COUNTDOWN TO THE ODA BILL
Based on government announcements, we expect the Ontario government to introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature any time after the Legislature resumes on September 24th. We also believe that the government plans to come forward with amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, and with some other new voluntary non- legislative programs for those who wish to remove barriers facing persons with disabilities.
We do not know whether the government's bill will be strong and effective at achieving a barrier-free Ontario for all people with disabilities. The government has not committed to telling us in advance when the bill will be introduced or debated, or whether there will be public hearings on the bill before a Legislative Committee. The government may want to rush the bill through the Legislature very fast, perhaps over only a few days. It may do this to avoid public debate and criticisms if the bill is weak.
We should all prepare to be ready for action right across the province the moment the bill is introduced. Some suggestions: alerting your local media and other supporters in your community NOW to be ready for the government bill at any time; showing your local business community the benefits to them of a strong and effective ODA; and advocating for the Legislature to hold public hearings on the bill.
Here are ideas on
how to do this, starting right now. You can really help, whether you are
advocating on the ODA alone, or as part of a community organization, or
with other ODA supporters in your community. Circulate this kit widely.
Tell us what you are doing, including any other ideas you come up with.
PREPARING NOW FOR INTRODUCTION OF THE BILL
REACHING OUT TO THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Reach out to members
of the business community now in your part of the province to show that
a strong and effective ODA is good for business. Contact people you know
in business in your community. Meet with your local chamber of commerce
and service clubs. We enclose a handout that you may wish to print up
and distribute to people involved in business. It shows how a strong ODA
ADVOCATING FOR PUBLIC LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS ON THE BILL
Please add your voice to all those who have called on the Legislature to hold accessible, province-wide public hearings on the government's bill when it is introduced. We enclose a sample letter you might send to Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson, with copies to all three parties and to the Clerk of the Legislature. Contact your own local MPP and ask them to pledge support for public hearings, and to advocate in the Legislature for these hearings. Get others to do the same.
LET US KNOW
Let us know if you
change your address. If you want regular email updates on ODA news, write:
The Honourable Cam Jackson
I am writing to ask your government to commit to holding open, accessible, province-wide public legislative hearings on the bill that you plan to introduce this fall to comply with your government's promise to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I wish also to request an opportunity to make a presentation in person at those hearings. I am sending a copy of this letter to the Clerk of the Legislature, to formally request the opportunity to make a presentation at those hearings.
It is important that there be public hearings so that all of us who are interested in achieving a barrier-free Ontario for all people with disabilities can have a say on the contents of the bill.
It is also very important that your government announce well in advance when and where these accessible hearings will take place, so that there is enough time to arrange to participate. Please ensure that the entire process for debating your legislation and for public participation is fully accessible and barrier-free. Also, I trust that this legislation will be strong and effective, and that it will require that the barriers facing all people with disabilities be removed and that future barriers be prevented before they are created.
Clerk of the Ontario Legislature
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Here are questions that the ODA Committee encourages you to consider when deciding whether a bill fulfils the Ontario government's commitment to enact a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act by November 23, 2001.
These questions are based on the 11 principles the ODA Committee supports. The Legislature unanimously adopted these 11 principles by a resolution passed on October 29, 1998. Many municipal councils have also endorsed these principles.
1. Will the bill achieve a barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a timeframe as is reasonably possible?
2. Will the bill effectively ensure persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit?
3. Does the bill require all barriers facing Ontarians with disabilities in employment and in the enjoyment of goods, services and facilities to be removed and prevented? Does the bill make the removal and the prevention of barriers mandatory, not voluntary, that is, does it require that barriers be removed and prevented, or does it leave barrier removal and prevention up to the choice of the organization involved?
4. Does the bill apply to all disabilities; physical, mental and/or sensory; be the disability visible or invisible?
5. Does the bill apply to all important areas of life in Ontario, including employment and the enjoyment of goods, services and facilities, such as transportation, education and training, communication, health and social services, housing, recreation, tourism and information? Does it apply to both the public and private sectors?
6. Does the bill apply to all kinds of disability barriers, such as, physical, technological, communication, bureaucratic, and administrative barriers?
