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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 secondsMAN: FutureLearn. [THEME MUSIC] UNSW Australia. Diversity and human rights.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsDINESHA SAMARARATNE: If you look at disability, every culture I think has a way of understanding it. And unfortunately, most cultures understand disability in a very negative light.

Skip to 0 minutes and 24 secondsSo where I come from we practise all four religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. And what we find is that the dominant approach of disability is of charity, of seeing them actually as an opportunity through which others can gain merit, by looking after them, by providing for them. And that's really not what people with disability want. They want to be recognised as human beings with equal worth. So human rights then makes a very significant intervention by stating that, irrespective of any differences, human beings are born in equality and in dignity, and with rights.

Skip to 1 minute and 7 secondsAnd that challenges the cultural and the religious perceptions that people have-- that if you have a disability your role in life is different, what you can expect from others ought to be different. So human rights is very important in that sense because it gives them a platform from which they can demand equality and equal recognition from the community as well as from the state.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 secondsROSEMARY KAYESS: For many years, the way that society has understood disability and the way policy and legislation has approached disability has separated people with disability from the human family nearly, as something different, something "other". And that validated standards that were very, very different and experiences that were very, very different to the rest of the community. The human rights approach has been very effective in the disability area because it reinforces the notion of human diversity. And it places disability as just one aspect of the human condition.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 secondsAnd that reinforces the humanness of people with disability. It's the recognition that we're all part of the same human family and that we're all equal in dignity and worth. I mean, they're the opening words from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Diversity and human rights

Last week, we saw that valuing human diversity goes hand-in-hand with movements towards greater social inclusion for people with disabilities and is essential to working towards a good life for everyone.

This week, we turn our attention to human rights frameworks, which express the dignity and equal worth of all humans and lay out a basic set of rights that all humans should have.

In the above video, Dr. Dinesha Samararatne and Rosemary Kayess explain how the recognition of human diversity is central to a human rights approach to disability. Dinesha says that for many of Sri Lanka’s diverse cultures, giving charity to people with disabilities is seen as a way of gaining merit. While a charity model has also been prominent in the Global North, Rosemary emphasises in this clip that people with disabilities in the Global North have often been medicalised and segregated from mainstream society, as we saw for example in Step 1.9: Making belonging.

A human rights approach, which is based on the valuing of human diversity, reframes these negative understandings of disability and provides an alternative model where all people have dignity and can flourish.

In the next step, Educators Jos and Karen provide an introduction to human rights, and describe in more detail what we will be investigating this week.

Talking points

In Australia it is quite common to hear people talking about having a “right” to something.

  • Is the concept of rights in general, and human rights in particular, common in your local context?

  • If the idea of having rights is often referred to in your local context, how do people usually use the term? One example of this might be when people use rights to justify or criticise behaviour (for example, “I have a right to express my opinion”).

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This video is from the free online course:

Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

UNSW Sydney

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join:

  • Stories of belonging
    Stories of belonging
    video

    In this video, different guest presenters with disabilities share experiences of inclusion and belonging.

  • Recognising discrimination
    Recognising discrimination
    video

    In this video, different people with disabilities share their personal stories of discrimination.