Wednesday, April 22, 1998 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TORONTO - People with disabilities in Ontario are anxiously looking to the Throne Speech on Thursday, April 23, 1998 for a concrete plan that will show that the Harris Government is finally going to keep its 1995 election promise to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in its first term.

On the eve of the Throne Speech, today at 2:00 PM, in the Queen's Park Media Studio, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee formally releases a brief entitled "Making Ontario Open for People with Disabilities." All three political parties were invited to be presented with the brief. Both Opposition parties agreed to attend. Premier Harris declined, and did not say whether he would send a Tory MPP in his place.

The ODA Committee, a province-wide coalition of individuals and disability organizations, is unveiling a blueprint for this important legislation. It is based on Ontario's most comprehensive survey ever of the barriers faced by people with disabilities.

Though committed to passing this legislation in its first term the government has not yet released a discussion paper or started a public consultation. "We are releasing our brief now to kick start this process," said David Lepofsky, co-chair of the Committee. "This brief is the first step. People with disabilities across Ontario must be given the chance in an open, accessible public consultation to come forward and tell their elected representatives about the barriers they face, which the ODA must cover. The government must be ready to listen and act."

Two years ago the Legislature unanimously passed a resolution calling on the government to pass this law and to work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop it. However, since being elected Premier, Harris has refused to meet with this group. "We hope that the Premier sends an MPP to receive this brief," says Lepofsky. "When he reads the brief he will see that until there is strong and effective legislation, new barriers will continue to be created and existing barriers will go on preventing people with disabilities from participating fully in Ontario society."

"Time is quickly running out for the Harris Government to fulfil its promise, and people with disabilities want to make sure that this chance for positive change does not slip away," says Lepofsky.