UBC Theses and Dissertations
Walking the talk? Models of disability and discourse in employment policy for Canadians with disabilities Vellacott, John Wright
The research undertaken in this thesis facilitated an examination of the dominant discourses contained in several disability policy documents, the ideological underpinnings driving the discourses and the influence of particular models of disability. This investigation demonstrated that there were in fact two dominant discourses common to all the policy texts, namely a discourse of Independence and a discourse of Employability. These evolved from a status of being overtly referenced within the policy texts to becoming an underlying “given” or “truth”. While the language of various models of disability were used in the texts, there is little evidence to suggest that any particular model had any singular influence. Rather, the use of the language of various models of disability appeared to be “tactical” in nature, and used simply to enhance the legitimacy of the particular discourses or arguments being presented. As the texts appeared to be grounded within a neoliberal policy orientation, the use of the language of the models, particularly the social model of disability, was of value in providing legitimacy to concepts that are in many ways antithetical to some of the core precepts of the models. Lastly, the analysis suggests that the actors with the greatest degree of power and influence during the drafting and implementation of the policy texts remained government officials, and the influence of people with disabilities or their advocates was at best subordinate, or in many cases nonexistent. Through this type of research, policy researchers, advocates and impacted individuals with disabilities who endure the effects of policy, have powerful tools with which to expose these dominant discourses. Often these dominant discourses have evolved into unspoken and taken for granted "truths". Foregrounding such discourses can facilitate the development of counter discourses or strategies to negate or at least minimize the negative impacts that result from policy and program decisions grounded in these discourses. Such a capacity could go a long way in leveling the playing field, and at least to some degree equalize the power differential between government and “others” when presented with skillfully written and often dissembling policy texts.
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