Call for Abstracts: Hierarchies of Disability Human Rights, new edited volume

Stephen Meyers's picture
Call for Papers
August 31, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Social Sciences, Human Rights

Call for Abstracts


Hierarchies of Disability Human Rights


An edited volume for the

Routledge Press, Interdisciplinary Disability Studies Book Series




Stephen Meyers

Megan McCloskey

Gabor Petri



The disability movement began with the imperative that persons with disabilities must come together and fight for the rights of all disabled persons equally. Persons with disabilities, however, are rarely equally represented in movements nor equally protected under the law. Peipzna-Smarasinha (2019) argues that hierarchies in the disability rights movement made it necessary for “disabled people of color, queer and trans disabled folks of color, and everyone who is marginalized in mainstream disability organizing” to come together and form the alternative Disability Justice movement (p. 22) in order to ensure their voices were heard. Similarly, others have argued that the needs and interests of men with disabilities have consistently been prioritized over the needs and interests of women with disabilities in mainstream disability rights organizations (Banks & Mona, 2007; Sands, 2005).

Hierarchies have long been a mainstay of disability movements around the world, where often times both law and culture rank persons with disabilities according to the specific type or circumstance of their impairment (see, for example: Deal, 2003; crippledscholar, 2015). Legal regimes often differentiate persons with disabilities according to various hierarchies that imply that disabled ex-combatants or workers deserve greater protections and benefits than persons who have been disabled all of their lives (See for example: Aciksoz, 2019), or that the rights and freedoms of persons with physical or sensory disabilities deserve greater protection than those of persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities (See for example: Szmukler et al., 2014). Mirroring this inequality in implementation of rights, persons with intellectual disabilities or autistic people are often included in tokenistic ways in disability rights organizations and advocacy (Petri et al., 2017) as are disabled women and people of color. Hierarchies can also cut across age, with the interests of youth and adolescents with disabilities or older persons ignored by disability rights organizations that prioritize the rights of young children and disabled adults but ignore the needs of adolescents and senior citizens with disabilities (Meyers, Karr & Pineda, 2014; McCloskey and Meyers, 2018; Meyers, 2020).

Hierarchy is also a central characteristic of the international disability movement and international scholarship relating to disability, in which theories formulated and priorities set in the Global North often take precedence over the needs, interests and epistemologies of the Global South (Grech 2015; Meekosha & Soldatic, 2011; Meyers 2019).  In practice, these hierarchies individually and collectively excluded the voices of many people with disabilities from national, regional and international debates about the content and meaning of rights and their implementation and have elided the lived experiences of certain persons with disabilities from academic scholarship, leaving recognition of the reality lived by and realization of rights for persons with disabilities dependent on their relationship to dominant social categories or locations.

In this call for contributions, we seek to support the important work of confronting hierarchies within disability human rights and disability studies scholarship by bringing attention to the ways in which the voices of different groups of persons with disabilities have been marginalized due to their intersecting identities (gender, race and ethnicity, sexuality, etc.); specific impairments (i.e. Autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities); circumstance (i.e. veteran status, worker status, etc.); or global location (i.e. the Global South). We see that disability, as well as human rights, are social constructions, where specific cultures, legal regimes, and socioeconomic environments recognize and promote the rights of some persons, while marginalizing the rights of others. Many of these inequalities are being highlighted in the face of the current COVID 19 pandemic, where certain persons with disabilities are experiencing more rights violations than others, and certain persons with disabilities are better represented in advocacy than others. The purpose of this edited volume is to confront those hierarchies for the purposes of ensuring the rights of all persons with disabilities are more equally enjoyed.

As part of that confrontation, this volume is particularly interested in contributions from people and perspectives not typically included in mainstream academic publications. We are particularly interested in contributions from non-academics, especially self-advocates and persons marginalized by higher education, as well as non-Western academics. The editors of this volume are open to a diversity of contributions, which could include letters, testimonials, interviews, and oral histories; creative representations of experience, such as poetry or images; civil society reports; as well as traditional research articles of 6,000-8,000 words.

Please submit a short abstract or explanation of your intended contribution (250-500 word as a .doc or .docx file) to by August 31, 2020.  Please put "Hierarchies Abstract" in the email subject line. Abstracts and explanations will subsequently be reviewed and contributors will be notified by December 15 and contributors will have until March 15, 2021 to submit their full draft.





