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“Enforcing the Rights of People with Disabilities in Ontario’s Developmental Services System”
Kerri Joffe for ARCH Disability Law Centre
In this paper, the author asserts that although there was an important paradigm shift in enacting the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act (“Social Inclusion Act”), there remain significant limitations within the Act for advancing the rights of persons with developmental disabilities. The author identifies two major limitations in the Social Inclusion Act: (1) the absence of rights for people with intellectual disabilities; and (2) the lack of robust enforcement mechanisms. The author identifies four key challenges specific to the developmental services sector in establishing a culture in which service providers and community members respect the rights of persons with disabilities to self-determination: (1) paternalistic attitudes that do not recognize the capabilities of persons with developmental disabilities to live independently; (2) fear of abuse, retaliation and reprisal if persons with disabilities raise concerns or make complaints about services; (3) the need for appropriate and individually-tailored supports; and (4) lack of understanding of rights on the part of those with developmental disabilities.
Drawing on consultations with stakeholders with intellectual disabilities, advocates, and service providers, as well as best practices from other Canadian provinces and select commonwealth countries, the author advocates for a human-rights based approach to enforcement mechanisms in the developmental services sector. The author argues that the provision of rights coupled with effective enforcement mechanisms would empower people with developmental disabilities to become active consumers of services rather than passive recipients of care. Drawing on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Canadian human rights law, the paper concludes that there are four key principles that should inform a human-rights based approach: accountability, accessibility, participation and independence. The author concludes that the practical application of these four principles requires increased rights education for persons with intellectual disabilities, preferably provided by peers with intellectual disabilities; detailed provisions in the Social Inclusion Act setting out complaint mechanisms; the establishment of an independent administrative body to receive appeals from complaints filed with service providers; and peer advocacy committees in each geographic region of Ontario.