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Action Kit for Raising Disability Accessibility Issues in Two February 13, 2014 Ontario By-Elections

January 26, 2014

1. Summary of this By-Election Action Kit

The Ontario Government called two provincial by-elections for February 13, 2014. The parties and media see this as a trial run for a general election that could be called in Ontario for later this spring. The by-elections are in the Thornhill riding, just north of Toronto, and the Niagara Falls riding.
Let’s use this great opportunity to raise disability accessibility issues with all candidates, to get the Government to kick-start stalled efforts at getting Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. We’ve done this in numerous by-elections in the past. We know what works!

This Action Kit gives you:

* a summary of the disability accessibility issues in the two Ontario February 13, 2014 by-elections;

* a list of key questions about disability accessibility to raise with candidates and their campaigns, the media, and voters;

* easy-to-use action tips on how to raise these disability accessibility issues;

* A list of helpful background resources, for more information.

As a non-partisan community coalition we do not endorse, or seek to elect or defeat any party or candidate. After these by-elections, the Liberal Party will still form Ontario’s provincial Government. The Conservative party and the New Democratic Party will still be in the opposition. We want to use these by-elections as a platform to get the Liberal Ontario Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne to kick-start new action on accessibility. We also want to get the Conservative and New Democratic Parties, while in opposition, to ramp up support for our accessibility agenda for action. We also want them to use their position in the opposition to press the Government as much as possible, in support of that agenda. We want to get all parties on the record, in the lead-up to a possible spring general election.

Our past successes on the road to a fully accessible Ontario have been built on these kinds of efforts by people like you! You can help our non-partisan campaign whether or not you live in one of the ridings where a by-election will be held. Let us know what steps you take, and what responses you get. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

2. Quick Summary of Disability Accessibility Issues in the February 13, 2014 Ontario By-elections

For a full decade, Ontarians with disabilities campaigned tenaciously and tirelessly to win the enactment in 2005 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). All parties unanimously voted for that law.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, 20 years after it was passed.

Ontario is unquestionably behind schedule. The Ontario Government must take immediate and strong action to get us on schedule. For example:

* The Ontario Government is required to enact all the accessibility standards we need to reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025. Some have been enacted. However, they aren’t sufficient to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025.

We have been trying for over two years to get the Ontario Government to start developing the next three accessibility standards we need, to address barriers in education, in the health care system, and in access to residential housing. One year ago, the Government announced a new Access Council to develop all new accessibility standards. However the Government hasn’t announced any new accessibility standards for that body to develop.

* For a decade, the Government promised over and over that it would effectively enforce the AODA. It hasn’t kept that promise. Last fall, we revealed that the Government has not used its key enforcement powers, even though it has known for over a year about massive non-compliance with the AODA. A November 19, 2013 Toronto star editorial blasted the Government, because its own records show that over 70% of private sector organizations with 20 or more employees are violating the 2007 AODA. Despite unused funding on hand, the Government had not inspected, audited or taken enforcement proceedings against any of them at that time.

* Public money has been spent to create new barriers against people with disabilities. For example, the Ontario Government created the new Presto Smart Card, replete with barriers, for paying public transit fares. As well, the Government has announced no detailed plans to ensure that the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games, in which the Government invested millions of dollars, will leave behind a strong legacy of disability accessibility.

We need the Government to take immediate and effective action to ensure that no public money is ever used to create new barriers against people with disabilities, or to perpetuate existing barriers. To date, the Government has only announced limited actions. It hasn’t shown that it is effectively acting on those announcements.

* Kathleen Wynne promised in writing on December 3, 2012 that if she became Ontario’s Premier, she would honour all her Government’s disability accessibility commitments and would get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. We want commitments from all by-election candidates for all parties that if elected, they will personally:

a) support and advocate for the Government to develop accessibility standards for education, for health care, and for residential housing;

b) support and advocate for immediate action to effectively enforce the AODA; and

c) support and advocate for immediate and effective Government action to ensure that no public money is used to create new barriers against people with disabilities, or to perpetuate existing barriers.

3. What You Can Do to Raise Disability Accessibility Issues: Five Key Questions for You to Raise

Pick which issue or issues matters the most to you. The five questions we encourage you to ask by-election candidates are:

1. Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Disabilities Act, to make Ontario’s education system fully accessible to students, parents, and education staff with disabilities?

2. Will you support our call for the Government to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard to make our health care system’s services fully accessible to patients and health care providers with disabilities?

3. Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard to address our crisis of accessible housing in Ontario?

4. Will you support our call for the Government to act now to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act, and to reveal its plans for enforcing this important law?

5. Will you support our call for the Government to now implement effective action to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities, or to perpetuate existing barriers?

