October 29, 1999
Friday, October 29, 1999: For Immediate Release
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES
MARK ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF INACTION
ON LANDMARK RESOLUTION
Friday, October 29, 1999: For 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities, today marks the one year anniversary of the Ontario Legislature's unanimous passing of a historic resolution calling on the Government to pass strong, effective legislation to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities. The October 29, 1998 resolution, introduced by Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan, called for the enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act based on 11 key principles.
In the 1995 election campaign, Mike Harris promised in writing that his Government would enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term. He also pledged that he would work together with the non-partisan Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop that law. Yet four and a half years later, and one full year after the Legislature spoke in a unified voice, there is still no Ontarians with Disabilities Act on the law books. Premier Harris has repeatedly refused to meet with the ODA Committee.
"People with disabilities were absolutely delighted last October 29 to see the Legislature unified in its support for a new law for us that will really make a difference", said David Lepofsky, Chair of the province-wide ODA Committee. Less then one month after 25 Tory MPPS had joined with the Opposition parties to pass this landmark resolution, they then introduced a toothless 3- page bill which did not require a single barrier to be removed. After province-wide condemnation of that bill, it died on the order paper 3 short weeks later.
Some hope was revived when in the Spring 1999 Throne Speech and again during the 1999 election campaign, the Government promised to hold new consultations to be followed by a new bill.
"One year later people look back on this anniversary feeling frustrated and hurt." said David Lepofsky. "In last week's Throne Speech the government made only vague commitments about consulting and hoping to have an action plan by the end of the session. To make matters worse, this week, just two days before this anniversary, the Government appeared in Question Period to be backing off its commitment to pass any legislation."
"The Government has lots of plans to spend public money on its new projects. Unfortunately for the taxpayer, without an effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act they will be spending your money to create new barriers now and then having to spend more of your money in the future to take them down," said Lepofsky. "No matter what the challenges, we remain more determined then ever to work constructively across this Province to achieve a barrier-free Ontario."
RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE OCTOBER 29, 1998
In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation; and since, all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province; and since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:
a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and
b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.
and since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise, Therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:
- The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act's requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;
- As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation-making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector- by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;
- The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.
| Index Page | Press Releases | Action Kit |