Statement to the Legislature by
The Hon. Isabel Bassett
Minister Of Citizenship, Culture And Recreation
Introduction of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Bill 83
November 23, 1998
Check against delivery Mr. Speaker: Today is a milestone.
It is a milestone because the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act is the first of its kind in Canada.
If approved by the Legislature, the Act will require every ministry to identify, remove and prevent barriers by systematically reviewing its legislation, policies, programs, practices and services. In effect, Mr. Speaker, all government activities.
This review will be part of the annual business-planning process. This will, over time, affect thousands of government activities that directly or indirectly impact persons with disabilities.
Ministries' annual Disability Access Plans would contain:
- a list of government activities that would be reviewed in the planning year;
- measures to be put in place to ensure that proposals for new government activities would be assessed for their effect on access for persons with disabilities;
- measures that would be taken in the coming year to remove and prevent barriers; and
- a report on the measures the ministry has already taken.
Mr. Speaker, the proposed Act is accompanied by a number of initiatives that I am also pleased to announce today.
The government is establishing a Committee on Employment for Persons with Disabilities. The committee will promote access to employment in the private sector and advise the government on employment-access issues. It will include representatives of the disability, business and labour communities.
The government will also be establishing an Information and Referral Service to provide a point of access for business and for broader-public-sector service providers who need information and resources to make their services and workplaces more accessible.
In addition, my ministry will administer an $800,000 Incentive Fund to develop barrier-removal projects which have broad application and can be shared within and across sectors:
Leadership projects will encourage different sectors to work together to establish best practices in priority areas such as employment, access to buildings, transportation, and education and training; and
Community projects will encourage local partnerships that remove barriers and improve access to local businesses and services
Mr. Speaker, other ministries will also be working to improve access for Ontarians with disabilities.
The Ministry of Transportation will enhance its Community Transportation Action Program to help communities meet the transportation needs of people with disabilities.
The Ministry of Education and Training's Job Connect Program will be enhanced to better help persons with disabilities find and keep jobs.
The Ministry of Education and Training will also enhance its Literacy and Basic Skills Program for persons who are deaf or have a learning or psychiatric disability.
And the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will consult with organizations representing persons with disabilities, municipalities, as well as the homebuilding and development industries, to identify priorities for improving barrier-free design standards in the Ontario Building Code.
Clearly, Mr. Speaker, our commitment to preventing and removing barriers for persons with disabilities is government-wide.
Today's announcements follow a province-wide consultation. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all participants.
While we heard a range of opinions, the goals of equal opportunity and barrier prevention and removal are shared across the board.
Ontarians agree that there is a need for better public understanding, and increased awareness of, the needs of persons with disabilities.
Ontarians agree that government can and must foster information sharing, encourage partnerships, provide incentives for barrier removal, and lead by example.
This is what the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the new initiatives do.
Mr. Speaker, I am confident that our proposed Act - as well as the measures I have just announced, and the important initiatives this government has already put in place -- will greatly improve access for persons with disabilities.
This government believes that all Ontarians, and our province as a whole, stand to gain when every one of us has an equal opportunity to contribute to the social and economic well-being of our province.
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