Our Campaign for Strong, Effective Implementation of the AODA

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

MORE MEDIA ON THE ELECTION’S DISABILITY ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES

October 8, 2007

SUMMARY

With the media virtually obsessed with the school funding issue, it is harder than ever to get more media coverage of other issues like those touching on disability accessibility. Despite this, we commend those who have gotten the issue into the media. See below:

* Randy Norris’ column in the October 4, 2005 Guelph Mercury

* Cathy Vincent Linderoos’ letter in the October 7, 2007 London Free Press On-Line

* Bette Jones’ letter to the editor in the October 5, 2007 Toronto Star

* Helen Henderson’s October 8, 2007 Toronto Star column urging persons with disabilities to get out and vote in this election.

* Beryl Tsang’s letter to the editor in the September 6, 2007 Toronto Star

* Warren "Smokey" Thomas’s letter to the editor in the September 10, 2007 Toronto star

* September 8, 2007 CBC Radio North News Item on Disability Issues

* John Rae’s letter to the editor in the Toronto Star On-Line on September 6, 2007

* Cathy Vincent Linderoos’ letter in the London Free Press on-Line on September 6, 2007

It is noteworthy that much of this coverage was generated by members of the public, via letters to the editor/guest columns.

We also commend all those around Ontario who have worked to raise other disability issues in the election, such as the need to raise ODSP rates and issues surrounding funding for services for autistic children.

We are delighted to let you know that TV Ontario has invited AODA Alliance member David Lepofsky to be available for its election night coverage. We won’t know which of the number of guests invited to attend TV Ontario’s election night coverage will actually get some time on the air, until it happens.

Make plans now to be sure to vote. Book para-transit if you need it. Be sure to bring all the identification you will need. Take the final hours before election day to urge friends and family to take into account disability issues when deciding on their vote. They can learn about the election’s disability accessibility issues at:

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

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The Guelph Mercury October 4, 2007

Opinions

Voice of disabled must be heard

Graphic: Photo: CANADIAN PRESS / Journalist and disability activist David Onley, Ontario's new lieutenant-governor, smiles and gestures during his installation ceremony in Toronto Sept. 5. ;

My mother and father always taught me to be polite. Before everything else, I had to remember to say, "Excuse me." It was a matter of respect.

But disabled people in this province have been polite for too long.

There's no doubt that civility is important. I've spent years living by its rules and teaching my kids about it. I also know that there is a desperate shortage of respect in society. Few of us vote and too many of us suspect that every politician is corrupt.

But respect gets what respect gives, and clearly the government of this province expects that respect is a one-way street.

Marginalized and, for the most part, ignored by employers and politicians, the disabled have won some significant concessions in recent years. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, were brought in under the previous Conservative and the current Liberal governments.

The recent appointment of David Onley as the lieutenant-governor of Ontario is also a significant achievement for both Onley and for the disabled community. Onley, a journalist and disability activist, is confined to a wheelchair because of childhood polio.

The legislation and the symbolism of Onley's appointment should inspire the disabled to believe that anything is possible.

The Ontario legislation set out a process where accessibility standards would be developed and timelines established for their removal of barriers. These barriers can range from the physical ones that, for example, don't allow wheelchair access to a building or attitudinal ones that devalue the disabled as employees.

David Lepofsky is the spokesperson for the disability rights group, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. This group has, in one form or the other, spent decades lobbying the government of the day for effective legislation that would finally make a difference.

These aren't just abstract issues that affect a small number of Ontarians. Lepofsky pointed out that there are 1.5 million disabled in Ontario and that everyone will, at some point in their life, have a disability. In the end, it's about human rights for everyone.

But it seems that no matter the political party, when it is in government, promises are quickly forgotten. It's unusual to find a governing politician who remembers election promises.

The Mike Harris government, even after years of lobbying by disabled groups, enacted legislation that was embarrassingly weak and feeble in its scope. Dalton McGuinty's government went a step further and, with the unanimous agreement of legislature, passed the 2005 legislation with great fanfare.

Some in the disabled community felt that even though the "accessibility bill," as it has become known, didn't go far enough or quickly enough. It was a truly Canadian compromise.

In some instances, under the legislation, barriers didn't need to be removed for decades. By contrast, the Americans with Disability Act of 1990, in a typical American fashion, sets out a process to confront and substantially transform society while doing it without saying, "Excuse me."

The accessibility legislation was meant to remove barriers in a fashion that would not require a disabled individual, on a case-by-case basis, to attempt to change a sector or an individual institution. It was meant to reduce the trauma and pain suffered by individuals who, for example, file complaints with the Human Rights Commission.

But the current government, like others before it, has taken a path that's without promise.

By itself, the accessibility legislation is ineffectual; it requires accessibility standards that set out targets for various sectors in the province. The government has created a customer service standard that was widely criticized for being "weak and ineffectual."

