ODA Committee Update
dated December 4, 2002
posted Dec. 13, 2002
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
ANOTHER POWERFUL BARRAGE OF ODA MEDIA COVERAGE
December 4, 2002
Our tenacious campaign for a barrier-free Ontario gets relentless good
media coverage. Most of this 12-page bundle of newspaper items comes from
London. It is a credit to our fantastic team on the ground in that region
of the ODA Committee. They have used both columns they write themselves and
media attention on their work, to keep this issue in the public eye. It
also includes a column by London Free Press columnist Mark Richardson, not
himself an ODA activist, who gives a powerful and inspiring assessment of
This bundle of news items also includes an excellent Toronto Star article
on travel barriers facing persons with disabilities. In it even Toronto's
tourism sector references the ODA 2001's weakness for not applying to the
private sector. This shows how helpful it is to link the ODA issue to
specific areas of life to highlight the barriers we face.
Below please find:
* London Free Press August 9, 2002 column by London ODA Committee regional
contact Cathy Vincent Linderoos
* London Free Press October 24, 2002 column by London ODA Committee
regional contacts Ashfaq Husain and Cathy Vincent-Linderoos
* London Free Press November 20, 2002 column by ODA supporter Kathy Lewis
* London Free Press November 25, 2002 news report on the successful ODA
"Barrier busters" public forum in London On November 23, 2002
* London Free Press November 27, 2002 column by the paper's columnist Mark
* University of Western Ontario Gazette Nov. 27, 2002 article on London's
November 23, 2002 public forum
* Toronto Star November 14, 2002 article on barriers facing tourists with
Write guest columns on the ODA for your local newspaper. Send us your
Committee Working To Improve Disabilities Act
BY CATHY VINCENT-LINDEROOS
I felt David Dauphinee's story Waiting for health care = stress (July 16),
could also have been called Waiting for health care = unnecessary
disability + cost to the taxpayer.
Since Dec. 13, I've been watching to see if the Ontarians with Disabilities
Act 2001 has brought improvements to the lives of people with disabilities.
The Conservative government made 13 major commitments to Ontarians. One was
that no new barriers to those with disabilities will be created. Another
promised that people with disabilities will be the ones who decide when
Ontario will become truly barrier-free.
For some time, we've seen important opportunities emerge and fade away.
Mario Leatham's family failed to secure adequate home care they needed
despite repeated pleas from the community, media and opposition MPPs. A
public school board caved into government pressure and passed a budget that
will see vital special education obligations continue to receive short
People with disabling diseases such as Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes
find it impossible to live life as fully as possible because of unnecessary
An opportunity for revisions to the provincial building code had no new
enhancements for people with disabilities.
Angry seniors are facing the prospect of losing their eyesight and along
with it their ability to function independently, while they are forced to
wait for cataract surgery.
Those with physical, mental or cognitive disabilities must plead their case
for Paratransit rides, despite government promises.
Even with lives hanging in the balance, we must continue to register
disillusionment. We must take stock of the common ground we share and
monitor progress towards a strong, effective ODA.
With a provincial election expected in the next year, I invite people with
disabilities, their friends and families who are not content to take a
"wait and see" approach to do one or more of the following:
Ask yourself if you see existing barriers coming down and new barriers
Visit the ODA committee Web site at www.odacommittee.net and find out how
you or your organization can contribute to ongoing efforts to see a strong
Visit the Ontario Human Rights Web site at www.ohrc.on.ca to learn about
its report on funding of Paratransit, its upcoming consultation on special
education, and more.
Encourage local businesses to get the standards for customer service from
the Canadian Standards Association at www.csa.ca. Let them know a strong
ODA will be good for business. Show them how much their support can mean to
all of us.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee wants the government to
consult widely and then to develop and enact regulations over the next year
that set mandatory standards and timelines for removing and preventing
barriers in important areas of education, public transit, health care and
at retail chain establishments.
We have developed and suggested a work plan that offers specific steps the
government must take to make progress over the year.
We want to help the government make Ontario open for people with
Meeting will help establish accessibility guidelines
BY ASHFAQ HUSAIN AND CATHY VINCENT-LINDEROOS
On Oct. 7, 2002 London City Council approved nominations of 13 Londoners --
a majority of whom have disabilities -- to the new London accessibility
advisory committee. This committee is required of communities of 10,000 or
larger under the terms of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) 2001.
