ODA Committee Update
dated July 23, 2003
posted July 23, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Huge Collection Of Great Media Coverage On ODA Over The Past 10 Months Showing How Oda Supporters Effectively Use The Media To Get Their Message To The Public
July 23, 2003
Here are 20 items that have appeared in Ontario newspapers since September 2002, addressing ODA and related disability issues, and which the ODA Committee has not previously sent out to our email list. This long collection of items is over 25 pages in length.
This is a big bundle. Even if you just skim it, it shows what tremendous efforts are being devoted to our cause by grass-roots ODA supporters right across Ontario. They keep getting media coverage on this issue despite the fact that the mainstream media is preoccupied with so many other major national and international stories.
As we move forward on our "Letters to the Editor Blitz," you are again encouraged to write a letter to the editor at your local newspaper, and to other papers around Ontario. Many if not most of the following items are guest columns and letters to the editor by ODA supporters. They give you a good idea of how to raise these issues.
You will see that many of these items appeared in the London Free Press. Why not challenge your local newspaper to give similar ongoing coverage to the ODA and other disability issues in the lead up to the upcoming Ontario election. Send these articles to your local newspaper to show them that this is an issue worth covering.
If you need a copy of our new Action Tip for writing letters to the editor, which gives you lots of ideas and which gives a list of email addresses for newspapers around Ontario, just write to us at:
It has now been over 19 months since the Ontario Government passed its ODA. What impact has it had on your life?
The following items focus on action taken to implement the ODA to date, the gains that people have seen so far, the obstacles they have encountered, and suggestions for how to strengthen the ODA to make its impact wider and quicker. These items also in various places focus on the disability issues that people will raise in the upcoming provincial and municipal elections. Various people focus on individual kinds of barriers that matter the most to them. They all speak from the heart and reflect a diversity of perspectives all focusing on a common theme.
Congratulations and a huge thank you to all who took the time to contribute these.
If you get something published, please email it to us, along with the date it was published, the page where it appeared, and the name of the newspaper. Email it to:
Where we see progress, we should celebrate the fruits of our efforts over this long and challenging eight year process. Where we see voluntary action to remove barriers, this highlights the need for mandatory legislation so that more will act. Where we see action taking place in the public sector, this reminds us why we need the ODA strengthened to extend it to the private sector. If the public sector can take action to remove barriers, why can't the private sector also?
If you are ambitious and want to write a guest column for a newspaper, you are encouraged to phone the paper first. Ask for the person in charge of guest columns. Tell them you are interested in submitting a column. Ask what their rule is for the number of words that will be their maximum.
You should also prepare to give a short "sales pitch" over the phone, to convince them that the topic of your column is worth including in their paper. Let them know how much coverage this issue gets in other papers. You might politely point out that their paper could benefit from more coverage. Explain why this issue will matter to their readers in your home community. Ask for any hints or tips on what will improve your chances on getting your column published. Encourage them to visit the ODA Committee website to see that this is a real and important issue. Our website is at:
If you don't have time to do a guest column, a letter to the editor, which can be short and sweet, always helps. Please do what you can.
The articles set out below include:
* A letter to the editor in the July 22, 2003 edition of the Toronto Star by ODA supporter Cathy Lewis, commenting on the recent Toronto star coverage of the ODA issue, and the need for advocacy for the ODA to be strengthened.
* A guest column in the July 22, 2003 edition of the Lindsay Post by ODA Committee Lindsay Regional Contact Kaca Henley on the ODA issue in the upcoming provincial election.
* A guest column in the July 7, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by ODA supporters Kathy Lewis and A. Kash Husain on efforts at implementing the ODA 2001 in London, the need for the Ontario Government to proclaim in force section 21 of that law, and the need to raise the ODA issue in upcoming provincial and municipal elections, to battle for a strong and effective ODA to be passed.
* A guest column in the June 25, 2003 edition of The Mississauga News by Peel ODA Committee Regional Contact Chris Portelli on the ODA issue in the upcoming provincial election and the need to strengthen the ODA.
* A guest item or letter to the editor in the June 20, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by Terry Smith on barriers in education and the need in this election to address the ODA issue.
* An article in the June 19 on-line edition of "The Westerner", a publication at the University of Western Ontario, on efforts under the ODA 2001 towards accessibility at that university.
* A guest Column by ODA supporter Linda Crabtree in the June 7, 2003 edition of the St. Catharines Standard on action on accessibility in the St. Catharines/Niagara area.
* An announcement in the May 31, 2003 edition of the London Free Press announcing public forums on barriers facing persons with disabilities by the Thames Valley District School Board. The ODA Committee encourages all organizations which must prepare accessibility plans by September 30, 2003 to hold similar public forums to get input, and to similarly publicize these in their local media.
* A letter to the editor in the May 29, 2003 edition of the Toronto Star by Peter Reynolds commenting on a guest column on the ODA published in that paper earlier, and written by ODA Committee chair David Lepofsky.
* A guest column in the May 28, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by London Regional Contact of the ODA Committee Cathy Vincent Linderoos on barriers to ODSP and on related ODA issues, foreshadowing the upcoming provincial election.
* A guest column in the February 10, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by ODA supporters Bonnie Quesnel, Steve Balcom, A.Kash Husain and Cathy Vincent-Linderoos on barriers to access to public transit in London facing persons with disabilities. Some corrective action, we are advised, later occurred.
* A column in the February 3, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by Lynne Swanson on "Barrier Busters" campaign activity in the London area by ODA supporters.
* An in-depth article in the Ottawa Citizen published on or near February 3, 2003 on the high poverty levels of persons with disabilities in Ottawa and on barrier-removal activity there.
* A correction published in the December 19, 2002 Toronto Star to editorial changes made to a column which the Star published on December 13 2002 by ODA Committee chair David Lepofsky.
* A letter to the editor in the December 15, 2002 edition of the Toronto Star by Geoff Langhorne, on the need for stronger legislation to ensure that barriers are removed.
* A letter to the editor in the December 7, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by Lisa Klinger on the need for action on accessibility.
* A letter to the editor in an undated edition of the London Free Press from October 2002 by Mavis Viragos on need to speed up action in removing barriers with a focus on public transit.
* An article in the October 16, 2002 edition of the London Free Press on efforts at making certain premises there accessible.
