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Discourses of concealment and resistance : a critical/feminist disability analysis of BC’s Disability Designation Review Prieur, Deborah

Abstract

In 2002, British Columbia's (BC) Liberal Government introduced new social assistance legislation which radically changed the philosophy and access to social assistance for poor people with and without disabilities throughout the province. This thesis is an analysis of one aspect of this policy shift, the Ministry of Human Resources' Disability Designation Review, a massive review of almost 19,000 people who had been receiving Disability Benefits 2 under the previous legislation. Using the tools of feminist and post-structural discourse analysis and a critical/feminist disability lens, I challenge the apparent objectivity and neutrality of the Reassessment Form and the Ministry's rationale for the review by unpacking the discursive strategies the Ministry used to legitimize the review as a fair, impartial, objective, and neutral information gathering exercise to ensure services were going to those "most in need." I argue that rather than a neutral, objective, and harmless information gathering exercise, the review was yet another attack against poor people in the welfare wars fuelled by the neoliberal ideology and governing practices common to many western liberal democracies. In addition to deconstructing the discourses used to justify, promote and rationalize the review, I explore the resistance to the review by analyzing the discourses disability advocates and their supporters used to challenge and disrupt the government's agenda. I conclude that the review is an example of disabling social policy which forced people with disabilities to position themselves as unable and incapable as possible in order to claim their right to income and support.

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