School of Law

Disability Law Hub

Ugandan lawyers strategise about how to take disability rights cases to court

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For many decades the University of Leeds has played a pioneering role in global disability studies. Its Centre for Disability Studies brings together scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines across the University, from transport studies to social policy, human geography to healthcare, business and law. This multidisciplinary work continues to challenge socially-created barriers which limit the life chances of disabled people. It explores ways in which systems and attitudes can facilitate and enable choice, participation and inclusion for disabled people.

Building on this legacy, in April 2016 the School of Law’s Centre for Law and Social Justice established a new initiative: the Disability Law Hub. Its members draw on the expertise of colleagues in both the Centre for Disability Studies and also the Centre for Law & Social Justice. Disability Law Hub staff contribute legal expertise to the interdisciplinary initiatives of the Centre for Disability Studies as well as to other global, European, British and Yorkshire-based networks.

Press Release 

Wednesday 13 April 2016 - University launches Disability Law Hub

Launch of Disability Law Hub

Head of School, Professor Alastair Mullis shared a few words at the launch of the Disability Law Hub on Thursday 14 April, 2016.

Opening remarks

Our current research

U-LEAD - University of Leeds East Asia Disability Rights Forum

U-Lead is a brand new initiative which aims to develop  participatory research on disability in East Asia. During 2018 – 20 this project focuses on the Chinese-speaking region of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, a part of the world which is home to about 1.4 billion people – or a fifth of all humanity - at least 6% of whom are disabled. Despite China’s active engagement in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and significant changes in attitudes towards disabled people throughout this region, most disability research in East Asia is conducted without the involvement of disabled people.

U-Lead draws on traditions of participatory and emancipatory research that have informed disability research at the  Centre for Disability Studies (CDS) for the past few decades. It  aims to generate a body of research conducted by people in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong who have lived experience of disability. Activities focus on an annual U-Lead Forum, to be held at a university in the region, at which researchers will be able to present and discuss work in progress. Researchers - many of whom may have no academic background - will be given both mentoring and financial assistance to conduct small research projects on one of three annual themes:

 Year 1: work and employment

Year 2: Legal capacity and personhood

Year 3: Education

Research will be conducted using a variety of methods and yield a range of different types of output. The research findings will be published on a range of local and international platforms, including academic journals and social media. Through this research, and  engagement with stakeholders, the ambition is to energise educators, employers, legal professionals, policy makers and others to work creatively with disabled people to challenge and reduce ongoing exclusion.

U-LEAD’s project manager is Stephen Hallett, to whom any inquiries should be directed:

Academic and management support is provided by the following members of CDS:

  • Prof Anna Lawson (Project lead)
  • Dr Angharad Beckett
  • Prof Gerard Quinn
  • Prof Mark Priestley
  • Prof Luke Clements

The reach of the Disability Law Hub is global, and its concerns are local. We welcome challenges and assignments that focus on particular countries or regions as well as work that focuses on international issues relating, for example to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We value interdisciplinary collaboration, opportunities for which are well-developed, thanks to the long-standing connections we have with colleagues in other disciplines as part of the cross-University Centre for Disability Studies. We have long-standing collaborations with external academic, civil society and governmental partners both in the UK and beyond. We attach particular importance to working with disabled people’s organisations and translating their concerns into legal research and legal action.

Areas in which we have particular expertise include:


  • Global and regional disability legal standards and mechanisms
  • The European Convention on Human Rights
  • The European Social Charter
  • EU disability law and policy
  • Disability law in the UK

Areas of law

  • Austerity and disability
  • Access to justice
  • Contract and tort law and disability
  • Criminal justice
  • Disability theory and the law
  • Discrimination, reasonable accommodation and accessibility
  • Health and social care
  • Inclusive education
  • Legal capacity 
  • Living independently and being included in the community , as well as de-institutionalisation processes
  • Property and copyright law and disability
  • Work and employment 


  • Research
  • Capacity-building for disabled people and their organisations
  • Legal strategies for dismantling disabling barriers
  • Monitoring human rights implementation

We have expertise which is relevant to disabled people generally, and also to particular groups of disabled people and others including: 

  • Disabled children
  • Older disabled people
  • People who have (labels of) psychosocial disability, mental health issues, including dementia
  • People who have (labels of) intellectual/learning disabilities
  • People who have (labels of) physical or sensory impairments
  • Disabled carers, and non-disabled carers of disabled people

Members of the Disability Rights Hub are at all stages of their academic careers. Whilst it has a non-hierarchical approach, the Hub is led by Anna Lawson. Members of the Hub, in alphabetical order, are as follows.

