January 29, 2001
Here is a great sampling of activity which is going on right
around the province at the grass-roots in support of the ODA.
Below you will find:
An article in the Sault Ste. Marie newspaper, The Sault Star, reporting on
recent ODA Activities.
A letter to Premier Harris from the Chair of the Ontario Board
of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, calling for the
ODA, and making it clear that voluntary measures do not succceed
in effectively addressing the barriers we face. As have a number
of disability organizations, the CNIB has helpfully focused
attention on certain specific barriers of concern to persons with
Letters to the editor from ODA supporters in Hamilton and
Kitchener. Note how they weave the ODA message into recent issues
in their communities.
The text of an excellent speech on the ODA which an Ottawa ODA
supporter, Kevin Armstrong, gave to his Toastmasters Club. This
is yet another creative way for getting out our message. His
speech is a great model from which others may wish to borrow.
Keep the action going! Don't forget to read, use, and circulate
our most recent action kit. If you need a copy, Email me at
If Sylvia Mosher ever wants to meet with Major John Rowswell to
talk about accessibility for the handicapped to municipal
buildings, they might want to meet somewhere besides the Civic
"I can't even get into city hall without help," she said.
The main doors to the building, which opened in 1974, are not
automated so she'd need someone to hold one open for her so she
could get inside. Mosher uses a wheelchair because of her
If she wanted to attend a city council meeting during the winter
when she cannot access the wheelchair ramp, she'd have to make
arrangements to have someone meet her at a rear entrance to let
Accessibility continues to be a problem for city residents such
as Mosher who have a disability.
They continue to wait for the Conservative government to update
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Premier Mike Harris has
promised to introduce the legislation since his government was
first elected in 1995.
Mosher, who is a part-time English student at Algoma University
College, said she has no idea why it is taking the Tories so long
to lend a hand to the disabled through a strong legislative
Dorothy Macnaughton might be able to offer some suggestions.
She's the spokesperson for the Sault Ste. Marie Disabilities
Created last year following a visit to the city by Liberal MPP
Steve Peters to gather input for new disabilities legislation,
the group has already attracted about 40 members including
"It's partly a matter of other priorities having come along.
Little bit by little bit it looks like (the Conservative
government) is going to do somthing but nothing happens," said
Macnaughton, who is visually impaired. "Disabled people have been
knocked down so many times that they haven't been very vocal."
She is hoping the Sault Ste. Marie Disabilties Network, which is
one of about 20 similar advocacy groups spread across the
province that are affiliated with the Toronto-based non-partisan
coalition Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, will be
successful in drawing the public's attention to the daily access
and transportation barriers disabled people face and encourage
the government to implement necessary legislation.
The group first met last June when approximately 15 people
gathered at St. Andrew's United Church.
Now, the Sault Ste. Marie Disabilities Network wants to appear
before city council in the near future to ask the mayor and 12
councillors to pass a resolution supporting the cessation of
community barriers to the disabled.
Approximately 20 other cities in the province have already passed
a similar resolution during the past two years to help further
pressure the Ontario government.
The Sault Ste. Marie Disabilities Network should know by the
middle of this week when it will appear before council. It's part
of a long struggle to have these problems recognized and acted
upon, said Macnaughton. "Disabled people often get marginalized.
They feel very isolated. You feel there are times when you
shouldn't have to fight for some of the things you have to fight
for. They should be guaranteed in law," she said.
Such legislation just makes sense, said Mosher.
"If Ontario was accessible, everyone would benefit in the long
run," said the Sault Star columnist. "As the population grows
older, there's going to be more people whose movement is
Peters' Ontarians with Disabilities Act would:
- require existing barriers to be located and removed in an
- prevent new barriers from being created in the future;
- give everyone a say in how to achieve this quickly and
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee website can be
accessed at www.oda-committee.net
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario Canada M4G 3E8
Fax: (416) 480-7503
Honorary Patron: The Honourable Hilary M Weston Lieutenant
Governor of Ontario
January 24, 2001
The Hon. Michael Harris
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Room 281
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Dear Mr. Harris:
In my capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors of The
Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Ontario Division, I am
writing to ensure that you are aware of the importance we place
on the enactment of meaningful legislation with respect to the
Ontarians With Disabilities Act. In our view, sound legislation
is needed to remove barriers that hinder access by the blind and
visually impaired to the many community services that sighted
people enjoy. Based on my dialogue with clients, volunteers and
staff throughout the province, it is evident that the many
informal, voluntary efforts which have been made in the past to
improve the independence of blind citizens are not working in a
An effective ODA could significantly contribute to enabling blind
and visually impaired persons to attain a level of independence
that would both enhance their quality of life and would also make
good economic sense.
While there are clearly a number of issues which ultimately
should be addressed, we offer two specific recommendations: First
of all, the legislation should emphasize the importance of
enabling young and working age blind persons to develop the
skills that will permit them to become citizens who contribute to
society, by ensuring proper educational support, access to
state-of-the-art technical equipment and an environment that
motivates employers to give these individuals an opportunity to
show their worth. There are currently 10,000 individuals of
working age in Ontario who are clients of the CNIB. It is
disheartening when we examine the statistical data produced by
Stats Can (HALS) and learn that approximately 75% of working age
blind persons are still either unemployed or underemployed. We
firmly believe that consumers of social services can be converted
into a pool of talented contributors to the economy of this
province. While legislation is not the sole driving force, it
could meaningfully contribute to establishing a policy direction.
