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The Disability Community's Perspective on Disability-Related Policy

The rise of the Independent Living Movement and its corresponding Independent Living Philosophy (see Glossary of Key Terms for descriptions of each) in the 1970s prompted the rise of disability organizations and their activity in the policy domain in Canada. The International Year of Disabled Persons - 1981 - is often cited as the landmark date for tracing the history of disability studies in Canada. In respect of the International Year, the Government of Canada appointed an all-party Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped to undertake a comprehensive review of federal legislation pertaining to persons with disabilities. The Committee produced the Obstacles Report whichReport, which put forward 130 recommendations on all aspects of public policy including human rights, income security, assistive devices, transportation and communications. The Obstacles Report was unique because its put forth policy recommendations that arose from the voices of people with disabilities. For the first time, the government was consulting people with disabilities about the types of policies and programs that would best help them achieve full citizenship.

Citizenship became an important goal for the disability community in Canada. People with disabilities were becoming vocal in expressing their desire to be considered full citizens rather than passive recipients of services. Most importantly, the rise of consumer-based organizations of and for people with disabilities helped people with disabilities lobby for policies and programs that expressed their needs and desires.

One of the most important advances for disability-related policy in Canada was the constitutional recognition of the rights of people with disabilities in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This achievement marked the first important step of the disability community in their lobbying efforts. The original version of the Charter, proposed by the federal government in October 1980, did not include any reference to "mental and physical disability" as specific grounds of discrimination. Due to strong and persistent lobbying of the organizations of the disability community in Canada, the phrase was added to the final version in April 1981.

As a result from this increased focus on political activity and lobbying was the first articulation of a socio-political model of disability in Canada. With this, Tthe effect of this being that the disability community and its allies now had an explanation for why traditional policy models were not working for people with disabilities and an expression of the true nature of disability in Canadian society.

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  Page modified: 12.02.2006 12:12:00