The implementation of a law, policy or program is equally as important as its substantive provisions. Laws may be positive in their conception and on paper, but in practice may be cumbersome, difficult to access, or otherwise ineffective in achieving their goals. This section applies the principles to the implementation of the law, including considerations related to training and education, resources and provision of adequate accommodation for disability-related needs.
Applying the Principles to Step 5
Note: “Law” here refers to law, policy and practice as appropriate.
Well-intentioned laws may fail to achieve their purposes because of problems in implementation. Many laws are exceedingly complex, so that understanding and navigating them requires considerable effort and expertise, and persons with disabilities may be expected to do so on their own, without supports or the appropriate accommodations. Those operating such systems may have an imperfect understanding of the needs and circumstances of persons with disabilities, or may harbor ableist attitudes or assumptions. Often such systems are under-resourced and under strain.
Applying the principles to these processes requires that persons with disabilities be treated with dignity when seeking to access the law. Those implementing the law must have the skills, knowledge and resources to treat those accessing it with respect, accommodate their needs, and ensure they receive any supports or benefits to which they are entitled. Responding to diversity requires that systems are able to accommodate the actual needs of individuals, including needs arising from particular impairments, from the intersection of disability with other aspects of identity, or from the common overlap of disability with poverty. The principles of autonomy and independence, and of participation and inclusion require that the systems that serve persons with disabilities can be understood and navigated by them, which requires provision of appropriate information and supports.
QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION IN APPLYING THIS STEP
1. Have sufficient human and financial resources been allocated to ensure that persons with disabilities can access their rights or responsibilities under the law, in a way that respects the principles?
a. Are there mechanisms in place for identifying significant unmet needs?
b. Where resources are limited, does the law include clear, transparent and principled criteria and priorities for how scarce resources should be allocated?
c. In the implementation of laws of general application, where resources are limited, have the needs of persons with disabilities been given equal consideration with those of other groups?
2. How have the processes under the law been designed to be as simple and transparent as possible for users?
3. Does the law include clear rights to services to be provided and accountability for providing those services in a timely, respectful, accessible and appropriate manner?
4. How have those charged with implementation of the law been provided with adequate ongoing training and education to enable them to implement the law in a way that respects the principles, including training and education on the following:
a. The substance of the law in question, as well as the Charter, the Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
b. Anti-ableism, including common negative stereotypes and assumptions about persons with disabilities in general and persons with particular disabilities, accessibility issues, and systemic barriers for persons with disabilities?
5. How have mechanisms been developed to ensure that persons with disabilities are informed about their rights and responsibilities under the law, and that they have access to the information necessary to seek access to their rights or fulfill their responsibilities? How do these mechanisms address common barriers? For example:
a. Has information been provided on where individuals can seek further information or supports for accessing their rights or exercising their responsibilities?
b. Have strategies been developed to disseminate information to organizations that represent, advocate for or support persons with disabilities?
c. Is information available in disability-accessible formats that comply with the provisions of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code?
d. Is information available in plain language?
e. Is information available in non-written formats (such as by telephone or video)?
f. Is information available to persons living in restrictive settings, such as long-term care homes or psychiatric institutions?
g. Is information available to persons living in rural or remote settings?
h. Is information available in multiple languages?
6. If the access mechanism is complicated or multi-stage, how have supports or advocacy services been provided to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to navigate the system, particularly for persons with disabilities who face additional barriers as a result of low-income, language barriers or other issues?
7. How have the processes been designed to include and accommodate the specific needs of persons with disabilities, including those who are facing additional barriers arising from low-income, or who have needs related to other aspects of their identities, or who are transitioning between programs or life-stages?
8. What mechanisms does the law provide to review or evaluate unique needs or requests for accommodation from affected individuals with disabilities?
APPLYING THE FRAMEWORK: EXAMPLES OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PRINCIPLES AND PROCESSES
Limited Resources and the Passport Program
There are a variety of programs for children with disabilities and their families, including those offered through the educational system. However, as these children enter adulthood, supports tend to drop off, making the standard transitions along the life course more difficult. For some persons with disabilities, the transition into adulthood may actually decrease participation and inclusion and realization of other principles.
In 2005, the Ministry of Community and Social Services launched the Passport Program for young adults with an intellectual disability who are no longer eligible for school supports, but who would benefit from community participation supports. Through the Passport Program, these individuals can receive funding for activities that help them grow personally, participate in community programs, develop volunteer and employment skills, develop their own life plans, and other activities that assist them in meeting their life goals. The program has significant benefits for recipients, as well as for their families, and supports the fulfilment of the principles, particularly the principles of respecting dignity and worth, fostering autonomy and independence, and promoting social inclusion and participation.
While the program has been lauded, the demand greatly outstrips the available resources. According to ARCH Disability Law Centre, the waiting list for the Passport Program has grown year by year, and in early 2010, there were more eligible individuals on the waiting list than receiving services. The Passport Program creates no positive right to services, a not-uncommon approach to services for persons with disabilities. A paper prepared by Bakerlaw argues that the lack of clear rights to supports for persons with disabilities may impair the ability of persons with disabilities to achieve substantive equality, and suggests alternative approaches that may facilitate inclusion and participation for persons with disabilities.
LCO Commissioned Research Paper, Meryl Zisman Gary, Cara Wilkie and David Baker, A Case Study Paper on Rights to Supports (2010)
Complexity and Provision of Special Education Services Under the Education Act
Under Ontario’s Education Act and regulations, “exceptional pupils” are entitled to receive specialized programming, accommodation and supports in order to provide them with equal educational opportunities. Children who are identified through a hearing of the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) may be placed in a regular or specialized classroom, and an Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be completed to identify supports and accommodation (and may be completed for students who have not been identified through an IPRC). While the overall intent of Ontario’s special education laws and policies is viewed positively, and the legislation and policies include many measures to promote participation and inclusion, many have raised concerns regarding the processes for accessing disability-related supports and accommodations in this system. Professor Mona Paré has noted that the system is based on an “expert model” which parents and students may find intimidating. The IPRC and IEP processes are complex and involve considerable paperwork, and parents and students may find it difficult to understand their rights and the processes. While parents and students must be consulted in the development of IEPs, there is no clear, formal means for parents and students to resolve disputes regarding the adequacy and implementation of the IEPs, so that the process is not transparent. As well, there is limited access to supports or advocacy for those navigating the system. The process for accessing supports under the Education Act therefore does not appear to fulfill in practice the principle of inclusion and participation.
See LCO Commissioned Research Paper, Professor Mona Paré, The Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Decisions That Concern Them: The Example of Education (2010) (available in French only).
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