Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee

ODA Committee HomepageFactsheet; the Ontarians with Disabilities Act CommitteeWhat's New on the ODA Committee websiteCorrespondence between the ODA Committee and the Ontario GovernmentODA Committee Press ReleasesHansard from the Ontario Legislature re: ODAODA Committee Action Kits and TipsContact the ODA CommitteeOrganizational Members of the ODA
Who are we?Major ODA DocumentsODA News BriefsODA HandoutODA PamphletODA PostersRegional ODA EventsFree Membership form to Join the ODA Committee

Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA


ODA Update
December 11, 2000



There's so much action happening on the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act issue all over Ontario. This update gives you
just a sampling. There's a lot of background material set out
after this summary of five major developments, for those who want
to explore the details about these events.

1. A deeply troubling news story ran recently in the Kitchener
Waterloo Record. Some residents were reported to be demanding
that a group home for persons with disabilities be relocated,
because the residents do not want to have to look at these people
with disabilities. The Kitchener Waterloo Record then ran a
report on the objections to this terrible reaction to persons
with disabilities which have emerged, as well as letters to the

In the Friday December 8, 2000 paper, Citizenship Minister Helen
Johns was reported to have gotten involved in this story. Her
message was that "public education" is needed to end
misconceptions about people with disabilities and their right to
live in the community. She said she believes that the events in
Kitchener are an "isolated incident" and that she needs to do
more in public education.

The report also states: "Johns went on to say that all levels of
government should be doing more to reduce the societal barriers
the disabled face, and said the province is planning more
legislation to that effect.

"All three levels of government can do more to stop the barriers.
We are concerned," Johns said.

Later, in an interview, Johns said it was heart-warming to know
many people in Kitchener-Waterloo who have lived next door to
group homes for the disabled for years, have not found it a
problem and have shown pride in their good neighbours.

She did not elaborate on what action her government might take to
improve things, but indicated it would "come up with initiatives"
to set up community partnerships for public education programs.

When it comes to reducing barriers for the disabled, Johns said
she will be working with Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer, who is
also Kitchener-Waterloo MPP, and Education Minister Janet Ecker."

These articles are set out below. We encourage you to write a
letter to the editor at the Kitchener Waterloo Record to respond
to this issue. They should be no longer than 200 words and should
include your full name, address, and phone number for
verification by the paper. They can be sent to:

You might want to consider reacting to Minister Johns' emphasis
on "public education" as the key to such barriers to full
participation, rather than emphasizing amandatory, strong
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. While there is always a role for
public education, the ODA Committee has advocated that what we
need to do is to change conduct via strong, mandatory
legislation. Then, when this legislation is in place, this law
together with public education about it, will work together to
change attitudes. We have tried public education for years. It
has not solved our problems in this area. You might also wish to
address the Minister's view that these events were isolated

2. We have received word that last week, Citizenship Minister
Helen Johns and her Parliamentary Assistant Brenda Elliott
held a
meeting on disability issues with the City of Guelph's Barrier
Free Committee. We understand that this meeting was not open to
the public, and that the public was not invited to participate.

This event is further indication that our advocacy over the past
weeks is leading the Government of Ontario to take some steps
towards talking to people about these issues. Unfortunately,
however, they continue to refuse to do it in a public, open way.
We need to keep up the advocacy everywhere so that they both open
up the process and start focusing on the need for mandatory,
strong legislation.

3. ODA Commitee York Regional Contact Ivy Henriksen recently sent
an excellent letter to Conservative MPP Frank Klees, suggesting
how an MPP like him could make sure that meetings or
consultations on disabilities issues like the ODA could be
properly publicized so that persons with disabilities could fully
participate in them. See below.

4. ODA Committee Thunder Bay/Northwestern Ontario Regional
Contact Marilyn Warf
reported on activity in her part of the
province, especially in reaching out to persons who are deaf,
deafened, and hard of hearing. See her memo below.

5. The Toronto ODA Committee Barrier Wall was on display for
several months at the Toronto Reference Library, right in the
heart of downtown Toronto. An opportunity was left for people to
leave us messages. Messages we received are set out below. they
show how effective is the barrier wall at getting out the message
about our issue.


