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New ODA Bill 125
December 7, 2001
YET MORE MEDIA COVERAGE OF BILL 125
Here is a series of recent items in the media around Ontario on Bill 125, the
proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
* Toronto Star, Thursday December 6, 2001 article reporting on Toronto public
hearings on Bill 125, including the ODA Committee's Toronto presentation.
* Now Magazine, Toronto, December 6, 2001 edition, article on transit barriers
* Text of London area TV station the New PL news item on ODA on November 20,
2001 by reporter Lynn Swanson.
* Woodstock Sentinel Review Monday, November 26, 2001 letter to the editor by
ODA supporter Bette Jones.
* Toronto Star, November 22, 2001 article on news conference on the ODA by
several disability service agencies.
* Text of important interview by Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson on CBC
Toronto Radio program Metro Morning on November 6, 2001.
His interview contains statements about the bill's contents which are
inaccurate according to our analysis of the bill. Our brief to the Standing
Committee on Finance document these. In this interview, Mr. Jackson makes an
inaccurate statement to the effect that he had asked ODA Committee chair David
Lepofsky to give time lines for barrier-removal and that Mr. Lepoofsky could
not give an answer. He also incorrectly leaves the impression that under the
Americans with Disabilities Act (which we are not seking to carbon-copy), the
window for compliance is fully 30 years.
* Text of a Toronto TV station CFTO news item on Bill 125 that ran during the
week after this bill was first introduced into the Legislature.
Disabilities legislation lacks `force'
Greg Contaxis wants to be "spontaneous like everyone else."
"It's something that you take for granted everyday," the 24-year-old, who has
cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, told a public hearing on the provincial
government's disabilities act yesterday.
But Contaxis said the long-awaited bill doesn't do much to make his life
easier, especially when it comes to getting a job. And he isn't alone. Dozens
of groups have told the public hearings at Queen's Park - which end tomorrow -
that the proposed law is useless and too vague, because it doesn't force
business to become barrier-free.
"Every place has to be accessible," said Contaxis, who volunteers at the
Bloorview MacMillan Children's Centre.
Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson tabled the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
this month and said it was aimed at increasing accessibility, opportunity and
independence for an estimated 1.6
Jackson said the government wants to pass the act - which both opposition
parties oppose - before Christmas.
David Lepofsky, chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, said
his group's main concern with the act is that it focuses too much on physical
barriers. They want serious amendments made.
"We want the bill to have real force and effect," he said.
The new law would require some provincially funded construction projects and
existing buildings to meet accessibility standards. It would also establish a
committee to oversee disability issues.
I Can't Get On the Bus
Even Those Equipped with Ramps Leave Me Behind
By Eli Shupak
For those of us in wheelchairs, TTC buses with lifts and low-floor buses with
ramps are supposed to make getting around the city easier. The
specially-equipped vehicles are currently on 34 routes in the city. And
travelling on the regular system should be so much more convenient than
Actually getting on these buses, however, is something else entirely. I often
see drivers behind the wheel of these buses panic at the sight of a wheelchair.
They push several buttons with the hope they'll finally hit the one to open the
ramp. On occasion, I've observed drivers flick the control lever down when they
should be flicking up to open the ramp -- or not bothering to deal with the
ramp at all.
One day, for example, five different drivers of these specially equipped buses
wouldn't allow me on board at the Bathurst subway station because they claimed
their ramps weren't working.
When I finally insisted to one of the drivers, positioning my chair so that the
doors couldn't close, he threatened to call the police.
A week ago Saturday, I waited for more than 20 minutes for a
wheelchair-accessible bus I could get on.
The driver who pulled up asked me to wait for the next one, saying the bus was
already "kinda full." I protested. He grudgingly opened his ramp. He came on
over the loud speaker to apologize to the rest of the riders for the
Later, at Bathurst and Davenport, with the vehicle much emptier, another
wheelchair user was waiting to board. His response: "Not another wheelchair."
I don't think the majority of bus drivers are exactly thrilled that these buses
were put on the road.
From time to time, the ramp genuinely may not be working, but an override
switch can be used to open the ramp manually.
