This report proposes that, despite the limitations of the Social Inclusion Act, the Ontario government’s promise that this legislation will give people with intellectual disabilities more independence, choice and foster their full inclusion in society is a promise that can be realized. True transformation of Ontario’s developmental services system is possible. Two of the key ingredients that are necessary to achieve this transformation are: the inclusion of service rights for people with disabilities in the Social Inclusion Act framework; and the creation of robust mechanisms that will enable people with disabilities to realize and enforce their rights.
Adopting a human rights-based approach has transformative potential for Ontario’s developmental services sector. Philosophically a human rights-based approach can help to address the historical discrimination and segregation that people with disabilities have endured as a result of previous government policies. Practically, the implementation of such an approach can result in the creation of services that are more responsive to the needs of people with intellectual disabilities; address some of the challenges that prevent people with intellectual disabilities from exercising self-determination; and, include greater accountability.
Applying the principles of a human rights-based approach, and drawing on ARCH’s experience, the input of people with disabilities and other stakeholders, ARCH proposes that there are four key elements that must be part of a scheme to enforce the rights of people with intellectual disabilities who receive developmental services and supports:
· Rights education for people with disabilities, service providers, support workers, family members and other stakeholders;
· Amendment of the Social Inclusion Act framework to include more detailed provisions regarding complaint mechanisms, including provisions to ensure that these mechanisms will be accessible for people with intellectual disabilities;
· Designation in the Social Inclusion Act framework of an independent administrative body and a process to receive and resolve appeals from complaints; and,
· The creation of Peer Advocacy Committees, who would be charged with conducting rights education activities, supporting recipients of services to use complaint and appeal mechanisms, and meeting annually with the Ministry of Community and Social Services to report on systemic concerns.
Implementation of these four proposals is achievable. Experiences from jurisdictions outside Ontario demonstrate that rights education initiatives, robust complaint and appeal mechanisms, and the creation of self-advocacy networks are feasible, valuable elements of a strong developmental services system. Many consumer-run organizations of people with intellectual disabilities already exist to support the realization of greater rights in the developmental services sector. In addition, several service providers throughout Ontario have acknowledged the need for greater rights awareness and enforcement, and have taken the initiative to develop a variety of rights documents, curricula and enforcement mechanisms. Thus, momentum for the implementation of the four proposals currently exists within the developmental services sector. It must also be noted that Ontario is fortunate to have an active, diverse community of stakeholders in the developmental services sector, many of whom could be consulted with to participate in the formulation and implementation of these proposals. Opportunities exist for the government to partner with people with intellectual disabilities, service providers and disability advocacy organizations to facilitate implementation.
ARCH hopes that the research and recommendations included in this report will be given serious review and consideration. Adopting a new approach to developmental services and incorporating the proposals in this report will enable people with intellectual disabilities to become empowered and to gain more independence and choice in their day-to-day lives.
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