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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA


ODA Committee
Posted Sept. 2, 2003


For over 8 years, Ontarians with disabilities have been calling for the passage of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This law is needed to tear down the barriers which prevent 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities from fully participating in Ontario life.

The Conservatives promised in 1995 to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in their first term. The Liberals and NDP have also supported passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. All parties voted for a resolution in the Ontario Legislature requiring the Ontarians with Disabilities Act to be strong and effective.

In the fall of 2001, the Conservatives brought forward a weak, disappointing ODA bill. The disability community put forward a series of proposals to strengthen that bill before it was passed. How did the three major parties vote on these proposals to strengthen the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

Here is the voting record of the three major parties.


The three parties agreed with the goal of making Ontario a barrier-free province for all persons with disabilities. They agreed that new legislation, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, was needed to do this.

They agreed that the terms "disability" and "barrier" should be defined broadly.


The Conservative Party took a very different approach from the Liberals and the NDP on how this should be achieved. The Conservatives took the position that the removal of barriers should be done voluntarily. The ODA should not require barriers to be removed, even along reasonable time lines. The Liberals and NDP took the position that the ODA should require barriers facing persons with disabilities to be removed and prevented along reasonable time lines. This included barriers impeding persons with disabilities from competing for jobs, and for getting access to goods, services and facilities enjoyed by the public. The Conservatives did not want the ODA to address barriers in the private sector, and only limited their bill to apply to the public sector. The Liberals and NDP wanted the
ODA to apply to barriers in both the public and private sectors.

The Liberals and NDP put forward each of the following amendments. The Conservative Party voted against them and ensured that each was defeated:

* to make the ODA's stated goal the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario.

* to require that barriers against persons with disabilities in the public and private sectors be identified and removed along reasonable time lines.

* to require organizations not to create new barriers against persons with disabilities in the future.

* to specifically prohibit the Ontario Government and municipal
governments from using tax dollars to create new barriers against persons with disabilities, or from using tax dollars to purchase goods or services
that create or maintain barriers against persons with disabilities, except where such goods or services are not reasonably available.

* to extend the ODA's requirements to any organization that offers goods, facilities or services.

* to require the Government to set specific time lines for making government buildings accessible to persons with disabilities having regard to such considerations as the cost of doing so.

* to explicitly require the Ontario Government to create and maintain a
barrier-free employment environment for the Ontario Public Service.

* to require the Ontario Government, after proper consultations, to set
standards for accessibility under the ODA. The Conservatives would allow the Government to set these standards, if it wishes but would not oblige the Government to do so. The Conservatives never used their power to create these standards, even after they passed the ODA in 2001.

* to require that accessibility plans, made by organizations under
the ODA, effectively address barriers in those organizations, to require that those plans be implemented, and to make those plans enforceable.
Under the Conservatives' ODA, only public sector organizations need make accessibility plans. The Conservatives leave the removal and prevention of barriers in these plans entirely voluntary. The plans need not be any good. The plans need never be implemented. These plans cannot be enforced.

* the Conservatives' ODA creates a provincial Accessibility Advisory
Council, and a series of municipal advisory committees, but does not require the Ontario Government or municipalities to listen to their advice or explain if they reject it. The Liberals and NDP proposed that the ODA be strengthened to require that each level of Government give a timely response to any recommendations received, and give reasons if advice from one of these advisory bodies is rejected. Again the Conservatives voted against these changes and defeated them.

* to give the disability community an opportunity for input into the
nominees for membership on the provincial Accessibility Advisory Council and to ensure that the Council reflects a diverse membership.

* to require that the provincial Accessibility Advisory Council consult with the public including with persons with disabilities on the implementation of the ODA.(note: the Conservatives' Acdessibility Advisory Council has refused to hold public consultations)

* to require that the Government make public the advice it receives from the provincial Advisory Council.

* to create an independent enforcement mechanism for the ODA.

* to fix time lines for the Ontario Government to take steps needed to implement the ODA.

* to require polling stations in a provincial election to be accessible
to persons with disabilities unless impossible to do.

* to require that voters who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing be
accommodated when voting, e.g. by providing sign language interpretation where needed.

* to require the Government to make the Ontario Legislature fully
accessible to persons with disabilities within 5 years.

* to limit the sweeping exceptions and exemptions that the ODA 2001 now includes.

Note: On June 13, 2002, a related bill was put before the Ontario Legislature by NDP MPP Tony Martin, proposing that a cost of living increase be considered for persons with disabilities on the Ontario Disability Support Plan. No cost of living adjustment had been received by disability benefits recipients for almost a decade. The Conservatives voted against this, with the exception of Conservative MPPs John O'Tool, Norm Miller and Joe Tascona. The NDP and Liberals voted for this bill. The Conservatives forced it to be defeated.




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