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March 28, 2017

Beyond a Social Model of Disability


This being 2017, things change quickly. I believe we're in the midst of a quiet revolution on the subject of disability, where the sovereignty is individual and the opponent is inertia.

People like Gerry Post, Kevin Murphy and Claredon Robicheau are simply tired of waiting and have quite successfully taken things in hand. The strategy is upended - bottom-up engagements winning over cumbersome and ineffective imposed solutions.

I call this the Activist Model of Disability, and the watchwords are independence and self-reliance, the tools are political and the objective is the civil rights we have been promised.

Paul Vienneau is an exemplar - self sufficient, impatient, confident, generous, courageous. Who we want to be, not who we don't want to be. Still an asshole though.

The genie is out of the bottle. Success in the form of Accessible Constituency Offices (who would believe government didn't observe basic rules of democracy?), a vibrant rural transportation program, and a wide range of achievements in HRM have proven that accessibility is not just theoretically possible, but can be a practical reality.

Bill 59 is the obvious vehicle for such a transformation. Standards are rights made manifest and they hold us all to account. If we can let imagination run ahead for a minute, Nova Scotia can become the leader in Canada, producing better results than Ontario and Manitoba and being the model for federal legislation.

The Council of Europe's new strategy - Ability Rather Than Disability - echoes my own impression of a renewed focus on equality. We need to remind people that we're the same as they are.

Inequality is an insidious disease. Discrimination is the way it's spread. Homelessness is a symptom. Poor education is a symptom. Poverty is a symptom.

People with disabilities experience these and many other social ailments and they have learned that the only effective emancipation lies through the autonomy that has always eluded them.

The Bill 59 Community Alliance Principles is a seminal document in this quiet revolution; it is the expressed opinion of the a diverse group of people with disabilities and their supporters. It is clear, succinct and seems to be accepted by government as a path ahead. 35 groups endorsed the Principles. It is a script written by Activists.

The Nova Scotia government is looking to them for constructive help. They have a chance to influence the details of a bill that will have practical effect. They will not waste this unprecedented invitation.

Bill 59 won't cure poverty, but it will get people on the bus to real jobs if everybody sticks to the script.

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