Disabled send message to Harris
Need help to solve lack of accessibility,
inadequate services and ignorance
The ODA Consultation
March 6, 2000
by Arne Hakala, THE NUGGET
opens a discussion on
face in Ontario
at the North Bay
and Area Disabled
Adult and Youth Centre
Photo by Paul Chivers
Loud and clear is what an Ontario Liberal Party task force wanted and loud and clear is what they got from North Bay's disabled community.
For more than two hours Monday night, everyone from the deaf to those confined to wheelchairs vented their anger against Premier Mike Harris's government.
"We decided to start our tour of 15 Ontario cities in the premier's hometown so the message is loud and clear," said Liberal MPP Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London) who is leading the tour.
With him Monday was David Ramsay, the Liberal MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane.
The Harris government has made promises since it was first elected in 1995 but nothing has happened in the formation of an act to guard the lives of the disabled, Peters said.
Roberta Livingstone, a North Bay member of the DisAbled Women's Network, one of the first to speak, said conditions are not right when "everything the Ontario government does is shrouded in secrecy."
Like most of the 15 people who spoke at the North Bay and Area Disabled Adult and Youth Centre on Main Street East, Livingstone said accessibility was the main problem.
"The farther north you get, the worse it gets," she said, complaining about service on buses and trains.
Several people, including Peters, said a disabled person in a wheelchair could not get into Premier Harris' constituency office at 347 Fraser St. because of a step. They said you either had to call ahead or knock on the door so a ramp could be installed.
Litany of problems
Two North Bay hearing-impaired engineering graduates, Bonnie Stewart of Carleton University in Ottawa and Dale Smith of the University of Western Ontario in London, expressed a litany of problems they had to face to get an education.
Smith, who graduated in 1989, said he has struggled with workplace barriers, especially in communication.
He also was critical of Ontario government television commercials which did not have closed captioning.
Stewart said when she first entered university she was told she was wasting her efforts, that she would never be successful and would flunk out.
"I graduated at the top of my class," she said.
One of her greatest problems was the telephone because she could not speak normally.
"At times, it was very frustrating, humiliating because people would yell at me and others would hang up," she said. "People need more knowledge about the disabled, not more ignorance."
She and others said most buildings did not have the type of fire alarms which could alert the hearing impaired.
The alarms went off once at Ottawa Hydro where she was working and everyone evacuated but her because she didn't know about it, Stewart said.
George Livingstone, president of the centre, said the public should be better informed of the problems of being disabled because one never knows when it can happen.
A lady who asked that her name not be used, said she suffers from rheumatism, "a disease of 101 faces."
"Many diseases, like rheumatism, are hidden," she said. "We don't have a rheumatologist in North Bay and the nearest ones are in Toronto, Sudbury or Ottawa.
"Sometimes we have to go to one of those cities for a 15-minute diagnosis or treatment. Is that fair?"
The problems with disabilities will get worse before they get better because the population is aging, she said.
Another lady said she had to drive all the way to Toronto to have a surgical procedure for her 17-year-old daughter.
"It took five minutes," she said.
The meeting, attended by more than 50 people, included the Liberal task force's inclusion of two American Sign Language interpreters, Karla Shepherd of Sudbury and Kym Clark of Kingston.
North Bay does not have an interpreter.
Michelle Bourgeois, of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee, said she graduated from Nipissing University in June but there were many difficulties, especially the fact that there was no interpreter to assist her.
She wanted to attend a teacher's college and discovered that only three universities in the province have an interpreter.
Another deaf person, Mark Shier, moved to North Bay three years ago because his mother works here.
"I want to focus on being a deaf teacher because there are not enough deaf adults working with deaf kids," Shier said. "I don't know if that's going to be possible because there is no interpreter. It's impossible for anyone to meet my needs."
Top of Page
| Index Page |
| Liberal Consulation Tour; Dates & Venues |
| Press Release re: McGuinty & Peters Launch Consultation on Disability Barriers |
| Liberal Party Announces It Will Hold an Open, Public Consultation on the ODA |
| Written Submission Form for ODA Consulations |
| February 2000 Newsletter of the ODA Committee |
| ODA Consultation Action Tip |
| Summary of the Oda Committee's Proposals for the Contents of the ODA |
| Letter from Steve Peters to Premier Harris |
| Letter from Steve Peters to Hon. Helen Johns |
| Letter from Steve Peters to Howard Hampton |
| Press Release re: ODA Consultation Tour Launched in North Bay |