Early in its mandate, the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) heard that while there are many laws, policies and programs that are, or are intended to be, of benefit to persons with disabilities, the overall legal framework within which persons with disabilities live is often complex and contradictory, and not infrequently counterproductive. As a result, in 2007 the LCO’s Board of Governors approved a project to develop a coherent and principled approach to the law as it affects persons with disabilities. The intent of this project is not to recommend changes to any particular law relating to persons with disabilities, although law reform is certainly needed in many areas. Rather, the intent is to develop a holistic, coherent, principles-based approach to this area of the law as a whole, an approach that can be used in developing new laws, or evaluating and reforming existing ones.

It is intended that the Framework that is ultimately developed through this project will be applicable to laws, policies and practices which are developed or reformed by various levels of government, as well as policies and practices developed by private actors (such as service providers). It may also be of assistance to those who are responsible for interpreting and applying laws, policies and practices, such as judges. For convenience, this paper refers throughout to “the law”, but the term should be understood in this broad sense.

At approximately the same time, the Board of Governors approved a sister project on the law as it affects older persons.[1] As the two projects have similar goals as well as some areas of intersection, they have proceeded in tandem and have informed each other.

Work on this project commenced in early 2009. Since that time, the LCO has conducted considerable research, both internally and by funding expert papers. It has also released two consultation papers, and conducted three stages of public consultation.[2] At this time, the LCO has released for comment a Draft Framework for the Law as it Affects Persons with Disabilities: Advancing Equality Through Law, Policy and Practice. Based on the responses to this Draft Framework, the LCO will undertake revisions and release a Final Framework. A full description of the development of the project may be found in the LCO’s Background Paper, Developing a Framework for the Law as it Affects Persons with Disabilities (forthcoming).

This Background Paper is a companion to the Draft Framework. It provides a description and analysis of some of the key concepts on which the Draft Framework is based. The two documents have been developed together. As the theoretical understandings of the concepts laid out in this Paper have evolved, so has the LCO’s approach to the Framework. Conversely, as the Draft Framework has clarified some of the practical implications of the concepts, the definitions and approaches laid out in this Paper have been refined.  Therefore, the two documents should be read in conjunction.

It is important to note that terminology related to the experience of disability is evolving and continues to be a subject of debate. The LCO recognizes that there are various views about the most appropriate language, and defers to persons with disabilities themselves as to the most appropriate language.


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