ODA Committee Update
dated Oct. 1, 2003
Posted Oct. 29, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Final Barrage of ODA Media Coverage Right Before Tomorrow's Election
October 1, 2003
Here are four more media items on the ODA on the verge of this election.
On election night, you might wish to tune in to your local TV Ontario station, starting around 8 p.m. TVO has invited ODA Committee chair David Lepofsky to be one of the many people to comment on the election returns. We don't know when this will come up in the evening's coverage. It may just be a short exchange. However, it's a credit to all the hard work by ODA supporters around Ontario, that a major TV network wants our views included in the election night coverage. This helps to show that with everyone's hard work, we've succeeded in putting disability issues squarely on the political map of Ontario.
Below please find the following items:
* An article in the October 1, 2003 edition of the Toronto Star reporting on the Conservative Government's decision not to make public their ministries' accessibility plans before tomorrow's election, despite the deadline they have repeatedly announced for releasing these plans having been September 30, 2003.
* An item in the Canadian Press wire service on the same topic, posted on September 30, 2003. Canadian press is a wire service which many media outlets pick up. If you saw this item in any of your local media, let us know.
* An article in the Tuesday, September 30, 2003 edition of the Toronto Star, reporting on accessibility problems in one Toronto riding's polling location.
* A letter to the editor in the Monday, September 29, 2003 edition of the London Free Press by Bonnie Maas, commenting on this election's disability issues.
Despite all the other issues in this election, it's great that we were able to get this much media attention.
NEWS, Wednesday, October 1, 2003, p. A06
Province misses accessibility deadline
Election delays plans for the disabled: Last-minute move irks supporters of act Christian Cotroneo Toronto Star
The provincial government won't release long-awaited plans to make Ontario more accessible for people with disabilities until after the election. Under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, government ministries, schools, hospitals, and public transportation organizations had to reveal their accessibility plans by yesterday. But the Ontario government was unable to meet the deadline, citing election pressures.
"It is not business as usual through an election period," said Nadia Temple, director of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. "They would have been released Sept. 30, but this is a lead-up to an election. Therefore anything like this - across government - during this period is curtailed. They're not released at this time. That's just a well-established tradition."
But advocates for people with disabilities say the decision is typical for a Conservative government they say has been dragging its feet on disability issues.
"It's a zinger," said David Lepofsky, who chairs the Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee, a non-partisan organization that has pushed for legislation for the last eight years.
"The big line the Conservatives used was that the Ontario government should lead by example - they should set the example of how you should behave. Look at the example they're setting."
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act, passed in 2001, is aimed at lifting physical barriers facing the disabled with measures such as ramps and Braille in elevators.
But certain provisions didn't come into effect until last year. One of those sections required government ministries and public-sector bodies to make public their own plans for accessibility within one year. Although some revealed their plans before yesterday, the Ontario government exempted itself at the last hour.
"Can you imagine the government saying, 'We're having an election, so we're going to disregard the law we passed?'" Lepofsky said.
Temple said the act contains new initiatives, which are traditionally put on the back burner during election periods. "My understanding of the protocol is that you take care of critical issues and business, and any new business or new issues are curtailed until after an election, after we know .. the outcome."
September 30, 2003 21.21 ES
Disabled advocates angry over delayed release of Ontario accessibility plans By Stephanie Levitz
TORONTO (CP): The Ontario government's decision to hold back its accessibility plans until after Thursday's provincial election is a "slap in the face" for 1.9 million people with disabilities, a leading advocate for the disabled said Tuesday. Last year, the Conservative government legislated that all its ministries must make public their plans to make Ontario barrier-free to people with disabilities by Sept. 30, 2003. That promise was part of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, proclaimed in 2002.
But advocate David Lepofsky said he, and dozens of public sector organizations, were informed Tuesday that the government wouldn't be following through on its self-proclaimed deadline.
"It is mind-boggling that on the eve of the election the Tories would say that they are going to ignore the weak law we spent years trying to get passed," said Lepofsky, who is the chairman of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. "If you are a voter who cares about disability issues -- 1.9 million Ontarians have disabilities and they all have family and friends -- you can't find out what if anything the Tories are prepared to do."
News that the plans were delayed surfaced late Tuesday, after a confidential memo was circulated to public sector organizations, such as schools and hospitals, that were also supposed to release their plans Tuesday.
"We had hoped that plans would be available to the public by September 30, 2003," read the memo from deputy citizenship minister Carol Layton. "However, as you know, a provincial election will be held on October 2, 2003. As a result, the release of ministry accessibility plans has been postponed." The Ministry of Citizenship oversees the province's accessibility initiatives.
Lepofsky and other disability advocates -- who sit on a committee to advise the government on accessibility issues -- were informed of the postponement after Lepofsky sent an e-mail Tuesday to Citizenship Minister Carl DeFaria asking to see the government's plans.
The reply, from Layton instead, said the ministry would be unable to fulfil his request.
"It is a well-established tradition that an election period is a caretaker period for government," Layton's letter read. "Accordingly, government publications are curtailed until after the election."
DeFaria is campaigning for his seat in Mississauga East and was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.
Toronto Star Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Polls too far for disabled: Activists
Polling stations in the Toronto Centre-Rosedale riding are in remote locations that are inaccessible for many residents - especially the elderly and disabled, say Regent Park community activists.
"It's going to be a nightmare," said Toronto Centre-Rosedale councillor Pam McConnell said yesterday. "(Voters) actually have to walk past a polling station in South Regent to get to their own polling station."
During the last provincial election, polls were in a Regent Park community centre on Sackville Green, but now they've been moved to St. Paul's Catholic Church at 82 Power St.
Paula Chung, a spokesperson for Elections Ontario, said the St. Paul's location was the closest in the area that could hold a large number of polls and which was wheelchair accessible.
Local principals say they prefer their schools not be used for voting, Chung said.
There will be eight polls in the St. Paul's location, which includes six polls that were held in local schools in 1999.
"They (schools) asked if we could find alternate polling stations due to safety and security concerns," Chung said.
She said that during the 1999 election voting was held at the Christian Resource Centre on Oak St. But that location wasn't chosen this year because it's not wheelchair accessible.
However, McConnell said the move to the St. Paul's church means a walk of about 20 minutes for able-bodied voters, and that's too far for the disabled or elderly.
"They are going to actually have to walk past five schools, two community centres, one library and several community facilities," McConnell said.
Carmel Hili, program co-ordinator for the Toronto Christian Resource Centre in Regent Park, said the location of the polls discourages people from voting, especially the elderly and infirm.
"I don't know if there's a political motive in it or not," Hili said.
Community member Raji Sivasubramaniam said that many residents will have to travel three-quarters of a kilometre, which is too far for many.
He said that bad weather could make things even more difficult. "I was talking with seniors and disabled people in my building," Sivasubramaniam said. "They're very upset."
London Free Press Monday, Sept. 29, 2003.
Letters to the Editor
Handicapped issues vital in election
The MS Society of Canada, Ontario Division, sent the three major electoral parties a questionnaire asking specific questions. The Liberals and NDP answered each question in a manner indicating these issues were important. The PC party didn't respond to the questions, they provided their election platform.
How important can the issues truly be to them if they aren't worth discussing in open forums? Will a gutless Ontarians with Disabilities Act remain? Do our young people in long-term care deserve treatment suited to their age? Is the funding under the assistive devices program not an issue? Do people not deserve to maintain independence in their homes and remain part of the workforce for as long as they can? Should medical technology not be available wherever you live? Northern Ontario is still Ontario.
Co-facilitator, MS support group
London Middlesex Chapter
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