* A guest column in the September 13, 2002 edition of the London Free Press by ODA Committee London Regional Contact Cathy Vincent Linderoos on efforts to get the ODA 2001 implemented, drawn from various ODA Committee email announcements and other sources.
* An article in the September 5, 2002 edition of The Londoner, profiling ODA Committee London Regional Contact Ashfaq Husain and his work in support of a strong and effective ODA.
LETTER, Tuesday, July 22, 2003, p. A23
Disabled Ontarians deserve a real voice
Those of us not superhuman need legislation that works
Life, July 12.
The Star has provided excellent coverage of problems encountered by those with mobility-related disabilities. Helen Henderson did a fine job exposing the problematic "dogged defence of the weak, ineffectual Ontarians with Disabilities Act" that the government-appointed chair of the Accessibility Advisory Council, Jeff Adams, parrots wherever he goes.
Adams has made a fine voice for a government that has refused to give those of us with disabilities legislation that could actually make a difference in our lives.
Adams does not represent me, my family or my friends with disabilities. His accomplishments are of no value to the 71-year-old disabled woman living alone on my street who cannot access home care because of government cutbacks. Nor are his words or actions of any help in providing access to services for Ontario citizens with a complex spectrum of physical and mental disabilities that Adams refuses to acknowledge. People with disabilities should not have to perform extraordinary acts in order to live ordinary, dignified lives. We need comprehensive legislation that sets province-wide standards. As an appointee of the Ontario government, Adams is in a conflict of interest. He cannot represent both a government that has refused to enforce law to ensure a barrier-free Ontario and those of us with disabilities who need that law to be enforced.
Adams should resign from his position and be replaced with someone who understands that the pressing need of the 2 million Ontarians with disabilities is enforceable law.
Perhaps he could start by educating himself in the fact that American laws do not apply in Canada.
Kathy Lewis, London, Ont.
The Lindsay Post, Tuesday, July 22, 2003
PC policy has helped board member make up her mind
by Kaca Henley
I just heard that if all goes well, we'll definitely be looking at a provincial election in a couple of months.
There are many issues to help voters like me to make up our minds this time. Top of the list are the cutbacks in education and health care, hitting where it hurts: the young, the disabled and the ill. But there were other issues as well, where the most powerless people in Ontario have been made even more vulnerable in the last eight years.
Early on, for instance, the new government revoked the Advocacy Act, one of the worlds most progressive pieces of rights legislation for people with disabilities. Then there was the one fifth cut of rates for welfare recipients, and more recently the muzzling of Ontarios Child Advocate, the only recourse children in the care of the province have against possible mistreatment. And many similar disempowerments of vulnerable people in between.
I have particular concern about one of them: It is no secret that people with physical, developmental and emotional disabilities face a variety of barriers which keep them from enjoying the full and normal life the rest of us take for granted.
When it came into power in 1995, this administration promised strong and effective legislation to ensure the removal and prevention of these barriers. After shilly-shallying for six years, in 2001 they finally passed a sorry excuse for a law, with a lot of hoopla and braggadocio. Unfortunately, their Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) was weak and toothless, limited in scope applying only to the public sector and not the private and ineffectual strictly voluntary, with no deadlines or sanctions for violators.
Here, we have been in the forefront of Ontario communities, working to eliminate barriers for the disabled. Long before the ODA, Lindsay had its Municipal Advisory Committee to deal with these issues and to keep them on the Council's table. Under the circumstances, it has done well.
How much more it could do, though, if the gradual introduction of full accessibility were mandatory. And even more with legislated broadly-based education on how a fully accessible world would benefit everyone, and not just the 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities and their families and friends. For example, benefit enterprise by increasing business and improving image, benefit society by breaking down stigma and prejudice, benefit us all as we get older and perhaps need help ourselves.
Speaking for the ODA Committee (a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and community organizations united to achieve a barrier-free society in Ontario), David Lepofsky notes, "The Conservative Party's detailed 60-page election platform for 2003, and the 18 policy papers released with it, include no commitment to strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act or to take any other action announced as intended to work towards the goal of a barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities. In contrast, the Liberal and NDP election platforms include specific commitments to strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act within the first year of the next Government to make it strong and effective."
To me and not just as a senior with a disability, but as a passionate and compassionate citizen that pretty much makes up my mind, where this next election is concerned.
London Free Press July 7, 2003
By Kathy Lewis and A. Kash Husain
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 requires municipalities with a population of more than 10,000 to form Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees to work with municipalities to remove and prevent new barriers for person with disabilities.
Here in London, that Committee, along with the city staff resource team, has been working in collaboration with city departments to produce The Accessibility Plan, which the City is required by law to submit to London City Council for approval by the end of September. The process has been a rewarding one because city managers have generally taken the position that removing and preventing barriers is the right thing to do. Elected city officials, however, must pass the plan for it to become policy.
This raises several concerns. First, if we are correct in our thinking that our city politicians will continue to agree that removing and preventing barriers for the disabled is the right thing to do, then London will become a city that, on principle, is rededicated to accessibility. We believe they will. City Council members unanimously endorsed the vision and intent of MPP Dwight Duncan's 11 Principles which was the basis for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2001 for the Province of Ontario. Subsequently, some city councillors pressed the provincial government to pass a strong and effective ODA on numerous occasions.
However, since there is an impending municipal election, we have no guarantee that those councillors who have championed this cause will be around to ensure that the City of London Accessibility Plan becomes practice. Further, the provincial government has failed to proclaim Section 21 of the ODA which would make the implementation of the Accessibility Plan mandatory by law.
The Ministry of Citizenship and its representatives have stated time and again that they do not want to proclaim Section 21 because they want to see what the municipalities are going to do. In other words, all the onus for change is placed on already financially overburdened municipalities, and the disabled are once again left dependent upon goodwill and "the kindness of strangers" to ensure that barriers to our equality be removed.
Secondly, those in rural areas, with fewer planning resources, are left scrambling to come together and "do the right thing". According to the Act, municipalities with fewer than 10,000 people are not required by law to form Advisory Committees. Those under 10,000 "may" form them; those over 10,000 "shall" form them. Thus, the disabled in rural communities are doubly disadvantaged by their numbers, as well as being at the mercy of weak law which, in fact, requires that no one do anything to remove and prevent barriers.
As elections, both municipal and provincial, are approaching, ask your candidates what their position is on the implementation of the Accessibility Plan and the enforcement of the ODA. We need a real and enforceable law.
