Please Support Barrier-Free Canada –A New Disability Coalition that Advocates for a nation-wide Canadians with Disabilities Act – And – More News on the Ontario Accessibility Front

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May 21, 2015


1. Introducing You to Barrier-Free Canada – why Not Get in Touch?

Ever since the movement began over 20 years ago for an Ontario accessibility law, we have been asked over and over: “Why not go for a nation-wide Canadians with Disabilities Act?” Now, a community coalition has formed to achieve that goal.

Across Canada, the first province to enact a provincial Disabilities Act was Ontario. The second was Manitoba. The Government of Nova Scotia is on the record as planning to do the same. BC is considering the possibility of a new accessibility law. In 2006, the federal Conservative party promised to enact a national disabilities law. However, it has not done so, and has not introduced a bill to achieve this into Parliament.

A federal Canadians with Disabilities Act would not replace any provincial accessibility law, like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Instead, it would fill the gap, covering the turf that a provincial accessibility law cannot cover. A CDA could, for example:

  1. Address barriers to the accessibility of the Government of Canada and its various agencies, federal Crown corporations like CBC, federally regulated companies like ViaRail and Air Canada, and recipients of federal grants, loans and other such payments.
  2. Ensure that public money which the Federal Government spends or distributes is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.
  3. Help get all provinces across Canada to enact provincial accessibility laws, to cover barriers that only a provincial government can fully regulate.
  4. To the extent possible for the Federal Government, implement national standards on accessibility which would enable organizations operating across Canada to have a clear direction on what to do across Canada to ensure the accessibility of their goods, services, facilities and workplaces.

A CDA would not replace such important laws as the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Instead, a CDA would help effectively implement the rights which those important enactments create for people with disabilities in Canada. So don’t think of it as a choice, either we get full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, or we go for a CDA. The two would work hand in hand.

Below we introduce you to Barrier-Free Canada, a non-partisan volunteer coalition. Its mission is to win the enactment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. . We set out its list of 14 principles that a CDA should embody. Barrier-Free Canada developed these principles by drawing heavily on the core principles which Ontario’s disability community crafted to underpin Ontario’s accessibility legislation, and the principles which Barrier-Free Manitoba developed to underpin Manitoba’s accessibility legislation. Barrier-Free Canada seeks to achieve federal legislation which learns from what has been achieved at the provincial level, and which learns from problems that have been experienced under existing provincial accessibility legislation.

We encourage you to sign up with Barrier-Free Canada. Barrier-Free Canada is a new coalition, made up of volunteers, with no budget. The founding chair of Barrier-Free Canada is Donna Jodhan. She is well-known for winning a landmark disability rights case against the Government of Canada that requires it to ensure that all of its websites are accessible to people with disabilities, under the equality rights provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

David Lepofsky, the AODA Alliance’s chair, is a member of the founding steering committee of Barrier-Free Canada. We will offer Barrier-Free Canada our help and advice as this new coalition gets off the ground. Organizations already voicing support for Barrier-Free Canada as of now include the March of Dimes, the MS Society of Canada, the Canadian Hearing Society the CNIB and AMI (Accessibility Media).

Below we also show you the text of the January 26, 2015 letters that Barrier-Free Canada has written to the main federal parties’ leaders. These letters seek a commitment in the upcoming hotly-contested federal election, to enact a strong and effective CDA. So far, no federal party has answered this correspondence.

We encourage you to:

* Connect up with Barrier-Free Canada, and offer your help and support. There is no membership fee. The Barrier-Free Canada website has an on-line form at the “Support Us” link, to sign up, or you can just send an email to join. You can also send a letter of support to its email address. Email Barrier-Free Canada at

* Help spread the word about Barrier-Free Canada:

Publicize Barrier-Free Canada and this new effort to your friends, family members, and any community organization to which you have connections.

If you or an organization to which you are connected has a website, please put a link to the Barrier-Free Canada website to your home page. Barrier-Free Canada’s new website can be found at

Follow Barrier-Free Canada on Twitter @barrierFreeCa

* Write your Member of Parliament. Urge him or her to personally support the call for the enactment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Press him or her to get their party to make an election commitment to pass a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

* Stay tuned for action tips from Barrier-Free Canada on how to raise this issue during the upcoming federal election. With the public opinion polling showing that this federal election will be very close, the capacity to raise important grassroots issues like this can only increase.

2. Other News on the Accessibility Front

* Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Events to mark this are happening all around the world. To find out what’s happening, do a search on Twitter, using the hashtag #GAAD

If you follow us on Twitter @AODAAlliance, you will find that we re-tweet lots of news from around the world on happenings for Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

We will watch to see if the Ontario Government makes a significant announcement on Global Access Awareness Day.

* Watch a captioned video of the May 10, 2015 CITY TV news story on the 10th anniversary of the Legislature’s passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,.

It is posted on our Youtube channel, which also has other great videos about important developments in our accessibility campaign.

* We still await a public statement from the Ontario Government on its comprehensive plan to implement the report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. The Government has had that final report under study for six months. Too see the 10 actions that we urge the Government to now announce, and the measures we urge the Government not to take, as a result of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.

The Ontario Government only has 9 years, 8 months and 10 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting .


Barrier-Free Canada’s Principles for the Canadians with Disabilities Act

  1. The Canadians with Disabilities Act’s purpose is to achieve a barrier-free Canada for persons with disabilities by a deadline that the Act will set, and that will be within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation, to effectively ensure to all persons with disabilities in Canada the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Canada based on their individual merit.
  2. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should apply to all persons with disabilities whether they have a physical, mental sensory, learning and/or intellectual disability or mental health condition, or are regarded as having one, and whether their disability is visible or invisible to others. It should apply to all accessibility barriers, for example physical, legal, bureaucratic, information, communication, attitudinal, technological, policy or other barriers. It should apply to the Parliament of Canada as well as to all federal government entities, federally-owned public premises and facilities, federally-regulated companies and organizations, recipients of federal grants, subsidies, loans or other funds, and any other persons or organizations to whom the Government of Canada can apply it.
  3. The Canadians with Disabilities Act’s requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities. The Act and regulations made under it should not take away any rights that Canadians with disabilities now enjoy;
  4. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require Canada, including organizations to whom it applies, to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;
  5. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require providers of goods, services and facilities to whom the Act applies to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed based on principles of universal design, to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers and to prevent new barriers within legislated timetables;
  6. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require organizations to whom it applies to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces and employment within prescribed time limits. Among other things, those employers should be required to identify existing employment and workplace barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new workplace and employment barriers;
  7. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require the Government of Canada to lead Canada to achieving the Act’s goals. It should specify actions the Government of Canada must take to fulfill this mandate. Among other things, it should require the Government of Canada to provide education and other information resources to organizations, individuals and groups who need to comply with the Act. It should also require the Government of Canada to appoint an independent person to periodically review and publicly report on progress towards full accessibility, and to make recommendations on any actions needed to achieve the Act’s goals;
  8. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt, independent and effective process for enforcement, and should require that the Act be effectively enforced. This should include, among other things, an effective avenue for persons with disabilities to raise with enforcement officials violations of the Act that they have encountered. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and can yield inadequate remedies;
  9. As part of its requirement that the Government of Canada lead Canada to the goal of full accessibility for Canadians with disabilities, the Act should require the Government of Canada to make regulations needed to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Canadians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities and obligated organizations, before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy to which the Act can apply. The Act should require the Government of Canada to make all the accessibility standards regulations needed to ensure that its goals are achieved, and that these regulations be independently reviewed for sufficiency every four years after they were enacted;
  10. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require that the Government of Canada ensure that no public money is used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. For example, all federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations should be required to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or any capital or other infrastructure project, or of any transfer payment, subsidy, loan, grant (such as research grants) or other payment of public funds, that no such funds may be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. They should also be required to make it a condition of any procurement of any services, goods or facilities, that these be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant (including for example, research grant), loan, subsidy, contract or other such payment which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant-recipient or contractor with the department, agency, or crown corporation in question. The Government of Canada should be required to monitor and enforce these requirements and to periodically report to the public on compliance.
  11. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require the Government of Canada to review all federal legislation and regulations to identify possible accessibility barriers that they may impose or permit, and to propose omnibus legislation within a specified time to address these barriers. It should require the Government of Canada to review all future proposed legislation and regulations, before they are enacted, to certify and ensure that they do not create, perpetuate or allow for accessibility barriers in them or in activity or programs operated under them. As an immediate priority under these activities, the Government of Canada should get input from voters with disabilities on accessibility barriers in election campaigns and the voting process, and should develop reforms to remove and prevent such barriers.
  12. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should set as a national policy the fostering of international trade aimed at better meeting the market of up to one billion persons with disabilities around the world.
  13. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require the Government of Canada to encourage all provincial governments to pass disability accessibility legislation to help ensure that barriers impeding persons with disabilities are removed and prevented throughout Canada and to convene a federal/provincial conference to that end, which will include representatives of persons with disabilities across Canada.
  14. The Canadians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Canada. It must have real force, effect and teeth.

Text of the January 26, 2015 Letters from Barrier-Free Canada to Leaders of the Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic Parties

(Note: The same text is in each of the three letters from Barrier-Free Canada, one addressed to each federal party leader, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair.)

Today over four million Canadians live with a disability. As our population ages, that number is expected only to increase. All across Canada people with disabilities face far too many barriers in completing daily activities, getting an education, using public services or applying for a job.

Currently there is no comprehensive federal plan to ensure that Canada becomes a barrier-free society. At present, only two provinces have enacted comprehensive legislation to address accessibility barriers, Ontario and Manitoba, and Nova Scotia is developing similar legislation.

We want to ensure that the voices of the millions of Canadian voters with disabilities
are heard before and during the next Federal Election. We – the Barrier-Free Canada Committee – are writing to ask you to make commitments to enact a strong and effective Act for Canadians with Disabilities. Such an Act would aim to ensure that Canada becomes a fully accessible and barrier-free country for people with disabilities, so that all citizens of Canada, regardless of their level of disability, can fully participate in society.

In 2007, the Federal Government promised to enact a Disabilities Rights Bill, but to date this has not happened. Now is the time for concerted action leading to the enactment of such legislation. We ask you to commit to working together, working with us and working with the broader disability community to develop this legislation.

The Barrier-Free Canada Committee is a non-partisan community coalition. Among our supporters are CNIB (The Canadian National Institute for the Blind), the Canadian Hearing Society, the March of Dimes, and the MS Society of Canada. We would welcome a face to face meeting with either you or a senior representative of your party to discuss the needs and rights of Canadians living with disabilities. To learn more about us you can visit

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

Yours sincerely,

Donna Jodhan
On behalf of
The Barrier-Free Canada Committee

Transcript of May 10, 2015 News Story on CITY TV News

[News anchor] It has been ten years since the province pledged to make our communities completely accessible.

Amanda Ferguson now with how much we’ve accomplished to help people with disabilities get around and how much more work still needs to be done.

[David Lepofsky] It was a very exciting day, ten years ago today, when the Ontario legislature rose and unanimously, all three parties, passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

[Amanda Ferguson] He was there at Queen’s Park ten years ago today.

[David Lepofsky in background] That’s not what we face….

[Amanda Ferguson] David Lepofsky fought tirelessly for the bill to be passed and the promise to be made that Ontario would be fully accessible by 2025.  Ten years later, he feels he can’t stop fighting yet.

[David Lepofsky] We are not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

And in ten years, this law has not made a significant difference in the lives of people, like me, who have a disability.

[Amanda Ferguson] It’s no small task – making every business accessible, as well as Ontario’s public transit, its schools, and affordable housing.  A recent study found only 60 percent of private businesses are fully accessible.

[David Lepofsky] On the two important jobs the government has, setting the standard so we know what to do and enforcing the standard so we’re sure people comply, the government’s fallen down on both.

[Amanda Ferguson] The TTC is a great example of how far we’ve come, yet how far we’ve got to go. For the most part, buses and streetcars will call out every stop – that greatly helps those who are blind.  Yet subways, those remain a major problem. Only half are considered to be accessible.  And even those with elevators, well they’re often out of service for months at a time.

[Brad Duguid] At the tenth year anniversary, there’s still a lot of work to do going forward.

[Amanda Ferguson] Minister in charge, Brad Duguid, told CityNews, back in February, he still believes the province can meet its mandate by 2025.

[David Onley] It’s been a tremendous success.

[Amanda Ferguson] Something former Lieutenant Governor David Onley agrees with, but he says the next decade must focus on getting more people with disabilities into the workplace.

[David Onley] Well there’s the saying that if, if a place is accessible if you can get service in the counter, but you really haven’t had full accessibility until the clerk behind the counter happens to be the person with the disability.

[Amanda Ferguson] This summer will be another huge test of just how accessible Ontario has become.

That’s when 1,600 Parapan Am athletes will converge on the GTHA.  Go for gold, but ultimately, just try to get around.

Outside of City Hall, Amanda Ferguson, CityNews.