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ODA Committee Update
dated December 4, 2002
posted Dec. 14, 2002
amended Dec. 29, 2002

Toronto Star
Thursday, December 19, 2002
Page A2


Enforcement provisions not yet implemented

The provincial government has yet to set a proclamation date for Section 21
enforcement provisions in the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As a result
of the editing process, incorrect information was included in an Opinion
page article Friday about progress under the disability law.

The Star regrets the error.




December 13, 2002


To mark the first anniversary of the passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, a column by ODA Committee chair David Lepofsky was published in today's Toronto Star. It is set out below. It can serve as our year-end report.

Newspaper editorial staff sometimes do make modifications at the last
minute to the text we submit, over which we have no control. Some occurred
here and result in some regrettable inaccuracies.

For example, the published version of the article incorrectly says that the
ODA spells out accessibility requirements for government offices and other
public sector organizations. Actually, the ODA 2001 empowers the
Government to set those standards, but the Government has not done so yet.

The published version of the column also incorrectly says that the
Government proclaimed all the ODA provisions in force by last October. In
fact, two provisions remain unproclaimed. The provision requiring Ontario
Government web sites to be accessible will be proclaimed at the end of this
month. More troubling, the provision providing for any enforcement, Section
21, has not been scheduled for proclamation. The government has not said
when or if it will proclaim Section 21 in force. It has not answered our
letters asking about this, over the past several months.

Let us know your thoughts about this article. Contact us at:



Toronto Star
Page A41
Friday, December 13, 2002

Unlocking doors for the disabled
A year after Tories passed disability law, progress has been spotty at
best, by David Lepofsky

A year ago today, the provincial Tories passed their long-overdue Ontarians
with Disabilities Act (ODA). Those with physical, mental and sensory
disabilities had fought for years for a strong, effective law to achieve a
barrier-free province in which we can participate fully.

In 1995, then-premier Mike Harris promised to pass it in his first term.
Seven years later, legislators passed the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
But it was a big disappointment; the Conservatives rejected most of the
disability community's recommendations.

This issue touches everyone. There are 1.9 million people with
disabilities. Either you have a disability, or you will in future. We want
you to be able to ride public transit, shop in stores, get an education,
use our health-care system and pursue competitive employment based on your
abilities, without facing barriers.

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the final sections of which were
proclaimed into law in October, spells out accessibility requirements for
government offices and other public sector organizations such as public
transit, school boards, hospitals, colleges and universities. The law also
requires municipalities with 10,000 or more people to establish municipal
accessibility advisory committees that will develop annual accessibility

Last year the Tories made sweeping promises on what their ODA would
achieve. They promised:

The province would become barrier-free for persons with disabilities as
soon as reasonably possible - far ahead of the United States, at a pace
designated by the disability community, making Ontario Canada's most
inclusive region. Yet Americans are 12 years ahead of Ontarians thanks to
their legislation passed way back in 1990.

No new barriers would be created against persons with disabilities. The
government would bring in regulations imposing mandatory access
requirements, covering all sectors, including the private sector.

Ontario's disability community would promote reforms and play a pivotal
role in setting accessibility standards.

Government would enforce compliance with the ODA, take a leadership role
and set high standards.

Specific accessibility results would be achieved in government, the broader
public sector, municipalities and the private sector, e.g. more accessible
services and opportunities, significant improvement in community
accessibility, enhanced access to schools, hospitals and universities,
greater ease in moving around communities safely, a significantly enhanced
ability to participate in community life, greater accessibility in the
private sector, and increased retail job opportunities.

What progress has been made so far?

The Tories established a new office, the Accessibility Directorate. It is
developing tools and advice for those wanting to act.

The province is still consulting on accessibility guidelines for government
buildings. After 11 months, the government named appointees to the
Accessibility Advisory Council. It abolished a similar body in 1995, weeks
after the Tories took office.

Our coalition, leading the fight for the ODA, is still awaiting an answer
to our three letters to that council sent over the past six months. In it
we offered our help and asked when it would consult the disability

A year later, there are no regulations under the ODA setting accessibility
standards. There are no accessibility plans from the public sector bodies,
which by law still have nine months to tell us what they will do, and no
government commitment on when, or if, it will enforce provisions of the

The ODA requires many municipalities to establish accessibility advisory
committees. But it's unclear how much clout the committees will have.

This year, new barriers were erected against persons with disabilities.

For example, the government took over Ottawa's school board and eliminated
over 40 special education staff, creating a barrier to education for kids
with disabilities. Hopefully, this week's new special education funding
will remove this new barrier. Our disability education crisis is so great
that Ontario's Human Rights Commission last summer launched province-wide
hearings on the issue.

Many barriers remain that could easily have been removed this year at
little or no cost.

This year the government undertook the biggest reform to Ontario's Building
Code in decades, after consulting the disability community. But it failed
to fulfil a 1998 commitment on improving Building Code disability
accessibility standards.

Despite enormous frustrations, Ontarians with disabilities and community
organizations remain eager to offer government, the public and private
sectors their help in achieving our goal of a barrier-free Ontario.

Our coalition continues to offer expertise. We proposed a work plan to the
Ontario government, developed action kits to get everyone involved, and
urged Ontarians with disabilities to keep advocating.

We have a long way to go. Voters with disabilities will be watching for
real improvements in their lives, and will decide if we are making enough

David Lepofsky is chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a
coalition advocating for the ODA.


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