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In recent years, polls have become an integral part of governing. They are routinely used by governments, opposition parties and the media to measure the public opinion about government initiatives and other policy issues of the day. While the ODA Committee believes that the rights of people with disabilities should not be respected only if they are popular, opinion polls are useful in measuring public perceptions about people with disabilities and their rights.

The validity of the polls depends on the professionalism of those carrying them out. Ordinarily, these types of polls are beyond the reach of community organizations of people with disabilities who have barely enough funding to survive. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, which receives no funding from any outside source, was very interested in finding out public opinion about issues related to an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This type of information would be helpful in identifying gaps in public knowledge and information about the barriers faced by people with disabilities. It can also serve as an important means to convince elected politicians that this type of measure is supported by the public.

The ODA Committee is extremely grateful to the Lou Harris Polling Organization, represented in Canada by Thompson Lightstone and Company Limited for their assistance. They donated their professional services and expertise, by helping design and by conducting a public opinion survey across Canada in March of 1997 on public attitudes towards the need for legislation requiring the removal and prevention of barriers facing persons with disabilities.

Respondents were asked the following questions:

1. Do you know anyone with a disability who is a:

(a) coworker, supervisor or employee
(b) neighbour
(c) friend you know socially
(d) member of your household
(e) other people you come in contact with (e.g. store clerks)

2. In comparison with other people, do you think that people with disabilities who want to work can:

(a) Find jobs easily
(b) Only find jobs with difficulty
(c) Can't find jobs at all
(d) Depends (explain:)

3. In your opinion, do you think most people under the age of 65, with disabilities, want to get jobs, or would they rather stay at home and live on disability payments or welfare?

(a) Want to get jobs
(b) Stay at home
(c) Depends (explain:)

4. Do you think that most people with disabilities are financially:

(a) Much better off than others
(b) Somewhat better off
(c) About the same
(d) Somewhat worse off
(e) Much worse off
(f) Depends (explain:)

5. I would like to ask you some questions about possible barriers, or obstacles, faced by people with disabilities. Using a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 would represent an extremely difficult barrier, 1 would represent no barrier at all, how much of a barrier do you think people with disabilities face?

(a) when using government services
(b) in employment
(c) in equal opportunity to quality education
(d) in access to public transportation
(e) in being able to fully use places like stores, theatres, restaurants, and places of interest
(f) in the use of everyday household electronic products such as microwaves, computers and VCR's
(g) in going to college or university, or other job training
(h) in access to housing (eg. apartment buildings)
(i) in access to office buildings

6. If more people with disabilities were brought in to the workforce do you think this would be a boost to the country by taking people off welfare and putting them to work or would it take jobs from people without disabilities who need them?

(a) Boost to the country
(b) Threat to take jobs
(c) Both
(d) Neither

7. Do you think making jobs, housing, transportation, and public places more accessible to people with disabilities would be mainly a cost or mainly a benefit to society?

(a) Benefit to society
(b) Cost to society
(c) Both
(d) Neither

8. As far as you know, are there laws which currently exist that are effective at removing the barriers to equal access for people with disabilities?

(a) Yes
(b) No

9a. Do you believe there should be a law which specifically requires that barriers to people with disabilities be identified and removed in:

(a) the workplace
(b) job training
(c) education
(d) housing
(e) government services
(g) transportation, including public transportation (eg. bus, subway, trains, airplanes)
(h) public places
(i) consumer products

9b. FOR EACH "NO" IN Q9a, ASK Q9b - Do you believe there should be a law which specifically prohibits barriers to people with disabilities in any new developments in ... ? (Record Above)

10. While such a law would open up new opportunities for people with disabilities, it will also, in some cases, cost money to implement. Do you feel that the cost would:

(a) be worth it
(b) not be worth it


This poll was done in March 1997 as part of a more general poll carried out by Thompson Lightstone. The questions were asked of a random sample of 2095 Canadians 18 or older. According to Thompson Lightstone, a sample of this size is accurate with a margin of error of to 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. Of the total interviews done, 523 were with people in Ontario. According to the pollsters, this sample size is accurate with a margin of error of 4.3%, 19 out of 20 times. There were few differences in the results between Canada as a whole and Ontario.

The results of the survey were very positive and compelling. There was very strong support for the introduction of new legislation that would include the removal and prevention of barriers impeding people with disabilities. This would be the core focus of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Some of the key findings of the poll were:

Support for Effective Legislation

The majority of people in Ontario support effective legislation to remove barriers to equal access for people with disabilities. Support ranged from 66% for legislation covering consumer products to 78% for legislation that would remove barriers to government services. The results for each area were:

government services 78%
job training 77%
public places 76%
the workplace 75%
housing 70%
consumer products 66%

Of those in the minority who did not support new legislation to remove barriers, 25% did support legislation to prevent the creation of new barriers even if it cost money to implement the legislation. 85% of the people who supported legislation to prevent new barriers said the expenditures would be worth it.

Recognition of Barriers

Most people recognize that people with disabilities do face barriers in:

access to public transportation
access to public places
access to housing
access to office buildings

Fewer people think that there are barriers in:

access to government services
use of everyday products
access to quality education and the opportunity to attend college

Support for People with Disabilities in the Work Force

In response to the question about bringing people with disabilities into the workplace, 84% of those in Ontario said it would benefit society and 66% said it would be a boost to society.

Most people, 88% of those interviewed in Ontario, believe that people with disabilities have difficulty finding jobs.

64% of the people interviewed believe that people with disabilities are generally worse off financially.

In terms of desire to work, 69% feel that people with disabilities do want jobs.

Shared Experiences

In Ontario, 77% of the people interviewed said they know someone with a disability either as a family member, friend, co-worker or other person they see on a regular basis.

This survey reinforces a number of very important points made in other parts of this brief:

An effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act is necessary if the barriers preventing people from participating in society are to be removed.

Not only do people with disabilities believe they still face significant barriers to employment, accessing goods and services and participating in society, so do people in Ontario and Canada in general.

Everyone's life is, or will be touched by either having a disability or knowing someone with a disability. As a result, an Ontarians with Disabilities Act benefits not only people who currently have a disability, but their friends, families, coworkers as well as people who will, one day, have a disability.

Even if removing barriers impeding persons with disabilities costs money, the cost is worth it, according to a substantial majority of Canadians.

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