ODA Committee Update
dated Nov. 3, 2003
Posted Nov. 3, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
New High School Text Includes Segment On ODA - Encourage Your Local High Schools To Use It
November 3, 2003
A new high school text book has been published for use particularly in Ontario, in high school law courses. It includes a segment on the ODA and a related exercise, written by ODA Committee chair David Lepofsky (see text below).
Encourage your high schools to use this to teach about the ODA, whether in their law classes or other relevant courses, in order to help the next generation learn about the need for a barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities.
Emond Montgomery Publishing has just published a new high school text book entitled "Dimensions of Law: Canadian and International Law in the 21st Century." Its section on human rights issues includes a one-page segment, set out below, on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act issue, and a related short exercise for students. While this text is designed for high school students who take a high school law course, this ODA segment would be a useful exercise for any high school student. They do not need a background in law to read and understand the ODA segment.
You are encouraged to:
* Contact your local high school. Send them this ODA segment. Encourage them to use this exercise in their law course, or in any other course where it could apply.
* Pass this ODA segment on to any high school students you know, i.e. in your family or close friends. Encourage them to read it, to visit the ODA Committee website at www.odacommittee.net, and to learn more about our issue.
* If you know any high school teachers, let them know directly about this course material. Encourage them to use it in their classes if possible.
* Offer to come to your local high school to do a presentation to the students about the ODA issue. Use this new ODA segment as part of your presentation. Have the high school copy it and give it out to the students at your presentation. Have the students do the exercise at the bottom of the page.
* Let us know if you hear of any high schools that are using this new curriculum material. You can contact us at:
Dimensions of Law: Canadian and International Law in the 21st Century / George Alexandrowicz et al, Emond Montgomery Publications Limited, Toronto, 2004
Chapter 7: Majority and Minority Rights
David Lepofsky: Fighting for Rights of Ontarians with Disabilities
David Lepofsky is a blind lawyer and Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, Toronto.
When I studied law in high school, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer and that I had poor vision. I didn't know I'd become totally blind, and that I'd volunteer much of the time outside my day job fighting for the rights of people with disabilities.
As my eyesight worsened, I discovered many unfair barriers that block people with disabilities from fully participating in life. New buses are too often made with steps, creating physical barriers, when accessible buses can be bought. Most Web sites lack simple features that would make them accessible to special computers for blind or dyslexic people. Different kinds of barriers impede people with other physical or mental disabilities.
Removing these barriers would help everyone. Ontario has 1.9 million people with disabilities. Everyone has a disability or gets one later in life. We all should be able to ride public transit, shop in stores, get an education, use our health-care system, and get a job based on [our] abilities, without facing barriers.
In 1980, while finishing lawyer training, I volunteered with disability groups fighting to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code to make it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. We were excited when grassroots teamwork won us those new legal rights.
Yet by the 1990s, we realized that those important new rights were not enough to achieve a barrier-free society where all people with disabilities can fully participate. A person in a wheelchair who is prevented from entering a store to shop, due to a single step at the doorway, must file a lawsuit, perhaps hire a lawyer, and fight for years. People with disabilities have to fight such barriers one at a time.
I and others decided we needed a new law to achieve a barrier-free society. We named it the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA). We launched a grassroots coalition, the ODA Committee, to fight for it. Our Web site shows what we want and how to get involved. We knew that all barriers can't be removed overnight. We wanted the ODA to let everyone know what they must do to become barrier-free and to give organizations reasonable time to act.
In 2001 the Ontario government passed an ODA. It was a first step, but it didn't go far enough. The government left out most ingredients we needed. It lets government organizations like city hall and schools decide what barriers to remove and when, if ever, to remove them. It doesn't make the private sector (stores, restaurants, and other companies) do anything.
Our effort continues. We want the government to fully implement its ODA, and we want the ODA strengthened.
I learned important lessons from this rewarding activity. Everyone can have a huge impact, by volunteering for a cause to improve society.
1. Using the Internet, locate information on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001. What is its purpose, and to whom does it apply?
2. Why was the ODA Committee disappointed with the Ontario government's legislation passed in 2001?
3. What barriers impede persons with disabilities in your school and community?
4. How would society benefit from removing and preventing these barriers?
5. How could the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 be rewritten to be strong and effective?
Teaching unit developed by the Toronto District School Board.
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