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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA


ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 9, 2004
posted Oct. 10, 2004



September 9, 2004

Earlier this week, the London Free Press published an excellent article heralding this upcoming weekend's ground-breaking London Ontario conference on what a new ODA should include. See below.

Several people have indicated that they would have liked to attend the conference, but cannot. They want to know if we are going to make available any of the conference's proceedings. Please be assured that this is being worked on. If something can be worked out, we will announce it over the



"This article is reproduced with the consent of the author, Lynne Swanson. Any further reproduction without prior written consent of the author is prohibited.

Still Waiting


Special to The Free Press

"Most of us are just ordinary people doing ordinary things with

extraordinary difficulty," Lorin MacDonald says of people with disabilities.

That's similar to a philosophy held by the late Michael Lewis, a blind

London musician and disabilities advocate, and his wife, Kathy. "People

with disabilities shouldn't have to do extraordinary things to be considered


MacDonald and Michael Lewis never met before Lewis died of cancer last

year. But the like-minded thinkers are united by their efforts to make

Ontario a better and more inclusive place for citizens with disabilities.

MacDonald and Kathy Lewis are organizing the Michael Lewis Memorial

Symposium, Still Waiting: A Forum for Moving Ahead.

The one-day provincial forum this Saturday will bring together persons

with disabilities, advocates, legislators, city councillors and officials,

lawyers, college and university representatives and others.

Ontario's Minister of Citizenship, Dr. Marie Boutrogianni, who is

responsible for disability issues, will be one of the speakers.

When MacDonald refers to "extraordinary difficult(ies)," she doesn't

just mean challenges of disabilities themselves. She's also speaking of

myriad barriers and obstacles which people with disabilities constantly


MacDonald, 41 knows those first hand. She was born with a severe and

profound hearing loss. MacDonald mastered lip reading early and wears a

hearing aid. She learned sign language as an adult.

Because MacDonald's speech is clear and she speaks clearly, she

"shatter(s) a lot of stereotypes."

She has had a successful career, which included executive director of

Barrier Free Design Centre and Access Place in Toronto and later as an

entrepreneur in her home town of Port Dover. Volunteer work is also

inherent to her being.

Since being struck by an SUV in 1997 while walking in a mall parking

lot, MacDonald has had chronic migraines and back, neck and shoulder pain.

Suddenly, MacDonald faced not only hearing and communications barriers,

but physical ones as well.

Yet, she doesn't dwell on that. Instead, MacDonald aims to do

something about it. Tomorrow, she begins her first year of law school at

University of Western Ontario. Her ultimate goal is to be a public sector

lawyer, advocating for people with disabilities, especially in education.

MacDonald admits some gains have been made in elementary and secondary

education. But at post-secondary levels, she says disabled students "hit a

glass ceiling.

"It has to stop because people with disabilities have tremendous

resources that they can be giving to society, but they need the tools in

order to reach that goal potential."

She is exasperated that "non-disabled people are for the most part the

major decision makers" in issues affecting disabled people.

This weekend's forum hopes to begin to correct that.

MacDonald says Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) passed by the

former Conservative government "has no teeth.

"It's not mandatory. It doesn't cover the private sector...There's no

enforcement mechanism so what's the motivation for any business, government

or public sector to do anything to accommodate people with disabilities?

"This forum is trying to present to the Liberal government some ideas,

some strategies borrowed from other sectors as to how a stronger and more

effective ODA legislation can be put forward."

For a decade, David Lepofsky, a blind Toronto lawyer, has been the

driving force behind provincial efforts toward a strong ODA.

He says this forum is a "wonderful way to mark Michael Lewis' memory,"

while being a catalyst for genuine change.

Lepofsky says he has witnessed significant differences since Liberals

took office last fall. He thinks they are ready to keep their promise of a

strengthened ODA this fall.

The forum's title is taken from the song, Still Waiting, which Lewis

wrote and performed on a video of the same name.

Lepofsky says Still Waiting was "an anthem of the frustration" in the

ODA movement of so little happening over so long a time period.

Lewis died just after Liberals were elected after fighting hard for an

ODA in opposition and during the campaign.

"Michael lived long enough to know that step forward had been made, but

we want to build on his legacy...This process is a great way to do that,"

Lepofsky concludes.



WHAT: Michael Lewis Memorial Symposium

Still Waiting: A Forum for Moving Ahead

WHEN: Saturday, September 11, 2004

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

WHERE: King's University College

Elizabeth A. "Bessie" Labatt Hall

266 Epworth Avenue, London

COST: $10. No charge for unwaged or people on social assistance.

REGISTER: 519 - 645-0558

Site is wheelchair accessible. Attendant care, sign language interpreters,

FM listening system, real-time captioning, and materials in Braille and

large print will be available. Dietary requirements can be accommodated.



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