'Is there anyone there concerned
with human rights?' Cross-cultural
connections, disability and the
struggle for change in England
Felicity Armstrong and Len Barton
This chapter raises issues about the ways in which human rights can be conceptualized in relation to disability issues in different settings. Connections are made between education and human rights and wider social and cultural contexts. Discourses which situate human rights issues as relating to 'Others' rather than 'one's own' society and practices are critically discussed. The question of exclusions in society is examined in relation to dominant discourses, which focus on notions of citizenship rather than rights. We make some necessary connections between different kinds of exclusions made through the curriculum in education and disability issues and human rights. The chapter then moves on to a critical account of the development of special education in England and its roots in systems of categorization and exclusion. We argue that the question of the rights of children has not been on the agenda. Recent moves on the part of central government suggest increased openness towards the idea of inclusive education. However, an understanding of the central importance of adopting a human rights approach which is necessary to achieve such a change is still missing.
As we set out to work together on the second draft of our chapter, public debate and questions about the meaning and status of human rights are being