Human Rights, Technology, and Disabilities: The Right to Benefit from Scientific Progress

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Anne BRYDEN, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Brian GRAN, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Sociologists have raised questions about international doctrines surrounding human rights. One social group that experiences disadvantages when it comes to their human rights, particularly economic and social rights, is individuals who have disabilities. Two critical factors impact this social group: 1) continued medicalization of a condition that is largely socially constructed, and 2) reliance on a neoliberal health care system for realization of health and social needs. This study examines the rights to technology and specialized services that people with disabilities possess within the context of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Specifically, article 15 of the covenant identifies the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.

People with disabilities have significant limitations that can be alleviated with technology and specialized services, greatly expanding a world with persistent environmental and social barriers. Unfortunately, technology can be expensive and is often financially inaccessible to these individuals. Further, many technologies with proven benefits never become universally available because they are not commercially sustainable within the market-based health care system in the United States. Invoking concepts surrounding human rights may facilitate actualization of the economic and social rights of people with disabilities. Do people with disabilities have the right to expensive technology that improves integration and participation in society? What are the responsibilities of scientists who innovate, health-care providers who advocate, and health-care policy makers and third-party payers to facilitate technology access? Are private actors and institutions crucial to ensuring the rights to technology of people with disabilities? Using a scenario of neurotechnology access within a challenging technology transfer environment, we explore whether people with disabilities possess rights to life-enhancing technologies, the extent of those rights, as well as the contextual factors that shape the salience of these rights.