1.5 MILLION ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES
ARE COUNTING ON YOU
In this pamphlet, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee provides
answers to the most commonly-asked questions about the pressing need to
enact into law new legislation to be called the Ontarians with Disabilities
Act in the Province of Ontario.
the problem facing people with disabilities which has led
to the proposal for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
Persons with disabilities number over 15% of our population. They suffer
substantial disadvantages and exclusion from the mainstream of Ontario
society. They now face numerous barriers in gaining access to and fully
participating in important activities such as jobs, access to information/communication,
education at all levels, public transit, and the use of goods, services
and facilities that the public usually enjoys. These unfair barriers can
be physical, technological, bureaucratic, legal or attitudinal. To make
matters worse, new barriers are now being erected which will make it even
harder for persons with disabilities to fully participate in the mainstream
of Ontario society based on their individual abilities. This is so despite
the fact that new technology is enabling persons with disabilities to
accomplish more than ever before, if only they are given the chance to
do so in a barrier-free context.
there laws on the books now to deal with this problem?
Even though the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human
Rights Code both ban discrimination because of physical or mental disability
in many aspects of life, they have not been successful at effectively
rooting out old barriers impeding persons with disabilities and preventing
the erection of new barriers. Law suits under these laws are costly, slow
and not always successful. The Ontario Building Code addresses some physical
access barriers in a limited way, though the Ontario Government contemplated
repealing or reducing some of these protections. Moreover, efforts to
secure voluntary compliance over the past 20 years have not solved the
problem. Persons with disabilities still face massive unemployment rates,
and systematic exclusion in great numbers from education, mainstream public
transit and other important facets of Ontario life that persons without
disabilities take for granted.
is the proposed "Ontarians with Disabilities Act" (ODA) and
how would it address this problem?
Ontario needs to pass a new law, to be called the "Ontarians with Disabilities
Act" (ODA) to directly and effectively tackle this problem by new, creative
and cost-effective means. Its objective would be the achievement of a
barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities -- a right of full
participation. It would require the timely removal of existing new barriers,
within reasonable time lines and in accordance with reasonable cost parameters.
This would apply to employment, public transit, education, provincial
and municipal government services and facilities, and other goods, services
and facilities offered to the public. It would require government bodies,
and others bound by law to identify the barriers that they now have which
impede persons with disabilities from full participation, and to design
reasonable plans consistent with their resources to remove these barriers
and to prevent new ones from being created, all within reasonable time
lines. It would also allow for the enactment of regulations with input
from disability groups, business interests and others, to set out measures
that are to be implemented to achieve the ODA's goals, and reasonable
time lines for their achievement. It would incorporate an effective, fair
and timely process for enforcement.
are the advantages of enacting an Ontarians with
This law would help many persons with disabilities get off welfare and
get into productive jobs where they can contribute to society and become
taxpayers. It would reduce the substantial costs to Ontario caused by
the current exclusion of many persons with disabilities from society's
mainstream. By preventing new barriers from being created, it would avoid
the cost in future of removing them later.
are the costs to society if no Ontarians with Disabilities
Act is enacted?
If an Ontarians with Disabilities Act is not enacted, Ontario will have
to continue to bear the increasing costs arising from the exclusion of
many persons with disabilities from jobs, education, public transit and
other important opportunities. Society will continue to lose out on the
great contributions which persons with disabilities wish to make to the
community through their full and equal participation. New barriers will
continue to be created in the immediate future which will make these problems
even worse. Because our society is aging, and because aging is the most
common cause of disability, these difficulties will become more pressing
over the next few years if not addressed now through an ODA.
is the ODA Committee?
The ODA Committee is a voluntary coalition of individuals and community
organizations who have come together to advocate for the prompt passage
of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. They reflect
extensive experience with a wide range of disabilities, and detailed expertise
in the barriers now confronting persons with disabilities in Ontario.
The Committee is a non-partisan coalition, with allegiance to no political
party. It has called for all-party support for a strong and effective
ODA, as people of all political stripes should share in the desire to
achieve a barrier-free society for persons with disabilities.
is the Ontario Government's policy on the passage of an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
During the 1995 election, Mike Harris gave the ODA Committee a written
promise by letter dated May 24, 1995 that a Harris Government would pass
an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in its first term and that the Premier
would work together with the ODA Committee to that end.
has the Ontario Government done to keep this promise?
Since the 1995 election, Premier Harris has reaffirmed to the ODA Committee
in writing his intent to keep all election promises. However he has repeatedly
refused to meet with the ODA Committee. For years the Ontario Government
has stalled and tried to avoid dealing with this issue. In the meantime,new
barriers are still being created, some with tax-payers' dollars.
is the position of the opposition parties in Ontario on the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
Both the Ontario Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party are now on
record supporting the proposal to enact a strong, effective and mandatory
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Both have spoken in support of this commitment
in the Ontario Legislature, and have presented questions during Question
Period to demand that the Government keep its election promise to pass
an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
advocate an Ontario law? Shouldn't we be demanding that the
federal government pass a "Canadians with Disabilities Act?"
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee's mandate is to advocate
the passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in the Province of
Ontario. It is focusing its efforts on Ontario legislation, rather than
federal legislation, both because this is its mandate, and because under
the Canadian Constitution, it is the provincial government and not the
federal government which has most of the power to make laws regulating
the important areas of education, public transit, private sector employment,
as well as municipal and provincial government services, which the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act would address. It would, of course, also be desirable
for the federal government to enact a "Canadians with Disabilities Act."
In the fall of 1996, a federal task force, enquiring into the needs of
people with disabilities, recommended that the federal government enact
a "Canadians with Disabilities Act."
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee hopes its activities in
Ontario will both help national efforts aimed at securing a "Canadians
with Disabilities Act," and be informative for people with disabilities
in other provinces across the country who may be interested in seeking
provincial disability legislation as well.
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act be the same as the
Americans with Disabilities Act?
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed into law, which
makes important strides toward the removal of barriers impeding people
with disabilities in accessing the mainstream of society in the United
States. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee would urge that
we look to examples of legislation all around the world, including the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for ideas and suggestions on what
we might include in the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. However, we by
no means intend simply to duplicate the American legislation, nor are
we limited to its content. It will be beneficial for us to see what we
can learn from experience in a wide range of different countries so we
can learn from the American accomplishments while learning as well from
the inadequacies of legislation and policies that have not succeeded here
and elsewhere around the world.
the ODA Committee drafted an Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
The ODA Committee has not yet drafted a proposed law. Rather, we have
agreed on the goals which this new law should achieve, and the core principles
which it should embody. We have formulated 11 core principles which the
ODA must include to be strong and effective. We also have developed a
detailed blue print for the ODA, based on these 11 principles. This blue
print was shared with the Legislature in April 1998. We are open to suggestions
from our membership and from the community on the details to be included
in this legislation in order to ensure that the Ontarians with Disabilities
Act is as strong and effective as possible at removing the existing barriers
people with disabilities now face, and in preventing new ones.
can I get involved in the effort at securing an Ontarians
with Disabilities Act?
you have questions, or wish to volunteer your assistance or request a
Membership Form for yourself and/or a non-profit community organization
to which you belong, please contact us as follows:
WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
c/o Marg Thomas
1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Tel: (Voice direct) 416-480-7686 Fax: 416-480-7014
Voice mail: 416-480-7012
TTY: c/o Susan Main 416 964-0023 ex. 343
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