I have enclosed a video tape of a recent Global news report that
depicts what can be done to build independence when all the
elements - a determined individual, an enlightened employer, a
helping hand (CNIB) and the technical tools and training come
together. Our dream is that this becomes the rule, rather than
The second recommendation relates to the need to improve
accessibility to information. This is a universal problem for all
blind and visually impaired individuals, including the 50,000 who
are clients of the CNIB in Ontario. While this is a more
difficult area to economically justify legislated initiatives, we
believe, with the advancement in today's technology, that there
is potential to make meaningful strides at a very small cost. And
the payback is a segment of society who can better function
Mr. Harris, we would like the opportunity to share our first hand
knowledge and offer specific recommendations for consideration as
part of drafting the new Ontarians With Disabilities Act. The
CNIB has an eighty-three year history of service to persons who
are blind, visually impaired or deafblind. With over 10,000
volunteers and 500 staff serving some 50,000 consumers across the
province, we are in an excellent position to offer your
government the benefit of our experience and expertise and
believe that we can make a positive contribution to an important
piece of legislation.
My colleagues and I can be reached through the offices of the
Executive Director, CNIB Ontario Division, 1929 Bayview Ave.,
Toronto, ON M4G 3E8, Tel. 416-480-7689.
Ontario Division Board
cc. The Hon. Helen Johns, Minister of Culture, Citizenship & Recreation
Dr. Penny Hartin, Executive Director CNIB Ontario Division
Mr. David Lepofsky, Chair Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
44 Frid Street
Hamilton, Ont. L8N 3G3
By Fax: 526-3558
Disadvantaged Hit Hardest
RE: "Drive Clean Test Results Challenged" (Jan. 13 Spectator)
I agree with Mohamed Bouchama, executive director of the Toronto-
based Automobile Consumer Association, that Drive Clean burdens
those least able to afford it.
Ontario once again pays lip service to re-employment for the
disadvantaged including the disabled. These people the likely
owners of older cars are forced to bear almost the entire burden
for clean air.
Many of those whom Ontario claims to want to help most to get
back to work are on workfare at $300-$500 a month, or the Ontario
Disability Support Plan at $700 a month. If these people cannot
find the average $550 Bouchama claims is the cost of repairing
vehicles for Drive Clean (or more, considering this group's cars
are probably older) they have to set opportunity aside.
These are the unemployed, single mothers, visible minorities
particularly the disabled - re-entering the workforce after ODSP
has stripped them of assets with a means test and benefits that
have not increased in 11 years.
With Drive Clean they are deprived of their car most valuable
tool to find, and qualify for, that difficult-to-get re-entry
job. They must give up those opportunities to which a car might
entitle them, spend that much longer on benefits, and suffer that
much more indignity and poverty.
Where is this Ontario government's much crowed-about employment
initiative? Where is the promised Ontarians with Disabilities Act
to prevent much of this discrimination? Where does the fastidious
Ontario Human Rights Commission stand right now? Where are the
Progressive Conservatives in Ontario?
The following letter appeared in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record
on Monday, December 11, 2000, page A8
Disabled deserve access
I was shocked to read the Dec. 4 story about the opposition to a
group home in a Kitchener neighbourhood. At that time, the major
complaint of those opposing the group home was "having to look at
the poor disabled people." In a December 6 story, the complaint
had changed to a more palatable objection to the possibility of
Both complaints have the same root idea. The people who oppose
the group home have the notion that because of their economic
affluence, they have the right to decide "where the poor disabled
people" live. Persons with a disability have as much right to
live in a neighbourhood as anyone else.
Premier Mike Harris should take notice of attitudinal barriers
that people with disabilities face. He promised during the 1995
election campaign to pass legislation dealing with the
discrimination faced by persons with disabilities. Disability
advocates who want to hold the premier accountable to his promise
have had difficulty convincing him that the legislation is indeed
A good example of the reasons why legislation is necessary is
seen with the Lackner Woods case. I work with a municipal
committee that tries to make sure that issues of physical access
are brought to the attention of those who plan municipal
buildings. Building access, however, is much easier to achieve
than attitudinal access.
Toastmaster's Ottawa Luncheon Troopers Speech #3
Delivered before the Luncheon Troopers on Tuesday, January 16, 2001
By: Kevin Armstrong
Note: Nearly all of this speech has been cobbled together from
bits and pieces provided in ODA Committee emails.
Imagine going to a restaurant with a group of friends and being
told at the door that, while your companions can enter, you
cannot. Or imagine inside the restaurant being told that you
cannot order from the menu or use the washrooms.
We normally don't imagine such scenarios happening in a country
Well... Think again.
