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e-3704 (Social affairs and equality)

Initiated by Laura Brydges from Nepean, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • A hidden disability symbol is a tool for self-advocacy, increasing social and systemic awareness and support, recruitment of disabled employees, identification of needs for accommodation and access, respecting individual rights to privacy, and preventing negative social and systemic interactions;
  • Collectively, hidden disabilities are represented less than detectable disabilities in research and advocacy, yet affect more people;
  • The International Symbol of Access (wheelchair symbol) iconographically excludes the hidden disability community (HDC);
  • A 2010 English online survey demonstrated the usefulness of a free digital Hidden Disability Symbol;
  • 82% of surveyed HDC members report avoidance of events, places and situations at least once or twice a week;
  • The HDC is growing as those with Lyme disease and long COVID experience permanent impairments;
  • Women with hidden disabilities are overrepresented in human trafficking, prison, and homeless populations;
  • The HDC is overrepresented in violent police interactions;
  • Different hidden disability icons, symbols, and memes are in use in a number of countries, through various models;
  • A hidden disability symbol should be free, accessible, and used voluntarily;
  • A hidden disability symbol’s design must be relevant to the hidden disability community, effective as a self-advocacy and socio-systemic change tool, and inclusive of all hidden, dynamic, and episodic disabilities without distracting from detectable disabilities; and
  • Thus, there is a proven, timely need for a hidden disability symbol in Canada and internationally.
We, the undersigned, citizens or residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to adopt and promote a national Hidden Disability Symbol, and lead or participate in actions toward its international adoption.

Response by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): IREK KUSMIERCZYK

While the development and adoption of specific symbols for accessibility or disability does not fall within its mandate, the Government of Canada does recognize the significant social and economic barriers that Canadians with disabilities continue to face, including Canadians with invisible disabilities. The Government of Canada remains strongly committed to building an inclusive and barrier-free Canada, where no one is left behind.

The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion’s mandate letter commits her to move forward on the Government’s 2020 Speech from the Throne commitment to bring forward a Disability Inclusion Action Plan, which will include the proposed Canada Disability Benefit as its cornerstone. The Action Plan will provide a whole-of-government approach to achieving a disability-inclusive Canada; it will be ambitious, it will evolve over time, and it will have a focus on action. The Action Plan aims to:  

  • reduce poverty among Canadians with disabilities;
  • help more persons with disabilities obtain good quality jobs;
  • help meet the Accessible Canada Act goal of a barrier-free Canada by 2040;
  • make it easier for persons with disabilities to access federal programs and services; and,
  • foster a culture of inclusion. 

In consultation with the disability community, the Action Plan will be built upon and refreshed over time. The Government will continue to undertake discussions with the disability community, other experts and the provinces and territories to finalize and release the Action Plan. In the spirit of “nothing without us,” the Government of Canada appreciates hearing the views of people from the disability community, who inform our policy work.

The Action Plan builds on significant actions to date, including: the establishment of Canada’s first Minister responsible for persons with disabilities, acceding to the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and passing the historic Accessible Canada Act.

The Accessible Canada Act defines a disability as “any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment — or a functional limitation — whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.” 

This definition was informed by consultations on creating federal accessibility legislation. Between June 2016 and February 2017, over 6,000 Canadians and over 90 organizations shared their ideas about an accessible Canada, marking the largest and most accessible consultation on disability issues that Canada has ever seen. Participants expressed the importance of how the Government of Canada uses "disability" and "accessibility" broadly in the legislation so that everyone with a disability is included. They indicated that the meaning of "disability" should include a full range of abilities and limitations, including invisible disabilities, such as learning disabilities or mental health issues, and episodic disabilities, such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy. The resulting definition in the Accessible Canada Act ensures the inclusion of both invisible and episodic disabilities in areas covered by the Act.

We recognize that while we have made great strides in fostering inclusion and equality for persons with disabilities, there is still much work to do as we move toward a more inclusive and barrier-free Canada. The Government of Canada will continue to work with the disability community, other governments, stakeholders and all interested individuals to improve the social and economic inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.

Open for signature
December 7, 2021, at 11:33 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
February 5, 2022, at 11:33 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Chandra Arya (Nepean)
February 8, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00141)
Government response tabled
March 24, 2022
Photo - Chandra Arya
Liberal Caucus