Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Federal Election Action Kit – Raise Disability Accessibility Issues in Canada’s 2019 Federal Election!
September 20, 2019
Do you think people with disabilities in Canada should be able to travel on airplanes and on interprovincial buses or trains without being impeded by disability barriers? Do you think they should have equal access to services provided by the Government of Canada? Should they be able to enjoy whatever information CBC posts on its public website? Should they be assured that they can enter their neighbourhood polling station during a federal election, and independently mark their own ballot in private? Should the Federal Government ensure that our public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?
Over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face too many accessibility barriers. They should not have to individually fight these barriers, one at a time, through endless federal human rights complaints. They need the Federal Government to ensure that it does all it can to ensure that people with disabilities can live in a Canada that is accessible and barrier-free.
Canada’s next federal election is on October 21, 2019. Canadians have a unique opportunity during this election campaign to speed up progress on the long, challenging road to a barrier-free Canada for more than 6 million Canadians with physical, mental, sensory, communication or other disabilities. The new Accessible Canada Act, enacted this past June, requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. We want each party and each candidate to commit to plans that will ensure we will reach this goal.
Let’s work together to raise important disability accessibility issues during this federal election campaign. Let’s get the strongest election pledges from each party and candidate. This Action Kit tells you how to pitch in and help with this effort between now and October 21. Our blitz is totally non-partisan. We don’t try to elect or defeat any party or candidate. We try to get all parties and candidates to make the strongest election commitments we can get on our issues.
This Action Kit tells you:
* What we are seeking from the federal parties and candidates in this federal election.
* What we’ve heard from the major parties so far.
* What you can do.
Helping our cause takes just a few minutes. This Action Kit draws on the extensive experience of the AODA Alliance and its predecessor coalition, the ODA Committee, in successfully conducting non-partisan blitzes like this in seven Ontario elections since 1995. All you need to know is in this Action Kit. Be creative. Come up with your own ideas. Share them with us. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @aodaalliance
What We’re Seeking from the Federal Political Parties
We aim to get all the major national parties to commit to strengthen the new Accessible Canada Act and to promptly effectively implement it, so that the many barriers impeding people with disabilities will get torn down, as far as the Federal Government can do this. Back on July 18, 2019, we wrote the leaders of the major federal parties. We asked them to make specific commitments. We are making the responses of the party leaders public on our website at www.aodaalliance.org/canada You can read the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the major national party leaders by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/
Let’s build on our past successes! In the 2015 federal election campaign, we and others conducted a successful non-partisan blitz to get commitments to pass a new national law that would make Canada become accessible to people with disabilities, in so far as the Federal Government can do this. Working together, we and others in the disability community succeeded in getting three of the four national parties that existed in 2015 to do so. In the 2015 election, the Liberals, NDP and Greens all made the pledge. Only the federal Conservatives did not.
We and others in the disability community continued to work hard over the past four years since the 2015 election to get strong new national accessibility law passed. In June of this year, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act.
The Accessible Canada Act is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada. We got some of the ingredients in the law that we sought. However the Accessible Canada Act falls well short of what people with disabilities need.
It is good that this new law sets the mandatory goal of Canada becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. It gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. It includes a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.
Yet the Accessible Canada Act also suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:
- Even though it gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, it largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.
- It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies. That is a real disadvantage for people with disabilities.
- It continues to allow federal public money to be wastefully used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.
- It unfairly lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.
- It is very long, excessively complicated and hard to read and navigate.
The AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the federal party leaders asks them for 11 commitments to ensure that Canada becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. We want to know what their plans are to ensure that Canada is accessible by that date.
Where Do the Parties Stand?
As of September 20, 2019, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the only leader of a major federal party that has answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter, which asked for election commitments on this issue. The NDP made some of the commitments we sought. To read the NDP’s September 16, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/
We will make public any responses we get from the other party leaders. Check out our website’s Canada page for the latest news, at www.aodaalliance.org/Canada and follow our tweets on Twitter: @aodaalliance
How You Can Help
* Phone, email or visit the candidates’ campaign offices in your riding. Later in this Action Kit we give you ideas of what you might say to them. To help you, we have posted online a list of the names, email addresses and Twitter handles (where we could locate ones) for the candidates for some of the major parties at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/list-of-major-national-party-candidates-and-their-email-and-twitter-addresses-in-the-2019-federal-election/
* Go to a local all-candidates’ debate in or near your riding. These are a great place for grassroots democracy. These usually are held at a school, church or other community hall. You can find out when and where an all-candidates’ debate will be held by contacting any local candidate’s campaign office. Ask the candidates a brief, punchy question about the Accessible Canada Act during the debate. Later in this Action Kit, we offer ideas of what you might ask.
