Equality and Justice
For People With Disabilities

Steps to Justice: Fostering Access to Justice One Step at a Time


Published on June 13, 2022

Steps to Justice: Fostering Access to Justice One Step at a Time

Sophie Vaisman, University of Ottawa Common Law- JD Candidate, June 2022

 

A lack of access to justice is an ongoing issue in the legal system. Creating access to justice means ensuring that any person who needs legal help can get the answers they need, with the appropriate accommodations. The law is intricate and complex, and the majority of people who must interact with the system do not come in with a full understanding of how the legal system works. Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) works to solve the gap in access to justice and has created a website called Steps to Justice to do so. Any person with a legal question can go to the website (https://stepstojustice.ca/) and look for answers. Steps to Justice begins to solve one aspect of access to justice by providing otherwise obscure, complex legal concepts in bite-size pieces, organized in plain language by coherent topics. Those without any background or experience with the law can use the easy-to-navigate website.

The website is geared towards individuals with any number of legal questions, from procedure and forms to more specific legal challenges. In the “Legal Topics” section of the website, individuals can select the area of law they need help with and they are then presented with common questions and topics in that area. Once an area of law is selected, the website also provides related tools and resources. These include government websites, articles, and tools from CLEO.

The “Legal Topics” section covers many areas of law, including health and disability law. In this section, users can explore answers around ODSP, workplace safety, and services for people living with disabilities. Those contacting Reach for legal referrals experience all manner of legal matters, but this section is especially relevant to this community.

While the “Legal Topics” section answers popular questions about legal rights and procedures, the “Guided Pathways” section provides an online interview-type service to help users fill out forms and write legal letters. In the areas of family law, immigration, housing, wills and powers of attorney and non-profit bylaws, the website program can help correctly fill out important legal documents. This service is free and user-friendly. Each pathway guides the user through a set of questions designed to determine the correct way for them to fill out the relevant form. All information has been legally reviewed, meaning users can be assured that the end product from the Guided Pathway will be useful. After users have completed their Guided Pathways questionnaire, Steps to Justice can provide further information, suggest next steps, and supply potential resources for the user. The individual can also print and download their form or letter from the program after they have completed the Pathway.

Steps to Justice has a legal topic section on all five of Reach’s most-requested areas of law: Wills and estates, family law, landlord/tenant law, disability benefits, and human rights law. While Reach aims to provide connections to individualized support, Steps to Justice can furnish individuals with legal information that may provide immediate answers to their questions. The website might not provide every answer, but it lessens the stress for individuals with legal issues, and that is a crucial step in improving access to justice.