May 31, 2014
Here’s yet more accessibility news from Ontario’s campaign trail, with less than two weeks to go before the June 12, 2014 election.
1. More Problems with Accessibility of All Candidates Debates
There is simply no excuse for holding an inaccessible All Candidates Debate in Ontario’s 2014 election. Yet on May 29, 2014, an All Candidates Debate was held in Cambridge, Ontario, in an inaccessible location. The organizers should not have chosen such a location. The candidates should have made sure that the location was accessible before agreeing to take part in the event.
Where are the party leaders? They each pledge to us that they are committed to lead Ontario to becoming fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Yet they stand by as their own candidates attend an inaccessible All Candidates Debate.
It is an especially cruel irony that local disability advocate Lyn McGinnis and his colleagues were the victims of this entirely-preventable election barrier. Mr. McGinnis spearheads “Accessibility Watch.” It is a tremendous local strategy for bringing to public attention a range of inaccessible public establishments in his community. We encourage others to launch similar local efforts in every community in Ontario. You can learn more about the excellent work that Lynn McGinnis and Accessibility Watch is doing in the Kitchener Waterloo area to highlight such barriers to establishments impeding persons with disabilities.
We are indebted to Mr. McGinnis for bringing this issue to our attention, and for taking his ordeal to the media. Below we set out excellent news items on this story. One aired on May 30, 2014 on the 570 News radio station. The other appeared in the May 31, 2014 Waterloo Record newspaper.
AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky is scheduled to be interviewed on 570 Radio in Kitchener-Waterloo just after noon EDT on Monday, June 2, 2014, to discuss the inaccessible May 29, 2014 All Candidates Debate in Cambridge Ontario. A live stream of the 570 News Radio broadcast is available.
This was the second time in a matter of days that the issue of inaccessible All Candidates Debates has arisen in the current Ontario election. Days earlier, on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, the Parkdale-High Park All Candidates Debate (that was originally planned to be held inside an inaccessible school) was successfully held outside, in the school’s parking lot. This was the result of our public pressure. Voters with disabilities were among the attendees. It was a beautiful evening under the stars, despite a few moments of light drizzle – far nicer than sitting inside a school.
At this event, several remarked that the very notion of an inaccessible Toronto school house seemed unthinkable in 2014. The first topic that the event’s organizers had the candidates address included disability accessibility commitments. AODA Alliance David Lepofsky live-tweeted the event. This stirred up a lively dialogue on Twitter.
2. Breaking News -Ontario Cabinet Minister Tweets that a Liberal Government Will Create A Health Care and Education Accessibility Standard, Not A Health Care Or Education Accessibility Standard
We have been trying for years to get the Government to agree to create the next three accessibility standards under the AODA to address barriers in health care, in education and in residential housing. Up until this election, we could not get an answer.
Then in her May 14, 2014 letter to us, setting out the Liberal Party’s 2014 disability accessibility election pledges, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne gave an equivocal answer. She said the next accessibility standard would address education and/or health care. She did not say whether it would be one, or the other, or both education and health care. She wrote:
“The next accessibility standard we will develop will focus on education and/or health.”
Since then, we have sent public tweets on Twitter to every Liberal candidate in this election who has a Twitter account, asking the following:
“Do you support our call 4OntGov 2enact Education HealthCare&Housing Disability #accessibility standards? #voteOn”
On May 31, 2014, we received a tweet from Ontario Liberal candidate, cabinet minister, and former president of the Ontario Liberal Party, Yasir Naqvi. He said for the first time that a Liberal Government, if re-elected, would create a standard for both health care AND education. This is a breakthrough. His two May 31, 2014 tweets, separately sent to both the AODA Alliance and to its chair, David Lepofsky, stated:
“Yasir Naqvi: @DavidLepofsky Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education and health standards.”
“Yasir Naqvi: .@aodaalliance Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education & health standards.”
Tweets are on the public record. We will hold the Liberal Party to this new, strengthened commitment. We know the parties track Twitter activity on the election, including ours.
We immediately tweeted back:
“@Yasir_Naqvi pledges #OLP would create accessibility standard 4EducationANDHealthCare. B4 Libs only said and/or Progress! #voteOn”
We also tweeted to Premier Wynne about this:
“@Kathleen_wynne: “@Yasir_Naqvi committed next LibGov #accessibility standards will focus on education & health #AODA #voteOn”
In Twitter speak, #OLP refers to the Ontario Liberal Party. “OntGov means Ontario Government.” B4 means “before.” #voteOn makes this tweet searchable as being about the Ontario election.
This illustrates how our ramped-up campaign on Twitter is helping buttress our non-partisan accessibility blitz.
3. How To Help With Our Accessibility Blitz during the 2014 Ontario Election
This upcoming week is National Access Awareness Week. What a great time to raise accessibility issues with the candidates, the media and the public. We encourage you to
* Alert us, your local candidates, and your local media, if you learn of an inaccessible All Candidates Debate in your community. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Consider voting early at an advance poll, to ensure you don’t face barriers on voting day. Advance polls are now available. Check with Elections Ontario for the dates, times and locations in your riding.
* Alert us if you learn of a potentially inaccessible polling station. One voter alerted us of concerns via Twitter. We have connected them with Elections Ontario. The issue is now being investigated.
* Help our non-partisan blitz to use this election to advance the cause of disability accessibility across Ontario Spread the word about the parties’ disability accessibility commitments and records. Below you will find key links to great resources, available to you at a click! These include our 2014 Election Action Kit. Its tips are easy to use, including for people who have never before been active in an election campaign.
4. The Accessibility Clock Keeps Ticking
The accessibility clock is still counting down to 2025, when Ontario must become fully accessible to people with disabilities. A troubling 194 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA’s effective enforcement. One hundred days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan “in short order.”
To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement.
As well, 276 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games.
In the countdown to 2025, today, May 31, is a memorable date. One year ago today, on May 31, 2013, the Ontario Government openly violated the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That was the mandatory deadline for the Government to appoint an Independent Review to assess how well the Government has been implementing and enforcing the AODA.
The Government did not appoint that Independent Review one year ago today. In fact, it delayed a full 102 days before it finally appointed Dean Mayo Moran on September 10, 2013 to conduct that Independent Review . Her Independent Review is now going on.
To read AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky’s guest column in the on-line Toronto Star one year ago today, marking the Government’s breach of its own accessibility law.
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570 News Radio Kitchener-Waterloo May 30, 2014
Local debate on social issues is not accessible for all
Hayley Zimak May 30, 2014 02:24:41 PM
The founder of the Waterloo Region Accessibility Watch advocacy group has reached out to 570 News following an incident last night.
Lyn McGinnis says that members of the group wanted to attend an all-candidates meeting on social issues at the Islamic Centre of Cambridge.
He says they called ahead and explained who they were, however, were not able to access the building once they arrived, as two women were in wheelchairs.
“There were accessible parking spots at the location, but when we got out there was absolutely no way to get in. Once we started asking around, everyone started looking very distressed, running around and talking to other people. But the reality was there was no way to do it, there was no way for us to get in.”
The debate was put on by the Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries and YWCA Cambridge.
While he does not fault the organizers of the event, he says this this is why raising the issue of accessibility with our members of Parliament is so important.
He adds that candidates should request that debates be held in locations that are accessible to everyone.
The Waterloo Record May 31, 2014
All-candidates debate in Cambridge not accessible for all
By Anam Latif
CAMBRIDGE — Lyn McGinnis drove two women to an all-candidates debate at the Islamic Centre in Cambridge on Thursday night. They went there to raise questions about accessibly in the province — but they couldn’t get into the building.
McGinnis’s two companions were in electric wheelchairs and the venue of the debate was in an inaccessible basement six steps down.
“Everybody was caught off-guard by the situation,” McGinnis said. He added that the Islamic Centre and social planning council were mortified.
Men offered their help, but electric wheelchairs are impossible to lift, he said.
David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said this is not new.
For two decades, Lepofsky and fellow volunteers have been fighting for barrier-free elections to ensure everyone can equally participate.
“It is appalling that in 2014, any all-candidates debate is held in an inaccessible location,” he said.
McGinnis said that NDP candidate Bobbi Stewart was the only MPP who came outside to speak to them.
The Islamic Centre building, located at 1500 Dunbar Rd., does have an elevator. It is used by a weekly visitor in a wheelchair to get to the mosque portion of the building. But the elevator doesn’t go down to the basement, where the all-candidates debate was held.
McGinnis points out that the fault is not with the venue or the social planning council, but with the candidates themselves.
Lepofsky decided to campaign for barrier-free elections using social media this year. He took to Twitter and tweeted several provincial candidates, asking them to check on venues beforehand to make sure they are accessible.
He also asked that they not attend debates at any venue that is not accessible.
Lepofsky’s message was put to the test earlier this week in a Toronto riding when an all-candidates debate was scheduled at an inaccessible public school. Social media attention and awareness prompted a change in the venue to the school’s parking lot instead.
According to McGinnis, almost all of the provincial candidates were made aware of the push to have barrier-free debates. Lepofsky said that he couldn’t reach every candidate on Twitter, but he did get through to some.
In 2010, the Ontario legislature passed Bill 231, intended to modernize elections in the province.
Lepofsky and his colleagues submitted an amendment to the bill that would make it illegal to hold election debates at inaccessible venues. It was rejected.
“The parties say they are committed to making Ontario fully accessible for 1.8 million persons with disabilities by 2025,”Lepofsky said. “Their actions don’t match their lofty words.”
email@example.com ; Twitter: @LatifRecord
Helpful Links on the 2014 Ontario Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues and How to Help Raise Them During the Campaign
To get easy-to-use non-partisan tips on how to raise disability accessibility issues with the candidates during this Ontario election, check out our 2014 Ontario Election Action Kit.
To watch the AODA Alliance’s virtual news conference, unveiling the parties’ 2014 election disability accessibility pledges, all made in letters to the AODA Alliance.
To read the AODA Alliance’s summary of the three parties’ 2014 election commitments on disability accessibility.