* Spread the word about these issues on social media like Twitter and Facebook. These social media platforms give you great ways to reach candidates, voters and news organizations during election campaigns. Later in this Kit, we give you sample tweets you might wish to use on Twitter and/or Facebook.
Tweet candidates in your riding or elsewhere to ask where they stand on the need to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act and to ensure its swift, strong implementation and enforcement. Just include their Twitter name in the tweet.
In fact, you can quickly help our social media blitz, without having to yourself compose your own tweets to the candidates. We and others are daily tweeting about this issue on Twitter. Just follow @aodaalliance on Twitter or search for the hashtag #AccessibleCanada and you will see all our tweets. It would help us so much if you would set aside a few minutes each day to just retweet our tweets to the candidates. Every re-tweet helps.
* On a smart phone or digital camera, take photos or videos of any accessibility barriers you find at candidates’ offices, campaign events, all-candidates debates, and other election events. Share those photos on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag #AccessibleCanada
* Use a smart phone to make video or audio recordings of candidates when they answer questions about the Accessible Canada Act, at all-candidates forums or other campaign events. Post these videos for free on YouTube. Then you can share the YouTube link to your video via social media like Facebook, and Twitter. This lets you become your own citizen journalist. Your online video may be the only record of a candidate’s giving commitments at one of these events on the Accessible Canada Act.
* Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about these accessibility issues. Tell them what the parties have said about this issue. Urge them to consider this issue when deciding on their vote.
* Call your local radio or TV station, and your local newspaper. Tell them about disability accessibility barriers that impede you or others you know, especially in areas like air and train travel, banking, cable or telephone services, Canada Post, or when dealing with the federal government. Urge the media to cover this election issue.
* Call in to radio or TV call-in shows. Write letters to the editor. If you are especially eager, write a guest column and urge your local newspaper to print it. Cut and paste as much as you want from this Action Kit and from our website. We are delighted when others make use of our resources.
* If you are connected with a community organization, such as one that deals with disability or other social justice issues, get that organization to circulate this Action Kit and post it or link to it on their website and Facebook page.
What You Might Say to Candidates, Media Reporters and Voters
It is best if you say it in your own words, not ours. However, if you don’t have time to re-phrase our suggestions, just use them as is!
Give examples of barriers that we need the Accessible Canada Act to fix, such as accessibility problems you or others have faced at airports, or when taking flights within Canada or on flights that start or end in Canada; when trying to use services of the Government of Canada; with Canada Post services; using banks in Canada, or when trying to vote in a Canadian election.
Explain why you or others should not have to fight these accessibility barriers one at a time, by launching a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, or by suing in court under the Charter of Rights. Accessibility is good for all Canadians. We all are bound to get a disability as we age. These barriers hurt our economy, are bad for business, and create a preventable burden on the public purse.
Be brief – candidates and news reporters are extremely busy during election campaigns. Be personal. People remember personal stories more than statistics.
Tips for Phoning or Visiting a Candidate’s Campaign Office:
Usually, a receptionist or volunteer at a candidate’s campaign office will take your call. The candidate is likely out knocking on doors to meet voters. Here is what you might say when someone answers your call or meet you at their campaign office. Try to get the receptionist or volunteer on our side, by getting them interested in the Accessible Canada Act. We have found that often, campaign staff and volunteers have their own personal experience with disability accessibility barriers.
ME: Hello, my name is [insert name] and I’m a voter and constituent of [insert riding]. I’d like to speak with the candidate to introduce myself. Would he/she be available?
RECEPTIONIST: No, he/she is out at the moment. Can I take a message?
ME: Yes, please. My name is [insert name], and I’m a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability. Parliament passed a law last spring called the Accessible Canada Act. It says that Canada must become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party will do to achieve this if you are elected.
Note: It is helpful to try to convince a campaign staff member or volunteer about the importance of this issue. If they get really motivated about this issue, they can call their party’s campaign headquarters and help turn up the heat on this issue.
