Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
May 27, 1997
The Hon. Chris Stockwell
Room 180, Legislative Building
Dear Mr. Stockwell:
Re: Access by Persons with Disabilities to the Ontario Legislature
I am writing on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a voluntary coalition of individuals and community organizations which have united to advocate for a strong new law in Ontario to achieve a barrier-free society by the year 2000 - the new law to be called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
This letter is written to confirm the content of the meeting which took place between representatives of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee and you in your office at Queen's Park on Thursday, May 15, 1997. We wish to express our deep gratitude for your agreeing to take time to meet with us. We also appreciate your acknowledging the importance of ensuring that the entire Ontario Legislative Building is fully accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities, and the need to remove the barriers now existing which impede this full access. You confirmed that a plan is in effect for the front entrance to be accessible for people with disabilities within the next eighteen months. This is a part of a larger renovation initiative pertaining to the front of the Legislature.
You also indicated that based on current plans, the public galleries of the Ontario Legislature would not be made accessible within this time frame. There is currently a very limited number of accessible spots in the speaker's gallery, but the public gallery and the member's gallery for both the government and opposition sides are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or who have comparable serious mobility impairments. To us, this is but one of many barriers in society which confront people with disabilities. However, it is a powerfully symbolic barrier, since people with such disabilities are unable to enter the same public space as can all other Ontarians to observe the working of the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario. You indicated that according to current plans, those barriers in the public gallery would not be addressed short of a long term ten-year plan now envisaged. Put another way, it is our understanding that unless things change, it will be at least ten years before those galleries are changed to make them accessible.
We indicated our serious concern about this, and sought your assistance to speed up this process. You indicated that you would be prepared to go to the Board of Internal Economy of the Ontario Legislature to request added funding to accelerate the process of making the public galleries accessible. We very much appreciate your undertaking to do this, and hope that all parties will support your request.
We also have offered to be of assistance in whatever way we can to help facilitate the process of making the Ontario Legislature fully accessible to all people with disabilities. We look forward to hearing from you on the results of your approach to the Board of Internal Economy.
We wish to express to you and to your staff our profound gratitude for all the steps taken to facilitate the attendance at the Ontario Legislature of a large number of people with disabilities on the afternoon of Thursday, May 15, 1997. Your staff, the security staff and indeed all of the staff in the Legislature did a tremendous job in making all feel welcome and at home, despite the serious physical barriers that we continue to face in the building. They were led in this effort by the tremendous assistance of Ms. Maxine McGuigan, who was a delight to work with. You can be proud of the staff in the building and the service they provide.
Thank you again for taking time to meet with us. We look forward to hearing from you about the outcome of these initiatives.
cc: Hon. Mike Harris
Hon. Marilyn Mushinski