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ODA Update
January 10, 2001

Details of the Ontario Government's
Public Opinion Poll on the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act


Below is the text of the Harris Government's summary of its June 2000 public opinion poll on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act issue, and the Citizenship Minister's news release about the poll. We first give you some key points about this poll. You will likely find much more to say about it too.

The document which the Government released to the public is a four- page summary of their poll results. The Toronto Star reports that the poll was conducted by the Ipsos Reid firm. Some items in this document are not totally clear without getting a chance to see the actual questionnaire that was used and the detailed results. We plan to ask the Government to release their questionnaire and detailed polling results.

In the text of the Government's summary document, set out below, we include a few notes in brackets, entitled "Reader's Note" to help you read the information provided. We have formatted this text to make it easier to follow.




1. The Public Supports A Mandatory ODA

Overall, the poll results show clear, strong public support for the enactment of a strong, effective and mandatory Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A clear majority supports what we have been asking for over the past six years, a mandatory law that applies to both the public and private sectors.

This poll shows that the public does not support the position which the Harris Government has been aggressively putting forward over the same six years. The Harris Government has claimed that such legislation is not needed. It has also claimed that if any legislation is passed, it should not apply to the private sector and should be voluntary, not mandatory. A strong majority, 77%, believe that the legislation needs to regulate private industry. 45% believe that businesses will never voluntarily make their businesses accessible to people with disabilities. In contrast, the Government has argued that our needs will be met by voluntary measures.

This public support is the result of grassroots efforts by ODA supporters across Ontario since the Harris Government took office in 1995. This poll's showing of public support is consistent with the public opinion poll which was conducted for the ODA Committee in 1997, and which we have given to the Ontario Government. It found that there is strong public support for effective legislation to remove barriers facing persons with disabilities, and that the cost is worth it. You can find the results of the ODA Committee's poll by following this link.

You can find the questionnaire for the ODA Committee's poll by following this link


2. Harris Government Is Not Committed to the ODA

Despite the fact that it has been delaying on the ODA for over half a decade, the Premier and his successive citizenship ministers keep claiming that they are committed to keeping their promises regarding this legislation. We have said that the Government's inaction on the ODA speaks louder than its hollow words. According to this poll, a decisive majority of the public, 61%, believes that the Harris Government is not committed to the ODA. Only 30% think the Government is committed.


3. The Government's Failed, Toothless Bill 83

In November 1998, the Ontario Government introduced a toothless, three-page bill into the Legislature for debate. It did not require any barriers to be removed. It only applied to the Ontario Government. After it was widely condemned, the Government let the bill die on the order paper 17 days later.

The Government evidently wanted to know how many people remembered this political black eye. In this poll, the Government asked whether people had heard of the 1998 bill. 18% said yes.

At first blush, one might think that 18% is not many. However, it's a very sizeable number, when you look at it in context. This event happened fully 18 months before the June 2000 poll was conducted. There has been a lot of political news out of Queen's Park since then, including a provincial election. The media has given lots more attention to many other stories since the death of that bill. With all that water under the bridge, the fact that almost 1 in 5
Ontarians still are aware of this bill one and a half years afterwards shows that we are being effective at getting our message to the public.


4. What the ODA Should Contain

The Government's poll asked people about a range of different areas that the ODA could cover. A number of these did not focus on removing existing barriers facing persons with disabilities and preventing new barriers. Many barriers facing people with disabilities do not appear to be addressed at all in the poll, according to the information provided in this document.

The Citizenship Minister states in her press release that this poll is a way for her to consult with the public. Yet the Government has not publicized this list of options to the public, for its input.

The Government has never asked the disability community, or the ODA Committee, to comment on this specific range of options, e.g. when the Minister met with ODA Committee representatives on September 8, 2000, two months after this poll was conducted. Instead, only 800 randomly selected, anonymous people have had their chance to have their say on this list of options for the ODA.


5. Overall Government Performance on Disability Issues

The Government has claimed over the past six years that it is deeply concerned about the needs of persons with disabilities, and that it has acted on this commitment. Overall, the poll suggests that the public is not impressed with the Ontario Government's performance on disability issues. Only 48% think that the Ontario Government's performance on disability issues is good or very good. 66% think the current level of services for persons with disabilities is not enough.


6. Is there an ODA on the Books Right Now?

More than half of Ontarians think Ontario already has a Disability Act, though they are divided on what they think it covers. This is not surprising. In our experience, for example, many people now think that all public buildings are now required to be fully accessible.


7. The Ontario Government's Take on The Poll Results

The Government's news release claims that this poll shows that the public supports the Government's approach on this issue. The Government does not make any mention of the strong evidence in the poll which contradicts its claim.

There are a few specific figures in the poll which the Government might try to point to, to support its claim. While there appear to be some inconsistencies in the views expressed in the poll, the strong trend in the results do not favour the Government's position.

