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Jordan: An International Leader in Disability Rights. By Sarah Jeglum, Carissa Tyler, Saerom Han and Shallon Counts. About Jordan. Population: 5,906,760 Population growth rate: 2.49% Language: Arabic Government type: Constitutional Monarchy

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Jordan: An International Leader in Disability Rights

By Sarah Jeglum, Carissa Tyler, Saerom Han and Shallon Counts

About Jordan

  • Population: 5,906,760

  • Population growth rate: 2.49%

  • Language: Arabic

  • Government type: Constitutional Monarchy

  • Independence: May 25, 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)

  • Constitution: January 1, 1952; amended 1954, 1955, 1958, 1960, 1965, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1984

Jordan as an International Role Model

  • Jordan is recognized by the international community as leading the Arab world in promoting disability rights.

  • Jordan was the first country in the Middle East to enact disability-specific legislation and introduce building codes aimed at disability.

  • Jordan was the first Arab or Islamic state to receive the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Disability Award in 2005.

  • The CIEE (Council on International Education Exchange) program directly invites people with disabilities to participate in its study-abroad programs in Jordan.

Jordan’s Disability Law Through the Lens of Education

  • Jordan’s Constitutional Education Laws and Jordan’s Laws for the Welfare of Disabled Persons

  • Comparing Definitions of Disability: Jordan, UN, US

  • Jordan’s Disability Law on Education

  • US Disability Rights Law on Education

  • UN Disability Rights Law on Education

  • Summary of Comparison and Contrast Among Jordan, US, and UN Disability Rights Law on Education

Jordan’s Constitution on Education

  • Chapter 2, Article 6

    • (i) Jordanians shall be equal before the law.

    • (ii) The Government shall ensure work and education within the limits of its possibilities, and it shall ensure a state of tranquility and equal opportunities to all Jordanians

  • Article 19

    • Congregations shall have the right to establish and maintain their own schools for the education of their own members provided that they comply with the general provisions of the law and be subject to the control of Government in matters relating to their curricula and orientation.

  • Article 20 (from revision in 1952)

    • Elementary education shall be compulsory for Jordanians and free of charge in Government schools

Jordan’s Disability Law

  • Laws for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (1993)

  • The philosophy of the Kingdom of Jordan with regard to its disabled citizens is based on Arab-Islamic values, the Jordanian constitution, the National Charter, the Laws governing education and higher education, the World Declaration on Human Rights, and the International Declaration on Disabled Persons; and stresses the following rights with respect to education:

    • integration into the general life of the society

    • education and higher education commensurate with his/her abilities

    • obtain such aids, equipment and materials that assist them in education

    • access to education, training and rehabilitation for those who have multiple and severe disabilities

    • participate in decision making pertaining to them


“any person with a permanent, partial or total impairment in any of his senses or physical, psychological or mental abilities to the extent that the ability to learn to be rehabilitated or to work, is limited in a way which renders him/her short of fulfilling his/her normal daily requirements in circumstances similar to those of able-bodied persons.”


An individual with:

(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;

(B) a record of such an impairment; or

(C) being regarded as having such an impairment.

Defining Disability

  • UN:

    • (Article 1) Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Education-related Definitions in Jordan’s Law

  • Special Education: “Educational and teaching services offered to disabled persons for the purpose of fulfilling their needs, developing their capabilities and helping them integrate into the society.”

  • Rehabilitation: “The services and activities, that enable the disabled person to pursue his/her life in a better manner on the physical, social, intellectual, psychological and vocational levels.”

Jordan’s Disability & Education Law


    • B. The right of disabled persons to education and higher education commensurate with his/her abilities

    • G. The right of those who have multiple and severe disabilities to education, training and rehabilitation.


    • The Ministry in cooperation with the other Ministries, Governmental Departments and all parties concerned with the Welfare and Education of disabled persons, shall work towards the provision by these parties of their services and programs for the welfare of disabled persons.

    • These ministries are to address issues involving education, access to health care, integrating disabled persons into the society, vocational training, mandoratory employment quotas, access to sports and recreation activies for young disabled people.

Whose job is it to enforce the law?

  • ARTICLE 4, B. The Ministry of Education

    • Shall provide the educational assessment required for the determination of the nature and degree of disability.

    • Shall provide primary and all forms of secondary education for disabled persons as commensurate with their capabilities, among which the educational provisions that include programs of special education.

    • Public and private schools concerned with the education and teaching of disabled persons shall be covered by the Laws for the Welfare of Disabled Persons and supervised by the Ministry of Education.

  • ARTICLE 4, C. The Ministry of Higher Education and the governmental and non-governmental Institutes for Higher Education.

