Celebrating Canada Day!

Like other Canadians, people with disabilities have much to honour on Canada Day.  CCD applauds Canada’s progress on access and the inclusion of people with disabilities.  Some “access and inclusion” milestones are noted below. 

The creation of the Canadian disability rights movement is a significant achievement for all Canadians to celebrate.  In Canada, people with disabilities are finding their voice through the disability movement.  When people find their voice, they become empowered to make great changes happen.  “It was the disability rights movement that helped me find my voice,” states Paul Young, a former CCD Chairperson.  “Because of my involvement with People First, I learned that institutions were wrong, should be closed and people should live in their community.  My greatest accomplishment has been to get my brother, Tony, out of the institution,” states Young.  Due to the influence of the disability movement, many people have been welcomed home to the community.

In 1981, with the encouragement of the disability rights movement, Canada included the grounds of physical and mental disability in Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Yvonne Peters in “A Missed Wedding, a Landmark Protest and a Legal Victory” recounts how the disability community achieved inclusion in the Charter. 

After the Charter came into force, CCD began to undertake test case litigation, based upon Section 15 of the Charter.  The aim has been the realization of a substantive approach to equality robust enough to overcome unintended, as well as, intended barriers.  This is an approach to equality that works well for all.

On 11 March 2012, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Steve Estey, Chairperson of CCD’s International Committee and now a CCD Vice Chairperson, was present at the United Nations for this historic event.  Steve also participated in the Canadian delegations that helped to draft the text of the CRPD.  As Vangelis Nikias, CRPD Project Manager explains, the CRPD is “the culmination of an effort by people with disabilities to demarginalize themselves, ameliorate their living conditions and become subjects rather than objects of human action.”

The Canadian Transportation Act (1996) recognized the important role of accessibility in meeting national transportation objectives. The Act states, “(d) the transportation system is accessible without undue obstacle to the mobility of persons, including persons with disabilities”.  CCD’s Transportation Committee works in support of a transportation system that is usable by all Canadians.

Canadians with disabilities played a major role in the founding of the international movement of people with disabilities. In 1980, at an international conference in Winnipeg, people with disabilities resolved to establish a global organization to be their voice.  In 1981, the disability community created Disabled Peoples’ International.

Technology is an area where the disability community is beginning to see some barriers come down.  In “Inclusion by Design” Jeffrey D. Stark states, “The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Neil Squire and many other disability-related organizations helped to convince the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission that carriers should provide phones that are operable by Canadians with disabilities.

Marie White in “The Evolution of Access” pointed out that in Canada, “A better understanding of the linked concepts of access and inclusion has resulted in increasing numbers of children with disabilities experiencing success in school and more going on to postsecondary opportunities. Employment is becoming an increasing reality for persons with disabilities.  Recreational and leisure facilities are incorporating the universal design features which really do demonstrate they are available to all citizens…Our country is moving along a continuum and evolving to be a truly welcoming place which not only encourages but also demands access and inclusion.”

For more milestones check out CCD’s anthology “Celebrating Our Accomplishments”!