ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Where is Disability Accessibility in the Ontario Government’s Planned Legacy for the Expensive 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games? Shockingly, not a Word about It from the Ontario Cabinet Minister Responsible at the Government’s August 28 2013 News Conference to Unveil the Games’ Planned Legacy

August 30, 2013

SUMMARY

The Ontario Government held a carefully-planned hour-long news conference on August 28, 2013 to unveil its planned legacy for Ontario for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. The “legacy” refers to the long-term benefits to Ontario that will be left behind from the large public investment that is planned for them. Below we set out the speaking notes of the Ontario cabinet minister responsible for these Games, Michael Chan, and the related news release.

It is shocking that in unveiling the promised and planned legacy for these Games, not a word was said by the Ontario Cabinet Minister responsible for these Games, Michael Chan, about improving long-term accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed. It requires the Ontario Government to lead this province to become fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. Right now, Ontario is well behind schedule for meeting that deadline.

We want Ontario to get on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. The 2015 Pan and ParaPan American Games in Toronto will take place right at the halfway point between 2005, when the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was enacted, and 2025, when it requires a fully accessible province. Depending on whether the Ontario Government changes course now, these Games will either show the world that Ontario is indeed on schedule for full accessibility, by being at least halfway there (with plans to ensure we will finish that journey on time), or it will show Ontario to still sluggishly be dragging behind schedule.

In her December 3, 2012 letter to us, Kathleen Wynne, now Ontario’s premier, and then running for leadership of Ontario’s Liberal Party, pledged that she would ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. You can read Kathleen Wynne’s December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp

The lead Ontario minister’s failing to even mention much less highlight disability accessibility as part of the key legacy for these Games sends the wrong signal at the August 28, 2013 news conference. It calls into question the Government’s priorities.

This is even more troubling since three months ago, the Government announced in the Ontario Legislature during National Access Awareness Week that disability accessibility is a “top priority” for the Government. To read the Government’s statement in the Ontario Legislature that disability accessibility is a top priority, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05292013.asp   

In an August 28, 2013 email to the AODA Alliance, the Pan/ParaPan American Games Secretariat stated the following about their news conference:

“Today’s event focused on the launch of Ontario’s Promotion, Celebration and Legacy strategy for the 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games. The government is excited about this initiative that will showcase Ontario’s talent, culture, identity, diversity and inclusiveness in the lead up to and during the Games. The strategy will ensure that we establish a legacy so that everyone across the province sees the benefits of hosting this world-class event.

In addition to Minister Chan, Bill Boyle, CEO of Harbourfront Centre and 4-time Olympic medallist Kristina Groves addressed the audience. Canadian country music artist Kira Isabella and members of the All Nation Drum group performed. Remarks by Mr. Boyle and Ms. Groves were not formally scripted, though all speakers were supported on stage by an ASL interpreter.”

It did not help matters that, according to the Minister’s office, there were no para-athletes present at their news conference. We were told that they attempted to recruit some to attend, but were unsuccessful. Surely, such a carefully-staged event could have been planned with sufficient care to avoid such an embarrassing omission, when it concerns the “Pan/ParaPan" American Games.

The Ministry was correct to point us to the fact that it commendably held two events earlier in the summer to launch the two-year countdown to the ParaPan American Games. Their public links regarding those events include:

Link to Tourism Ministry website: http://www.panam2015.gov.on.ca/en/news/
2013/20130807.asp

Link to Tourism Ministry News Release: http://news.ontario.ca/panam2015/en/2013/08
/celebrating-two-year-countdown-to-the-2015-parapan-american-games.html

Link to TO2015 News Release:
http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1207323/
countdown-clock-two-years-to-go-until-toronto-hosts-largest-parapan-am-games-ever-held

Yet , a key message for accessibility is that people with disabilities are part of the mainstream of society. The ParaPan American Games should get full focus at an event celebrating the Pan/ParaPan American Games, such as was held on August 28, 2013, as should any planned legacy for disability accessibility in this province.

This comes right on the heels of the embarrassing fact that the Government’s email, inviting the public, including the AODA Alliance, to attend its August 28, 2013 news conference, was sent in an inaccessible format. To read the Toronto Star’s August 27, 2013 article, reporting on the Government’s inaccessible invitation to its August 28, 2013 news conference, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08272013.asp

Let’s make some good come out of this.  We call on the Ontario Government to promptly announce a clear, comprehensive and strong plan for a disability accessibility legacy for this province arising out of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. If the Government has such plans, it hasn’t told the public at the very news conference it called to unveil the Games’ planned legacy.

The Government has earlier referred to a legacy of accessible sports facilities. Any accessibility legacy must go much further. It must benefit a wide range of people with disabilities, not just the important needs of those people with disabilities who engage in sporting activities.

It should apply to all infrastructure, not just sports infrastructure. For example, with the expected influx of tourists for these Games, including tourists with disabilities, we need to ensure a substantial legacy of accessible tourism services and accommodations for people with disabilities, of public transit, taxis, other transportation services, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, public venues, sidewalks, all public information and communication including electronic infrastructure and digital information, and other public services and facilities. We must ensure that no public money is ever spent to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against any people with disabilities. The Government should live up to its two-year-old pledge that all new physical infrastructure, as well as digital infrastructure, will be disability accessible.

