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Raise Disability Accessibility Issues in the June 1, 2017 Sault Ste. Marie Ontario By-election

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 4, 2017

SUMMARY

On May 3, 2017, the Ontario Government called an Ontario by-election for June 1, 2017 in the Sault Ste. Marie riding. We urge anyone in or near that riding to raise disability accessibility issues with the candidates. Press them to make accessibility pledges.
This by-election comes just one year before the June 7, 2018 Ontario general election. This new by-election gives us a great opportunity to raise disability issues, and to start gearing up to do so with all candidates across Ontario, one year from now.

Over the past two decades, we’ve mounted campaigns like this in numerous by-elections. As a non-partisan community coalition we do not endorse, or seek to elect or defeat any party or candidate. We aim to get the strongest commitments on accessibility from all the candidates.

This Update gives you:

* A list of the major parties’ candidates and their contact information.

* A summary of the disability accessibility issues in the November 17, 2016 Ottawa Vanier and Niagara West-Glanbrook By-elections;

* Five important 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.

There have now been a long 150 days (5 months) since Premier Wynne agreed to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Yet, the Wynne Government has still not taken the important first step of posting an advertisement to invite members of the public to apply to sit on the Education Standards Development Committee that the Government must appoint. How long does it take to write and post a simple advertisement?

The Ontario Education Standards Development Committee will make recommendations to the Ontario Government on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include.

The longer the Wynne Government delays before it posts that ad, the more delay there will be before the Education Standards Development Committee can get to work. Ontario is already behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025, the AODA’s deadline. We cannot afford any foot-dragging in the important area of education for over one third of a million students with special education needs in Ontario. We have also asked the Wynne Government to promise not to try to restrict in advance which accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system that this Standards Development Committee can explore.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Have you taken part in our “Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016

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

We encourage you to use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

MORE DETAILS

1. How to Reach the Candidates

Here is the contact information we could find for the candidates from the major parties:

Liberals
Debbie Amaroso
Email: info@debbieamaroso.ca
Website: http://www.debbieamaroso.ca
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DebbieAmaroso/
Twitter: @DebbieAmaroso

NDP
Joe Krmpotich
Email: Joekrmpotich@ontariondp.ca.

Website: none we could find.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joe.krmpotich
Twitter: @joekrmpotich1

Progressive Conservative Party
Ross Romano
Email: rossromano.ssm@gmail.com
Website: http://www.ssm.ontariopc.com/Homepage
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RossRomanoSSM/
Twitter: @RossRomanoSSM

2. Summary of Disability Accessibility Issues in This By-election

For a decade starting in 1994, Ontarians with disabilities campaigned tenaciously and tirelessly to win the enactment in 2005 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In 2005, thanks to our efforts, 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 now lagging behind schedule for reaching that deadline. The Ontario Government must take immediate and strong action to get us on schedule. For example:

* For a decade, the Government promised over and over that it would effectively enforce the AODA. It hasn’t kept that promise. For over four years, the Government has taken paltry and inadequate steps to enforce the AODA even though it has known throughout of rampant AODA violations in the private sector, and has had unused budget on hand every year from 2005 to 2015 in the Government office mandated to enforce that law, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

* 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 enough to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025.

On December 5, 2016, Premier Wynne agreed to our request that the Ontario Government develop and enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to tear down the many accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. This includes the 334,000 students with special education needs in Ontario-funded schools, as well as the many in Ontario colleges and universities. Ontario’s outdated special education laws are over a third of a century old and are showing their age.

We have pressed the Wynne Government for vie months to take the simple but important step of posting an advertisement to recruit people to serve on the Standards Development Committee that will develop recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. The Ontario Government has not posted this ad. How long can it take to write and place an ad?

We have asked the Wynne Government to agree not to try to restrict in advance which accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system can be considered by the Education Standards Development Committee. The Wynne Government has not answered this request.

* In the 2014 Ontario general election, Premier Wynne promised that public money would never be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. Yet public money has been spent to create new barriers against people with disabilities. For example, the Ontario Government knowingly created the new Presto Smart Card, replete with barriers, for paying public transit fares. It created new accessibility barriers in the brand-new Women’s College Hospital opened in June 2016.

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 they:

a) Support the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its goal of making Ontario fully accessible by 2025, and oppose any weakening of that law or measures under it.

b) Support and will advocate for immediate action to effectively implement and enforce the AODA.

c) Support the creation of an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and will advocate for the Government to immediately post an ad for people to apply to sit on the Education Standards Development Committee, and to press the Ontario Government not to try to hog-tie that Committee before it even starts its work.

d) Support and will 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.

e) Agree not to take part in any all-candidates’ debate unless it is accessible to voters with disabilities.

3. Key Questions for You to Raise with the By-election Candidates

1. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Do you support that law, and its goal of full accessibility by 2025, and will you oppose any efforts to weaken it or measures under it?

2. Will you support the call by people with disabilities for an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and will you support our call for the Ontario Government to at last post an advertisement to recruit people to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee, that will give the Government advice on which accessibility barriers need to be removed, to make Ontario’s education system fully accessible to students, parents, and education staff with disabilities?

3. Will you support the call by people with disabilities for the Government to act now to keep its promise to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act, and to reveal its plans for enforcing this important law?

4. Will you support the call by people with disabilities 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?

5. Will you promise not to attend any all-candidates debates unless they are in an accessible location for voters with disabilities to attend and take part?

4. Action Tips How You Can Help

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 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. Earlier in this Action Kit we set out any contact information that we have.

Email 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: Use Social Media Like Facebook And Twitter To Spread The Word and Tweet Any By-Election Barriers Using the #AODAfail Hashtag as Part of Our “Picture Our Barriers” Campaign

Use the incredible power of social media to spread the word on our by-election issues. We have an impressive number 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” and shared 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 increasingly known as Ontario’s recognized Social Media source of news on disability access.

We will be tweeting to the candidates. Please tweet to them too, or just re-tweet our tweets to them. Tweet each candidate to ask them to answer our five questions, listed above.

* Take pictures on your smart phone of any accessibility barriers in this by-election. Check out each candidate’s campaign office, their campaign events, and the locations of all-candidates debates. If any lack full accessibility, take pictures of these.

* Then tweet these photos with descriptions of the accessibility barriers. Use the phrase #AODAfail in your tweet. This is what our “picture Our Barriers” campaign is all about. It is having a real and growing impact on Twitter. Let candidates know that if there are any election barriers in any campaign events, you will publicize them on Twitter.

To learn more about our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign, check out our “Picture Our Barriers” Action Kit and all the other helpful resources we make available at www.aodaalliance.org/2016

* If you use Twitter, be sure to follow us. Our Twitter handle is @aodaalliance Encourage others to follow us on Twitter, and to re-tweet our AODA Alliance tweets.

* If you use Facebook, visit our Facebook page. It is called “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.” Our Facebook page is available at https://www.facebook.com/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 endorsing.

ACTION TIP #4: Bring Our Disability Accessibility Issues to The Media

* Contact your local media. Urge them to cover this issue. Email 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, 1.8 million, 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 questions we listed earlier 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 #5: 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 listed above regarding social media.

5. Helpful Background 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 learn why Ontario needs an Education Accessibility Standard to be developed under the Disabilities Act, and our long campaign to win the enactment of one, visit www.aodaalliance.org/education

* Premier Wynne’s May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her Government’s 2014 accessibility election pledges, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.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