On behalf of the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee, we invite all members of the public to our meetings, held the third Thursday of every month from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at City Hall, resuming in August. Join us to identify, remove, and prevent such barriers as inaccessible washrooms or rampless entries to buildings for those in wheelchairs, lack of ASL interpreters for the Deaf, unreadable documents to the blind, barrier-free, affordable housing for those on ODSP or other fixed disability incomes,and attitudinal barriers that lead to stigma and discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities.
Kathy Lewis and A. Kash Husain are members of the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee.
The Mississauga News June 25, 2003
Work to be done to entrench O.D.A.
Guest Column by Chris Portelli
To the citizens of Mississauga, I'm glad summer has arrived, because that was an awfully long winter. I am sure most you recall surviving a hectic time in the shopping malls preparing for Christmas.
For many people with disabilities, Christmas is a time for family and friends, it is also a time for plowing through crowds as well as barriers.
Back in 1995, then Premier Mike Harris promised an Ontarians with Disabilities Act (O.D.A.). The act would have made the province accessible to more then 1,870,000 citizens living with disabilities in Ontario.
Try reflecting on the holiday season when you attempted to fight through crowded stores for last minute Christmas gifts. I'm sure it was a zoo! Now try to imagine someone in a wheelchair, or visually impaired having to use a cane getting through the same crowds, finding hard-to-reach shelves, or negotiating through narrow aisles. A nightmare scenario, right?
I realize people with disabilities want to fit in to their communities, and should therefore endure the same obstacles abled persons do. But don't carts help us carry groceries, or street signs enable us to know where we are?
Well the O.D.A. would have allowed for wider aisles in stores, braille signs for the visually impaired, sign language interpreters for the hearing impaired plus many more barriers to be removed in Ontario.
All the improvements I listed were not in place this holiday season as the O.D.A. has not, and will not be implemented within the public sector. Our provincial government has only directed government buildings to comply with the O.D.A.
It's a step forward, but we are much more prone to visiting public, rather than government buildings during our daily routines.
The best way to ensure the O.D.A. is properly implemented is for the Ontario government to hold public consultations with everyday citizens who use everyday facilities so they may voice there concerns and speak of the barriers they confront on a daily basis.
The O.D.A. committee has held many public consultations and has forwarded the results to the government, but to date important recommendations have yet to be implemented.
The O.D.A. committee is a not for profit organization with limited funds for holding large scale public consultations. That is why the O.D.A. is asking the government to hold such province-wide consultations.
To date, the government has only held meetings -- not consultations -- with people they consider important stake holders concerned with the O.D.A. The O.D.A. committee has asked for 11 resolutions to be placed in law, (the 11 resolutions can be found on our web site, found at the end of this article).
We, as the voting public must ask our local MPP's to pressure government to apply the O.D.A. both in government and public sectors.
Sometime in our lives we are going to be prone to acquiring some form of disability, whether it be glasses, a cane or wheelchair.
Most of us tend to say "that will never happen to me." That is what I used to say before my horse riding accident in 1978. I woke up that morning thinking, "Wow what a beautiful day for horse ride." I would have never known it would be my last ride! Through my life I have battled many obstacles, and have also accomplished much. An O.D.A. that covers public and private sectors would make the obstacles that much easier to overcome.
The average cost to implement the O.D.A. is between $200 to $500. Now isn't that cost worth securing the inclusion of all Ontarians within our society?
The O.D.A. committee is always looking for volunteers to help spread the word for this great cause.
If you would like to assist in securing a properly working O.D.A. contact your local MPP. If your member of parliament will not be running in the next provincial election, please visit, or call their constituency prior to their retirement announcement as once the retirement is made public, the MPP's representation and office for their riding ceases to exist.
I would like to add that when we elect or re-elect an MPP, we should say to ourselves, 'What have they done for their riding?' Were they visible during their appointment? Were they available if and when you had a question for them?
If you would like more information regarding disabilities, or the O.D.A. please call 905-826-0340, or visit www.odacommittee.net
The London Free Press Friday, June 20, 2003.
Mandated 40 hours must accommodate disabilities
BY TERRY SMITH
It is my understanding in order to graduate from secondary school, students must finish 40 hours of community service.
Forty hours over four years of secondary school, is not a burden, I feel, and for most of these young people a very good experience. However, for a student with a disability, this will create some additional challenges, and sometimes systemic barriers in our society will interfere significantly with accomplishing this goal.
I hate to see young adults miss an opportunity to further themselves just because they do not have the proper support. Allowances should be made and the proper supports provided for students with diverse disabilities to enable them to fulfil the requirement.
To help those students with learning disabilities who find themselves struggling to pass the Grade 10 literacy test in order to qualify for a high school diploma or those who have not found high school courses at the appropriate levels of curriculum for their abilities, I would urge the school boards to address these issues in their accessibility planning.
Our Ontario government has both created and failed to remove many unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities. If the Ontario government wants to educate young people without continuing discriminatory practices, it should ask employers as well as teachers and school boards how to develop and recognize the different and varied sets of skills that young Ontarians could potentially bring to the workplace. Much work lies ahead in this area of reform.
For many years, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee has urged the government to bring business to the table with people with disabilities. It is a shame the government has not done this, nor succeeded in developing the necessary standards in regulations for this act. It is in no one's best interest to discourage young people from succeeding to the best of their ability in high-school programs that take account of their learning strengths and weaknesses.
The government must strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and require mandatory accessibility in all areas of life.
In the upcoming provincial election, please remember to ask your candidates if they support a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act and how and when their party is going to make the current one work for everyone.
Terry Smith, LONDON
Online edition of the University of Western Ontario's publication called the Western News for Thursday, June 19, 2003. Working to enhance accessibility Jun 19th, 2003 by Karmen Dowling
Western is working on making people with disabilities feel more welcome and comfortable on campus.
The Western Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (WODAC) is a new group formed at Western to ensure the university takes a proactive approach in meeting its obligations under the new Ontarian With Disabilities Act (ODA).
"This Act requires the University to ensure the accessibility of our programs, facilities, practices and procedures to persons with disabilities within our student body, faculty and staff," says Peter Mercer, Vice-President (Administration) and General Counsel and WODAC committee member. "The committee will perform two key functions; prepare Western's Annual Accessibility Plan as required under the ODA and identify existing barriers to accessibility at Western and develop a plan for their removal."