    • Shall provide opportunities for disabled persons to exercise their rights to such education as commensurate with their capabilities and potential.

    • The Ministry of Higher Education shall work towards the training of qualified technical staff to work with the various categories of disabled persons.

Goals of Jordan’s Education Laws

  • The Ministry of Social Development

    • Special Education: The ministry provides educational, vocational, rehabilitation, care, accommodation, and curative services for disabled persons, through institutions, schools, centers and special classes.

    • It also implements a disabled employment program, and provides free services and other exemptions to the disabled.

  • The existence of these goals is beneficial to disabled individuals because they benefit from the larger goals of the educational laws in Jordan including:

    • Abolishing illiteracy by opening more primary schools

    • Establishing a limited number of secondary institutions

    • Endowing them with human virtues and perfection

    • Improving the professional training of teachers in rural and urban schools

    • Fully developing their personalities in their various aspects, i.e. physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social

    • Building up citizens' belief in God and their affiliation to their country and nation

Jordan’s Support for U.S. Disability Rights Law

  • Disability Testimony by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan: U.S. Senate Victim Assistance Briefing, April 2002

  • “Full participation in society will be achieved not by quote "fixing" disabled people.”

  • “Americans have already made great strides to dispel negative stereotypes and ensure access to care and livelihood. The Americans with Disabilities Act is setting important precedents for disabilityrights around the world.”

U.S. Disability & Education Law: Secondary Education

  • The Law of Special Education: Preschool-12

    • Three major federal statutes typically regulate the law of special education for children in preschool through twelfth grade: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

    • For most children with disabilities, IDEA is the primary source of legal protection.


  • About the IDEA

    • IDEA is a statute that gives children with disabilities certain procedural protections (through their parents or guardians) as well as certain substantive guarantees.

    • The IDEA is the major federal statute that guarantees that each child under the age of 21 receives an appropriate education. To qualify for these services, the child must be at least 3 years of age but not yet 22 years old, and it does not apply to postsecondary education.

    • The purpose of the IDEA is to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their needs and prepare them for employment and independent living.

  • Definition of Disability

    • Like the ADA, the IDEA contains its own definition of disability. Only children who are educationally disabled fall within the scope of the IDEA. A child does not need to prove that he or she is educable to qualify for services under the IDEA.

Disability Defined by the IDEA

  • In general, a child in K-12 is disabled for the purposes of the IDEA if he or she has:

    • Mental retardation

    • Hearing impairments

    • Speech or language impairments

    • Visual impairments

    • Serious emotional disturbance

    • Orthopedic impairments

    • Autism

    • Traumatic brain injury

    • Other health impairments or specific learning disabilities and thus needs special education and related services.

Disability Further Defined

  • Regarding children age 3-9, a state may include children who are not specifically labeled as disabled under one of the categories listed above but who are experiencing developmental delays in one or more of the following areas:

    • Cognitive development

    • Physical development

    • Communication development

    • Social or emotional development, or

    • Adaptive development

    • And thus need special education and related services

U.S. Postsecondary Education Law

  • Both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA prohibit colleges and universities from discriminating on the basis of a disability.

  • Laws Governing Disability Discrimination in Postsecondary Education

    • Section 504 governs all postsecondary institutions that receive federal financial assistance.

    • Title II of the ADA applies to all state-funded or supported institutions,

    • Title III of the ADA covers all private institutions

  • Generally, a postsecondary institution governed by Section 504 or ADA Titles II/III may not exclude an otherwise qualified student from any part of it’s program or services or otherwise discriminate against an applicant or student with a disability.

  • Entities covered by Section 504 or ADA Titles II or III must ensure that students with disabilities are informed about how to access appropriate services.


  • Colleges are not required to engage in affirmative action in admitting students with disabilities. The only requirement is that institutions do not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in the admissions process.

    • A qualified individual with a disability is one who is capable of fulfilling the essential functions or requirements of the educational program, with or without the provision of reasonable accommodations, and meets the academic and technical requirements of the program.

  • Regarding Pre-Admission Inquires

    • A college or university has the option of making pre-admission inquiries as to whether an applicant for admission is disabled.

    • Applicants have the option of deciding on their own to identify a learning, physical or other disability and ask that it be considered a relevant factor in the admissions process.

Eligibility Criteria and Accommodations

  • Regarding Eligibility Criteria

    • Schools are not required to lower their admissions standards for applicants with disabilities.

  • Regarding Reasonable Accommodations

    • Schools are required to make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with known disabilities.

      • An accommodation is not reasonable if it would constitute and undue burden or hardship to provide it or if it would require a fundamental alteration to the program at issue.

    • Suggested Accommodations are:

      • Changes in the length of time permitted for completion of a course or degree,

      • Substitution of specific courses required, and

      • Adaptation in the manner in which specific courses are conducted.

