Timeline of disability rights outside the United States

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This disability rights timeline lists events outside the United States relating to advances in the civil rights of people with disabilities, including court decisions, the passage of legislation, activists' actions, and the founding of various organizations. Although the disability rights movement itself began in the 1960s, advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities started much earlier and continues to the present.


  • 1947 - The School Education Law (Law No. 26) was enacted in Japan, and it provided education for disabled children such as general classes, special classes, non-residential classes, special schools and itinerant teaching, etc.[1]
  • 1947 - The Workmen's Accident Compensation Insurance Law (Law No. 50) was enacted in Japan, and it provided disability pension and disability lump-sum payments, as well as welfare services such as special allowance, medical services, health care, supply of prosthetic appliance, etc.[1]
  • 1947 - The Mail Law (Law No. 165) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that postage for Braille paper and recorded mail for visually impaired persons are free of charge, and parcels for disabled people can be mailed at half the cost. The postage for periodicals published by disabled person groups can be mailed at a small charge.[1]
  • 1949 - The Law for the Welfare of Physically Disabled Persons (Law No. 283) was enacted in Japan, and it provided the issuing of a "physically disabled persons' handbook", various counseling services, a grant of prosthetic appliances such as wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids and artificial limbs, technical aids for daily living such as bathtubs, toilet facility, beds and communication aids (e. g. talking machines and word processors, rehabilitation training, services necessary for participation in society such as sign language interpreter, translation Braille, guide helper and modification of motor vehicles, work opportunities, specialized facilities for nursing care, and living places.[1]


  • 1950 - The Inheritance Tax Law (Law No. 73) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that inheritance tax is reduced in the case of disabled persons' heir. Up to 70 years of age - ¥60,000 per year (¥120,000 for specified disabled persons.)[1]
  • 1950 - The Local Tax Law (Law No. 226) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that Local Resident Tax is reduced (disabled persons with annual incomes of ¥1,250,000 or less get a tax exemption). The Local Resident Tax exemption amounts are as follows: Specified disabled persons - ¥280,000 Other disabled persons - ¥260,000 There are cases of reduction or exemption from automobile taxes, light mobile taxes and automobile purchase taxes.[1]
  • 1950 - The Daily Life Security Law (Law No. 144) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that families who have difficulties in daily life because of their low income are given Public Assistant Benefit to ensure the minimum standard of living, and there is a system of supplemental allowance for disabled persons according to the condition of disability.[1]
  • 1950 - The Public Housing Law (Law No. 193) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that when living in public housing, disabled persons are given special consideration. There is a standard of larger living space for families with persons with disabilities. In addition, local public entities give priority in providing to disabled persons public housing and lowering of rent.[1]
  • 1954 - The Employees' Pension Law (Law No. 115) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that: According to the degree of the insured disability, Employee Disability Pension and Disability Allowance (a one time lump sum for minimal disabilities) are paid.[1]
  • 1957 - The Special Measures Act concerning Temporary Taxation (Law No. 26) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that regarding the Income Tax Law of 1965 (see below), those living severely disabled persons may get supplemental allowance. Supplemental allowance - ¥300,000 [1]
  • 1959 - The National Pension Law (Law No. 1412) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that: There is the Basic Disability Pension, which is granted after having joined the insurance program (Case A) or when a certain degree of disability has occurred prior to the age of 20 years (Case B). In the latter case; however, there is an income limitation. 1st grade - ¥981,900 (¥81,825 per month, 1997) 2nd grade - ¥785,490 (¥65,458 per month, 1997) These grades are different from the degrees indicated in the physically disabled person's handbook.[1]


  • 1960 - The Law for Employment Promotion, etc. of the Disabled Persons (Law No. 123) was enacted in Japan, and it provided:

(1) The Quota System: General employers including the government and municipal offices are obligated to employ disabled workers in excess of the quota. The legal quota was: Governmental bodies - 2. 0% (Non-clerical - 1. 9%) Private enterprises - 1. 6% (Specialized juridical person - 1. 9%) The quota was changed in 1998 as follows: Governmental bodies - 2. 1% (Non-clerical - 1. 9%) Private enterprises - 1. 8% (Specialized juridical person - 2. 1%) This ratio does not include mentally ill persons. Employers are obligated to report the number of disabled workers they employ to the head of the Public Employment Security Office annually. This office may announce to the public the names of enterprises who fail to meet the quota and request them to draw up plan for employment of disabled persons to meet the quota.
(2) The Levy and Grant System: This system works by collecting levy from those enterprises that fail to achieve the quota of disabled workers. The funds created by the levy system are used to encourage employers who employ disabled persons above the quota and to promote disabled workers' employment and improve working conditions. Collection of Levies: ¥50,000 a month per person (with more than 300 full-time employees.) Payment of Adjustment Allowance: ¥25,000 per month per person will be paid to the employers who employ disabled workers more than the legal quota (with more than 300 full-time employees). Payment of Rewards: ¥17,000 per month per person will be paid to the employers who employ disabled workers in excess of the fixed number (with less than 300 full-time employees). Payment of Grants: For establishment of work facilities, special employment management, vocational adjustment, ability development, etc. to promote such employment.
(3) Public Vocational Training Allowance for disabled persons and a loan system of funds for purchasing of technical aids and equipments.[1]

