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The ADA on the Road: Disability Rights in Germany

  • Katharina C. Heyer


This paper examines the impact of a “disability rights model” on the emerging disability rights movement in Germany. Traditional German disability politics and activism are based on the expansion of welfare and special needs provisions rather than on equal rights and integration. Inspired by the 1990 Americans with Disability Act, German activists adopted a disability rights model and successfully worked toward the passage of a constitutional equality amendment in 1994 and ant-discrimination legislation in 2002. Using the literature on rights mobilization, this paper argues that German disability activists use rights talk to both support and contest culturally specific approaches to disability rights, equal treatment, and the role of the state in guaranteeing welfare rights. The globalization of disability rights should not be viewed as an imposition of American norms but as a more complex process of adaptation and cultural transformation that involves constructing locally legitimate approaches to disability rights with an American import.



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