All this after the Tories, ironically enough, introduced an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act that's supposed to give people with disabilities like myself
equal access to transportation, among other things.
Vince Casuti, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union representing drivers,
says there have been a lot of mechanical problems with buses equipped with
"The lifts don't work that well," he says. "They were having problems with the
ramps a while back." Which begs the question of why they're being deployed in a
state of disrepair in the first place. Is it that they don't really expect
disabled people to use them?
While noting that drivers are trained on how to use the ramps, Marilyn Bolton,
the TTC's official spokesperson, downplays the notion that there are serious
mechanical problems with the contraptions.
"Anything that has a mechanical component to it is prone to failure, but this
is not necessarily an overwhelming problem."
Bolton bristles at my suggestion that the glitches in the system may be more
serious than she thinks.
"I don't know that they are," she says.
She adds that while it may be more difficult to get a wheelchair- accessible
bus during rush hour, they're scheduled to run every 20 minutes at off-peak
Not when I tried to get home after a concert recently. With the elevator at
Bathurst station out of order, I had to get off the subway at Spadina and wheel
to the Bathurst station.
I'd planned on taking the bus north to Lawrence, but neither of the last two
buses to leave the station that night were wheelchair-accessible. Neither was
the overnight bus that runs every half hour. The TTC pulled an accessible bus
off of Dufferin Street to take me home. It arrived at the station at 2 am.
The TTC says it intends to phase in more of these buses over time. But I wonder
if what is really needed is an attitude adjustment.
Down and Out
By Tiffany Thornton
Standing on the St. George platform, I watch a young visually- impaired woman
with a child in a stroller approach the elevator set aside for disabled transit
She will be disappointed. The lift has been out of service for two months now.
She's not the only person I have seen disappointed.
"Why is this allowed?" she asks dejectedly. "I am among the millions of people
who take the TTC every day."
Curious about what the TTC will say about this woman's plight, I call customer
service. Joe Gibson doesn't spend time with grand apologies to all those
inconvenienced by the breakdown. Instead, he says they are "waiting on a part,"
as if that covers the entire issue.
I decided to take it further by contacting NDP caucus member Tony Martin, who
advocates for the disabled. "The government promised six years ago to bring in
legislation that would enforce regulations requiring these problems to be fixed
immediately or a penalty would be imposed. It's a question of seeing it as a
We now have a transit system that claims to require billions of dollars to
upgrade, yet can't ensure that those of us who need extra services will get
I probably don't need to do a whole commentary to express my views about the
Conservative government's proposed new Ontarians with Disabilities Act. One
word sums up the whole thing.
That word is sham.
Many disability advocates expressed shock... dismay... disappointment...
frustration... and anger that the legislation will do little to remove the
multitude of barriers they face.
I personally didn't have any of those reactions. Rather... this charade is
what I have come to expect from the Harris government's cavalier attitude
towards citizens with disabilities.
Much of the media coverage about this bill has focused on a maximum $5,000 fine
for using a disabled parking spot without a permit.
There are valid reasons for the somewhat limited coverage. Because... you
see... despite six years of promises... the act contains little except the
increased fine. Even that will be difficult to enforce.
The government recently ran expensive newspaper ads telling you how committed
they are to a barrier-free Ontario. Then... they produced legislation that
pretends to do something... while actually doing nothing.
What a sham.
This is Lynne Swanson and Blaze Raising Cane for News Now.
Tories break another promise
Friday, November 23, 2001 marked another broken promise to persons with
disabilities by the Ontario government.
Bill 125 needs substantial amendments, such as adding real enforcement
proceedings and extending it to the private sector.
The government's rushed timetable for public hearings will not give persons
with disabilities enough time to prepare and will not enable all who wish to
have their say.
This process does not put the disabily community in "the driver's seat," as
Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson had committed.
Disability bill being rushed, groups charge
Advocacy groups for the disabled accuse the Ontario government of rushing a
long-awaited disabilities act into law without giving them enough time to voice
"(The bill's) been a long time coming ... but we think it needs some work,"
said Deanna Groetzinger, vice-president communications for the Multiple
Sclerosis Society of Canada.
