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The London Free Press
March 26, 2001 Page A-14

Act Long Overdue


We agree with David Lepofsky, Cathy Vincent-Linderoos and others
with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee. The province is
long overdue for legislation that would lower the barriers that
confront 1.5 million disabled Ontarians.

Fifteen per cent of the population face such hurdles in pursuing an
education, a job, finding a home or enjoying recreational pursuits
en route to enjoying the full potential of life. They exist in
spite of an Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights and
Freedoms that bar discrimination because of physical or mental

The obvious impediments are physical, such as the stairs to be
climbed to reach an optometrist's office or inadequate public
paratransit. But others are equally and unnecessarily
restrictive, including attitudes that a disability equates with
lower workplace productivity. Hiring a worker with a disability is
not an act of charity, nor should it ever be approached that way.

As the Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee rightly advises,
barriers exist because no effective law is in place to tackle
existing problems or to avert new ones being added every day. And
when a big chunk of the population is barred from reaching their
full promise, Ontario suffers in many ways.

Perhaps in that light, Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Keith
Norton has vowed an aggressive campaign to quell discrimination
against the disabled. He promises to be proactive, searching out
cases rather than waiting for complaints.

The frustration of Norton and others is understandable. It has been
six years since the Harris Tories promised to pass a bill. We share
their impatience.

But it is not the job of an unelected, quasi-judicial body such as
Norton's to bypass what is in fact the role of our elected

Protection is provided across the board with a new law, not the
pick-and-choose crusade of an overburdened and painfully slow human
rights apparatus. Without a law, there is no process of buying in
and publicizing standards for the vast majority who wish to do the
right thing. There are only penalties and that's no way to move

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