Mercer adds this committee is important because it embodies the University's dedication and commitment to diversity as set out in the Strategic Plan.
"Western has a long history of working to enhance access for persons with disabilities through areas such as Services for Students with Disabilities, Student's Council and through Physical Plant's efforts to build and renovate existing buildings," says Lisa Klinger, Department of Occupational Therapy and WODAC committee member. "WODAC continues this tradition and provides a vehicle to strengthen and enhance Western's track record in this regard."
Klinger is also involved in the University Campus Accessibility Measure (UCAM), which is being developed from work done by Drs. Linda Miller and Doreen Bartlett and several students from the department of Occupational Therapy. Through UCAM, several buildings will be assessed, enabling the group to measure and record whether buildings are physically accessible to persons with various impairments.
"UCAM will identify specific areas for improvement, so that physical improvements can be prioritized," says Klinger. "We also hope to assist in the completion of a map of campus and affiliates, outlining routes and points of access for persons with disabilities, to have ready for September 2003." Mark Walma, Equity Services Advisor and Chair of WODAC, says the committee is on the right track, but to achieve their goals, they need to receive more advice from faculty, staff, and students. They would like to hear about people's experiences, both positive and negative, of how "barriers" exist or have been removed at Western and what impact they have had on their ability to be fully involved in various endeavours.
For more information about WODAC, please visit:
The St. Catharines Standard June 7, 2003
New Act stirring things up in for disabled in Niagara
by Linda Crabtree
When the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 (ODA) received royal assent a great hue and cry went up from the disabled community that the act was useless and had no teeth to enforce anything. On the surface the act looked as if it wouldn't promote change but I've got to tell you, it is stirring things up, big time.
First, I'll mention that there are some 1.9 million people with disabilities in Ontario and 60,000 in Niagara ...about 16% of the population. Estimates tell us that in two decades some 20% of the population will have a disability. You baby boomers will have learned all about washrooms you can't get into, tubs you can't get out of, heavy doors that can't be opened by a mere mortal and type so small ...well, you get my drift. But, if the ODA does its job, a lot of that stuff will have been fixed before you get there. Mind you, there is going to have to be some rewrites along the way to address a lot of things the bill doesn't touch, such as barriers in the public sector and tourism but we have a start right now that is going to help change things for the better.
The ODA requires any municipality over 10,000 in population to draw up a plan of action to address the issue of accessibility. I'm on the Mayor's Advisory Committee for Accessibility for the City of St. Catharines and the Region of Niagara Accessibility Advisory Committee. The former has already drawn up a plan of action and St. Catharines City Hall has been audited for accessibility. There is more to be done.
The latter recently pulled a committee together which is made up of people from all parts of the region and all walks of life and with many different types of disabilities. We have several wheelchair or scooter users, people who have had an accident and been disabled, one member lip reads because she is totally deaf while others have hidden disabilities that affect their ability to function. One is a caregiver to a daughter who has a disability and several others work or have worked teaching accessibility issues.
This diverse group is now working in an advisory capacity with regional departments to draw up a plan whereby a whole cross-section of questions regarding accessibility on everything their department is and does are being asked. They have to work towards identifying, removing and preventing barriers to participation in the life of the people of the region. The only problem is most people haven't a clue what a barrier to accessibility is unless they are disabled. There'll have to be a lot of education done and that's fine...it's part of the process.
Our first job though is to comply with the bill and get a plan done by September. I've got to tell you it has taken some doing to get our heads around the broad concept of the bill and doing just a plan. Being disabled, you automatically see what needs to be done now and it's all around us. Real stuff like doors you can't open, public washrooms you can't use, but these aren't what we have to do right now. We have to get that plan together first, examine policies, programs and services and then we can actually tackle work like making streets, parks, public transit, libraries, social housing, ambulance services, public buildings and elections barrier free. During this process, because none of us who are disabled can wait that long, we need to tackle reform in the public sector. This is what impacts us the most. This is what will be done last and it's unfortunate but you have to start somewhere.
Tiny steps teach us to walk and we have taken our first steps towards getting the plan in place by the target date in September. Then we begin the process of actually putting the plan to work, finding the money to do it, and when these changes have been made, we should have some experience behind us to let us tackle even broader reforms.
London Free Press Sat. May 31, 2003 Page B4
Accessibility Plan Public Forums
The Thames Valley District School Board invites PUBLIC INPUT into the development of the Accessibility Plan as outlined in the ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT.
Public Forums will be held at the following:
Thames Valley District School Board Education Centre,
1250 Dundas Street (at Highbury Ave.) London,Ont.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, 2003 -- 7 to 9 p.m. -- LONDON ROOM
COLLEGE AVENUE SECONDARY SCHOOL
700 College Ave. Woodstock, Ont.
THURSDAY, JUNE 19, 2003 -- 7 TO 9 p.m. -- LIBRARY
COMMUNITY EDUCATION CENTRE (CEC) --SOUTH
400 Sunset Drive, ST. THOMAS, Ont.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11, 2003 -- 7 TO 9 P.M. -- BOARD ROOM
For more information, check the Board's Web site at
www.tvdsb.on.ca/public/index.htm) or call 452-2000.
(names at bottom of ad. -- Joyce Bennett, Chairperson and Bill Bryce, Director of Education)
Toronto Star, Thursday, May 29, 2003, Page A27
Disabled fall off the political radar
Re: Disabled Ontarians kept waiting
Opinion, May 27.
David Lepofsky should not be surprised that the Ernie Eves government feels free to ignore demands for a tough disability rights law in Ontario. The Tories know that there is no penalty to be paid with voters for ignoring the demands of people with disabilities.
The disability rights movement, which achieved much but not everything under the supportive governments of David Peterson and Bob Rae, has dropped off the political radar screen. The public's and the politicians' attitude seems to be, "We built you some ramps and curb cuts, we run for your charities, now be grateful and go away."
Often it is the little things that reveal the true state of affairs. In a recent opinion piece, William Thorsell, the director of the Royal Ontario Museum, called a disabled man in a TV commercial a "cripple."
People like Lepofsky must despair when a man with Thorsell's background and influence sees nothing wrong with a word that is deeply offensive to people with disabilities, including those who use and support his museum. If anyone in a similar position in the United States, with all its flaws the country with the world's toughest disability rights law, had called disabled people cripples they would not have lasted 24 hours in their job.