The primary aim of the committee is to advise and assist in promoting and
facilitating a barrier-free London for citizens of all abilities, including
people with disabilities.
The members have personal experience in advocating for people with diverse
disabilities who confront unnecessary barriers in every aspect of life.
Several on the committee have family members with disabilities. As well,
the committee will appoint 9 non-voting, resource members including one
from the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) Committee. Many support
organizations will be represented.
This committee, which will deliberate openly, will work with the city on
development and implementation of its annual accessibility plans. These
plans are also required under the ODA 2001. Names of London committee
members and terms of reference can be found by searching
www.city.london.on.ca for "accessibility advisory committee." For details
about meetings, call committee secretary Lorelei Fisher at 661 - 5417 or
e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Accessibility Directorate is an office within the provincial Ministry
of Citizenship. It has published guidelines for implementing the ODA for
municipalities and the broader public sector (BPS) organizations, such as
hospitals, universities, colleges and school boards. These guides can be
located online at www.gov.on.ca/citizenship/accessibility.
The guidelines specifically suggest the unnecessary barriers people with
disabilities experience within the various sectors be compiled. Thus, the
ODA Committee will do this at a public meeting Nov. 23 from 1:00 to 3 p.m.
at the Forest City Kiwanis Seniors' Community Centre at 78 Riverside Drive.
The facility is accessible to people using wheel-chairs and American Sign
Language will be provided.
David Lepofsky, provincial chair of the ODA Committee, will be our guest
speaker. MPPs from all three parties have been invited, as have members of
the Accessibility Council of Ontario. The public and media are invited.
Our facilitators will gather pertinent information from participants and
compile the results. The information will be sent to all local BPS
organizations with a covering letter, after the meeting.
Not only is the ODA Committee working to meet the government half way on
implementing a strong ODA, but we continue to remind the public of the
pressing need for a strong law to be implemented. The government's 13
commitments and other important documents relating to the ODA can be found
We will monitor the success the ODA 2001 has in removing barriers against
people with mental, physical and sensory disabilities. We plan to be active
in the next provincial election and encourage people to help implement a
strong ODA for the benefit of all. Please share this article.
Ashfaq (Kash) Husain (email@example.com) and Cathy Vincent-Linderoos
(firstname.lastname@example.org) are regional contacts, Ontarians with Disabilities
Act (ODA) Committee, London area.
Disabilities forum to address funding, care shortfalls -- BY KATHY LEWIS
I sincerely hope severely disabled Marlo Leatham and her family receive
much-needed home-support funding from the Conservative government without
It is unconscionable that they and so many others must play this waiting
game, try to keep a roof overhead, work to sustain public and political
awareness of their plight, and yet be forced to be on their guard to always
say the "politically correct," "proactive," just-right words, so as not to
offend the politicians upon whose mercy their family's future depends.
This is an unusually razorsharp tightrope that the victims of a
"dollars-before-humans" system are forced to walk.
Disabled or not, caregiver or support agency, as members of the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act Committee, we are committed to monitoring the success
of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 in making significant, concrete
improvements in the lives of people with diverse disabilities.
We are intent upon helping to implement what there is in the voluntary ODA
with the tools we've been given. We are meeting Saturday, Nov. 23rd at 1 pm
in London to do this and to hear from volunteer ODA Committee chair, David
Open to all members of the public, Implementing the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act, 2001 is a public forum, hosted by the ODA Committee at
the Forest City Kiwanis Seniors' Community Centre, 78 Riverside Drive. It
is American Sign Language and wheelchair accessible. In attendance will be
Conservative MPP Bob Wood and Liberal MPP Steve Peters.
Like the Victorian Order of Nurses, the ODA Committee expects the province
to live up to its commitments to us.
A chief commitment made a year ago by the Conservatives heralding the new
ODA, was that no barriers will be created against persons with
disabilities. Since then, we've seen this commitment broken several times
User fees, waiting lists, such as that currently being experienced by the
estimated 39,700 students waiting for special education services in Ontario
elementary schools, or cutbacks in psychiatric services that resulted in a
schizophrenic woman, who had commited no crime, being held in prison
because there was a shortage of psychiatric beds, are all revealing
examples. These are tragic illustrations the Leatham family is not alone in
being betrayed by this government.
