ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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TORONTO STAR REPORTS ON AODA ALLIANCE CALL FOR TIM HUDAK TO MAKE ACCESSIBILITY PLEDGE -Ė REPORTS ON PCS' ONLY PUBLIC EXPLANATION FOR WHY IT HASN'T COMMITTED NOT TO CUT ACCESSIBILITY REGULATIONS

September 23, 2011

SUMMARY

We've gotten more great media coverage of our election campaign for a fully accessible Ontario, right on the heels of the AODA Alliance's September 22, 2011 appearance on TV Ontario's program "The Agenda with Steve Paikin." That TVO 13-minute interview is now on Youtube with automated captioning available. Visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB3yTuq1ErE  

Here's the latest: The September 23, 2011 Toronto Star includes an excellent article (reprinted below) by veteran reporter Richard Brennan on our election campaign for an accessible Ontario.

This article quotes extensively from our September 13, 2011 letter to Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak. In that letter, we ask him to commit not to cut gains on accessibility for which we've fought so long and hard. We also ask him to commit to specific actions to move Ontario more quickly forward towards full accessibility by 2025. You can see that letter at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09132011.asp  :

In this article, the PCs give their first public explanation for why they, unlike all the other major parties, won't give such a commitment: "Hudak said in a statement to the Star that the party recognizes the challenges Ontarians with disabilities have and has addressed them in its election platform.Ē

"That's why Changebook commits to streamlining Ontario's ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) system, which will condense its many different rules for a more effective system. This will make the system fairer for society's neediest and for all Ontarians.""

            OUR RESPONSE

That is no reason for refusing to make the commitments we seek. The PC platform, entitled "ChangeBook," includes the following:

 "We will modernize the welfare system to make it fairer, both for societyís neediest and for those who pay for it.

The goal of welfare should be straightforward: to help our neediest rebuild their lives, get out of the system, develop useful skills, and get a full-time job. We will help more people exit welfare and enter the working world.

A Tim Hudak government will allow Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients who work part time to keep more of their benefits and ease their transition from welfare to a job. Finding and maintaining a job should be applauded, not penalized.

We will streamline the system. It is currently governed by over 800 different rules and many of them contradict one another. We will condense them for a more effective system.

We will require welfare recipients to be residents of Ontario for one year before collecting benefits.

Ontario tax dollars support welfare payments. They show our commitment to helping those in need. But itís only fair that recipients have a similar level of commitment to Ontario."

The PC platform also notes in its commitments on health care that: "Care in Ontario is structured around forms, processes, long lines, and bureaucracy, when it should be built from the patient out. This is true when it comes to emergencies. Itís true when it comes to chronic diseases like cancer or diabetes. Itís especially true for people who have a mental illness who too often get lost in the system."

 

ODSP definitely needs to be reformed. However, the fact that the PCs would streamline ODSP and let persons with disabilities on social assistance (ODSP) keep more of their earnings if they also can get some kind of employment, while clearly needed and helpful, is no substitute for the commitments we seek. This shouldn't be an unfair choice between allowing more income for the poorest of persons with disabilities versus improving overall accessibility for all Ontarians with disabilities. Why not do both?

* The next Ontario Government could fix problems at ODSP, while also ensuring it moves forward, not backward, on the road to a fully accessible Ontario.

* The next Ontario Government could increase earnings an ODSP recipient can keep, while the Government also ensures the Government doesn't cut accessibility regulations for which we have fought so long and hard.

* The next Ontario Government could make it easier to apply for ODSP, while it also ensures that the Government doesn't let anyone use public tax dollars to create new barriers against persons with disabilities.

* The next Ontario Government could remove barriers in the ODSP process, while the Government also promptly develops and enforces strong and effective new accessibility regulations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Please:

* Circulate this Toronto Star article to friends and family.

* Urge your local media to cover this story.

* Write letters to the editor at the Toronto Star on this article. Email the Star at:   lettertoed@thestar.ca

* For other ideas on how to help raise accessibility issues in this election campaign, check out our Election Action Kit by visiting: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09162011.asp

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Toronto Star September 23, 2011

News

Disability rights group criticizes Tories; Seeks PC commitment to improve accessibility

Graphic: Former mayoral candidate George Smitherman tests the TTC's accessibility. VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR file photo

The Tories are the only mainstream party refusing to commit to advancing the cause of making Ontario a fully accessible province, says a lawyer and disability rights advocate.

In a Sept. 13 letter to Tim Hudak, David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, admonished the Progressive Conservative leader.

"Our non-partisan community coalition asked each party to commit that if elected, it would move Ontario forward, not backward, on the road to becoming fully accessible for over 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities (by 2025)," Lepofsky wrote.

"Only your party declined to commit to this.

"Please reconsider. In this election, our hard-won gains towards making Ontario fully accessible are at risk."

Lepofsky told the Star "at the very least we would like a commitment that we won't lose what we have now."

Hudak said in a statement to the Star that the party recognizes the challenges Ontarians with disabilities have and has addressed them in its election platform.

"That's why Changebook commits to streamlining Ontario's ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) system, which will condense its many different rules for a more effective system. This will make the system fairer for society's neediest and for all Ontarians."

The very first question from the alliance asks the parties if they "promise not to cut what we have gained" Lepofsky said.

"Only PCs didn't agree not to cut gains we've made. Only PCs don't agree to any steps to strengthen implementation of the 2005 Disabilities Act, and to effectively enforce that important law," Lepofsky said in his letter to Hudak.

"We appreciate the PCs saying you'd work with us on our issues. Yet that falls far short of what we've requested, and of what other parties promise," he said, referring to the non-committal response he received from the campaign.

In comparison, the Liberal campaign responded: "We will ensure that we maintain and/or strengthen the current provisions and protections in the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) or any regulations enacted under the legislation."

The New Democrats and the Green Party made similar commitments.

Lepofsky said in his letter he remembered former Tory premier Mike Harris during the 1995 campaign promising to pass a disabilities act in his government's first term.

It was until six years later that it introduced a "weak accessibility law" in 2001 that went nowhere.

Richard J. Brennan Toronto Star