Disability rights movement

Alternative access to the subway in Japan
Floor marker for disabled people in Narita Airport, Japan

The disability rights movement is a global[1][2] social movement to secure equal opportunities and equal rights for all people with disabilities.

It is made up of organizations of disability activists around the world working together with similar goals and demands, such as: accessibility and safety in architecture, transportation, and the physical environment; equal opportunities in independent living, employment equity, education, and housing; and freedom from discrimination, abuse, neglect, and from other rights violations.[3] Disability activists are working to break institutional, physical, and societal barriers that prevent people with disabilities from living their lives like other citizens.[3][4]

Disability barriers

The social model of disability suggests disability is caused by the way society is organized, rather than by a person’s impairment. This model suggests barriers in society are created by ableism. When barriers are removed, people with disabilities can be independent and equal in society.

There are three main types of barriers:[5]

  1. Attitudinal barriers: are created by people who see only disability when associating with people with disabilities in some way. These attitudinal barriers can be witnessed through bullying, discrimination, and fear. These barriers include low expectations of people with disabilities. These barriers contribute to all other barriers.[5][6][7] Attitudes towards people with disabilities in low and middle-income countries can be even more extreme.[8]
  2. Environmental barriers: inaccessible environments, natural or built, create disability by creating barriers to inclusion.
  3. Institutional barriers: include many laws, policies, practices, or strategies that discriminate against people with disabilities. For example, a study of five Southeast Asian countries found that electoral laws do not specially protect the political rights of persons with disabilities, while ‘some banks do not allow visually disabled people to open accounts, and HIV testing centers often refuse to accept sign language interpreters due to confidentiality policies’.[9] Restrictive laws exist in some countries, particularly affecting people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.[10]

Other barriers include: internalised barriers (low expectations of people with disabilities can undermine their confidence and aspirations), inadequate data and statistics, lack of participation and consultation of disabled people.