A Framework for the Law as It Affects Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities make up a very significant proportion of the Canadian population – 14.3 per cent, according to 2006 Statistics Canada figures – and the number and proportion of Canadians with disabilities has been steadily increasing in recent years. Almost everyone will be personally affected by disability during their lifetimes – whether because they have or will develop a disability, or through the experiences of a loved one. This is a reality to which law and policy-makers must respond. This includes laws or policies that directly target persons with disabilities, as well as general laws and policies that may affect this group as part of the general population. The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) has created a Framework for the Law as it Affects Persons with Disabilities to help evaluate new or existing laws, policies and practices and understand their impact on persons with disabilities.

The LCO’s Framework for the Law as it Affects Persons with Disabilities can be of assistance to anyone who develops, interprets, implements or assesses laws, policies or practices that may affect persons with disabilities.


This includes:

  • Legislators, policy-makers and courts;
  • Advocacy organizations and community groups that deal with issues affecting persons with disabilities; and
  • Public or private organizations that develop or administer policies or programs that could affect persons with disabilities.

The LCO hopes that ultimately the Framework will benefit persons with disabilities by making law, policy and practice more effective, just and accessible.

The Framework is based on a set of principles. These were derived from the LCO’s public consultations and research, as well as building on the foundations created by the caselaw arising out of the Charter and human rights laws, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and government policy frameworks like In Unison.

The Framework is accompanied by an extensive Final Report: A Framework for the Law as it Affects Persons with Disabilities, Advancing Substantive Equality for Persons with Disabilities through Law, Policy and Practice. The Final Report sets out in detail the principles and considerations that form the basis for the Framework, and provides examples of the potential application of the Framework. It will be of assistance to those who require further information or assistance in applying the Framework.

The Framework was developed through an extensive process of research and consultation. The LCO:

  • Formed an ad hoc Project Advisory Group made up of academics, legal and other service providers, government representatives, advocates and community organizations.
  • In 2009, conducted a preliminary consultation to identify the scope of the project and propose preliminary principles.
  • Funded research papers by experts in the field on issues related to the project, as well as carrying out considerable internal research.
  • In 2010, the LCO carried out extensive consultations with persons with disabilities and with organizations that serve, represent or advocate for persons with disabilities. This included 17 focus groups in 5 locations across Ontario. We spoke with over 100 individuals and close to 60 representatives of organizations.
  • In the late summer of 2011, released a consultation paper, and received and reviewed submissions from a range of individuals and organizations.
  • In early 2012, released and gathered comments on a Draft Framework.

This project is closely related to the LCO’s similar project on the law as it affects older adults. A significant minority of older persons live with disabilities, whether because they have aged with disabilities or because they have developed disabilities as they aged. While there are many areas where the two projects diverged, they were developed in tandem and have shed light on each other during that process.

The Frameworks resulting from this project and the project on the law as it affects older adults will provide the foundation for a new project on legal capacity, decision-making and guardianship, commencing in the summer of 2012.

Project Documents

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