  • 1960 - The Law for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded Persons (Law No. 37) was enacted in Japan, and it provided specialized counseling provided by Social Welfare Offices and Rehabilitation Consultation Centers, training for independent life, in-house services such as home helper, day care and short stay programs, etc., technical aids for daily living such as electric toothbrush and special type mat, etc., living space such as welfare homes and group homes, etc., and specialized facilities to help daily life such as residential facilities for rehabilitation, nonresidential facilities and so on.[1]
  • 1960 - The Road Traffic Law (Law No. 105) was enacted in Japan, and it provided safe transportation for visually impaired persons. Thus, sighted persons are prohibited to walk with a white or yellow cane, and to walk with a guide dog.[1]
  • 1964 - The Special Child Rearing Allowance Law (Law No. 134) was enacted in Japan, and it provided - Special Allowance for Disabled Persons: Provided to those 20 years of age and over with degrees of disability requiring special care and attention in daily life due to serious disability either mental or physical. ¥26,230 per month with income limitation (1997). Special Child Rearing Allowance: Granted to parents or guardians of children, under 20 years of age with moderate/severe disability. ¥50,350 per month for those with severe disability (1997). ¥33,530 per month for those with moderate disability (1997). Welfare Allowance for Disabled Children: ¥14,270 per month is granted to children with severe disabilities.[1]
  • 1965 - The Income Tax Law (Law No. 33) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that taxpayers with disability or who have a disabled family member may get exemption from income tax. The exemptions are as follows: Specified disabled persons, that is (a) Grade 1 or 2 in a physically disabled person's handbook or (b) Severe level in a handbook for people with mental retardation - ¥350,000 Disabled persons other than above - ¥270,000 [1]
  • 1966 - The Employment Countermeasures Law (Law No. 132) was enacted in Japan, and it provided measures to improve vocational training for people with disabilities and assist them to find employment, vocational training facilities and improvement of training contents, training of guidance workers and the enhancement of their quality, the supply of an allowance for adjustment training, and the supply of a training allowance to employers.[1]
  • In 1968, after a long campaign by The Sunday Times, a compensation settlement for the UK victims of thalidomide was reached with Distillers Company (now part of Diageo), which had distributed the drug in the UK.[2][3] This compensation, which is distributed by the Thalidomide Trust in the UK, was substantially increased by Diageo in 2005.[4] The UK Government gave survivors a grant of £20 million, to be distributed through the Thalidomide Trust, in December 2009.[5]
  • 1969 - The Human Resources Development Promotion Law (Law No. 64) was enacted in Japan, and it established Vocational Ability Development Centers for Disabled Persons.[1]


  • 1970 - In 1968, a large criminal trial regarding thalidomide began in Germany, charging several Grünenthal officials with negligent homicide and injury. After Grünenthal settled with the victims in April 1970, the trial ended in December 1970 with no finding of guilt; however, as part of the settlement, Grünenthal paid 100 million DM into a special foundation. The German government added 320 million DM. The foundation paid victims a one-time sum of 2,500-25,000 DM (depending on severity of disability) and a monthly stipend of 100-450 DM. The monthly stipends have since been raised substantially and are now paid entirely by the government (as the foundation has run out of money). Grünenthal paid another 50 million Euros into the foundation in 2008.
  • 1970 - The Disabled Persons' Fundamental Law (Law No. 84; major revision in 1993) was enacted in Japan. It includes:

"Article 2 (Definition): "Disabled persons" as used in this Law means persons whose daily life or life in society is substantially limited over the long term due to a physical disability, mental retardation or mental disability.
Article 3 (Fundamental Principles): The dignity of all disabled persons shall be respected. They shall have the right to be treated accordingly. All disabled persons shall, as members of society, be provided with opportunities to fully participate in such a manner.
Article 4 (Responsibilities of the State and Local Public Entities): The State and local public bodies shall be responsible for promoting the welfare of disabled persons and for preventing disabilities.
Article 5 (Responsibilities of the Nation): The nation shall, on the basis of the principle of social solidarity, endeavor to cooperate in promoting the welfare of disabled persons.
Article 6 (Efforts to Achieve Independence): Disabled persons shall endeavor to participate actively in social and economic activities by making effective use of the abilities they possess. The family members of disabled persons shall endeavor to promote independence of disabled persons.
Article 6-2 (Disabled Persons' Day): Disabled Persons' Day shall be established for the purpose of raising the public awareness to the welfare of disabled persons and stimulating disabled persons' desire to actively participate in social, economic, cultural and other areas of activity.
Article 7 (Fundamental Policies): The measures regarding the welfare of disabled persons shall be carried out according to their age and to the types and severity of disabilities."

There are other fundamental principles in this law regarding programs for persons with disability covering the State, Metropolitan and prefectural governments, and cities, towns and villages; as well as those regarding medicine, education, employment, pension, housing, public facilities, information, culture, sports, etc. The total number of the Articles of this law is 29.[1][6]

  • 1970 - Disability activist Hiroshi Yokota (a member of Aoi Shiba no Kai) published the declaration of activity, “We Act Like This,” in their journal Ayumi in 1970. This declaration had four assertions: 1) We identify ourselves as people with Cerebral Palsy (CP), 2) We assert ourselves aggressively, 3) We deny love and justice, 4) We do not choose the way of problem solving. This declaration became an epoch making event in the Japanese disability movement.[7]
  • 1978 - The Basaglia Law or Law 180 (Italian: Legge Basaglia, Legge 180) is the Italian Mental Health Act of 1978 which signified a large reform of the psychiatric system in Italy, contained directives for the closing down of all psychiatric hospitals[8] and led to their gradual replacement with a whole range of community-based services, including settings for acute in-patient care.[9] The Basaglia Law is the basis of Italian mental health legislation.[10]:64 The principal proponent of Law 180[11]:70 and its architect was Italian psychiatrist Franco Basaglia.[12]:8 Therefore, Law 180 is known as the “Basaglia Law” from the name of its promoter.[13] The Parliament of Italy enacted Law 180 on May 13, 1978, and thereby initiated the gradual dismantling of psychiatric hospitals.[14] Implementation of the psychiatric reform law was accomplished in 1998 which marked the very end of the state psychiatric hospital system in Italy.[15]


  • 1981 - The United Nations established this year as the International Year of Disabled Persons. At the conclusion of the year the UN called on member nations to establish in their own countries organizations for and about people with disabilities.
  • 1981 - Gini Laurie organized the first international conference on post-polio problems.[16]
  • 1981 - Argentina enacted "Comprehensive Protection System for the Disabled" in order to give disabled people health care, education, and social security.[17]
  • 1982 - The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms declared physical or mental disability as a prohibited reason for discrimination; this was the first time that such a right was guaranteed in the Constitution of a country. Section 15 of the Charter makes it illegal for any governments in Canada to discriminate against persons with disabilities in their laws and programs.[18]
  • 1983 - The United Nations expanded the International Year of Disabled Persons to the International Decade of Disabled Persons (1983–1992).
  • 1984 - The Telecommunication Service Law (Law No. 86) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that disabled persons may get NTT telephone directory service for a free of charge, and persons with speech disorder may get lower fee of usage fee of public telephone through calling by credit.[1]
  • 1985 - The International Polio Network was founded by Gini Laurie, and began advocating for recognition of post-polio syndrome.
  • 1985 - The Canadian Human Rights Act was enacted, and it banned discrimination against people due to their physical or mental disability. Furthermore, the Act requires federally regulated employers to prevent discrimination and to provide access and support to individuals with disabilities.[18][19]
  • 1987 - Gini Laurie founded the International Ventilator Users Network (IVUN).
  • 1988 - The Consumption Tax Law (Law No. 108) was enacted in Japan, and it provided that items for disabled persons (e. g. prosthesis, cane, artificial eyes, Braille writer and wheelchair) are exempted from consumption tax.[1]


