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Built environments and accessibility of persons with disabilities 2014-2015

The Seminar Series

The CHRLP is pleased to present its 2014-2015 seminar series on disability and human rights law. This series continues to engage in one of the most compelling human rights issues of our day, consistent with the Faculty of Law’s tradition of analysis, scholarship and promotion of human rights and social justice.


The concept of “built environment” refers to all environments constructed by humans. Built environments are not only physical constructs but also social, legal and economic constructs such as families, schools and workplaces. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes the “importance of accessibility to the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, to health and education and to information and communication, in enabling persons with disabilities to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It is important to grasp the wide nature of the concept of environment in exploring accessibility for people with various types of disabilities. Physically accessible buildings, legally accessible institutions such as families, parenthood, and professions, and socially inclusive environments such as schools, work and public spaces are all important to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This seminar series will provide insights into the reality of different environments, whether or not people with disabilities are fully able to benefit from them, and the barriers that may be preventing full and equal access.

We will be examining four topics throughout the year through the lens of built environments: education, public spaces, workplaces, and family. In particular we will ask to what extent each of these built environments is accessible, if people with disabilities are involved in the decision-making process of building these environments, and how these environments can be restructured to become more accessible and inclusive.

Format and details

The series follows the format of a teaching seminar and required resources will be circulated ahead of time.

Space is limited, so kindly RSVP to chrlp [dot] law [at] mcgill [dot] ca to secure your spot. A light lunch will be provided.

Support for this seminar series is generously provided by the Rathlyn Foundation, and the Aisenstadt Community Justice Initiatives.

The four seminars in this cycle are (click to jump down to each):

Inclusive Education: Implementing the CRPD in Canada and the Global South

September 22, 2014 - 13:00 – 14:30 - New Chancellor Day Hall, Room 202


Frédéric Mégret (Associate Professor of Law at McGill, Canada Research Chair in the Law of Human Rights and Legal Pluralism)

Resource Persons

Charles Ngwena (O’Brien Fellow in Residence), Futsum Abbay (Research Associate, CHRLP), Roberta Thomson (Accessible and Inclusive Education Course Instructor, UDL Faculty Toolkit Project Coordinator).

Our first seminar investigates the institution of education as a built environment. The right to an education is enshrined in article 24 of the CRPD. The effective implementation of the Convention, however, requires translation to a domestic context. This seminar will explore whether and how the CRPD may be implemented in a meaningful way for rights-holders. Investigating the global and the local, it will bring together South African and Canadian perspectives on inclusive education to explore both challenges and best practices, as well as revealing the drawbacks of rhetorical posturing.

Update: Download a summary of the seminar [.pdf]


  1. “Human Rights to inclusive education: Exploring a Double Discourse of Inclusive Education Using South Africa as a Case Study” by Charles G. Ngwena.
    LINK: http://bit.ly/1BQNO6N [.pdf]
  2. “The Experience of Parents as Their Children with Developmental Disabilities Transition from Early Intervention to Kindergarten” by Michelle Villeneuve, Céline Chatenoud et al.
    LINK: http://bit.ly/1mj4lfR [.pdf]
  3. Educational Implications of recent Supreme Court ruling
  4. English School Board of Montreal’s policy on Special Education:
    LINK: http://bit.ly/1uLrZ66 [.pdf]
  5. Inclusion, belonging and the disability revolution: Jennie Fenton, TEDxBellingen  
    LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAM9nh8WC-8
  6. Learning Disabilities and Academia: The Untold Story by Anna CohenMiller
    LINK: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university-venus/learning-disabilities-and-academia-untold-story
  7. Reaching Students With Chronic Illness by Elizabeth Redden
    LINK : https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/11/08/chronic

