ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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AODA ALLIANCE CALLS ON ALL PARTIES TO STRENGTHEN BILL 231 TO PREVENT MORE INACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS IN ONTARIO

February 8, 2010

SUMMARY

The fallout continues from Elections Ontario’s operating a polling station in the February 4, 2010 by-election that was inaccessible to voters with disabilities, and its then denying to the media that the polling station was inaccessible.

The Saturday, February 6, 2010 Toronto Sun included a follow-up story, set out below. It quoted the AODA Alliance as criticizing this incident and calling for new legislation to prevent this from happening again. That story also quoted from the AODA Alliance’s February 5, 2010 update on that incident. You can urge others to sign up for our updates, since we not only report the news to you, but they also make the news! A shorter version of the same news article was included in the Saturday, February 6, 2010 Peterborough Examiner.

On February 8, 2010, the AODA Alliance sent five letters to call for new, concerted action to make provincial and municipal elections fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities, all of which are set out below:

We welcome your feedback at our new email address:
aodafeedback@gmail.com

We also urge you to tell the Ontario Government and Opposition parties that you want full public hearings on Bill 231 so that the disability community can offer its input to the Legislature on amendments to ensure fully accessible provincial and municipal elections for voters and candidates with disabilities.

*****

TORONTO SUN SATURDAY FEBRUARY 6, 2010

DISABLED CALL FOR NEW VOTE LAWS

by Antonella Artuso
QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF

Activists for the province's disabled community are calling for tough legislation to protect their voting rights after Elections Ontario set up a polling station down a flight of stairs.

As the Sun revealed, Toronto Centre resident John Wood was forced to leave his wheelchair and struggle down six steps with assistance to exercise his right to vote in the by-election Thursday.

David Lepofsky, chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group has been lobbying for a decade for barrier-free elections, promoting innovative solutions such as telephone voting.

"So what happened (Thursday) is utterly appalling and completely inexcusable," Lepofsky said. "Voters don't have the choice of coming back the next day. Once the election's over, the damage is irreparable to a voter who lost their right, and the right to vote is a constitutional right."

In a bulletin to the AODA Alliance on Friday, Lepofsky said he was contacted by Elections Ontario after the story appeared. A letter from the province's Chief Election Office, included in the bulletin, describes the situation at the St. Joseph's College poll as "unfortunate" and suggests it's not an isolated incident.

"I'm relieved that the voter managed to vote, but the challenges he experienced and the challenges others may have faced disappoints me," the letter from Greg Essensa says. "As your members are well aware, we face challenges throughout the province finding accessible voting locations.

Until the province becomes fully accessible, insight such as yours will help us make accommodations that meet the needs of electors with disabilities."

Essensa says Elections Ontario is committed to improving elections in the province to ensure that all voters, including those with special needs, can cast their ballot.

But Lepofsky wants the Dalton McGuinty government to strengthen a provincial election reform bill that's before the Ontario Legislature to ensure accessible polling stations are made available to everyone.

The premier promised the disabled community in the 2007 provincial election that he would address this issue, Lepofsky said.

"He has not yet kept that promise, with the next provincial election happening next year, and the next municipal election occurring even sooner, later this year," he said.

Kevin Cooke, a spokesman for Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur, said a number of amendments were made to the Election Act in 2007.

"We are continuing to build on this work with the development of an action plan to make elections more accessible to people with disabilities," Cooke says in an e-mail.

"Minister Meilleur will continue to work with her colleagues, particularly the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, as well as with our stakeholders, to improve the accessibility of Ontario's electoral processes."

*****

February 8 2010 Letter from David Lepofsky to Greg Essensa

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 8, 2010

Mr. Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Ontario
51 Rolark Drive
Scarborough, Ontario
M1R 3B1
facsimile (416) 326-6200
email greg.essensa@elections.on.ca

Dear Mr. Essensa,

Re: Ensuring Fully Accessible Elections for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

I write as a result of our January 26, 2010 meeting, and of our February 5, 2010 telephone discussions about the inaccessible polling station Elections Ontario operated during the February 4, 2010 Toronto by-election.

