The prospects for universal disability law and social policy


  • Jerome E. Bickenbach
  • Alarcos Cieza



universal design, disability policy, disability law, minority group approach, welfare


The worldwide disarray of disability social policy and law requires a new foundation to make it coherent and to remedy persistent contradictions, disincentives and other policy anomalies. In this paper we clarify and expand Irving Zola’s call for ‘universalized disability policy’ and develop his insight by drawing upon the well-known principles of Universal Design (UD), or Design for All, in architecture, product development and city planning to formulate analogous principles of universally designed disability social policy and law. Our objective is to show, by means of two examples - one in health care delivery and the other in welfare or social support policy - that ‘universalized’ policy for and on behalf of persons with disabilities is feasible. We find that there are some, albeit limited, examples of universalizing policy in these areas and suggests ways in which the full range of UD principles might be able to be implemented in these two policy areas. What we propose is merely a proof of concept rather than a complete proposal to restructure disability law and policy - which likely not be feasible, given the range of social and economic conditions of countries around the globe. We conclude with some tentative suggestions for areas of empirical research that would further the overall agenda of a universal disability social policy.




How to Cite

Bickenbach, J. E., & Cieza, A. (2011). The prospects for universal disability law and social policy. Journal of Accessibility and Design for All, 1(1), 23–37.