ODA Committee Update
dated August 21, 2003
posted August 28, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
ODA Committee's "Letters To The Editor Blitz" Scores More Media Coverage of the ODA Issue
August 21, 2003
We are delighted that ODA supporters have been active in taking part in our ongoing "Letters to the Editor Blitz." Earlier this summer the ODA Committee launched a strategy of encouraging ODA supporters to write letters to the editor and guest columns for newspapers across Ontario to raise the ODA issue.
Here are several items that have been published. We also understand that during the recent power blackout, an ODA supporter called in to CBC Radio to discuss its implications for persons with disabilities, as linked to the ODA issue.
Please keep writing letters and guest columns to as many newspapers as possible. For help with this, see our Action Tip on this, which includes an updated and expanded list of newspapers across Ontario and their email addresses. Click on:
Do not limit yourself to writing just to the newspaper in your own community. As examples below show, newspapers will accept letters from people who live far from the newspaper's immediate market. You will see that Ian Greaves of Niagara Falls got a letter published in an Ottawa newspaper. Penny Leclair of Ottawa got a letter published in a Hamilton newspaper. Kathy Lewis of London got a letter published in a Toronto newspaper.
Below please find:
* A guest column by Cathy Vincent Linderoos in the London Free Press August 14, 2003 edition
* a letter to the editor in the August 14, 2003 Toronto Star.
* A letter to the editor in the August 10, 2003 Toronto Star by Ed Rice.
* A letter to the editor in the July 22, 2003 Ottawa Citizen by Ian Greaves.
* A letter to the editor in the July 21, 2003 Hamilton Spectator by Penny Leclair.
* An article in the July 24, 2003 Now Magazine by Eli Shupak
* An guest column in the August 14, 2003 edition of "The Eye", a Toronto area publication, by Talia Maze
Thanks again to all who have written to Ontario newspapers. Congratulations to all who got their letter or guest column published. If you get something published, or if you send something in to a newspaper that does not get published, let us know at:
The London Free Press
August 14, 2003
Make accessibility for disabled a key election issue
By Cathy Vincent-Linderoos
Twenty months ago, the Conservative government passed a weak, clumsy law -- the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001-- with which to remove the unnecessary barriers that keep people with disabilities from participating as fully as possible in all areas of life.
The ODA requires accessibility plans from municipalities of 10,000 and more residents, as well as from organizations in the broader public sector. Those plans are to be filed by Sept. 30.
But implementation of the plans is voluntary. They are not required to be effective, nor will their implementation be enforced. Without the ODA's section 21 proclaimed "in force", there isn't even a penalty if municipalities don't file a plan.
The ODA gives the government the right to do much more than they have chosen to do. The Tories should have kept their promises to provide standards under the ODA. The entire private sector could by now be well-advanced in making its facilities, services and products barrier-free for people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities. The government should long ago have consulted publicly with business and persons with disabilities to develop much-needed, uniform standards. There wouldn't be all this crippling doubt as to what the standards are or will be in the future. We wouldn't still be fighting one barrier at a time, one municipality at a time.
As London's draft accessibility plan -- a cautious, staid document --is being reviewed by the volunteer municipal accessibility advisory committee (MAAC), we can all help to raise the bar. The plan is available from Lorelei Fisher (email@example.com) in the city clerk's office. The public is invited to attend the Thursday, Aug. 21 MAAC meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. at city hall. The public consultation meeting is at 7 p.m. at city hall on Sept. 3. The insistent voices of people with disabilities, their friends, families, city council members and supporters could yield some improvements.
Where a barrier exists, and there is a solution that could be implemented locally, we must advocate that timely, effective solutions be included in the draft accessibility plans. The political will is needed now.
The city's facilities accessibility design standards document needs to be continually applied to the public sector, with ambitious timelines. Where people with disabilities anticipate barriers in the upcoming municipal election, fix the problems.
