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Accessibility is a human rights issue

accessibilityforallAccessibility is a human rights issue. When we look at how it is enacted through the Ontario Human Rights Commission, their online trainings, and their policy papers, we can plainly see that this is the case. Although, something unique happens when the focus of the OHRC is taken away and its curator becomes the businesses and organizations that make up the market landscape across Ontario. It shifts from an area of importance based on the equal application of Human Rights to being piece of legislation that must be adhered to via a compliance schedule. Why does this happen? Why does the ink on the paper hold special significance when housed by the code grounds whereas is becomes a duller shade of itself when housed by organizations that have to comply?

I would like to posit that maybe it’s because the Human Rights Code grounds are not themselves as thoroughly promoted as they could be. Accessibility and inclusion are not facets that only people with disabilities pursue. For example, an argument can be rightly made that the systemic underpayment of women is social barrier to equal participation for women in the workforce. Human resources policies that limit the diversity of a workforce is an entrenched social barrier to, and to use a new code ground, the inclusion of gender identity and gender expression now requires a fundamental shift of the way that business views gender so as not to limit the participation of individuals and groups who represent, and are themselves represented by the code. All of the above are examples of how access can be limited or blocked by an organizational misunderstanding of what code grounds mean and how they look on the on ground.

A lot of time and effort has been placed on building the capacity of organizations to view the AODA as new legislation, but there could be more done to promote its ultimate home, the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is my assertion that disability is a factor that affects all the code grounds and it works in conjunction with gender, sex, race, age, marital status et al to augment a perceived identity, whether it be socially prescribed or whether it is evidenced as a byproduct of imposed barriers. Shifting a focus from accommodation as a reaction to a holistic mechanism where human rights are firmly entrenched might become a way to build a view of accessibility as a human rights issue.

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Christopher Lytle MA CDS

Principle Consultant and Owner at Christopher Lytle Consulting (CLC)
Christopher Lytle MA CDS, is the principle consultant and owner of Christopher Lytle Consulting (CLC). CLC consults on human rights and helps organizations incorporate requirements for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Christopher has been involved with disability and human rights issues for ten years. During this time he has participated in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has been involved in its subsequent promotion and implementation in Canada as well as several countries in Africa, Central America, Asia and Europe. He has held a seat on the board of directors for the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) as a representative of theCouncil of Canadians with Disabilities' (CCD) International Human Rights Committee and hehas spearheaded numerous capacity building projects with the purpose of promoting human rights, equality and accessibility. Read more
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