Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Dis-Equality: Exploring the Juxtaposition of Disability and Equality

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Abstract:  The (in)equality issues facing disabled people are extensive and long-enduring. The way(s) in which equality is conceptualised has important consequences for understandings of disability. The ambiguity of what I call dis-equality theory is two-fold; the apparent failure of mainstream equality theorising in, firstly, embracing disability concepts at all, and secondly, in fully incorporating the logistics of disability, particularly in relation to the social construction of such. Practices of institutional and more complex forms of discrimination are part of those deeper structures of domination and oppression which maintain disabled people in positions of disadvantage. Everyday practices, in the ‘ordinary order of things’ (Bourdieu, 2000), continue to be misrecognised as natural and taken for granted. This article critically explores the complexity of dis-equality theorising utilising a Bourdieusian lens which explicitly incorporates complex and subtle forms of discrimination, and by examining the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ approach to equality. I argue that the way forward for dis-equality theorising in today’s rights based era must be one that considers the nuances of the ‘rules of the game’ (Young, 1990) if it is to be effective in challenging the inequalities to which disabled people have long been subject.

Keywords:  Bourdieu; disability; dis-equality; discrimination; equality; rights; UNCRPD



© Bronagh Byrne. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.