Our Campaign for Strong, Effective Implementation of the AODA

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

2007 ELECTION ACTION KIT

September 17, 2007

OUR GOALS IN THIS ELECTION

Help make voters with disabilities count in the October 10, 2007 Ontario election. We have two important goals:

1. We want the positions the parties and their candidates take on disability issues, including disability accessibility issues, to be a major factor for voters. This includes making Ontario fully disability-accessible. We need to get Bill 107 repealed. It privatizes the enforcement of human rights in Ontario. It took away discrimination victims’ right to have discrimination cases publicly investigated by the Human Rights Commission, and publicly prosecuted where there’s enough proof.

We also need to strengthen the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Its implementation in the past two years has been weak and ineffective.

2. We want this to be Ontario's first barrier-free election. All people with disabilities should be able to fully participate in every aspect of this campaign including the vote itself.

In the past three Ontario general elections and in several by-elections, the disability community did a great job at the grassroots across Ontario raising disability issues. Building on that success, let's make an enormous difference for those who have a disability today and for those who will acquire one in the future. That adds up to almost everyone!

In an election campaign, the media usually only focus on a few big issues, like health and education. We can’t buy millions of dollars of TV ads. Despite that, with your help, we can again wage an effective non-partisan grassroots campaign reaching voters one at a time. This kit gives practical tips on how to help.

Imagine - if every voter with a disability and every parent, relative or friend of a person with a disability, voted and also convinced two other people to vote. Imagine if each of these people informed their friends and neighbours about the importance of disability issues and why the parties’ positions on disability issues should influence how they vote. That will send a message to all parties that we have a strong voice and that we’ll use it.

This kit tells you the positions of the parties on key disability accessibility issues. It gives suggestions on how you can help. Be creative. Come up with your own ideas. Share them with us. We'll circulate them. Contact us at: aodafeedback@rogers.com

The non-partisan AODA Alliance doesn't endorse any party or candidate. Our goal is to spread information on these issues as widely as possible. This lets voters make an informed choice. Even when a party does not have a platform supporting us on a key issue, we can try to get their individual candidates to commit to our goals.

THE PARTIES' PLATFORMS ON MAKING ONTARIO FULLY DISABILITY-ACCESSIBLE

Like everyone, Ontarians with disabilities want to go out with friends, go to school, get jobs and participate in all aspects of life. In 2005, after our tenacious decade-long campaign, Ontario finally got a new law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). However its implementation over the past two years has been toothless and very disappointing.

For example, a 2006 Human Rights Tribunal ruling gave the Toronto Transit Commission 30 days to start announcing all bus stops to assist blind passengers. At the same time the McGuinty government is circulating a proposal under the AODA that would let other cities stall 18 years before providing this obvious, simple accommodation.

This means we must repeatedly fight discrimination cases one barrier at a time, and one organization at a time, all over Ontario just to get the same access we won in Toronto. With the new Disability Act we weren’t supposed to need to do this.

What’s worse, last year the McGuinty Government passed the widely-criticized Bill 107. Many, including many from the disability community, opposed Bill 107.

Before Bill 107, discrimination victims had the right to have the Human Rights Commission publicly investigate their discrimination cases, and publicly prosecute them if there’s enough proof. Under Bill 107, discrimination victims must investigate and prosecute their own human rights cases.

The McGuinty Government promised free lawyers for all discrimination victims. Yet its under-funded new Legal Support Centre can’t provide lawyers in all cases.

In this election we asked the three parties to commit to

* overturn and repeal the widely-criticized Bill 107, in order to fully restore the Human Rights Commission, including our right to a public investigation of discrimination cases, and to a public prosecution of the offender when there’s enough proof, and

* Put teeth into the implementation of the new Disabilities Act.

Here’s what the parties committed in this campaign:

LIBERALS: They passed Bill 107 weakening the Human Rights Commission, and won’t repeal Bill 107. They shut down promised public hearings on that bill, muzzling discrimination victims who opposed it. They passed the Disabilities Act, but implemented it ineffectively. They’ve pledged to take some specific steps to improve its implementation.

PCs: They voted against Bill 107’s weakening the Human Rights Commission, and the Liberals’ shutting down the promised public hearings on that bill. They promise to repeal Bill 107. They voted for the Disabilities Act and promise to strengthen its implementation.

NDP: They voted against Bill 107’s weakening the Human Rights Commission, and the Liberals’ shutting down the public hearings on that bill. They promise to repeal Bill 107. They voted for the Disabilities Act and promise to strengthen its implementation.

For full details on the parties' platforms on this issue, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/election2007/default.asp

To see which MPPs voted for or against Bill 107’s privatizing human rights enforcement, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/bill107-votes.asp

When the widely-criticized Bill 107 was before the Legislature last year, we were promised that everyone who wanted to would get a chance to present their views at public hearings on that bill before the Legislature. When the tide of opposition to that bill, especially from discrimination victims, kept growing, the McGuinty Government used its majority to pass a “closure motion” to cancel public hearings that were promised, advertised and scheduled. To see which MPPs voted for or against the McGuinty Government’s motion shutting down the promised public hearings on Bill 107, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/election2007/default.asp

WHAT YOU CAN DO

* To help you educate the public, we’ve prepared an excellent election leaflet. It fits on both sides of one page. It explains these disability issues issue to the public, describes the parties' platforms, and urges voters to consider this issue when voting. Download, print up, and hand out copies of this leaflet. Get it at:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/election2007/default.asp

Give it to as many people as you can. Post it in public places, where permitted. Email it to friends. Get them to hand it out to others.

