The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Legal Education

Prof. Kris Gledhill
Professor and Associate Head of School of Law
University of Auckland – New Zealand


Whilst international and regional human rights frameworks have all been built on the idea of equality and non-discrimination, delays in achieving such equality for persons with disabilities have led to new international standards designed to reinforce the need for speedy implementation of rights in an equal fashion. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006 requires, amongst other things, equal access to tertiary education for persons with disabilities. In addition, it requires equal access to professions and careers for which a university degree is invariably a pre-requisite, including the legal profession.
It is therefore necessary for law schools to consider their obligations in this regard, both as constituent parts of academic institutions and as partners with practitioners and the judiciary in the legal profession. This paper considers the implications of this obligation. It examines the following questions:
First, (a) What is the content of the right to legal education (and tertiary education more generally) for persons with disabilities? (b) What is the content of the right to be a member of the legal profession (and other professions) for persons with disabilities?
Secondly, in light of the answer to the first question, what is the content of the obligation upon universities to provide access to tertiary education to persons with disabilities, both as a general matter and more specifically to such tertiary education as is necessary as a precursor to progress within a profession or career?
Thirdly, in light of the answers to these first two questions, what should law schools be doing in terms of leadership roles within universities to ensure compliance with human rights standards, working with professional bodies to assist their participation with these standards, and designing the law school curriculum and admissions policies?

Keywords: Human rights; non-discrimination; education for persons with disabilities; the role of Law Schools.

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