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Definition of disability and the Ontario Human Rights Commission

disability2The Ontario Human Rights Code uses a definition of disability that frames a fairly broad context under which accommodations can be framed, but this is by no way an exhaustive list. This is due to the fact that disabilities are as much a product of social barriers as they are products of ill-informed policy. For example, physical disabilities are probably best known because of their salience, and so we align our assumptions with what we believe to be the best corrective measures. This is a good explanation of the reason why a wheelchair is part of the universal symbol for accessibility and why ramps and mobility devices feature so heavily in our thought processes, when thinking about disability as a whole.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission understands that its definition should be used as a framework, but not a prescriptive measure that encloses all disabilities and accessibility needs. So, when decisions are made regarding accessibility features for an organization they must incorporate the widest possible framework to house the concept of disability because the concept of disability is inextricably linked to social systems that could view an endless number of traits through stigma.

When creating policies that make statements about accessibility, attempts should be made to view disability as a social system instead of a schedule of impairments in order to align an organization’s forward movement with principles of Human Rights. Also, the time is long past due for an evaluation of how intersecting identities can create unique accessibility and accommodation needs.

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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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