Kitchener Waterloo Record
Disabled adults told they're not welcome
Monday December 4, 2000
Jeff Outhit

Some residents of an upscale Kitchener subdivision want a group
home relocated so they don't have to look at severely disabled

"To be honest with you and be blunt with you, I'm going to have
to look at them. I'm going to feel sorry for them," said Goran

That's not the view he wants from the $115,000 lot he bought in
Lackner Woods for his dream home.

"I have a problem with a group home in a $300,000-plus
neighbourhood," he said.

The charitable agency building the group home agrees the disabled
residents will be a sad sight, but says the home will improve
their "limited" quality of life.

"You feel sorry for the young people that live there," said
Shaune Lawton, executive director of the Sunbeam Residential
Development Centre.

"But I don't understand how that impacts on somebody's dream
home, or dream life."

The $400,000 group home has city hall's blessing to open by April
at 26 Breckwood Place.

The four-bedroom bungalow will house six handicapped adults, aged
24 to 39 but with childlike mental abilities. Four use

They're being moved from a Kingsway Drive institution.

Neighbour Arlene Metz figures the sights and sounds of the
handicapped will spook children and keep families from their

"A lot of people in the area have young children who I know will
be traumatized," she said.

She hopes neighbours can buy out the group home.

"Whose rights are paramount? The rights of these six individuals,
or the rights of all the people of the neighbourhood to feel safe
within the neighbourhood and to have the full enjoyment of their
own yard?"

Startled neighbours were not told about the group home until last
month when the foundation was installed. They feel sandbagged.

"It's supposed to be family homes," said Franka Tomac, who lives
next door. "It's going to be six mentally ill people... I was

Residents of the home will require constant care with 24-hour
staffing. But they have no mental illnesses or behavioural
problems and pose no safety risk, Lawton said.

"We're far less intrusive than a family who might move into any
neighbourhood with teenagers with motorcycles, with lawn swings,
with swimming pools in backyards," he said.

Coun. Berry Vrbanovic supports the group home in his ward but
figures more advance dialogue with neighbours would help.

"Group homes are permitted throughout the city. They can be built
in any neighbourhood. That's something the consumer should be
aware of," he said.

The government-funded Sunbeam agency is building its ninth and
10th group homes in subdivisions. It's part of an effort to take
the handicapped out of institutions and put them in
neighbourhoods where it's thought they'll fare better.

Large, upscale lots are often targeted for group homes because
there has to be enough space for a 2,800 square-foot bungalow,
Lawton said.

Sunbeam's other new home will be built on Janet Court.


Kitchener-Waterloo Record
2000 - 225 Fairway Road South
Kitchener, Ontario
N2G 4E5


Kitchener Waterloo Record

Ashamed of her neighbours Mother of disabled woman shocked at group-home outcry
Wednesday December 6, 2000
Carol Goodwin

KITCHENER -- Shaking with emotion, Sandy Bailey is wordless for a
moment as she holds her 24-year-old daughter, Deborah, who has
cerebral palsy.

Bailey, a longtime resident in Kitchener's Lackner Woods, is
ashamed that some of her neighbours have expressed hostility and
opposition to a group home for disabled adults in the

Deborah, whose sudden, brilliant smile can light up a room, is
momentarily sombre as she remembers those neighbours' comments,
which her mother read to her.

"They are talking about us, mom," Deborah said. "It makes me mad,
and sad."

Sandy unleashes some of her anger, the words spilling out as she
recounts her reaction to a news story quoting some neighbours of
a new Lackner Woods subdivision. They said their children would
be "traumatized" by the sight of disabled people on their street,
living in a group home being built by the Sunbeam Residential
Development Centre.

"I was appalled. Years ago, when you had a child who was not
'normal,' parents didn't know what to do. There were no supports.
Now there are programs -- and we want our kids out in their own
communities. They are entitled to live a life of their own. They
are human beings first," Sandy said.

As for children being traumatized at the sight of disabled
people, perhaps those "ignorant" neighbours should learn
something from children themselves, she said.

When Deborah first went to school in 1985, it was to Wilson
Public. After the teacher explained that their new classmates
were a little bit different, and used special equipment like a
wheelchair, all one child asked was "Can we play with them?"

