History of Developmental Disability Policy in Alberta

  • Nilima Sonpal-Valias

Abstract

Alberta government is immersed in a full review of the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program responsible for the delivery of services and supports to adults with developmental disabilities. With a budget of close to $1billion, PDD funds over 12,000 adults to receive home living, employment, community access and specialized services from about 160 non-profit and for-profit community disability service providers to help individuals live in their communities as inclusively and independently as possible. Despite being one of the most reviewed public programs in the province and having a series of funding increases in recent years, the program is viewed by program beneficiaries, their families, service providers and advocates as fraught with challenges. The review and the period following it during which recommendations will be made and debated provide an important window to influence policy reform.

Often public programs like PDD, are dynamic products of historical factors, forces and processes. This paper traces the evolution of policies and service responses for individuals with developmental disabilities in Alberta from the birth of the province in 1905 to the present day. Four transformative shifts in this policy field are identified, associated with: (i) legalized institutionalization and the medical model of disability; (ii) deinstitutionalization movement; (iii) social model of disability; (iv) and neoliberal reforms.

The paper provides a historical perspective describing how Alberta’s developmental disability policies and service models have been shaped by societal shifts in views towards disability as by the province’s unique socio-political characteristics. The paper makes visible the present-day legacies of these forces in the beliefs, values and normative influences underpinning current structures, mechanisms and policy approaches. The objective is to situate existing disability policy within the context of its historical evolution to provide deeper insight for reform.

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Published
2019-07-18
Section
Research Papers