  • 1990 - China enacted the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Persons, which (among other provisions) declared that China must "provide disabled persons with special assistance by adopting supplementary methods and supportive measures with a view to alleviating or eliminating the effects of their disabilities and external barriers and ensuring the realization of their rights...provide special assurance, treatment and pension to wounded or disabled servicemen and persons disabled while on duty or for protecting the interests of the State and people...guarantee the right of disabled persons to education...[and] guarantee disabled persons' right to work," as well as banning discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, engagement, status regularization, promotion, determining technical or professional titles, payment for labor, welfare, labor insurance or in other aspects.[20]
  • 1990 - MindFreedom International is an international coalition of over one hundred grassroots groups and thousands of individual members from fourteen nations, based in America and founded in 1990. It was created to advocate against forced medication, medical restraints, and involuntary electroconvulsive therapy. Its stated mission is to protect the rights of people who have been labeled with psychiatric disorders.
  • 1992 - The Disability Discrimination Act became law in Australia, and it banned discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education, access to premises, accommodation, buying or selling land, activities of clubs, sport, administration of Commonwealth laws and programs, provision of goods, and services and facilities.[21]
  • 1992 - The Disabled Persons Act, Act Number 5 of 1992 was adopted by Zimbabwe. This Act provides for the welfare and rehabilitation of disabled persons, the appointment and functions of a Director for Disabled Persons' Affairs, and the establishment and functions of a National Disability Board. Discrimination against disabled persons in employment, and denial to disabled persons of access to public premises, services and amenities are prohibited.[22]
  • 1993 - The Law for Promoting Businesses that Facilitate the Use of Communications and Broadcast Services by the Physically Disabled Persons (Law No. 54) was enacted in Japan, and it promoted services to make media like telecommunications and broadcast accessible to people with disabilities. For instance, it provided subsidies for the production of superimposed television programs or those with narrations explaining the action.[1]
  • 1993 - New Zealand passes the Human Rights Act 1993, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities, except in cases of insurance policies. HIV status is also included within the legislation. Discrimination is banned within accommodation, employment and goods and service provision.
  • 1994 - The Law for Buildings Accessible to and Usable by the Elderly and Physically Disabled Persons (Law No. 44) was enacted in Japan. It aims to build public buildings which meet the needs of people with disabilities. It is also called the "Heartful Building Law." [1]
  • 1995 - The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA 1995) became law in the United Kingdom.[23] This made it unlawful in the United Kingdom to discriminate against people with disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education, and transport.[23] The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides support for this Act. Equivalent legislation exists in Northern Ireland, which is enforced by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission.
  • 1997 - In Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General) [1997] 2 S.C.R. 624, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that sign language interpreters must be provided in the delivery of medical services where doing so is necessary to ensure effective communication.[24]
  • 1999 - The Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 abolished the National Disability Council and replaced it with a Disability Rights Commission. Like the Council, the Commission covered England, Scotland and Wales. However unlike the Council it also had power to support individuals seeking to enforce their rights (Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 s.7) and powers of investigation (Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 s.3).[25]


  • 2001 - In R. v. Latimer [2001] 1 S.C.R. 3, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Robert Latimer's crime of murdering his disabled daughter Tracy Latimer could not be justified through the defence of necessity. Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Canada found that despite the special circumstances of the case, the lengthy prison sentence given to Mr. Latimer was not cruel and unusual, and therefore not a breach of section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[26]
  • 2003 - In Starson v. Swayze, 2003 SCC 32, [2003] 1 S.C.R. 722, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Mr. Starson had the right to refuse psychiatric medication because the Consent and Capacity board did not have enough evidence to support its finding that Mr. Starson was incapable of deciding on treatment.[27]
  • 2003 - On March 18, 2003 the UK government formally recognized that British Sign Language was a language in its own right.[28]
  • 2003 - In Scotland the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 gives patients with capacity the right to refuse ECT.[29]
  • 2005 - The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 is a statute enacted in 2005 for the purpose of improving accessibility standards for Ontarians with physical and mental disabilities to all public establishments by 2025. Some employers began taking steps to bring their organizations into compliance in 2005.[30]
  • 2005 - New Zealand established a reconciliation initiative in 2005 to address the ongoing compensation payouts to ex-patients of state-run mental institutions in the 1970s to 1990s. A number of grievances were heard, including: poor reasons for admissions; unsanitary and overcrowded conditions; lack of communication to patients and family members; physical violence and sexual misconduct and abuse; inadequate mechanisms for dealing with complaints; pressures and difficulties for staff, within an authoritarian hierarchy based on containment; fear and humiliation in the misuse of seclusion; over-use and abuse of ECT, psychiatric medications, and other treatments as punishments, including group therapy, with continued adverse effects; lack of support on discharge; interrupted lives and lost potential; and continued stigma, prejudice, and emotional distress and trauma. There were some references to instances of helpful aspects or kindnesses despite the system. Participants were offered counselling to help them deal with their experiences, along with advice on their rights, including access to records and legal redress.[31]
  • 2006 - The Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 strengthened and extended the coverage of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, increasing the scope of legislation to include more people with disabilities, such as people diagnosed with cancer, HIV, and multiple sclerosis (MS), but not yet showing signs of their illness. Also, people with mental ill health no longer had to prove their condition was “clinically well-recognised”. The new laws also provided extra protection for disabled people in other areas such as private clubs and in discriminatory job advertisements, and provided that all trains will have to be fully accessible to the disabled by 2020.[32]
  • 2006 - The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the United Nations in 2006.[33]
  • 2006 - The Equality Act 2006 was passed in the United Kingdom. The 2006 Act is a precursor to the Equality Act 2010, which combines all of the equality enactments within Great Britain and provides comparable protections across all equality strands. Those explicitly mentioned by the Equality Act 2006 include age; disability; gender; proposed, commenced or completed gender reassignment; race; religion or belief and sexual orientation. The changes it made included creating the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), merging the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission.
  • 2009 - Until 2009 in England and Wales, the Mental Health Act 1983 allowed the use of ECT on detained patients whether or not they had capacity to consent to it. However, following amendments which took effect in 2009, ECT may not generally be given to a patient who has capacity and refuses it, irrespective of his or her detention under the Act.[34] However, there is an exception regardless of consent and capacity; under Section 62 of the Act, if the treating psychiatrist says the need for treatment is urgent they may start a course of ECT without authorization.[35]