Peter Reynolds, Toronto
London Free Press -- -- Wed. May 28, 2003 Vox Pop
Disabled deserve chance to live life to the fullest
BY CATHY VINCENT-LINDEROOS
The Free Press hit several nails on the head with its editorial "Disability is tough enough" (May 19.)
Ontario Disability Support Plan (ODSP) recipients, such as those people who have developmental disabilities and many others with physical, mental or sensory disabilities who may be unable to work, are in dire need of a full cost-of-living increase.
It might appear the Ontario PC government agrees as the ODSP was mentioned in the recent throne speech.
But nowhere in the budget was there money allocated for it. Nor did the government say when or whether it would reflect the cost-of-living increases since 1995.
Both the Liberals and the NDP have made election promises to grant cost-of-living increases to ODSP.
Both of these parties have also made election commitments that would strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) and make it strong and effective.
When the disabilities act was passed by the Conservatives 17 months ago, many people in the London region expressed disappointment in its limited scope and power. Most of the amendments suggested by people with disabilities and others were ignored.
Nonetheless, these same people and others got to work implementing the disabilities act with what few tools they had been provided.
Now that a provincial election may be on the road ahead, here are some observations pertinent to the current disabilities act:
* Removal and prevention of barriers remain voluntary under the ODA.
* Persons with disabilities are still forced to combat barriers one at a time, through the human rights process.
* Under the ODA, the government could have made mandatory accessibility standards, but has not done so.
* Section 21, the one limited enforcement mechanism in the ODA, has neither been proclaimed "in force", nor has a date been set for doing so.
* Annual accessibility plans (required of the broader public sector) are neither required to be effective, nor are they required to be implemented.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee has urged the Ernie Eves government to bring the ODA into compliance with the 11 principles for this legislation, which were approved unanimously by the legislature Oct. 29, 1998.
The government should do this by passing amendments to the disabilities act thereby making the legislation strong, effective and applicable to both private and public sectors. The government should hold fully accessible public hearings when the legislature considers these amendments.
Eves should proclaim Section 21 "in force" now. He need not wait longer to invite representatives of the ODA Committee to sit down with him.
The road ahead will need to be barrier-free in order for the 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities to live life to the fullest.
CATHY VINCENT-LINDEROOS is a regional contact, ODA Committee, London area; the ODA Committee's Web site is at www.odacommittee.net
The following guest opinion column appeared in The London Free Press as a Vox Pop on Monday, February 10, 2003. It makes mention of the ODA. Soon after, City Council decided $175,000 would go into the Paratransit enhancements discussed below.
Transit funding cut a reversal of advances for disabled
By Bonnie Quesnel, Steve Balcom, A.Kash Husain and Cathy Vincent-Linderoos
On Jan. 28, board of control chose to cut the additional $200,000 in new funding requested by London Transit.
Funding is needed to provide an enhanced specialized transportation system for disabled citizens of London. Cutting it will have an impact on all of the services offered by London Transit to persons with disabilities -including Paratransit and conventional transit.
This misguided cut contravenes both the spirit and the letter of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
We know London can and must do better. We call on our councillors, controllers and the mayor to stand up for the principles they have espoused many times over.
The struggle to achieve secure funding has been going on for months. Every time we can, we get down to city hall and make presentations, pleading for adequate funding. This is decidedly not an optimum use of our energies and time. But it seems we have to do it and so we do.
Further to this, it seems all our hard work is about to go down the drain as budget approval time approaches. We've dealt with challenges in our lives but it seems we cannot run fast enough to avert the oncoming disaster.
It was only recently that we appeared to have succeeded in winning back subsidies provided for blind and elderly Londoners. Yet, almost concurrently with this gain, the envelope for new LTC funding was withdrawn. Now we face the spectre of fewer rides per person, no remedy for lengthy waiting times to make bookings, less flexibility in the system and none of the innovations and recommendations put forward by the broad disability community and ENTRA consultants who undertook the LTC consultation.
The provision of a safe, reliable transportation system must be considered a city core function, vital to everyone. For the disabled it is often our only means of getting out of our homes to go to work, shops, the library or the community centre.
Without this increase, the Paratransit system will buckle under the increasing pressure of trying to provide a service to a growing and broader disabled population with the same old budget. There are many persons with disabilities who rely partially and even 100% on Paratransit for their transportation needs.
Should existing approved transit programs/services be cut to accommodate this program? Certainly not. But London Transit will face tough choices if this funding cut remains.
We've been working for years to make London a provincial success story, with support of able-bodied and disabled Londoners, city planning staff and city council and we are dismayed to see new barriers erected before old ones are down.
What is the point of creating the Facilities Accessibility Design Standards Document (FADS), and building a barrier-free John Labatt Centre, downtown library and new community centres if people with disabilities can't get to them?
The vision of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 threatens to blur and fade away before our very eyes.
Bonnie Quesnel, Steve Balcom, A. Kash Husain and Cathy Vincent-Linderoos are London residents and advocates for the disabled.
London Free Press
Monday, February 3, 2003
by Lynne Swanson
Some London disability advocates hope to become this city's barrier busters.
For all barriers. Ones you can see and ones you can't. Ones you can touch and others which you can only feel. In short, any which impede their full inclusion and integration in the Forest City.
"People with disabilities are used to accommodating and adapting themselves to the environment in which they are. For a long, long time, we've been working on an individual basis to make life better," says Ashfaq (Kash) Husain, chair of the newly-appointed Accessibility Advisory Committee. But due to the new Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA), which was passed by the provincial government after more than seven long years of lobbying by activists, Husain is optimistic that focus will begin to shift, with the environment changing to accommodate disabilities.
The ODA doesn't contain all or even most of the features proponents wanted. "It's not ideal, but it's a beginning," says Husain, who is legally blind. For starters, the ODA only covers the public sector. The City of London was quick off the mark after the law was proclaimed, establishing the municipal advisory committee.
Some members of the committee have had life-long disabilities. Others developed theirs more recently. Some are long-time disability activists. Some, like Husain himself, are relatively new to disability issues. Their disabilities are as diverse as the members themselves. They include hearing, vision, mobility and other disabilities. Joining them will be parents of children with disabilities, a university professor who works with students with learning challenges, others connected with disability issues and a member of municipal council.
Non-voting members come from organizations as varied as boards of education, the architectural sector and Partners in Leisure. City staff from various departments serve as a resource group.
