ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 16, 2003
Posted Sept 18, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
ODA Issue Gets More Media Coverage During Election Campaign
September 16, 2003
Here are recent media items on the ODA issue:
* Guest column in the September 13, 2003 London Free Press by ODA supporter Michael Lewis. Michael Lewis is the singer/composer of "Still Waiting," a song about the fight for a strong ODA. He took the time to write this timely article, despite facing a horrible battle with cancer.
* A letter to the editor in the September 15, 2003 London Free Press by ODA supporter Terry Smith.
* A front page report in the September 10, 2003 edition of The Sault This Week about the conference on implementing the ODA organized by the Sault Ste. Marie Accessibility Advisory Committee.
* Letter to the editor in the September 10, 2003 edition of The Sault This Week by ODA supporter Carl Broughton.
This collection includes three excellent examples of how you can get media coverage of the ODA election issue, despite media pre-occupation with other election issues. For email addresses of newspapers around Ontario, visit:
THE LONDON FREE PRESS
September 13, 2003
Press election candidates on their concerns for disabled
by Michael Lewis
After 8 1/2 years persons with disabilities in Ontario are still waiting -- waiting for mandatory, province-wide standards to identify, remove and prevent barriers for persons with physical, mental and cognitive disabilities.
While I have lived with blindness since age six, my life has been rich and rewarding. I had cutting edge mobility training and other excellent education at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in the 1960's.
At that time, enlightened politicians allocated substantial funding to ensure the visually impaired could negotiate the streets and public transit, even the most challenging of public transit systems. Because of the training I received, I have been able to move independently throughout North America to pursue the career in music that has been my passion for more than three decades.
Serendipitous events brought people and the ability to follow my dreams together to allow me to pursue a normal life with career, marriage, fatherhood and political activism.
For me, and others with disabilities, accessibility is defined by the power to make one's own choices.
Anything that disallows anyone choice over how or where they live, where they can go, or who gives them care, is a barrier that must be removed.
Not everyone has had the advantage of the training I received in the 60's, when programs reflecting a social conscience were willed into being by politicians. Without this political will, the disabled are easily made invisible and our potential lost to the world. We are left with others making choices for us.
Those "others" may not understand or respect our most basic needs or desires, and, as we are seeing more and more here in Ontario, may not have the slightest training in meeting our needs, never mind being far-sighted.
Currently, a rare form of cancer quite literally weighs me down and has taken away the joy of every step. It has isolated me from fellow performers and friends. The world is a much different place for me, not just because of the cancer, but because there are so few politicians with the will to join the fight for what disabled people are telling them they need to be full and productive citizens.
Time and again, this provincial government has broken promises to provide us with legislation that will create mandatory standards across this province. They have whittled away the existing choices we already have because our disabilities limit us in ways that do not effect the able-bodied. They have refused public consultation with us or caregivers who sometimes have to speak for us.
The deaf are excluded from participation in both the political process and in everyday activities because no sign language is provided. Those with mobility impairments are denied the hours of home care they need because of budget cuts. Municipalities struggle to fill the never-decreasing waiting lists for public or subsidized housing for those on public-income supports. Seniors without family support, strive to maintain their independence despite multiple disabilities, inadequate housing, and expensive paratransit. Ontario Disability Support Plan benefits fail to provide enough money to pay for shelter and basic needs, forcing recipients to increasingly turn to stressed food banks.
Children with Down syndrome are denied education and socialization. Those in wheelchairs cannot enter certain stores, doctors' offices or restaurants because maybe only one step is enough to deter their crossing.
We must have, if not enlightened, then informed and conscientious politicians who will hear the rising voices of persons with disabilities.
Those people may never enjoy the scope of choice that I had, but will they even have their basic needs met?
Try to imagine what it would be like if you were disabled and were the one left without choices that define your every movement.
You have a choice now.
Ask every politician running in the upcoming provincial election how they are going to strengthen the existing Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Ask them at the all-candidates meeting September 20 from 10 am to noon at the Kiwanis Seniors Centre, 78 Riverside Drive, hosted by the non-partisan Ontarians With Disabilities Committee. David Lepofsky, chair of that committee, will be there to answer questions and raise awareness of issues that affect each and every one of us.
