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ODA Committee Update
dated March 28, 2003


ODA Commitee Calls On Three Party Leaders To Ensure a Barrier-Free Election Campaign

March 28, 2003


As our second step in our barrier-busters activity in the upcoming election campaign, the ODA Committee has written to Premier Eves, Liberal Leader McGuinty and NDP Leader Hampton, asking them to ensure that the election campaign is barrier free. We offer our help and suggest actions that the three party leaders and their parties and candidates can take. See letter below.


On March 26, 2003, the ODA Committee kicked off its Election 2003 activities by writing to Ontario's Chief Elections Officer John Hollins to call for a barrier-free election. He has authority over the process of the actual voting. He does not have authority over certain other aspects of the election campaign, e.g. all- candidates' debates, election leaflets, etc.

Accordingly, to address the barriers which persons with disabilities can face in other aspects of the campaign, we have written to the three party leaders to ask for their help and leadership. We make practical suggestions on steps they can take and offer our help.

We also note in our letter to the party leaders that during the Fall 2001 debate over the Conservative Government's ODA bill we had proposed amendments to the ODA to beef up its provisions regarding barriers in elections. We commend the Liberals and the NDP for putting forward an amendment to the Conservatives' ODA bill based on our recommendations. We regret that the Conservative Party used its majority to defeat that proposed amendment. It also used its majority to prevent any debate on the proposed amendment. It gave no reason for its opposition to our recommendations. We ask the three party leaders to support our recommendations now, even though they were defeated by the Conservatives in December of 2001.

We welcome your feedback on the letter to the party leaders. Write
to us at:


c/o Marg Thomas
1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Tel: (Voice direct) 416-480-7686
Fax: 416-480-7014
Voice mail: 416-480-7012
email: oda@odacommittee.net
TTY: c/o Susan Main 416 964-0023 ex. 343
Web site: www.odacommittee.net

March 27, 2003

Premier Ernie Eves
Legislative Building, Room 281
Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Leader of the Official Opposition,
Room 325, Main Building
Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A4

Howard Hampton
Leader of the New Democratic Party,
2nd Floor
Legislative Building, North Wing
Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Dear Sirs,

Re: Ensuring A Barrier-Free Provincial Election Campaign

I write on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
We are a voluntary, non-partisan, province-wide coalition of
individuals and community organizations. For more than eight years
we have led the charge to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for 1.9
million Ontarians with disabilities through the enactment and
effective implementation of a strong and effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. Our mission is far from completed.

A provincial election is widely expected to be called as early as
this spring. We want to ensure that this provincial election is a
barrier-free one, in which all voters with disabilities can fully
participate. We are writing to ask each of you and your parties and
candidates to take all possible steps within your mandate to ensure
that the entire election campaign process will be barrier-free for
all voters with disabilities, be their disability a physical,
mental and/or sensory one. We also want to offer you our help in
this important activity.

Our goal is a barrier-free election campaign culminating in a
barrier-free vote on election day in which all voters with
disabilities can have their democratic say in the choice of the
next government. When the current Ontario Government brought
forward its new Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 in the fall of
2001, it committed, among other things, that no new barriers would
be created in Ontario against persons with disabilities. We hope
and trust that all would agree that there is no reason why voters
with disabilities should face any barriers in the upcoming
provincial election campaign and vote. All we need is effective
advanced planning.

We have recently written to the Chief Election Officer requesting
him to take all the steps he can within his jurisdiction to ensure
that there are no barriers impeding voters with disabilities in the
actual voting process. In our March 26, 2003 letter to him, which
we copied to each of you, we provided detailed feedback on the
kinds of barriers which voters with disabilities have faced in past
elections. We also suggested strategies for preventing these
barriers in the future.

We ask each of you to write to the Chief Election Officer to
support our requests for action set out in our March 26, 2003
letter to him. As you know, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
2001, which the Government passed over 15 months ago, only requires
that within three months after the election, every returning
officer for an electoral district must prepare a report on the
measures that the officer has taken to provide accessibility for
electors with disabilities in the district and that these reports
be made public. The Act does not say what actual steps these
election officials must take to achieve a barrier-free election. As
well, the Government has not passed any regulations under the ODA
2001 to spell out specific steps that must be taken to ensure a
barrier-free election.