We are deeply troubled by Elections Ontario’s operating an inaccessible polling station in the February 4, 2010 by-election. This was made worse by Elections Ontario’s telling the Toronto Sun on February 5, 2010 that the polling station was accessible – a claim which evidently turns out to be untrue.

As you know from our January 26, 2010 meeting, our coalition and its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, have been campaigning for over a decade for Ontario to ensure fully accessible municipal and provincial elections for voters and candidates with disabilities. This is a fundamental constitutional right. No one disputes that voters and candidates with disabilities should have this right honoured. No one claims that it is not possible for this right to be honoured and respected, with appropriate planning and attention.

We appreciated at our January 26, 2010 meeting that you expressed your strong commitment to ensuring the full accessibility of Ontario elections, and your saying that this is a high priority for you and for Elections Ontario. We pointed out at that meeting, however, that we have received comparable commitments from Elections Ontario time and again over the past decade. As the events in the subsequent February 4, 2010 Toronto by-election show, such sincere statements of commitment have not, do not, and will not be sufficient to ensure that the right to fully participate in elections will be honoured for voters and candidates with disabilities.

As we discussed on February 5, 2010, the Ontario Government’s approach to date has been to trust Elections Ontario to do the right thing. That approach is reflected in Bill 231, now before the Legislature. That approach has not worked. People with disabilities deserve better.

The use of an inaccessible polling station on February 4 was entirely unacceptable. Regrettably, it was, to us, unsurprising. Elections Ontario does not have a stellar track record in this regard. Elections Ontario’s public report on the accessibility of the 2007 Ontario election revealed that a survey of voters with disabilities, commissioned by Elections Ontario itself, found the following: “a key finding of the survey is that compared to other electors, voters with disabilities report, in general, higher than average problems at voting locations. Forty-four per cent of voters with special needs said they experienced problems at their voting locations and 15 per cent said they had problems casting their ballots, a stark contrast to eight per cent and one per cent respectively for electors in general.” We discussed that survey finding with you at our January 26, 2010 meeting.

To address this problem, it is important as a first step for Elections Ontario to fully and promptly account to the public, including the disability community, on how this incident occurred. Who at Elections Ontario approved or condoned the use of an inaccessible venue for voting? It would have been obvious while voting was occurring that there were stairs that had to be traversed to get to vote. How many voters were adversely affected by this barrier, either by having difficulty voting, or by leaving without voting at all? When did any Elections Ontario officials, including those working at the polling station, first realize this? Was Elections Ontario headquarters notified of this? If not, why not? If so, why did Elections Ontario not intervene to rectify this?

Who at Elections Ontario told the Sun newspapers that the venue was accessible? Had that person checked their facts? What safeguards are in place to prevent such incorrect information from being released to the public? Why didn’t those safeguards work?

What consequences will there be for the Elections Ontario officials whose error or omission led to this inexcusable incident? As you and I discussed on the phone on February 5, 2010, when voters with disabilities are denied their constitutional right to vote on Election Day, that loss is irreparable. They cannot come back the next day to cast their vote. The election is over.

Elections Ontario’s duty to ensure fully accessible polling stations is obvious and clear. This failure should have been obvious. There should be consequences, beyond an apology and yet another commitment that this won’t happen again.

In our February 5, 2010 telephone conversation, you gave me some preliminary information on how this happened. However, it is important that Elections Ontario make public the full chain of events, and the consequences to follow. As we discussed, it is preferable for you to provide me with that information in writing, so we can circulate it to our supporters.

I regret that your response to this incident which we received via email on February 5, 2010, seems to exaggerate the difficulty facing Elections Ontario in ensuring accessible polling locations. You wrote: “As your members are well aware, we face challenges throughout the province finding accessible voting locations. Until the province becomes fully accessible, insight such as yours will help us make accommodations that meet the needs of electors with disabilities.”

We have no indication that this incident was due to any difficulty on Elections Ontario’s part in finding a fully accessible venue for this polling station. This by-election occurred in a densely-developed, downtown Toronto urban riding. No matter how many inaccessible buildings there may be, it should be especially easy to find an accessible venue in such a riding.