Many years and several schools later (Deborah attended those
offering programs to suit her), the young woman knows, and is
known by, "thousands of kids," her mother said -- to which
Deborah responds with a delighted laugh.

"What we have struggled with for 24 years is our business; we
don't ask for sympathy. We don't ask you to be her friend. Just
don't be rude to her, just accept her."

Sandy includes all people with disabilities in that statement,
and says she pities the narrow-mindedness of people who see the
disabled as a liability rather than an asset.

"There is not another 24-year-old that can bring as much love as
this kid radiates into our household. They don't judge, they have
no expectations, and are the most forgiving of individuals. They
ask for so little, and see joy where we don't. Deb has made us a
kinder, gentler family."

And when she goes around the block on her "mobie" -- a motorized
scooter -- all the neighbours and their children greet her, and
she greets them, Sandy said, as Deborah nodded vigorously in

>From agency officials to other people with disabilities, the
reaction to the Lackner Woods group home story has been the same.
Many can't understand that such views, perhaps prevalent 20 or 30
years ago, are still around.

Jerome Hawco, 33, has osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bones.
He uses a wheelchair all the time, but now lives independently,
with some home care, in a co-op townhouse in Cambridge. He said
he and some other disabled Cambridge residents were thinking of
moving to Kitchener, where there are more services. But not now.

"I want nothing to do with Kitchener. I am disgusted at a group
that's living in the Dark Ages. It's scary."

Paula Saunders is a program co-ordinator for the Independent
Living Centre of Waterloo Region, and is disabled. She said
yesterday that she received numerous calls about the group home
reaction from people living in the Shamrock co-op in Waterloo, a
complex that includes units for people with and without

"They can't understand the hostility. The people without
disabilities say their disabled neighbours have helped broaden
their perspective. I am shocked that in this day and age, people
would even think like this," Saunders said.

But the Lackner Woods residents whose comments were among those
to cause the "not in my back yard" furor have some support.

Yvonne Fernandes has lived for 11 years on Kilbirnie Court in
Kitchener's Brigadoon area. There is one group home for
developmentally challenged adults on her crescent, run by
Christian Horizons, and two homes a street away, on Kilkerran
Crescent, run by K-W Habilitation Services.

"I feel sympathy for the Lackner Woods residents. I understand
their concerns. Those were our concerns, too."

While Fernandes does not expect signs to be put up warning
potential buyers that there's a group home on their street, "they
should be made aware of it," Fernandes said yesterday.

Some are concerned because the group home residents are not
always supervised when they are outside. But the main problem is
traffic congestion, she said.

"We all have double-car garages and driveways with space enough
for three vehicles. The (group homes) have the same, but often
have up to six cars going in and out."

Due to heavy reader response to the Lackner Woods group-home
issue, The Record will publish a full page of letters to the
editor in tomorrow's edition.


Kitchener Waterloo Record
Life enriched by disabled, minister says
Friday December 8, 2000
Carol Goodwin

Public education is needed to end misconceptions about disabled
people and their right to live in their own communities,
Ontario's minister of citizenship, culture and recreation said
yesterday in Waterloo.

Helen Johns, whose department is responsible for people with
disabilities, was commenting on the "not in my back yard" issue
that has erupted in a Kitchener subdivision.

Some residents of upscale Lackner Woods have expressed their
distaste for, and opposition to, a group home for disabled adults
being built in their neighbourhood by the Sunbeam Residential
Development Centre.

Their suggestion that they may buy out the group home, and their
comments suggesting that children could be "traumatized" by the
sight of disabled neighbours have drawn widespread public


Johns was in Waterloo visiting the Rotary Children's Centre,
which provides programs for 3,500 Waterloo Region children who
have communication, physical or developmental disabilities.

"While I believe this (Lackner Woods) issue is an isolated
incident -- because most of us believe otherwise -- clearly I
need to do more in public education," the minister told

"More public education is needed so that people can realize the
wonderful opportunity the disabled give us," Johns said.

"Once people understand and know their neighbours, they feel
enriched and understand the benefits these (disabled) residents
can bring, that it's good for the disabled to be integrated in
the community," she said.


Johns went on to say that all levels of government should be
doing more to reduce the societal barriers the disabled face, and
said the province is planning more legislation to that effect.

"All three levels of government can do more to stop the barriers.
We are concerned," Johns said.

