Rioux, M.H., Pinto, P.C., & Parekh, G., Eds. (2015). Disability, Rights Monitoring, and Social Change: Building Power out of Evidence. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press. ISBN 978-1-55130-741-1.

Reviewed by Grace M. Lockhart, York University

gracemarielockhart [at] gmail [dot] com

Disability, Rights Monitoring, and Social Change is an innovative and informative anthology that examines attitudes toward disability as they relate to disability rights, and the monitoring of disability rights in order to create social change. The diverse chapters in this text assess law and legal practice at multiple levels to determine how the everyday experiences of people with disabilities can be used to promote access to rights and social change. This book goes beyond analysis and research, using the experiences of people with disabilities around the world to spark reform and progress toward disability equality. Disability, Rights Monitoring, and Social Change develops an original discussion about using evidence and monitoring mechanisms to build power within the disability community.

To begin, Bengt Lindquist outlines a background of rights monitoring and stresses the importance of monitoring as a tool for recognizing human rights. This background chapter also explores international legislation as it relates to disability, with a heavy focus on the international Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The first section of the book focuses on methods and models of rights monitoring on multinational levels, as seen in Chapter 1: “Concurrent Multinational Monitoring of Disability Rights in the European Union,” written by Anna Lawson and Mark Priestley. This compelling chapter explores “concurrent multinational monitoring” (25) as a disability rights monitoring model and its relation to the European Union. Multinational monitoring tracks more than one country simultaneously and as the authors suggest, should be used to “fulfill the objectives of disability rights monitoring” (30). Not only does this type of monitoring effect policy reform because of the information about problem areas it is providing to the government, but the information it generates also strengthens the human rights agendas of various disability organizations.

Chapter 3, “Reflections on the First Working Period of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2009-2012),” written by Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, concludes that people with disabilities are the experts in their affairs, and analyzes the foundation and formation of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Instead of focusing solely on individual countries, the innovative models introduced in the first section of the book, evidenced in this chapter, connect countries together to create an intersectional approach that is inclusive of plural experiences, while stressing the importance of the personal experience.

The second section of this book builds on the first by outlining new frontiers in monitoring, including the media, and highlights the importance of connecting multiple levels of society in the project of rights monitoring. This diverse section includes Chapter 5, “Bringing Pieces Together: A Way of Integrating Disability Rights Monitoring Data,” written by Michaela Dinca-Panaitescu on the Canadian context; as well as the focus on Latin America in Chapter 6, “Human Rights Legal Clinics in Latin America: Tackling the Implementation of Disability Rights by Natalia Angel-Cabo.”

This section also pertains to how the process of monitoring is itself diverse, and can be seen on individual and institutional levels. In Chapter 7, “Media Monitoring from a Disability Rights Perspective,” Gillian Parekh, Jessica Vorstermans, and Paula Hearns reflect on the power of media, stigma within the media, all the while underscoring the importance of media monitoring in relation to human rights monitoring. Further, in Chapter 8, “Monitoring Individual Experiences,” Normand Boucher and David Fiset stress the importance of participatory research in the empowerment and recognition of the experiences of people with disabilities. Involving people with disabilities in the research and giving them the opportunity to be part of the research process empowers them and enables them to voice thoughts and concerns in relation to research processes and outcomes. Boucher and Fiset conclude that working in partnership with people with disabilities and advocacy organizations is one of the first steps to facilitating empowerment and capacity.

The third section outlines examples of systemic monitoring and the implementation of laws, policies, and programs post-CRPD, unpacking the issues of compliance that have arisen and how they have an effect on human rights across the globe. While policies may be changed and implemented to increase human rights, this text highlights the issue of a gap between policy and practice as it relates to the realization of human rights for people with disabilities. This section uses a multinational approach to rights monitoring, assessing the state of disability rights in Latin America in Chapter 12, “Federalism, Decentralization, and Human Rights” by Jose M. Viera; India in Chapter 9, “Disability-Based Discrimination in India” by Kalpana Kannabiran; New Zealand in Chapter 10, “Effective and Equal Employment of all Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by Persons with Disabilities in New Zealand” by Petra Butler; and Canada in Chapter 11, “Canada Tracks Disability Rights” by Roxanne Mykitiuk and Yvonne Peters. This discussion of how the CRPD was implemented and monitored by various countries across the globe allows for a more diverse collection of experiences to be gathered, creating a well-rounded and unique analysis and debate surrounding rights monitoring and social change on a universal level.

The fourth and final section in this text underscores the importance of all voices being heard and speaks to the need for diversity in the rights monitoring of people with disabilities. These chapters highlight the fact that diversity cannot be overlooked, and outline how diversity should be modelled into the processes of disability rights monitoring in order to collect experiences and give voices to a multitude of people. This text promotes positive change when it discusses giving a voice to people with disabilities, ensuring their full citizenship, and stressing the importance of guaranteeing their right to dignity.

Collectively, the chapters in Disability, Rights Monitoring, and Social Change incite new discussions surrounding disability and creating change within the disability community, in national and international contexts. The methods and insights presented are innovative, comprehensive, and have the capacity to extend new frontiers of knowledge in the disability community. Without participation there cannot be disability monitoring, so this book stresses the importance of participatory methods, while engaging in progressing debates about disability underlining the importance of the voices and experiences of people with disabilities being heard. The book itself generates power out of the evidence it presents and robustly defends rights monitoring as a tool to improve the lives of people with disabilities on a global scale.