When the current Government's ODA bill was before a Standing
Committee of the Legislature in the fall of 2001 for clause-by-
clause debate, both the Liberals and the NDP each proposed an
amendment to the ODA which we had recommended. Specifically they
proposed that the ODA add the following new obligations to the
Elections Act:

"Accessibility" obligations

(0.1) Despite anything in section 34, all ballots shall be in a
form that enables electors with disabilities, wherever possible, to
mark the ballots by themselves and in private.

Polling places

(0.2) Despite anything in section 13, the returning officer shall
ensure that no polling place is located so that it is not
accessible to electors with disabilities unless satisfied that is
impossible to locate the polling place in the polling division
within eight kilometres of the location that the returning officer
would have chosen, if it were not for this subsection.


(0.3) Every returning officer for an electoral district shall
ensure that all polling places in the electoral district provide
American Sign language interpretation or other similar
accommodation where needed for electors who are deaf, deafened or
hard of hearing, to enable them to vote at no charge to the voter
who requires such accommodation."

We regret that the Conservative Party used its majority on that
Standing Committee to both defeat this amendment and to prevent any
debate or discussion about it in that Standing Committee. (See
Hansard, Standing Committee on Finance, December 11, 2001.) The
Government gave no reasons for opposing our proposal. We ask you
nevertheless to encourage the Chief Election Officer to take
measures such as these now, in addition to those spelled out in our
March 26, 2003 letter to the Chief Elections Officer.

In addition, the Chief Election Officer does not have a mandate to
address many kinds of barriers in the election campaign process,
particularly those barriers that pertain to the election campaign
that are not tied to the actual voting process. We therefore are
turning to you, as the leaders of the three main parties which will
be participating in the forthcoming election campaign, for your
help. We ask you and each of your parties and your individual
candidates, to do what you can individually and working together to
ensure a fully barrier-free campaign and election.

We have received feedback from voters with disabilities that as
recently as in the last general provincial election in 1999, and
even in provincial by-elections since then, they encountered too
many barriers in getting access to such things as all-candidates'
debates and party election campaign materials. You, your party
organizations and your individual candidates are in a unique
position to help make this a barrier-free election campaign by
taking a number of steps. We offer the following as just some

- ensuring that your campaign written material is available, on
request, in alternative formats, such as Braille and large type,
for those who cannot read conventional printed materials, and
making sure that all of your campaign offices are aware that this
material is available. The public should be made aware of the
availability of this alternative format material.

- ensuring that voters who are deaf, deafened and hard of hearing
can communicate with you, your local candidates and your campaign
offices e.g. by installing TTY devices at your campaign offices.

- ensuring that all of your campaign meetings and events are in
accessible location. This means not only that there are no stairs,
but that there are accessible washrooms and parking located nearby.

- providing accommodation for people who are deaf and hard of
hearing at your campaign events. This could include real-time
captioning and sign language interpreters.

- only agreeing to have your candidates appear at all-candidates'
debates that are held in a location which is fully accessible to
persons with disabilities, and ensuring that accommodations are
provided for voters with disabilities at these events e.g. through
the provision where needed of sign language interpreters and

- campaign ads and television appearances should be close-captioned
while printed information appearing on the screen should be read
aloud for the benefit of those who cannot read print e.g. persons
who are blind, vision impaired or dyslexic.

- offering accessible transportation assistance to voters with
disabilities who need such assistance to get to the polling
stations and major campaign events such as all-candidates' debates.

- having your campaign offices publicly offer to do everything
possible to reasonably accommodate other requests that may be made
by people with disabilities.

- ensuring that your campaign websites are designed to be fully
accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities e.g. ensuring
that the information on those websites is available in a format
that can be read by adaptive technology used by blind, vision
impaired and dyslexic computer-users.

We would be pleased to do whatever we can to assist in ensuring
that this is a barrier-free election. There is no reason why in the
year 2003 voters with disabilities should not be full and equal
participants in this important democratic process.

Yours truly,

David Lepofsky, C.M.
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee

cc: The Hon. Carl DeFaria 326-9338
Chris Stockwell 325-7755
Dwight Duncan 325-2201
Steve Peters 325-7262
Ernie Parsons 325-4757
Peter Kormos 325-7067
Marilyn Churley 325-3252
Tony Martin 325-3720
Nadia Temple, Director, Accessibility Directorate
Jeff Adams, Chair, Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario


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Last updated March 29, 2003