Washington International Law Journal


Elicia Shotland


Current American, European, and Pakistani legal structures are often insufficient to ensure rights of disabled people, particularly rights of equal access to courts and to act as a witness in court. As the disability rights movement gains ground, judges and legislation drafters are struggling to shift modes of jurisprudence from a medical model that conceptualized disability as a permanent physical affliction to the social model, which locates disability in an individual’s relation to their built and social environments. A review of historical records concerning deaf and hard of hearing participants in legal processes from the Ottoman Empire shows that the social model of disability was alive and well in Classical Islamic jurisprudence, long before it appeared in American and European contexts. Given the limitations of both twentieth century and early modern legal systems, this article argues for a syncretic approach to disability rights development using the tools provided by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

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