Self-advocacy, Rights and Legislation: The Experiences of Self-advocates in Nova Scotia and OntarioPublic Deposited
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Through my research I listened to the self-advocacy experiences of people labelled with intellectual disability in Nova Scotia, which maintains segregated residential centres, and Ontario, which had closed all such centres by 2009. I did so in order to answer a key question: is there a difference between self-advocates' views of de-institutionalization in Nova Scotia and Ontario? Specifically, is there greater anxiety in Nova Scotia given the continued existence of segregated centres in that province? Following Malhotra and Rowe (2014), I inquired into the relationship between law, advocacy, and identity. I conceptualized my findings through cultural disability theory to scrutinize disability and impairment. This is important as the intellectual disability impairment label is a key component of the management and oppression of advocates so labelled (Altermark, 2017). I used a Foucauldian power lens to understand further how self-advocates are governed, and also how they resist power through their advocacy initiatives. I also used Agamben's (1998) theory of sovereign power to explore the persistence of institutionalization, despite the existence of disability rights legislation. My research revealed, most notably, no significant difference in views on deinstitutionalization between my research participants, who were all members of a self-advocacy organization, in Nova Scotia and Ontario, despite the presence of more oppressive disability legislation in Nova Scotia. This implies that membership in a self-advocacy organization empowers people in such a way that participants in Nova Scotia did not relay any fear of the potential for institutionalization in the future. It seems, significantly, that when participants know that they have rights, they feel protected from institutionalization. They also feel empowered to challenge and resist ableist power structures, including states of exception, through self-advocacy. As such, I found a recursive relationship between identity, relational autonomy, resilience, and self-advocacy, once there is a consciousness of rights. The importance of understanding the rights advocacy of self-advocates cannot be understated as it is a key component in the fight to prevent the reversal of de-institutionalization, a reversal that many scholars warn could happen due to entrenched, systemic ableism (Malacrida, 2015).
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