They share a common goal. A barrier-free city, which Husain says would "make life much more meaningful and rewarding for us."
Husain is realistic and practical. "We know it's not going to happen overnight."
Yet Bonnie Quesnel is really excited. Quesnel, vice-chair of the accessibility committee, has muscular dystrophy and uses a motorized wheelchair. She has worked towards change for decades. For the first time in a long time, Quesnel "think(s) we have a lot of potential, even with the limitations of (the ODA). It may take us a while, but we'll get there. "I still have hopes there will be a barrier-free Ontario. But, I'll start with London first," Quesnel adds.
The accessibility advisory committee's focus will be on municipal programs, services, policies and practices. As an advisory group, the committee can make recommendations, but decisions and implementation rest with the city.
Hospitals, school boards, public transit, colleges, universities and other municipalities are also all expected to develop their own accessibility plans under the ODA.
And Husain says "we would like to eventually get around to everything that affects people in London," including business and commercial operations. Cathy Vincent-Linderoos, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a motorized wheelchair, is a member of the regional ODA committee. She stresses the ODA covers all disabilities--including physical, sensory, intellectual, invisible and mental health.
"It's about people like us. It's about people we don't know. It's about people we haven't met yet," says Vincent-Linderoos.
"We're all in this together," insists Husain "We're learning as we go through this together."
So when does Husain envision a barrier-free London becoming reality? "Hopefully, in our lifetimes," he concludes with a smile.
For information on City of London Accessibility Advisory Committee, contact Kash Husain by e:mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Or phone him at 472-7842
For information on provincial ODA Committee: www.odacommittee.net
PHOTOS: Were taken by Susan Bradnam on December 12
Ottawa Citizen on or around February 3, 2003
Ottawa's disabled live in poverty
Coalition survey finds 50% live on less than $15,000 a year, 'an embarrassment to the nation's capital' Jeff Esau The Ottawa Citizen
More than half of Ottawa's disabled live below the poverty line -- "on the fringes of society" -- according to a report to be presented to a city council committee tomorrow.
The information comes from Maximizing Our Assets, a report produced by a coalition of 25 Ottawa community groups about the experience of disabled citizens in the amalgamated city.
Mayor Bob Chiarelli said yesterday he was appalled by the numbers, while the coalition's chairwoman, Teena Tomlinson, called the findings "an embarrassment to the nation's capital."
More than 1,000 disabled people living in Ottawa participated in the study last year.
Three out of five disabled people surveyed said they cannot pursue interests or participate in community activities.
More than half said they live on less than $15,000 per year, while one in five lives on less than $9,600 a year. Forty per cent said they rely on family or friends for homemaking and personal care, and 42 per cent said they can't afford adequate housing. More than 70 per cent said they do not use OC Transpo buses because of poor access and concerns about safety.
Cathy Kerr, the chairwoman of the coalition's steering committee, will present the report tomorrow to city council's corporate services and economic development committee, as it considers a plan to make Ottawa a more accessible place to live.
Her goal is to have council use the coalition's research and recommendations in its own accessibility plan, which must be in place by September.
The accessibility plan is required by the province's new Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
"Our most valuable resource is people, but the research shows that more than three-quarters of our disabled community are not working or volunteering because of a lack of access, training opportunities and employer sensitivity," she said.
The survey results are considered accurate within three percentage points, nine times out of 10.
Citing the efforts and money being spent in Ottawa on life-saving capabilities such as trauma centres and improved emergency response, Ms. Kerr said there's a need to "finish the investment" by ensuring those whose lives are saved are able to return to the community and participate fully, with or without a disability.
"Ottawa should be a model of inclusion for the rest of the country," Ms. Kerr said. "As a city that wants to win bids for sporting events and be selected by convention organizers and tourists, Ottawa must view accessibility as crucial, and make the concept of 'inclusion' a basic planning principle."
Jointly funded by the city and the United Way, the report was presented to Mr. Chiarelli on Dec. 3, at the "Celebration of People" event in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the UN's declaration of an international day for disability awareness.
The mayor said he would support funding for the coalition to continue researching the needs of disabled people. He would also like to include a goal in the city's official plan to "ensure all disabled persons are above the poverty line" within a reasonable time frame. Councillor Alex Cullen, meanwhile, said the city must honour the Ottawa 2020 vision of "a caring, inclusive community."
He supports more funding for the coalition because "we have an obligation to find out what we can do and how best to do it."
Ms. Tomlinson, the coalition's chairwoman and a 19-year veteran in the community support field, says this is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever undertaken in Ottawa.
The value of the report, she says, lies in the detailed information "obtained directly from disabled persons who lead -- or are attempting to lead -- active, productive lives in the community."
Councillor Alex Munter says the biggest issue for disabled people is their frustration at being locked out of the workforce. "It's not a question of being nice to the disabled -- we as a community lose out when barriers exist that prevent disabled persons from participating," he said.
Mr. Munter acknowledges not all problems can be addressed by the city. However, he emphasizes the need to move from "understanding to action" at the municipal level.
That means looking at snow removal, public transportation, building codes, taxis and zoning with accessibility in mind.
"We cannot allow inaction by other levels of government to be an excuse for us," he added.
Ms. Tomlinson vowed the report will not simply collect dust because the disabled community "entrusted us" to see this through. "We need to encourage disabled persons to say what they need in order to participate, not ask permission to participate," she added.
The report marks a milestone for the coalition's "Partnering for Participation and Inclusion" project, triggered by the 2001 Para Transpo strike. The strike drew attention to the isolation of the disabled community and prompted organizations and volunteers to start gathering information about the needs and problems facing the disabled.
Mr. Chiarelli reiterated his belief yesterday that transit should be declared an essential service.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
Enforcement provisions not yet implemented
The provincial government has yet to set a proclamation date for Section 21 enforcement provisions in the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As a result of the editing process, incorrect information was included in an Opinion page article Friday about progress under the disability law.
The Star regrets the error.
Toronto Star Dec. 15, 2002.
Letters to the Editor
Access to buildings not enough
Unlocking doors for the disabled
David Lepofsky is right. We are making no progress with disability discrimination.
We need equity, not just to enter buildings, but for medical treatment, acceptance and opportunities our resourcefulness and initiative empower us to fulfil.
Just getting up to face the day is a challenge for many with a disability, which would make many able people pale.
