The Canadian Disability Policy Alliance is a national collaboration of disability researchers, community disability organizations, and federal and provincial policy-makers, aimed at creating and mobilizing knowledge to enhance disability policy in Canada, and to promote equity and opportunity for disabled Canadians. The Alliance is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council for a period of 5 years (2009-14).
“Our vision for Canada is a place where people with disabilities enjoy full participation and citizenship, supported by a coherent framework of legislation, regulation and programs.”
To synthesize evidence and, where necessary, generate new knowledge regarding disability policy in Canada and its impact on the lives of people with disabilities.
To policy makers and other stakeholders to enhance accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Training and Development
To develop capacity in the areas of policy analysis, disability studies and collaborative research among students, staff, partners associated with the CDPA.
Researchers, consumers, policy makers, providers, educators, employers working together, across jurisdictions, across boundaries, across barriers.
Using collaborative, emancipatory research processes to produce context-relevant evidence through focused, interactive research cycles.
Creating Tools for Change
Knowledge translation used effectively to promote evidence-based policy.
At the heart of all the research and knowledge mobilization activities of the Alliance are three core assumptions that frame our approach to seeking enhanced disability policy in Canada:
- Many of the problems experienced by people with disabilities can be tracked back to the policy environment.
- We already know most of what is needed to support effective disability policy in Canada – in most instances, the research is available to provide evidence for good, sound disability policy. What is needed is context-specific, policy-relevant synthesis of the research.
- People with a variety of expertise and skills are needed to translate knowledge about disability issues into effective disability policy – disabled consumers, their advocates and support systems; disability researchers and trainees; policy experts and public servants. All three of these types of people work together in the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance.
The Alliance is governed by an assembly of the founding partners, who meet semi-annually, to oversee the activities of the Alliance, to ensure compliance with funder requirements, to monitor progress, to overseen the evaluation, and to ensure the appropriate dissemination of findings. Governance and management structure are detailed below.
Wherever possible we seek to make decisions by consensus. This does not mean that everyone has to agree with every decision, but rather that everyone feels heard, not voted down, and can live with the outcome of a decision. We understand that decision-making is assisted by clear goals and objectives. We endeavor to be clear and precise about what we are trying to achieve; specifically, about what knowledge we are seeking to discover and disseminate, and what policy we are addressing.
The Alliance is composed of three types of partners: researchers, community partners and policy partners. Every project, group or body within the Alliance needs to ensure an appropriate level of representation of these three. We likewise seek to ensure appropriate representation of consumers and different disability groups (physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities). Finally, being a national coalition, we are aware of other types of representation that we would like to achieve, such as by gender, region, and age.
Each individual in the Alliance has been invited to participate due to his or her recognized expertise in disability policy (investigators, community partners and policy partners). It should be acknowledged that at different times, individuals speak on behalf of their organization, and at other times, they speak from their own experience and expertise. We must be sensitive to the “political” context of all of our members, and seek to clarify when they are expressing a personal viewpoint versus their organization’s official position.
We are aware that there is considerable sensitivity around language referring to disability. Our guiding principle is “inclusivity”. We seek to use language that invites others into the dialogue, and that welcomes a variety of perspectives. We refer to federal guidelines for non-discriminatory language. We are guided by our community partners and the preferences of their members. We seek neutrality and clarity of communication in language.
The Secretariat has been empowered by the partners to make public statements on behalf of the CDPA. In the case of issues that are known to be controversial, the Secretariat consults with the leadership team wherever possible. Whenever position statements are made by the Secretariat or by individual partners the following guidelines are used:
- If it is known that the disability community generally holds divergent viewpoints on an issue, this will be acknowledged in the statement
- Wherever possible, partners will not openly contradict the official postitions of other partners
- If a partner feels it is inevitable to publicly contradict the position of another partner they will attempt to contact them by phone first to let them know their reasons for doing so
In all instances, we attempt to function in a collaborative manner, and to avoid confrontation; however, we understand that some conflict is constructive and produces positive outcomes. If decision-making is being held up, or if conflict is becoming destructive to the partnership, a process will be undertaken to overcome conflict.
We meet as a whole Alliance twice a year, budget permitting. We are committed to full accessibility of all aspects of our meetings, and to helping one another to achieve this goal. To this end, we have developed accessibility guidelines for hotels and meeting rooms that will serve using selecting meeting venues. We anticipate that teleconference meetings will be needed to contain expenses for much of the Alliance’s business. We will restrict teleconferences to 11 am – 4 pm Eastern Time, to accommodate all time zones. For all meetings, we will endeavour to circulate agendas 1 week in advance, and minutes one week after the meeting, with action items clearly indicated.
We commit to and urge open, honest and direct communication. We encourage members to make intentional use of the many modalities available for communication, as some are more appropriate than others to particular types of discussions. We seek to maintain a high degree of trust among the partners. We seek to streamline communications, and to avoid overwhelming already busy people. We propose to coordinate and streamline communications wherever possible by centralizing official communications to external bodies through the Secretariat. All media communications will be coordinated through the Secretariat.
We commit to keeping the partners informed of all aspects of the Alliance’s activities, such as progress reports, media activity, budget updates, learning opportunities.
We are committed to enhancing opportunities for learning wherever possible. We offer specific learning opportunities to all of our partners at our meetings. We involve students in the work of the Alliance at every possible opportunity. We speak broadly whenever the opportunity arises about the work of the Alliance, so that others become more aware of our activities and impact.
Conflict Of Interest
The opportunity for conflict of interest arises when:
- A partner uses his or her membership in the Alliance to derive personal financial benefit; OR
- Alliance duties come into conflict with partners’ other duties to their affiliated organization
We respectfully request that partners advise the Secretariat if they are in a conflict of interest.
Roles And Relationships
Roles and relationships in research can be a significant source of tension if not negotiated at the outset and treated with candor and trust. To this end, we offer guidelines for research roles, authorship, intellectual property and ownership.
Maintenance of our funding is dependent upon the production of regular reports to the funder (SSHRC) and the attainment of a suitable standard of achievement on our goals. To this end, we ask the partners from time to time to contribute information to these reports. In recognition of deadlines, a prompt and fulsome response would be much appreciated.
The budget for the Alliance covers our infrastructure costs, but does not provide project funding. We provide a small amount of funding to the four team leaders, and centrally, we fund scholarships, travel, meetings, and the Secretariat. For research costs, we depend on: students, external funds, and in-kind contributions from the partners. Our most valuable asset is the time and expertise of our members.