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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA


ODA Update
March 1, 2001


Action in support of a strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act just
keeps on happening! Here are examples from three different parts
of Ontario, namely London, Belleville and Sault Ste. Marie media

Also, for those in the London area, just a reminder of the open
Public Forum on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act on Sunday,
March 4, 2001 from 4 to 5:30 pm at London's Mount Hope Center, 21
Grosvenor Street. American Sign Language interpreters will be
available. Bring as many as you can to learn more about the ODA.


London Free Press Tuesday February 27, 2001
Time to proceed on disability act
By Cathy-Vincent Linderoos

Unnecessary barriers to people with disabilities in Ontario continue to be in place because there is no law that ultimately would create a barrier-free Ontario. There still is no Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA).

There is hope, though, that this situation could soon change. Last December, just before the provincial legislature's session ended, the results of the government's own public opinion poll were tabled. This poll, completed in June of 2000, shows widespread public support for a mandatory ODA.

Even with a strong, effective ODA, the unnecessary barriers to people with disabilities would not disappear overnight. Barriers in the private and public sectors would need to be identified, and if they could be easily and cheaply removed, action could be swift. Where the barriers are more complex, taking longer to remove and costing more, the timelines should be longer. Tax incentives and subsidies for barrier removal could be made available by the government.

On Sunday, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the chair of the provincewide, non-partisan ODA Committee, David Lepofsky, will be guest speaker at a public meeting at Mount Hope, 21 Grosvenor St., London. Local MPP's have been invited to this open, barrier-free meeting, as have the media. Everyone is welcome.

This meeting will be an opportunity to learn from a leading disability rights advocate what can be done to expedite the passage of a strong new law and how it can benefit everyone in our society. It will be co-hosted by the London/Middlesex Chapter of the MS Society of Canada and the ODA Committee, London area.

It is very difficult for people to have meaningful discussions about what standards to set in law and how to set these standards without being asked to sit at the table. As I write, with respect to developing a law, we have not been asked to the table. The frustration that this engenders in people with disabilities and their advocates is perhaps our greatest barrier of all.

I am hopeful we can all manage to get past the frustration, cynicism and despair and finally work together as a society to draft and enact this desperately-needed law.

I am hopeful the Conservative MPP's will actively champion our cause and that, behind closed doors at Queen's Park, they will prevail upon Premier Harris to meet with Lepofsky and other ODA Committee representatives.

In order to know better where we stand with local MPP's, citizens should call their MPPs and ask these questions before the meeting:

1. Do you support passage into law of a strong, effective ODA to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities?

2. Will you support an ODA which is mandatory, not voluntary and which applies to the barriers in the private sector and the public sector?

3. Will you pledge to oppose any Ontario Government measure that creates any new barriers against people with disabilities, or that allows those barriers to be created?

At our Web site at www.odacommittee.net, you will find Harris' promise letter of 1995 in which he said he would work with the ODA Committee to develop meaningful legislation. You will find the clearly worded resolution supported unanimously by all three parties that a strong, effective ODA should be enacted no later than November 23. You can learn what the ODA Committee and all its members believe should be accepted by the government as the foundation for a mandatory law.

It's time to make the ODA work for us all.

Cathy Vincent-Linderoos is a regional contact, ODA Committee, London .

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Text of the "Raising Cane" Item by Journalist Lynn Swanson
on the "New PL" Television station in london and other related
Stations, Airing Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Tuesday, February 27, 2001

In the recent Ontario Cabinet shuffle, Premier Mike Harris said a role of his new Finance Minister is to "remove barriers to growth".

People with disabilities are still wondering what happened to Harris' promise nearly six years ago to remove barriers they face through an Ontarians with Disabilities Act - or ODA.

Economic growth and a barrier-free world for citizens with disabilities go hand in hand.

The Royal Bank of Canada estimates Canadians with disabilities have $20 to $25 billion in annual disposable income.

