As noted in the Introduction, this project will result in two documents: a relatively brief evaluative Framework and an accompanying report that provides more extensive information for those that require it. This section of the Paper considers the characteristics required for a practical and effective Framework.
The work of the LCO thus far has provided us with an understanding of the relationship of persons with disabilities with the law, and a set of principles that can assist in improving the development and application of the law. The next step is to develop an approach and structure for the Framework, based on these foundations.
What Do We Mean by a “Framework”?
The LCO plans to develop a relatively brief practical document that will assist legislators, policy-makers and others who are concerned with the development and reform of laws, policies and practices that may affect persons with disabilities in evaluating existing and potential laws and policies. The document will outline a set of principles to guide the law, and a set of questions that will assist in evaluating whether laws or policies are consistent with those principles. This will be the LCO’s “Framework for the Law as it Affects Persons with Disabilities.”
As in the LCO’s companion project on the law as it affects older adults, the LCO proposes to structure its framework as a series of questions, arising from the principles. Principles, without more, are an insufficient basis for an analytical framework for this area of the law, as they are on their own too abstract to provide sufficient practical guidance to law and policy-makers. Questions can assist law and policy makers to determine how closely the law, policy or practice shows adherence to or realization of the principles. Similarly, where the principles are not being satisfied, it becomes necessary to review where gaps may be, determine whether this is a case in which all the principles cannot be satisfied, identify where there may be tensions to be resolve and finally, to be clear about why it is not possible to satisfy the principles in the particular case.
Based on the work completed to-date, the LCO has concluded that any framework designed to guide the law as it affects older adults must have certain characteristics.
First, given the complex inter-relationships between the principles themselves, and between the principles and the lived experiences of persons with disabilities, it must be holistic. Rather than dealing separately with each of the principles, or segregating the principles from the circumstances of persons with disabilities, the framework must bring the elements together, so that the principles are meaningfully grounded in the circumstances of persons with disabilities and in the current legal landscape.
Secondly, given the breadth of the experiences of persons with disabilities and the many different ways in which they must interact with the law, it must be broad and flexible enough to apply across contexts. It must have the capacity to address the experiences of persons with disabilities with the law in their sexuality, education, employment, living environments, family relationships, financial affairs and other areas. It must be capable of meaningful application both to laws directly targeted to persons with disabilities, and to those of general application that affect persons with disabilities differently.
Thirdly, it must reflect the diversity of experience and identity among persons with disabilities. This means that the framework must be able to encompass not only a wide range of disabilities, but also different ethnic and cultural identities, divergences in the experiences of men and women, and diversity in sexual orientation, citizenship status, family relationships and in age itself. As with the population at large, persons with disabilities may identify with a number of different communities at the same time. This diversity means that the law may affect persons with disabilities in different, complex and sometimes inconsistent ways.
Fourthly, it must be sufficiently specific and practical to provide meaningful guidelines for the development of law and government policy, and to help develop processes to be implemented by the private sector to make the law effective. It must assist users in concretely understanding the implications of the principles for the development and evaluation of laws, policies and practices.
Fifthly, given the importance of participation and inclusion for persons with disabilities, it must focus attention on both the process of development and evaluation and on the outcomes. It must apply equally to the development of new laws, policies and programs, and to the evaluation and reform of existing ones.
Finally, it must be useable. Its structure, layout and language must be sufficiently simple and clear to encourage its easy use as a practical tool. Reference to the more comprehensive Report for further information and guidance must be made straightforward and simple.
TOWARDS A FRAMEWORK: YOUR FEEDBACK
Are there characteristics other than those identified that are essential to the development for an evaluative framework for the law as it affects persons with disabilities?
Do you have any other comments on this Paper or on the LCO’s project related to persons with disabilities more generally?
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