"The Crutch Politic" Jan 2000 Volume 1 Issue 1 The Newsletter of the: Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee Windsor-Essex Chapter
"The Crutch Politic" Jan 2000
Volume 1 Issue 1
The Newsletter of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
Editors: Graeme L Davies, Kate Monks, and Paul Jarman
Contributors: Nola Millin, Agatha Rolling, Dean Labute and David Lepofsky
Also thanks to: Caroline Williams, Mary Medcalf, Robert Langlois, Joyce Zuk and Valerie Burningham for help with making this newsletter accessible to more people.
Message from the Windsor-Essex
Chapter Chair - Dean La Bute
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in our local ODA for making 1999 a successful year. A special thanks to the people who helped to make the election more accessible, joined us in our second "March for Acceptance" and made it possible for representatives of the disabled community to get together to observe and participate in the political process.
We are looking forward to the challenges facing us in the year 2000 and beyond. Through the united efforts of the ODA movement, we will meet all challenges successfully.
In closing, through our committed and expanding membership at the local and provincial levels, we are united in our commitment to achieve a strong and effective ODA within two years. I would like to extend an invitation to anyone who supports the rights of persons with disabilities to join in the adventure of being part of the Windsor-Essex chapter.
Calendar of Events
Petition for Acceptance "Bringing down the Wall"
Tuesday, February 8, 2000 1:30 PM at the Catholic Central High School Cafeteria, 441 Tecumseh Road East in Windsor. MPP's Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello will be here on the Feb 8 to accept our petition for presentation to the legislature. It now has over 1000 local signatures. Come and help us take a few bricks away from our barrier wall. All are welcome.
Provincial ODA COMMITTEE YEAR END REPORT FOR 1999
- By David Lepofsky,
Provincial ODA Committee Chair
December 22, 1999
We come to the end of 1999 with good reason to be proud of this past year's accomplishments. As we travel together down the long and winding road to a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act, it is worthwhile to stop for a moment and reflect on where we have come so far this year. One year ago this past Friday, the Government's inadequate and unacceptable three-page Bill 83 died on the order paper. That happened when the Ontario Legislature rose for its Winter Break. We began 1999 committed to making sure that the Ontario Government would not re-introduce that bill, as it had planned to do. People across Ontario rallied to this goal over the winter months in groups, via regional activities in their own communities, and as individuals pitching in to help.
We were successful in this effort. In the Government's pre-election April 22, 1999 Throne Speech, it committed that it would not re-introduce that bill. The Government was forced to accept that persons with disabilities deserved better than Bill 83.
Without any time to pause, we quickly turned our attention to the impending Ontario election. We wanted to place disability issues on the electoral agenda like never before. Again, we were successful. This was again thanks to grassroots efforts by our members and supporters across Ontario. The media focused unprecedented attention on our call for a barrier-free election. At the same time, individuals and community organisations rallied from one end of Ontario to the other, to inform and educate voters about the ODA issue. They printed up and handed out thousands of copies of our election leaflets that informed voters about the three parties' positions on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. People spoke out in support of a strong Ontarians with Disabilities ODA at the all-candidates' debates all over the province. At the same time, they brought forward complaints to politicians and elections officials alike about barriers they confronted during the election campaign.
In the end, the election results truly reflected these efforts. A majority of votes were cast for the two parties who promised a strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Conservative Party was compelled to commit to a better bill. It was also driven to promise a new consultation process to precede introduction of that bill. Isabel Bassett, the Government's lead minister responsible for the handling of this issue for the previous two years, was defeated. It is widely recognised that the ODA issue played a significant part in her defeat.
The media now has come to realise and accept that the ODA issue and the broad needs of people with disabilities are core mainstream political issues, meriting more attention than they received in the past. As but one example of this, the ODA committee was invited to have a spokesperson at four different television programs covering election results on the night of the Ontario election on June 3. As another example of this, our responses to both the pre-election Throne Speech and the post- election Throne Speech received significant media attention.