How much more commitment can someone who overcomes just this one obstacle bring to their commitments at home or at work?
Until the way is unequivocally clear, we need a mechanism for compensation for the opportunities regularly taken from us, whether in ignorance or genuine mistake.
Unfortunately, the gallant efforts of Keith Norton, boldly attempting to lead the Ontario Human Rights Commission, cannot do this.
The penalties his commission is entitled to levy are laughable in the face of lifelong loss to discrimination for people with disabilities, and those who discriminate do laugh at them.
His commission apparently has no one in investigation with any kind of disability, let alone the subtler invisible disabilities or ones with multiple overlays, each complicating and worsening each medical obstacle.
How then can they grasp the issues or the subtleties of discrimination? Where are the resources - and the resourcefulness - the commission needs to end discrimination for persons with disabilities?
Nowhere in the Ontarians with disabilities initiative are there any proposals or anything in the act for an administrative body that would include individuals with disabilities.
Nowhere in the proposals or the act is there any recognition of the often lifelong loss - and justice through compensation - that can stem from sometimes just one act of discrimination. Sometimes the loss can be irretrievable.
Lepofsky is right in this, either you have a disability, or you will in future. As a voter, do not let your future choices be taken from you today by the mistaken, the ignorant, or worse.
Geoff Langhorne, Toronto
London Free Press -- Dec. 7, 2002
Letter to the Editor --
Column illustrated issues disabled face
I appreciated Mark Richardson's column, This anger will not be disabled (Nov. 27), for its strong support of the need for removal of barriers to access in London and across the province.
People perceived as having "disabilities" often have to develop different "abilities" to live their lives with dignity. It should come as no surprise that they are leading the way in effecting change.
At some point, most of us will have a disability of one kind or another. We can therefore be grateful for the hard work the network people involved with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, most of whom have visible and invisible disabilities, are doing to break down barriers to access and to overcome stereotypes of persons with disabilities.
London Free Press
undated October 2002
Letter to the Editor
Barrier-free transit needs expansion to aid accessibility
Lately, I have traveled to several locations in London using public transit. This is a major accomplishment when one has limited independence and access to transportation.
London Paratransit riders are required to sit (insurance requirements). Since sitting is painful for me, Paratransit could not meet my needs. The "kneeling buses" appearing throughout London are the perfect answer for most mobility challenged individuals.
These now run regularly - if not officially - into Whitehills and have opened up much of London for me. The downtown library is wonderful, but many destinations are not yet available - such as Masonville Place - so close and yet so far away. The LTC is striving to replace the old buses but the pace is dreadfully slow for those of us who want true independence.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 made commitments to remove barriers that disadvantage the disabled. Adequate provincial funding is crucial to ensure these promises are met more expediently. Additional federal funding could create barrier-free municipal transit systems throughout Canada.
To all those whose efforts are increasing accessibility in London (and
Ontario) - thank you. But please speed up the process and open up an entire city (province, country) of possibilities.
MAVIS VIRAGOS, London
London Free Press October 16, 2002
Centre praised for groundbreaking accessibility
FYI London This Week, Oct. 16, 2002
(Insert published by and included with The London Free Press)
The renewed Kinsmen Centre, scheduled to open Oct. 26, is getting a big thumbs-up from one London organization.
With facilities fully compatible for those with physical disabilities, it's the first such recreational building in London, says Judy Sowerby, community developer for Partners in Leisure.
Partners in Leisure is an umbrella organization with the aim of co-ordinating efforts to make leisure services available to adults with disabilities.
Not only is the physical building user-friendly, staff are also trained in working with special needs users, she said.
"This is a first for London. The facilities are safe and convenient and the facilitators are trained," she said.
Many of the programs to be offered will be easily accessible to all, she added.
Yoga and other courses on tap fulfil the City of London's "inclusion policy," which aims to make local facilities accessible to all.
Inclusion workshops may be soon available at the upgraded centre for those working with or serving the disabled in banking or retail environments, for instance, she said.
Sowerby applauded London for the Kinsman Centre renovation done at a cost of 6.85 million, as being "a first for London."
London will also renovate Stronach arena and Nichols Arena to "inclusion policy" standards, she said.
The city should be congratulated for implementing accessibility standards before provincial legislation required it to act, she said.
"London will be a city ahead of its time for following the legislation without being forced."
Partners in Leisure, which coordinates activities aimed at assisting challenged individuals, counts dozens of agencies, consumer groups and fund-raising groups among its partners.
The group published a "leisure directory" last year, listing accessible locations within London and Middlesex County and plans an update in the near future, Sowerby said. It also has a Web site at www.accessleisure.org.
Vox Pop - Sept. 13, 02 London Free Press
Steps set out to promote implementation of ODA 2001
BY CATHY VINCENT-LINDEROOS
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee is a non-partisan, voluntary coalition of individuals and organizations. It has, for more than 7 years, led the grassroots' drive for the implementation of a strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA).
Although the Conservative government passed the ODA 2001 on Dec. 13, 2001, many of the ODA's provisions will not be proclaimed in force until Sept. 30, 2002. Many people were sorely disappointed with the ODA that was passed, but continue to work towards implementing a strong law that will identify, remove and prevent unnecessary barriers against persons with disabilities.
The Ministry of Citizenship's Accessibility Directorate posted the new Guide to Annual Accessibility Planning last month on its Web site. Citizenship Minister Carl DeFaria says this tool will help the broader public sector (BPS) organizations - such as school boards, hospitals and colleges and universities - meet their obligations under the terms of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. (There are two other documents available as well at www.gov.on.ca/citizenship/accessibility. They deal with the municipal accessibility advisory committees and municipal accessibility planning.)
As an example of an organization intent upon complying with the ODA 2001, the Owl Lake District School Board is introduced in the new Guide. We are shown the steps that this hypothetical Ontario school board followed in order to identify 75 unnecessary barriers to persons with disabilities. Of these, we're told, the board decided to address 18 over several years and chose 5 high-priority barriers for the 2003 - 04 year. Plans to remove and prevent these barriers were written.
