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Disability as a variable – A new optic

DisabilityDisability has always been a shifting identity.  It has been subject to institutionalization, attempted eradication, maligned with stories of witchcraft, viewed as a defect and culpable for potential deficiencies in the modern workforce. This is the reality of an aspect of humanity that aligns itself with the environment in which it exists no matter the time and place. In the past few years though, it has become less of an identity unto itself, and more of a variable that can shift the entire identity and cultural view of a person. Looking at an Ontario Human Rights Commission discussion paper released in 2001, the aspects that make what is called intersectionality so appealing to a modern view of identity is that it does not pigeon hole a person as being represented by a sole code ground, or identity that is legally protected against discrimination.

The legal mechanisms which are present in Ontario make it a required feature of any organization to apply an accessible framework around how it does business; this includes accommodating to the point of undue hardship. Although, the duty to accommodate is just as much a feature of any other code ground as disability, and two or more code grounds intersect it might be new ground for employers who are used to accommodating under the ground of disability only. The duty to accommodate and legal framework aside, the idea of disability as a variable can help guide us towards making appropriate accommodations taking account the whole person. Disability affects people in various ways, and it can also have an impact on the culturally viewpoints of race, creed or family status for example. These interactions with other identities are not only present when disability is being accommodated because they are a constant feature of the dynamic nature of identity of people with disabilities.

As we move towards an understanding of people that is cognizant of the nature of intersectionality, an interesting query to review is how we best accommodate those people who are situated amongst many identities within employment. A proactive approach which is respectful of the entire person will assuredly be accommodating of intersectional views. To view disability as a variable which can be an identity unto itself or affecting of other code grounds is to appreciate the just how prolific the job of applying accessibility can be.

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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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