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Is it Time for Local AODA Alliance Chapters?

Commentary by Linda Saxon
linsaxon@yahoo.ca
October 6, 2014

The AODA Alliance has been a very effective voice for the disability community, raising awareness of barrier removal with provincial leaders, but has it trickled down?

I feel somewhat isolated and frustrated that action taken at the provincial level has little effect on my community – a small southwestern Ontario town that boasts about its history and the need to preserve it.

For over two decades, I appeared before town council, wrote letters to the editor, and campaigned for a more inclusive community. To date, I have had to rely on the human rights complaints system twice to have my rights enforced.

Following the AODA Alliance’s suggestion, I urged candidates to commit to, among other items, a municipal policy that no public funds will ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

Eight of the twenty-nine candidates responded; only one would support a policy, one would “commit to not place public barriers against persons with disabilities, unless it is for THEIR safety” and one would obtain further details before committing to a policy that would potentially limit the possibilities of the entire population.

In answer to the other accessibility related questions, not one candidate provided any specifics as to how she or he would improve accessibility. Some offered to consult with the Accessibility Advisory Committee or improve accessibility as budget permits.

As for the question to commit to specific plans to ensure fully accessible public transit and taxi services, a couple believed in full accessibility; others felt a taxi service is private enterprise and therefore we must always be careful in how and what we legislate if we are adding costs then the enterprise may not be viable and they simply shut down, thus affecting an even greater percentage of the population.

Another stated that public transportation, accessible or not, should not be a cost born by the town.

I also sought pledges from the candidates that no candidate will agree to attend an All Candidates event to be held in an inaccessible location. Only two of the twenty-nine responded; it has been there for some time, but personal assurances were made to have someone there to open doors for anyone who requires assistance and one will try to facilitate the installation of accessible entrances for the future.

Three candidates were advised their websites had accessibility issues; one made the required changes, one did not respond and one said he was told by the company he purchased the space from that he had no option other than to hire a code developer to revamp his site. Furthermore, the cost was extremely high and out of his price range for the two months that the site would be active, but he apologized.

I am really tired of hearing apologies and half-assed commitments to move forward; I want action taken regarding my right to equal access without having to fight for it or waiting for it to happen.

I would like for regional chapters of the AODA Alliance to be established with the hope that local voices would be just as effective at the local level as David Lepofsky’s is at the provincial level.