A. Purpose of the Project
The lives of persons with disabilities are significantly shaped by the law. There is an extensive and complex web of laws dealing specifically with disability-related issues, including laws dealing with income supports, special education, accessibility of services and structures, discrimination, assistive devices, service animals, legal capacity to make decisions and many other issues. As well, persons with disabilities will also encounter the laws that apply to the population at large, such as labour law, family law and housing law – although they may find that such laws fail to take into account their particular needs and experiences.
Early in its mandate, the LCO heard that while there were many laws, policies and programs that are, or are intended to be, of benefit to persons with disabilities, the overall legal framework within which persons with disabilities live is often complex and contradictory, and not infrequently counterproductive.
As a result, in 2009 the LCO commenced a project to develop a coherent and principled approach to the law as it affects persons with disabilities. The intent of this project is not to recommend changes to any particular law relating to persons with disabilities, although law reform is certainly needed in many areas. Rather, the intent is to develop a holistic, coherent, principles-based approach to this area of the law as a whole, an approach that can be used in developing new laws or evaluating and reforming existing ones.
At the end of this project, the LCO intends to produce two documents:
- A relatively brief Framework document that outlines a set of principles for the law as it affects persons with disabilities and provides a set of questions that will assist in evaluating proposed or existing laws and policies against those principles.
- A much more comprehensive Report that provides a broader context and more extensive information for those seeking a deeper understanding of the issues or assistance with applying the Framework.
It is intended that this project assist in the development of fairer and more effective and just laws as they relate to persons with disabilities.
The Framework document and the accompanying Report will be of assistance to all those concerned with the development and implementation of the law as it affects persons with disabilities, including:
- Policy-makers and legislators;
- Advocacy organizations and community groups that deal with issues affecting persons with disabilities; and
- Public or private actors that develop or administer policies or programs that may affect persons with disabilities.
B. What Has Been Done
Considerable work has been completed on this project since its inception.
- Advisory Group: In 2010, the LCO formed a project Advisory Group, consisting of representatives of government, the legal profession, academics, and various advocacy and community organizations, to provide the LCO with advice on public consultations and on the substance of the project.
- Preliminary Consultations: in 2009, the LCO conducted preliminary consultations to define the scope and approach of this project. This included in-person meetings with key stakeholder organizations, the development of a Preliminary Consultation Paper, and the review of submissions responding to that paper.
- Research: In addition to considerable internal research on the law and persons with disabilities, during 2009, the LCO had the benefit of research conducted by Professor Roxanne Mykitiuk, as Osgoode Hall Law School Scholar in Residence. In 2010, the LCO funded seven research papers on principles and issues related to the law and persons with disabilities, six of which were completed.
- Public Consultations – the Experiences of Persons with Disabilities with the Law: in 2010, the LCO conducted extensive cross-Ontario public consultations with persons with disabilities, and with organizations that serve, represent or advocate for persons with disabilities. The LCO held seventeen focus groups in five locations across Ontario, including focus groups with Deaf Ontarians, Aboriginal and racialized Ontarians with disabilities, and persons living with psycho-social disabilities. The LCO also received responses to survey questionnaires from persons with disabilities, and conducted several one-on-one interviews.
C. Purpose of This Paper
This Paper aims to synthesize the results of the research and consultations that have been completed to date, and to identify the key questions that must be addressed to develop the proposed Framework. Based on the responses to this Consultation Paper and on the LCO’s further research, the LCO will prepare an Interim Report, including the Draft Framework, for circulation and comment.
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