of disability, the human right to development, and Martha Nussbaum’s version of the capabilities approach, but filters them through a disability rights perspective to preserve that which provides for individual flourishing and modifying that which does not. This Article maintains that Nussbaum’s capabilities approach provides an especially fertile space within which to understand the content of human rights. However, because her scheme excludes some intellectually disabled individuals and conditions the inclusion of others, it falls short of a comprehensive framework. Amending Nussbaum’s capabilities approach to develop the talents of all individuals results in a disability human rights paradigm that recognizes the dignity and worth of every person. This Article also argues that a disability rights paradigm is capable of fortifying human rights in two ways: first, it can reinforce protections afforded to groups already protected, such as women; and second, it can extend protections to people currently not protected, such as sexual minorities and the poor. Ultimately, the disability rights paradigm indicates that human rights protection can progress from a group to an individual basis. Repositioning disability as an inclusive concept embraces disability as a universal human variation rather than an aberration.