We have told Elections Ontario in the past that we are happy to provide input on elections accessibility issues. However, in 2010, Elections Ontario should not need our input to know that if one must traverse several stairs to get to a polling station, that polling station is not accessible to persons with disabilities.

Additionally, Elections Ontario has ample time to find accessible venues for polling venues. You now know when the next general election will be. Even in the case of by-elections, there is sufficient time to ensure that venues selected for polling stations are fully accessible.

In your February 5, 2010 email to us, you also wrote: “We are actively addressing barriers all Ontarians face in the electoral process. These challenges range from informational to physical and geographical. However, an important step forward to addressing these challenges is through partnerships with organizations such as yours.”

We are delighted to partner with you and to do whatever we can to help you reach out to the broader disability community. However, I must emphasize that we have had this same discussion with Elections Ontario officials over the past decade. We have agreed to “partner” over and over again, and have offered our services to reach the disability community. It is time to stop re-inventing that same wheel, and to get on with implementing effective solutions.

This is not the only preventable barrier that faced voters with disabilities in the February 4, 2010 Toronto by-election. Elections Ontario has acquired a prototype voting machine that lets voters with disabilities, such as blindness, mark their ballots independently and verify their vote. Yet Elections Ontario deliberately did not deploy this machine in this by-election, even though it had deployed it in the one or two most recent previous by-elections. It would have cost nothing to make that machine available at one central voting location during the February 4, 2010 by-election, and to let the public know that voters could come and use it.

At our January 26, 2010 meeting, we asked why Elections Ontario would not be deploying that prototype voting machine in this by-election. As we understand it, you said this was because your only legal mandate was to deploy such technology to study it, and Elections Ontario has already studied this machine in two by-elections. It seems to us that with the pervasiveness of barriers against voters with disabilities, further study of that machine in an actual by-election would remain useful, and would help remove a well-known barrier to independent voting.

We doubt that anyone would protest that voting machine’s deployment on such dubious legal grounds. Any legal barrier to that machine’s use flies in the face of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Charter of Rights. So impoverished an approach to Elections Ontario’s duties to persons with disabilities is neither warranted nor helpful.

Beyond accounting publicly for this incident, we suggest these steps:

  1. We ask Elections Ontario to join in our public call for Bill 231 to be strengthened, to ensure that effective measures are permanently in place to ensure fully accessible elections into the future. These measures should be detailed, mandatory and monitored.

    We very much appreciate your offering to me to meet to discuss working out a common agenda for amendments to Bill 231. We look forward to collaborating on this as soon as possible. It would help us prepare if you could let us know what amendments to Bill 231 you believe might be worth proposing on this issue.
  2. We ask Elections Ontario to join in our call for public hearings on Bill 231, to give the public, including the broad disability community, a full and accessible opportunity for input into this legislation. We know that Elections Ontario will want an opportunity to appear at public hearings on that bill. Elections Ontario should endorse the right of the disability community to have the same opportunity.
  3. We urge Elections Ontario to promptly make public its existing research on options for making elections fully accessible in Ontario. As discussed at our January 26, 2010 meeting, we also urge Elections Ontario to promptly further research options for reform in this area that have been explored in the United States. After the 2000 U.S. elections mess, there evidently have been millions of dollars appropriated to research elections and voting reform, including in the area of disability accessibility.

We also propose that Elections Ontario make public any further research it does in this area, to aid the Government and the disability community in making submissions for reform to Bill 231 to the Government. Time is of the essence. Bill 231 is already before the Legislature, and the next provincial election is only 18 months away.