Gauthier de BecoGauthier de Beco is Lecturer in Disability Law since January 2015. He is an expert on human rights and disability with a special focus on inclusive education. Having taught at different universities (including University College London, the University of Leuven and the University of Louvain), he specialised in monitoring mechanisms on which he acted as an expert to the European Commission, the OHCHR and several NGOs. He has widely published in the area of human rights and is currently working on a new volume on “The Right to Inclusive Education in International Human Rights Law” (for Cambridge). Before joining the University of Leeds, he provided support to disabled people’s organisations and influenced several times disability related legislation in Belgium.


Luke ClementsLuke Clements joined the Law School as Professor of Law and Social Justice in 2016 and has a Chair endowed by the charity ‘Cerebra’. A policy-oriented academic and practicing solicitor, Luke has conducted many cases before the European Commission and Court of Human Rights, including the first Roma case to be heard by the Strasbourg Court, Buckley v UK in 1996. He is a leading expert on UK social care law and has drafted Private Members’ Bills and acted as a Special Parliamentary Adviser. He has a particular interest in the rights of disabled children and in the global emergence of the ‘carers’ movement. Luke is a consultant solicitor with Scott-Moncrieff & Associates Ltd London, a leading human rights and social care/mental health law practice. He was retained by the Judicial Studies Board of England Wales to help train UK judges on the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 and he has delivered human rights judicial/legal professional training in over 20 European countries. Luke is convenor of the LLM in International and European Human Rights Law.

Beverley Clough Staff ProfileBeverley Clough is Lecturer in Law and has researched mental capacity law, disability rights and theory, human rights law, medical law and ethics, care theory, capabilities theory and the concept of vulnerability. Beverley’s PhD in Bioethics and Medical Jurisprudence from the University of Manchester critiqued the Mental Capacity Act 2005 through the lens of relational theories. Beverley has worked with the British charity CHANGE on its response to the Law Commission’s consultation on the reform of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, and previously volunteered with Calderdale Advocacy as a dignity in care auditor.


Louise EllisonLouise Ellison is Professor of Law and researches in the field of criminal evidence, criminal justice, sexual violence and access to justice. Her current research includes investigating how individuals with mental health conditions and other ‘vulnerable’ groups fare within criminal justice systems. She has acted as an advisor to the Government on sexual offences reform and her (ESRC funded) research exploring juror decision-making in rape cases has informed the development of judicial directions aimed at dispelling common misconceptions about rape.



Amanda KeelingAmanda Keeling is a Law School Academic Fellow in Disability Law. Her research interests are in disability law and socio-legal studies, with a focus on empirical work. Her work explores the role of law in society; how it shapes professional practice, how it is interpreted by non-lawyers in particular social care and health practitioners, and the impact of their practice on disabled people. Amanda’s PhD was an empirical study on the use of support for decision-making by social workers in adult safeguarding practice. Prior to academia, Amanda worked with the Cambridge Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Group on two projects investigating the implementation and use of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.


Anna LawsonAnna Lawson is Professor of Law, and directs the University-wide Centre for Disability Studies. Anna is herself a graduate of the University of Leeds, having chosen to study at Leeds because it was then the only university to have a Transcription Service for blind students. After gaining a postgraduate Bachelor of Civil Laws at Oxford, Anna returned to Leeds as a lecturer in 1990 and in 2013 became the first blind woman in the UK to become a law professor. Anna’s research interests focus on disability equality and human rights law at national, European and international levels. She has played lead roles in a range of interdisciplinary multinational projects and delivered keynote presentations in over 30 countries. Anna has worked closely with the European Commission, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights and the Secretariat of the Council of Europe and is currently a member of the statutory Disability Committee of the British Equality and Human Rights Commission. She is actively involved in the work of disabled people’s organisations and has regularly advised international disabled people’s organisations and governments. She also very much enjoys teaching and is proud to have been a finalist in the Law Teacher of the Year competition some years ago, following nominations by both students and colleagues.

