ODA Action TIP
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
ACTION TIP dd August 22, 2003
Posted August 29, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE ACTION TIP
How to Urge Your Municipality to Listen to People With Disabilities When Developing Its Accessibility Plan Under the Ontarians With Disabilities Act 2001
August 22, 2003
By September 30, 2003, every municipality in Ontario must make public its first "accessibility plan" under the ODA 2001. Here are some tips on how you can try to make the accessibility plan in your municipality as inclusive as possible.
WHAT THE MUNICIPALITY'S ACCESSIBILITY PLAN MUST INCLUDE
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 says what the accessibility plan is to include. It says that the plan "shall address the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to persons with disabilities in the municipality's by-laws and in its policies, programs, practices and services." It also says that the plan's contents must include:
"(a) a report on the measures the municipality has taken to identify, remove and prevent barriers to persons with disabilities;
(b) the measures in place to ensure that the municipality assesses its proposals for by-laws, policies, programs, practices and services to determine their effect on accessibility for persons with disabilities;
(c) a list of the by-laws, policies, programs, practices and services that the municipality will review in the coming year in order to identify barriers to persons with disabilities;
(d) the measures that the municipality intends to take in the coming year to identify, remove and prevent barriers to persons with disabilities; and
(e) all other information that the regulations prescribe for the purpose of the plan."
In the 20 months since the Ontario Legislature passed the ODA 2001, it has passed no regulations setting out what the accessibility plan must include.
HOW TO TRY TO HAVE YOUR SAY
We encourage you to take these steps now, either alone or with friends or with an organization that you are involved with:
1. Ask your municipality to now make public a draft of its accessibility plan so that the disability community can comment on it before it is finalized;
2. Urge your municipality to hold a public "barrier busters' forum" to get input on its draft plan, and
3. Urge your local municipal accessibility advisory committee to hold an open meeting to get input on the draft accessibility plan.
4. Whether or not your municipality holds a public forum, send your ideas to the municipality and to its accessibility advisory committee (if it has
one) on what barriers you want the municipality's accessibility plan to address. Suggest that the municipality set time lines for fixing the barriers you identify. Let them know you will be checking their plan when they make it public to see what action the municipality takes on your suggestions.
for more ideas, look at the ODA Committee's Municipal Barrier Busters Action Kit. You can find it on our web site at:
or you can email us to ask for it, at:
If you are taking these steps, you might want to point to some recent activities. The City of London has made public a draft of its accessibility plan, and is holding a public forum to get input on it.
The London Accessibility Advisory Committee is also holding an open meeting to get input. We have word that similar public meetings have been held by the municipal accessibility advisory committees in North Bay and in Carleton Place. This is very commendable. Unfortunately, and in contrast, the provincially-appointed Accessibility Advisory Council has not held its meetings in the open, and has not agreed to hold public consultations at the provincial level. The ODA Committee has recommended that the Ontario Government-appointed Council hold its meetings in public, and conduct public consultations on the ODA's implementation.
See the announcement from ODA Committee London Regional Contact Cathy Vincent Linderoos below. See also the column about this in the London Free Press published on August 19, 2003.
ANNOUNCEMENT FROM ODA COMMITTEE LONDON REGIONAL CONTACT CATHY VINCENT LINDEROOS ON LONDON'S CONSULTATIONS ON ITS ACCESSIBILITY COMMITTEE
Hi everyone. I am writing to let you know of some key dates pertaining to the City of London's draft accessibility plan for 2003 - 04. The accessibility committee members have already received their copies of the draft plan, it is available from City Hall and I understand that it will be available on the city's Web site on Monday, Aug. 11, 2003. Be forewarned! It is long. There will be a special meeting of the accessibility advisory committee to review the plan on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. The committee's regular meeting, open to the public, is the third Thursday of each month. This month that dates falls on August 21st, 2003 -- from 3 to 5 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to attend that meeting.
Finally, there will be a public consultation on Sept. 3rd at 7 p.m. at City Hall in rooms 1 and 2. Everyone is encouraged to attend that meeting.
Please let the members of your organization(s), your friends and family members know that the municipal accessibility advisory committee (MAAC) was formed to address the unnecessary barriers of people with disabilities in London under the terms of the ODA 2001. Interested people will be able to access the city's draft plan online in PDF format, or request the plan in alternate format by calling Lorelei Fisher (661 - 5417) in the city clerk's office. If you have other questions about the meeting times/locations themselves, please direct them to Lorelei, committee secretary, at City Hall.
Whether or not we notice any improvements in the lives of people with disabilities DUE TO THE current ODA, it may be said that we probably wouldn't have a MAAC at all, were it not for the existence of the ODA. I think the MAAC has been working hard to do their work -- in spite of a very weak ODA. The MAAC members, many of whom are ODA Committee members, were asked to advise the city on its accessibility plan. Their recommendations may or may not have reached the pages of this DRAFT document -- as it stands.