Londoners with developmental disabilities, mental health disabilities or physical disabilities who need supported living units are being turned away. More Londoners every day cannot get adequate, publicly-funded home care so that they can live at home as long as possible. Ontario Disability Support Plan levels are too low. These are complex issues and while we wait for the provincial government to drop the writ, the public needs to continue to hear about the problems and solutions from local provincial candidates.
When the government does call the election, I will vote for a government that has convinced me it will strengthen the ODA, make it mandatory, will give a full cost of living increase to ODSP recipients, and knows how to keep its own promises.
CATHY VINCENT-LINDEROOS is with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Disabilities law stuck in second: Re. Queen's Park adds its own barriers, Life, August 9
Helen Henderson once again sheds light on the manipulation tactics of the Ernie Eves government to ensure that it prevents municipalities from reaching their goals of creating a barrier-free Ontario.
The government of this province mandated that municipalities form accessibility advisory committees, composed of people with disabilities and supported by community-resource personnel.
Yet, the province has refused funding to either the committees or the municipalities to expedite the job.
We have weak legislation on the table at Queen's Park. Even so, the government fears proclaiming certain sections that would actually make its own law enforceable. There was widespread support among the public for a mandatory Ontarians with Disabilities Act because 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities need the legislation today.
We have hundreds of committed volunteer accessibility advisers and ODA supporters who work doggedly to keep the Tory promise of a barrier-free Ontario alive.
Absurdly, at every turn the province stands in the way of making its own legislation a reality.
Sunday, August 10, 2003
Reopened theatre reflects badly on chain: Re. Eglinton Theatre has new life, A&E, August 6
It's interesting to note that when the theatre was owned by Famous Players, the cost of becoming wheelchair accessible was the main reason for closing it. Could it be that was an excuse to get out of the location? Perhaps the chain's legal costs to fight accessibility would have covered the cost of the renovation.
Sam D'Uva, states that it will be fully accessible. This demonstrates that the age of the building, design and cost are not barriers. The barriers are our poor disabilities legislation, Famous Players and other businesses that are behind the times. Hats is off to D'Uva.
Edward Rice, Toronto
The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, July 22, 2003
(In addition to the Ottawa Citizen we have word that this appeared in some other papers, but did not get a copy of them.)
Force restaurant chains to accommodate disabled
Voluntary compliance will not improve accessibility in Ontario restaurants. After all, why invest in automatic door- openers and accessible washrooms to accommodate customers using wheelchairs if you don't really have to?
Apparently, many restaurant chains make this choice when they leave the United States and open new locations in Ontario. Restaurant chains accustomed to meeting the higher standards of the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) in the United States choose not to go the distance when opening branches here in Ontario, simply because it's not required under our law.
In his annual report, Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Keith Norton refers to seven restaurant chains that fail to meet building code standards and human rights code requirements in accommodating customers with disabilities. Most of these chains also operate in the United States, where they are required to comply with the higher standards of accessibility under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
International chains have proven that voluntary compliance will not improve accessibility in Ontario restaurants. The Ontarians With Disabilities Act must be strengthened to make accessibility standards mandatory and enforceable across the private sector.
Ian A. Greaves,
The Hamilton Spectator
July 21, 2003
Page A08 (Editorial/Opinion)
Which disability is worse?
As I live each day as a deaf-blind person, I am often asked: "If you could have just one sense restored, which would you choose?" That is not an easy decision. Either disability poses barriers. Citizens who are disabled have no laws that make it a world where basic access is achievable. It would be an easier question to answer if the province of Ontario had a fully enacted Ontarians With Disability Act (ODA).
I suggest that non-disabled people ponder the same question: Would blindness be easier to cope with? How about being deaf? Would they rather live with mobility restrictions that confined them to a wheelchair?
Those who picked blindness could learn to use their other senses to make up for the lost vision.
Friends could drive them where they wanted to go. Family could read their mail to them. But then they'd lose more than sight. They'd lose privacy.
