The following is an excerpt from the LCO’s A Framework for the Law as It Affects Persons with Disabilities. The original can be consulted in the final report for that project, which provides greater explanation for the application of the Framework Principles. Similar principles exist for the sister project A Framework for the Law as It Affects Older Adults. Both reports can be accessed on the LCO’s website at 


Excerpt from A Framework for the Law as It Affects Persons with Disabilities:

The LCO’s Framework centres on a set of principles for the law as it affects persons with disabilities in order to counteract negative stereotypes and assumptions about persons with disabilities, reaffirm the status of persons with disabilities as equal members of society and bearers of both rights and responsibilities, and also encourage the government to take positive steps to secure the well-being of persons with disabilities. 

Each of the principles contributes to an overarching goal of promoting substantive equality for persons with disabilities. There is no hierarchy among the principles, and the principles must be understood in relationship with each other; they may reinforce each other or may be in tension with one another as they apply to concrete situations. The Report explains each of the following principles in detail:

  1. Respecting the Dignity and Worth of Persons with Disabilities: All members of the human family are full persons, with the right to be valued, respected and considered and to have both one’s contributions and needs recognized. 
  2. Responding to Diversity in Human Abilities and Other Characteristics: All people exist along a continuum of abilities in many areas, abilities vary along a person’s lifecourse and each person with a disability is unique in needs, circumstances and identities. Persons with disabilities also experience multiple and intersecting identities that may act to increase or diminish discrimination and disadvantage. 
  3. Fostering Autonomy and Independence: Persons with disabilities must be able to make choices about issues that affect their lives and to do as much for themselves as possible or as they desire, with appropriate and adequate supports as required. 
  4. Promoting Social Inclusion and Participation: Society should be structured to promote the ability of all persons with disabilities to be actively involved with their community by removing physical, social, attitudinal and systemic barriers to exercising the incidents of such citizenship and by facilitating their involvement. 
  5. Facilitating the Right to Live in Safety: This principle refers to the right of persons with disabilities to live without fear of abuse or exploitation and where appropriate to receive support in making decisions that could have an impact on safety. 
  6. Recognizing That We All Live in Society: This principle acknowledges that persons with disabilities are members of society, with entitlements and responsibilities, and that other members of society also have entitlements and responsibilities.  

The application of the principles must be grounded in the lived experience of persons with disabilities, including attention to how the experiences of persons with disabilities are influenced by their life course, and on viewing persons with disabilities as whole persons rather than as sets of separate issues. 

The circumstances of persons with disabilities will continue to change as laws, attitudes, demographics and other aspects of the broader environment change. As well, understandings of the experience of disability continue to evolve, and new perspectives emerge. What might be considered conducive to attainment of the principles at one time may appear unhelpful or inadequate at a later date.

Despite desires to implement all the principles to the fullest extent possible, there may be constraints that limit the ability of law and policy makers to do so, including policy priorities or funding limitations among others. Therefore it may be necessary to take a progressive realization approach to the full implementation of the principles. This involves concrete, deliberate and targeted steps, implemented within a relatively short period of time with a view to ultimately meeting the goal of full implementation. Such an approach mandates a continual, if gradual, movement forward towards the ultimate goal of substantive equality.

As well, attention must be paid to the relationships between principles. Frequently, the principles will support each other; for example, initiatives that increase the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities will generally also thereby promote respect for their dignity and worth. However, sometimes two or more of the principles may be in tension with each other in a particular case. Careful thought must be given to analyzing and responding to this tension, by being sensitive to the contexts in which these tensions arise, as well as their larger social context, and the overarching value of substantive equality to which the principles were intended to respond.




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