KATHY LEWIS is a member of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act COMMITTEE
and a member of the municipal accessibility advisory
Disability lobby urges stronger action
BY CHANTAL CORY
Special to the Free Press
Bonnie Quesnel says she sits in her wheelchair, looks down Richmond Row and
often feels frustrated.
"One step is as good as 10 to me," said Quesnel, vice-chairperson of
London's Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) Committee. She has lobbied
for better accessibility for those who use wheelchairs.
Quesnel was among about 40 people at a meeting Saturday to discuss getting
the provincial government to strengthen and ensure implementation of the
ODA, which Queen's Park passed about a year ago.
The act aims to make Ontario barrier-free for the disabled.
Although London has made great progress in making its buildings accessible,
Quesnel says it still has a long way to go.
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Steve Peters, the Liberal disability critic,
spent 14 months studying barriers across Ontario.
He said the problem is not just Ontario's. Every city in every province has
to make major improvements to achieve a barrier-free status.
David Lepofsky, who heads an ODA lobbying committee, called on the crowd
yesterday to play "name my disability".
"You need to ask yourself if you are more barrier-free than you were eight
He urged the crowd to list and track barriers they face to make sure they
Lepofsky's group lobbied the government for eight years to get a strong and
For Sue Barnes -- not the London West MP -- barriers are not just physical,
they are the product of attitude, too.
Most people just don't see barriers until they are or a family member is
disabled, Barnes said.
"I call a restaurant and they say they are accessible," Barnes said. "Then
you go and the washrooms are downstairs. It's not like we don't go to the
A Windsor member of the provinces's newly formed ODA Committee, which
advises the government on implementation, talked about the frustration
disabled people feel when their accessibility is barred.
"We want to be a part of society's fabric, and for a long time we have been
on the outside looking in, " said Dean LaBute, who is blind.
He believes pressure will increase on the government as Baby Boomers age
and develop disabilities. Nearly two million people in Ontario are disabled
and by the year 2015 it's expected one in four Canadians will be disabled.
This anger will not be disabled
By MARK RICHARDSON -- For the London Free Press
The disabled taught me something about anger this week.
"Anyone can become angry," Aristotle said, "but to be angry with the right
person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and
in the right way -- this is not easy."
I knew that much already, of course, but like a lot of people, I have a
tendency to either blow my stack or run away and let someone else take
responsibility. Either way, the problem stays unsolved.
Yet, there is stupid angry and there is smart angry, the latter sometimes
called determination. Last Saturday David Lepofsky, chairperson of the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) committee, was guest speaker at a
public meeting designed to list unnecessary barriers faced by London's
disabled. I took the opportunity to talk tactics.
Lepofsky said the disabled are "in a very different phase" from when I
attended a similar gathering last year. In 2001, the disabled of Ontario
were still waiting for the ODA to be passed. Saturday, on the other hand,
the disabled were saying OK, we have legislation, now let's see the
government live up to its promises.
Not that the act promises much. The private sector is largely untouched by
the ODA and the public sector generally only has to compile lists of
barriers and report on progress made to remove them. Though I wouldn't
blame the disabled if they put fists through some government windows --
especially since the law took seven years to get here and was the very last
legislation passed under the Harris regime--it wouldn't be helpful.
For one thing, it would be too easy on the Eves government. They could
dismiss any violence as politically motivated and use law and order
arguments to stonewall. Besides, Lepofsky's too smart for that.
"We're not out to defeat anybody," he told me. "We're using the legislation
as a stepping stone."
Lepofsky's non-partisan group will use the next provincial election as part
of their strategy. Because aging is the biggest cause of disability, most
of Ontario's 1.9 million disabled can vote; so next time the writ is
dropped, the ODA committee will be asking the Tories if they lived up to
their promise to make Ontario barrier-free. As for the other parties, the
committee will be looking for specific commitments.
As Lepofsky says, in the old days the disabled were dealt with at election
time by a photo-op. "Mr. Politico, will you shake hands with Ms.
Wheelchair? (Click) Thank you very much." Now, the disabled community is
Lepofsky e-mailed me a 14-page document called a Barrier-Busters Action
Kit. It has sample letters to send to local representatives, tips on how to
start a municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee and a host of ideas on
how to get your municipality to comply with the ODA. It will be available
Not that Lepofsky expects others to fight for him. On Saturday, he turned
to MPP Bob Wood (PC --London West) and reminded him the disabled need the
province to create benchmarks or hundreds of Ontario towns and cities would
have to create their own. Wood said he would look into it.