Deafness might not inflict such barriers. Friends and family could learn a language to communicate with the deaf. They could still watch TV but might have to rely on others to describe what is being said. Going to events in the community might be a little depressing if they didn't know who was saying what. They could get used to asking others to provide the information announced in public places. But they couldn't communicate using their cellphone.
They'd be restricted to talking to those who knew sign language or what they wanted to communicate. They couldn't use the radio in their car which might seem isolating at times.
Maybe a better choice would be to lose the use of one's legs. At least they could still drive a car, listen to conversations. They'd probably have to move from their current home to -- where?
Not too many housing options that accommodate a wheelchair, but they could find something. As for travel, even if they could get into buildings, they'd still face restrictions on where they could shop, eat or get services. Most washrooms are not accessible. They could still go for a "stroll." It just has to be well planned. Travelling in the snow can be a bit tricky, especially when businesses don't shovel their walkways, or there is no walkway to use. Luckily, people don't have to make such choices.
But 1.9 million disabled persons have been asking the provincial government to pass meaningful legislation (Ontarians with Disability Act).
Ontario residents have a big decision to make in the next election. They can vote for a government that cares about disabled citizens, a government that has a plan for initiating a strong and effective ODA. The choice can make a difference to 1.9 million citizens of Ontario.
When voters are looking at each party, trying to make the best choice for themselves, I ask that they please also consider me in that decision, look at what the party offers to eliminate barriers to people with disabilities that they don't choose to have.
Thanks for looking at this issue from a different perspective.
July 24, 2003
Ruff Treatment: Mövenpick says sorry for harassing patron with seeing-eye dog by Eli Shupak
These kinds of things aren't supposed to happen any more, especially not at a popular eatery like the Marché. But it appears the chain's Bayview location recently asked a woman with a seeing-eye dog to vacate the premises. Diner Paolo Burzese was tucking into his breaded schnitzel when he spied a non-sighted woman being told to leave with her dog.
The woman, he says, showed the Marché staff the permit for her visual-aid canine, but manager Sam Luxmikanthan examined it and ruled the dog could not stay, explaining that Mövenpick (Marché) is a market and not a restaurant. Apparently, customers had raised hygienic concerns about the animal.
After a kerfuffle in which nearby patrons pleaded her case, Luxmikanthan then relented, says Burzese.
The manager decided the woman and her dog could stay but that she would have to move to a table situated away from everyone else. At that point, he reports, the woman, obviously very shaken up, walked out.
City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross, when told of the incident, says, "No one can refuse service in this situation, plain and simple.
The city does not tolerate any form of discrimination and takes these matters very seriously." Municipal bylaws threaten a $5,000 penalty for such infractions.
According to non-sighted Toronto lawyer David Lepofsky, chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, these incidents will likely continue until the province amends the act, which was adopted only last fall. The act does not cover infractions in private-sector organizations.
"We need a strong ODA, not the weak one we got from the Conservative government," he says.
Manager Luxmikanthan sounds contrite when I get him on the phone. He confesses that he "made a mistake" and says he was having "a tough day dealing with all the customers." He says he welcomes the woman back any time.
"We learned a lesson, and the next time we will know how to really handle it the proper way," he says. We certainly hope so.
The Eye August 14, 2003
The price of dignity
I wanted to spend one rainy Sunday afternoon flipping through travel books and sipping hot chocolate at Indigo in the Yonge-Eglinton Centre. It would have been the perfect way to spend the day. If only wheelchairs could climb stairs.
It wasn't the first time I've encountered obstacles because of my disability, and I'm not alone in the struggle. According to Statistics Canada, as many as 16 per cent of Ontarians are disabled. It is estimated that within two decades one in five people will have a disability. Despite this growing number there continue to be many basic barriers that keep the disabled community from living with independence and equality. Perhaps largest among these barriers is our society's attitude toward the problem.
