ODA Committee Update
June 5, 2002
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
EVEN MORE MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE ODA
June 4, 2002
Here are two more recent media items on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Each was submitted to the local paper by ODA supporters. Why not submit a
column to your local paper? If you get something published, send it to us at:
The items below are:
* a column in the June 4,2002 London Free Press by Cathy Vincent Linderoos and
* an item in the May 9, 2002 Hamilton Spectator by Derek Watters
Congratulations and thanks to the authors of both of these items.
Good, bad and ugly for Ontarians with Disabilities
With National Access Awareness Week about to kick off, the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act (ODA) Committee members and our many supporters in Ontario are
grappling with some new opportunities (good), government stalling (bad) on
implementing the entirety of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the
same old unnecessary barriers (ugly).
The week runs from Sunday to June 1.
Significant good can be seen in the Conservative government's goals for our new ODA 2001, passed last December, and in the 13 commitments made to people with disabilities by MPPs. More good is evident here in London -- where there's no shortage of political will and volunteer energy to develop the new municipal accessibility advisory committee under the terms of the ODA. People with disabilities, with so many important but underutilized skills, bravely stick it out as they try to achieve the barrier-free Ontario we've been promised.
With less than half of the provisions of the new law in force and another change in citizenship ministers, one can't avoid the bad news. Why is the government stalling after pushing so hard to get the bill passed last December? How many lives will have been shortchanged or ruined permanently before we get a strong ODA law implemented?
Why wasn't the ODA Committee given a real opportunity to help create a
balanced, fully representative provincial accessibility advisory council? Why
are there still so many vacancies on the council? Why do we find ourselves
I've spoken publicly and privately about the barriers, as have so many with and
without disabilities in this province. I reject the unfairness of a home-care
system operating with insufficient government support, which is preventing some
children with disabilities from living with their own families at home.
I lament the human tragedies where young people with disabilities can't find
affordable, barrier-free housing with the needed supports, and are forced to
enter long-term facilities -- way too young. People with disabilities of all
ages have for too long been required to negotiate a public transit system full
of gaps, inequities and human rights abuses.
School boards, faced with inadequate funding, resort to slash and burn tactics
-- cancelling teachers in summer school programs for youth with disabilities
and congregated classes for special needs learning. Some people with visible or
invisible disabilities who are well-qualified for jobs can't find adequate
suitable, accommodated employment. The list grows.
The government has said it will create no new barriers to people with
disabilities with tax dollars and that it will put people with disabilities in
the driver's seat and that it is ready to act. Their words are documented at
Where do we go from here? What can we do to expedite the implementation of a
strong law? In London, we've got some good ideas emerging from the community
for forming the prerequisite municipal accessibility advisory committee and the
next public meeting is June 2 at the London Convention Centre from 2 p.m. to
4:30 p.m. ASL will be provided. If you wish to register or want more
information, please call Robin Armistead at city hall at 661-1815. Her e-mail
address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Let's give the ODA a shot in the arm and mark National Access Awareness Week
2002 as a week to remember.
Vox Pop provides readers with an opportunity to comment on topical subjects.
Cathy Vincent-Linderoos is a regional contact, ODA Committee, London area.
The Hamilton Spectator
Every time I go by a business that is not wheelchair-accessible, I feel like
there's this huge sign in the window that shouts: "PEOPLE IN WHEELCHAIRS WILL
NOT BE SERVED HERE!" Unfortunately, the inaccessibility is only obvious to
those of who use a mobility device (wheelchair, scooter, walker, or canes) and
our families. We are relegated to the sidewalk, unwelcome. A huge sign in the
window would at least alert everyone to this forced discrimination.
Imagine the public furor that would erupt in Hamilton if a business posted a sign that read: "BLACKS WILL NOT BE SERVED HERE!" For such blatant bigotry, the owner would suffer not only severe legal sanction but also widespread public condemnation. As a society, we realize that it is morally reprehensible to discriminate arbitrarily against one sector of the population.
Yet, while hundreds of Hamilton business owners discriminate against people
with disabilities, nary a peep is heard outside the disability community.
However, once the ramps, elevators, curb cuts or push-button doors are
installed, these accessible features are used by frail seniors, parents with
strollers -- in fact everybody. And that's precisely our goal -- universal
access and design for all.
All it takes to keep wheelchair users out of a store or office is a single
two-inch step. And sadly, all it takes for the owner to make us feel welcome,
is to convert that step into a ramp. This is not theoretical physics. It's a
simple problem. And its solution only requires a little compassion and
motivation on the part of the owner. Accessibility expertise is readily
available from the disability community.
When one segment of society is excluded from participating fully in society,
governments often step in to protect the rights of the excluded citizens. In
1990, the U.S. Congress enacted the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA),
which committed the U.S. federal government to supervising -- within specified
time frames -- the removal of barriers to transportation, employment, housing
and communications services.
This past December, more than six years after Mike Harris promised, his
government finally passed The Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) or Bill
125. The government's commitments to Ontario's disability community are
summarized by the ODA Committee below:
a) Ontario will become barrier-free for persons with disabilities as soon as
reasonably possible, far ahead of the U.S., at a point in time which the
disability community will determine, making Ontario Canada's most inclusive
province, with the ODA 2001 a key measure to achieve this.
b) No new barriers will be created against persons with disabilities. Created
under the ODA 2001 will be regulations imposing mandatory requirements,
covering all sectors including the private sector.
c) Ontario's disability community will be in the driver's seat, and the
forefront of change, playing a pivotal role in setting standards under the ODA
d) The government will enforce compliance with the ODA 2001, will take on a
leadership role and will set high standards.
e) Specific accessibility results will be achieved in the government, the
broader public sector (e.g. schools, universities, colleges and hospitals),
municipalities and the private sector, including increased retail job
opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Impressive sounding promises, aren't they? However, in order to rush Bill 125
through the house, the government often gave the disability community only 24
hours' notice to attend a brief flurry of provincewide public consultation
sessions. The short notice effectively excluded the vast majority of persons
with disabilities who require more time to arrange transportation. And
Hamilton, the third largest city in Ontario, did not even rate one session.
ODA 2001 passed on Dec. 13 and received royal assent the next day. Yet, here we
are -- nearly five months later -- and most of Bill 125's provisions have not
yet been proclaimed, which means the unproclaimed provisions are not in force.
The ODA Committee (www.odacommittee.net) is a provincewide coalition of persons
with disabilities and community groups. Its chair, David Lepofsky, (e-mail
email@example.com) has urged Premier Ernie Eves and the new Citizenship
Minister Carl DeFaria to take three initial steps:
1) Proclaim the rest of the ODA 2001 in force;
2) Appoint the new Ontario Disability Advisory Council via a process that gives
the disability community a say in its membership; and
3) Develop regulations under the ODA 2001 through an open, consultative
After the Ontario Disability Advisory Council is formed, each municipality will
create its own disability advisory committee.
Hamiltonians with disabilities interested in ODA 2001 are invited to the next
meeting of the Hamilton ODA Committee, on May 16 at 2 p.m. at the CNIB, 1686
Main St. W., Hamilton. The chair is Aznive Mallet (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
Derek Watters is a member of the Hamilton ODA Committee. He is a disability
activist, interested in social justice, universal design, public education, and
creating a greener, people-friendly downtown. You can contact him at
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Last updated June 5, 2002