With the amazing election efforts by people with disabilities behind us, the ODA Committee was recognised by the media as the first group out of the starting gate when the election was over. We conducted a news conference at Queens Park mere days after the election. In a spirit of co-operation we offered to work together with Premier Harris in his second term, to keep the ODA promise that had been left behind in his first term. The new Citizenship Minister promptly accepted our offer of help within two months of taking office. This was far faster than the full year that it took to get any attention from the previous Citizenship Minister, Marilyn Mushinski, at the start of this Government's first term.
When we were called upon to advise the Government on how to conduct its promised new post-election ODA consultation, we formulated and offered a detailed and positive proposal to all three Ontario political parties. We recommended that a three-party Select Committee of the Ontario Legislature hold open, accessible public hearings across Ontario on what to include in a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act, prior to a new bill being drafted. This would afford all a chance to have their say. It would also avoid the many problems experienced during the Government's summer 1998 consultation process. That process had been last minute closed, secret, and invitation-only.
It is hardly surprising that many feel frustration at our being asked to undergo yet another consultation process on the ODA. Yet when the Government decided to conduct a new post-election ODA consultation, and asked us for advice on how they should go about doing this, we wanted to make a constructive and positive suggestion. A Select Committee of the Legislature will provide an opportunity for input for many who were totally frozen out of the Government's previous 1998 summer consultation. It will also help all of us build on the ideas which we put forward during the Government's 1998 consultation process.
We were delighted that both the Liberal and New Democratic Parties promptly accepted our Select Committee proposal. We regret that over three months after we unveiled it, the Government has still not taken a position on our proposal.
Apart from the issue of consultations, we had a good signal from the new Citizenship Minister, Helen Johns, in early September when she told the London Free Press that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act would be a "huge priority" for her. It was frustrating when one month later, on October 21, the Government's first post-election Throne Speech signalled that the ODA was not going to be a similar priority for the Ontario Government as a whole. That Throne Speech talked only vaguely about an "action plan," not defined, being the Government's "goal" for this "session". This session could last as late as next summer. We have not been able to get any answers from the Citizenship Minister or the Premier on what this "action plan" is all about. Compounding all of this was an additional challenge confronting us this fall. Citizenship Minister Helen Johns sent out a signal in the Legislature in the middle of this fall that the Government denied that they had a promise to keep on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This required decisive action. The Ontario Liberal Party provided us the opportunity for that decisive action on November 23, 1999. On that date, the Liberals dedicated one of their two scarce "Opposition Days" in the Legislature to the ODA.
With Liberal and NDP active support in advance, the Legislature, including many Government members, unanimously passed a resolution on November 23 requiring a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to be enacted within two years. This victory was again the product of the grassroots efforts of people with disabilities, and their friends and families, all on very short notice. It was frustrating to watch the Government MPPs appear to speak against the resolution. Yet in the end, our efforts and our presence with representatives in impressive numbers in the Legislature Building from right across Ontario, left the Government no option but to vote in support of the resolution.
This resolution forced the governing Conservative Party to commit unequivocally to the enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act within very specific time lines. After this resolution passed, the Citizenship Minister Helen Johns publicly declared her commitment to comply with this resolution. This all occurred on the first anniversary of the introduction into the Legislature of the toothless Bill 83.
We wind up this year with our movement and our commitment stronger than ever. We have launched regions in 18 parts of Ontario, and have supporters all over the province. We have established our credibility and won widespread recognition not only within the disability community, but also within the wider Ontario public.
We should be very proud of and energised by our successes to date. However, we must also recognise that we have a long way to go. Every step along the road to the ODA has been hard-fought and hard-won. Regrettably, the Ontario Government has still not demonstrated any enthusiasm about this issue. In the face of this reality, our successes to date have given us the skills, the credibility and the resolve to forge onward with confidence.
