School of Law and Centre for Disability Studies announce launch of new East Asia disability rights project

The School of Law and the Centre for Disability Studies are delighted to announce the launch of the U-LEAD Rights Forum 2018 – 2021.

This will be structured around a series of annual seminars on disability rights, focusing respectively on employment, education and legal capacity. It is run by the University of Leeds with events to be hosted by universities in East Asia, attended by disability rights advocates and researchers from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. These events will form the focus of a series of activities, generating original research by disabled self-advocates, supported by on-going mentoring and dissemination of research papers via print and social media.

The project aims to contribute to independent monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Discourse will be conducted bilingually in Chinese and English, providing full access for disability rights advocates in the Chinese-speaking world. We hope that this will inspire a multi-dimensional flow of information between disabled people and universities in East Asia and the rest of the world.

U-LEAD will fund and foster participatory research - which is central to the work of the Centre for Disability Studies. This approach, which lies at the heart of a rights-based, social model of disability, derives from the principle of “Nothing About Us Without Us” and also underpins the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Yet much disability-related research around the world continues to ignore the voices of disabled people, being either medicalised or rooted in traditional, patriarchal values.

In recent years the School of Law and the Centre for Disability Studies have worked with a number of students and scholars from East Asia, notably Dr Huang Yi, a prominent campaigner for disability rights in China, who recently completed her PhD at the School of Law. We have also had disabled students from other parts of the world engaging in participatory research across a variety of disciplines. 

Professor Gerard Quinn’s recent appointment to the School of Law adds greater impetus to this work. In 2009 Professor Quinn initiated the annual Disability Law Summer School at NIU Galway, which have been making a profound impact on the disability rights discourse globally. Over the past five years a number of participants from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have attended these events. However, language, logistical and other constraints mean that the number of disability rights advocates from East Asia who can benefit from these events is extremely limited.

Even though China was active in the development of the UN CRPD, the Chinese-speaking world is often absent from global discussions about disability rights. In particular, disabled people from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are rarely present in the global rights discourse, and participatory or emancipatory research is almost entirely absent in Chinese universities.

U-LEAD, led by Professor Anna Lawson, has recently appointed Stephen Hallett, Chair of the UK-based charity China Vision, as project manager. Stephen, himself disabled, is an expert on disability rights in China, speaks, reads and writes Chinese fluently and has run disability-related projects in the People’s Republic of China for the past 20 years.