The new standard for transportation also suffers from the same flaws. It's hard to see how any improvements can come from such dismal efforts.

The transportation standard has also been criticized by the Human Rights Commission for not even meeting minimum standards set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

At the same time, the government overhauled the Ontario Human Rights Act after it prematurely shut down the process for public comment. It has passed a bill that effectively privatized and weakened human rights in this province.

The Human Rights Commission will no longer investigate complaints, and anyone who has a complaint must hire his or her own lawyer.

In response to its critics, the government promised to set up a legal clinic that would guarantee that a disabled person could get free legal representation, but its promise far exceeded reality. The clinic is severely underfunded.

In this election campaign, all the opposition parties have made promises to the disabled community in letters to the Alliance. They have promised to overturn the human rights changes and to strengthen the accessibility bill.

Should the disabled community believe these promises?

The disabled community should continue to participate in the process, but it's also well past time to say, "Excuse me."

The government isn't listening and obviously doesn't respect the civility shown by the disabled community in this province.

The disabled community in this province need to mount a program of direct and forceful action outside of the traditional methods of communication.

Guelph freelance writer Randy Norris can be reached by e-mail at: rnorris@sentex.net.

RANDY NORRIS

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London Free Press On-Line October 7, 2007

McGuinty has yet to speak of human rights issue

As a voter, a person with disability for 20 years, and a member of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, I want Dalton McGuinty to promise to repeal Bill 107's privatization of human rights enforcement and to restore and strengthen the backlogged, underfunded Ontario Human Rights Commission -- just like the other two main parties' leaders have already promised.

Please let your MPPs and/or favourite editor know where you stand on this pressing matter. More information is at www.aodaalliance.org -- because, to quote author William Gibson, "the future is already here -- it's just unevenly distributed."

Cathy Vincent-Linderoos

London

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The Toronto Star October 5, 2007

Letter

Wake up to plight of disabled people

Election debate proves inaccessible to disabled

Ideas, Oct. 3

I fully agree with David Lepofsky on the article he wrote. I have MS and have been in a wheelchair for 15 years. I went to human rights a few years back.

It was difficult then and took three years. I could not afford a lawyer. They had two lawyers, but I won my case. With Bill 107, it would be impossible for someone on ODSP to put in a claim. It is difficult to deal with your disability without having to fight for everything that able-bodied people take for granted. I do not blame them but the government in power needs to wake up. What happened to Bill 118?

Bette Jones, Woodstock, Ont.

*****

The Toronto Star October 6, 2007

Life

Disabled urged to get out and vote

Graphic: FRED THORNHILL for the Toronto star Julianne Hay helped organize an all- candidates town hall meeting in the London area, which was attended by more than 100 voters representing people with all types of abilities and disabilities. ;

Julianne Hay was 19 when she first voted. Eleven years later, she is as passionate as ever about exercising her democratic rights. Apathy is simply not in her makeup.

"It's a wonderful feeling, that you can contribute," she says as she talks about spreading the word to others with intellectual disabilities.

In a provincial election in which disability issues are seriously understated, Hay and her peers are taking their passion, along with a power- point presentation, across the province.

As members of Community Living Ontario's self advocates' council, they're part of a growing movement to raise awareness among people who move and communicate and process information in ways novel to the rest of society.

"It's such a large population, yet the issues are not that visible," says Gordon Kyle, Community Living Ontario's director of social policy and government relations.

Last month, Kyle helped organize an all-candidates town hall meeting in the London area. More than 100 voters representing people with all types of abilities and disabilities took part.

Common themes included the lack adequate disability supports and the importance of including the views of people with disabilities in policy discussions, Kyle says. Perhaps the most important thing to emerge was the beginnings of "a long-term strategy to get more visibility for the issues, a template to give people a few tools" for town hall meetings in future.

With talk already buzzing about a federal election, there is a determination to raise the profile of disability issues to their rightful place. As Hay and her group point out, that starts with exercising your right to vote.

"People don't really tell you: 'You can do this.' But you can," she notes in a telephone interview from her home in Belleville.

Her point: Too many people are disenfranchised not by law but by attitudes. If you've been shut out your whole life, you forget you belong. Together with 12 other members of the self advocates' council, Hay's cross-province workshops hope to help change all that.

"Last spring when we heard there would be an election in the fall, we thought there were probably a lot of people who have an intellectual disability who have never voted before, maybe don't know how or that they even can," she says.

"Accessibility is not just about being able to get inside a building or a room, it's also about understanding the information and process when your there. "

In clear, no-nonsense language, the group's power-point presentation has information all eligible voters could use. Among other things it notes that:

Voting is not just a right, it's a responsibility.

If you don't vote, you can't complain.

Even if you have a disability, you are eligible to vote if you are a Canadian citizen over the age of 18.