Yet the bank's report says this "weakest and most disadvantaged group in society has been passed on by both the private and public sectors in an otherwise booming economy."

Much of this economic exclusion is caused by barriers. Barriers an ODA would help eliminate.

Breaking down barriers will have costs. Just as creating them had costs. But . . . continuing the cycle of exclusion costs even more.

How much longer will Harris renege on his promise? And at what cost to people with disabilities and our economy?

This is Lynne Swanson and Iris Raising Cane for News Now.

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Belleville Intell

Parsons pleased with commission ruling
Province slammed for disabled access
By Derek Baldwin
The Intelligencer

Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Ernie Parsons is taking some comfort in a ruling earlier this week by the Ontario Human Rights Commission which slammed the provincial government for lax transit access for persons with disabilities. Since being named Liberal Critic for Persons with Disabilities, Parsons has been dogging Premier Mike Harris to follow though on his promise in 1995 to introduce an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Despite a further unanimous vote at Queen's Park by all parties to have the Act implemented by November 21, 2001, Harris has yet to budge on the issue, said Parsons.

A paper, Monday, released by the Human Rights Commission backs up Parsons' calls for "minimum legislative standards" for disabled persons. "This commission report is right on. Usually the commission only rules in individual cases but this is nice because they are ruling for all people," said Parsons in an interview Tuesday.

In Toronto, for example, public transit is not as equally accessible to disabled as it is to able-bodied Ontario residents. "In Toronto, (disabled) people are still booking ahead for two weeks to get bussing because it is in such demand," said Parsons. "The province has stopped funding them (disability buses). The TTC has as a result greatly reduced them."

Parson said back in his riding, Quinte Access has made huge strides forward to deliver parallel transit for persons with disabilities but more could be done without relying on municipal funding. "This is a provincial mandate, people with disabilities shouldn't have to depend on the value of the property in their municipality to get out of the house," said Parsons. "Provincial downloading is already affecting them (municipalities)."

Parsons' criticisms were reflected in the human rights ruling which chided the Ontario government for not making access for disabled persons a priority.

"Ontario has no legislation or technical or service benchmarks aimed at creating standards for accessibility.

"Access to public transportation services is a human rights issue. Transportation is fundamental to the capacity of most persons to function in society," stated the commission in its ruling, obtained by The Intelligencer. "The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the principle that society should be structured and designed for inclusiveness." In its conclusions, the commission handed down an opinion that the "exclusion of persons with certain types of disabilities, such as temporary disabilities and mental disabilities from access to paratransit services raises serious human rights concerns."

But just when some in the public might think there are now grounds for a legal fight to force the province to create equal access for disabled persons, Parsons said it isn't that easy.

With most disabled persons earning only $960 a month, there isn't enough money to launch a legal challenge arguing rights afforded under the Charters of Rights and Freedoms are being trampled on by the province of Ontario. "I recently talked to one woman who has a disability pension. She pays $400 a month on her mortgage and her heating bill was just $530. She has nothing left to feed her children," said Parsons.


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The Sault Star
Tuesday, January 30, 2001
Page B3


Campaign launched to pass law dismantling barriers to disabled Committee will ask city council to join in lobbying effort Sault Star Staff

It's high time Premier Mike Harris honours a campaign promise he made in 1995 - to pass a law to dismantle barriers to the disabled, says a local interest group.

The Sault/Algoma Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee now hopes Sault Ste. Marie's municipal government will join the fight in lobbying the province to act.

On Feb. 12, the group will ask council to pass a resolution, as 20 other Ontario communities have done, encouraging the Harris government to bring forward such legislation within two years.

The council hopes such a law would work to:

- require existing barriers to be pegged and removed in an orderly way;

- prevent new barriers from being created;

- lend everyone a say in how to achieve such action quickly and practically.

In the next few months, members of the committee will also speak at Algoma University College and in schools in the city to raise awareness of barriers faced by people with disabilities.

There are approximately 1.5 million people in Ontario with disabilities.


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