  • 2010 - The Disability Discrimination (Transport Vehicles) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 came into operation on 25 January 2010. These Regulations lift the exemption which applied to transport providers from Part 3 of the DDA. This means that from 25 January 2010 transport providers must not discriminate against disabled people when providing goods, facilities, and services.[36]
  • 2010- The Equality Act 2010 was passed in the United Kingdom. The primary purpose of the Act is to consolidate the complicated and numerous array of Acts and Regulations which formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in Great Britain.[37]
  • 2012 - The Supreme Court of India declared that a deaf and mute person need not be prevented from being presented as a witness in court merely on account of their physical disability. The court explained that a deaf and mute person can testify in writing or through gestures.[38][39]
  • 2012 - On 31 August 2012, Grünenthal chief executive Harald F. Stock, PhD, who served as the Chief Executive Officer of Grünenthal GmbH from January 2009 to May 28, 2013 and was also a Member of Executive Board until May 28, 2013, apologized for the first time for producing thalidomide and remaining silent about the birth defects caused by it.[40] At a ceremony, Stock unveiled a statue of a disabled child to symbolize those harmed by thalidomide and apologized for not trying to reach out to victims for over 50 years. At the time of the apology, there were 5,000 to 6,000 sufferers still alive. Victim advocates called the apology "insulting" and "too little, too late", and criticized the company for not compensating victims. They also criticized the company for their claim that no one could have known the harm the drug caused, arguing that there were plenty of red flags at the time.[41]
  • 2012 - On 17 July 2012, Lynette Rowe of Australia (who was born without limbs due to thalidomide) was awarded an out-of-court settlement, believed to be in the millions of dollars and paving the way for class action victims to receive further compensation.
  • 2012 - The government of England announced a £2.6 million fund from 2012 until March 2014 to help people with disabilities become MPs, councillors, and police and crime commissioners.[42]
  • 2012 - Canada's Department of Veterans Affairs ended its policy of deducting the amount of disabled veterans' pensions from benefits for lost earnings and Canadian Forces income support, which were introduced in 2006 under the New Veterans Charter.[43]
  • 2013 - Turkey officially removed words considered insulting to people with disabilities (such as “gimp” and “faulty”) from over 95 of its laws.[44]
  • 2013 - Guide dogs began to be allowed at the Western Wall, due to a new ruling by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.[45]
  • 2014 - The German national memorial to the people with disabilities systematically murdered by the Nazis was dedicated in 2014 in Berlin.[46][47] It is located in Berlin in a site next to the Tiergarten park, which is the former location of a villa at Tiergartenstrasse 4 where more than 60 Nazi bureaucrats and doctors worked in secret under the "T4" program to organize the mass murder of sanatorium and psychiatric hospital patients deemed unworthy to live.[47]
  • 2014 - The European Court of Justice ruled that if obesity hinders "full and effective participation in professional life," it could count as a disability.[48] Discrimination on the grounds of disability is illegal under European Union law.[48] This ruling came in the case of Karsten Kaltoft, a Danish child-minder who said he was unfairly fired for being fat.[48]
  • 2015 - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures to Jessica Liliana Ramirez, who had epidermolysis bullosa, stating that, "The IACHR asks Colombia to adopt the necessary measures in order to preserve the life and personal integrity of the beneficiary, considering the specific aspects of the disease that she faces, with the purpose of ensuring that she has access to proper medical treatment, according to the technical guidances of the Pan-American Health Organization and other international standards that may be applicable," in its ruling.[49]


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