Additional resources

  1. Substantive equality for disabled learners in state provision of basic education: A commentary on Western Cape Forum for intellectual disability v government of Republic of South Africa by Charles Ngwena and Loot Pretorius
    LINK: http://bit.ly/1r4BRFR [.pdf]
  2. “High School Students with Intellectual Disabilities in the School and Workplace: Multiple Perspectives on Inclusion” by Sheila M. Bennett and Tiffany L. Gallagher
    LINK: http://bit.ly/1mgZCMc [.pdf]
  3. “Lessons for Inclusion: Classroom experiences of students with mild and moderate hearing loss” by CJ Dalton
    LINK: http://bit.ly/1DlTbwh  [.pdf]
  4. “Children with disabilities and the right to education: a call for action” by Bernard Bekink and Mildred Bekink
    LINK: http://bit.ly/1pkIbF7 [.pdf]
  5. “Making good on the promise of international law: the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and inclusive education in China and India” by Vanessa Torres Hernandez
    LINK:  http://bit.ly/1uKYws2 [.pdf]
  6. "Making Excellence Inclusive” in Education and Beyond by Alma Clayton-Pedersen & Sonja Clayton-Pedersen
    LINK: http://bit.ly/1tpFtUQ  [.pdf]
  7. “Inclusive education and conflict resolution: Building a model to implement article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities in the Asia Pacific” by Carole J. Petersen
    LINK: http://bit.ly/Xpzdj1  [.pdf]
  8. “Educator rights and duties in special education - a comparative study between the United States and South Africa” by Marius H Smit, Charles JRusso and Petra Engelbrecht
    LINK: http://bit.ly/ZrYZVw [.pdf]

Universal Design and Accessible Public Spaces

October 20, 2014 - 13:00 – 14:30 - New Chancellor Day Hall, Room 202

Resource Persons

John Radford (Professor, York University, Critical Disability Studies), Mélanie Benard (Disability Rights Activist), Béatrice Vizkelety (Visiting Fellow, McGill Faculty of Law)

Barrier-free environment is an evolving concept that benefits everyone, not only people with recognized disabilities. Making buildings and other physical spaces accessible to people with disabilities is about more than just building ramps. From bathrooms to crowded classrooms, from stop announcements on the bus to elevators in buildings, how do Canada, and Montreal in particular, “stack up on the ground”? The session will engage with the concept of universal design and explore the extent to which the physical environment is accessible for people with disabilities.

Update: Summary of the event on Universal Design and Accessible Public Spaces

Update: Béatrice Vizkelety's presentation references


  1. Dr. Freeman on Swimming Pool Accessibility for People with Disabilities
  2. The right for disabled children to access the natural environment: a law and policy critique by Nadia Von Benzon, Karen Makuch and Zen Makuch
    http://bit.ly/1yL8JtK [.pdf]
  3. Ed Roberts Campus-Building Community
  4. Report on International Best practices by Canadian Human Rights Commission
    http://bit.ly/ZskHbx [.pdf]
  5. Towards a post-asylum society: a brief history of developmental disability policy in Ontario by John P. Radford
    http://bit.ly/1uyLL54 [.doc]
  6. A Disability Rights Analysis of Canada's Record Regarding the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities: A Submission by CCD to the Human Rights Council in Relation to the 2009 Periodic Review of Canada
  7. Disabled Persons and Canadian Law Schools: The Right to the Equal Benefit of the Law School by M. David Lepofsky
    http://bit.ly/1xmYF5D [.pdf]

Additional resources

  1. Video: Talk By: England’s Disability Rights Commission
    Part 1: youtube.com/watch?v=FZfOVNwjFU0
    Part 2: youtube.com/watch?v=A9a2ZqLhuAw
  2. Manifesto: Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ)
  3. Video: CBC report on RAPLIQ's protest for an accessible metro in Montreal
  4. Media coverage: Human rights complaints filed against the STM re: inaccessibility of the metro (In French)
  5. Website: Protest regarding the inaccessibility of the Metro
  6. Assignment for the Critical Engagement with Human Rights Seminar, with Amanda Ghahremani, Peter Grbac, Inaki Navarrete, Prophete Arbouet and Lucia Westin
    Accessing Ability Podcast [.MP3] (20.9 MB)