7. Does the bill set out time lines for the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of new barriers, or require the establishment of such time lines?
8. Does the bill require the establishment of appropriate detailed standards for removing and preventing barriers in different sectors of the economy? Does it provide a way for the public to have meaningful input into those standards?
9. Does the bill require public and private sector organizations to develop and then implement specific plans for barrier removal and prevention within their own organizations in accordance with the standards and timelines referred to in 7 and 8 above?
10. Does the bill provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement, including, for example, an effective and independent enforcement agency? Does this process do more than simply incorporate existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints, barrier by barrier, with the Ontario Human Rights Commission?
11. Does the bill mandate the government of Ontario to provide education, expertise, and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Act?
12. Does the bill require the Ontario government to promote the development and distribution of new adaptive technologies and services for Ontarians with disabilities?
13. Does the bill require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to, and usable by, persons with disabilities?
14. Does the bill supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities?
15. Does implementation of the bill begin immediately upon proclamation?
16. Will the bill be effective at removing the specific barriers that are especially important to you and to the people who are near and dear to you?
The Ontario government promised to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA). This is needed to remove and prevent barriers facing people with disabilities in their enjoyment of goods, services, facilities and participation in employment. Proposed by the ODA Committee, a non-partisan province-wide coalition, the ODA's aim is to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities.
Ontarians with disabilities face many barriers, when they try to get a job, ride a bus, get an education, use our health care system, buy products or just go to the park. Examples of barriers are steps instead of ramps, elevator buttons without Braille, lack of sign language interpreters for deaf patients in a hospital and written-only application forms given to persons with dyslexia.
* Removing and preventing barriers is good for business. It enables businesses to gain access to a great untapped new market for goods, services and facilities. There is huge spending power in the hands of 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities, 4 million Canadians with disabilities, 54 million Americans with disabilities, and the millions more around the world.
* Most adaptations to remove disability barriers cost little. Their net cost is even lower, since you can often get a tax deduction for them.
* When you remove barriers impeding people with disabilities, your new customer base will include not only people with disabilities but their friends and families.
* It will usually cost you little or nothing to prevent new barriers before they are created. If you plan ahead now to prevent future barriers, then you avoid having to spend funds later to eliminate those barriers. Obviously, it's cheaper to prevent barriers in advance.
* The ODA we propose would provide reasonable standards on what to do to remove and prevent barriers along reasonable timelines. The standards and timelines should be developed in close consultation with the business and disability communities, and they should be sensitive to local, practical business needs. For example, where an adaptation costs little or nothing, it should be addressed sooner but where more cost and effort is needed, more time should be allowed. The standards should recognize that different sized businesses have different resources for addressing barriers, and should be sensitive to the special needs of small business. A worthwhile ODA would require government to provide help, such as technical expertise and advice, making it easier and cheaper for business to remove and prevent barriers.
* The effective ODA we propose will provide for a level playing field for all businesses. You and your competitors will operate under the same law.
* The ODA we propose will reduce the need for litigation. Right now the Ontario Human Rights Code requires these barriers to be removed and prevented. However, it requires these barriers to be litigated for years, addressing individual barriers one at a time, and without specific standards for removing and preventing barriers. An ODA would not cut back on any existing rights or remedies.
* An effective ODA would require government to participate as equal partners. They would be responsible for providing transportation, education and other public services to meet the needs of people with disabilities and to remove and prevent barriers in the public sector. This will benefit your business. Accessible public transit will bring more customers to your door. Accessible education and training will provide your business with more well-trained potential employees.
* As our population ages, the need for the ODA is even more pressing. The greatest cause of disabilities is advancing age. As you get older, you will likely acquire a disability if you do not yet have one. You will need a barrier-free society, including a barrier-free business, not only for your customers and employees, but for yourself as well.
Let's get the business and disability communities together to learn more about each other, and towards achieving an ODA that benefits us all. Let the Ontario government know that an effective ODA is good for business. To learn more, contact the ODA Committee at the following address:
Notify us of any change of address for you. If you want regular Email updates on the ODA, send a request for them to email@example.com
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Last updated August 24, 2001, 5:45 am