The University of New South Wales

go to UNSW home page

Handbook Home

Disability Law and Policy - LAWS8056

Faculty: Faculty of Law
School:  School of Law
Course Outline: See below
Campus: Kensington Campus
Career: Postgraduate
Units of Credit: 6
EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)
Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 2
Enrolment Requirements:
Pre-requisite: Academic Program must be 9200 or 9210 or 9230 or 5740 or 9220 or 5750 or 9211 or 5211.
Excluded: JURD7556
CSS Contribution Charge:Band 3 (more info)
Further Information: See Class Timetable


Since the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, there has been a transformation of laws concerning persons with disability from a care and control framework to a rights-based framework. This has resulted in significant legislative reforms in Australia at both state and federal level. In 2006, the Australian government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This course examines these developments and critically evaluates the social construction of disability and the ensuing policies and practices that frame the context within which the legal system operates. The theoretical context and reforms will be assessed through case studies such as access to justice, legal capacity, immigration, discrimination law, employment and access to services. Finally, the role of law and law reform in facilitating change for people with disabilities will be considered. This course is taught intensively.

LLM Specialisations

Recommended Prior Knowledge


Course Objectives

Upon completing this course, it is expected that students will have:
  • developed an understanding of the framework of international, national and state legal norms that underpin disability rights;
  • developed an understanding of key legal and policy issues as they affect people with disabilities;
  • developed critical and analytical skills through detailed examination of the relevant legislation and case law;
  • acquired appropriate skills to research and assess developments in law and policy in the light of the current debates concerning disability;
  • developed a capacity to work independently;
  • acquired the appropriate skills to enable them to critically evaluate those areas of law and social policy which require reform, and develop strategies for change; and
  • developed written communication skills required to articulate and defend arguments in the context of law reform.

Main Topics

Social Perspective of Disability
This part of the course will explore the way in which prevailing social theories have influenced ideas and informed disability legislation, policy and the context within which the legal system operates.

Rights of People with Disabilities
Establishing rights for people with disabilities has involved a shift in thinking away from a welfare approach to a human rights perspective that embraces the notion of people with disabilities as rights bearers. This is examined at various levels - including international human rights law; Australian federal law; and State law.

Case Studies
This will include a discussion of current legal debates, case law and law reform as it pertains to areas such as legal capacity, access to justice, education, immigration, employment and access to services.


Class Participation – 20%
Briefing note – 20%
Research paper – 60%

Course Texts

Some materials will be included in the course reader from UNSW Bookshop but the majority of resources are online materials as detailed in the course outline.


Refer to the Course Outline provided by the lecturer prior to the start of the relevant semester.

URL for this page:

© The University of New South Wales (CRICOS Provider No.: 00098G), 2004-2011. The information contained in this Handbook is indicative only. While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, the University reserves the right to discontinue or vary arrangements, programs and courses at any time without notice and at its discretion. While the University will try to avoid or minimise any inconvenience, changes may also be made to programs, courses and staff after enrolment. The University may also set limits on the number of students in a course.