Eight groups, including the Ontario Association for Community Living and the
Canadian Mental Health Association, sent an open letter to Citizenship Minister
Cam Jackson this week saying the bill lacks any "real enforcement or mandatory
barrier removal." The letter also said the bill doesn't do enough for the
blind, deaf, hard of hearing or those with intellectual disabilities or
disabilities caused by mental illness.
Jackson tabled the Ontarians with Disabilities Act this month and said it was
aimed at increasing accessibility, opportunity and independence for the 1.6
million Ontarians with disabilities. The proposed law, which passed second
reading last night, includes a plan to increase fines for illegally parking in
a disabled spot to a maximum of $5,000, up from $500.
Patti Bregman, director of programs for the Canadian Mental Health Association,
said the proposed law focuses too much on physical barriers.
The groups are worried their proposed amendments won't be properly heard if the
government goes ahead with its plan to pass it before the Legislature breaks
for Christmas. Five days of public hearings have been scheduled.
Jackson said the government wants to pass the act quickly because it's trying
to comply with a deadline set by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee,
which asked for a law to be in place by November 23, 2001.
Ontario residents with disabilities have been waiting for the new law since
Premier Mike Harris promised the legislation in 1995.
Both opposition parties oppose the bill.
"They (the Conservatives) had six and a half years to honour their promise and
now they are ramming it through," said Ernie Parson, the Liberal's critic for
persons with disabilities.
"This isn't a bill that will improve people's lives, with some very minor
The interviewer is host Andy Barrie
(The interview began with a playback of a quotation from an interview on the
show earlier that morning from ODA supporter Carole Riback)
Riback: ...no mechanisms in this legislation for implementation of planning.
There's no requirement to follow through with plans, and there's no
accountability or penalty if plans are not followed through. So there's
development of plans, the identification of barriers, but no measures to do
anything about them in any of the legislation.
BARRIE: Cam Jackson is Ontario's Minister of Citizenship. He introduced the
Bill and he's on the line. Mr. Jackson, good morning.
JACKSON: Good morning, Andy.
BARRIE: I think you can tell that, having waited some seven years for this
Bill, Ms Riback is quite disappointed. What do you make of her concerns that no
one will be compelled to do anything on behalf of the disabled?
JACKSON: Well, it's just not going to happen that way and frankly, we have
demonstrated inside the legislation that there are mandatory requirements and
that they will be monitored and that they will be enforced. The fact of the
matter is we don't have guidelines in the province of Ontario for many of the
things that the disability community is seeking. We have to get those
guidelines in place before we impose them on a whole series of sectors, whether
it's the public sector or the private sector. But there are enforcement
mechanisms in the province of Ontario. The Bill speaks very clearly to
regulatory authority in the Bill, which also gives the government the power to
specify a time period in which any organization referenced in the Bill would be
required to comply with its obligations. And if the House passes the Bill, then
we can begin working immediately on those regulations.
And more importantly, Andy, for the first time anywhere in North America, the
disability community will be working directly on those regulations. So this is
a major step forward for the disabilities community and by most organizations
it's been heralded as a breakthrough.
BARRIE: Gee, you'll have to tell us which organizations to get in touch with.
We haven't been able to find them yet.
JACKSON: Well, the March of Dimes were at the press conference. Duncan Reid,
the past president of the Ontario March of Dimes, said the Bill was a historic
moment for the disabled community, and should allow them to participate fully
as citizens in our society. And there were many organizations that came forward
yesterday wanting to work with the Bill and advance the agenda quickly.
BARRIE: This agenda was first announced personally, as an individual personal
promise by Mike Harris before his first election. You're now talking about a
process of consultation to develop guidelines, which will then have to be
enforced after those guidelines are developed. This is a Bill, it would seem to
me, that you could have introduced in virtually the first week of your first
mandate so that by now, all of those guidelines would have been in place, and
you could begin the enforcement of them. Can you explain to me why it took
JACKSON: Well, it took me seven months. And I've been working diligently...
BARRIE: That's not the question. I'm asking...
