Queen's University

Major disability policy group comes to Queen's

Mary Ann McColl is the academic lead of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance.

Most people feel the examination table at a doctor’s office is standard equipment, like a stethoscope or tongue depressor. Queen’s researcher Mary Ann McColl sees something different – a barrier for people with disabilities.

“Doctors tell us they often can’t examine their patients with disabilities because they can’t get them up on the table. If the patient says they have a sore on their back, the doctor has to take their word for it, or else examine the patient in their wheelchair,” she says.

So Dr. McColl and the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance (CDPA) are currently working with the Ontario government toward approval of capital funding for adjustable tables in Family Health Teams throughout Ontario.

Dr. McColl is the academic lead of the CDPA – a national collaboration of disability researchers, community organizations and government policy makers looking to promote equity and opportunity for disabled Canadians – which is based at Queen’s.

With $1 million in funding over five years from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada – Community-University Research Alliance the CDPA aims to improve the lives of disabled Canadians in the areas of citizenship, education, employment and health services.

The funding brings together some of the country’s top disability researchers with major national disability organizations such as the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Canadian Hearing Society, Easter Seals, March of Dimes, and Canadian Association for Community Living and Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

“It’s very gratifying that these people want to work with us. Disability organizations have historically had push-pull relationships with academics. They don’t want to be subjects of research, they want to be partners in research. So this partnership means a great deal to us,” says Dr. McColl.

The CDPA now provides greater lobbying power for community disability groups. Research from CDPA academics at Queen’s, University of British Columbia, University of Regina and McMaster can support their demands for access. CDPA experts in federal and provincial policy can also help them navigate government.

In just one year the CDPA has already created momentum around disability policy that wasn’t there before.

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Last updated at 3:43 pm EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
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