Accessibility advocates aren’t impressed so far with how party platforms are meeting the province’s obligation to be barrier-free by 2025.
Ontario has a long way to go before it’s fully accessible to people like Laurier University student Chantal Huinink, whose story of a horror trip to Waterloo was told by the Star in January. By: Laurie Monsebraaten Social justice reporter, Published on Sat May 17 2014
Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats are the most committed to upholding legislation aimed at making Ontario barrier-free by 2025, but are “light on specifics,” say accessibility advocates.
The governing Liberals’ commitment under Kathleen Wynne to enforce the 2005 accessibility law is “very tepid,” however a promised 24-hour telephone hotline for complaints is a “breakthrough.”
Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives offer Ontarians with disabilities “by far the least” of the three parties vying for support in the June 12 provincial election. However, after ignoring the issue in the last election, at least the Tories have responded to queries about where they stand this time, advocates add.
“The three parties unanimously passed the disabilities act in 2005,” said David Lepofsky, of the non-partisan Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.
“But dithering by the government since the summer of 2011 has led Ontario to fall further behind schedule,” he said in a “virtual news conference” posted online Friday. “We need strong leadership and bold commitments to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.”
The alliance, which has been pressing politicians to enact and then enforce accessibility legislation for two decades, sent letters to the three party leaders in March, asking where they stand on eight areas of concern.
These include a commitment not to weaken the disability legislation or cut regulatory gains; to endorse specific enforcement measures such as a 24-hour telephone complaint hotline; to bring in electronic or telephone voting as an alternative to inaccessible polling stations; and to promise not to spend public money to erect new barriers.
This is just the third election since 1995 that all parties have answered the coalition’s letters, Lepofsky noted. (The other election where all three parties responded was in 2007.)
In light of what it regards as a weak showing by Hudak and Wynne, who are leading the polls, the alliance is calling on voters to encourage candidates to support a more ambitious agenda.
More than 1.8 million people in the province have some physical, mental, sensory, learning or intellectual disability, Lepofsky noted.
“Far too many of them face barriers when they try to get a job or go to school, ride public transit, or simply go shopping,” Lepofsky said.
“Everyone eventually gets a disability as they age, and suffers from these barriers. And these barriers hurt our economy.”
As a start, Lepofsky has tweeted every candidate with a Twitter account, asking them not to participate in a non-accessible all-candidates’ meeting.
“Because the leaders are not leading sufficiently, we believe it’s time for the back-benchers to lead the leaders,” Lepofsky said. “It is crucial to ensure the gains we have made are not at risk.”