March 28, 1995
By Facsimile, Original by Mail
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party
Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Dear Mr. Harris:
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee is a coalition of individuals with disabilities and disability related organizations. We enclose a membership list for your information.
While we have not yet received a response to our earlier request for a meeting, we continue to hold out hope that our goal of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act would have a place in the Common Sense Revolution. As you know, it was a Republican President, George Bush who signed the Americans with Disabilities into law. Our goals of inclusion and independence would appear to be most compatible with the values you are articulating. We are writing to ask for a clear commitment from the Progressive Conservative Party, if it becomes the next government of Ontario, to introduce an Ontarians with Disabilities Act by December 31, 1996.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee was formed to give effect to the mutually held desire for a barrier free society by the year 2000. As we discussed with your colleagues, the legislation we are seeking would include:
1. A long term goal of a barrier free society within a reasonable time. We suggest that the year 2000 is an achievable and a realistic expectation.
2. We are not proposing that the legislation define a specific means for achieving this goal. The legislation must mandate a process to develop and implement regulations that will define how and when barriers are to be removed.
3. Any Ontarians with Disabilities Act should prevent the creation of new barriers and require the removal of existing barriers in the following areas:
a) Primary, secondary and post secondary educational institutions;
b) Job training:
c) Access to government information;
d) Communication with government departments in a form that is usable and accessible by all people with disabilities;
f) Other goods, facilities and services offered by municipal and provincial governments: and
g) Authority to draft regulations to encompass other uses where barriers exist in disabled people's access to the use of goods, services and facilities.
4. An effective enforcement mechanism including provision for the development and filing of plans and a participatory process in drafting regulations which would establish clear standards to minimize reliance on protracted and adversarial procedures.
5. In the event that the legislature resumes before the election, we request your party's support for an amended Bill 168 that is now before committee, that will reflect the foregoing principles.
6. We are asking that a government strategy include a commitment to use government authority, where possible, to further the barrier prevention and barrier remove goal. For example, government could adopt procurement/purchasing policy favouring the acquisition of government assets only when they are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. In addition, the government should conduct an exhaustive legislative review to ensure that existing legislated provisions do not impose barriers upon people with disabilities.
In conclusion, we note that all of those matters can be undertaken within the climate of economic restraint, by requiring action only to the extent feasible. The cost of barrier removal can be quite reasonable if planned appropriately. Prevention of any new barriers should cost nothing. Yet the cost of failing to act now is an increasingly inaccessible society replete with new barriers confronting persons with disabilities, and an increased cost to government if persons with disabilities are increasingly frozen out of the mainstream of society.
We hope the Conservative party endorses these goals and look forward to receiving confirmation of this so that we may communicate this to persons with disabilities across the province. We would also welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss Your party's position should you wish further input from us.
Encl: ODA Member list