Towards Crip Futures: Non-Profit Disability and Health Organizations in Ottawa, Canada

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Christine KELLY, University of Ottawa, Canada
The government of Ontario, Canada introduced legislation in 2005 that promised an accessible province for people with disabilities in 20 years. The 20-year target conveyed a concrete sense of commitment to disability inclusion, yet it was far enough in the future to avoid major disruptions of our social and economic systems. Despite this apparent progress, a quietly covered news story in February 2015 announced the government would scale back compliance activities related to this policy. The Ontario accessibility legislation presents the liberalized promise of inclusion as a visible marker of progress, yet this inclusion is perpetually positioned in future-tense. Or as Titchkosky comments in The Question of Access (University of Toronto Press, 2011), disability remains “not-yet” a priority even in policies that explicitly claim to accommodate disabled bodies. Instead, ‘now’ is characterized by austerity measures that target people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, for example, dramatic changes to the Social Development Partnerships Program that provides grants to support disability-related organizations. As such, inclusion becomes a distracting discourse that shifts attention away from other policy trends that dramatically undermine disabled people and their organizations. 

On this backdrop, I introduce a qualitative study exploring disability and health non-profit organizations in Ottawa, Canada. Through 25 in-depth interviews with Executive Directors and focus groups with diverse youth with disabilities, this study considers who comprises disability communities and how they are faring. Incorporating the perspectives of disabled youth and interrogating how the organizations engage youth offers future visions that disrupt our current policy and service responses to disability. The study reveals a complex picture of disability communities, the changing roles and tactics of disability movements as well as radical visions of crip futurity (Kafer 2014) that supplant the perpetual delay of disability politics in Canada and elsewhere.