AODA Alliance

AODA Alliance

September 07, 2007 13:46 ET

AODA Alliance: Disability Advocates Challenge Party Leaders to Live Up to New Lieutenant Governor's Inspiring Call to Make Ontario Fully Accessible to 1.5 Million Ontarians With Disabilities

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 7, 2007) - At Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony, new Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley challenged everyone to make Ontario fully accessible for 1.5 million people with disabilities. What commitments will Ontario's parties make to meet this challenge?

To press this issue, a well-known non-partisan disability coalition held a news conference at Queen's Park today to unveil its grassroots election strategy.

"Two years ago, following more than a decade of our intense advocacy, all three political parties unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to make Ontario fully accessible for over 1.5 million people with disabilities," said Dr. Doreen Winkler, acting chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, a coalition united to advocate for disability accessibility. "In this election campaign, we'll be out across Ontario pressing the three parties on what they'll do to make our dream of a barrier-free Ontario a reality."

"The McGuinty Government gave us a good Disabilities Act in 2005, but then seriously back-tracked on putting it into action," said David Lepofsky, AODA Alliance member who led the 10-year campaign for the AODA. "I recently won a major human rights case forcing TTC to announce all bus stops within 30 days, so blind people like me can effectively use public transit. In cruel contrast to the 30 days the TTC were given to comply, the government's proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard under the Disabilities Act lets transit authorities in all other cities wait another 18 years before providing the same simple accommodation. McGuinty's failure to effectively implement the Disabilities Act forces us to have to file separate human rights complaints across Ontario. Making things even more difficult, McGuinty's Bill 107 strips away our right to have the Human Rights Commission publicly investigate discrimination cases, and to publicly prosecute them where there's enough proof."

The coalition has asked the parties to commit to revamping the Disability Act's implementation to make it strong, effective, and not lopsided against the disability community. It also urges the parties to commit to undo Bill 107's privatization of human rights enforcement, and to introduce new reforms to strengthen public enforcement of human rights through a fortified, not weakened, Human Rights Commission. Their letter to all party leaders is at:

www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08262007-OntarioParties-ElectionCommitments-DisabilityAccessibility.asp.

"Our supporters around Ontario are poised to speak out on talk radio and at All-Candidates' Debates, and to bring our message to voters at the grassroots," said Winkler. "We have a solid track-record of raising disability issues, riding by riding in the past three Ontario elections and many by-elections in between.

"With the real prospect of a minority government and many close local races, every vote counts," said Lepofsky. "No party can afford to alienate us."

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