A collage of partially transparent images of diverse people from the disability community, through a bright orange filter. Black and white text in the center reads: "Human rights and disability: Building a supportive society #DisabilityPrideMonth

July is Disability Pride Month, a time to both celebrate human diversity and to think more deeply about disability, how society engages people who live with disabilities and what we can collectively do to better support this diverse but unified community. 

The human rights model of disability recognises that: 

  • Disability is a natural part of human diversity that must be respected and supported in all its forms. 
  • People with disability have the same rights as everyone else in society. 
  • Impairment must not be used as an excuse to deny or restrict people’s rights. 

The model exists because of an important international document, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was developed by people with disability, with the aim of achieving a greater level of equality for people with disability around the world. 

The Australian Government signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008, making a legal commitment to uphold the principles the convention establishes. These include: 

  • Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons. 
  • Non-discrimination. 
  • Full and effective participation and inclusion in society. 
  • Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity. 
  • Equality of opportunity. 
  • Accessibility. 
  • Equality between genders. 
  • Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities. 

We can better support our disability community by considering accessibility when conducting our everyday activities at work, home and in community and social settings – not as an afterthought or addendum, but as an embedded thought process which happens organically during planning and organisation.

Here are some practical steps we can take to support the disability community using a human rights lens: 

A partially transparent image of a woman using a wheelchair and her laptop, through a light orange filter. Black text is overlayed and describes actions people can take and things to consider in disability inclusion: "Education and Awareness: Educate ourselves and others about disability rights and issues. Understand that disability is a natural part of human diversity and challenge stereotypes and misconceptions. Accessibility: Advocate for, and model accessibility in all areas of life. This includes physical accessibility of public spaces, transportation, and buildings, as well as digital accessibility of websites, apps, and online content. Inclusive Policies and Practices: Advocate for, and model inclusive policies and practices in all areas, including education, employment, healthcare, and social services. Ensure that these policies and practices address the specific needs and rights of people with disabilities, promote equal opportunities, and combat discrimination. Amplify Voices: Centre and amplify the voices of people with disabilities. Ensure active participation in decision-making processes and discussions about policies and programs that affect their lives. Support Disability Organisations: Support and collaborate with disability organisations and advocacy groups. These organisations play a crucial role in promoting the rights of people with disabilities, providing support services, and advocating for systemic change. Challenge Ableism: Speak up against ableism and discrimination when you witness it. Challenge negative attitudes, stereotypes, and harmful language related to disability. Encourage others to adopt inclusive language and behaviour, promoting respect, dignity, and equality for all. Support Legislation and Policy Changes: Stay informed about disability-related legislation and policy changes. Support initiatives that advance disability rights, access, and inclusion. Contact your representatives, sign petitions, and join advocacy campaigns to create positive change at a systemic level. Foster Inclusive Communities: Foster inclusive communities where people with disabilities can fully participate and belong. Encourage community events, social activities, and initiatives that promote accessibility, acceptance, and meaningful connections among individuals of all abilities. Reflect and Learn: We can all reflect on our own attitudes, biases, and actions and recognise that many of us will experience disability at some point in our lives. None of us are immune from developing, experiencing or being impacted by disability directly or indirectly. Disability spans the breadth of age, sex, gender, culture and socio economic status, in spite of some of these factors informing the likelihood of experiencing disability."

 By integrating a human rights lens into our support for the disability community, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable society where the rights and dignity of all individuals are respected and upheld.  

It is important to not just celebrate Disability Pride Month in July but throughout the year, as we strive to create a world that embraces and supports the diverse abilities of every person.