ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

On the 15th Anniversary of the Ontario Legislature’s 1998 Pivotal Disabilities Act Resolution, Our Accessibility Campaign Has News in Three Provinces – Ontario Premier Speaks about the Disabilities Act in Toronto – AODA Alliance to Present to Manitoba Legislature’s Standing Committee on Proposed Manitoba Accessibility Law – Public Forum on Campaigning for Promised Nova Scotia Disabilities Law to Be Held In Halifax

October 29 2013

SUMMARY

On three different fronts, there is good news to share today, the 15th anniversary of a pivotal day in our campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to all people with disabilities.

Fifteen years ago today, on October 29, 1998, after years of tenacious advocacy by people with disabilities across Ontario, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a landmark resolution. It called on the Ontario Government to enact a disability accessibility law that fulfilled 11 principles that Ontarians with disabilities formulated to ensure that an accessibility law is strong and effective. To learn more about the historic events leading up to the Ontario Legislature’s unanimous passage of its October 29, 1998 resolution on the Disabilities Act.

During this week that marks that anniversary, we have accessibility news that spans three provinces, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

  1. In Ontario

    This past weekend, on October 26, 2013, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made her first public statement of which we are aware on the implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Below we set out a transcript of her nine-minute speech. She spoke in Toronto at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s Annual Braille Conference.

  2. In Manitoba

    Tonight, October 29, 2013, a Standing Committee of the Manitoba Legislature is holding public hearings on Bill 26, the proposed Accessibility for Manitobans Act. Manitoba is the second Canadian province to embark on enacting accessibility legislation for people with disabilities.

    The first presenter at these public hearings will be the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky will make his presentation by phone, by agreement of the parties in the Manitoba Legislature.

    We congratulate Barrier-Free Manitoba, the non-partisan Manitoba disability coalition fighting for Bill 26, for their relentless and tireless work to reach the milestone of public hearings on an accessibility bill. We wish them our best in winning amendments to the proposed Manitoba accessibility law. We encourage anyone in or near Winnipeg to join them at the public hearings at the Manitoba Legislature tonight.

  3. In Nova Scotia

    On Sunday, November 3, 2013, from 10 a.m. to noon, a public forum will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on organizing to advocate for strong and effective accessibility legislation. This will kick off efforts by Nova Scotians with disabilities in response to the new Nova Scotia Government’s recent election commitment to enact a Nova Scotians with Disabilities Act.

    We are delighted that AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky has been invited to speak at this public forum. He will share lessons learned in Ontario, on how to work together to advocate for accessibility legislation. Please spread the word! Encourage anyone you know in Nova Scotia to attend this event. Below we set out the full announcement for this event.

  4. More Ontario News

    On May 28, 2013, to mark National Access Awareness Week, the Ontario cabinet minister with lead responsibility for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Dr. Eric Hoskins, made a speech on the floor of the Ontario Legislature. He said that fulfilling his accessibility mandate is his “top priority.” He stated: “As the minister now leading our government’s efforts to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive, I would like to take this opportunity to state clearly and unequivocally that accessibility is a top priority for me, for my ministry and for our government."

    On this important anniversary in our non-partisan accessibility campaign, what has it meant for accessibility to be a “top priority for the Government?”    

    There have now been 278 days since the AODA Alliance wrote the Ontario Government for information on the Government’s plans to keep its election promise to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. To date, we have no public response to that request. To read the AODA Alliance’s unanswered January 22, 2013 letter to the Ontario Government, requesting the Ontario Government’s plans for enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

    There have now been 75 days since AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky submitted his August 15, 2013 request to the Ontario Government under the Freedom of Information Act for the Government’s plans for keeping its promise to effectively enforce the AODA. To learn more about the Government’s telling the AODA Alliance chair he must pay an estimated $2,325 to get his Freedom of Information application answered. We have still not heard whether the Government will waive this fee, as David Lepofsky requested on October 2, 2013.  

    Sixty-two days have now passed since the Ontario Government announced its planned legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. No disability accessibility legacy has been announced for the Games. We have offered the Government a constructive proposal for a disability accessibility legacy for those Games. We still await an answer. To read the AODA Alliance’s proposal for a disability legacy for the 2015 Games.

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Text of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s October 26, 2013 Speech at the CNIB Braille Conference in Toronto

(Note: The reference in this speech to “Julia” is to a girl who won an award in a Braille story-writing contest. The reference to “John” is to CNIB President John Rafferty.)

