What’s worth got to do with it? Language and the socio-legal advancement of disability rights and equality

Abigail Victoria Pearson


This article considers the appositeness of maintaining the defences of 'reasonable adjustment' and 'undue burden' in legislation relating to the rights of persons with disabilities, and what the maintenance  of these concepts with legislative parlance demonstrates about the true status and progress of disability rights in the United Kingdom today. This will be illustrated by an analysis of the Equality Act 2010 and various cases concerning the rights of people with disabilities in relation to dignity and autonomy.  The discussion is framed by an analysis of Lord Freud's comments at a recent conference and the disparity between the continued focus on the economics of providing access provisions to persons with disabilities and the emphasis of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on the fundamental human rights of: dignity, autonomy, recognition and participation. The article will propose that the notions of ‘reasonable adjustment’ and ‘undue burden’ should be removed completely from legislative vocabulary and replaced with the phrase: ‘assurance of rightful access’ and how this may be achieved in practice.

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