Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

A Clash of Conventions? Participation, Power and the Rights of Disabled Children

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Abstract:  This article considers the neglected topic of the relationship between the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with regard to the participation rights of disabled children. It analyses key articles in both conventions and considers relevant general comments from both convention committees (the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities), and their interpretation by academic contributors. The article argues that much work on this topic fails to develop an adequate understanding of power relations, and that the ‘social model of disability’ which underpins the disabilities convention, when applied to ‘childhood’ (as opposed to ‘children’) suggests that the implications of that convention for the participation rights of all children, not only disabled children, are profound. This is because the disabilities convention rejects the relevance of tests of capacity and ‘best interests’ for disabled adults, for reasons which are equally germane to disabled children, and children in general. The article concludes with discussion of the difficulties in implementing the insights derived from the analysis of the disabilities convention in substantive law in the absence of a right to freedom from age discrimination for children, and suggests other, less far-reaching, reforms that could be made this notwithstanding.

Keywords:  childhood; children; disability; participation; rights; social model



© Ralph Sandland. 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.