Work and Economic Security

January 26, 2015 - 13:00 – 14:30 - New Chancellor Day Hall, Room 202

Barriers faced by people with disabilities seeking to enter the job market are numerous: physically inaccessible workplaces, employers' prejudices, lack of experience or education due to a vicious cycle of inaccessible educational institutions and workplaces, etc. These barriers affect economic security: the poverty rate of people with disabilities in Canada is 14.4%, compared to a rate of 9.7% for people without disabilities. Article 27 of the CRPD acknowledges the “the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.” Recognizing that engagement in meaningful work is a basic human need, how can employment and other non-remunerated occupations enhance the quality of life of persons with disabilities? Furthermore, how can the economic security of people with disabilities be secured? The session will draw on the insights of individuals and organizations with first-hand experience in contributing to the economic security of persons with disabilities. Best practices will be discussed. [.docx]

Update:  Summary of the event on Work and Economic Security [.docx]


Colleen Sheppard (Professor of Law at McGill, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism)

Resource Persons

Anne-Marie LaFlamme (Professor of Law at Laval University), Carole Foisy (Chef d'équipe au Comité d’adaptation de la main-d’œuvre [CAMO])


  1. “Employment equity for the disabled in Canada” by Carl Raskin
  2. “Attitudes, behaviour and the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act” by Peter Blanck and Mollie Marti
  3. “Naming, blaming and claiming ablism: the lived experiences of lawyers and advocates with disabilities” by Paul Harpur
  4. “The Impact of Disability on Earnings and Labour Force Participation in Canada: Evidence from the 2001 PALS and from Canadian Case Law” by Cara L. Brown and J.C. Herbert Emery
  5. “Labour market participation of the disabled: Policies and practices in Europe” by Irmgard Borghouts-Van de Pas
  6. “Identity and disability in the workplace” by Susanne Bruyare, William Erickson and Joshua Ferrentino
  7. “Corporate Culture and Employment of People With Disabilities: Role of Social Workers and Service Provider Organization” by Deepti Samanta; Michal Soffera; Brigida Hernandez et al.
  8. “Employment status for people with disabilities in Greece” by George Magoulios and Anna Trichopoulou
  9. Movie: Talk by Disability Rights Commission
    Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZfOVNwjFU0
    Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9a2ZqLhuAw

Family and Sexuality

March 16, 2015 - 13:00 – 14:30 New Chancellor Day Hall, Room 202

Article 23 of the CRPD requires state signatories to “take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships, on an equal basis with others”. Using the Convention as a backdrop, this seminar will examine issues surrounding disability and family matters. In particular, it will examine how legal and social constructs of parenthood, sexuality and sexual health have a dangerous potential to exclude people with disabilities. We will discuss parenting and adoption for disabled parents and children with disabilities, as well as the issue of forced sterilization.

CLE accreditation pending.

Update: Download a summary of the seminar [.doc]. A recording of the seminar is available upon request to chrlp [dot] law [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

Moderator: Izabella Karapetyan (BCL/LLB candidate, McGill Faculty of Law)

Resource Persons: Natalia Acevedo Guerrero  (LLM candidate, McGill Faculty of Law); Bonnie Brayton (National Executive Director, Disabled Women' Network [DAWN-RAFH Canada]) and Angela Campbell (Professor, McGill Faculty of Law).


  1. “Sterilization of women and girls with disabilities.” Briefing paper by Human Rights Watch
  2. “Against her will.” Forced and coerced sterilization of women worldwide by Open Society Foundations
  3. “Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization.” World Health Organization
  4. “Intellectual disability and sexuality: Attitudes of disability support staff and leisure industry employees” by Linda Gilmorea and Brooke Chambersa
  5. “Fatherhood and children with complex healthcare needs: qualitative study of fathering, caring and parenting” by Lucie Hobson and Jane Noyes
  6. “Disability and adoption: how unexamined attitudes discriminate against disabled people as parents” by Michele Wates
  7. “Caring for a family member with intellectual disability and epilepsy: Practical, social and emotional perspectives” by Rose Thompson , Mike Kerr, Mike Glynn  and Christine Linehan