Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee

May 1, 1997

Hon. Chris Stockwell, Speaker
Room 180, Legislative Building
Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A2

Dear Mr. Stockwell:

Re: Thursday, May 15, 1997 - "Face the Disability Community"

I am writing to you on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a voluntary coalition of individuals and community organizations which have united to advocate for the enactment in Ontario of a new law to achieve a barrier-free society for people with disabilities. On May 24, 1995, Premier Harris wrote to our Committee, promising that a Harris government would enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its first term and would work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop this legislation.

A year later, on May 16, 1996, the Ontario legislature unanimously passed a resolution calling on the government to keep this election promise.

To commemorate the first anniversary of the passage of this resolution, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee is inviting representatives of all three of the provincial political parties represented in the legislature to meet with representatives of the disability community on May 15, 1997 between 12:30 and 1:15 in the Media Studio in the Legislative Building. We will ask each of the parties to answer our questions on what has been done to date in fulfilment of the May 16, 1996 resolution, and what might be expected in future.

We wish also to invite you as Speaker of the House to attend. Knowing that your schedule is quite busy, we would ask whether it would be possible for you to drop by our gathering in the Media Studio at 1:00 p.m. We particularly would welcome your attendance and your willingness to speak with us, because as Speaker you have ultimate responsibility for the accessibility of the Ontario legislature and its environs to the public.

When many members of the disability community attended at the Ontario legislature to observe the debate and vote over the May 16, 1996 resolution regarding the proposal for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, they were deeply troubled to learn that there are only four seats in the entire Public Gallery which are accessible to people in wheelchairs. The vast majority of those persons attending the proceedings in wheelchairs were relegated to a separate room, to watch the legislative debate on a television monitor. Given that the legislature is the heart and soul of our democracy, it was particularly striking that people using wheelchairs were, for the most part, unable to attend to watch in person a debate by their elected representatives over why our society has so many barriers impeding people with disabilities.

As such, we would welcome an opportunity to speak with you one year later, to see what progress has been made toward the goal of a barrier-free legislature for people with disabilities, as an important step toward the goal of a barrier-free society for people with disabilities.

If you could make time to attend this non-partisan event, we would very much appreciate it if your office could RSVP to Deborah Thynn at Telephone (416) 964-9595 ext. 251 or TTY (416) 964-0023 ext. 251 or Fax (416) 928-2506 or email: dthynn@chs.ca.

We hope we will have an opportunity to meet with you on May 15, 1997 to discuss this important topic with you in tandem with our questions for representatives of the three political parties on the broader question of the need for prompt passage in Ontario of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Yours sincerely,

M. David Lepofsky

cc: Hon. Marilyn Mushinski, Minister of Citizenship, Culture & Recreation
Mrs. Marion Boyd, NDP MPP London Centre
Ms. Frances Lankin, NDP MPP Beaches-Woodbine
Mr. Dominic Agostino, LIB MPP Hamilton East
Mr. Michael Colle, LIB MPP Oakwood
Hon. Premier Mike Harris
Mr. Dalton McGuinty, Leader, Liberal Party
Mr. Howard Hampton, Leader, New Democratic Party

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