ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO
17 YEARS AGO TODAY ONTARIO'S NON-PARTISAN DISABILITIES ACT MOVEMENT WAS BORN!
November 29, 2011
Seventeen years ago today, on November 29, 1994, the
non-partisan grassroots community coalition to campaign for a strong and
effective Disabilities Act in
The ODA Committee waged a 10-year long tenacious campaign
for a law to make
After the AODA 2005 was passed, the ODA Committee wound up, its goal achieved. In its place, the AODA Alliance was immediately established, with a mandate to campaign for the timely and effective implementation of the AODA 2005.
To learn more about the events on November 29, 1994 that
led to the launch of our organized accessibility movement, we set out a 3-page
excerpt below from the history of the first eight years of our movement. It
appears in a 200-page published article entitled "The Long Arduous Road to a
If you would like a copy of the full 200-page article in MS Word format, send a request to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To read how the ODA Committee reflected on the earlier ten year anniversary of this important birthday back on November 29, 2004, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net/news188.html
To see the step-by-step activity of the ODA Committee from 1995 to 2005, visit its website.
Although the ODA Committee no longer exists, its website remains as a record of its legacy. It is at http://www.odacommittee.net
To see the public record of the AODA Alliance from 2005 to the present, picking up where the ODA Committee left off, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org
We always welcome your feedback. Write to us at email@example.com
EXCERPT FROM "THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT - THE FIRST CHAPTER" BY DAVID LEPOFSKY, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME 15.
a) The Birth Of The Organized ODA Movement
The realization within Ontario's disability community that a new law was
needed to tear down the barriers facing persons with disabilities did not take
place all at once as the result of a single catastrophic event. Rather, it
resulted slowly from a simmering, gradual process. That process led to the birth
How then did the organized ODA movement get started? Most would naturally think that it is the birth of a civil rights movement that later spawns the introduction into a legislature of a new piece of civil rights legislation. Ironically in the case of the organized ODA movement, the opposite was the case. The same ironic twist had occurred 15 years before when the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped formed in reaction to the Government's introduction of a stand-alone piece of disability rights legislation.
In the early 1990s, after the enactment in the
In the 1990 Ontario provincial election campaign (which happened to take place just days after the U.S. had enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act) NDP leader Bob Rae responded to a disability rights legal clinic's all-party election platform questionnaire in August 1990 with a letter which, among other things, supported appropriate legislation along the lines of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Rae's letter didn't spell out what this law would include. This letter did not get serious airplay in that election campaign. It was not well-known when the NDP came from behind in the polls to win that provincial election. Because the NDP had not been expected to win, it was widely seen as campaigning on a range of election commitments that it never anticipated having the opportunity to implement.
Despite sporadic discussions among some in the early 1990s, there was no
grassroots groundswell in
What ultimately led to the birth of a province-wide, organized grassroots
ODA movement in
In 1994, word got around various quarters in
Over the spring, summer and fall months of 1994, around the same time as Malkowski was coming forward with his ODA bill, some of the beginnings of the organized ODA movement were also simmering within an organization of Ontario Government employees with disabilities. Under the governing NDP, the Ontario Government had set up an “Advisory Group” of provincial public servants with disabilities to advise it on measures to achieve equality for persons with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service. In the Spring of 1994, this Advisory Group set as one of its priorities working within the machinery of the Ontario Government to promote the idea of an ODA.
This public service Advisory Group met with several provincial Cabinet
Ministers and later with
As 1994 progressed, Malkowski's bill served its important purpose. It
sparked the attention and interest of several players in
Malkowski's bill had an even more decisive effect on November 29, 1994, when it first came before the Legislature's Standing Committee for debate and public hearings. On that date, NDP Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba was asked to make a presentation to the Committee on the Government's views on Malkowski's bill. She was called upon to do this before community groups would be called on to start making presentations to the legislative committee. The hearing room was packed with persons with disabilities, eager to hear what the Minister would have to say.
Much to the audience's dismay, the Minister's lengthy speech said little if anything about the bill. She focused instead on the Government's record on other disability issues. The temperature in the room elevated as the audience's frustration mounted.
When the committee session ended for the day, word quickly spread among
the audience that all were invited to go to another room in
I was one of the 20 or so people who made their way into that room. In an informal meeting that lasted about an hour, it was unanimously decided to form a new coalition to fight for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There was no debate over the content of such legislation at that meeting. However, there was a strong and united realization that new legislation was desperately needed, and that a new coalition needed to be formed to fight for it. This coalition did not spawn the first ODA bill. Rather, the first ODA bill had spawned this coalition.
Days later, in December 1994, the Legislature's Standing Committee held two full days of hearings into Malkowski's bill. A significant number of organizations, including disability community organizations, appeared before the Legislature's Standing Committee to submit briefs and make presentations on the need for new legislation in this area. Among the groups that made presentations was the Ontario Public Service Disability Advisory Group which had pressed for these hearings to be held. Its brief later served as a core basis for briefs and positions that would be presented by the brand-new Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.