We recently released a policy proposal for improving access to disability supports needed by individuals, as well as measures needed by families who provide informal support and measures to strengthen the capacity of human services to respond to the needs of individuals and families. Called “Striking a New Balance,” it points to the need for a joint investment strategy by the federal and provincial/territorial governments and outlines operating principles as well as specific program areas that warrant attention. The Institute will soon be releasing a major research study on issues of disability supports.
Significant changes have taken place since the mid-1990s in Canada’s labour-market “system” and in the social-support systems that have a bearing on the employment of people with disabilities. Presently, it is not clear how these changes are playing out in terms of the employment of people with disabilities, although it is known that the level of employment remains far below that of people without disabilities.
The Roeher Institute has undertaken a comprehensive research project on these systems, through focus groups and surveys with individuals with disabilities, providers of employment services and employers. It will provide high-level information and analysis concerning issues to be addressed, pointing to policy and program options to advance the employment of people with disabilities.
Another project is looking specifically at job accommodation issues and solutions for people with intellectual disabilities as well as issues of accommodation in government services. The Institute assisted the National Institute of Disability Management and Research to identify the numbers of people working in the field of disability management. We also provided background research on the labour market system in Canada for a large study being undertaken by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and have assisted HRDC in providing comments on drafts of the OECD’s work.
In the area of education and learning, we have four projects on the go. One is looking at research needs and other issues in inclusive education in Canada. Coordinated by Dr. Gary Bunch at York University, the research has involved researchers, educators, administrators, people with disabilities, families and government officials in five communities across the country.
The second is our Summer Institutes in Inclusive Education, Citizenship, Disability and Community Inclusion this summer at the University of Prince Edward Island (July 15 to 19). Some of the resource people include Dr. Vianne Timmons (Vice President, Academic Support, at UPEI), Dr. Leonard Goguen (Education Chair, University of Moncton) and Catherine Frazee (Disability Activist, Former Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, and Research Associate of The Roeher Institute).
The third is our technical support extended to the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) for its annual conference in the fall on inclusive education.
The fourth project is our work with our partner organization in Mumbai, India. The project is bringing young children with disabilities into that country’s early childhood programs for poor children, is de-constructing two special education schools, and is moving children and youth with disabilities into regular schools in the community while ensuring that educators have the information and skills they need for inclusive practice.
We are completing a research project on genetic counselling. The research draws attention to the typically unfavourable conceptions of disability that prevail in the field of genetics and the very serious implications of genetic counselling for the value, status and place of people with disabilities in society.
Another project is strengthening the capacity of disability organizations to deal with disadvantages and differences arising from ethno-cultural diversity, and strengthening the capacity of ethno-cultural, employment and immigrant services organizations to more effectively address disability issues. We are also developing an integrated inclusion lens that will facilitate analysis of policy and programs, taking into account not only issues of disability, but also gender, age, social class, ethnic diversity, sexual orientation and other differences.
Our participatory action research involves strengthening linkages between disability organizations and the community more broadly, with a focus on furthering the capacity of the community to be more inclusive and supportive. People First and Associations for Community Living are playing key roles in the project.
We are developing simple analytic tools for families of young children with disabilities to assess the inclusiveness of early childhood development (ECD) programs. A literature review has been completed on strategies for effective mutual support among families providing support to children and adults with disabilities. An analysis is also being undertaken of how issues of inclusion and disability are reflected at the program and policy level in ECD programs across the country.
As well, the Institute provided research on the costs of learning disability for the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, and is pursuing further research on real but difficult-to-itemize and therefore largely hidden costs of disability.
Stay tuned for more!
(Cam Crawford is the president of The Roeher Institute. For more information, call (416) 661-9611, or e-mail: email@example.com.)