That being said, we can now ask ourselves if the city's plan is likely to make noticeable, realistic, timely, needed improvements in peoples' lives. If you have ideas about how the plan could be improved, please bring your ideas to one or more of the meetings above. If you are unable to attend, consider asking your ward councillor to help you by attending the meetings. If you want to get ideas about how the draft plan could be strengthened, please plan on attending a meeting. If you think the city's draft plan goes far enough and adequately reflects its goal to identify, remove and prevent barriers to people with disabilities in London, you are also welcome at these meetings.
Whatever your opinions or barriers, don't let the chance to let people know about these important dates/opportunities slip by. Please remember that people need time to arrange transit and so, if you can get the word out right away, it will help us all. You might consider (it is your DEMOCRATIC
choice) letting your political representatives know you want them to take part in this process and continue to stand up for people with mental, physical and sensory disabilities in London. London's elected officials are included on this e-mail list, since they have all supported the ODA. However, they need to hear from us, whenever possible.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or ideas. If you have questions about the ODA 2001 or the ODA Committee itself, please go to www.odacommittee.net. Please feel free to quote me. And please send this e-mail FAR AND WIDE. Thank you!
Cathy Vincent-Linderoos, a regional contact, Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, London area
London Free Press August 19, 2003
Toothless law keeps chains on disabled
MARK RICHARDSON, For the London Free Press
To scream or not to scream, that is the question. At least, it is if you're a member of this city's disabled community.
At a special meeting of the municipal accessibility advisory committee (MAAC) Thursday afternoon, about 15 disabled people reviewed the city's draft accessibility plan for 2003.
The gathering was their first go at the draft plan as a group, and, thanks to backup generators, a sudden lack of electrical power in committee rooms 1 and 2 of City Hall wasn't an issue. Lack of willpower may be another story.
"The city already has power under S. 29 of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) to revoke licences" of taxi drivers who discriminate," Kathy Lewis told those around the table "but mechanisms aren't used to enforce it."
Yet, the politicos may not be the only ones who need to make changes.
I had met Lewis and disability activist Cathy Vincent-Linderoos earlier in the day. Both said the same thing: the ODA is weak, but we're going to hold the government accountable to it as a bare minimum.
The ODA forces municipalities and public-sector institutions only to draft plans. It has no enforcement provisions.
On Oct. 29, 1998, after 8 years of lobbying, the Ontario government finally passed the ODA, legislation the government promised "would put the disabled in the driver's seat." And if Lewis and Vincent-Linderoos are typical, disabled Ontarians aren't likely to settle for the slow lane.
But are they typical? Or have the disabled been down so long most are happy just to be invited to the table?
"We celebrate our anniversary every Oct. 29th," Vincent-Linderoos said with a wry smile. All three political parties endorsed the ODA's 11 principles and city hall has affirmed them twice, she said.
It's a start. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), meanwhile, has made a real difference in the United States. Passed during the senior Bush administration, the ADA isn't perfect but it does have enforcement provisions.
As a result, accessibility issues are addressed a lot more in Louisville and Boston than they are in London.
"Oh, Cathy," a disabled friend visiting the States recently said to Vincent-Linderoos, "it's wonderful. At the hotel they can lower me into the pool." Lewis adds: "Recently, a guide dog and its owner were forced by management to leave an American restaurant and the restaurant owner was fined thousands of dollars."
While in the States, more accommodations are being made and tactile signs are popping up everywhere, says Vincent-Linderoos, one established London restaurateur refused to investigate Braille menus, even when he was told where to get them.
If you don't yell you won't even be on the political radar screen.
Is it an outrage? You bet it is. Without enforcement provisions, landlords can shrug and say, "I met the building code," even though their medical building is inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.
One woman in an electric wheel-chair told me getting around the new shopping area at Southdale and Wonderland roads is impossible. "I can't understand how the city can plan that development without thinking," she said in frustration.
Madam, I felt like telling her, if you don't yell you won't even be on the political radar screen.
Of course, she could complain to the Human Rights Commission. But even if it heard her case -- which is doubtful -- a complaint can take years and would only address one act of discrimination.
So what should the disabled do? Don't just nobly suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; demand change.
Just after the lights began to flicker, Lewis reminded the group they shouldn't be afraid to be activists. "We can be on this committee and still push for enforceable regulations."
In an election year, that "nice and nasty" combination may be the perfect one-two punch. There will be a public consultation session on the draft accessibility plan at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at City Hall, rooms 1 and 2. Everyone is encouraged to attend.
ODA Committee Action Tip dd July 15, 2003 -- ODA Committee Launches New "Letters To The Editor Blitz" To Newspapers Across Ontario About Disability Issues In The Upcoming Provincial Election
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Last updated August 29, 2003