ACTION TIP #1: Raise Our Issues at All Candidates Debates and Other By-Election Events

* Publicly ask the candidates some or all of the five questions we listed here. Ask each candidate to commit to support specific actions towards getting Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. We want these to be a priority for the Ontario Government’s actions, not just for its press releases and speeches.

* Bring many copies of this Action Kit to hand out to the public at these events. Ask people you meet at these events how disability barriers affect them and their families and friends.

ACTION TIP #2: Raise Our Disability Accessibility Issues With The Campaign Offices Of Candidates

* Contact the campaign offices of the by-election candidates. Email or fax them this Action Kit. Ask them what their position is on our issues set out in this Action Kit. Urge them or their campaign workers to support our non-partisan call for the Government to kick-start stalled action on disability accessibility.

ACTION TIP #3: Bring Our Disability Accessibility Issues To The Media

* Contact your local media. Urge them to cover this issue. Email or fax them this Action Kit. Urge them to cover these by-election issues that concern over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities, as well as their families and friends. Remind them that the huge number of persons with disabilities in Ontario is growing as the population ages.

* If you know any reporters, columnists or editors in your community, urge them to cover these issues.

* Call in to phone-in radio shows to bring our issues to the public’s attention. Use this as a way to educate the audience.

* If a candidate or party leader is on a phone-in program, call to ask about our issues, using the five questions we listed in this Action Kit.

* If you have more time to offer, write a guest column or letter to the editor on our issues for your local newspaper. Feel free to cut and paste as much as you want from our AODA Alliance Updates, and from this Action Kit.

ACTION TIP #4: Community Organizations — Help Spread The Word Through Your Networks

* If you are a staff member, volunteer, or board member of a community organization, or are on a Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee, please get your organization to use its network to spread the word on these issues through these action tips.

* Get your organization to link its website to the AODA Alliance’s website. Make this link directly to: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/default.asp

Your link might say “Learn about the campaign to make Ontario fully accessible for over 1.7 million people with disabilities.”

* Encourage people connected with your organization to sign up for AODA Alliance Email Updates. They can send a request to sign up to aodafeedback@gmail.com

* It would be especially helpful if your organization would take the steps we list below regarding social media.

ACTION TIP #5: Use Social Media Like Facebook And Twitter To Spread The Word

Use the incredible power of social media to spread the word on our by-election issues. We have a growing list of followers and supporters through these social media. We are proud of how many of our posts are re-tweeted on Twitter and are “liked” on Facebook. We use these social media to send out punchy updates about accessibility in Ontario, elsewhere in Canada, and around the world. We are becoming Ontario’s recognized Social Media source of news on disability access.

* If you use Facebook, visit our Facebook page. It is called “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.” Our Facebook page is available at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance/106232039438820 * Click on your Facebook page that you “like” our Facebook page, so your Facebook friends will learn more about us.

* Click on your Facebook page to share and show you that you “like” as many of our specific postings as you feel comfortable.

* If you use Twitter, be sure to follow us. Our Twitter handle is @aodaalliance

* Encourage others to follow us on Twitter. Re-tweet our AODA Alliance tweets.

4. More Helpful Resources

Our website is chock full of useful background on our non-partisan campaign for a fully accessible Ontario for all people with disabilities. Here is a sampling:

* To see the nine commitments for immediate action on disability accessibility that we asked all parties to endorse on December 3, 2013, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032013.asp No party has made a public commitment in response to that request.

* To see commitments the parties made in the campaign for the 5 by-elections held last summer on August 1, 2013 by-elections, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07292013.asp

* For background on our July 10, 2012 proposal for new accessibility standards in the three areas of education, of health care, and of residential housing, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07102012.asp

* To learn why Ontario needs an Education Accessibility Standard to be developed under the Disabilities Act, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06282013.asp

* To learn more about our efforts to get the Ontario Government to keep its promise to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act, and to read the Toronto Star’s November 19, 2013 editorial that slams the Government for its inaction on enforcing the AODA, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11212013.asp

* To learn more about the readily-foreseeable disability barriers in the Presto Smart Card system that the Ontario Government spearheaded, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08272010.asp

* Kathleen Wynne’s written pledges to Ontarians with disabilities were she to become Ontario’s Premier are set out in Kathleen Wynne’s December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, which is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp

* The Ontario Liberal Government’s 2011 disability accessibility election pledges are set out in former Premier McGuinty’s August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

* The Ontario Liberal Government’s 2007 election promises to Ontarians with disabilities are set out in former Premier McGuinty’s September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance, available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09142007.asp

We always urge you to send us your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Learn more about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario for people with disabilities by visiting : www.aodaalliance.org