Oliver Lewis Staff ProfileOliver Lewis is Executive Director of the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, an international human rights NGO focused on using the law to secure equality, inclusion and justice for people with mental health issues and people with learning disabilities worldwide. In 2016 he joined the University of Leeds as a Professor of Law and Social Justice. He is Visiting Professor in Law at the Central European University in Budapest, where since 2003 he has taught the only postgraduate module on mental disability rights in continental Europe. He also teaches an international diploma in mental health, human rights and law at the Indian Law Society in Pune. He is an associate barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London and is a trustee of the Avon and Bristol Law Centre, which focuses on access to justice for vulnerable groups. Oliver has consulted with a range of bodies at the United Nations and European levels and has overseen strategic litigation at the European Court of Human Rights and domestic courts in Europe and Africa. Oliver has experience with developing NGO strategies and building the capacity of disabled people’s organisations, monitoring psychiatric hospitals, developing legal advocacy strategies and, more recently, of securing pro bono partnerships with private sector law firms.

David Pearce Staff Profile

David Pearce is a lecturer with a particular interest in contract and tort law and disability. His current work includes an examination of the extent to which the tort of negligence provides adequate protection for the interests of those with mental disabilities and their carers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Cesar Ramirez-Montes

César J Ramírez-Montes is Lecturer in Intellectual Property. His expertise is in the field of copyright, patents, trademarks and design rights and their relationship with competition and human rights. In relation to disability, César is currently researching the relationship between copyright and disability law.

We are committed to ensuring access and inclusion for all. Details of the outstanding support for disabled students available at the University of Leeds (including a Transcription Service for people with visual and other print-impairments, and a dedicated mental health support officer) are available here.


If you are an undergraduate student at the University of Leeds, you can choose modules offered by the Law School and taught by members of the Disability Law Hub. These include:

- Disability Law (Level 2, 20 credits)

- Social Care Law (Level 3, 10 credits) and

- International Human Rights Law (Level 2, 20 credits)

These modules are available to non-Law students as well as Law students. Law students may also select a dissertation topic on disability-related issues and are encouraged to discuss possible ideas with any of the Hub staff.

Taught Postgraduate

LLM in International and European Human Rights Law

The LLM in International and European Human Rights Law has a rapidly developing curriculum that combines a thorough grounding in regional and global human rights principles with specific focus on the rights of disabled people, advocacy and practical implementation measures: strategies for making rights real.

It is available for both full and part-time study and attracts students from diverse backgrounds and from across the globe. This Masters course is part of the Open Society Disability Rights Fellowship Programme  – a prestigious University alliance bringing together the world’s leading universities in the field of disability and human rights. As a member of this network, the University of Leeds in partnership with the Open Society Foundations funds a number of students each year to take this LLM at Leeds.

LLM by Research

As an alternative to the taught Masters programmes, we offer an LLM by Research. This allows students to select a research question and to work on this with two supervisors. You are welcome to contact any of the Disability Rights Hub staff to explore this option.


We welcome PhD proposals in any of the areas of our expertise set out above. We welcome PhDs candidates who take an interdisciplinary approach and, in such cases, we co-supervise with colleagues from other disciplines in other parts of the University, particularly with members of the Centre for Disability Studies.

The School of Law and the University offer a range of scholarships for PhD students. Feel free to contact any of the Disability Law Hub staff for an informal discussion of possible PhD proposals. For guidance on our application processes and scholarships, please contact Karin Houkes.

Post-Doctoral Scholar

We are keen to work with post-doctoral scholars in areas of mutual interest. If you have (or are applying for) funding for post doc research in an area of our expertise and are looking for a vibrant and welcoming academic home, please contact us for an informal discussion. 

We have several PhD candidates researching topics related to disability rights and supervised by staff in the Disability Law Hub.

Ana Aiello Research ProfileAna Laura Aiello is from Argentina, and studied law at the University of Buenos Aires and worked in various research projects on human rights and disability including Amnesty International, Disability Rights International and CHANGE. Employing socio-legal research empirical methods, Ana’s PhD explores the potential of strategic litigation for tackling human rights violations happening in institutional residential settings for people with intellectual disability in Europe.


Alex Pearl Research ProfileAlex Louise Pearl completed both her Undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Leeds. Alex’s doctoral research explores how adults with learning disabilities and autism are being supported to make financial and contractual decisions in light of Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Leeds Journal of Law and Criminology (2013), and is a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the School of Law.



