This paper is only available in French. 

Table of Contents

I. LE CADRE MÉTHODOLOGIQUE DE L’ÉTUDE                                                                    



“The Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the Decisions that Concern Them: The Example of Education”

Mona Paré, Assistant Professor
University of Ottawa

In this paper, the author examines the extent to which children with disabilities exercise their right to participation in the field of education in Ontario.  For the purposes of the study, the author defines participation in accordance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child to primarily mean the right of the children to be heard.  She examined both direct participation, which entails children having the opportunity to express their views on decisions that affect them, and indirect participation, which involves the children’s views being put forward by a representative in decision-making processes.  To examine the extent of participation, the author conducted consultations with 45 children aged 9 to 21, 35 parents of children with disabilities and representatives from over 20 organizations, government institutions, committees and other agencies involved in the special education system.

The data collected indicate that children with disabilities generally do not participate, either directly or indirectly, in the decisions that concern them in the educational context.  Further, interview data supported the conclusion that schools often discouraged or punished children’s efforts to assert their rights.  Interviews also indicated that parents felt disadvantaged by a power imbalance in the formal processes and that the expert model was intimidating for parents in providing their views of appropriate accommodations for their children.  The data also supported the conclusion that in most cases parents represent their vision of what is in their child’s best interests in the education context but rarely consult directly with the child due to age, severity of disability or a desire to protect the child from intimidating processes.  The author identifies the greatest challenges to increased participation for children with disabilities to include the lack of a human rights culture in the education sector and a lack of clarity with respect to accountability.  She concludes by providing a list of recommendations for reform including better teacher training, a more formal system for the Individual Education Plans, legal representation, increased accessibility in the language used, increased availability of information, more open attitudes on the part of education staff, and clearer accountability of school boards and the Ministry of Education.  In conclusion, the author argues that international standards, including a consideration of the best interest of the child, should be clearly incorporated into the domestic legislation and processes relating to special education.