By Victor Schwartzman
March 6, 2015
Minister Brad Duguid, responsible for the implementation of the AODA access law, has publicly declared he is easing up on AODA’s already comatose enforcement. Businesses would only find ways around the law, he reasoned on behalf of the Ontario Government, so why enforce it? At the same time, he also announced the new free AODA phone line (1-866-515-2025) for reporting access complaints, even though he had announced he would not enforce the law and therefore would not pursue complaints. So what is the Government’s access implementation plan?
On April 1, 2015, Minister Duguid could have held a media conference on AODA, even though he never does. At that conference, he certainly could have stated that he had the full backing of Cabinet on expanding the new Government policy of not enforcing AODA to other laws. “The first laws we are no longer enforcing are any that have anything to do with a gas plant,” Minister Duguid told the journalists.
“We also have decided to stop elevator inspections in any building in which the opposition has offices. Speed limits on Ontario highways will no longer be enforced in ridings which elected opposition members. We also plan to eliminate in opposition ridings health inspections in restaurants and stores, along with prohibitions about playing with matches or running while holding scissors.”
Then Minister Duguid laughed broadly. “April Fool’s! Just kidding. We will continue to enforce many laws in opposition ridings. AODA is the only law we think there is no point in enforcing. It isn’t as if we established a precedent or anything with AODA but it is always important to be progressive, and experiment with new ideas.
“To get businesses to comply with AODA, we must raise the consciousness of people in Ontario about access. In particular, we must help them see what it is like to be a person with disabilities who lives without access. The best way to promote access, we feel, is by denying it. And for that, we have developed an exciting plan.”
The following day, in ridings across Ontario which had elected opposition members to the Legislature, highway speed limit signs were removed. Traffic lights were disconnected. Ontario Provincial Police units were assigned to other ridings as were fire departments. As were doctors. And veterinarians.
When asked, Minister Duguid told journalists that the Government had decided to create ACCESS FREE ZONES in those ridings. AODA would not apply, nor would several other laws or services. “Access is a concept. Access involves providing and improving services, health, employment, personal protections and lifestyles. We believe that a free market approach to access works best. To help people without disabilities understand the situation, in selected ridings we will eliminate those services for everyone.
“Everyone receives access services even if they do not realize it. Escalators, hiring interviews, wide streets, online food ordering, you name it. People access many things and expect many services. Our experiment is to eliminate access not only for people who have disabilities, but for everyone. To live in a world without access is to live without the protections of the laws we’re ignoring. This will be a great teaching moment!
“We realize this is a controversial experiment. That is why we are conducting it exclusively in opposition ridings, so there will be no confusion about bias. We ARE biased. Those ridings elected opposition members. Shame on them. Normally we have more discrete ways to punish such ridings but AODA handed us an unusual opportunity.
“It is not as if we want to create a dangerous situation in those ridings. But you cannot selectively not apply some laws while not applying others. We want to recreate the life experience which people with disabilities have. They know it is a dangerous world out there that is not set up to accommodate them. As a result of our experiment, people in those ridings will have a much better understanding of why we need an access law.
“I will then use that pressure, sometime in 2018 or maybe 2020, to force businesses to begin complying with AODA. Also, we hope that those ridings will elect Government members. The result? A win for everyone! This grand experiment on AODA will help make enforcement possible.”
A journalist asked if he understood what April Fool’s was, and Minister Duguid replied, “Sure. From what I’ve heard, it’s something about the members of Cabinet.”
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Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly column to Accessibility News. Buy 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 read the whole thing, including current polished chapters, for free on the King Of The Planet Facebook page. It has a “4 out of 5 star” review!
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 volunteers as host of a writers’ circle at a drop-in. His email is email@example.com.