What is a disability?

“Disability” is a term that groups different types of conditions that may impact your movements, senses, or approach to how you engage in daily life.

A disability can occur at any time in your life. You could have been born with a disability, it may have been caused by an accident, or developed over time as you age.

There are disabilities that you can see and others that are less obvious or even “invisible”. There are over 4 million children and adults with disabilities in Canada but there is not a single, official definition of disability because it impacts different people in different ways.

Some people have more than one disability, sometimes called a "dual diagnosis”. This can include more than one disability in the following areas:

Your Rights

It is against the law for anyone to discriminate against you because of your disability. Your right to ask for accommodations that will allow you to participate fully in school, healthcare, employment, housing and any other services in your daily life is protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code. All businesses and services, both public and private, in Ontario are required to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and meet those minimum requirements.

If you believe that someone has discriminated against you, you can contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and file a complaint.

What is ableism?

According to the Ontario Human Rights Council (OHRC), ableism can be defined as a belief system that “sees persons with disabilities as being less worthy of respect and consideration”. An ableist mindset discriminates against people that have one or more disabilities and are considered not “normal”. This can limit the opportunities of persons with disabilities and reduce their inclusion in the life of their communities”.

You can work to be inclusive by using person-first language and remembering to always put the person before the disability (e.g. person with a disability) Sometimes we use words and terms that cause harm even if we don’t realize it. There are words that are not acceptable anymore, and some are very offensive. Some groups prefer identity-first language such as the Autistic community and the Deaf community. It is important to ask people how they would like to be referred to.

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Last updated: March 8, 2023 4001292