Accessibility to Power: Framing of the Disability Rights Movements in India and Nepal

Henrik Schedin


Purpose: This paper explores the effect of inherent social inequalities on disability rights movements and their political activities in India and Nepal. The situation for persons with disabilities is similar in both countries. Many social and cultural phenomena coincide, and laws and policies are currently being formulated in line with the human rights agenda. In order to understand the current situation and the envisioned future for persons with disabilities, it is important to probe how, and under what circumstances, the disability issue is framed.

Method: Purposive sampling was used to access outspoken activists in Kolkata in India and Kathmandu in Nepal. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, coded according to recurring themes, and analysed with Nancy Fraser’s theory on misrepresentation of social movements along with literature on framing.  Though only 7 interviews were conducted (a limitation of the paper), together with informal discussions and previous knowledge they provided a sufficient overview of the social movements in the two countries.

Results: This paper increases the knowledge on the two social movements, and provides interesting case studies on how persons with disabilities engage in political activities in the Global South. The rights-based approach has a strong influence within both movements, and appears to be the main strategy adopted by them.

Conclusions and Implications: The Indian and Nepalese disability rights movements are affected by social inequalities. It seems as though the urban middle-class and their needs colour the movements and its framing. Further research is needed to probe what implications these inequalities have for the situation of persons with disabilities.


Disability; social movements; rights-based approach; misrepresentation; inequalities

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