Serious Problems Experienced by Diverse People with Disabilities: Western Canada


Historically in Canada, people with disabilities were subjected to mass institutionalization and forced sterilization, and were denied access to education. The segregation and devaluation that legitimized such discriminatory practices resulted in the development of socio-economic structures and arrangements that exclude people with disabilities. In addition, people with disabilities also belong to other marginalized groups with their own histories of structural oppression. Although the disability rights movement has achieved many victories over the last 50 and more years, the findings from this study have demonstrated that people with disabilities continue to experience significant serious problems as they attempt to access the things we all need to live a quality life. Participants in this study feel devalued in our society as they try to navigate inaccessible services where they lack credibility and are subjected to prejudicial treatment. The results highlight that the segregation from mainstream society that people with disabilities experience has resulted in systems and practices that do not respond to their needs and places them in conditions where they are vulnerable to exploitation and violence. Problems appear to be intensified for people with disabilities who are also Indigenous, female, racialized, or belong to a 2SLGBTQ+ community. Finally, this study has demonstrated that when people with disabilities attempt to resolve their problems by contacting law enforcement, pursue human rights or other complaints processes, or take legal action, they are met with a lack of disability awareness, denial of supports, and discriminatory treatment.

The people who participated in this research were clear about both the nature of the problems they experience and the types of challenges they contend with when they attempt to resolve these problems. This clarity directs us to key areas for policy and program reform:

The results of this research have stressed the urgency for bold public policy action that would effectively address income disparity and systemic poverty for people with disabilities and other acutely marginalized groups. It is critical that people with disabilities receive a reasonable income that will get them the individualized supports that they need to be safe, healthy, and to realize full and equal access to all avenues of Canadian life.