Disability Policy in Canada Report unveils challenges and calls for improved access

VANCOUVER, December 5, 2023 – The Disability Policy Research Program at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, in collaboration with researchers from McGill University released the “Disability Policy in Canada report” this month. This comprehensive report—commissioned, funded, and supported by Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN)—sheds light on the current landscape of federal disability policy in Canada. This is the first-ever Canadian report summarizing disability policy at the federal level that includes family experiences launched to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed on December 3. The report also provides additional context and policy connection to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

The Disability Policy Research Program, a multi-disciplinary group of researchers, has a mission to provide evidence-based information that shapes public policy and enhances the lives of individuals with disabilities. The report provides comprehensive information about disability-related policies, laws, plans of action, programs and services from a vast range of publicly available sources.

One significant aspect of the report is the inclusion of insights from a study which delves into the experiences of parents and caregivers of children, youth, and young adults with disabilities. This study provides valuable firsthand accounts of the challenges faced by families when applying for and accessing federal programs.

While federal disability policy in Canada aims to support people with disabilities and their families, the report underscores the existence of multiple barriers preventing many from accessing and receiving the support they need. The report meticulously highlights these barriers, emphasizing the importance of addressing them to ensure a more inclusive and supportive environment for children, youth, young adults and families.

“Improving access to federal disability support is necessary to enable persons with disability to thrive and a human rights commitment we have made,” says Dr. Jennifer Zwicker, Deputy Scientific Officer for KBHN. “Our goal with this report is to outline the challenges faced by people with disabilities and their families, while also advocating for change. We believe that increased awareness, education, and support can help us break down barriers and create a more inclusive society.” As a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Disability Policy for Children and Youth, Dr. Zwicker also serves as Director of Social Policy and Health at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

Key conclusions of the report call for a concerted effort to enhance awareness of existing federal disability policies, educational initiatives to empower individuals and families, and increased support mechanisms to facilitate smoother access to essential programs and services.

“Parents of young people with disabilities are woefully underrepresented in policy decisions impacting their own livelihood and wellbeing,” says Nicola Lewis, CEO of Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN). “By including first-person perspectives from families for the first time, this federal report represents a long-overdue milestone at the intersection of policy and caregiver advocacy in Canada,” Lewis added.

The team behind the Disability Policy in Canada Federal Report believes policymakers, advocacy groups, and the public must be aware of the gap between supports and services and people’s ability to access and utilize them. The report ultimately demonstrates the imperative of ongoing conversations between families and policymakers, while aiming to build political will for a more accessible and supportive environment for all Canadians. Read the full report here.

About Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN)
KBHN is a national network that develops and harnesses scientific advances in technologies, interventions and supports with the goal of helping children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families live the best lives. The science of children’s brain health is making advancements, and KBHN is bridging gaps between research and practice by implementing solutions that directly address the needs of children and families. In delivering on its mission, KBHN is advancing federal responsibilities and priorities aimed at building a healthier future for all kids. More information is available at: www.kidsbrainhealth.ca/

For media queries, please contact:
Prachi Jatania, Communications Manager
Kids Brain Health Network
Email: communications@kidsbrainhealth.ca