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4 Pillars of Disability Rights

January 08, 2015

Disability-ReformOn the heels of the movements for civil rights and women’s rights was the disability rights movement.

In the 1960s, movements across North American encouraged equal opportunities for all people — including those with disabilities. Up till this point, the biggest hurdles for the disability community of Canada were accessibility in building and on public transit. Other hot-topic issues were employment, education, and housing assistance in addition to implementing measures that would protect individuals from abuse and neglect. Therefore, legislation needed to be enacted to secure these basic rights for disabled individuals.


Since 1977, when Canada passed the Canadian Human Rights Act, accessibility has been a top issue. Progress has been made in many ways; for instance, challenging points of accessibility were city streets, buildings, and restrooms. Today, there is a noticeable advancement in all of these areas; we see them everyday when we pass elevators, automatic doors, wider-than-normal hallways, lifts on public transit, wheelchair ramps, slanted curbs and more.

Even though there is still room for improvement, the progress is greatly appreciated by those with physical and developmental disabilities.


Another concern that is slower to advance than accessibility is employment opportunities for those who are disabled. To this day, a lot of attention is focused on advocating for acceptance in the workplace. With the advancements in accessibility as well as information technology, day-to-day work activities and specialized job tasks are able to be done well by any individual, even if he or she has a disability.

Employment is especially challenging for people with developmental disabilities, as advocacy has been slower to change social stigmas. The consequence of this is that public awareness and sensitivity is minimal while stereotypes remain high. Many times, the perception that those with developmental disabilities cannot contribute to society or business prohibits individuals from gaining employment.


This is why a lot of focus remains on instilling individuals with an attitude of determination and empowering them with the ability to live independently. Living an independent life is subjective when it comes to the wide array of disabilities and how they affect individuals. This means that assistance, too, comes in many shapes and sizes. Assistive living communities, personal care givers, and helpful organizations are a couple of services disabled individuals look to for the support they need to live an independent life. Such advocacy allows people with disabilities to engage with one another and society as a whole.


Another top priority of the disability rights movement was and is to secure safe for disabled individuals from abuse, neglect, and (in care-giving environments) violations of patients’ rights. To clarify, abuse and neglect regard seclusion, restraint, force, threats, harassment, failure to provide food, medicine and liquids, clothing, health care, and a clean and safe living environment. The terms also encompass any other action that threatens the psychological well-being of a disabled individual. In a health care role, violations of patients’ rights means failure to get the required consent before treatment is administered, disregard for doctor-patient confidentiality, or restriction of communication with any necessary parties.

These four pillars of the disability rights movement are still being advanced throughout the world today. The result of the pressure for government to pass laws beginning in the 1970’s revolutionized the way people with disabilities are treated. If discouragement sets in about current progress, just look to the progress made in such a short time.

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