With employment rates among people with disabilities at less than 50 percent, and a resulting reliance on government transfers, we ask: how do people with disabilities in Canada survive, let alone thrive? People with disabilities continue to respond imaginatively by finding alternatives to paid work to sustain themselves and their families. This disjuncture between policy and lived experiences suggests an important and under-explored research area.
The Disability and Livelihoods partnership will 1) examine how livelihoods interact with diverse experiences of disability in Canada and 2) begin to develop a strong, practical, and conceptual livelihoods approach to work and families research. Partnership: This partnership brings together key national and local organizations (DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada, Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work, Lakeside Hope House Guelph, People and Information Network, and Accessibility Advisory Committee of Guelph), with the University of Guelph’s Centre for Families, Work and Well-being, Re-Vision: Centre for Arts and Social Justice, the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute, and researchers, to contribute to three pilot projects: volunteering, arts and artistry, young women and pre-employment supports, and a broader livelihoods framework.
The partnership focuses on three areas of livelihoods which build on the strengths of our partners, recognizing that these will help identify important questions and intentionally gather what we learn into a broader framework for understanding and using a livelihoods approach. The governance structure enables partner organizations to contribute to the leadership and intellectual direction of the partnership in addition to contributing to the pilot project most aligned with their work.
Sustainable Livelihoods: Livelihoods describe means to secure the necessities of life — through paid work, caregiving, volunteering, market gardens, fishing, artistry, among others. Livelihoods are not only the capabilities, assets, and activities required to maintain life, but also the ability to sustain these in the context of stress and shocks, over time and for future generations, and contribute benefits at the local and global levels over the short and long term.
A sustainable livelihoods framework has been developed in relation to the global South, and increasingly used in Canada to assist front-line service organizations to understand and address poverty.
Guiding Questions and Goals:
The partnership will answer questions that fill the gap between policy and lived experiences and create a sustainable livelihood framework to inform future social policy and organizational decisions.
These questions include:
How do definitions of disability shape one’s livelihoods?
How do other social locations (e.g. gender, race, immigration status, language) interact with disability to shape experiences of livelihoods?
To what extent does managing impairments affect experiences and livelihoods choices?
What are the relationships between income support and other forms of livelihoods?
Do one’s livelihoods allow them to thrive, not only survive?
How do different forms of livelihood work together to enable getting the necessities of life?
How do they work together to allow for flourishing?
How do livelihoods shape and change our understandings of culture?
How do Canadian society and economy rely on diverse livelihoods in the lives of people with disabilities (e.g. unpaid volunteering to implement accessibility legislation, unpaid caregiving by people with disabilities)?
In what ways does this reliance on unpaid livelihoods reinforce ableism in Canadian society?
How does practicing diverse livelihoods contribute to new ways of thinking about, imagining and living disability.
-PI Deborah Steinstra.