TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 3, 2012) - December 3 marks the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities. According to the UN, persons with disabilities make up 15 percent of the world's population and a quarter of the global population is estimated to be directly affected by disability, as care-givers or family members. The theme for 2012 is focused on removing the barriers to an inclusive and accessible society for all.
In Ontario, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers and challenges that prevent them from fully contributing to their society and economy. According to the 2010-2011 Annual Report of the Canada-Ontario Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities:
"A disproportionately high number of people with disabilities in Ontario, as in the rest of the country, have no employment earnings. In 2009, 63% of people with disabilities in Ontario reported employment earnings, compared to 85% of people without disabilities. For those who do work, average earners are lower among people with disabilities as compared to the rest of the population."
"Thousands of injured and ill workers who became disabled because of their work are seeking to return to the paid labour market and are confronted by constant reductions in the benefits and support provided by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board," said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison. "The complex maze of operational directives and policies of the WSIB increases the stresses and barriers for workers who desperately desire to return to meaningful and gainful employment. Being an injured or ill worker significantly reduces the chances of re-employment in a suitable job within a competitive labour market."
Recipients of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) have long challenged how they are treated by this government program. The view of ODSP recipients and their advocates is that the recommendations of the recent report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario will do little to improve their situation.
"The Ontario government has failed to live up to its mandate to reduce poverty by 2013 and people with disabilities continue to be among the most deeply affected," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "Instead of pandering to banks and private corporations, Ontario's Liberal government needs to shift its priorities to put people first."
The OFL continues to work closely with organizations such as Accessibilities for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance), the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Action Coalition and the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups (ONIWG), among others, to ensure that Ontario becomes a province that is accessible, supportive and welcoming to all.
There are concrete actions that the Ontario Federation of Labour demands that the Ontario government undertake to:
- Strengthen the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005;
- Develop new accessibility standards;
- Ensure enforcement of all federal and provincial legislative requirements;
- Increase penalties for non-compliance;
- Implement key recommendations of the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review;
- Ensure that taxpayers' money is never used to create or sustain disability barriers;
- Ensure the accessibility of provincial and municipal buildings, services and elections;
- Review all Ontario laws for accessible barriers;
- Ensure justice, fair compensation and full inflation protection for all injured workers;
- Mandate Joint Accommodation and/or Return to Work Committees in every workplace; and
- Eliminate poverty for any person with a disability.
To accomplish these goals, the Ontario Federation of Labour and community allies have launched a campaign to defend the democratic and economic rights of everyone - including those who are most marginalized in our society. By challenging the McGuinty government's "austerity agenda" of deep cuts to jobs and services, a new alliance of labour and community groups is planning to bring public concerns to the doorstep of every Member of Provincial Parliament in the lead-up to the next Ontario Election.
"The Ontario Common Front is a positive political mobilization through which Ontarians are presenting their own vision for an inclusive province that promotes, economic equality, the fair distribution of wealth, new revenue generation and a principled approach to governance that lifts everyone up together," said Hutchison. "Ontarians need to work together to hold the Liberal government to account and to demand the removal of every barrier to an inclusive and accessible society."
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.