ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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ASK THE LEGISLATURE TO LET YOU PRESENT AT STANDING COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARINGS ON BILL 231 - ONTARIO’S PROPOSED LEGISLATION ADDRESSING ELECTION BARRIERS CONFRONTING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

March 5, 2010

SUMMARY

We urge you to have your views and concerns heard by the Ontario Legislature on the need for strong legislation to ensure fully accessible elections in Ontario.

On December 8, 2010, the Government introduced Bill 231 into the Ontario Legislature for First Reading. This bill aims to modernize elections in Ontario. Among other things, it seeks to address barriers that impede voters and candidates with disabilities from fully participating in elections in Ontario.

We are very concerned that as now written, Bill 231 is far too weak. It will not ensure fully accessible elections for voters and candidates with disabilities. It will not effectively prevent the very troubling incident in the recent Toronto by-election where Elections Ontario operated at least one inaccessible polling station in the middle of downtown Toronto. To read about that incident, visit:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02052010.asp

The AODA Alliance and its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, have been campaigning for over 10 years to make elections in Ontario fully accessible. To see what the AODA Alliance has said about Bill 231, visit:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12182009.asp


And http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02082010.asp

For a bill to be passed into law, the Legislature must vote on it three times (three Readings). On March 3, 2010, the bill passed Second Reading. It had been debated on Second Reading on February 16, and March 2 and 3, 2010. The Government gave us no notification that the bill would be introduced for First Reading on December 8, 2009, or that Second Reading debates would occur at the Legislature on those dates. This was especially odd, since Premier McGuinty promised us in the 2007 election to develop an accessible elections action plan. His Government has said it is taking an open and consultative approach to achieving accessibility.

HOW TO HAVE YOUR SAY

Bill 231 has now been referred to the Legislature’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly. That Standing Committee will study the bill, and debate it clause-by-clause. That Standing Committee will then send the bill back to the Legislature for Third Reading debates. To learn about the process that a proposed law like this makes its way through the Legislature, please read the helpful guide that our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee prepared several years ago. You can find it at: http://www.odacommittee.net/news159.html.

We have called for there to be public hearings on Bill 231. Those hearings would give you a chance to go before the Standing Committee and present your views on the bill. We have just received word suggesting that there will be public hearings. We await confirmation of this, including details on the schedule for them. The Standing Committee has not yet met to sort out those details.

We urge you all to immediately contact the Legislature’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly. Ask for the Standing Committee to hold ample public hearings on Bill 231. Sign up to make a presentation on the bill. The more people who sign up to present on this bill, the better! You can make a presentation whether you are part of an organization, or just as an individual.

To ask to be listed for public hearings, you should email or fax the Clerk of the Standing Committee Ms. Tonia Grannum, at:
Email: grannum@ontla.ola.org
Fax (416) 325-3505

Indicate your full name, your organization (if you are requesting to appear on behalf of an organization, rather than as an individual), your mailing address, email address and phone number.

Don’t wait until the Standing Committee decides on the details of the public hearings. Get your request in now! We have a better chance at getting more days of public hearings if enough people show an interest in presenting to the Standing Committee.

If you live outside Toronto, you might ask that hearings take place in your community. Even if the hearings are only in Toronto, you can ask to make your presentation over the phone if you aren’t readily able to travel to the Legislature in Toronto.

We especially encourage Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees around Ontario to sign up for public hearings. You can make a collective deposition on behalf of your entire Accessibility Advisory Committee, or individual members can ask to make individual presentations on their own behalf. Every contribution helps.

We also urge disability community organizations to come forward to make presentations to the Standing Committee on the needs of their specific disability. The AODA Alliance will address elections accessibility as a broad topic. We need organizations with specialized knowledge about specific disabilities to share that knowledge with the Legislature’s Standing Committee.

The AODA Alliance will be providing you with lots of information and tips on this over the next weeks. That will include our own brief on Bill 231 (which we are now working on). In the meantime, if you want to read Bill 231, click on this link:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/docs/1209-Bill-231.doc

Let us know if you sign up to present at the Standing Committee. Contact us by email at:
aodafeedback@gmail.com