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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA


ODA Committee Update
dated May 24, 2003



May 27, 2003


The Toronto Star today published a guest column by ODA Committee chair David Lepofsky which marks the 8th anniversary of the Conservatives' promise to enact the ODA. The column explains the ODA's importance to persons with disabilities, the platforms of the parties in the upcoming election on the ODA, and the importance of this issue in the upcoming provincial election. See the column below.

Circulate this column to others. Use it to educate your family and friends on this important issue. Send us your feedback at:




Toronto Star Editorial, Tuesday, May 27, 2003, p. A26

Disabled Ontarians kept waiting

Conservatives promised a strong accessibility bill, but have still not come through with enough

David Lepofsky

Eight years ago this week, Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, then
in opposition, pledged to pass new legislation to tear down barriers
impeding Ontarians with disabilities from competitive jobs, goods
and services. We are still waiting, as the province heads into its
third election since that promise was made.

People with disabilities face many barriers when trying to
participate in Ontario life.

A single step in a store doorway prevents shoppers in wheelchairs
from spending money there. Such things are easily fixed.
Blind students needing Braille schoolbooks face recurring hassles and
delays despite inexpensive technology for providing this format.
Deaf people have had difficulties getting sign language interpreters
in hospitals to communicate with doctors, despite a six-year-old
court decision requiring this. After provincial cuts, using
Wheeltrans accessible public transit is more difficult for seniors
and others.

A comprehensive Ontarians with Disabilities Act would require these and
other barriers to be removed over reasonable timelines. A bill by this
name passed by the Tories does not provide enough support for
Ontarians with disabilities. A comprehensive act would accommodate
disability and business needs, making businesses more profitable.
Ontarians would not have to fight barriers one by one through
individual law suits.

Everyone would benefit from a strong disabilities act. Fully 1.9 million
Ontarians now have a disability. If you don't have a disability now,
you'll likely get one as you age. Society loses if people with
disabilities cannot live independently.

These barriers hurt business. A strong disabilities act would make Ontario
more competitive internationally.

Incorporating accessibility costs little or nothing if done in
advance. It's not practical to remove all barriers immediately, but
many can be removed soon at little cost. Corrective actions that
cost more should be given more time to implement. A comprehensive
disabilities act would drive down these costs. Establishing new
provincial accessibility standards would make it cheaper and easier
for those who must act.

When voters with disabilities attend all-candidates' debates (if
accessible), what is the Tories' record? Ontario has not made substantial
progress towards becoming barrier-free over the past eight years.
People with disabilities still have huge problems getting access to
public and private sector jobs, goods and services.

The Tories promised to enact the disabilities act in their first
term. They did not. Only after our relentless pressure did they
finally pass legislation 17 months ago, well into their second term.
While they delayed, they spent billions of tax dollars on capital
projects without ensuring that no new barriers were created.

The Tories broke their commitment for a strong and effective
disabilities act. Their act is weak and largely unenforceable. It
doesn't cover the private sector where most barriers exist.

Mike Harris promised he'd work together with us to develop this
legislation. Yet he and Premier Ernie Eves refused our every request to

They promised to proclaim the entire disabilities act in force by the
end of 2002. Yet they have deferred (possibly indefinitely)
proclamation of the only section that would provide any limited
enforcement. They promised under the disabilities act to set
much-needed provincial accessibility standards to explain how to
become barrier-free. However, no standards have been established,
and they won't say when these will be forthcoming. Instead,
municipalities are left to reinvent the wheel.

The Tories broke their five-year-old pledge to improve the building code
disability accessibility requirements, despite revamping other aspects
of that legislation. The Tories committed to substantially improve
the lives of Ontarians with disabilities. We're still waiting for
these improvements.

The Tories' weak disabilities act focuses largely on inspiring voluntary
improvements in the broad public sector. Efforts have begun in that
sector. There is a good, new provincial office to advise them. We are
ourselves trying to help. However, progress is slow, limited, and
overdue. During the Premier's recent throne speech consultations,
many people asked him to strengthen the disabilities act. Yet Eves'
throne speech and election platform made no commitment to do this or
anything to improve accessibility.

Eves promises to again spend billions, without passing enforceable
legislation stopping taxpayer dollars from financing new barriers.

Where do the other parties stand? The Liberals and NDP vigorously pressed
the Tories to pass a strong disabilities act.

Without our tenacity outside the Legislature and theirs inside, we'd
have gained nothing at all. Both parties made detailed election
pledges to pass a strengthened disabilities act within one year.

This is the third election in which voters with disabilities will
actively raise this issue. Unless you are guaranteed that you'll
never get a disability, this issue directly affects you. Think about
it when deciding on your vote.

David Lepofsky is chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Committee, a voluntary coalition advocating for the ODA. Learn more
at www.odacommittee.net.


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Last updated June 18, 2003