Later, in an interview, Johns said it was heart-warming to know
that many people in Kitchener-Waterloo who have lived next door
to group homes for the disabled for years, have not found it a
problem and have shown pride in their good neighbours.

She did not elaborate on what action her government might take to
improve things, but indicated it would "come up with initiatives"
to set up community partnerships for public education programs.

When it comes to reducing barriers for the disabled, Johns said
she will be working with Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer, who is
also Kitchener-Waterloo MPP, and Education Minister Janet Ecker.

Johns took a personal interest in the Rotary Centre's young
clients, many of whom use customized miniature wheelchairs,
walkers, tilt wheelchairs and battery-powered devices tailored to
their needs. She chatted to some tiny students in a therapy
group, and laughed at the infectious charm of two-year-old Micah
Roth, a Down syndrome child receiving therapy to strengthen his

The minister appeared concerned when occupational therapist
Johanne Hand told her that young clients often wait months for
their equipment. That's because many families can't afford to pay
their share. The cost of a wheelchair can range from $3,000 to
$20,000 depending on how they are equipped, with the families
usually required to pay up to 40 per cent of the cost.

However, the government's Assisted Devices program must be given
details of the family's financial status to determine how much
subsidy they are entitled to, Hand explained.

"It sometimes takes three months to get a response from
government," she told the minister.

If the families still don't have the money for their reduced
share, and don't have extended health insurance, the centre turns
to charities like the Easter Seals or local service clubs, Hand



Kitchener Waterloo Record
Disabled can teach us much
Thursday December 7, 2000
Lorna Boratto

I read the Dec. 4 story, Disabled Adults Told They're Not
Welcome, with sadness of the ignorance and prejudice of those who
do not want people with disabilities visible in their precious
neighbourhoods. It is particularly loathsome for them to suggest
that their children might be traumatized by living near a group
home. The children face a far greater risk of being damaged
through the mean-spirited behaviour exhibited by their parents.

Bearing children brings with it the risk of having a child with
developmental disabilities. As many families and Jean Vanier in
his L'Arche communities have discovered, those with disabilities
can often teach much about love and acceptance. It is a lesson
that desperately needs to be learned by some. We need to remember
as a responsible society that each child, each citizen, young or
old, each as capable as he or she can be, is our own.

To think that wealth can shelter a family from viewing the
vagaries of life is the utmost in foolishness. Each one of us is
only a stroke or a car collision away from needing similar care.
It is my hope that those who would shunt the different away do
not find themselves facing such dismissal.

Lorna Boratto


Adults will be a family
Thursday December 7, 2000
Stephanie Ferraro

I am shocked and embarrassed to be living in a "community" where
neighbours are horrified to be living next to a group home for
disabled adults.

Did we just regress into the dark ages, where people who were
different from others were hidden away from the rest of the

These people are not dangerous; they are mentally disabled.

What astonishes me is people are openly discriminating against
others. If these six individuals were different in terms of
religion, race or sexual orientation, it would not be tolerated.

For most of these adults, this is the first time they will be
living in a home, not an institution. They will experience life
as part of a community, as part of a family. They will feel a
sense of freedom they have never had the chance to enjoy.

Of course, neighbours will still argue they cannot enjoy their
yards, and that their new neighbours will "spook" the children.
However, I believe they are afraid. Perhaps they are afraid of
their own reactions, not their children's.

Stephanie Ferraro



MPP Frank Klees
650 Hwy 7 East
Suite 210
Richmond Hill, ON
L4B 1B2

Dear Mr. Klees,

I would like to acknowledge and thank you for your time on
December 1st, 2000. It was encouraging to discover that you are
interested in learning about the issues facing Ontarians with

Our team at Career Solutions, appreciated having the opportunity
to meet and discuss issues with you on what we see, affecting
people with disabilities in York Region. The issues we presented
to you expand further than the York Region borders and
unfortunately seem to be the 'norm' for individuals living in

Among our concerns and suggestions discussed in your office, we
would also like to recommend and encourage a strong, effective
and mandatory Ontarians with DisABILITIES Act as soon as
possible. Only a strong and effective act will foster full
inclusion and full citizenship for people with disabilities.

