Why the word 'handicapped' has been removed from P.E.I. legislation

The P.E.I. government has removed the word 'handicapped' from five major pieces of legislation, as a result of lobbying by former Easter Seals ambassador, Hannah MacLellan.

Island also teen inspired changes in 2016 around accessible parking

These changes are the second major legislative accomplishment for Hannah MacLellan. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The P.E.I. government has removed the word handicapped from five major pieces of legislation, as a result of lobbying by former Easter Seals ambassador, Hannah MacLellan.

"I was so grateful that our provincial government saw the need to amend the acts to include up-to-date terminology," said MacLellan, 19. "Language is very important — to not have negative terminology. It's really great to see these changes."

'Pretty exciting'

The Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (Persons with Disabilities) changes the wording in five major pieces of legislation: the Employment Standards Act, the Engineering Profession Act, the Labour Act, the Mental Health Act and the Public Health Act.

"That modernizes the legislation and reflects how people with disabilities are viewed in our society today," said Marcia Carroll, executive director of the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities.

Hannah MacLellan is now working on a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights, with a minor in disability studies, at Carleton University in Ottawa. (Submitted by Hannah MacLellan)

The word "handicapped" is now changed to "persons with a disabilities." "Physical or mental handicap" has been replaced with "physical or mental disability."

"Hannah strongly felt that was derogatory language," Carroll said. "I think it's important for people to understand that a person lives with a disability, it's the physical environment around them that causes the handicap."

MacLellan is pleased that the word handicapped has been removed.

"It's very demeaning and it's negative toward persons with disabilities," she said. 

Hannah's 2nd bill

This is the second major legislative accomplishment for MacLellan, who also convinced P.E.I. politicians to pass a bill in 2016 that doubled fines for illegally parking in designated spots. It also changed outdated language in the Highway Traffic Act.

Hannah MacLellan attended a NextGen Tokyo 2020 Swim Canada Camp in 2017. (Submitted by Hannah MacLellan)

Hannah's Bill, as it became known, advised government to changing wording from "disabled parking spaces" to "designated accessible parking spaces" and from "persons with physical disabilities" to "persons with mobility impairments". 

Carroll says Islanders living with disabilities are fortunate to have an advocate like MacLellan.

"It's amazing, some of the stuff that she's been able to get done in the last couple of years, we've been working on for 20 years," Carroll said.

"The message is always so much more powerful when it comes from people who are experiencing disability and that's why we always want them at the decision-making table."

Hannah MacLellan enjoys spending time on Parliament Hill. (Submitted by Hannah MacLellan)

Raising awareness

MacLellan is now working on a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights, with a minor in disability studies, at Carleton University and is also putting her lobbying skills to use in Ottawa. 

"It's pretty good but there's definitely a lot of room for improvement," MacLellan said. "I've been volunteering with Carleton Disability Awareness Centre on my campus to promote accessibility and to work on improving the accessibility around our campus." 

She also attended the national youth forum on accessibility in 2016. In 2017, she was the P.E.I. delegate for the Rick Hansen Summit on Accessibility.

MacLellan is a frequent visitor on Parliament Hill, sometimes with her scooter.

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About the Author

Nancy Russell

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca