Lawyers and governments can do more for people with disabilities

Andrew Mackenzie

Lawyers, the wider legal community and governments could and should do more to help protect the rights of people with disabilities, according to a new report presented at the Annual Conference of the International Bar Association (IBA) in Sydney this month.

Around one billion people – 15 percent of the global population – have some form of disability and experience discrimination in many areas of life, exacerbated by the barriers they face in accessing justice.

The report was commissioned by the IBA Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee and is researched and written by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, part of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

Andrew Mackenzie, co-vice chair of the IBA Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee said: “We wanted to research the issues concerning access to justice for people with disabilities around the world, so the report looks at examples from various jurisdictions.

“It is clear that more needs to be done to break down some of the additional barriers to access to justice often faced by those with disabilities.

“We hope this report will raise awareness of these issues and ultimately lead to enhanced access to justice for some of the more vulnerable in society.”

The key findings of the report include:

  • Crime against people with disabilities appears to be significantly underreported and lawyers working with these groups can help by encouraging greater reporting, to ensure policy in this area is based on accurate evidence.
  • While litigation can effectively help overturn discriminatory laws, by intervening at an earlier stage, lawyers involved in advocacy can help to ensure laws that look likely to impact negatively against people with disabilities do not even enter the statute books.
  • Litigation can only have a wider impact on discriminatory laws or practices where these can be evidenced, and that requires data, yet data gathered by many countries does still not include a break down in relation to people with disabilities.

View the report here