Friday, May 22, 1998 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TORONTO - Today, people with disabilities across Ontario will be visiting, phoning and faxing the offices of their local MPPs in an unprecedented, concerted effort to get the Ontario Government to act on its election promise to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act(ODA). In the 1995 election campaign, Premier Harris promised that his Government would enact this new law in his first term, and would work together with a broad-based disability coalition, the ODA Committee, to develop it. Yet the Harris Government has done nothing substantive to live up to this promise. Premier Harris has refused to meet with the coalition with whom he had pledged to work. Frustrated with the lack of progress, individuals with disabilities will synchronize their grassroots pressure today, marking the third anniversary of government inaction on the Harris pledge, to try to break the three year log-jam.

"People with disabilities continue to face enormous barriers when trying to get a job, an education, an apartment, or just a bus ride to a friend's place," said David Lepofsky, ODA Committee Co- chair. "We need a new law to tackle these barriers. That is what Mr. Harris promised. But his term is fast running out. To us, a promise made should be a promise kept."

The Harris Government's Throne Speech, revealing its agenda up to the next election, was silent on the ODA. After people with disabilities protested this strong signal of government inaction the Harris Government reacted by briefly mentioning the ODA in its subsequent budget.

However, the Government has still not launched the promised public consultation on the ODA. Moreover, when the ODA Committee came to Queen's Park last month to deliver a comprehensive brief on barriers facing persons with disabilities, the Premier sent no MPP to accept it. In contrast, Liberal and NDP MPPs attended.

"We hope that the MPPs will meet with our members in their local communities today, our official ODA ACTION DAY," said Lepofsky. "We plan to give them our brief, tell them about the human cost of the barriers we face every day, and seek their help in getting our message through to the Premier. Our goal is simple. We want an open, accessible public consultation in which all Ontarians with disabilities, as well as their friends and families will have a meaningful opportunity to participate. This should lead to a strong and effective new law. The Legislature must learn directly from people with disabilities what must be done so that Ontario can be open not only for business, but for people with disabilities as well."