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What Will Today’s Throne Speech at Queen’s Park Offer 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities?

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 12, 2018 Toronto: Community groups and advocates for the needs of 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities are poised to scrutinize and respond to today’s Ontario Throne Speech, to see what new action it offers for people with disabilities. They will also be carefully watching the responses from the other parties at Queen’s Park, to see what they have to say about people with disabilities, in their responses to the Throne Speech.

Today’s Throne Speech, the first for Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative Government under Premier Doug Ford, will signal Government priorities for the next months, and will set the tone for the new team at Queen’s Park. The AODA Alliance , and before 2005, its predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, have spearheaded non-partisan grassroots campaigns on accessibility issues with each government in power since late 1994. They will be watching to see what priorities and what concrete action will be announced to get Ontario back on schedule to become fully accessible to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, a goal which Ontario must reach under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

“We’ve congratulated Premier Doug Ford for appointing Ontario’s first full-time minister with responsibility for disability accessibility and for seniors, Raymond Cho”, said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We’ll be watching to see what priorities this new Government will give disability accessibility and what it will do to bring about real change on this issue, which the previous Government insufficiently addressed in recent years.”

In 2005, after a decade of grassroots non-partisan campaigning by Ontarians with disabilities, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Yet with less than six and a half years left before 2025, it is widely recognized that we are not on schedule. Ontarians with disabilities still face too many disability barriers in Ontario when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our health care system, buy goods or services or eat in restaurants.

For example, during this year’s election campaign, the AODA Alliance made public an online video that has gotten great media attention. It reveals serious accessibility problems at a number of new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, using millions of public dollars. Last fall, the AODA Alliance made public an online video that has gone viral. It reveals serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Centre, built in the heart of downtown Toronto. A year earlier, we also released a similarly disturbing video about serious accessibility problems in the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre. Those videos focus on built environment barriers, and not the many other barriers that also hurt Ontarians with a physical, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health or other disability.

Ontario needs a comprehensive plan now to get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility in 2025. We are eager to see what comes from Queens’ Park today.

While waiting for the new Government to be sworn in, the Ontario Public Service has frozen some important work on disability accessibility. Pending briefing the new minister, it has suspended the work of the Standards Development Committees, which were appointed under the AODA to make recommendations to the Government on accessibility issues in important areas like education and health care. Ontarians with disabilities will be watching to see if the new Government will now lift that suspension so these important Committees can get back to their work work that is mandated by the AODA, a law in force in Ontario which all parties unanimously voted for in 2005.

Contact: David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Key Background Links

Check out:

* Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his Party’s 2018 election commitments on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

* The AODA Alliance’s first reflections on the election of Ontario’s new provincial government.

* The AODA Alliance’s June 14, 2018 letter to Premier-designate Doug Ford.

* The AODA Alliance’s retrospective on the legacy of the former Ontario Liberal Government on the issue of accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.