We would like this very troubling recent incident to serve as a catalyst for long-overdue legislative reforms to ensure barrier-free elections for voters and candidates with disabilities. We are long past needing to prove that barriers continue to exist. These barriers are obvious, well-known, and readily preventable. It is time for creative, effective and enforceable legislative solutions.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont, Chair AODA Alliance

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email mcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-3347, email madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca
James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Chris Bentley, Attorney General, fax (416) 326-4007, email cbentley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections, fax (416) 212-1025, email gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca
Fareed Amin, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing, fax (416) 585-7211, email Fareed.Amin@ontario.ca
Ernie Bartucci, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health, Social, Environmental & National Institutions, fax (416) 325-4788, email ernie.bartucci@ontario.ca
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy, fax (416) 325-4773, email tim.lewis@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email tim.hudak.co@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath, Third Party Leader, fax (416) 325-8222, email ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

*****

February 8, 2010 Letter from David Lepofsky to Madeleine Meilleur

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 8, 2010

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister
Community & Social Services
Hepburn Block
6th Floor, 80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1E9
Facsimile: (416) 325-3347
Email: madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca

Dear Minister,

Re: Ensuring Fully Accessible Elections for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

We write to ask you to take specific steps to work with us on ensuring that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities. In his January 18, 2010 letter to us, Premier McGuinty told us that you were the lead minister with whom we should discuss amendments to Bill 231, proposed Ontario elections reform legislation.

In the 2007 election, Premier McGuinty promised us that your Government would develop an accessible elections action plan. To date, this promise remains unkept.

Since the 2007 election, we have repeatedly offered to work with the Ontario Government on implementing this commitment. There is no reason why the next municipal elections in 2010 and the next provincial elections in 2011 could not be barrier free for voters and candidates with disabilities. The Ontario Government has had ample time to address this.

For almost two and a half years, we have experienced a frustrating runaround to simply find out who within the Ontario Government has lead responsibility for this issue. Until last month, we got no direction when we asked the Premier’s office. When we met with a committee of public servants looking into elections accessibility in November 2008, we were told that no one has lead responsibility for this. We were later told that that committee’s preliminary work was on hold pending the forthcoming report of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Elections.

On April 28, 2009, we appeared before the Select Committee on Elections. Regrettably, after receiving our input, that Committee’s report did not adopt many of our recommendations. Once that Select Committee reported, we asked you with whom we should deal to address this issue. In your August 13, 2009 letter to us, you referred us to MPP Greg Sorbara, who chaired the Legislature’s Select Committee on Elections. However as we told your office, Mr. Sorbara had previously told us that he does not have lead responsibility for this, and that after his Select Committee had submitted its report (which it had rendered in June 2009), it would be up to the Government to decide what it will do to achieve accessible elections for voters and candidates with disabilities.

In December 2009, we were surprised to learn via the internet that your Government introduced Bill 231 into the Legislature, to reform the Ontario election process, including addressing disability accessibility issues. After your Government received the June 2009 report of the Select Committee on Elections and received word that we were not happy with how it addressed disability issues, no one in your Government consulted us on the preparation of this legislation. This was a dramatic departure from your Government’s consulting us on various disability accessibility issues.

We appreciate Premier McGuinty’s at last designating for us a minister with lead responsibility for this issue. We have talked to your staff on our general concerns regarding accessible provincial and municipal elections over the past months, so you should be in a position to discuss details regarding this issue without delay.

To ensure that provincial elections are fully accessible for voters and candidates with disabilities, the report of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Elections seems largely to have taken the position that this should be delegated to Elections Ontario and that we should trust Elections Ontario to solve the problem. Experience over the past decade has proven that to be doomed to failure. We have received repeated commitments by Elections Ontario for years to effectively address this issue. Yet the problem persists.

Strong proof that “trust Elections Ontario” is no answer comes from the entirely unacceptable incident during the February 4, 2010 Toronto by-election reported in the media. Elections Ontario inexcusably operated an inaccessible polling station in downtown Toronto. Making this worse, Elections Ontario then denied to the media that this polling station was inaccessible.

As we indicated in our December 18, 2009 letter to you, the Premier and the Municipal Affairs Minister, we would like to see this bill amended to:

  1. make it effectively ensure the removal and prevention of all barriers impeding voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial elections;
  2. make comparable provision requiring removal and prevention of the barriers which impede voters and candidates with disabilities in municipal elections. These are typically the same barriers as arise in provincial elections;
  3. provide effective monitoring and enforcement to ensure that there is full compliance with these accessibility requirements.

