ARCH opened its doors as a specialty community legal aid clinic in 1980, with a staff of 3 including 1 lawyer. At that time, a number of advocacy organizations for people with disabilities were emerging, including the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped (now the Council of Canadians with Disabilities or CCD), People First, BOOST, DAWN, the Canadian Association of the Deaf and On Our Own. The governments of the day were becoming receptive to the empowerment of people with disabilities, and welcomed the idea that people with disabilities could be involved in social reform that was going on at all levels. Communities of disadvantaged people, including people with disabilities, were entrusted with legal aid resources with which to define and defend their own legal interests.
Organizations such as the Canadian Hearing Society, the Canadian and Ontario Associations for the Mentally Retarded (now the Canadian Association for Community Living and Community Living Ontario) and the Canadian Mental Health Association joined with smaller disability organizations to establish ARCH’s coalition structure.
ARCH’s Board of Directors worked tirelessly, providing leadership and eventually successfully applying to Legal Aid Ontario for community legal aid clinic funding. Many groups generously shared the talents of their staff and volunteers. Leading legal, disability and health experts contributed their services to work on the many policy coalitions and as expert witnesses in the test cases that were to follow.
Over the years, ARCH has been involved in many leading disability law cases, including cases at the Supreme Court of Canada. ARCH has worked with disability organizations and the disability community to achieve greater equality and improve laws and policies that impact on the daily lives of people with disabilities.
Today ARCH has 10 permanent staff, including 6 lawyers.
For a look back at our history, click here.