In Ontario, persons with disabilities may have access to a number of different disability-related support programs that provide different types of benefits and services to those who qualify. Programs are offered by private insurers and different levels of government, with a spectrum of purposes, including income replacement, compensation for injury and disability-related devices and service subsidies. Who has access to each program is determined by eligibility criteria that define and categorize persons with disabilities. Each program makes choices about scope and target recipient group and, in so doing, draws conclusions about who is eligible to receive a particular benefit or service.
Decisions that broaden or narrow eligibility are often based upon assumptions about disability and the characteristics that we impute to persons with disabilities. These decisions have a tremendous impact on the lives of persons with disabilities, providing or eliminating access to income supports, transportation services, education programs, employment measures, assistive devices, medical and drug benefits and other disability-related supports. While establishing a single set of eligibility criteria may not be possible, establishing a principle-based mechanism to guide policy and program decisions will aid in ensuring that eligibility criteria are consistent with governing laws, national policy commitments and evidence-based scholarly research.
In this paper, we develop and present a principle-based evaluation tool called a “Rights-Outcome Lens” that can be used to assess eligibility criteria for disability-related support programs and specifically income support programs. In approaching this task, we take on the six principles adopted by the Law Commission of Ontario (“LCO”) in its background research on the law as it affects persons with disabilities (“principles”). The principles situate this work within a context that considers disability in a particular way and that identifies persons with disabilities as rights-holders. Working from that starting point, we consider the laws, policies and scholarly research that inform those principles and identify a number of outcome measures to evaluate eligibility criteria. To illustrate how the Rights-Outcome Lens may work in practice, we have applied it to the eligibility criteria of one income support program, the Ontario Disability Support Program (“ODSP”). ODSP is Ontario’s targeted social assistance program for persons with disabilities. The application of the Rights-Outcome Lens to ODSP suggests more detailed markers that could be used to complete an evaluation of other disability-related support programs.
While the Rights-Outcome Lens could have application to disability-related programs in general, it was developed in the context of income support programs and ODSP in particular. Given that context, our outcome measures may not adequately address other types of disability-related support programs and specific issues relevant to those programs. This paper is intended as a starting point for a thorough analysis of disability policy in Ontario. The proposed Rights-Outcome Lens provides a basis from which additional research and development may proceed. Additional outcome measures or variances of those described in this paper may be addressed in future research.
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