Thank you thank you very much John and good morning everyone. Bonjour it's wonderful to be here and it's great to see Julia again we saw each other last weekend I think it was in a fudge shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and we did some pictures there because I wasn't we weren't sure I was going to be able to get here today, whether we were going to be able to connect. And we wanted to do that picture. But my baby grandson was born early he was due today. He was born on Tuesday. So I'm here, and it's wonderful to be here thank you. 

And I have some formal remarks, and I am going to make those, but first of all I just want to thank everyone in this room for their support of the CNIB, their support of the community, and the work that you're all doing. I look down and I see Jim Sanders. I see David Lepofsky. I see people who have been active in the community, and advocates in the community for so long, so thank you very much.

And I’ve said many times that I believe that the way government works best is by connecting with people in the field who understand what is going on and understand how we need to move forward. And David Lepofsky was in my office not that long ago, couple of weeks ago. And as a result of his visit, you know, we are we're continuing to push on some of the some of the concerns around enforcement of our standards, and getting in place another standard to work on in terms of accessibility. So there is a lot of work yet to be done.

And I appreciate John's kind words. And I think that we have done a lot as a government, but I'm not under any illusion that there's not a lot more to do. So I just want to thank all of you for your advocacy, and for everything that you do to support those living with visual impairment.  Thank you. 

I'm very pleased to join you all here today. Je suis si heureuse de me joindre à vous tous ici aujourd’hui. And I know that this year's conference is focused on Braille, and leveraging technology to achieve greater accessibility. And Julia was giving me a little primer last weekend about some of the new technology that she uses. And I look forward to hearing her story.

And I really think it's so important that we continue to push ourselves as a society to make sure that everyone has the tools and support that they need to do their best. It only makes sense to me that we would do that. And so that is my focus as premier. And I'm happy to have an opportunity to speak with you about how I think we can work together to make sure that every individual in this province has the opportunities that they deserve and that they can have -- Reach.

In politics, we talk a lot about the economy and we will be talking a lot about the economy in the days and weeks to come.  We talk about productivity and job creation.  And people tend to talk about these issues as though they are separate and abstract and almost academic. But I see the economy and Ontario's prosperity in the way that it relates to individual people. How does the economy manifest itself in our lives. 

So if our people have the best education, they have the right training and opportunities, if they can find a career that they love, and a way to take part in and give back to their communities, then our economy is going to grow and prosper. And I think we have to bring it to that level and figure out how it is that people can or cannot take part, to understand whether the economy is thriving or not.  If people are treated fairly and do well, then the economy does well. And so our government' is working to make sure that we focus our efforts in the right places, that we invest in people, that we invest in the infrastructure that builds strong communities, and that we support a dynamic business environment, so that everyone including not for profit organizations and centres like the CNIB can do their best, because all that is intertwined.  And I think that the three elements of our plan work effectively together.

And you know, there is a school of thought right now that would suggest that austerity and further constraint and further restriction of government is the way to go. And I can tell you that in Ontario, we have made difficult decisions. We are one of the leanest governments in the country. And I believe that right now, what we have to do is make these investments and support people invest in infrastructure, support the business community, in order for us to be able to thrive. 

So I am very focused on helping everyone to fully participate in the job market and in society, because we believe that this investment in our people is critical to our future.  So whether it's people in the visually-impaired community, whether it's young people, whether it's our aboriginal youth, there are people who are not at this moment fully able to participate. And our focus is to make sure that they are able to participate.  It's about fostering a fair society and increasing opportunity, from my perspective.  It's also, as I've said, about strengthening our economy, and making sure that our future prosperity isn't limited by physical or technological barriers, or barriers of attitude. 

So all of those aspirations are intertwined.  So I believe, and this is a bit of a truism, but I really believe it that our greatest strength here in Ontario, and I'm reminded of that every time I need people like Julia, that our greatest strength is our people. 

And so we're focused on removing barriers for people living with visual impairment.  To achieve this, we've moved Ontario's Accessibility Directorate to the Ministry of Economic Development Trade and Employment.  It's not just a symbolic change. I really believe that this move will bring about positive changes, because the discussion -- the policy decisions that are made in the Ministry of Economic Development Trade and Employment -- obviously are about those things.  They are about helping people, and finding ways for people to take part in the economy. 