Madame Chair, fellow Toastmasters, and guests. Why is it that for
so many Canadians, exactly these kinds of scenarios are harsh
One reason could be that they have disabilities.
A better reason is that there is a distinct lack of legislation
that would make mandatory the removal of barriers and impediments
that make precisely these situations a reality.
Today I am going to share with you what I have learned over the
last couple of years about the disabilities' communities in
Ontario. After putting this topic into an appreciable context, I
will briefly discuss the concept of what is known as the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Then, I will sum up with some
thoughts about why this topic is important for all Ontarians.
Can I see by a show of hands how many people here know someone
with a disability?
(nearly all, if not all, raise their hands - with no hesitation).
Our collective response here demonstrates an important point: In
fact, everyone in Ontario either has a disability, will acquire a
disability, or knows someone with a disability.
Now already we can see that this is not a narrow or parochial
topic; it touches all of us.
In fact, there are 1.5 million persons with disabilities in
Ontario today. On average, this group has 4 times the
unemployment rate as the rest of Canada, and the earning power of
those of working age is radically less than for other Canadians.
Now we have some context to the topic of persons with
disabilities. Let's look at one snapshot from these 1.5 million.
[note: the following is adapted from a London Free Press article
circulated to ODA Committee people through email]
One person I've come to know of over the last couple of years is
a woman named Cathy. She lives in London, Ontario. Twelve years
ago, she was diagnosed with Multiple Slcorosis. What this means
for her on bad days is that she barely has enough energy to get
from her bed to her computer - which is her lifeline to the
world. She engages herself on these bad days by negotiating with
her body. Just a half-hour to make a to-do list for her home
support worker, check her email, and maybe get a bite to eat.
Just a half hour and then the fatigue of MS takes over.
But MS isn't the only challenge in her life. She has to book
transportation a week in advance. Lack of accessible washrooms
continues to keep her out of many public buildings, and that's
assuming these buildings are accessible. These are just a few
barriers that Cathy is continually confronted with.
So we can see, there are Physical barriers - like lack of
adequate transportation and accessible buildings and public
spaces. There are Informational barriers too. These arise because
of a lack of alternative formats to the printed word, and lack of
translators available where information exchange is so important,
like hospitals. But perhaps above all, there are Attitudinal
barriers. These are the impediments caused by a certain norm with
respect to thinking about persons with disabilities. It is an
accepted, but uncritical, judgment about contributions and
abilities in general with respect to persons with disabilities.
It leads to a despairing view of what can be hoped for.
Yet, it was people like Cathy and 19 other persons with
disabilities that came together some seven years ago to form one
of the most impressive grass roots civic movements in recent
history in this province. They did this by starting the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act Committee. Now, this movement has hundreds
of supporters, 100 supporting organizations, and over 20 regional
and municipal council resolutions in support of its aims and
Their goal is to secure the passage of an effective legislation
that would make mandatory the identification, removal and
prevention of barriers - Physical, Informational, and
Attitudinal, in Ontario.
Why is an ODA so important?
Well, if the government is impress us all with continued
investment in new infrastructure, it would be foolhardy to have
it done according to existing codes and standards which would
only guarantee that the many kinds of barriers we are already
well-aware of will be structurally engrained?
Some have argued that this legislation should be merely
voluntary, not mandatory. Yet just as with taxes, this
legislation needs strong management and enforcement measures.
Some have suggested that only certain sectors be addressed in ODA
legislation. Yet buildings are the same, whether in private,
public, or voluntary sectors.
Some have raised the issue of cost. There is no question that an
ODA, if it is effective, will incur some costs. Most all
legislation does. However, if implemented on a sector by sector
basis is a smart, methodical and planned manner, the costs would
not be prohibitive at all. This is especially so once the
benefits of an ODA become evident. The concept of "cost" instead
should be seen as an investment. And this brings me to my
conclusion: What are the benefits of an ODA? Why is this
something all Ontarians should think about?
First. This is manifestly not about charity. This is about making
an investment in untapped potential and opportunities. It is
about creating the conditions where equal partners can begin to
get on with the business of jobs, education, health, families and
most generally, life.
Second. Persons with disabilities are not the only beneficiaries
of a strong, effective ODA. As the population ages, there will be
more and more persons who will appreciate safer, easier access in
public spaces. Families with children and pregnant women as well
are other examples of the wider benefits of an ODA.
Indeed, an ODA that made it mandatory to remove barriers would
instill a smarter, more intelligent approach to everything from
urban planning, to school playground design, to homes and
buildings. New designs, new capital acquisitions, new
infrastructure would have simply more thought going into the
process. That can't hurt!
To conclude, I want to repeat a notion I've heard on this issue:
The idea that a society is judged by how it treats its most
vulnerable - and I believe this to be true. Yet when this issue
of an ODA reaches you as it will in the near future, I urge you
to support a strong, effective ODA that includes MANDATORY
measures mostly because it makes so much good sense, for all the
reasons I've mentioned. In the end, justice and good sense
probably aren't that different at any rate. Either would do for
the 1.5 million persons with disabilities in Ontario - and, as
I've argued, for the rest of Ontario too.
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Last updated January 29, 2001