What You Might Say When Talking to a Candidate Wherever You Meet Them
ME: My name is [insert name] and I am a voter in [insert riding]. I’m also a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability. [Describe your connection to disability.]
Last June, Parliament passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada by 2040. I want to know what you and your party will do to make sure this happens, if you are elected.
Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers in areas that the federal government can address, like air travel, federal government services, banking, Canada Post, phone and cable companies, and other telecommunications. Everyone either has a disability now or will get one as they age. So this issue affects all voters.
Tips for Emailing a Candidate:
Email is a quick and easy way to get your message to candidates. However, candidates often have staff or volunteers monitor email accounts for them. If you want to be sure you’re reaching the candidate him/herself, it is best to email them, and then phone their campaign office to follow up on the email.
Dear [insert name],
As a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability, I would like to know where you stand on an important issue in this federal election.
[Feel free to insert a paragraph about your personal connection to disability.]
Today there are more than 6 million Canadians with disabilities, and this number is expected to grow even larger in the future. These people continue to face unnecessary barriers in areas of federal authority such as federal government services, air travel, cable TV and phone services, Canada Post, banking, and telecommunications. These barriers mean that people with disabilities in Canada can’t fully participate in all aspects of life.
Last June, Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party’s plan is to ensure that we achieve this goal. What will your party do on this issue, if you are elected? I also want to know if you, as a Member of Parliament, will personally advocate to make sure this new law is effectively implemented and enforced. I would appreciate it if you would tell others in your party that this issue is important to your constituents.
If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to contact me or to email the AODA Alliance at email@example.com.
Tips for Attending a Local All-Candidates’ Debate
Some all-candidates debates let you ask a question from the floor. Others require you to write it out while there, and submit it so that the debate moderator can read it aloud. Either way, you should write it out in advance if you can. Make it short and punchy. If the event’s format presents accessibility challenges, let the organizers know. You may even wish to highlight the challenges as part of your question.
ME: My name is [insert name], and I live in this riding. More than 6 million Canadians have disabilities. They face unfair accessibility barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction like federal government services, Canada Post, air travel, banking, phone and cable TV companies, and telecommunications.
Here is my question for all the candidates:
Last June, Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party’s plan is to ensure that we achieve this. What will your party do on this issue, if you are elected.
Tweets You Might Wish to Send on Twitter or Facebook
As mentioned earlier, you can find all the email addresses and Twitter handles for federal candidates that we could track down on our website at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/list-of-major-national-party-candidates-and-their-email-and-twitter-addresses-in-the-2019-federal-election/
At the start of your tweet, insert the Twitter handle (i.e. Twitter name) for a candidate and then cut and paste in any of these tweets. These all fit within the Twitter maximum of 280 characters, with a bit of space leftover.
Parliament unanimously passed #AccessibleCanada Act. It requires Canada to become #accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. What is your party’s plan to ensure we reach that goal? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #accessibility #canpoli
@aodaalliance wrote party leaders for election pledges to ensure #AccessibleCanada Act is swiftly & effectively implemented & enforced. Will you help get your leader to pledge? Read our letter https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #CRPD #canpoli
Parliament unanimously passed the #AccessibleCanada Act this year to make Canada #accessible by 2040. Do you pledge to support its full, strong and prompt implementation & enforcement? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #CRPD #canpoli
Do you agree that the Federal Government should never let public money be used to create or perpetuate #accessibility barriers against over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada? Please pledge! https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #CanPoli
Do you agree and commit that enforceable federal #accessibility regulations should &will be enacted within 4 years in the areas that the new #AccessibleCanada Act is mandated to regulate? Please pledge! https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #CRPD #CanPoli
Do you agree and commit that nothing should and will be done under the #AccessibleCanada Act that reduces the rights of people with disabilities in Canada? Please pledge https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #accessibility #CRPD #CanPoli
Do you agree that the Federal Government should ensure that no federal laws create or permit #accessibility barriers against people with disabilities? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #CanPoli
Do you agree that the Federal Government should ensure that voters with disabilities face no #accessibility barriers to voting independently and in private & verifying that their ballot was marked as they wish? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada
Do you agree that the Federal Government should not be able to exempt itself from any of its obligations under the new #AccessibleCanada Act? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #accessibility #CRPD #CanPoli
Do you commit to only attend all-candidates debates during this election campaign if they are held in a place that has #accessibility for voters with disabilities? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #Canpoli