Press Release: Canadian Law Distinguished at International Summit on Accessibility

Exemplary features of British Columbia’s Law on supported decision-making to be discussed with 200 international politicians, NGO representatives, disabled persons and academics at the Zero Conference in Vienna.

On January 22 and 23, 2012 the International Conference on Good Policies for Persons with Disabilities will be taking place for the first time in Vienna, Austria. It is part of the Zero Project – zero as in zero barriers – and will bring together around 250 parliamentarians, NGO and foundation representatives, academics and activists from the disability rights movement from all over the world in order to discuss exemplary laws, or features of them, and to encourage their further development and dissemination to other countries. The conference is being organised on the initiative of the Essl Foundation in cooperation with the World Future Council and its founder Jakob von Uexkull, as well as by UniCredit Bank Austria.

One of eight selected laws: the Representation Agreement Act of British Columbia

In 2000 British Columbia enacted the Representation Agreement Act RSBC c.405, thus leading internationally the way for recognition of the right to support in personal decision- making. The law’s flexible definition of capability is one of its main strengths, since it recognises trust as one of the defining features of support relationships and shifts the burden of proof of incapability to others.

The legislation allows for the creation of personal planning tools known as representation agreements, which, unlike most personal planning tools, permit the appointment of an individual to help an adult make decisions. These representation agreements are praised by the disability community as highly successful in providing legal recognition of supported decision-making, significantly preventing guardianship. They are the reason why the number of private guardianships has remained fairly stable during the last years.

“The Representation Agreement Act enshrines new ways of understanding capability; it allows most importantly all adults to authorise personal supporters to assist them with decision-making as needed” explains Joanne Taylor, Executive Director of Nidus, British Columbia’s centre of excellence in personal planning and supported decision-making.

The Representation Agreement Act will be presented at the Zero Conference in Vienna by Christine Gordon, Chairperson of Nidus as one of eight selected “Good Policies”.

The Zero Project: establishment as long-term think tank

The aim of the Zero Project is to become established as a leading international think tank for the elimination of barriers in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which entered into force in May 2008. This is to be achieved by regular publication of a novel international comparative study, the so-called Zero Report, congresses like the current Zero Conference and a comprehensive website.

The Zero Project website at will be officially launched at the conference in January 2012 and will have a focus on the Good Practices and Good Policies identified in the current Zero Report. As an interactive platform for persons with disabilities, NGOs, policymakers, research and business, the page will facilitate a variety of forms of participation.

The organisers

The Essl Foundation was established in March 2008. It has been endowed with adequate financial resources to ensure the long-term presentation of the annual Essl Social Prize and support of other social activities, such as the Zero Project. Its main goals are to provide support to persons in need, and to raise public awareness about the need for such support.

The World Future Council established by Jakob von Uexkull, consists of 50 respected personalities from all five continents. They represent governments, parliaments, the arts, civil society, science and the business world. The WFC conducts worldwide research on future just policies and legislation, advises political decision-makers, offers them tried and tested courses of action and supports them in the concrete implementation of new policies. The WFC is currently active in the areas of Future Justice, Climate and Energy, Sustainable Ecosystems, Sustainable Economies, Just Societies as well as Peace and Disarmament.

Bank Austria has been a member of UniCredit, one of the largest European bank groups, since 2005 and employs 10,900 people in 372 locations in Austria (including the subsidiaries of the UniCredit Group in Austria). In addition to sponsoring activities in the areas of culture, sustainability and sports, the bank’s social contribution is reflected in its involvement with disadvantaged persons.


Office of Coordination
Zero Conference Press Relations
Proscom GmbH Matthias Noë
Tel: +43 664 1059185

Emotional Support Animals: We Need your Help

We need your help.

We are working on a project to make it easierSkipper the Guinea Pig for people to access housing if they have an animal. The animal could be a dog, cat or other animals that are not prohibited as ineligible exotic animals under provincial legislation.

We are proposing that when someone is unable to access housing because they have an animal and cannot reach agreement with a landlord they should have the option, as a last resort, to have a health professional indicate they need their animal for their health and emotional well-being.

If a person can show in this way that they need their animal for their health, they could not be refused housing because of their animal. They would still need to comply with the rules about having an animal under the Residential Tenancy Act.

In order to demonstrate support for this proposal we need to provide letters from people explaining the importance to them of their animals. We need to take these letters with us to our next meeting with government representatives in the first week of February. Your letter can be anonymous if you prefer.

If you support this proposal and think a description of your experience can help, please email your letters as soon as possible to Jane Dyson at We will need to receive your letter by February 6th at the latest.

In your letter, depending on your experience, you may want to describe how hard it is to find housing with your animal and how important he/she is for your emotional well-being and overall health; or describe how you have had to get rid of your animal in order to find housing and how that has impacted your health. Or you could talk about the difference your animal has made to your health and how your life would be impacted without it.

Our focus here is on residential access; we are not focusing on public access in this project.

If you have any questions please email Jane.

Thanks very much everyone.

Raise the Rates MLA Challenge

Surrey-Fleetwood MLA Jagrup Brar has accepted Raise the Rates’ challenge to live on the basic income assistance rate for a single person of $610. He is doing this for the month of January. Mr. Brar will write a daily diary which will be posted on and there will be regular media coverage.

While his experience differs from most people living on welfare as he is in good health, has adequate clothing and will only live in poverty temporarily he will nonetheless have to endure struggling to make $610 last for one month.

The aim of the challenge is to raise public awareness about BC’s inadequate welfare rates and the income assistance system’s barriers to access. People who need income assistance should not be forced to live in poverty. Raise the Rates hopes to gain public support to encourage the Province to improve the system and raise welfare rates.

In addition to focusing on basis income assistance, Raise the Rates also wants Mr. Brar to hear the experiences of people living on provincial disability benefits. If you are interested in sharing your experience with him about living on disability benefits please come to:

Thursday, Jan 26
Carnegie Centre
401 Main Street, Vancouver
Classroom 2, top floor
10:00am – 12:00pm

 If you would prefer to remain anonymous when you meet Mr. Brar, that’s fine. Raise the Rates will also ensure that any media present will respect your privacy if that is your preference.

If you are going to attend, it would be most helpful if you could let Robin Loxton know by emailing him at