Erosion of Social Support for Disabled People in Ontario: An Appraisal of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Using a Human Rights Framework
The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is a social assistance program offering income and employment supports for disabled people in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. Since its inception, the ODSP has been critiqued by policy analysts, service providers, and its recipients as flawed, principally in terms of the amount and the range of supports provided. The purpose of this paper is to assess whether the ODSP meets its stated objectives from the perspective of its recipients - an important issue for engendering substantive equality for disabled individuals. The design was a supplementary secondary analysis of data collected from seven focus groups (n=46) related to poverty and social inclusion. The overall theme, the ODSP falls short, was communicated through two types of assessments of inadequacies. The first, labelled “yes, but,” acknowledged the program’s positive intent despite its insufficiencies in services and supports. The second, labelled “no, and,” decisively assessed the ODSP as inadequate with supporting rationale. In exploring extant human rights jurisprudence, we conclude that substantive protection against systemic discrimination for disabled people will not be guaranteed unless human rights legislation truly has paramountcy over all other laws. Human rights tribunals have a mandate, reinforced in international human rights law, to provide remedial remedies to systemic discrimination. Our findings speak directly to the need for human rights tribunals and commissions to mitigate the erosion of rights and opportunities for disabled people.