We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that your
office only advertised briefly the opportunity to meet with you
and this did not allow enough time for people to schedule
accessible transportation. It should also be noted people living
in other areas of York Region (outside of the Liberal paper
circulation) did not know about the meeting, as well as people
who can not access print material due to visual or neurological
disabilities. It is important that you are able to access
information and issues from a cross-section of the community so
that all constituents are represented.

We would appreciate and invite additional opportunities to meet
with you further. The arrangement of another opportunity with
ample advance notification to the community would be desirable.
Again thank you for your time and interest and we look forward to
corresponding with you further.

Yours in Advocacy,

Ivy Henriksen
Job Developer & disABILITY Advocate
Career Solutions


MEMO To: David Lepofsky
From: Marilyn Warf, Regional Director
Date: December 6, 2000

As part of our focus for the ODA blitz week, P.U.S.H. Northwest
was pleased to present an information session to persons who are
Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing to review developments
regarding the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Individuals representing these consumer groups had participated
in the consultation with Derwyn Shea and again in the Steve
Peters consultation. There had been limited activity except for
these consultations. Therefore, we are really pleased to let you
know that there are plans for greater involvement and activity by
these consumers through the Access 2000 Committee.

This Committee has committed to write formal overviews of their
personal barriers to illustrate the need for an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. They will focus on issues that are critical in
their lives regarding accommodation - particularly access to
American Sign Language interpreter services. They will relate the
difficulty of having ASL services provided as directed by the
Supreme Court ruling in the Eldrige Case. Without a strong and
effective ODA, the result of this directive will not become the
reality of service provision. There will also be increased
consultation with the grass roots individuals by participants
involved in this information meeting.

The ODA Committee must be thanked and acknowledged for their
excellent and continuous level of communication. The consumers
from all across Canada have an opportunity to be a part of this
most worthwhile endeavour. But, it is only possible because all
of you take the interest, time and energy to ensure that all
Ontarians can be a participant. Keep up the good work!


Here are comments which people left after viewing in the Toronto
Reference Library:

Barrier Wall Comments /Aug-Oct 2000

Congratulations on putting the issue in the public's face in such
a creative and couragous way!

Finally people with disabilities are being seen as humans!!

Good work! I love this idea. The display is very touching. Very
good idea. Direct, touching and well presented. Great!

An excellent exhibit.

Thank you!!! (on behalf of some very dear friends of mine).

As a volunteer of the N.Y.W.C., thanks for opening my eyes to the
bricks you're laying for me and others I know.

It's good to hear and see all of your messages. I hope someone
can do some of the easy things that need to be changed with or
for you soon!

What a brilliant idea! I've learned so much from "Barrier Wall."

Congratulations! What a wonderful way and idea to show some of
the barriers people with disabilities face.

Keep up the efforts. It is needed to overcome the educational
barriers and irritations from others.

Yes, yes, yes!!! Your wall is wonderful!! Few people think about
"getting around" Toronto if you are disabled in any way. We need

Excellent method of educating the public and putting a human face
on a very real issue.

I never knew that people in wheelchairs had it that hard!! Great
idea for the wall.

Keep it up! Wall is looking great!

I'm able bodied but every time (okay, not every time, but often)
I'm in places like subway stations or GO Transit stations I
wonder how someone in a wheelchair is supposed to travel. And
what's with the wheelchair accessible restaurants that have no
accessible restrooms? I hope your project will have a positive
impact; i.e. more ramps, elevators, etc. Thanks for doing this! I

Very interesting and touching idea to increase awareness for
disabled. NICE JOB!

You always and only think of visible or physical disabilities----
try including mental/emotional disorders for a change.

After reading the Barrier Wall I gladly support this. As a person
with a hearing and physical disability I know what it's like
about barriers. Despite all that the government had done to
improve accessibility it hasn't been thought out properly and
more work has to be done.

I like it. Get more things for kids!

My friend told me about the wall, so I came to see it. Good job!
I especially enjoyed hearing the thoughts of the children about
the barriers they face.



Index Page   |  Action Kits & Tips  | 

Website maintained by Barbara Anello

Please email your feedback on the website.

Last updated December 15, 2000

Web Design Courtesy of Barbara Anello 
of AWS: Anello Web Services 
URL: http://welcome.to/aws