Disabilities and Livelihoods Framework

Disabilities & Livelihoods Framework

View Disabilities & Livelihoods Framework Infographic [PDF]

[Below is the alternative text description of the infographic.]

At the top right is clipart of a sun rising behind two overlapping hills with trees.

What Are Livelihoods?

Livelihoods are the means by which people meet their needs in order to make a living and a life.

The Disabilities & Livelihoods Framework is a developing model of understanding how people with disabilities in Canada survive and thrive.


The framework flows like the flying path of a bee, beginning with ‘Goals’ and followed by ‘Perceptions.’ Perceptions are in turn determined by ‘Choices and Strategies’ which will result in ‘Outcomes.’

Above and below the pathway are influential and interrelated factors represented as honeycomb cells, labelled as follows:

  1. Identities which are Individual Forms of Oppression, 
  2. Societal and Political Power Relations, 
  3. Policies & Institutions, both Government and the Legal System, 
  4. Privilege & Oppression concerning History, Relationships, and Skills, and
  5. Vulnerability which are Hardships, Yearly Patterns, and Hazards.

In the final honeycomb cell on the far right are additional questions to consider: What do people with disabilities do to make a life and a living, and why?

Key Terms

Vulnerability: Vulnerability means the level of hardship that a person faces. Hardships and hazards may impact livelihoods, and these may follow a yearly pattern.

Power Relations: Power relations are how people's unique identities lead to different levels of support and privilege from society, policies, and the government.

Privilege & Oppression: Privilege and oppression are the advantages and disadvantages that a person has in their life. These come from history (e.g. colonialism). These also come from relationships and individual skills and abilities.

Policies & Institutions: Policies (e.g. government, NGOs) and institutions (e.g. laws, money) influence access to resources, and levels of privilege and oppression.

Identities: Identities are the individual traits (e.g. ability, gender, race) that may lead to different forms and levels of oppression.

Disabilities & Livelihoods: A Journey

View Disabilities & Livelihoods - A Journey Infographic [PDF]

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At the top right is clipart of a road leading to two hills with a sun rising behind them.

What Is the Journey?

The journey is how someone may make day-to-day decisions in order to make a living and a life.

The journey shown here is only one such example of how the Disabilities & Livelihoods Framework can support our understandings of how people with disabilities in Canada make decisions to survive and thrive.

Meet Winnie

Winnie is a 27-year-old Black woman living in Montreal. She is a second generation Canadian. Winnie is married to a man, and they have a 6-year-old child together. 

Winnie has a learning disability which influences her ability to understand and express language, in both spoken and written form.

Below the description is clipart of Winnie wearing a pink turtleneck top; she has black hair and dark skin.

Winnie’s journey is depicted by a dotted line that runs between different factors that influence her day-to-day decisions and outcomes.

Goals: Winnie has been employed as a part-time hotel housekeeper for three years. However, she is feeling unsatisfied with her current job. She is considering pursuing a new career, and would also like to dedicate time to her passion, baking.

Perceptions of Possibilities: Winnie feels that she has more free time to write job applications as her child is now in elementary school full-time. However, after many applications, she only received one interview and was unsuccessful. Winnie is feeling less certain about pursuing a new career. She is also uncertain about pursuing a diploma due to limited finances and concerns about how her learning disability may impact her studies.

Choices & Strategies: Winnie decides to look for employment support services to receive feedback on her written resume and to develop interview skills. She decides to share her goal of pursuing a new career with her social networks as well to find out about more opportunities. Winnie begins to research diplomas available at a nearby college and the supports that are available for students with disabilities.

Outcomes: Winnie decides to stay at her current job to maintain regular income while she continues to look for a new job with her newly edited resume. She books an appointment to speak with a college admissions advisor to speak about diploma options further. She also plans to stop by the Student Accessibility Services office at the college to learn about potential learning supports. She uses her free time to bake for family and friends.

Intersectionalities, Disabilities & Livelihoods

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What Is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality is a research framework and an everyday practice. It is a tool to analyze how different forms of oppression (i.e. ability, gender, race, etc.) combine and impact each person's life uniquely.

Intersectionality was developed by Black feminist academics (Crenshaw, 1989; Hill Collins, 1986; Lorde 1984). Researchers, organizations, and community change-makers use this framework to create fair and equitable societies for everyone.

Intersectionalities & Livelihoods

The intersectionalities and livelihoods are depicted in a large flower containing a centre, a row of inner petals, and a row of outer petals. A bee is shown on the left-hand side of the flower, at the start of a dotted line that reveals a path through the flower.

The words “Forms of oppression” lie in the centre of the flower. The inner petals name different forms of oppression, which are ability, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, citizenship, language, sexual orientation, indigenous heritage, and gender.

The outer petals each contain one of the factors of livelihoods, namely, identities, which are individual forms of oppression; policies and institutions, both government and the legal system; vulnerability which includes hardships, yearly patterns, and hazards; privilege and oppression concerning history, relationships and skills; and power relations, both societal and political.

Key Questions

  1. How do forms of oppression (e.g. gender, race, immigration status, language) interact with disability to shape how someone makes a living and a life?
  2. How do social locations relate to goal-setting, perceptions of what is possible, creating strategies, and reaching outcomes?

Applying the Disabilities & Livelihoods Circle

View Applying the Disabilities & Livelihoods Framework Infographic [PDF]

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What Is the D&L Framework?

The Disabilities & Livelihoods Framework is a developing model of understanding how people with disabilities in Canada make a living and a life.

The framework aims to understand how and why people make decisions to survive and thrive. It looks at how decision-making can be affected by the options that people feel are available.

How Can the D&L Framework Be Applied?

Step 1: Consider the components of life that need to grow and be nurtured in order to survive and thrive.

Examples of components are depicted as leaves on the branches of a tree, each leaf naming a component in a random order. Along the top of the branch in this infographic are playing, food, exercise, volunteering, and employment supports. Along the bottom of the main branch and a secondary branch are arts, employment, education, bartering, community, gardening, and finances.

Step 2: Use the livelihoods framework to understand how people make decisions about these components in order to make a living and a life.

Potential Questions to Consider

How do people with disabilities survive and thrive?

How is decision-making impacted by identities, privilege and oppression, policies and institutions, power relations, and vulnerability?

How do certain decisions shape other components of making a living and a life?


Volunteering and Livelihoods: How do people with disabilities experience and practice volunteering? Why do they volunteer?

Pre-Employment Supports and Livelihoods among Young Women with Disabilities: What are the relationships between paid employment and other means of making a living? How do young women with disabilities make decisions as they move between school, pre-employment services, paid employment, and other ways to make a living?

Livelihoods of d/Deaf and Disabled Artists: How can artistry be a means to secure necessities of life, as an ability to express oneself or add social value, and the economic implications such as housing and food? How do federal and provincial laws, and funding agencies, intersect with artistry as a livelihood?

This is an initiative by the University of Guelph and its Live Work Well Research Centre.

To learn more, visit: www.liveworkwell.ca

Infographics created by: Ashna Jassi