Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 August 2021
Disabled advocates’ work has resulted in many domestic and international laws enshrining equal rights to access, opportunity, and inclusion, yet implementation lags far behind. Even where disability rights laws carry force, disabled people at the margins of the margins face appalling human rights violations, many deriving from social and legal structures designed to enact harm on marginalized, exploited, and targeted communities. Yet even laws meant to protect disabled people in theory often enable abuse and harm in reality, such as guardianship and involuntary commitment laws that may contravene the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Additionally, ableist oppression does not impact all disabled people equally, both across different disabilities, and among disabled people differentiated by race, gender, class, sexuality, language, or nation.
In this chapter, we provide an overview of existing U.S. and international legal frameworks governing rights, freedoms, and legal capacity for people with psychosocial disabilities, and then discuss applications of those laws and policies in current contexts. In both sections, we describe harms disabled people experience in the United States, ways in which legal structures enable or fail to prevent those harms, and potential avenues for legal and nonlegal advocacy. We highlight ways in which current law fails to adequately recognize people with psychosocial disabilities as full persons with autonomy and dignity.