Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Log In Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 10 to 11:30 AM Eastern Time for an Important Virtual Public Forum on What Government Must Do During the COVID-19 Crisis to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities Convened by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition
April 3, 2020
On Tuesday morning, April 7, 2020, from 10 to 11:30 am, please use your computer, smart phone or tablet to virtually attend the virtual public forum that the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition are jointly organizing and hosting. We will talk to leading experts on the additional barriers and hardships that over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities are now facing during the COVID-19 crisis. We will offer the Government constructive ideas on what should be done in the face of these additional hardships. Hosting and moderating the discussion will be OAC President Laura Kirby-McIntosh and AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.
The link to watch our public forum is https://www.youtube.com/c/OntarioAutismCoalition
We appreciate very much that the Ontario Autism Coalition will provide captioning for this event. We will announce more when we can. This event is being organized by volunteers in an incredible rush, given the rapidly changing events that are swirling around us all.
Please spread the word about our April 7, 2020 virtual public forum, by social media, email and any other way you can. Email us with ideas on what we should discuss. Tell us in advance about the barriers you are facing. Please understand that we cannot answer all those emails. However, we will do our best to cover as many of them as we can in our discussion with the panelists during this virtual public forum. Send your ideas to PWDForum@gmail.com
We invite the Ontario Government to assign a senior representative to take part in our public forum and to speak for a few minutes. We would welcome a chance to hear what they are doing, and to have a discussion with them. We invite all levels of government to watch our public forum and to draw on the ideas that will be shared there for emergency COVID-19 planning.
The new Twitter hashtag to use in the lead-up to this virtual public forum, during it, and afterwards is: #DisabilityUrgent
Two weeks ago, on March 20, 2020, we released an especially-important AODA Alliance Update on the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on people with disabilities. We showed how this crisis is having a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. We identified a number of important areas where governments need to act now, as part of its emergency planning, to address these issues. We called on governments to consult openly with people with disabilities for ideas on what to do. We offered our help.
Five days later, on March 25, 2020 we wrote Premier Ford directly with this message. We offered more specific ideas for action.
Since then, we have not heard back from the Ontario Premier, the Premier’s office, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, or indeed, from any of the line Ontario ministries that are working on key parts of the Ontario Government’s crisis planning. We have similarly not heard back from the Federal Government.
We have had a few exchanges with the Ministry of Accessibility, where we have pressed the need for the actions we seek. We appreciate any help that that ministry can give. However, that small ministry is not responsible for direct planning and implementation in the key areas where action is needed. We have no idea to what extent, if any, they are influencing the Government’s actual plans on the front lines.
We deeply appreciate that governments at all levels are scrambling to deal with this crisis, and are working around the clock. They are dealing with some things with which they’ve never before dealt. We most certainly cut them a huge amount of slack. However, we also know that unless their emergency planning includes effective measures for the urgent needs of people with disabilities, those needs will once again too often be left behind. We also know that the maxim that government often endorse in this area is no more important than now: “Nothing about us without us!” Voices of the grassroots disability community are indispensable at this crucial time.
It is great that the Government now has American Sign Language at its recent news briefings, and that yesterday it announced emergency funding for mental health services. The Government has not told us what more it is doing or planning in this context.