ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 9, 2004
posted Oct. 10, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
GREAT MEDIA COVERAGE IN ADVANCE OF THIS WEEKEND'S GROUND-BREAKING LONDON CONFERENCE ON THE ODA
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
LONDON FREE PRESS MONDAY SEPTEMBER 6, 2004
"This article is reproduced with the consent of the author, Lynne Swanson. Any further reproduction without prior written consent of the author is prohibited.
BY LYNNE SWANSON
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
"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,"
IF YOU'RE GOING
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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