School of Law staff contribute to Shanghai conference on disability and employment

The School of Law's Professor Anna Lawson and recent appointments Professor Gerard Quinn and Stephen Hallett have contributed to a recent conference on Disability and Employment, held in Shanghai.

Freedom from discrimination and equal access to employment are basic principles that lie at the heart of disability rights movements around the world. They are enshrined in much international law, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). China, which ratified the CRPD in 2008, is obligated to integrate these principles into its own legislation and, over time, remove barriers which have historically prevented disabled citizens from enjoying social and economic equality. 

Disability and Employment was the basis for the Shanghai conference “International Disability Law & Employment - From Sheltered Workshops to Supported Employment in the Open Labour Market Mutual Challenges”, which aimed to compare and contrast the ways in which principles of equality and non-discrimination are understood and actualised in the EU and China.

The conference was run by law scholar Fu Zhijun (himself living with a disability), who after completing his LLM in disability law at NUI Galway and an internship at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, was inspired to set up his own research centre, the Shanghai Zhijun Public Interest & Law Institute. Zhijun co-hosted the two-day conference together with Shanghai University of Finance and Law (SUFE). Speakers included Chinese and European academics, representatives of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF), local government officials, local employers and individual disability activists and researchers.

Recent University of Leeds appointment Professor Gerard Quinn (then of NUI Galway) began by placing the evolution of EU disability law in context – especially in relation to equality of opportunity and the concept of non-discrimination, while Professor Anna Lawson described EU disability discrimination law (the directive, support from the European Social Fund for example) and also explained the basic principle of reasonable accommodation, which now lies at the heart of both European and UN anti-discrimination law.

Stephen Hallett chaired a session on anti-discrimination, with presentations by Professor Lawson, recent University of Leeds graduate Dr Huang Yi, and Jin Xi (China’s first fully qualified blind lawyer). Stephen was recently appointed as Project Manager for new research initiative focusing on disability and employment, U-LEAD, headed by the School of Law and the University's Centre for Disability Studies