On April 17, 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms became law, guaranteeing legal equality in Section 15(1) “without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” Disability was omitted in the first draft of the Charter released on October 1980, shocking disability rights activists.

Politicians feared that including disability in the Charter would force accessibility standards in to the government which would be costly. There was widespread ignorance among politicians about the experiences of people with disabilities and they feared that disability was too hard to define.

Taking Action
Disability rights activists lobbied to change the government’s misconceptions. They started calling, writing and meeting with members of Parliament. They organized and participated in committees about inclusion of people with disabilities but knew that wasn’t enough. Disability rights groups such as what we now know as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities staged mass protests on Parliament Hill.

On January 28, 1981, the government announced it would change the charter to include disability.