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Abstract from

Communications Rights, Disability, and Law: The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in National Perspective

Gerard Goggin is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow.

Communications and media are now recognised as a vital area of disability, especially when it comes to digital technology. In this article, I discuss the way that rights to communication, articulated in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), played out in the 2006-2016 period. I trace the evolution of communications as a part of human rights internationally, and then how these rights are considerably advanced with a new formulation in the CRPD. I also analyse the interplay between these communications rights in the CRPD with the law, policy, and regulation at the national level, using the case of Australia. In particular, I discuss a key element of communications rights – universal service (or the entitlement of everyone to telecommunications, and in the present conjuncture, mobile phones and broadband internet). I find that while the CRPD is a useful tool, it has fallen well short in terms of force in the Australian context. In particular, a key obstacle is a striking lack of a comprehensive, overarching legal and policy framework on communications rights. In this situation, I suggest it is imperative to build a comprehensive national legal framework, underpinned by contemporary understandings of disability, and the CRPD, to achieve communications rights for people with disabilities and everyone.

(2017) 35(2) Law in Context p129

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