To see the Ontario Government’s 2011 commitment of future physical infrastructure accessibility, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07042011.asp   

To see the Ontario Government’s 2011 pledge regarding future electronic infrastructure accessibility for people with disabilities, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp
Ontario should plan to exceed the disability accessibility legacy achieved by other major international sporting events like this, especially if Ontario is to fulfil its claim to be a world-leader on disability accessibility.    

To learn about the legacy of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for people with disabilities, visit http://tourismbc-web.ktx002.com/0810/news/3.html

To learn about the legacy for people with disabilities of the 2012 London Olympics, visit http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wor/leg/legacy-full.pdf    

In other accessibility news, a staggering 218 days have passed since we wrote the Ontario Government to ask for its plans to keep its pledge to effectively enforce the AODA. We have received no substantive public response to that inquiry. To learn more about our request for the Ontario Government’s plans to enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, visit http://is.gd/XdwlVG  

The Ontario Government now has 17 days left to respond to the Freedom of Information Act request that AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky filed. He resorted to filing this application for access to information on the Government’s actions and plans to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA. To see what information on enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that has been requested under Ontario’s Freedom of Information Act, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08152013.asp   

As well, a vexing 71 days (or 13 full weeks) have passed since the legal deadline for the Ontario Government to appoint an Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Government is still violating that law. You can read our May 31, 2013, guest column in the on-line edition of the Toronto Star on the Government’s failure to appoint an Independent Review of the Disabilities Act by the May 31, 2013, deadline by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05312013.asp        

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Text of Minister Responsible for Pan/Parapan American Games Michael Chan’s Speaking Notes for the August 28, 2013 Pan/ParaPan American Games News Conference

Remarks

The Honourable Michael Chan
Minister Responsible for the Pan / Parapan American Games
at the
Promotion, Celebration and Legacy Announcement
Ontario Square
August 28th, 2013
Time: 10:30 a.m.

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Word Count: 716
Target Delivery Time: 5.4 minutes

Purpose of Speech:   To announce the province’s Promotion Celebration and Legacy Strategy that includes elevating the profile of the 2015 Games: enhanced support to festivals and events; support for diverse communities including Aboriginal, Francophone, LGBT Programming; completing sections of the Trans Canada Trail across Ontario; Volunteer Legacy Strategy; Pan Am Kids; Transportation planning and Security services.

Speakers / Performers:

Podium: yes
Microphone:  yes
Photographer: yes
Media: Yes
Attendance: Members from several key stakeholder groups including music, trails, volunteer, Aboriginal groups and the general public.

VIPs to Acknowledge: TBD

Tweet:

Text of the Tourism Ministry’s News Release

NEWS
Pan/Parapan Am Games Secretariat

Ontario to Stage a World-Class Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in 2015
Province Launches Strategy to Create a Lasting Pan Am and Parapan Am Games Legacy

NEWS
August 28, 2013

Ontario is launching its Pan Am and Parapan Am Games Promotion, Celebration and Legacy Strategy to increase the economic benefits and support them in becoming the People’s Games.

The Games and Games-related investments will create more than 26,000 jobs – a boost of 11,000 jobs from an earlier assessment, and grow Ontario’s real GDP by $3.7 billion from 2009 to 2017.

A key part of the strategy is a plan to celebrate and showcase Ontario talent from the stage to the stadium in local communities. The strategy will also create a lasting legacy for people across Ontario by:

Supporting a memorable and successful 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games is part of the Ontario government’s plan to showcase the province, while creating jobs and positioning Ontario as a sport tourism destination for years to come.

QUOTES

“The 2015 Games will serve as an enduring expression of Ontario pride – as we welcome the world to celebrate the creativity, diversity and hospitality that is synonymous with Ontario.  Comparable to similar Games, we are already ahead in the planning stages and will make these Games enjoyable for all.”
— Michael Chan, Minister Responsible for the Pan/Parapan American Games

“As we prepare to field the largest-ever Pan American team in Canadian history for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, we are confident that this inspiring display of athletic excellence will enhance the experience of sport and culture for Ontario residents, enrich trade for the province’s local businesses and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.”
— Marcel Aubut, President, Canadian Olympic Committee

“Ontario’s continued investment in sport is creating opportunities for the next generation of athletes with a disability. Many young Canadians will experience the TORONTO 2015 Parapan American Games and will be inspired to become champions, on and off the field of play.”
— Gaétan Tardif, President, Canadian Paralympic Committee

“By making these key investments, Ontario is ensuring it fully exploits and maximizes the potential of hosting the People’s Games in the summer of 2015 and as a legacy for future generations. We don’t get opportunities like this very often – we’re delighted that the Province of Ontario wants to make the most of it!”
— Roger Garland, Chairman, TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015)

QUICK FACTS

LEARN MORE
What people are saying about Ontario’s Promotion, Celebration, and Legacy Strategy for the Games

Ontario’s role in the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.

Christina Cindric Minister’s Office, 416-327-4365
Denelle Balfour, Communications Branch, 416-212-3928     ontario.ca/panam2015
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