ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

May 12, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance from Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak, setting out his party's 2014 disability accessibility election pledges

David Lepofsky, Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

The Ontario PC Party is pleased to respond to the AODA Alliance’s survey for the 2014 Ontario election. This campaign is a time of opportunity for Ontario. It’s a time of hope. We need a Premier who is a competent economic manager, who is willing to tackle problems square on because we must get Ontario working better.

As Leader of the Ontario PC Party, I am proud to place a particular focus on leveraging the enormous untapped potential of Ontarians living with disabilities – who are significantly underrepresented in our province’s workforce – and to put forward our Million Jobs Plan.
These are issues that are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus, which is why they have played an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.

Christine Elliott, our Health Critic and Deputy Leader, has been a tireless advocate for Ontarians with disabilities. Ms. Elliott called to establish the Select Committee on Developmental Services, with a mandate to develop a comprehensive developmental services strategy for children, youth and adults in Ontario with an intellectual disability or who are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and a mental illness. The Select Committee also focused on the delivery of developmental programs and services across provincial ministries.

Last year, Jane McKenna, while serving as Ontario PC Critic for Children and Youth Services, highlighted the need for reforming autism support programs to remove the backlog of 12,000 children awaiting services. Rod Jackson, our Critic for Community and Social Services, sponsored legislation aimed at protecting the dignity of children with disabilities by making it an offence to use blocker pads in non-sports related school activities.

The Ontario PC Million Jobs Plan is founded on the notion that every Ontarian has the right to lead his or her life to its fullest potential. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was developed with the same intent. I remember casting my vote for this bill in 2005, knowing it was a notable, momentous day in Ontario’s history.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government I lead.

Our Million Jobs Plan includes a priority action entitled Help People with Disabilities Succeed:

Under our plan, we will move quickly to connect employers to people with disabilities to develop more opportunities and to reduce barriers that exist in the workplace. We will expand post-secondary education for people with disabilities, so they can develop job-ready skills.

When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination.

We must seize the opportunity – for them and for our economy. Our plan is founded on the belief that every Ontarian has the right to lead his or her life to its fullest potential.

We must also do more to help kids with special needs. All kids benefit when those with special needs have the attention they deserve because it allows teachers to meet the needs of those individual students and the needs of the entire class.

We will invest some of the savings we achieve elsewhere in the budget in extra support for schools that are struggling and children with special needs who are having a hard time keeping up.

There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election. It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.

This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Moreover under our Million Jobs Plan, we will take action on a number of important fronts to help people with disabilities succeed. For starters, we will work with employers to develop greater opportunities for individuals with disabilities and to reduce barriers that exist in the workplace. We also believe that the full range of government employment services should be made available to Ontario’s disabled community.

The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce. For example, we need to increase spaces for programs, such as the Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE), which are tailored for people with disabilities in the province’s post-secondary institutions.

Through our Million Jobs Plan, we will be focused on making government affordable and taking steps that will create jobs and better our day-to-day lives. For this reason, we support the AODA Alliance’s request to spend tax dollars wisely and ensure public funds are not used to create new disability barriers.

For example, we found it troubling to learn the current government’s PRESTO smart card program for paying for public transit was established without meeting the necessary specifications for accessibility. In this case, the procurement process failed Ontario’s disabled community while contributing to wasteful government spending. We believe this scenario could have been avoided with a government plan that ensures government spends wisely with respect to procuring accessible public transportation and infrastructure.

Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.

I know we can build a previously unimagined Ontario, but it’s going to take some courage and a willingness to challenge the status quo. That’s what our Ontario PC Party Million Jobs Plan delivers.

Sincerely,

Tim Hudak
Leader, Ontario PC Party