JACKSON: Fair enough, Andy, but I'm telling you that my responsibility as a
Minister was to meet with the community and get consensus on the approach to
take to the reforms. And that has been done and yesterday, there were over
twenty-five different organizations with representatives here to lend support
to the launch of the Bill and to declare publicly that they're willing to roll
up their sleeves and get this work done quickly. We're creating for a first
time in Ontario's history in legislation an access directorate. We're creating
a council with disabled persons who will drive the work on the enforcement
mechanisms whether it's the regulations, setting the guidelines, monitoring
compliance, reporting publicly on who's compliant and who's not, and they will
develop with us the necessary enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance.
BARRIE: All of which... I'm sorry, I appreciate that you may not be
individually and personally responsible but we're talking about the promises
your government made, not yourself... all of which could have happened seven
Let me ask you a different question, because this is the one raised by our
guest in a wheelchair earlier this morning.
After all this consultation has taken place, after all the enforcement
mechanisms have been devised, after all the reporting about lack of enforcement
has taken place; when, what year, do you think a person in a wheelchair like
her will be able to address a doorway now blocked to her, and that doorway will
be compelled -- by your government or another one -- to be opened to her. What
JACKSON: Well, according to the Americans with Disability the window is thirty
years. In Ontario it certainly will not take that length of time.
BARRIE: What year? What year -- I would like to record this...
JACKSON: absolutely. It will vary depending upon which service we're dealing
with, because transit systems are specifically mentioned to have mandatory
BARRIE: Give me a best-case scenario for a year. This is seven years since Mr.
Harris first promised this access. How much longer will that woman have to
JACKSON: Depends on which sector, Andy, that we are working with. Because there
BARRIE: Well, I'll let you choose the sector that will be delivering the goods
first. That's your choice. What year, for which sector?
JACKSON: When I asked that question to Mr. Lepofsky, he couldn't give us an
answer and so we have said we will build a council of disabled persons who will
help us determine the exact time frames sector by sector. The provincial
government should be able to be compliant in under four or five years. The
municipalities will vary -- in the City of Windsor and the City of Thunder Bay,
for example, they've done exceptionally good work with their advisory councils
-- they're well along the way. In my own community of Burlington, their
curb-cutting programme will be complete in less than three years.
BARRIE: And what about a private company?
JACKSON: Private companies -- we are identifying sector by sector, which of the
private sector company -- er, corporations -- that we will be targetting in
terms of their compliance. Right now we know that the banks have begun to do
work as it relates to employment opportunity and access to banking services. We
know that by working with them, we can probably shorten up the time frame for
compliance to a very few short years. But again, Andy, the whole key to this is
that there are no guidelines. This is why the problems that they've experienced
in the United States -- the ADA's been in place now for ten years, and there
are still compliance challenges because no one had guidelines in place and we
are not going to do it backwards, as they tried to do it in the U.S. It
degenerated into extensive litigation. We are going to force compliance based
on the guidelines and the accessibility plans that will be made public for each
and every sector in Ontario.
BARRIE: Mr. Jackson, thank you for talking to us.
JACKSON: Thank you, Andy.
BARRIE: Cam Jackson is Ontario's Minister of Citizenship. Our number is
A simple curb can be a major barrier for a wheelchair.
Many public buildings are still not wheelchair accessible. And many disabled
parking spots do not leave enough room to get in or out.
Edward Fice, who depends on a scooter to get around, says these problems need
fixing. But he says new disability legislation tabled yesterday falls short.
The tory package aims at improving transportation and building access for
people with all forms of disabilities in ontario.
(CLIP: Edward Rice, League for Human Rights "one of the aspects of this
legislation that it does not cover is current barriers that we face. There are
buildings and structures that are inaccessible and will remain inaccessible,
even with this legislation. So in that respect, it's a disappointment.")
Citizenship minister Cam Jackson recently unveiled his government's vision of a
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act calls for new construction
projects to have an accessibility plan. Fines up to five thousand dollars for
those illegally parked in disabled spots. And the
creation of an accessibility advisory council of ontario to
establish guidelines on access in the public and private sectors.
But the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, an independent group
evaluating this legislation, calls it weak and ineffective. And while happy
this issue is finally getting some attention, they say this bill lacks real
enforcement. Monica Matys, CFTO News.