Individuals with Learning Disabilities

  • The IDEA mandates services for students who have a learning disability, which is defined as adisorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

  • Learning is considered a major life activity under the ADA.

  • A person with a learning disability is considered disabled under the ADA only if the learning problem significantly restricts the condition, manner, or duration of his learning disability as compared to the average person in the general population.

Jordan’s Support for UN Law

  • Jordan: Prince Raad bin Zaid in Support of the UN Convention: Speech presented to RI/International Paralympic Committee Symposium, Greece

  • “Thus differences based on arbitrary factors from a moral point of view over which a person has no control, are considered invalid. This is not to say that there are no differences between the people; but in the realm of disability rights our struggle was to call for a genuinely egalitarian society, one that has a positive and just approach human differences. The disability rights debate is not about the enjoyment of specific rights, but about ensuring the effective enjoyment of all human rights.”

UN Definitions

  • Disability:

    • Disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

  • People with disabilities:

    • Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

  • Discrimination:

    • Discrimination on the basis of disability" means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation.

Education: Article 24

  • 1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to realizing this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity, States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and life long learning directed to:

  • a. The full development of human potential and sense of dignity and self-worth, and the strengthening of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human diversity;

  • b. The development by persons with disabilities of their personality, talents and creativity, as well as their mental and physical abilities, to their fullest potential;

  • c. Enabling persons with disabilities to participate effectively in a free society.

States’ Responsibilities

  • 2. In realizing this right, States Parties shall ensure that:

  • a. Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability;

  • b. Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live;

  • c. Reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements is provided;

  • d. Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education;

  • e. Effective individualized support measures are provided in environments that maximize academic and social development, consistent with the goal of full inclusion.

States’ Responsibilities

  • 3. States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:

    • a. Facilitating the learning of Braille, alternative script, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication and orientation and mobility skills, and facilitating peer support and mentoring;

    • b. Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;

    • c. Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.

What is required?

  • 4. In order to help ensure the realization of this right, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to employ teachers, including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign language and/or Braille, and to train professionals and staff who work at all levels of education. Such training shall incorporate disability awareness and the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, educational techniques and materials to support persons with disabilities.

  • 5. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others. To this end, States Parties shall ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

  • Article 13 

    • 1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

  • 2. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that, with a view to achieving the full realization of this right:

    • (a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all;

    • (b) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

    • (c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

    • (d) Fundamental education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education;

    • (e) The development of a system of schools at all levels shall be actively pursued, an adequate fellowship system shall be established, and the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

  • 3. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

  • 4. No part of this article shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principles set forth in paragraph I of this article and to the requirement that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.

Convention on the Rights of a Child

  • Article 28

    • 1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:

      • (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;

      • (b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;

      • (c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means;

      • (d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children;

      • (e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.

Convention on the Rights of a Child

  • 2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.

  • 3. States Parties shall promote and encourage international cooperation in matters relating to education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.

Summary of Jordan vs. U.S. Disability Law on Education

Similar definitions of disability

Integration and inclusion of disabled individuals

Compulsory education for certain age groups

Both contain elements related to helping disabled individuals with obtaining employment

US defines disability more specifically with respect to educational laws

Jordan focus on medical model: vocation, rehabilitation, and curative services

US defines what constitutes a reasonable accommodation to educational services and policies

Jordan does not have any laws regarding admittance to post-secondary education

Jordan goal in education to enhance students’ personalities and human values

One US goal in special education is to prepare students for independent living



Definition of disability, UN mentions long-term descriptor and hindrance in integrating into society

UN mentions specific measures educational facilities should take to facilitate learning by disabled individuals with visual or hearing impairments

UN includes provisions related to post-secondary education, adult education, and lifelong learning

Summary of Jordan vs. UN Disability Law on Education



  • Both recognize the right of disabled persons to enjoy educational opportunities free of discrimination

  • Both mention development of disabled individuals personality

  • Both stress integration into society through education for people with disabilities

  • Both seek to train qualified individuals to help disabled individuals fully realize their rights in the area of education


  • Jordan has proven itself to be a leader in disability rights law. The views of the country’s monarchy also reflect the progressive trend of Jordan’s stance on disability rights law.

  • Jordan’s support for US and UN disability rights law symbolizes its shift away from a medical model and towards a social model of disability rights.

  • Jordan has the opportunity to use its status as a leader in disability rights laws in the Middle East to spread its views on disability rights to other nations in the region.

  • Comparing Jordan’s disability rights law with similar US and UN laws reveals that Jordan has a considerable amount of room in which to expand the rights of disabled individuals covered by its Laws for the Welfare of Disabled Persons.

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