The concept of rights is central to disability studies: it reflects the clearest recognition of persons with disabilities as subjects under the law who are empowered to demand, on an equal basis with others, what they are entitled to as an integral part of the human race. This understanding marks a stark shift—and a crucial development—from the historical conceptualization of persons with disabilities as objects who lack reason and ability to make decisions, and hence who cannot be bearers of rights.

Rights are the fundamental normative principles of freedom or entitlement stipulating what one is allowed to perform or is owed by others. Rights exist in both national and international law, and they form the basis of an increasingly accepted international language that addresses issues of dignity, needs, and justice. In modern times, individuals are assumed to possess rights simply by virtue of being human. These rights are inalienable and …

This essay may be found on page 158 of the printed volume.

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