Introducing the human rights model of disability

The human rights model, as the name suggests, is based on basic human rights principles. It recognizes 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 human rights model exists because of an important international document: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This document was finalised in 2006 and is one of nine international human rights instruments that have been developed by the United Nations. It is important because it:

  • Was developed by people with disability, with the aim of achieving a greater level of equality for people with disability around the world
  • Explains the steps that governments around the world must take to uphold, promote and protect the rights of people with disability. (6, 9)

The Australian Government signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. In doing so, it has made a legal commitment to uphold the principles the Convention establishes. (2)


(2) Commonwealth of Australia, Attorney-General’s Department (2018) Public sector guidance sheets: Rights of people with disability

(4) Degener, T (2014) ‘A Human Rights Model of Disability’, from: Routledge Handbook of Disability Law and Human Rights

(6) Korolkova, J. and Anthony, A., Prepared for the Disability Human Rights Clinic (2016) The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the right to supportaccessed 10 February 2019