Parking Problems and Solutions
- Nola Millin
I want to talk about an issue that effects many people. That is, Handicapped Parking. It has been an on-going battle for individuals with disabilities. We often see people who don't have Handicapped Parking Permits parked in these spots. The offenders often say, "I was only parked there while I ran into the store." I appreciate the fact that people have busy lives but I have to wonder if those individuals have ever tried to transfer from a car to a wheelchair in a regular parking spot. The Handicapped Parking Spots are wider so people can get their wheelchairs right by the car door. I can only stand long enough to go from a car to my wheelchair. When we can't find a Handicapped Parking Spot the person I'm with has to get me out of the car in the middle of the parking lot. A lot of wheelchair users drive their own vehicles so when they can't find a Handicapped Spot, they don't have many options. This problem isn't new but I'm writing about it as a reminder. Did you know that an individual could have a car that parked in a Handicapped Spot without a permit ticketed by calling Traffic Engineering at 255-6298? The fine is $110.00
There appears to be a new problem with Handicapped Parking Spots. People who have permits are violating their own spots. As we all know, Handicapped Spots are wider. This extra width is needed for vehicles that have wheelchair lifts in them. Because of the width, the individuals are able to get the lifts up and down without hitting the vehicle in the next spot. Also, the extra width allows people to place their wheelchair right next to the vehicle making getting in and out of the vehicle easier. Recently, there have been people parking in Handicapped Spots but they are not respecting the width of one spot. There might be two Handicapped Spots side-by-side but three vehicles parked in these two spots. This lack of consideration creates problems for people, especially if one individual has a vehicle with a lift. The person does not have the room to put the lift down. Other times the person cannot get back into the vehicle because the next vehicle hasn't respected the width of these spots. All I want to say is, please think before you park in these Handicapped Parking Spots and be respectful of the width of one spot.
Recent issues with ODSP "Financial reviews".
Anyone in receipt of ODSP, (Ontario Disability Support Program), may be called in for a financial review. You are not alone. Our friends at Legal Assistance of Windsor (L.A.W.) can help you. Call them at (519) 256-7831 for more information on how to proceed.
Ask Aunt Aggie
- Agatha Rolling
Dear Aunt Aggie,
I have had my manual wheelchair for three years. I use it all the time and it really needs a lot of repair. The Assistive Devices Program will not allow a new chair for two more years. What should I do? Slowed down in Essex
Dear Slowed down in Essex,
The Assistive Devices Program has been rolled back under the Harris government. You should have your needs assessed by an Occupational or Physical Therapist and get a repair estimate on your wheelchair. The assessment is not always covered by OHIP but it may be worthwhile if you will get a new wheelchair. If the repair costs are too close to the cost of a new chair, the ADP will approve the purchase of a new chair. Other than that, you may want to check out some of the local charities. Often they will have funds that need spending and they are more than happy to help fund repair bills. Good Luck.
Dear Aunt Aggie,
My mother is ailing and needs some grab bars in her bathroom. Do any insurance companies cover the cost of these items? Unemployed but looking
Dear Unemployed but looking,
When these items are purchased at a medical supply store, on the advice of a physician (with a prescription), often the insurance companies will cover them. You are best advised to get the prescription and an estimate from the medical supply store and send them in to your insurance company. When they respond you will know if they will cover the costs. If they will not cover the costs then consider looking for the same items at a large hardware store. At a hardware store, the items will be taxable now but considerably less expensive than a specialty store. Keep looking, this area is booming now and a job will surely come your way.
- Graeme Davies
As we start the Year 2000 still waiting for a law to formalise the needs of the disabled community, I wonder how we as a group define ourselves? Every disability is as different and diverse as each individual who possesses one or more of them. When the ODA comes into existence there are many questions that we will have to address when our legislators consult with us to get these needs met. The defining symbol of visible disability in our culture for those who can see it, is the person in the wheelchair on the blue sign. Other symbols are our tools, a white cane, a hearing aid, a crutch or a wheelchair. What is the symbol for someone with a medical, developmental or psychiatric disability? Add to this, religious, sexual, ethnic, and language diversity and we start to scratch at the surface of how much work we have to do to truly understand our visible and invisible diversity. When we start to know what others face in terms of barriers, stigma, and discrimination then we can work on the common goal of identifying and removing them. This is what I hope to achieve by volunteering with the ODA. I hope that whatever disability you face you will choose to be a part of this process make living a full and healthy life in Ontario more accessible to all.
Please send us your articles and stories.
The Crutch Politic is an electronic newsletter that is faxed to local agencies for reference and or distribution as they choose. Individuals can receive it via e-mail by sending an email to email@example.com with subscribe in the subject line. If you want your voice heard please send your article, story, comments, questions to Agatha Rolling, and Calendar items to us via:
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