  • August 31, 2020 – Please submit 250-500 word abstracts or explanations of intended contributions which contain expression of interest and commitment to submit a final product.
  • December 15, 2020 – The authors of accepted abstracts and explanations of contributions will be notified.
  • March 15, 2021 – Completed contributions are due and will be sent out for peer review.
  • May15, 2021 – Notification of review outcome and requests for revisions.
  • July 15 1, 2021 – Final date for completed manuscript on the basis of review.
  • September 1, 2021 – Full manuscript of collected volume submitted to Routledge Press.
  • Autumn, 2021 – Copyediting, etc.
  • Summer, 2022 – Anticipated publication


About the Editors:


Stephen Meyers PhD, University of California, San Diego. Stephen is an Assistant Professor in Law, Societies & Justice and International Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is also core faculty in the UW’s Disability Studies Program. His research focuses on the interactions between international law, global social movements, and grassroots associations representing marginalized groups in the Global South. His 2019 book Civilizing Disability Society: The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Socializing Grassroots Disabled Persons' Organizations in Nicaragua, for example, traces the ways in which the UN Convention has transformed grassroots disability associations on the ground in Nicaragua, oftentimes in ways that clash with Nicaraguan civic culture and ignore the expressed needs of local disabled persons in lieu of international priorities.


Megan McCloskey, J.D., University of Michigan, LL.M., University of Washington.  Megan is a human rights lawyer with extensive experience in providing research and technical support on the implementation of gender equality, disability inclusion, and anti-discrimination policies and programs.  In addition to being co-author of UNFPA’s 2018 global study Young Persons with Disabilities: Global Study on Ending Gender-based Violence and Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, she is also a co-author of the 2018 assessment of disability inclusion within the United Nations system prepared for UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Catalina Devandas.  She has written and presented on a variety of topics relating to the protection of women’s rights including access to justice and legal responses to domestic violence in Viet Nam and the impact of women’s political leadership on development in Rwanda.  Her research focuses on the intersection between gender and disability in international human rights law and legal practices.  At the University of Washington Megan is Senior Fellow in the Disability Inclusive Development Initiative.


Gabor Petri, PhD, University of Kent, Tizard Centre. Gabor has 20 years of experience in disability policies in Hungary and in the European Union. He has published academic articles on various topics including the self-advocacy of autistic people and people with a learning disability, disability human rights, deinstitutionalisation and community living, and post-socialist disability policies in Central and Eastern Europe. Gabor is member of the Board of Directors of the European Disability Forum and the Mental Health and Human Rights Committee of the Brussels-based NGO Mental Health Europe.







Aciksoz, S. C. (2019). Sacrificial limbs: masculinity, disability, and political violence in Turkey. University of California Press. Banks, M. E., & Mona, L. R. (2007). Leadership and collaboration among women with disabilities. Women and leadership: Transforming visions and diverse voices, 330-340.

crippledscholar. (2015). “Fighting my internalization of the hierarchy of disability.” Accessed April 22, 2019 at:

Deal, M. (2003). Disabled people's attitudes toward other impairment groups: a hierarchy of impairments. Disability & Society18(7), 897-910.

Frohmader, C., & Ortoleva, S. (2014, July). The sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities. In ICPD International Conference on Population and Development Beyond.

Grech, S. (2015). Disability and poverty in the global South: Renegotiating development in Guatemala. Springer.

Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. L. (2019). Care Work: Dreaming disability justice. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Press.

McCloskey, M. & Meyers, S. (2018). Young Persons with Disabilities: Global Study on Ending Gender-based Violence and Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Meekosha, H., & Soldatic, K. (2011). Human rights and the global South: The case of disability. Third World Quarterly32(8), 1383-1397.

Meyers, S. (2020). “Allies, Enemies, or Indifferent? The disability and older persons movements in Jamaica” Research in Social Science and Disability: Alliances, Allies, and Disability. 12

Meyers, S. J. (2019). Civilizing Disability Society: The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Socializing Grassroots Disabled Persons' Organizations in Nicaragua. Cambridge University Press.

Meyers, S., V. Karr, and V. Pineda. (2014). “Youth with Disabilities in Law and Civil Society: Exclusion and inclusion in public policy and NGO networks in Cambodia and Indonesia.” Disability and the Global South Journal. 1(1): 5-28.

Petri, G., Beadle-Brown, J., & Bradshaw, J. (2017). “More Honoured in the Breach than in the Observance”—Self-Advocacy and Human Rights. Laws6(4), 26.

Sands, T. (2005). A voice of our own: Advocacy by women with disability in Australia and the Pacific. Gender & Development13(3), 51-62.

Szmukler, G., Daw, R., & Callard, F. (2014). Mental health law and the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. International journal of law and psychiatry37(3), 245-252.


Contact Info: 

Stephen Meyers

Assistant Professor of Law, Societies & Justice; and International Studies

Core Faculty in Disability Studies

University of Washington, Seattle

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