By Victor Schwartzman
August 24, 2015
The federal election is nearly a month over and none of the Leadership candidates have said anything about access legislation or any disability-related issue. Despite there being plenty of Canadians who have disabilities, none of the political parties think it important or relevant to discuss limited incomes and opportunities, or which access laws work and which don’t.
Since none of the politicians will talk about access, why should I? So, for this column, forget the problems with access law in Ontario and elsewhere. I’m going to get personal and write about my birthday.
Recently there were two birthdays: AODA, Ontario’s access legislation, turned 10 and I turned 70. Despite the sixty year age gap, AODA and I feel the same-old and getting older with little hope of improvement. AODA and I feel the same because one access year is equal to seven human years-just like with dogs. Dogs are relevant to how the Government treats access law.
First, a brief version of AODA’s history. Earlier legislation did not resolve difficulties people with disabilities had accessing employment, services or even getting outside their homes. New laws were needed, even though the same politicians who were poor at enforcing the old law would be responsible for enforcing the new law. After an extensive consultation process, the Government proclaimed the new access law, AODA. It was sweeping legislation which, by the end of twenty-five years, would solve access problems.
A decade later the most basic parts of AODA are not in place. The Government botched the law’s implementation. For example, the required standards needed to determine practical access issues are still not in place. Without those standards, few businesses are willing to proceed.
If the Government has a doghouse, AODA is in it.
To continue the canine metaphor, the Ontario Government picked AODA up in a shelter after it had been abused in an earlier version. The Government told shelter workers it really wanted AODA and promised to look after it and love it. It bought AODA and took it home.
As soon as it was proclaimed, AODA was neutered.
The Government quickly won AODA’s confidence by petting it and feeding it harmless treats. It became a steady companion, always following the Government and waiting for attention. It was good for the Government to show off its AODA. People enjoyed patting it and rubbing its tummy. The Government took it outside for walks, although the politicians never carried baggies and picked up after it.
The Government loved the way AODA wagged its tail at the slightest attention. Officials would point at AODA and say, “Isn’t it cute! Take a picture!” Photographs of the Government posing with AODA were plentiful and occasionally AODA popped up with a Government official at a community meeting. Mostly, AODA was in the doghouse.
AODA was not happy. When there were no visitors, the Government ignored it. AODA wanted things to do but the Government gave it no jobs, so AODA spent its time sleeping. Nor did any businesses want AODA. To encourage businesses the Government developed a Power Point presentation on how great it was to have your own AODA. Businesses were assured AODA was housebroken and under control. But many businesses felt owning their own AODA was too big a responsibility.
The Government has been known for properly caring for most laws, not ignoring them. No interest has been shown in raising AODA properly or teaching it how to work. Indeed, the Government has forced the access legislation to learn only one trick: to roll over and play dead.
Advocates have suggested the Government get a cat.
Next: It’s Possible The Election Will Mention Access. It IS Possible!!!
Victor Schwartzman has contributed this weekly satirical column to Accessibility News and the AODA Alliance since May 13, 2013. Check out the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at http://www.amazon.ca/King-The-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/B00NE0CCRC, or for free on Facebook. The unpolished first nine chapters got a “4 out of 5 star” review! He is currently polishing the novel. His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.