Critical Analysis of the
research paper submitted to
of Political Economy
In 1998 the Government of Ontario proclaimed new legislation, the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, recognizing that disabled persons have unique needs that were unable to be met through generalized social assistance programs. This paper critically analyzes the ability of the Ontario Disability Support Program to protect the social citizenship rights of disabled persons aged 18 to 34 and argues that certain legislative factors prevent these individuals for actively participating in our society. After a critique of the work of T.H. Marshall and contemporary citizenship theorists, I propose that a new definition of social citizenship should be developed that recognizes that all citizens interact with society on varying levels and that socially sanctioned opportunities should be protected under this new definition so that all Ontarians are guaranteed the opportunity to be active social citizens.
The purpose of this
paper is to critically analyze the ability of the Ontario Disability Support
Program (ODSP) Act to support and protect the social citizenship rights
of persons with disabilities aged 18 - 34 (1)
who receive income support through ODSP and to argue that a new definition
of social citizenship must be developed. The basis of this paper grew
out of a practical problem, as research on persons with a disability,
social citizenship rights and a their right to an income is minimal. Furthermore,
our present theoretical understanding of social citizenship does not theorize
the daily life of persons with a disability in our society. Therefore,
to bridge the expansive gap between theory and practice this paper will
argue the theoretical underpinnings of social citizenship must be reconceptualized
in conjunction with the attempt to solve a practical problem; that persons
with disabilities aged 18 - 34 who receive income support from ODSP experience
a decreased level in their social citizenship rights; a result which will
be demonstrated to be directly related to their receiving income support
A fuller examination
of ODSP will be presented in the second section of this paper, however
suffice for now, the Harris government recognized that persons with disabilities
had specific needs that were not capable of being fulfilled under the
General Welfare Assistance (GWA) program. ODSP was developed as both an
income and employment support program that was intended to offer improved
levels of support to persons with disabilities in Ontario by allowing
higher asset exemptions, by promoting and supporting the employment of
persons with disabilities and by increasing monthly income support levels.
Recognizing that persons with disabilities confront profound barriers
in our society, part of the purpose of ODSP was to eliminate the stigma
associated with receiving government income assistance and to officially
state that there is a difference between the deserving and undeserving
poor. Nevertheless, this stigma is not easily erased from the public's
I have chosen to
use five principal tools to structure this research and each selected
tool works as a building block of knowledge, designed to overlap and to
inform another. Subsequently, the interplay between theoretically based
and action research will be highlighted, as it will be demonstrated that
the relationship between these approaches to research should be fluid
as they both inform each other and have lessons to teach.
The first tool, a
review of theoretically based literature on disability and social citizenship
will act as the conceptual guideposts that will support the action research
of this paper and will assist in developing a better understanding of
what our idea of disability and social citizenship should entail. A discussion
of disability literature will outline the processes through which contemporary
disability theory has sought to challenge societal assumptions about disability.
Jerome Bickenbach's Physical Disability and Social Policy, the seminal
book on Canadian models of disability, provides the basis for the critique
of the three dominant models, however the work of other disability theorists
will also be discussed. Furthermore, this debate will also utilize the
work of Sandra Carpenter, the Independent Living Skills Manager from the
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT). Building upon this discussion
of disability theory, the work of T.H. Marshall on social citizenship
is examined in the context of current theoretical writings of political
economists who consider the concepts of citizenship and social citizenship.
Presented as a debate, the concepts of disability and social citizenship
will be challenged by current considerations of how these concepts should
be redefined to present an accurate picture of our society. This first
tool was chosen as the precursor to the action research findings and will
be used to frame a dialogue between theory and these empirical findings
to demonstrate that at both a conceptual and practical level, a redefinition
social citizenship is necessary to reflect the daily experiences of persons
A review of the 1998 legislative act of ODSP was the second tool used to guide this research. Consulting the official legislation of ODSP was essential to the development of this paper as it was used to frame the questions posed to the key informants and as evidentiary support for the issues that they raised. The legislation was also used to outline the intended purposes of the Act, to demonstrate the differences between ODSP and its predecessor, the Family Benefits Act (FBA) and as an illustration of the restrictions and limitations placed upon persons with disabilities who receive income support. The bulk of information pertaining to the legislative differences between ODSP and FBA will be presented in Tables 2, 3 and 4 thereby presenting a considerable amount of information in a concise manner.
The third tool was
the use of official and non-official statistical sources to support arguments
made about the number of persons with disabilities aged 18-34 presently
receiving income support. Statistics on income levels, poverty levels
and the employment rate of persons with disabilities in Ontario will be
drawn from Statistics Canada, the National Council of Welfare, Disability:
An Economic Portrait and through direct contact with the Ministry of Community
and Social Services. Statistics drawn from the Ontario Public Service
Employee Union's "Business Practice Review of ODSP Offices"
will also be used to support the observations made by the interview participants.
