Of rights and obligations: The birth of accessibility

Andrea Broderick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers to ensure equal access for persons with disabilities to, among others, built environments, goods and services, as well as facilities. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD or Convention) formulates 'accessibility' as a general principle and overarching obligation of the Convention, rather than as a human right per se. This has given rise to debate regarding the normative status of accessibility. Those involved in promoting the Convention have widely asserted that the primary aim of the CRPD was not to create new rights but to ensure that existing human rights were made equally effective for persons with disabilities. On the contrary, this article hypothesises that the enactment of accessibility obligations for States Parties, falling indirectly on the private sector, results in some form of sui generis 'entitlement' for persons with disabilities, which can arguably be viewed as amounting to a corresponding new human right - the right to accessibility. This begs foundational and complex questions about the formation and scope of human rights norms, and in particular whether the CRPD actually creates new rights. It also raises fundamental questions regarding the relationship between rights and obligations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-413
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number4
Early online date13 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • CRPD
  • accessibility
  • equality
  • human rights
  • state obligations


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