Disability Activists Mark a Quarter Century of Tenacious Advocacy for Accessibility for Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

News Release – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Activists Mark a Quarter Century of Tenacious Advocacy for Accessibility for Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

December 3, 2019 Toronto:

What does Ontario learn when two veteran disability rights advocates compare their approaches to tenacious non-partisan political activism on disability issues, especially when they do so on the International Day for People with Disabilities, and mark the 25th anniversary of the birth of the grassroots movement for strong provincial accessibility legislation?? At a Queen’s Park news conference this morning, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, leading this accessibility campaign, was interviewed by the highly-successful president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, Laura Kirby-McIntosh, that led the relentless campaign against the Ford Government’s cuts to the Ontario Autism Program.

“Even after a quarter century of tireless advocacy, over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many unfair barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education shop in stores, eat in restaurants or use public services like our health care system,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, the non-partisan grassroots coalition that spearheads this accessibility campaign. He earlier chaired the predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, that carried this torch from 1994 to 2005. “After our first decade we won good accessibility legislation in 2005 that was passed unanimously. Initially, the former Liberal Government acted decisively to implement it. But since the 2011 summer, progress under three successive premiers ground down to a snail’s pace, with endless delays.”

The 2005 Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, by enacting and enforcing all the accessibility standards needed to show the way to full accessibility, for the public and private sectors. Yet the blistering report of a Government-appointed Independent Review of progress on disability accessibility conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, delivered to the Ford Government last January, concluded that progress has been at a “glacial” pace and “barely detectable.” the report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” And that for most Ontarians with disabilities, Ontario is replete with “soul-crushing barriers.”

“We’ve worked together and learned from each other’s strategies and tactics as we press to make disability issues achieve the prominence they deserve,” said Kirby-McIntosh. “And we want to be sure that any victories we win benefit people with all kinds of disabilities.”

Advocates for accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities are not the least daunted by the fact that Ontario has only five years left to reach full accessibility, while the Ford Government has done nothing new to strengthen the Disabilities Act’s implementation and enforcement. They’ve faced insurmountable odds when they launched this campaign on November 29, 1994.

“When we started 25 years ago, no one thought we had any hope of uniting a movement behind us and winning legislation. We’ve beat the odds before, and we’re determined to beat the odds again,” said Lepofsky. “Whether it’s opposing the provincial plan to unleash electric scooters in Ontario that threatens our safety and accessibility or the Ontario Government wastefully using public money to create new barriers against people with disabilities in the built environment, our sleeves remain rolled up and ready for action.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Check out the background on the actual events at Queen’s Park on November 29, 1994 that led to the birth of the AODA movement. Read a timeline of major events over the first 20 years of this campaign.