Reforming Disability Nondiscrimination Laws: A Comparative Perspective
Comparing the law and policies of other countries concerning disability rights to ours can help us understand how we may strengthen those rights and heighten compliance with nondiscrimination laws. Since it took effect in 1992, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been a leading example of such comprehensive legislation on behalf of people with disabilities. Along with the United Nations Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, the ADA has inspired many countries to develop their own disability nondiscrimination laws and remedial agencies. This process must work in both directions, however, and laws and agencies from other countries must inspire further improvement in the United States’ system. This Article compares alternative mechanisms to resolve complaints of discrimination in employment, government services, and other spheres of public life. Such approaches include negotiation, mediation, arbitration, administrative remedies, litigation, and the use of national ombudsmen or equal rights commissions.
The Article focuses on reforms occurring in Israel, a country that often looks to the United States for models of progressive social legislation. Israel’s Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law (ERPDL) contains noteworthy advances in its statutory text, but its implementation is still in its early stages.
When examining the experience in other countries, American lawyers and policymakers gain a richer perspective on the progress made under the ADA and the Standard Rules; they also identify additional reforms to pursue. To this end, the Article discusses not only the United States and Israel, but also the United Kingdom, and presents a table of the laws of forty-one countries that legislated disability nondiscrimination provisions. These countries’ experiences have influenced the international disability rights movement and offer lessons to share among countries struggling to eliminate disability-based discrimination.
Reform proposals suggest ways to strengthen or create high-level government mechanisms, to stress the use of alternative means of implementation and enforcement, to develop selective litigation strategies, and to encourage other countries to enact or apply disability nondiscrimination norms. These reforms may not only contribute to the international growth of disability rights, but also help include people with disabilities in the fabric of social, economic, and cultural life.