Principles for the Law as it Affects Persons with Disabilities

The Framework provides that the evaluation of laws, policies and practices as they may affect persons with disabilities should be based on six principles.

1. Respecting the Dignity and Worth of Persons with Disabilities: This principle recognizes the inherent, equal and inalienable worth of every individual, including every person with a disability. All members of the human family are full persons, with the right to be valued, respected and considered and to have both one’s contributions and needs recognized.

2. Responding to Diversity in Human Abilities and Other Characteristics: This principle requires recognition of and responsiveness to the reality that all people exist along a continuum of abilities in many areas, that abilities will vary along the life course, and that each person with a disability is unique in needs, circumstances and identities, as well as to the multiple and intersecting identities of persons with disabilities that may act to increase or diminish discrimination and disadvantage.

3. Fostering Autonomy and Independence:  This principle requires the creation of conditions to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to make choices that affect their lives and to do as much for themselves as possible or as they desire, with appropriate and adequate supports as required.

4. Promoting Social Inclusion and Participation: This principle refers to designing society in a way that promotes the ability of all persons with disabilities to be actively involved with their community by removing physical, social, attitudinal and systemic barriers to exercising the incidents of such citizenship and by facilitating their involvement.

5. Facilitating the Right to Live in Safety: This principle refers to the right of persons with disabilities to live without fear of abuse or exploitation and where appropriate to receive support in making decisions that could have an impact on safety.

6. Recognizing That We All Live in Society: This principle acknowledges that persons with disabilities are members of society, with entitlements and responsibilities, and that other members of society also have entitlements and responsibilities. 


Applying the Principles

Effectively interpreting and applying the principles to laws, policies and practices requires

  • Taking the circumstances of persons with disabilities into account: undertake research and consultation to understand how persons with disabilities, with their particular circumstances and experiences, will be affected, taking into account the impact of their experiences throughout their life courses.
  • Treating the law as person-centred: consider the law from the perspective of the individuals encountering it, who are whole persons with multiple needs and identities, and may be dealing with multiple systems and life changes.
  • Designing the law to include: while in some cases it may be necessary or most appropriate to design specific laws, practices, programs or policies to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, in many cases an inclusive design approach that incorporates from the outset the needs of persons with disabilities as well as others into the overall design of a law of general application will be the most effective approach.
  • Paying attention to implementation issues: even where laws are intended positively, they may fail to reach their goals or may have unintended negative effects because of ineffective implementation – for example, insufficient resources, staff training or public communication.
  • Progressively realizing the principles: efforts to improve the law should be undertaken continually as understandings and resources evolve.

Taking a Step-by-Step Approach to Applying the Principles

The Framework applies the principles and considerations to laws, policies and practices in a step-by-step fashion.

  • Step 1: How Do the Principles Relate to the Context of the Law? Identify the context in which the law will operate and its relationship to the principles.
  • Step 2: Does the Legislative Development/Review Process Respect the Principles? Consider whether the process that has been designed for developing or reviewing the law respects the principles.
  • Step 3: Does the Purpose of the Law Respect and Fulfil the Principles?  Assess the goals of the law, including the assumptions on which it is based.
  • Step 4: Who Does the Law Affect and How Does This Relate to the Principles? Analyze the way in which the law may affect persons with disabilities and how this may impact on respect for the principles.
  • Step 5: Do the Processes Under the Law Respect the Principles? Consider the procedural aspects of the law, including provisions related to accessibility, information provision, and supports for applicants.
  • Step 6: Do the Complaint and Enforcement Mechanisms Respect the Principles? Assess how the law is enforced, whether through proactive measures like audits, or individual complaint mechanisms.
  • Step 7: Do the Monitoring and Accountability Mechanisms Respect the Principles? Does the law contain provisions to ensure transparency, accountability and monitoring of its effectiveness?
  • Step 8: Final Assessment: Is the Law True to the Principles? Based on the results of the previous steps, is the law true to the principles? What more must be done?