How to identify disability languages and disabilities in Canada

By the numbers, it seems like the federal government is on the right track to include disability language in the Official Languages Act.

But how to get there?

The Federal Court has already ruled that it would be unfair to exclude disability language from the Act.

And with a growing number of jurisdictions having laws or policies that exclude disability languages, a good first step would be to look at those laws.

Here are the 10 best federal laws and policies that explicitly exclude disability-language usage.


Canada’s Disability Language and Language Assurance Act, 2008: The Canadian Disability Language Assurances Act, or DCLA, is the federal law that defines what is and isn’t an “inclusive” language.

The DCLA defines inclusive language as one that “is understood by a person to be used for the purpose of facilitating communication with, or to be understood by, another person or persons.”

This is a far more restrictive definition than what is being used by the United States or other jurisdictions.

The law specifically excludes “any of the following words or phrases used to express a person’s disability”: “afflicted with a disability,” “suffering from a disability” or “having a disability.”

It also excludes “language” that is “specifically designed to facilitate communication” (e.g., “language that communicates ideas or ideas in an accessible manner”).

It does not explicitly say that “inclusion” of any language is an acceptable goal.

In the words of the DCLA’s explanatory note, “a language is considered inclusive if it is understood by someone to be a form of communication with another person” and that “it is understood in a way that is appropriate to that person’s needs and abilities.”

This definition is very broad and covers many areas of communication.

For example, in a disability-oriented setting, inclusive language is used to communicate with people with disabilities, as well as with people who don’t meet the disability-specific definition.

In a non-disabled setting, language that is used for a variety of purposes is not considered inclusive.

For instance, some jurisdictions have laws or codes that exclude “language in the language of the deaf or hard of hearing” or other “disability-related languages” (including, for instance, “titles in the deaf language,” “tongue-based languages,” “voice-based words” or even “non-accented languages”).


The Disability Language Service Act, 2009: This is the law that allows individuals with disabilities to access the disability services that are provided in their communities.

The Act allows people with mental illness or disabilities to receive services and information that are accessible by others and provides access to a range of services through an online portal, including services that do not meet the definition of an “accommodation” under the Disability Language Act.

The purpose of the Disability Service Act is to ensure that people with certain disabilities are not discriminated against based on disability and that people have the opportunity to receive assistance and information in an environment that is accessible to them and their families.

The legislation includes a provision that allows people to request and receive disability-related services through a portal.


The Canadian Human Rights Code of Conduct, 2009 or 2010: The Code of Community Standards for Disability Services and Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities (CSCES) was created in 2005 and was subsequently expanded to include a range (and many of the same) provisions for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders.

It is designed to provide a “social responsibility framework for the provision of disability-based services to persons with disabilities” and to “encourage appropriate engagement by people with disability, as evidenced by an approach to providing appropriate services, and through appropriate communication and monitoring of service providers, to facilitate a safe, respectful and nondiscriminatory service environment.”

The Code is considered to be the most inclusive disability-focused code in Canada and includes the following elements: It specifies the terms that constitute “inappropriate use” of a language or other cultural practice or expression; It identifies the circumstances in which an individual or a group can be held liable for an inappropriate use of a disability language; It includes requirements for a “safe, respectful, nondiscrimination and nondisclosure” approach to disability-led services; It requires a “responsible and inclusive approach” to the provision and use of disability services; and It sets out a number of guidelines and processes for dealing with complaints about inappropriate or abusive use of services.


The Disabilities Education Act, 2003: This law is a federal act that provides funding to states to establish the disability educational programs in their jurisdictions.

It provides for the establishment of state disability educational services that meet the criteria for the Canadian Disability Education Act (CDEA) and the Ontario Disability Education Services Act (ODESA).

These are the federal requirements that are currently being met in Ontario, including the establishment and management