It will be important to expand Bill 231 to cover the accessibility of both provincial and municipal elections to voters and candidates with disabilities. We have briefed your advisors and copied you on earlier correspondence documenting how Bill 212, the Good Government omnibus bill, passed on December 3, 2009, included very limited, weak and inadequate provisions to address some barriers impeding voters and candidates in municipal elections. The January 5, 2010 response to our concerns from then-Municipal Affairs Minister James Watson left our concerns with Bill 212 largely unaddressed.

As indicated in our December 18, 2009 letter to you, the Premier, and the Municipal Affairs Minister, we ask you to commit as soon as possible on behalf of your Government to holding full, open and accessible public hearings on Bill 231. These public hearings are needed to enable the disability community to have their voices heard at the Legislature on this bill.

We would like to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss the development of amendments to Bill 231 to make its disability accessibility provisions strong and effective. We also want to discuss public hearings and other ways your Government could now consult with the broader disability community on election accessibility issues as Bill 231 amendments are being prepared.

As our letter of today’s date to Greg Essensa, Chief Elections Officer, indicates, it would be helpful for information to be made public on different options for addressing the accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities, including options developed in the U.S. (where extensive work has been done in this area). This would help ensure that the amendments to Bill 231 are most effective at ensuring fully accessible elections. As our letter to Mr. Essensa also shows, we are hoping to work with Mr. Essensa on developing joint proposals for amendments to Bill 231. We would appreciate a chance to engage in joint discussions with you, your Government, and with Mr. Essensa and his staff, as amendments to Bill 231 are developed.

The need for your Government to move promptly and effectively on this issue is reinforced by the troubling use of an inaccessible polling station during the February 4, 2010 Toronto by-election. We seek your Government’s leadership by condemning that incident, and by ensuring that Bill 231 includes provisions that will ensure that this never happens again.

We are writing to both Opposition parties to seek their support for public hearings on Bill 231, and for strong amendments to ensure fully accessible municipal and provincial elections.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont.
Chair, AODA Alliance

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email mcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs, fax (416)585-6470, email jbradley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Chris Bentley, Attorney General, fax (416) 326-4007, email cbentley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections, fax (416) 212-1025, email gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Greg Essensa, Chief Elections Officer, fax (416) 326-6200, email greg.essensa@elections.on.ca
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca
Fareed Amin, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing, fax (416) 585-7211, email Fareed.Amin@ontario.ca
Ernie Bartucci, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health, Social, Environmental & National Institutions, fax (416) 325-4788, email ernie.bartucci@ontario.ca
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy, fax (416) 325-4773, email tim.lewis@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email tim.hudak.co@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath, Third Party Leader, fax (416) 325-8222, email ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

*****

February 8, 2010 Letter from David Lepofsky to James J. Bradley

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 8, 2010

The Hon. James J. Bradley, Minister
Municipal Affairs and Housing
17th Floor, 777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5
facsimile (416)585-6470
email jbradley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Dear Minister.

Re: Ensuring Fully Accessible Elections for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

I write as a follow-up to our discussions and correspondence with your predecessor, James Watson, on the need for strong, effective legislation to ensure that voters and candidates with disabilities can fully participate in elections in Ontario, including in municipal elections.

As our November 15 and December 15, 2009 correspondence to your predecessor documents, the recent amendments regarding municipal election accessibility that were passed as part of Bill 212, the Good Government Bill, were woefully inadequate. You can see that correspondence at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12172009.asp

We regret that Minister Watson did not get any of our proposed amendments included in Bill 212, and that his January 5, 2010 letter to us is largely unresponsive to our detailed proposals for corrective action in the interim.

We ask you to take a fresh look at this issue. Now Ontario legislation leaves it to each municipal government to do what it wishes to ensure accessibility of their elections. A decade of comparable experience with Elections Ontario has proven that this approach does not work, culminating in the spectre last week of a Toronto provincial by-election polling station that was inaccessible, as the Toronto Sun reported.

