November 4, 2001
'Twas the Night before ODA
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE ODA
Here are some thoughts for tomorrow, on the eve of the most
important new phase on the road to a strong and effective ODA:
On Monday, November 5, 2001, when the Ontario Government
introduces its new ODA bill into the Legislature for first
reading, the ODA Committee and all supporters of a strong ODA can
proclaim an important interim victory on the road to a strong ODA
for persons with disabilities, even before we read the bill. This
victory belong to all who have fought so hard over the past weeks,
months, and years, both outside and inside the
Legislature, to get us to this point.
The interim victory includes our success in getting a bill before
the Legislature, to be debated. After the Government broke so many
promises to us in this area, some had thought we could never reach
If the Government announces that there will be public hearings on
the bill, then this will be another victory for us. Our supporters
have fought so hard for hearings. Until now the Government had
given no commitments for hearings on an ODA bill.
We can also celebrate as a victory the Government's new "vision
statement" on disability, announced last Thursday. This is
because the Ontario Government has finally adopted the very goals
that we have been urging on the Government for the past six and a
half years. It sets as Ontario's goal the achievement of a barrier-
free province, one in which existing barriers are removed and new
barriers are prevented before they are created. It recognizes
that every sector in society is responsible to act to achieve this.
The Citizenship Minister's letter accompanying its Government's
vision statement also recognizes the central need for new
legislation to achieve this goal. It states that the ODA will be
the centrepiece of the Ontario Government's strategy for
implementing its new vision. This also adopts our position. We
have advocated for years that new legislation is the key to
achieving this goal. Imagine how this province would have looked
now if the Government had adopted its new vision 6 and a half years
Tomorrow we should be prepared to celebrate these victories. Yet we
must remember that they are only interim victories. We must quickly
turn our attention to the bill itself, and read it
carefully to see what is in it. The Government has set high
expectations for this bill. We must make sure it is strong and
effective so that it will truly fulfil this vision.
The Government will understandably be seeking endorsements of the
bill right away. We recommend to you that you withhold comments on
the content of the bill, be they positive or negative, until you
have had a chance to read it, including the "fine print." It is
very wise not to comment based only on Government news
releases, or a Minister's speech or briefing. Those presentations
may not give you a full picture. They are, of course, written to
put the best gloss on the bill.
We will get the bill to you, as well as an analysis of it from the
standpoint of our 11 principles, as fast as we can. You may want to
look again at our one-page summary of what we are seeking in the
ODA. We set it out below, in case you do not have it handy.
We will have the chance after Monday to respond to the content of
the bill. We will try to provide you all the help and resources we
can to assist you with this.
Also, if the Government announces public hearings on the bill, we
will want to continue to urge that these be accessible, province-
wide, and long enough to accommodate everyone who wants to present
at these hearings.
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
WHAT THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT NEEDS TO INCLUDE
1. Does the proposed ODA include protection for all
disabilities, physical, mental and sensory, be the disability
visible or invisible? The ODA Committee believes that the ODA's
definition of disability must be similar to the broad definition in
the Ontario Human Rights Code.
2. Does the proposed ODA cover the removal and prevention of
barriers in all aspects of life in Ontario whether in the public or
private sector, such as: in employment and the enjoyment of goods,
services and facilities e.g. transportation, health care, education
and training, communication and access to information? The ODA
Committee believes that for people with disabilities to fully
participate in all aspects of a barrier-free Ontario
society, the ODA must require that the barriers they face be
removed and prevented in each of these areas.
3. Will the proposed ODA require that detailed standards be set
for the removal and prevention of barriers through a consultative
process with key stakeholders including people with disabilities,
business, and others in the specific sectors affected? The ODA
Committee believes that everyone benefits from having clear,
specific standards that apply to everyone rather than having to
fight against each barrier, one at a time, on a case by case basis
through human rights complaints. These standards should be set
along reasonable time lines by an independent, accountable public
agency with expertise in disability barriers.
4. Does the proposed ODA provide a process for ensuring that
barriers are removed and prevented in a timely manner? The ODA
Committee believes that unless there is an enforceable
requirement that barriers be removed and prevented, we will
continue to live in a society with significant barriers. The
timelines can be developed through the ODA's consultative process
for setting standards. The standards should be sensitive to the
different practical circumstances of big businesses and other
organizations as compared to smaller businesses and other
organizations. Organizations covered by the ODA should be
required to develop and implement effective barrier-free plans
which are consistent with the ODA's standards. Barrier removal and
prevention should not be optional or voluntary.
5. Does the proposed ODA establish an effective mechanism beyond
individual complaints to enforce these new standards? The ODA
Committee believes that everyone benefits when the
enforcement mechanism does not depend solely on complaints, but
provides for proactive measures, prompt, effective systemic
remedies and help for those who need to remove and prevent
barriers. The ODA should make a substantial difference in the
daily lives of Ontarians with disabilities.
6. Does the proposed ODA reduce existing rights of people with
disabilities? The ODA Committee believes that the ODA must
guarantee that nothing in it reduces any rights which Ontarians
with disabilities now have.
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Last updated November 5, 2001