Human Rights, Legal Studies

Mental Disability Law in Practice

July 19 - 30, 2010
This summer school course is funded by a generous grant to MDAC from the Sigrid Rausing Trust, and from the Open Society Institute.

Application deadline: February 15, 2010



Course Director: Oliver Lewis, Executive Director, Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC), Budapest, Hungary

Faculty: Peter Bartlett, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Professor of Mental Health Law, University of Nottingham, UK
Gabor Gombos, Senior Advocacy Officer, Mental Disability Advocacy Center, Budapest, Hungary
Anna Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Law and Member of the Centre for Disability Studies, University of Leeds, UK and MDAC Board Member
Eva Szeli, Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law School, US



This two-week applied legal practice course aims to strengthen the professional development of participants - practising lawyers, activists and academics in the field of mental health and disability rights law from Europe and Africa. With an emphasis on exploring rights in real life, this course introduces interdisciplinary perspectives from social sciences, politics, social work and clinical sciences.

The five faculty members are all internationally recognized and outstanding scholars and activists in the field. Together, they have experience in human rights advocacy, teaching and programming in central and eastern Europe, Africa and North America and are sensitive to and knowledgeable about the specific needs and problems of these regions from where the participants will come.

The course focuses on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - a human rights treaty which entered into force in 2008. Using the Convention and other international human rights instruments, the course will heighten participants' awareness of the legislative and policy implications of their mental health lawyering, and will raise the awareness of the range of ways that participants can engage with reforms in their home jurisdictions. The course will advance participants' skills to effectively represent people with mental health disabilities in courtrooms and other settings and develop participants' understanding and knowledge of the issues in such a way as to facilitate further postgraduate study.

The course uses innovative teaching methods and encourages participants to reflect on law in practice, and how lawyers can impact upon policy-making at the domestic level to ensure the implementation of international human rights law. The methods include a site visit to a mental health institution, a site visit to a community-based service for people with mental health disabilities, and interviews with people with mental health disabilities. In the classroom, the methods include group preparations and presentations, practice of courtroom advocacy skills, tutor presentations, and discussions. The course culminates with a moot court.