ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES TO CONVERGE ON QUEEN’S PARK 10 A.M. FRIDAY NOVEMBER 28, 2014 FOR 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF TENACIOUS CAMPAIGN TO MAKE ONTARIO FULLY ACCESSIBLE TO OVER 1.8 MILLION ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES, AND TO UNVEIL NEW ACCESSIBILITY BLITZ AT 11:30 A.M. NEWS CONFERENCE

November 27, 2014

Summary

November 27, 2014 Toronto: Ontarians with disabilities will converge on Queen’s Park, rooms 228 and 230, at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Friday, November 28, 2014, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the tenacious grassroots province-wide campaign that fought for Ontario’s new disability accessibility laws, and now fights to get them properly enforced. A news conference will then be held, at 11:30 a.m. in the Queen’s Park Media Studio.

An excellent November 27, 2014 column about this upcoming event by senior journalist Bob Hepburn, set out below, describes the two-decade record of tireless grassroots political advocacy, in the face of revolving-door ministers and many broken election promises.

At the 10 a.m. 20th Anniversary Celebration, the AODA Alliance, which now spearheads this 20-year-old disability accessibility campaign, will honour former provincial politicians from all sides of the Legislature who helped make progress. Former provincial public figures to be honoured and who will be in attendance include:

* former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who made disability accessibility the core theme of his 2007-2014 term as Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor.

* Former NDP MPP Gary Malkowski, who introduced the first Disabilities Act bill in 1994. He was the first deaf member of an elected legislature in the western world.

* Cam Jackson, formerly PC MPP and Citizenship Minister, who introduced the Mike Harris Conservatives’ Ontarians with Disabilities Act, enacted in 2001.

* Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, former MPP and Liberal Citizenship Minister who introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act which was enacted in 2005.

* Howard Hampton, former NDP leader who promised strong, mandatory disability accessibility legislation.

* Rosario Marchese, former NDP MPP who chaired the 1994 legislative hearings on Malkowski’s bill the day when the Disabilities Act movement was born 20 years ago, and who pressed for strong legislation throughout his time at Queen’s Park.

* Charles Beer, former Liberal MPP, who conducted the 2009-2010 Independent Review of the Disabilities Act, urging need for the Government to move more quickly.

* Ellen Waxman, former Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for the Accessibility Directorate, who led development of key accessibility standards enacted under the AODA from 2008 to 2013.

Also to be honoured from the media that have covered this issue include:

* Steve Paikin, host of TVOntario’s “The Agenda” program and

* Bob Hepburn, for the Toronto Star’s ongoing editorial support of the campaign for accessibility legislation.

Contact David Lepofsky aodafeedback@gmail.com
Learn more at www.aodaalliance.org
Twitter: @aodaalliance

Toronto Star November 27, 2014

Posted at http://google.com/

A remarkable 20-year struggle for disabled rights: Hepburn

How a one-hour meeting sparked a two-decade movement responsible for key accessibility laws in Ontario.

David Lepofsky is a blind Toronto lawyer who has long been fighting for disability rights. Since 1994, he has seen a series of provincial governments pledging to take disability issues seriously, but failing to act in any substantial way.

Andrew Francis Wallace / Star file photo

David Lepofsky is a blind Toronto lawyer who has long been fighting for disability rights. Since 1994, he has seen a series of provincial governments pledging to take disability issues seriously, but failing to act in any substantial way.

By: Bob Hepburn

Back in 1994, David Lepofsky and 20 other people walked down a corridor at Queen’s Park and entered a small room to vent their frustrations over the NDP government’s failure to approve Ontario’s first disabilities act.

Little did Lepofsky know, however, that the informal hour-long meeting would spawn a 20-year movement that has achieved remarkable success in helping the disabled in Ontario at home, at work and in the community.

“We were angry,” says Lepofsky as he recalls the events of Nov. 29, 1994. “The meeting was spontaneous. We started with nothing. I had no idea how the next 20 years would turn out.”

The meeting was held after NDP citizenship minister Elaine Ziemba, who was responsible for disability issues, blatantly refused to discuss a proposed disabilities act during a legislative committee appearance.

What the tiny group did that day was form a new coalition to challenge the government and fight for a strong, effective disabilities act.

Today, the coalition can rightly take credit for spearheading the adoption of two of the most important pieces of disability accessibility legislation over the past two decades.

On Friday, a celebration will be held at Queen’s Park to mark the birth of this grassroots movement to make Ontario barrier-free.

The non-partisan Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which Lepofsky chairs on a volunteer basis and which has replaced the former coalition as the driving force for disabilities legislation, will use the occasion to renew its call for strong disability accessibility laws and to have them effectively implemented and enforced.

Some 1.5 million Ontario residents have physical, mental or sensory disabilities. They face countless barriers every day, from steps to enter a bus and websites without features to make them usable by blind people to offices that lack telephone lines that allow deaf people to call in.

Lepofsky is a blind Toronto lawyer who has been fighting for disability rights since the 1970s. He has been awarded an Order of Canada and several honorary degrees by Canadian universities for his work.

Since 1994, he has seen a series of governments under the NDP, Conservatives and Liberals pledging to take disability issues seriously, but failing to act in any substantial way.

In 2001, the Tory government of premier Mike Harris passed the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, a weak piece of legislation that at least was a first step in gaining rights specifically for the disabled.

In 2005, the Liberal government of premier Dalton McGuinty won unanimous passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that required Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025.

Sadly, that legislation has achieved very little to date, with many businesses failing to comply with even the most basic standards. Worse, the Liberal government under Premier Kathleen Wynne has done nothing to address these problems.

Signs of her government’s inaction abound. For example, despite a 2012 deadline, more than 30,000 of Ontario’s private businesses with 20 or more employees still haven’t even bothered to comply with the most basic reporting requirements, such as describing how they accommodate disabled customers, train staff and listen to feedback. None of them have been penalized or fined.

Another clear sign of the government’s indifference is the fact that four different cabinet ministers since 2011 have been handed responsibility for implementing and enforcing the AODA. The current minister is Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid.

While Wynne has promised her government will meet the 2025 goal, the reality is the government has been paralyzed in recent years, with no effective enforcement of the act, no real effort to strengthen it and no plan to achieve full accessibility by 2025.

Ontarians with disabilities deserve better. As a start, the premier should quickly launch a new campaign to enforce and strengthen this vital legislation.

As Lepofsky says, “Inaction speaks louder than words.”

Bob Hepburn’s column appears Thursday. bhepburn@thestar.ca