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June 15, 2016

Keeping Track

One of the big problems with getting a meaningful handle on disabilities is how we count things. The Statistics Canada definition of disability includes anyone who reported being “sometimes”, “often” or “always” limited in their daily activities due to a long-term condition or health problem, as well as anyone who reported being “rarely” limited if they were also unable to do certain tasks or could only do them with a lot of difficulty.

That's a pretty broad brush that surely reflects  the vast numbers of accessible parking hangtags.  In Nova Scotia, the StatsCan number for the proportion of people with disabilities is often said to be 20%.

A more precise definition is needed.  Eligibility for the Disability Tax Credit or the Disability Support Deductions or participation in the Registered Disability Savings Plan would be a better start - those nice folks at Canada Revenue require evidence!

I don't really know what the Charter of Rights drafters had in mind, but I don't think eyeglasses or a backache are an indication of a disability even though some accommodations might help.  Large-type websites or a ramp are useful in those circumstances, but I don't think it means you are disabled.

Which brings me to Dalhousie Law School.  I have it on good authority that in 2015 there was one person with mobility difficulties (not a wheelchair user) and one person with limited vision enrolled. Of 510.  That four tenths of one percent is pretty low, even if you doubt that 20% of Nova Scotians are disabled.

Nevertheless, people with disabilities are a named class in the Charter, and it's illegal under Nova Scotia Human Rights Legislation to discriminate against them.  You'd think Dal Law would be at pains to account for the low number of people with disabilities.  Which is why I emailed the Maritime Provinces Higher Education the other day:

Dear Ms. McKenna-Farrell,

On behalf of the James McGregor Stewart Society, which advocates for people with disabilities, I'd like to request any data you have on the enrollment of people with disabilities. I don't know what level of detail you might have, but ideally I'd like to know:
  • By Institution
  • By Program
  • Number of students with:
    • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders
    • Blindness or Low Vision
    • Brain Injuries
    • Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing
    • Learning Disabilities
    • Medical Disabilities
    • Physical Disabilities
    • Psychiatric Disabilities
    • Speech and Language Disabilities

Whatever you have would be greatly appreciated.  For comparison, could you please include data by minority status?

Many thanks

I thought it likely I'd be told it was none of my business.  I didn't expect this reply:

Good morning,

Your request was forwarded to me by my colleague Shannon McKenna-Farrell.
Unfortunately, we do not have any data on students with disabilities in the Maritime Provinces.

Lisa O'Connell

A paranoid person might think the government was hiding something.  That they don't want to know the answer.  Well, I do, and I think this is a cover-up for discrimination.  Here's what they know in BC:

Keeping track at the University of Victoria
Can't our higher education bean counters do something useful?

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