London Free Press
Monday, September 15, 2003
Letters to the Editor
Take down barriers facing the disabled: Regarding the article, Abbey not allowed into class (September 3).
This is another example of barriers faced by people with disabilities. The Ontario government enacted the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2001. This law is very weak and does not require removal of barriers. In this case, a child with special needs is unable to get the absolute right of a proper education.
There are 1.9 million Ontarians who have disabilities and face barriers every day when they try to get a job, use our health or education systems, or just shop in stores. In the past eight years, the Conservatives promised us a barrier-free Ontario. They have not made any real progress toward this.
I hope the political parties will ensure this is Ontario's first barrier-free election. All people with disabilities should be able to fully participate in every aspect of this campaign, including the vote itself. Please ask your candidates if their party will commit to strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in the first year of the legislature to make it strong and effective, so people like Abbey and her family will not continue to face needless barriers.
Sault This Week
September 10, 2003
Province's Accessibility Directorate
comes through with conference funds
by Peter Rowe
Special to Sault This Week
Conference organizers received good news on Monday as Lynn Rosso; municipal staff member serving on the Accessibility Advisory Council of Sault Ste. Marie was informed by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario that funding had been approved for its upcoming conference. Rosso, also Municipal Policy Implementation Manager for Social Services, said the province has agreed to provide a maximum of $2,000 to be used toward costs related to alternate formats for conference materials such as brailling. ASL interpreters and closed captioning services, attendant services to assist delegates, a maximum of $600 to be used toward costs related to Para bus transportation to and from the airport, and to supply large print name tags with lanyards, and folders with pockets for conference literature and support materials.
On Monday, Sault Ste. Marie City Council declared the week of Sept. 8 to 15 Accessibility Awareness Week. Tracey Roetman, chair of the Access Ontario Conference and Trade Show thanked council for its support in providing $5,000, city staff and resources, and invited the public and businesses to attend the first Ontario-wide conference on accessibility Sept. 10 to 11 open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Roetman said a "lack of access is derived from a lack of awareness." Council was told that two million Ontarians, approximately 18 per cent of the population, suffers from some form of disability. The Ontario Disabilities Act was passed in December, 2001 with the stated purpose of making Ontario accessible so that disabled citizens can "enjoy equal opportunity and participate fully in the life of the province." Roetman said that putting on the conference has been a painstaking process as organizers have had to learn what every group's needs are and she has a new understanding of accessibility issues from 14 different viewpoints trying to accommodate people "who can't see, can't hear, and can't move.
In the Sept. 3 issue of Sault This Week, the Honourable Carl DeFaria, Minister of Citizenship for Ontario with responsibility for the Accessibility Directorate maintained his department's willingness to assist organizers of the conference despite the fact that funding deadlines had been missed. Rosso said that she believes that it was never the government's intention to deny the funding, but her 21 years of experience in social services mostly spent working with the disabled has made her aware that hands become tied when deadlines are missed.
Rosso called the Directorate on behalf of the committee last Monday and was told the matter was not closed, and she said that the funding for this week's conference was made available under a different umbrella and shows a commitment to the conference by the Directorate and the Accessibility Council of Ontario. Rosso predicts the conference will be an "eye-opener" in bringing public attention to the many barriers faced by persons with disabilities and the hurdles that need to be overcome in creating a barrier free society. The conference also received confirmation that Nadia Temple, Director of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and Enza Ronaldi, Senior Coordinator with the Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario, will be attending.
DeFaria, in a September interview with Workplace Diversity Update assured advocacy groups that local accessibility committees "will have the ability to put conditions on licences and permits, so that business will have to comply with the accessibility requirements." In response to criticism DeFaria says "The advocacy groups want to see more and they want to see immediate results, but to effect change you have to put in place the structures that are needed. It's going to take some time to sell." He added that consultations taking place at the municipal level will result in standards being set that ensures no new barriers to the disabled are created and works towards old barriers being removed.
