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9.1. Intersections with other types of disabilities

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Every diagnosis that you have creates another level of discrimination or barrier. – Toronto roundtable participant 

People may be discriminated against based on a combination of mental health and other types of disabilities. We heard that people with both mental health issues and addictions are often looked down upon. Some said that because of a mental health issue, their physical disability will not be taken as seriously.[57]

Often mental health services are not designed to serve people with more than one disability, leaving people with multiple disabilities, such as mental health and addiction issues, developmental disabilities or learning disabilities, from receiving timely or adequate services (Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario). This issue is explored in section 8 (Services). We also heard that certain medications for psychiatric disabilities, such as schizophrenia, have side-effects that can lead people to develop physical disabilities like diabetes. People could then need accommodation for both disabilities.

We heard that some people were assumed to have addictions when they exhibited certain behaviours related to a disability. Because of this, they were treated as a security risk. A few people said that security personnel and police assumed that they were using drugs or alcohol when they had symptoms of a physical disability or a mental health issue.

Some people could not get services or supportive housing – including mental health services and supports – in an equal way because their physical disabilities, such as mobility disabilities or hearing disabilities, were not accommodated.

A client of mine was assaulted. She is Deaf and has a mental health disability. The police didn’t provide an ASL interpreter, and instead of trying to listen to her about being assaulted, they took her to [a psychiatric hospital] where they assumed she was making it all up because they didn’t provide her with an interpreter. So they Formed her [detained her in hospital involuntarily]. – Community legal clinic representative

[57] People with a psychiatric disability as well as a physical disability tend to report more perceived stigma and discrimination overall, and in the areas of lack of housing, poverty and neighbourhood of residence. Allison Bahm & Cheryl Forchuk, “Interlocking oppressions: The Effect of a Co-morbid Physical Disability on Perceived Stigma and Discrimination among Mental Health Consumers in Canada” (2008) 17:1 Health and Social Care in the Community 63.

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