Under 3 Weeks Before the Federal Election, None of the Party Leaders Answered the AODA Alliance’s Letter Seeking 12 Commitments to Tear Down Barriers Facing 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada, According to New Guest Column in Toronto Area Local Newspapers

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

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Under 3 Weeks Before the Federal Election, None of the Party Leaders Answered the AODA Alliance’s Letter Seeking 12 Commitments to Tear Down Barriers Facing 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada, According to New Guest Column in Toronto Area Local Newspapers

September 1, 2021

        SUMMARY

Canada’s federal election campaign has entered its final three weeks. Yet absolutely none of the major federal party leaders have provided a substantive response to the August 3, 2021 letter to them from the AODA Alliance. In that letter, the AODA asked for 12 specific election pledges to tear down disability barriers facing six million people with disabilities in Canada.

A guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland local newspapers on this issue by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below, explores this election’s disability accessibility issues. We emphasize that achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is but one of the major disability issues in this federal election. We support and encourage efforts from the disability community to secure commitments on all the major disability issues.

Among other things, the guest column, set out below, identifies serious concerns with the Federal Government giving up to 7.5 million dollars to a non-profit for its private accessibility certification training program. This is the one provided by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

We urge you to share this guest column with all candidates in this federal election. It is not too late for any and all of the federal party leaders to make the 12 election pledges we seek on achieving accessibility for people with disabilities.

We also urge you to send this guest column to your local media. Urge them to cover all this election’s disability issues, including the specific disability accessibility issue on which the AODA Alliance is focusing.

For more background, check out:

The August 27, 2021 AODA Alliance Update that sets out the commitments of the major federal parties so far on accessibility for people with disabilities, in their publicly-posted platform documents.

Metroland August 31, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.toronto.com/opinion-story/10463855-federal-party-platforms-mostly-offer-thin-gruel-for-millions-of-canadians-with-disabilities/

Opinion

Federal party platforms mostly offer ‘thin gruel’ for millions of Canadians with disabilities

‘Voters, demand strong accessibility commitments from all parties,’ writes David Lepofsky

CITY CENTRE MIRROR

If this federal election is like past ones, media coverage and pundit gabfests will leave out key issues vital to six million people with disabilities.

Over the past two years, things got worse for us. We disproportionately suffered COVID’s worst hardships. Yet all levels of government emergency planning often left out our urgent needs.

The federal government harmfully liberalized medical assistance in dying, making it easier to die because of your disability, with state assistance. Ontario let hospitals ready themselves to blatantly discriminate against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving critical care if COVID overloads hospital emergency rooms. Cities let restaurants open outdoor patios without ensuring an accessible way to get around them. As a blind person, I’ve been forced to walk into dangerous oncoming road traffic.

Something is wrong with this picture. Our governments should make it easier to live with a disability, not make it easier or more likely to die because of a disability.

What will national parties pledge in this election to make Canada become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040, the deadline unanimously enshrined in the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA)?

We asked the parties for detailed commitments, to ensure that the ACA’s implementation is swift, strong and effective, including: making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the ACA, establishing a single unified process for cases, ensuring that nothing done under the ACA cuts back on disability rights, and ensuring that public money is never used to create disability barriers.

We await answers. As for their published platforms, the NDP makes some helpful commitments on point, though not enough. The others offer thin gruel.

In the 2019 election, the Liberals promised the ACA’s “timely and ambitious implementation.” It pledged to use a disability lens for all government decisions.

Since then, Trudeau’s actions weren’t timely or ambitious. There’s been no appreciable improvement in disability accessibility.

No national accessibility standards have been enacted to require specific actions to remove and prevent disability barriers. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

There was no disability lens when the federal government released the ArriveCan app for people entering Canada, replete with accessibility barriers for blind users. The federal government pours billions into infrastructure projects without requiring their disability accessibility. It enacted no comprehensive, mandatory up-to-date national standards under the ACA for the accessibility of such projects or of the built environment generally.

Instead, the Liberals doled out up to $7.5 million to a private accessibility certification program, run by a third-party non-profit that doesn’t work. Due diligence would show that the foundation’s training program for its inspectors is not sufficiently comprehensive. It green-lights some buildings that aren’t really accessible. Premier Ford similarly announced $1.3 million on the same private process two years ago, with no resulting increase in accessibility to show for it. It’s an easy way for governments to try to claim they’ve accomplished something on accessibility.

Voters, demand strong accessibility commitments from all parties.

David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.