Monday, May 30, 2016 | by The Brock News
Editor’s Note: Access Awareness Week is a yearly celebration to highlight the importance of accessibility and the many ways that it impacts our lives. Each day of this week we will feature an article looking at accessibility in its many forms, follow the link at the end of this article to read them.
It’s Access Awareness Week in Ontario and Brock University continues to keep pace with new concepts that surround inclusion, pedagogy, employment and community.
A shift is occurring on campus where a greater understanding of accessibility and its role in human rights is being recognized. Everyone on campus is learning the importance of human rights as they apply to accessibility and ultimately equality, said Brock’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Co-ordinator Chris Lytle.
Society’s understanding of the principles that guide accessibility have been a long time coming. Prior to the development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities there was international pressure asserted by disabled people’s 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 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 articles such as Equal Recognition Before the Law (Art 12), or Access to Justice (Art 13), and among others, how people with disabilities are excluded from Work and Employment (Art 27).
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.
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) that has primacy over the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
The AODA does not override any section of the OHRC 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.
This article was written by Chris Lytle and Alana Sharpe