The experience of disability has a profound impact on our society. Almost everyone will be personally affected by disability during their lifetimes – whether because they have or will develop a disability, or through the experiences of a loved one. This is a reality to which law and policy-makers must respond. It is important that all of those involved in serving those with disabilities or developing law and policy affecting them better understand the needs and circumstances of this group. This includes government at all levels, service providers both public and private, community and advocacy organizations, and the legal profession (including its organizations). To ensure equitable and effective law and policy, this deeper understanding should be paired with a holistic, comprehensive and principled approach to the area.
As has often been noted, efforts to improve understanding among law and policy-makers must be paired with a shift in attitudes towards people with disabilities among the general populace, away from stereotypes and paternalism and towards recognizing the value, contributions and capacities of these individuals.
Persons with disabilities themselves will benefit from better access to information and supports regarding laws, policies and practices that may affect them, as this will support their abilities to make informed choices and to be active participants in their communities and in the development of laws, policies and practices.
It was the intent of the LCO in developing this Final Report and the Framework which it supports, to assist in developing a better understanding of the effects of law, policy and practice on persons with disabilities, and in identifying positive approaches which will advance substantive equality for this group. This will benefit not only those with disabilities, but all of us. As the principle of recognizing that we all live in society highlights, we are all connected. Failure to respect the dignity, autonomy, safety, inclusion and individuality of persons with disabilities will affect the wellbeing of all of us.
The concept of progressive realization applies to this project, as to other activities that may affect persons with disabilities. The completion of this Final Report and Framework, while a significant landmark, is not the end of the process.
The LCO will disseminate the Final Report and Framework broadly to the groups identified above, and will provide information to encourage the adoption of the Framework as a key tool for law and policy development and reform.
As part of this broader strategy to encourage the use of the Framework, the LCO intends to develop simplified materials related to the Framework.
The LCO realizes that this is an evolving area. The Final Report and Framework should not be considered, and were not intended to be, a final word on the matter. Rather, the LCO intends that these will form the foundation of further research, discussion and analysis, and that the Framework can be adapted for use in a variety of contexts. The LCO itself intends to apply this Framework, as well as the results of the sister project on The Law as It Affects Older Adults to a law reform project focussed on Ontario’s laws related to capacity and guardianship, which commenced in summer 2012.
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