I have chosen to use this statistical information as a quantitative tool
to support the observations made by the interview participants and by
Michael Gravelle, Liberal MPP.
interviews conducted with key informants, including fourteen persons with
disabilities, a Liberal MPP, the Director of ODSP and disability advocates
make up the action research aspect of this paper. This paper provides
a forum for many different voices to be heard with a key goal to publicize
the thoughts and frustrations of those who use the system.
interviews with fourteen persons with disabilities who receive income
support from ODSP generated original data that will be used to demonstrate
the various ways in which ODSP affects the ability of these persons with
disabilities to be active social citizens. The decision to engage in semi-structured
interviews was made because personal information and questions about the
participant's feelings about themselves and our society were asked. This
was deemed the best approach for eliciting the individual thoughts of
the participants, as it was unlikely that the same responses could have
been achieved if a standardized questionnaire was used. Furthermore, this
allowed for greater flexibility in the scope and direction of the conversation.
The questions were grouped into five sections, Personal Information, Housing
Arrangements, ODSP, Income Level and Citizenship and although I had developed
a Guideline for Interview Questions (Appendix D) that I referred to in
each interview, obtaining responses was best accomplished by conversing
with each participant in a manner that allowed the participant to speak
freely about their understanding of ODSP and social citizenship rights.
Therefore, the questions were not necessarily asked in the same order
as presented in the Guideline, as occasionally a participant made a statement
that directly answered a question I had not yet asked and the interview
would change paths. At the close of the interview I gave the participant
the opportunity to reflect upon their responses and asked if there was
anything that they wished to add in conclusion.
By choosing to conduct
semi-structured interviews, trust between each participant and myself
had to be developed. This was established by first conversing with each
participant about the research project and by stating what I wanted to
achieve by completing this research. I also related my experiences with
ODSP to impress upon the participants that I had a personal stake in the
outcome of this research. It was also important that the participants
understood my usage of the concepts of disability and social citizenship
that framed this research, thus some discussion was needed prior to beginning
twelve of whom lived in the Greater Toronto Area, one in Eastern Ontario
and one in Southwestern Ontario were recruited by drawing upon personal
contacts, by contacting disability organizations and through the 'snowballing'
technique. The participants ranged in age from 23 to 34 and each was either
currently in receipt of, or had received ODSP income support since it
was introduced in 1998. All of the participants had a physical disability
and four cited having more than one disability. Unfortunately, I was unable
to contact any individuals who had a mental or developmental disability.
Six of the participants were male, eight female. Thirteen of the participants
were single, one was married, although his wife was not a Canadian citizen
and was unable to come to Canada. Ten of the participants lived alone
and four lived with their families. Five of the participants were employed,
three full-time, therefore they were no longer in receipt of ODSP income
support. One participant was employed in a summer position and freelanced
and was able to retain the income support at the time of the interview
and the other participant worked two part-time jobs and was able to retain
their income support. Nine of the participants volunteered, many at more
than one place. Five of the participants were attending post-secondary
institutions, four participants had undergraduate university degrees,
three had college diplomas, one completed high school and one had completed
up until grade ten.
Interviews were also
conducted with Michael Gravelle, the Liberal MPP critic for the Ministry
of Community and Social Services (MCSS), Debbie Moretta, the Director
of ODSP and CILT colleagues. I attempted to establish contact with a member
of the New Democratic Party (NDP), in an effort to have the three major
political parties of Ontario represented, however my requests were not
responded to. The interview with Michael Gravelle will add an official
political judgment of ODSP and will identify both the Liberal party's
official and Gravelle's personal response to ODSP legislation. This will
add political firepower to support the argument of this paper as Mr. Gravelle
identifies his constituents' response to ODSP as well as his party's commitment
to challenging the restrictive nature of this legislation. The interview
conducted with Debbie Moretta, Director of ODSP, helped to determine the
Harris government's official stance on ODSP. The questions directed towards
Ms. Moretta asked that she respond to statements made by the interview
participants that they feel like second-class citizens as a result of
receiving ODSP, recount how ODSP does support social citizenship rights
and indicate whether a cost of living increase to ODSP would occur. Lastly,
CILT colleagues were consulted to add the perspective of those who work
with persons with disabilities, advocating for changes in social, health
and economic policy that are relevant and meaningful. Combined with the
responses made by the interview participants, these consultations challenge
the official understanding of disability and the limitations upon social
citizenship that ODSP imposes by illustrating the actual daily barriers
that persons with disabilities confront on a daily basis.
The last tool used in this research will be drawn from my own participant observations gained from my position at the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, (CILT) a disabled consumer organization. As program coordinator for an Attendant Services database for Supportive Housing and Outreach Attendant Care (9) I communicate daily with persons with disabilities, their family members, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, social workers and community organizations. Including my work experiences will complement and enhance the responses made by the interview participants and will contribute additional evidence to the argument that ODSP recipients are greatly limited in their ability to participate in our society.
ODSP provides income support and employment supports to people over the
age of 18.
(9) Attendant services assist individuals with physical disabilities by providing physical assistance in completing activities of daily living. In effect, the attendants become the "arms and legs" of the PWD. Supportive Housing projects are apartments that are integrated into regular apartment buildings, and Attendant services are provided on a scheduled and on-call 24-hour basis. Outreach attendant services are offered in the individual's home on a scheduled basis. Attendant services are funded though the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Page created Dec. 12, 2002