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“A Principled Approach: Considering Eligibility Criteria for Disability-Related Support Programs through a Rights-Outcome Lens”
Lora Patton, Brendon Pooran & Rita Samson
In this paper, the authors develop a principle-based evaluation tool called a “Rights-Outcome Lens” that can be used to assess eligibility criteria for disability-related supports, particularly income support programs. The authors identify several outcome measures for income support programs to enable policy makers to evaluate eligibility criteria from a principled perspective. These outcome measures include factors related to three areas: disability criteria, financial eligibility criteria and process. In terms of disability criteria, the authors suggest that the outcomes measures include that disability should be defined in a way that recognizes individual experience, that recognizes diversity within the experience of disability, that recognizes disability as both an embodied experience and a social construct, and that reduces medicalization. In the context of financial eligibility criteria, the authors suggest that the benefit unit should be defined in a way that empowers the individual, that income allowances should promote acceptable living standards, and that asset allowances should promote acceptable living standards. Finally, with respect to the process, the authors suggest that all administrative processes relating to eligibility determination should be accessible and respectful.
After outlining the rights-outcome lens, the authors evaluate the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) against the outcomes measures identified above. Their analysis reveals that in relation to the disability eligibility criteria, the definition of disability for ODSP is generally inclusive but the administrative application of the definition fails to recognize the individual and diverse experiences of disability. With respect to the financial eligibility criteria, the authors conclude that the combination of overly restrictive rules relating to the definition of the benefit unit and income and asset allowances perpetuate a poor standard of living for many persons with disabilities that rely on such supports. Finally, the authors conclude that the administrative processes to access ODSP benefits are cumbersome and act to discourage applications and appeals. As a result, the processes lead to inappropriate denials and a general lack of access to ODSP for persons with disabilities. In exploring a principled approach to eligibility criteria, this paper provides a useful starting point to the development of a comprehensive evaluation tool to assess eligibility criteria for disability-related support programs.