Right now the Ontario Government has before the Legislature Bill 231. It proposes reforms to provincial elections, including ones aimed at accessibility for persons with disabilities. We want to see Bill 231’s provisions strengthened as they relate to provincial elections. We also want that bill expanded to make comparable provision for accessibility of municipal elections.

The same barriers confront persons with disabilities in both provincial and municipal elections. We should not have to re-invent the wheel at each level of election to solve the same problem.

In the 2007 election, Premier McGuinty promised us an accessible elections action plan. That promise is unkept so far. Last month, Premier McGuinty wrote us, appointing the Community and Social Services Minister with lead responsibility for that issue. We are eager to work with you and her on amendments to Bill 231 both to address provincial and municipal elections.

We fear that the unresponsive tone of former Municipal Affairs Watson’s January 5, 2010 letter to us may have been due to his imminent departure from the Government, or to the letter being prepared by officials who are not fully aware of or responsive to your Government's strong commitments in this area. For example, in that letter, Minister Watson directed us to address our input regarding Bill 231 to Minister Chris Bentley, even though Premier McGuinty directed that Minister Meilleur has lead responsibility for this issue.

In any event, we are eager to work with you on this issue. Moreover, in the February 6, 2010, Toronto Sun, Minister Meilleur’s office was quoted as expressing an intent to work with you on this. We hope that we can constructively contribute to this, and would welcome a chance to meet with you to discuss it at your earliest convenience. We also hope you will support our call for full public hearings on Bill 231, so that the hitherto-unconsulted broader disability community can have full input into this legislation, which bears directly on their fundamental constitutional rights.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont
Chair, AODA Alliance

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email mcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-3347, email madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca
Chris Bentley, Attorney General, fax (416) 326-4007, email cbentley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections, fax (416) 212-1025, email gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca
Fareed Amin, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing, fax (416) 585-7211, email Fareed.Amin@ontario.ca
Ernie Bartucci, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health, Social, Environmental & National Institutions, fax (416) 325-4788, email ernie.bartucci@ontario.ca
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy, fax (416) 325-4773, email tim.lewis@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader, Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email tim.hudak.co@pc.ola.org

*****

February 8, 2010 Letter from David Lepofsky to Tim Hudak

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: http://www.aodalliance.org/

February 8, 2010

The Hon. Tim Hudak, Leader,
Official Opposition
Room 381, Legislative Building
Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A8
facsimile (416) 325-0491
email tim.hudak.co@pc.ola.org

Dear Mr. Hudak,

Re: Ensuring Fully Accessible Elections for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

I write on behalf of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. We are a well-recognized province-wide non-partisan coalition which advocates for a fully-accessible Ontario for all persons with disabilities.

In December 2009, the Ontario Government introduced into the Legislature Bill 231 to reform elections in Ontario. Among its reforms are proposals to address the barriers which voters and candidates with disabilities continue to face when seeking to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights to fully participate in our democratic system of government.

We commend the Government for introducing a bill to address this important subject. However we are very concerned that Bill 231 is far too weak. It will not ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible for voters and candidates with disabilities.

We ask your Party to support our call for full public hearings on Bill 231, that will let persons with disabilities present their concerns and recommendations to strengthen that bill. We also ask your Party to support amendments to strengthen that bill. We are working on a brief which will offer practical recommendations.

Municipal and provincial elections that are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities are required by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code. The goal of fully accessible elections in Ontario should be a non-partisan issue. All three parties are to be commended for supporting the AODA when it was passed in 2005. Moreover, in the 2007 provincial election, our coalition asked all three parties to commit to developing an accessible election action plan, if elected. We were delighted that all three parties made this commitment. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10012007.asp

Bill 231 provides an excellent chance for each party to act on their election commitments to us. We would like Bill 231 amended to:

  1. make it effectively ensure the removal and prevention of all barriers impeding voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial elections
  2. make comparable provision requiring removal and prevention of the barriers which impede voters and candidates with disabilities in municipal elections. These are typically the same barriers; and
  3. provide effective monitoring and enforcement to ensure that there is full compliance with these accessibility requirements