On July 17, an editorial in eye entitled "Access and ability" illustrated how the fight to end discrimination against the disabled is difficult to win because society regards physical ability as an indicator of merit. Non-discrimination means looking past race or gender and judging only on one's abilities. It is one thing to be open-minded and force businesses to allow people of all races, for example, to work in a business, but it is quite another to require them to open their wallets to build a ramp so that the disabled can have the same opportunity. People see accessibility as a costly hassle rather than a moral duty. This selfish attitude keeps 16 per cent of Ontarians dependant on others.
I wonder if the accountants who sit down with dollar-and-cent figures to decide which endeavours are most cost-efficient have ever figured out the monetary value of their social lives and independence. I am 20 years old and have hardly ever been shopping on my own because doors are too heavy to open alone, or a single step might block the entrance to a store. A night out at a bar usually means sitting with a friend away from
the crowd because seating is often built on a raised platform. And I can't really drink because the washrooms are often down a flight of stairs.
Last December, the provincial government passed the Ontarians with Disabilities Act to get rid of physical barriers. The Act requires that each municipality with a population over 10,000 form an accessibility advisory council to prepare a yearly plan of suggested changes to be made to buildings and transportation. Although the act primarily deals with government-owned buildings, the hope is that the private sector will follow. But the disabled community is largely disheartened by the long-awaited Act. We've been given guidelines rather than regulations, with no specific timeline or method of enforcement.
The Yonge-Eglinton Centre, where I had hoped to spend the day reading at Indigo, is just one example of a building in Toronto that puts up a nice accessibility front. There are big signs pointing the way to the
elevators, there are wheelchair-accessible washrooms, and three mall entrances have no stairs. It seems the centre's owners have covered the basics, but that's the problem: they've covered only the basics.
Buildings have been constructed to satisfy the minimum requirements to avoid visible discrimination while spending the least amount of money. While the staircases and escalators have been logically placed to allow for quick navigation of the mall, it seems as though the elevators and ramps were sketched in as an afterthought. On that rainy Sunday I discovered that trying to reach Indigo, starting at the underground parking, sends a wheelchair-bound person on a wild goose chase up and down elevators, hitting stairs and escalators at every turn, and finally outside and around the block.
According to today's building code, the Yonge-Eglinton Centre is breaking the law. The code details the requirements of barrier-free design, ensuring that people with a range of disabilities can enter and use a building. But the Yonge-Eglinton Centre was built almost 30 years ago, before the code was in force and is, therefore, exempt from its requirements. While the mall provides today's required accessible entrances, it does not provide the necessary interior access
routes to all areas of the shopping centre. An accessible route outdoors is hardly accessible when the ground is covered with snow four months of the year.
According to Vic Willi, executive director at the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, "everybody is for accessibility until they find out what it's
going to cost them." People will pass the peas off the top shelf in the supermarket, but ask them to build you a ramp and they turn away. This is the problem with leaving accessibility to market forces. The operations manager at the Yonge-Eglinton Centre, David Willott, for example, wrote by email, "in consideration of the cost of changes to the overall
layout of the centre to accommodate wheelchair access and any additional benefits that may result, additional changes are hard to justify." The cost of installing an elevator to the Indigo floor, he says, was estimated at $250,000. But business-minded people like Willott don't flinch at pouring money into aesthetic renovations. In 1999, the Yonge-Eglinton Centre's management gave the building's exterior an expensive facelift. Putting automatic buttons on doors, however, is not profitable. The cost of installing accessibility features is weighed against the dignity of 1.6 million disabled Ontarians like me. Judging by our city's level of accessibility, it seems business elites and the government that oversees them value money more than decency. Profit verses equality: apparently there's no competition.
ODA Committee Update dd July 29, 2003 - City Of Sault Ste. Marie to Host Major Open Conference on Implementing the ODA 2001 September 10 and 11, 2003
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