"Organizations are obliged to select at least 1 barrier every year to tackle" is the guide's stated measure for compliance. Thus, the Owl Lake board successfully met and actually exceeded the government's voluntary requirements for accessibility under the ODA 2001 -- just by describing a single barrier and writing plans to remove it. That's it, though. What were the 5 high-priority barriers chosen by the Owl Lake board? Three of the sample barriers were physical ones - such as the doors or washrooms in one high school were not accessible to people in wheel-chairs. Another --identified as an attitudinal barrier -- was that teachers and staff lacked knowledge of how to accommodate students with low-vision or who used wheelchairs. A fifth barrier, one of policy or practice, concerned the fact that students with physical and sensory disabilities did not participate in physical education.
As the Ministry allows that this is a "living guide" and suggestions for improvements are welcome we can:
* Let the public know when the ODA 2001 brings about significant improvements in schools for children with disabilities.
* Where unnecessary barriers exist, describe them and let your school board and MPP know.
* Let the ODA Committee at email@example.com know of any new barriers.
* Offer assistance to your school board (or other public sector
organizations) for developing their annual accessibility plans.
* Urge government to consult the public to develop standards and enact regulations under ODA.
Visit the ODA Committee's web site at www.odacommittee.net for other ideas to get involved in implementing a strong ODA for Ontarians with disabilities. Cathy Vincent-Linderoos, a regional contact, ODA Committee, London area is available at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Londoner September 5, 2002 Page 17
People Worth Knowing: Ashfaq Husain
A passion to help the disabled
By Sean Meyer
During the early years of his life, Ashfaq (Kash) Husain knew there was something not quite right about his eyes.
While born in Pakistan before his family moved to Libya, Mr. Husain attended a boarding school on the British island of Malta. He was 14.
"I always knew something was different about my eyes," Mr. Husain says. "Your friends and classmates can pick up things even faster than you can sometimes. So they started playing tricks on me. It was all in good fun, in good taste, nothing hurtful. But they quickly realized I couldn't see very well in the dark. It (the tricks) wasn't anything hurtful, but it did prove to be an awakening."
While he did have his eyes examined, nobody picked up on just what the problem was. It wasn't until many years later, long after his family had moved to Canada (which happened around the time Mr. Husain was 18 years old), that he was told just what the problem was.
Retinitis Pigmentosa (or RP for short) is a degenerative eye disorder that affects a person's night vision and peripheral vision. A genetic disorder that is usually hereditary, symptoms of RP start with decreased night vision and later progress to a diminishing of peripheral vision. The rate of decline varies depending on the genetic makeup of the disorder and also varies somewhat between individuals.
"That was the first time anyone had ever put a name to it," Mr. Husain says. "The doctor warned me it my eyesight will continue to decay, but he couldn't say what the final outcome might be."
While normally people have a 180 degree range of vision, Mr. Husain's is reduced to 8-10 degrees. To say the least, it has led to a great number of changes and challenges in his life.
Not one to let those challenges overcome him, Mr. Husain has spent the past few years volunteering in numerous places, including with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. Mr. Husain represents the ODA Committee on the London Race Relations Advisory Committee and has worked with all involved parties, including city officials, to create the new municipal accessibility advisory committee.
"It's rewarding work. And it gave me another purpose," Mr. Husain says. "I've always been a volunteer for various things. This was a great way of channelling my energies. It was also a great opportunity to work with others dealing with various disabilities."
Before coming to London, Mr. Husain lived in Nova Scotia when his family moved to Canada in 1971, attended university in New Brunswick where he studied to be an electrical engineer-training that would lead to a job in London in 1994.
"Nova Scotia is wonderful. The climate, the people. But I felt I needed to see more, other parts of Canada," Mr. Husain says. "So when the opportunity here came up, off we went."
It was while working in London for Dillon Consulting that Mr. Husain's eyesight took a dramatic and sudden turn for the worst.
"One day it was like 'bang' suddenly I couldn't see even as much as I had," Mr. Husain recalls. "It wasn't gradual. My field of vision was drastically reduced."
Mr. Husain had already given up driving-a significant change given his lifelong love of motorsports. In fact, back in Nova Scotia, Mr. Husain worked with the Atlantic Sportscar Club, organizing races and even officiating at them. He even owned a Porsche 911 that he loved to drive.
The change in his ability to see forced his life in a new direction.
"I worked at the Islamic Centre as a volunteer, and that satisfied my religious and faith needs and I worked with the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) which kept me in touch with my profession," Mr. Husain says. "I still don't know how they got my name. but the ODA called and asked if I could work with them. It sounded interesting so I said yes."
While Mr. Husain says he didn't realize what he was getting into at the time, he is glad he got involved.
"It's a non-political group. Real grassroots. It's people who share a common aim to make this world barrier free for people with disabilities," Mr. Husain explains. "Within London we have worked to raise local issues, worked with city to develop the facilities accessibility design standards
(FADS) document. which I think is one of the best in Canada. And you've really seen the results when you look around the city."
The FADS document sets out standards for when buildings are renovated or newly built - ensuring they are properly barrier free for all Londoners. Mr. Husain points to the new downtown library and the John Labatt Centre as examples of how important the issue of accessibility is to the city.
While proud of all the work he has been able to accomplish with the ODA and through other avenues, Mr. Husain says he is even more thrilled with how, for the most part, he sees people with disabilities treated in London.
"I get the sense when I'm out, say downtown, that people really do want to help. They are just unsure of what to do," Mr. Husain says. "I've learned to never turn away help when someone offers because I don't want to discourage them from helping someone else down the road. I want to make people as comfortable as possible."
It's that public education that Mr. Husain sees as his greatest role.
"We want to educate the general public that people with disabilities want to be a part of everyday life. It's difficult, there are obstacles to overcome, but we can do it," Mr. Husain says. "There is something like 1.6 million people out there with disabilities and that's a fairly good economic base. If you can cater to that group, work with them to get them into your stores. the disabled tend to be creatures of habit and if we are comfortable somewhere we will come back."
Mr. Husain knows a little about being a creature of habit. Mr. Husain has an agreement with his three children to not go into their rooms as long as they agree to not leave things lying around the house. As he knows the layout of his home off by heart, objects lying on the floor can be significant obstacles when he cannot clearly see them.
"There certainly have been adjustments over time. We have had to learn to work together to make our home barrier free. But we all work together and that makes things easier," Mr. Husain says. "It's been a tough process over the years, learning how to do things all over again. But I've had the support of the community, friends, family. It's been a struggle, but I've had a lot of support."
"We want to educate the general public that people with disabilities want to be a part of everyday life. It's difficult, there are obstacles to overcome, but we can do it," Mr. Husain says.
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