A human rights approach to disability assessment

Lisa Waddington*, Mark Priestley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Disability assessments play a key role in welfare states but are increasingly contested, not least for their compatibility with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This paper draws on evidence of global governance and assessment practices in 34 European countries, the largest international study to date. The paper reflects on the model of disability in the CRPD and its implications for disability assessment, drawing on the work of the CRPD Committee. The paper also examines examples of promising practice in assessment in European countries and concludes by identifying elements of a CRPD-compatible approach. Disability assessments must be underpinned by both a social-contextual concept of disability and a human rights approach. Administrative attribution of disability status based on categorical diagnosis or individual functioning alone is incompatible with this approach. This approach challenges the historic individualization of disability assessments and the knowledge relationships underpinning them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
JournalJournal of International and Comparative Social Policy
Issue number1
Early online date12 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Disability
  • Needs Assessment
  • Welfare Rights
  • Human Rights


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