Disability and evolving conceptions of personhood in rights theory and practice

Stream: Panel 74 - Human Rights & Democracy: From Theories of Rights to Practices of Justice: The Challenge of Engaged Scholarship in the Field of Rights 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


The rights and justice claims of people with disability are transforming traditional conceptions of personhood in human rights theory and practice. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), for instance, does more than just tailor existing rights frameworks to the needs of another minority group, providing guidance to states on how to embed the conditions of support that would enable people with disability to exercise these rights. Recent rights-driven developments in Australian supported decision making and guardianship policy recognise the notion of ‘relational autonomy’ as a framing principle that supports a commitment to universal personhood secured through supportive social institutions, regardless of individual capacity. But these developments compete with other social trends impacting on people with disability such as market-based welfare reform. In this paper I firstly discuss how the inclusion of disability in international human rights frameworks is transforming the way we conceive of the subject of human rights. I then examine some of the opportunities and obstacles present in the current political environment that impact whether these evolving notions of personhood can be implemented in public policy. I focus on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the most significant Australian policy reform in the disability space in decades.


Laura Davy (Presenter), University of Sydney
Laura Davy is completing her PhD in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. Her research draws on critical disability studies and feminist moral and political theory in exploring representations of people with intellectual disability in philosophy and political discourse.