The Government appears to rely on the figure that 66% of the public agree, either strongly or somewhat, that the Government will take a fair and reasonable approach to the ODA. Given the other views expressed in the poll, this could well indicate that the public thinks that the Government will eventually do the right thing, and pass a mandatory ODA covering the public and private sectors, despite the Government's lack of commitment in this area.

75% agree that the Ontario Government should get its own house in order rather than regulating private companies. However, this gives the false impression that we must choose one or the other. An ODA could do both - get the Government to get its own house in order
and address barriers in the private sector.

In early October 2000, the Ontario Liberal Party revealed a leaked draft Harris Cabinet submission on the ODA. That document proposed that the Government bring forward a weak, ineffective ODA bill in the fall of 2000. Evidently referring to this poll, that Cabinet
document stated: "June 2000 polling indicates that the general public may not have much interest and may support government's approach." This is what cabinet was being told about these poll results by the Citizenship Minister.

When the ODA Committee learned about the draft Cabinet document, it launched its fall 2000 "Ontarians Do Care" campaign. Now that the poll results are revealed, we can see that these results further support our experience that Ontarians do care about the needs of
persons with disabilities and support a mandatory ODA.



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Ontarians with Disabilities Topline (12-3087-01)

N = 801 Adult Ontarians

1. Performance of Provincial government on issues

Primary and secondary school education 45%

health care 43%

the environment 40%

issues concerning persons with disabilities 48%

taxes 57%

social services (such as welfare) 55%

2. Top three most important issue personally

Primary and secondary school education 24%/25%/22%

health care 45%/32%/12%

the environment 11%/16%/23%

persons with disabilities 4%/6%/9%

taxes 12%/12%/16%

social services (such as welfare) 5%/10%/17%

3. Provincial government spending priority trade-offs

Increased spending on education (32%) or increased spending on health care (68%)

Increased spending on health care (74%) or increased spending on the environment (26%)

Increased spending on the environment (49%) or programs and services for persons with disabilities (50%)

Programs and services for persons with disabilities (60%) or reducing taxes (39%)

Reducing taxes (48%) or Improving social services (52%)

Programs and services for persons with disabilities (16%) or increased spending on health care (83%)

Increased spending on education (69%) or programs and services for persons with disabilities (30%)

Increased spending on the environment (57%) or reducing taxes (43%)

4. Top of mind responses to term 'Disability'

Physical Disability (Net) 63%

Mental Disabilities (Net) 28%

Other Disability Concerns (Net) 46%Other 8%

5. How close term matches personal definition of a disability


being in a wheelchair 84%/13%/3%

blind 85%/12%/3%

deaf 71%/21%/8%

learning disability (such as dyslexia) 42%/41%/17%

required to wear glasses 6%/15%/79%

mental illness 72%/21%/7%

clinical depression 33%/42%/24%

6. Agree/Disagree - Term describes feeling about persons with disabilities

Admiration 79% (51%/28%)(Reader's Note: This appears to mean that 79% agree with this. 51% agree somewhat. 28% agree strongly.)

Sadness 75% (41%/34%)

You wish you had more time to volunteer 75% (41%/34%)

that they have different needs 97% (78%/19%)

they are challenged 92% (63%/29%)

they need government financial assistance 94% (65%/29%)

they have limited mobility 84% (45%/39%)

respect 95% (76%/19%)

7. Ontario has a Disabilities Act?

Yes 59%
No 29%
D/K 12% (Reader's Note: This appears to mean "Don't Know".)

