ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 28, 2003
Posted Sept. 30, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Media Coverage Of Election Disability Issues Continues
September 28, 2003
Dark and early on Monday morning, September 29, 2003, four regional CBC Radio 1 stations will each have separate interviews on this election's disability issues with ODA Committee chair David Lepofsky. Tune in. Encourage others to tune in too. Ask them to think about these issues when deciding how to vote.
While this schedule can change at the last minute, there are supposed to be intervviews heard on the CBC Radio 1 stations in Ottawa and Thunder Bay some time between 6:30 and 7 a.m., and sometime after 7 a.m. on CBC Radio 1's Windsor and Sudbury stations.
Also please see below the following items in recent newspapers:
* An article in the September 27, 2003 edition of the Toronto Star by columnist Helen Henderson on steps to make this election barrier-free;
* A letter to the editor in the September 27, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by David Dimitrie;
* A letter to the editor in the September 26, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by Bette Jones;
The media and pundits claim that this election's outcome is now sealed.
It's still important that voters with disabilities and all those who care about persons with disabilities, vote in this election.
The Toronto Star: Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003
Will voting be easier for disabled this time? We'll see
When Carol McGregor went to vote in the 1990 provincial election, she found herself the object of a humiliating scene.
In the past, she and her husband had gone together to their local polling station. But this time, their schedules conflicted. So McGregor, who is blind, had only her guide dog for company.
A vocal advocate for disability rights, she knew there was etching on the ballot to indicate by touch where an X could be marked. But to be sure she was voting for the candidate of her choice, she needed to verify the order in which the names appeared. When she asked for the names to be read out to her, she was told that couldn't be done.
McGregor did eventually manage to vote. She also used what happened to demonstrate publicly how people with disabilities are barred from participating even in their most basic democratic right. But five years later, little had changed, she says.
"We don't get many of you people," she was told when she asked for guidance to the voting booth.
Only after a neighbour intervened was she able to cast her ballot.
If the path is smoother for people with disabilities when Ontarians go to the polls this Thursday, it will be thanks to McGregor and other community advocates who have fought for change.
By now, "I expect anything," McGregor notes dryly. But Elections Ontario, which orchestrates the event, hopes to get it right this time.
First and foremost, all polling stations and voting screens are supposed to be wheelchair accessible, although election organizers concede that in areas where older buildings are the norm, "accessibility is sometimes limited by building infrastructure."
Voters who anticipate any difficulty can apply for a transfer to vote at a more convenient polling location in their electoral district. Anyone unable to go to a polling place may appoint a proxy.
To deal with these and other accessibility issues, dedicated phone lines, operating from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., are available to answer questions from voters with disabilities.
For voice queries: in the Toronto area, call 416-212-3415; outside that area, call 1-866-714-2810.
For voters who are deaf, the TTY lines are 416-326-3899 in the Toronto area, 1-888-292-2312 outside that.
Elections Ontario says it has been consulting with community groups "to make polling places even more sensitive to the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing." That means directing staff to speak clearly to everyone and to look directly at the person they are addressing. Clear visual instructions should also be posted.
"Since there are more than 20,000 polling places in Ontario and fewer than 100 sign language interpreters in the province, it currently is not possible to make sign language interpreters available at all polling stations," Elections Ontario says.
However, the Canadian Hearing Society's interpreter service program will "do its best" to provide American Sign Language interpreters, as available, on a first-come, first-served basis. You can reach them through Elections Ontario, which will cover the cost, or by calling your local Canadian Hearing Society office.
"This is a first," says Susan Main, director of marketing communications at the hearing society. "We've no history to go on, so we don't know exactly what to expect. But we're pleased.
"Elections Ontario seems to have a genuine desire to improve services and they're prepared to follow up after the election to see how things went."
For voters who have low vision, Elections Ontario says information will be available in large print, Braille and on audiotape. It also will be broadcast over the VoicePrint news service.
All polls should have magnifiers, notched ballots and ballots with candidates' surnames in large type, Elections Ontario promises.
In addition, it says, "poll officials will read the candidates' list and assist voters to and from the screen where ballots can be marked privately."
For more information, check out http://www.electionsontario.on .ca.
London Free Press Sat. Sept. 27, 2003. cvl
Letters to the Editor
Disturbing pattern of Tories leaving early
There seems to be a disturbing pattern emerging on the part of many local PC candidates. Some of them are either not showing up for all-candidates meeting or leaving early.
Recently, Diane Cunningham did not even show up for an all-candidates meeting at a seniors' home. At the Community-University Research Alliance
(CURA) all-candidates meeting on Sept. 22, she ducked out early, claiming prior commitments.
The strange thing was that all the other candidates in her riding were able to stay for the entire meeting.
On Sept. 23, I read Mark Richardson's column, Disabled Ontarians demand action, regarding a meeting sponsored by disabled persons in Ontario. The local PC candidates all left early.
This does not say much for candidates who run on the platform that we should trust them because of their "experience."
Perhaps they have run out of excuses for the manner in which they have divided Ontarians into two groups, the haves and have nots. They no longer have any means of defending the actions taken by the past two Tory governments.
London Free Press Friday, September 26, 2003.
Letters to the Editor
Removing barriers to the disabled
Regarding Mark Richardson's column, Disabled Ontarians demand action (Sept. 23).
I, too, attended that all-candidates meeting and Richardson expressed the exact feelings of the crowd.
I am from Woodstock and am on the accessibility advisory committee. Earlier this month, I attended a conference in Sault Ste. Marie and found a government official at a loss for answers on questions asked of her. The most response we got was that she would take it to the ministry. I wonder if that would be before or after the election and how they would get answers out to those who don't have computers.
A good example of how effective the Ontarians with Disabillities Act (ODA)
is: I had been booked an accessible hotel room for the conference, as I have MS and cannot transfer myself. After travelling 10 hours, we found I did not have an accessible room; in fact I couldn't get my wheelchair into the washroom.
Of course, the government doesn't see the need to include the private sector in the ODA. The Ontario Disability Supprt Program (ODSP) is a joke, as those on it are living below the poverty line and are being offered a five-per-cent increase by the Conservatives when the cost of living has gone up more than 15 per cent and the ODSP has not had an increase since 1995.
If these types of barriers, plus others, were removed, the dis- would taken out of disabled.
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