So we want to incorporate accessibility across all of our sectors, and we're doing our part, but we have also called on the private sector to join us in this goal.  We want all sectors to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. And there are good economic arguments, as all of you know, for businesses doing that. 

Our accessibility standard for employment will require employers to improve accessibility across all stages of the employment cycle, from recruitment to career development, so that everyone can compete on a level playing field.  That transformation is already happening in the public sector, and the private sector will be working toward it as well. And I know that the next line in my remarks say that I'm confident that as businesses pro-actively remove barriers and create more accessible inclusive workplaces, they will improve their potential for growth. And I know that David Lepofsky will be having future conversations with me about whether that's happening or not and what we are doing to make sure it happens. So, David I'm just going to pre-empt the question (laughter).

And I know that we have to get on that, so there is a certain amount of push and pull that have to happen. And I understand that. And the question becomes: What are the mechanisms that we need to have in place to make sure that this happens? Moral suasion and encouragement is a big part of it. But there are other mechanisms that I know we need to try to develop. 

So this isn't, as I've said, it's not just a right thing for businesses to do. So this isn't just about altruism. It's also the smart thing to do.  And it benefits everybody. If we support every person and enable them to do their best, we set ourselves all of us up for success now and in the years to come. 

And that's why --  John referenced this -- that's why we're providing three point two million dollars to the CNIB to support accessible public library services. Because I think that there's nothing more important than having access to the written word and being able to access those resources.  We want to make sure that the people of Ontario can do that -- can access reading material in alternative format -- so we can help improve literacy and encourage lifelong learning, and make it easier for everyone to access those employment opportunities. 

And we're also working toward implementing Unified English Braille in schools.  The CNIB has shown great leadership in this area. And we're working with you and school board representatives to develop implementation plans, so we can provide the necessary training and support.  And some of those changes are culture shifts for school boards or schools. And so we have to, we have to work together. 

So, I want to thank all of you at the CNIB and all of you in the community for being strong champions for accessibility and inclusion.  I know that you work very hard, and I know that some of you have worked very hard for many many years to improve people's lives. And you're contributing to the spirit and the prosperity, not just of the individuals with whom you work but to society as a whole.

So I'm very very grateful to you. And it's an honour to be able to work with you, and I'll continue to support your efforts. And thank you very much for inviting me here this morning. David, I look forward to our next conversation (laughter) thank you very much thank you.

Text of Announcement for the November 3, 2013 Halifax Nova Scotia Public Forum on the Promised Nova Scotia Disabilities Act

How we can effectively advocate for a strong and effective Accessibility for Nova Scotians with Disabilities Act

The new Nova Scotia provincial government has promised to pass an Accessibility for Nova Scotians with Disabilities Act. Nova Scotians now must gear up to make sure this new law is passed – and that it is strong and effective.

The Canadian Council of the Blind’s Advocacy & Awareness Chapter invites you to attend an exciting public meeting to discuss creative strategies for advocating for a strong disability accessibility law for Nova Scotia. Keynote speaker is David Lepofsky, Chair of the AODA Alliance, a disability consumer advocacy group that works to support the full and effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

In 2005, Ontario became the first Canadian province to pass a disabilities Act. This was the result of a tireless, tenacious 10-year campaign by Ontarians with disabilities. David Lepofsky led that campaign. He now leads the coalition that advocates to get Ontario’s Disabilities Act effectively enforced. Manitoba is now about to pass its own disability accessibility law. Nova Scotia is on the road to becoming Canada’s third province to do so.

Come discover what lessons Nova Scotians can learn from the Ontario and Manitoba experience. Find out how you can help us ensure that the promised Nova Scotia accessibility law effectively addresses all disabilities and all barriers.

Date: Sunday, November 3, 2013

Time:10 a.m. to Noon

Location: CNIB Centre, 6136 Almon St. in Halifax

RSVP: Thursday, October 31 by calling Peter Parsons at 453.1480 ext. 5713 or email peter.parsons@cnib.ca

David Lepofsky is a lawyer, author, lecturer, motivator and a leading advocate for disability issues and rights; he is also blind. He successfully sued the Toronto Transit Commission to force it to audibly announce all subway and bus stops. His work with men and women with disabilities, with organizations and governments led to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1995 and the Order of Ontario in 2008. He has given training to people with disabilities and their supporters across Ontario and elsewhere on how to win positive change.

We hope to see you there!