Will that kind of in-your-face, but respectful, attention to detail work? I
have a hunch it will. Lepofsky just got back from Scandinavia where
Ontario's disabled community is looked to for guidance by European Union
nations preparing to meet a 2006 deadline for passing anti-discrimination
Yet, our disabled are still vulnerable. A few days before I chatted with
Lepofsky, two disabled acquaintances referred me to the famous skit in
Monty Python and the Holy Grail where poor medieval souls cry out "We're
not dead, yet!" just before they are to be tossed on a heap of corpses.
My friends said sometimes they feel they have to shout that, too. They were
good-natured about it with me, but our chuckle was bittersweet.
Sometimes, I just get angry.
Mark Richardson is a London freelance writer. His column appears
Wednesdays. Letters to the editor should be sent to email@example.com.
The barriers to those with disabilities were addressed in London this past
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee held a meeting on Saturday
which invited the public to attend and discuss provincial barriers against
David Lepofsky, chair of the ODA, said the committee was formed to create
an act that requires all barriers for the disabled to be removed from the
province and to prevent new ones from being made.
"The problems affect everyone, young and old. Everyone has a disability at
some point in their life and everybody has interests," Lepofsky said.
Lepofsky said the meeting brought people together and provided strategies
to show all individuals what they can personally do to help fight the
problem. The ODA is trying to build a province where people with
disabilities can fully participate in jobs, education and other standard
activities, he added.
Kash Hudsain, regional contact for the ODA Committee, said there was a good
turnout of about 40 to 45 people at Saturday's meeting. The ODA was
approved last year and the Committee is working on updating the act, he
added. They are also hoping to bring it up in the upcoming provincial
election and see which party offers to act on their recommendations,
Robin Armistead, the policy analyst for London's city manager George
Duncan, said the ODA applies to the public sector, noting universities must
have a plan to remove barriers for the disabled, Armistead added.
The ODA Committee has been asking the provincial government to introduce an
effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The act should cover all
disabilities, including physical, sensory, mental and invisible, Leporsky
The committee is asking that all employers and providers of goods,
facilities and services be required to make sure that all areas are fully
accessible to everyone, Lepofsky explained, adding more information about
the ODA Committee and the ODA can be found at the committee's Web site,
The physically challenged are forced to make extra efforts Canada's legislation falls behind U.S.
By Vivian Macdonald Toronto Star
The sun is up, the water is warm and you are all set to start your vacation
- but how do you get your wheelchair through the soft sand? That's one of
the problems the physically challenged face when planning their trips. It's
something that takes them lots of time and effort, but must be done to
avoid problems and ensure a good trip.
Whew! You have arrived safely at your holiday destination. The sun is
shining, the beach is lovely, the water sparkles in the sunlight. The hotel
doors are wide. The elevator works. Your room is good, with plenty of space
to move about in your wheelchair.
Everything is going according to plan - so far.
But ... you can't go to the beach because you fear your wheelchair will get
stuck in the soft sand. Not only that, you just discovered that it's a long
way to the resort's dining room - the one that has no wheelchair ramp, just
stairs. Maybe you'll soak your sorrows in the resort's lovely pool, but
alas, there is no lift to help you get into the water. You'd probably like
to take a cruise around the island, too, but the boat is off limits because
there are no wheelchair facilities aboard and, besides that, the chair is
too bulky for most of the craft's small deck. Suddenly, you find yourself
trapped in paradise.
This is what many physically challenged people find when they arrive at
vacation destinations. That's why they are encouraged to check every detail
prior to their departure. That involves weeks of making phone calls,
sending letters, checking Web sites. However, the extra work usually
results in a much happier holiday for the many people with restricted
physical abilities who love to travel the globe. And it's a number that
keeps growing each year.
According to a study released in the spring, 55 per cent of physically
challenged people make an average of four trips a year.
However, the onus is on the physically challenged to make sure all will be
right when they arrive. While a reservations agent who answers a toll-free
call may describe a hotel or resort as accessible, it's not necessarily so.
The agent may be in a different city or a different country. They may never
have seen the property. And they may have only a vague idea of what true
Global Access, the Disabled Travel Network, advises travellers to "act
assertively" to find suitable accommodation.
Talk to the manager. Be specific about what you need. Ask questions.