* Go to campaign events and all-candidates debates in your community. Contact any candidate's campaign office in your area to find out when and where these events are happening. Give out copies of our election leaflet to people at those events. Ask the candidates questions about where they stand on disability accessibility issues. See ideas for this at the end of this kit. Let us know what happened at these events.

* The only party leader that has refused to make a commitment on Bill 107 that we’ve requested is the Liberals’ Dalton McGuinty. Despite this, you can still try to get commitments from individual Liberal candidates across Ontario on Bill 107. Ask them to support our call for Bill 107 to be repealed, and for the Government to restore to the Ontario Human Rights Commission its duty to publicly investigate individual human rights complaints, and to publicly prosecute offenders where there’s enough proof. Approach candidates in your riding to ask for this pledge.

* Call in to phone-in radio programs, and write letters to the editor on the importance of the disability accessibility issue to you. For email addresses for Ontario newspapers, visit: www.odacommittee.net/action-tip36.html

* Phone or personally meet the candidates running in your riding to discuss the need to address our disability accessibility issues. Tell them about the barriers you have faced. Urge them to give you a strong personal commitment on this issue, and to make this a high-profile issue during the campaign.

* Talk to friends, family, neighbours and co-workers. Explain the barriers that you or your friends face. Tell them why the election’s disability accessibility issues are important. Let them know what the three parties have said and done about this issue. Explain why it is important that they vote in this election, and why the parties' positions on the disability accessibility issue should play an important role in who they choose to vote for.

* Notify the local media of any barriers you encounter during the election campaign such as election events held in inaccessible locations, the absence of needed accommodations at campaign events, inaccessible campaign offices or polling stations, or lack of campaign literature in an accessible format. Also, notify your riding's returning officer and Ontario's Chief Elections Officer if you are encountering barriers in voting. Of course, also let us know at:
aodafeedback@rogers.com

* Make sure that you are on the voter's list so you can vote in the election. Get your friends to make sure that they are on the voter's list.

* Vote in the election. Learn how you can vote if you cannot get to the polls or if you cannot get out on Election Day.

* Monitor the AODA Alliance website for ongoing developments at: www.aodaalliance.org

Spread this information to others who don’t have access to the internet.

* If you use E-mail but aren’t on our AODA E mail distribution list, send a request to join it to:
aodafeedback@rogers.com

MORE ACTION TIPS FOR ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING OUR CAUSE

If you are part of an organization that wants a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, we encourage you to also take the following additional steps:

* Make it a priority for your organization to help us advocate for a truly barrier-free election, in which all voters with disabilities can and do vote.

* Designate specific members of your staff to be responsible for your organization's work on this.

* Print and circulate this kit and our ODA election leaflet to your members, consumers, board, staff and volunteers as widely as possible across Ontario. Distribute these materials as part of the information packages that your organization routinely gives out to the public. Post it on your website or link to the AODA Alliance’s website.

* Hold public events during the election to inform voters with disabilities about the ways to participate in the campaign, about the importance of the disability issues and about the positions of the parties on this issue.

* Set up booths in malls and other public places to give out information to the public, such as this Action Kit and our AODA election leaflet.

* Approach the local media and explain why they should be writing stories about this issue.

* Write to the Chief Elections Officer and the three party leaders, local candidates and local returning officers, pointing out the specific barriers that your organization needs removed or prevented to ensure that this is a barrier-free election.

IDEAS FOR ALL-CANDIDATES' DEBATES

If you attend an all-candidates' debate in your area, you may wish to:

* Download, print up and hand out our AODA 2007 election leaflet to people attending.

* Prepare a short question to ask the candidates before you get there, and try to get a seat near the microphone so you will have a better chance to get to ask it.

* In your question, assume that the audience knows nothing about the ODA issue, and knows little about the barriers facing persons with disabilities. Be brief so that the audience doesn’t get impatient. Tell them about some major barriers you face.

As an example you might ask:

1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities face barriers every day when they try to get a job, use our health or education system, or shop in stores. Because the Government’s implementation of the new Disabilities Act is so weak and ineffective, we have to fight barriers one at a time by filing human rights complaints. For example, the Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Toronto Transit Commission’s bus drivers to start announcing all bus stops in Toronto, and gave 30 days to start. Yet the Government’s proposed regulations under the Disabilities Act would let other cities delay 18 years before providing this simple accommodation.

Even worse, the Liberals passed Bill 107. Because of it, if we do file human rights complaints around Ontario to fight these barriers, individuals don’t have the right any more to have the Human Rights Commission publicly investigate this discrimination, and publicly prosecute the offender if there’s enough proof. I and many others want Bill 107 repealed, and our Human Rights Commission strengthened.

The Conservatives and NDP promise to repeal Bill 107 and strengthen the Human Rights Commission so it can publicly investigate and publicly prosecute these individual cases again. Dalton McGuinty refused to agree to this. He didn’t listen to the disability community’s opposition to Bill 107 last year. Instead he shut down the public hearings on that bill that he had promised, advertised, and scheduled.

I ask the Liberal candidate, even if your leader hasn’t promised to repeal Bill 107’s privatization of human rights enforcement, will you as an individual MPP pledge to support the repeal of Bill 107 and the holding of a new public consultation on how to fix our broken, backlogged Human rights enforcement system?

Click here to Download This 2007 Disability Accessibility Election Action Kit as an MS Word File, So You can Print it and Give It To Others