Kevin de Sabbata Research ProfileKevin De Sabbata is from Italy where he graduated in Law at the University of Trieste and qualified as a lawyer, working in a law firm for a couple of years practicing in elder law, medical liability and inheritance law, and volunteering for NGOs that cared for people with dementia. His PhD research focuses on legal capacity and treatment decisions of people with dementia in Europe, studying the application in this area of Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.                                                                                             

Huang Yi (Wendy) Research Profile

Huang Yi (Wendy) is from China, and studied law at East China University of Political Science and Law, then interned at the Equality and Justice Initiative for six months before coming to Leeds. Her PhD research is an empirical and doctrinal investigation on how Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can influence Chinese law on legal capacity and guardianship. 

Recent News

The School of Law's Disability Law Hub prepares to impact change at European level

The Disability Law Hub, established in 2016 by the School of Law's Centre for Law and Social Justice has taken steps toward redirecting the future spend of EU Structural Funds, previously used to build new institutions for persons with disabilities across Europe - a violation of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community.

Follow the link to read more

School of Law staff contribute to Shanghai Conference on Disability and Employment

Professor Anna Lawson, Professor Gerard Quinn and Stephen Hallett have contributed to a recent conference on Disability and Employment, held in Shanghai.

Follow the link to read more

Stephen Hallett appointed as Project Manager for new East Asia Disability Rights h4>

The School of Law and the Centre for Disability Studies are delighted to announce the appointment of Stephen Hallett as Project Manager of our new East Asia disability rights project, U-LEAD Rights Forum. Having focused on disability rights in East Asia for 20 years, Stephen’s in-depth knowledge and many years of working and living in China promises to make this new project a real asset to the work of the school and the centre. 

Follow the link to find out more

School of Law and Centre for Disability Studies announce launch of new East Asia disability rights project “U-LEAD Rights Forum”

The School of Law and Centre for Disability Studies are delighted to announce the launch of the U-LEAD Rights Forum 2018 – 2021. 

Follow the link to find out more

Professor Gerard Quinn takes up a chair at the School of Law

We are delighted to announce that Professor Gerard Quinn, world-leading authority on international disability law, has taken up a chair at the School of Law. 

Follow the link to find out more

Professor Anna Lawson co-authors report on disability rights after the EU

In an article published by The Independent this week, Professor Anna Lawson discusses the pressing concerns relating to social care provisions brought about by Britain’s exit from the EU. 

Follow this link to read more

Oliver Lewis gives keynote speech at Mental Health Catalonia

Professor Oliver Lewis gave the keynote speech at a conference on mental health and rights organised by Mental Health Catalonia.

Follow this link to read more

European Parliament Hearing on the Proposal for a European Accessibility Act

The European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs held a public hearing on the Commission’s proposal for a European Accessibility Act. Professor Anna Lawson was one of the four experts invited to make a presentation.

Follow this link to read more

Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council

Anna Lawson participated in the Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The topic of this year’s Forum (an annual event) was the human rights of disabled people – in light of the fact that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Follow this link to read more

Workshop on Inclusive Education

The Workshop “Inclusive Education: a Rights-based Approach to Policy Making” took place on 14 September 2016. It aimed to share perspectives on inclusive education and to enhance collaboration on the topic across the White Rose Universities (Leeds, Sheffield and York).

The workshop explored ways forward in terms of researching inclusive education and promoting an inclusive agenda in partnership with disabled people.

Follow this link to read more

People with a learning disability to design ‘quality checks’ for NHS services - 17 May 2016

NHS England has announced this week that people with a learning disability are being asked to contribute to new tests which will help improve NHS services ranging from dentistry to acute care.

The School of Law and the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds are involved in the project and are working alongside fellow representatives from the University of Leeds and learning disabilities charity CHANGE.

NHS England Press Release

‘Enforcement is key on Equality Act’ Conference - 27 April 2016

The Disability Law Hub and the Centre for Disability Studies co-organised a conference which discussed how disabled people can find it almost impossible to enforce their rights to equality, six years after the introduction of the Equality Act.

Guest speakers included Lord Colin Low, Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, and Baroness Deech, who chaired the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee that produced the report.

Full Article on Disability News Online

Dr Sam Halliday has new monograph published

Congratulations to Sam Halliday on the publication of her monograph – ‘Autonomy and Pregnancy:  A Comparative Analysis of Compelled Obstetric Intervention’ (Routledge, 2016).

“Technology has come to dominate the modern experience of pregnancy and childbirth, but instead of empowering pregnant women, technology has been used to identify the foetus as a second patient characterised as a distinct entity with its own needs and interests.”

Read more

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