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Human Rights principles and accessibility

The principles that guide accessibility can be found in a few human rights mechanisms that structure the responsibility to make adjustments of law and policy to allow for equal participation of persons with disabilities. Prior to the development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, there had been substantive international pressure asserted by disabled peoples organizations for the development and implementation of a human rights tool that would promote inclusion across all sectors of life. This global pressure resulted in the development and ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that has now been adopted in over a 120 countries.

Canada ratified the UN CRPD in 2010, and having done so, added what can be considered an interpretive tool[i] to its already existing human rights framework. Simply put, the UN CRPD can provide a positive approach to the promotion of people with disabilities in areas where systemic barriers have traditionally excluded them. As an example, Canada could potentially use this disability and human rights lens to evolve how all citizens are viewed with regards to Equal Recognition Before the Law (Art 12)[ii], or Access to Justice (Art 13)[iii], and among others, how people with disabilities are excluded from Work and Employment (Art 27)[iv].

The principles that form the convention’s human rights framework can guide the redevelopment or creation of either existing or new policy to be inclusive of people with disabilities. Among others, the principles include such themes as respect for dignity, non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, respect for difference, equality of opportunity, and accessibility [v].

In terms of Canada’s existing framework, which is comprised of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Sec 15), Provincial and Territorial Human Rights Codes and the current Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), people with disabilities who live in Ontario have a multi-tiered mechanism already in place. The principles that are found in the UN CRPD are consistent with those found in the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC)[vi] that has primacy over the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

AODA does not override any section of the OHRC[vii] but the code and the act work together to create a disability specific mechanism that takes to tasks systemic barriers that traditionally excluded people with disabilities from services and employment. It could be said that it is because of the framework of human rights principles that employers and consultants alike are able to assess whether public and private policy regarding employment is either a barrier or whether it is inclusive of people with disabilities. To view how people are treated through a human rights lens means using the above mentioned principles, as benchmarks to evaluate the inclusive nature of, say, employment and recruitment systems or customer service.

In Ontario we are fortunate to have the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that does this work for us. Wherever the AODA is used to create an inclusive environment, it can be seen as using a human rights lens to decipher whether structures need adjusting. Although the AODA is not perfect, when looking at human rights in Canada, it is a myth that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act somehow give more rights to people with disabilities that only they will be able to enjoy.

They do, however, level the field so that people with disabilities can be seen through societies eyes as proactive and productive members that are bearers of rights instead of subjects of charity.


[i]Joëlle Pastora Sala. 2014. ccdonline. (ONLINE) Available at: http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/poverty-citizenship/legal-protections/crpd-in-canadian-litigation#reference74 [Accessed 07 December 14]

[ii]UN-Enable. 2014. un.org. (ONLINE) Available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=272 [Accessed 01 December 14]

[iii] UN-Enable. 2014. un.org. (ONLINE) Available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=273 [Accessed 02 December 14]

[iv] UN-Enable. 2014. un.org. (ONLINE) Available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=273 [Accessed 02 December 14]

[v]UN-Enable. 2014. un.org. (ONLINE) Available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=16&pid=156 [Accessed 03 December 14]

[vi]Ontario Human Rights Code. 2014. ohrc.on.ca. (ONLINE) Available at : http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-preventing-discrimination-based-mental-health-disabilities-and-addictions/6-legal-framework.  [Accessed 03 December 14]

[vii] Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. 2014. e-laws.gov.on.ca. (ONLINE) Available at: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/regs/english/2011/elaws_src_regs_r11191 e.htm#BK1 [Accessed 01 December 14]

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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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