Questions like "how wide are the doors - all the doors - are extremely
important for those confined to a wheelchair. Example: One woman arrived at
a southern resort only to find that the main door to her hotel room was not
wide enough for her wheelchair, although the bathroom door was. She'd only
asked about the bathroom door when making her reservation.
Other important questions the physically challenged must ask: Does the
bathroom have a roll-in shower and grab bars? Shower chairs? Is there a
hand-held shower spray? Are guide dogs or service dogs allowed in the
passenger cabin of the aircraft? In the hotel? Are they allowed in the
country? What veterinary documents do you need for the dog? Is the first
floor the ground floor? In Europe, it's not.
Check and double-check.
"I've had some awful experiences and some good experiences," says Carole
Riback of Toronto.
On one cruise, after she had been told the ship was accessible, Riback
found she could not get her wheelchair up the gangplank because it had a
huge step at the bottom.
"Without checking, they lifted me out of my wheelchair and then dropped me.
I broke my back. It was horrible," she recalls. She's had bad experiences
here in Canada and in Europe, too. Hotel officials "give away the
designated accessible room - the one I've booked - to someone who doesn't
need it. I've had that happen in Montreal and Ottawa and Paris. One time I
had to find another hotel at midnight. Another time I had to wait hours to
get the room. Sometimes, I ambush the people who are in the room."
In the United States, where the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed
in 1990, there are far fewer problems.
"There was a remarkable difference - in transportation, hotels, even
roadside stops (after the legislation was passed)," says Riback. And she's
never had to beg for the accessible room that she has reserved.
But for travel here at home and in the rest of the world, "you really need
to research to death" before embarking on a journey. Even so-called
specialists can get it wrong. One Web site's villa photo gallery shows a
hoist by the pool but also a steep cobblestone driveway and a living room
decorated with scatter rugs.
Another site advertising an "accessible villa with roll-in shower" displays
a photo of the villa - with a steep outside staircase leading to the second
The detailed preparation often discourages travellers, says Toronto
consultant and occupational therapist Joan Simms. "A lot of people are
travelling successfully but a lot of people won't go to those lengths."
She describes her job as two-fold: to educate people about what to expect
when they travel; to promote the idea of accessibility in the Caribbean in
conjunction with her husband, who owns a company that offers cultural tours
of the region.
Deddy Geese of Maple Ridge, B.C. runs a travel agency that specializes in
cruises and tours for the disabled.
"This market has been totally ignored over the years - and still is.
There's a tremendous need and a lot of work needs to be done," he says.
Geese organizes one- or two-week vacations for those who need care 24 hours
a day, seven days a week. Qualified medical attendants accompany the
travellers. And now he's working on a plan to have dialysis machines
onboard cruise ships.
Simms agrees with Geese that some progress is being made, but there's much
more to be done. She and her husband hope to make a start by encouraging
island tourist boards to focus on accessibility.
That could create jobs, as well as easing life for those with limited
mobility. The disabled of the country could be consultants "doing
sensitivity training," says Simms, who worked at the Winnipeg Health
Sciences Centre - specializing in spinal cord injuries - and the Toronto
Rehabilitation Centre before embarking on her current career in 2001.
Michelle and Randy Stigleman of Florida spend four to six months planning
Randy has been a quadriplegic since the age of 17 when he was injured in a
high school football game.
He is also a keen traveller and an avid fisherman.
Before any fishing trips, however, the couple asks a lot of questions: How
hilly is the trail to the river? Is the trail paved, mulched or natural?
Are the riverbanks level? Can someone help lift him into the boat?
She teamed up with Deborah Van Brunt, whose family frequently travels with
the Stiglemans, to publish Wheechairs on the Go: Accessible Fun in Florida.
It includes information about accommodation, sports (everything from
bowling to parasailing), boating, museums, theatres, state parks and picnic
areas throughout the state.
Canada could do with a guidebook, too - and some updating of facilities.
"When we travel in Canada, it's like stepping back 20 years," says
Cathy Smart of Tourism Toronto agrees. "The U.S. has legislation; we
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act "doesn't speak to the private sector,"
"We're missing the boat. All citizens need to be treated
equally. It's not a case of doing to right thing or feeling sorry for
The Stiglemans have been to Toronto once and visited the Ontario Science
"It was easy to get around there," Michelle Stigleman says. "In the United
States, the bar has been raised so high people have a choice."
Canadians need to take note, Smart says.
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Last updated December 13, 2002