Neurodiversity - understanding the legal and social impacts
Are neurological conditions like Asperger's syndrome and autism the new frontier of inequality and discrimination? The EU-funded NEDBELS project is investigating the legal and social challenges society faces if it is to be more inclusive of those with such neurological disorders - a concept known as 'neurodiversity'.
© Jakub Jirsák #133258142, 2018. Source: fotolia.com
Advances in science are deepening the understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, Aspergers and dyslexia. Neurodiversity, a relatively new concept, proposes that such disorders are normal differences in society, and individuals should not face discrimination.
NEDBELS is examining how the concept challenges the principle of equality, and its impact on legal systems and practices. The project was launched to address a perceived gap in communications between legal experts and scientists on the treatment of those with neurodevelopmental disorders which affects formal training and daily practice in diagnosis, education and health services for those affected.
This divergence prevents vulnerable minorities, such as people with neurodevelopmental disorders, from reaping the full socio-political potential of scientific advancements, notes the projects research team.
NEDBELS aims to help increase communication between legal experts, neuroscientists and policymakers by advancing interdisciplinary research methodologies and scientific training.
The core work carried out during the project included mapping the legal and judicial implications of the concept of neurodiversity along with the social claims of the neurodiversity movement.
The project received funding through the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme and is led by research fellow Andrea Lollini, an associate professor of comparative constitutional law at the University of Bologna, Italy.
The interdisciplinary approach, combining Lollinis own legal experience with concrete neuroscience data gathered during the international collaboration, has helped to produce very original results.
NEDBELS is fostering debate around the importance of pushing legislation forward in order to design more efficient provisions for fighting stigmatisation, rejection and discrimination of neurodiverse people, says Lollini in a report on the projects results. These assumptions are reinforced by data derived from the neurodiversity-related case law analysis. This shows how judicial enforcement of the law as well as legal interpretation of fundamental constitutional principles might benefit from a more up-to-date scientific understanding of the disorders associated with the concept of neurodiversity. In fostering this specific debate, NEDBELS is arguing for a shift from a strictly medical model of disability to a rights and citizenship one.
NEDBELS won the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Researchers 2017 Italy award.