In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Recognition that people with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis is at the core of Article 12 of the CRPD.  Article 12 clarifies that this requires that people have access to the supports they may need to communicate and/or make decisions. CDAC recognizes that each jurisdiction must act in accordance with governing laws, rules and policies, and that people with disabilities have a right to equality in Canadian law.

In this section we provide recommendations for different sectors on what they can do to ensure that people who have disabilities that affect their communication have the supports they need to reveal and exercise capacity to make and communicate choices and decisions that are important to them. All recommendations are described in more detail in our five online sessions. 

Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that people have the communication supports they need because:

There are over half-a million Canadians who have disabilities that affect their speech, language, and communication, that are not caused by significant hearing loss.

Disabilities that affect communication include cerebral palsy, cognitive, intellectual or developmental disability, learning disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, auditory processing disorders, voice disorders, stuttering, multiple sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aphasia, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, acquired or traumatic brain injury, head and neck cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and other disabilities.

Communication disabilities can affect one or more areas of how a person understands, problem solves, expresses opinions, preferences and makes/or communicates decisions.

Communication disabilities can be hidden or obvious, mild or severe.

People who have disabilities that affect their communication often report that they can experience significant consequences and loss of autonomy resulting in negative impacts on their rights and liberties because professionals can:

  • Equate their inability to speak with an incapacity to make decisions
  • Assume that they require assistance to make a decision
  • Defer to other people to make decisions that affect them
  • Assume they have a cognitive disability or a hearing loss
  • Do not acknowledge the decisions that they do make
  • Make judgements about their capacity without providing them with the supports they need for effective two-way communication
  • Lack policies and procedures to identify and provide the communication supports they need to make informed decisions.

Lack of appropriate communication supports can result in:

  • Erroneous judgements that over or under estimate an individual’s capacity
  • Violation of human rights and liberties
  • Loss of autonomy and control in all aspects of one’s life
  • Reduced access to and quality of healthcare, legal, police, justice, social, housing and financial services and employment opportunities.
  • Increased isolation, poverty and risk of mental health issues.

Learn about more about communication disabilities, barriers and consequences