We ask your Party to advocate for Bill 231 to be expanded to cover the accessibility of both provincial and municipal elections to voters and candidates with disabilities. We know that Bill 212, the Good Government omnibus bill passed on December 3, 2009, included some very limited and weak provisions in a preliminary effort to address some barriers impeding voters and candidates in municipal elections. We wrote to the then-Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, James Watson, on December 15, 2009, emphasizing the need for stronger provisions to be enacted on that score. We urged the Government to work on including stronger provisions in Bill 231. Those limited provisions were rushed through on Bill 212’s tight time lines, to enable there to be some new provisions in force in preparation for the 2010 municipal elections. You can see our proposals and efforts on Bill 212 at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12172009.asp

We would welcome the opportunity to meet to discuss this issue, and would be pleased with the chance to work with any party that is prepared to support amendments to Bill 231 to achieve the objectives described in this letter.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont,
Chair, AODA Alliance

cc: Christine Elliott, email christine.elliott.co@pc.ola.org, facsimile (416) 325-1423

*****

February 8, 2010 Letter from David Lepofsky to Andrea Horwath

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: http://www.aodalliance.org/

February 8, 2010

The Hon. Andrea Horwath, Leader
New Democratic Party
Room 113, Legislative Building
Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A5
facsimile (416) 325-8222
email ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

Dear Ms. Horwath,

Re: Ensuring Fully Accessible Elections for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

I write on behalf of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. We are a well-recognized, province-wide non-partisan coalition, which advocates for a fully-accessible Ontario for all persons with disabilities.

In December 2009, the Ontario Government introduced into the Legislature Bill 231 to reform elections in Ontario. Among its reforms are proposals to address the barriers that voters and candidates with disabilities continue to face when seeking to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights to fully participate in our democratic system of government.

We commend the Government for introducing a bill to address this important subject. However we are very concerned that Bill 231 is far too weak. It will not ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible for voters and candidates with disabilities.

We ask your Party to support our call for full public hearings on Bill 231, that will let persons with disabilities present their concerns and recommendations to strengthen that bill. We also ask your Party to support amendments to strengthen that bill. We are working on a brief that will offer practical recommendations.

Municipal and provincial elections that are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities are required by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code. The goal of fully accessible elections in Ontario should be a non-partisan issue. All three parties are to be commended for supporting the AODA when it was passed in 2005. Moreover, in the 2007 provincial election, our coalition asked all three parties to commit to developing an accessible election action plan, if elected. We were delighted that all three parties made this commitment. See:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10012007.asp

Bill 231 provides an excellent chance for each party to act on their election commitments to us. We would like Bill 231 amended to:

  1. make it effectively ensure the removal and prevention of all barriers impeding voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial elections
  2. Make comparable provision requiring removal and prevention of the barriers that impede voters and candidates with disabilities in municipal elections. These are typically the same barriers, and
  3. Provide effective monitoring and enforcement to ensure that there is full compliance with these accessibility requirements

We ask your Party to advocate for Bill 231 to be expanded to cover the accessibility of both provincial and municipal elections to voters and candidates with disabilities. We know that Bill 212, the Good Government omnibus bill, passed on December 3, 2009, included some very limited and weak provisions in a preliminary effort to address some barriers impeding voters and candidates in municipal elections. We wrote the then-Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, James Watson, on December 15, 2009, emphasizing the need for stronger provisions to be enacted on that score. We urged the Government to work on including stronger provisions in Bill 231. Those limited provisions were rushed through on Bill 212’s tight time lines, to enable there to be some new provisions in force in preparation for the 2010 municipal elections. You can see our proposals and efforts on Bill 212 at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12172009.asp

We would welcome the opportunity to meet to discuss this issue, and would be pleased with the chance to work with any party that is prepared to support amendments to Bill 231 to achieve the objectives described in this letter.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.
Chair, AODA Alliance

cc: Peter Kormos, facsimile (416) 416-325-7067, email: pkormos-qp@ndp.on.ca