You don't have to vote the way someone else wants you to.

To help you decide how to vote, go to candidates' offices to meet them, read the information they hand out, call their offices and ask questions and talk about what you believe.

Candidates' offices may help you get a ride to your polling station.

If you do get a ride from a candidate's volunteer, you don't have to vote for that candidate just because they gave you a ride.

The deputy returning officer is there to help you vote if you need it or you may have someone you trust help you to vote.

The bottom line, says Hay: "Voting is easier than you think, so do it."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

For more information, see www.communitylivingontario.ca or call 416-447-4348 or 1-800-278-8025.

Helen Henderson's column appears every second Saturday. Read more of her columns at thestar.com/access.

Helen Henderson

*****

Toronto Star Thursday, September 6, 2007

Letter

Rights take back seat to more bureaucracy

Provincial law abandons victims of discrimination

Comment, Sept. 4

Bravo to Avvy Go for pointing to the sorry state of human rights in Ontario. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is not as ineffective as its critics claim; it is under-resourced. Their solution of using a tribunal model with a Human Rights Legal Support Centre, rather than increasing access and dealing with the backlog, will in effect discourage victims of discrimination from seeking redress by making the system more bureaucratic.

As Ontarians are poised for an election, we must ask ourselves what kind of province we wish to live in: one that values consultation and participation of equity-seeking groups for the inclusion of all, or one that distrusts its citizenry to offer sound advice and analysis and stifles public debate, as this government has done with Bill 107.

Beryl Tsang, Toronto

*****

Toronto Star September 10, 2007

(2007-09-10)

Letter

Commission will lose under bill's reforms

Human rights bolstered

Letter, Sept. 7

Barbara Hall, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, is living in a dream world if she believes the government's human rights reforms will allow the commission to concentrate on the "big picture" and "address systemic discrimination." Hall should tell it like it is: The so-called reforms brought in under Bill 107 will divert funding away from the commission, giving it to the tribunal and new legal support centre. The commission will be left with few staff and barely enough resources to do educational pamphlets.

OPSEU fought hard to win amendments to the legislation that gives the commission the right to initiate public inquiries, intervene in cases and initiate its own complaints before the tribunal. Unfortunately, without a substantial increase in funding, the commission won't have the staff and the resources required to do any of it.

Warren "Smokey" Thomas, President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Toronto

*****

CBC North Radio News September 8, 2007

Ont. disability advocate slams Liberal silence

Last Updated: Saturday, September 8, 2007 | 8:42 AM ET
CBC News

The Ontario Liberals' record on making the province more accessible for people with disabilities is less than impressive, and they haven't indicated that things will change if they are re-elected, says the spokesman for a group that advocates for the disabled.

"They don't even mention in their platform the Disability Act," said David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, on Friday.

The Liberal platform, released Thursday, includes $14.7 billion in new spending.

Lepofsky said he is encouraged that Dalton McGuinty's government appointed David Onley, who uses a wheelchair, as the province's new lieutenant-governor. Onley was sworn in Wednesday.

However, the Liberals have failed to fully implement the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, passed with support from all legislative parties in 2005, Lepofsky said.

He added that as of Friday, the Liberals hadn't responded to the group's request for the party to state its position on accessibility for the upcoming election, even though both the Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties have committed to strengthening accessibility standards if elected.

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Toronto Star Sept. 6, 2007 On-Line

Onley makes appeal for `a helping hand and an open mind'

Sept. 6

While the installation of David Onley as Ontario's new lieutenant-governor is symbolically important, bringing Ontarians with disabilities into the mainstream will take far more than "a helping hand and an open mind."

To achieve Onley's goals and the elusive promise of the long-ago International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, "full participation and equality," the Ontario government needs to show real leadership and help develop and implement a new economic strategy that will bring together government, labour and consumer organizations to address the historic levels of poverty, marginalization and unemployment that remain the reality of so many Ontarians with disabilities.

Such a strategy must do more than what has taken place to date under the much-touted Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to remove old barriers and prevent the introduction of new ones, and it must also address both the poverty and labour-market exclusion that continue to confront so many Ontarians who live with a disability.

John Rae, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Toronto

*****

London Free Press On-Line

Sept. 6, 2007 London Free Press: Interactive Letter to Editor

DISABILITIES AND THE ELECTION

A QUESTION TO ASK THE CANDIDATES: As a disabled person who expectantly lauded the passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the AODA), I found it most disconcerting to see Bill 107 brought forward and unfairly rip the majority of the teeth out of the Human Rights Commission. What will you do to see to it that this unfair chapter in Ontario is reversed and that our once-important progress towards a barrier-free society for people with disabilities gets back on track, if you were to be elected?

POSTED BY: Cathy Vincent-Linderoos AODA Alliance member, London, London

POSTED ON: September 6, 2007