8. What does act provide?

Accessibility Issues (Net) 56%

Financial-Issues (Net) 25%

Support/assistance Issues (Net) 31%

Other 4%

Nothing 4%

DK/NS 15%

9. Hear of 1998 ODA Bill?

Yes 18%

No 82%

10. Recall what about 1998 ODA Bill?

It was not passed 21%

I remember reading/hearing about it (eg. TV/radio etc.) 14%

Equal rights/opportunities/help for disabled people 12%

Funding cuts/fighting for more funding 10%

It did not cover very many issues 5%

Making more places wheelchair accessible 5%

Other 8%

Nothing 11%

DK/NS 17%

11. Provincial government commitment to a new ODA

Very Committed 6%

Somewhat committed 24%

Somewhat uncommitted 35%

Very uncommitted 26%

D/K 9%

12. ODA: Symbolic gesture or a positive impact?

Only a symbolic gesture 43%

Positive Impact on persons with disabilities 47%

13. ODA: Protect rights or Provide Programs and services?

Protecting rights 17%

Providing programs 63%

14. ODA: Should it regulate private industry?

Doesn't need to regulate private companies 21%

Should also regulate private industry 77%

15. Level of current services for persons with disabilities

Enough 23%

Too much 1%

Not enough 66%

16. What does the government currently do for persons with disabilities

Accessibility Issues (Net) 34%

Financial Issues (Net) 23%

Mobility Aids (Net) 10%

Programs/support Issues (Net) 20%

Employment Equity Issues (Net) 4%

Other 7%

Nothing 11%

DK/NS 23%

17. Most important area for ODA to focus on

Protection of rights through the Human Rights Commission 8%

Health services for disabled persons 17%

Education services for disabled persons 12%

Job training and access for disabled persons 30%

Community, including housing and transportation for disabled 15%

Laws that protect the rights of disabled 17%

18. Priority of ODA options


Increase funding to ensure that school boards maintain services for students with special needs and provide services for students 78%

Improve medical supervision in home care settings and improve psychiatric services 74%

Require bus and other transportation drivers to call out the stops for blind passengers 69%

Strengthen fines and enforcement against people who use disabled parking permits fraudulently 63%

Provide more group homes and other accommodations for adults with developmental disabilities 61%

Extend the current pre-school speech and language program to five- year-olds 52%

Continue to improve the speed of investigating and resolving complaints of discrimination with the Human Rights Commission 52%

Provide 24-hour access to sign language interpreters through a toll-free number for hospital visits and doctors' appointments 52%|

Allow persons with disabilities to use means other than oral testimony in court matters 44%

Provide guidance to the retail and service sector for serving customers with disabilities 36%

Undertake an advertising campaign to overcome negative attitudes about persons with disabilities in the workplace 32%

Develop awards and other recognition for model employers of persons with disabilities 29%

19. Provincial government will take fair and reasonable approach to ODA?

Strongly agree 23%

Somewhat agree 43%

Somewhat disagree 20%

Strongly disagree 13%

20. ODA Options: Fair and Reasonable?


Eligibility for programs and benefits should be determined by needs of the individual rather than by the disability itself 91% (62%/29%) (Reader's Note: This appears to mean that 91% agree.
62% agree strongly while 29% only agree somewhat.)

The provincial government gets "its own house in order" rather than regulating private companies 75% (45%/30%)

Guidelines for employing persons with disabilities will be suggested and available, but no new agency will enforce laws 58% (21%/37%)

All new buildings be accessible, but older buildings are not
required to be accessible 42% (19%/23%)

21. Agree/Disagree with statements


The provincial government should also regulate the broader public sector, including hospitals, and municipalities, to become more accessible to persons with disabilities 91% (60%/31%)

I think an ODA can really improve the lives of Ontario's with disabilities 90% (48%/42%)

Whatever legislation is introduced for persons with disabilities, it should be mandatory (required) rather than voluntary, regardless of cost or impact 71% (34%/37%)

I would prefer the government spend money on new technology that allows communications with the hearing disabled rather than hire interpreters to do this 68% (33%/35%)

I trust the Harris Government to do the right thing on the Ontarians with Disabilities issue 54% (21%/33%)

The provincial government currently spends $6 billion on programs and services for persons with disabilities. I think this is more than enough 46% (16%/30%)

I am uncomfortable giving too much money or support to one group of people in the province, such as persons with disabilities 46%

Corporations and businesses will never voluntarily make their
businesses accessible to persons with disabilities 45% (20%/25%)

The responsibility for ensuring persons with disabilities receive
the programs and support they need should lie with their family -
any support from the provincial government should be a bonus rather
than an expectation 36% (16%/20%)

Compared to other needs, spending money on an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act is a low priority for me 33% (9%24%)



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Ontario News Release

Ministry of Citizenship,
Culture and Recreation
400 University Avenue
Toronto ON M7A 2R9


December 22, 2000
(Ce texte est disponible en francais)

Ontarians Support Strong Programs and Services for People with Disabilities

TORONTO - Ontarians reaffirmed their support for strong and relevant programs and services for people with disabilities in a recent poll. In total, 63% of respondents felt that the
government's emphasis should be on providing programs and services to people with disabilities.

"Our government intends to lead by example, and this poll tells us we are on the right track. We are doing the right things. We are developing an Action Plan - which includes legislation - to make life better for people with disabilities in Ontario," said Helen Johns, Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.

"The government is listening to the perspectives of a number of groups in order to develop the best possible ideas," Minister Johns said. "We've been listening to a range of stakeholder groups. We wanted to hear the general public's views as well. A poll is a cost-effective method of getting people's views and perspectives about important issues."

More than 65% stated they believed the province will take a "fair and reasonable" approach to legislation.

"We will balance the needs of people with disabilities with those who are in a position to accommodate their needs," she said. "We promised legislation - within the goalposts of the Common Sense Revolution - to improve the lives of people with disabilities."

- 30 -

For more information, contact,

Jonathan Leigh
(416) 325-0837

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