There is a growing interest among Canadian federal and provincial governments to develop proactive accessibility standards in an effort to remove barriers to social inclusion for persons with disabilities. This noteworthy trend fits within a developing policy practice of using public consultations to develop and review legislation .
This research study examines the ways in which persons with disabilities and organizations dedicated to disability issues (ODDIs) participate in the development of disability-related laws and regulations. One aspect of the study is concerned with the voice of persons with disabilities in the lawmaking process. It seeks to gain insights about ensuring effective participation by persons with disabilities in lawmaking processes. The study relies, in part, on interviews with persons with disabilities and ODDIs who have participated in government consultations. We are interested primarily, although not exclusively, in two disability issues-accessible transportation and housing. This part of the study is comparative in nature, focusing on examples in both Canada and the United States.
This research has been prompted by Ontario’s legal experiment with combating disability discrimination proactively. Through consultation processes leading to binding regulations, Ontario has enacted and continues to develop, mandatory standards of accessibility under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). A second aspect of the research project is therefore a case study that aims to assess the effectiveness of the AODA’s consultation processes. It seeks to deepen understandings of the concerns addressed by the standard-setting and review processes of the AODA and its resulting regulation, and to provide perspectives on the advantages and limitations of consultative processes in engaging citizens with disabilities in the law and policy-making process in a meaningful way. This will be helpful to governments in other Canadian jurisdictions and elsewhere in the world as they develop Accessibility Acts.
In an era where the development of proactive accessibility standards is becoming more widespread, this study aims to examine, explain and reflect on the complexities of the processes used. This study will benefit the public, community leaders in the disability community, scholars of law and public administration, and government public policy makers in the creation of future regulatory regimes premised on the theory of deliberative democracy.
Funding for this research has been generously provided by the Fulbright Foundation and by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.