Roetman said that although we are a long way from being accessible in terms of transit, housing, and meeting the needs of the disabled, she hopes the community will respond when it sees the conditions people are living in and support long term change to improve disabled peoples lives. Roetman said that one of the hard things she has had to deal with is many people on the committee suffering from a terminal disability, who are not going, to be around, so this conference represents the last chance in their lives to make a difference. She said that if the province utilizes what the municipality has learned about access and coping with disabilities "they would really have something." Putting on the conference has been a "real education in politics" which Roetman said "baffles her because people say one thing and do another." She added that although the term disabled is part of the government's lexicon she prefers the word handicapped, as it refers to golfers and bowlers, because it describes people determined to get the job done and able under the right circumstances to outdo regular people.
Sault This Week
September 10, 2003
Letter to the Editor
Says Minister DeFaria's criticism of Sault activist is shocking
FROM CARL BROUGHTON, Clarence Rockland (just east of Ottawa):
I would like to respond to an article in the Sault This Week in which the Minister of Citizenship and Culture Carl DeFaria criticizes Tracey Roetman and the Sault Ste. Marie Accessibility Committee. My name is Carl Broughton and until a few months ago I was the president of the Clarence Rockland (situated just east of Ottawa) Accessibility Committee. I have since resigned because of what I perceived to be an unwillingness by the Municipality to comply with the legislation and a clear intent by the Municipality to control anything the committee does or attempts to do. The vice-president also resigned recently also.
The present committee seems to have more Municipal representation then volunteers. The message in my opinion was clear "If you're disabled you're not welcome here because providing you with services costs too much". "It takes time to make changes," "We have no demand for these services," "We had no complaints in the past," "We have not budget for this" I have heard every possible excuse that politicians can give. According to Ontario statistics there should be approximately 1,900 disabled people in the area of Prescott Russell but we have no money to make Municipal buildings and properties more accessible at this time. Less then 200 people of a population of 20,000 went to a town hall meeting to hear about the new public transportation that will be subsidized at a cost of $75,000 and contrary to Municipal claims is not an integrated service and will shortly be subjected to a Human Rights complaint. We have money for these federal employees but none for the disabled.
Another article in the local paper a few months ago revealed $350,000 was being put aside for a summer theatre in Clarence Rockland but no money for disability issues and I could go on and on. When I resigned I wrote my discontent and the problems I experienced as a volunteer in the new Accessibility Committee to the Minister but he never even had the courtesy to reply. I guess I must be another committee member that doesn't understand the legislation. I spent 26 years as a police officer and I may not be a lawyer but I usually can read and understand legislation. I believe that the Minister's head is in the sand on this issue and not finding time in his schedule to attend this conference and explain himself in an election period is certainly not a positive move.
I will certainly not recommend a person vote for a government that does not have the backbone to support the legislation it created and the volunteers they wanted to promote it and make it a success. This legislation will only be a success if the Provincial Government starts to strongly support the committees rather then Municipal councils. Some Municipalities have been proactive and have done a fantastic job in ensuring their citizens receive equal services and treatment and other Municipalities have been the complete opposite knowing the government will do little to force them to comply if even re-elected. It's totally disgusting.
My wife has lived with her disability since 1992 and although I am young at this compared to people that have fought all their lives for services and equality, I am fed up with the various levels of governments passing the buck to each other when other industrial countries are millions of miles ahead of us. Just once my wife would like to go in the front door like everyone else and not be treated differently. Just once I would like the elected official to understand that no one asked to be disabled, that we are taxpayers and consumers and that the Canadian Constitution and International law require that we be treated equally.
The Minister has taken some very negative shots at a lady that is giving her heart and soul to improving the life and accessibility of all disabled persons. I am shocked that a Minister, rather then pick up the telephone and solve the financial issues facing this conference, rather then support and ensure his attendance to this conference, would use the media to attempt to destroy a person and a committee doing their best to comply and work within the boundaries of this legislation that is being interpreted in so many ways by various municipalities. I think this Minister needs a long vacation after this upcoming election. I encourage the Traceys of this world and others that have the endurance, patience and courage to continue the push to receive full accessibility and equality. Thanks Tracey and keep up the good work.
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Last updated Sept. 18, 2003