Autism, Human Rights, Disability, and Rights of Persons with Disabilities


Rates of autism diagnosis are on the rise and autistic people are entering the public sphere in new ways, represented in theater, on television, as international experts, and more. Yet, do autistic people experience their full human rights? Experts argue that autistic people suffer discrimination and violations of their human rights, noting that more must be done to ensure the full entitlement of human rights for autistic people (Autism Society ND, Baron-Cohen 2017 and Sarrett 2012). To better understand and promote the human rights of autistic people, this paper applies theories of disability to autism, looking at the biomedical model, the social model, and the capabilities approach. The capabilities approach asserts the universality of human capabilities and the importance of protecting the human rights of all people to develop their capabilities (Lynch 2013). The capabilities approach offers the best framework to support the human rights of autistic people, which can be seen through the application of the capabilities approach to their experiences. After a brief look at the comparative research in this area, revealing a consensus on human rights for autistic people in word if not in deed, it is possible to see opportunities for autistic people to realize their human rights as autistic people.