Disability Activists Mark a Quarter Century of Tenacious Advocacy for Accessibility for Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
News Release – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 3, 2019 Toronto:

What does Ontario learn when two veteran disability rights advocates compare their approaches to tenacious non-partisan political activism on disability issues, especially when they do so on the International Day for People with Disabilities, and mark the 25th anniversary of the birth of the grassroots movement for strong provincial accessibility legislation?? At a Queens Park news conference this morning, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, leading this accessibility campaign, was interviewed by the highly-successful president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, Laura Kirby-McIntosh, that led the relentless campaign against the Ford Governments cuts to the Ontario Autism Program.

Even after a quarter century of tireless advocacy, over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many unfair barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education shop in stores, eat in restaurants or use public services like our health care system, said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, the non-partisan grassroots coalition that spearheads this accessibility campaign. He earlier chaired the predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, that carried this torch from 1994 to 2005. After our first decade we won good accessibility legislation in 2005 that was passed unanimously. Initially, the former Liberal Government acted decisively to implement it. But since the 2011 summer, progress under three successive premiers ground down to a snails pace, with endless delays.

The 2005 Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, by enacting and enforcing all the accessibility standards needed to show the way to full accessibility, for the public and private sectors. Yet the blistering report of a Government-appointed Independent Review of progress on disability accessibility conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, delivered to the Ford Government last January, concluded that progress has been at a glacial pace and barely detectable. the report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” And that for most Ontarians with disabilities, Ontario is replete with soul-crushing barriers.

Weve worked together and learned from each others strategies and tactics as we press to make disability issues achieve the prominence they deserve, said Kirby-McIntosh. And we want to be sure that any victories we win benefit people with all kinds of disabilities.

Advocates for accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities are not the least daunted by the fact that Ontario has only five years left to reach full accessibility, while the Ford Government has done nothing new to strengthen the Disabilities Acts implementation and enforcement. Theyve faced insurmountable odds when they launched this campaign on November 29, 1994.

When we started 25 years ago, no one thought we had any hope of uniting a movement behind us and winning legislation. Weve beat the odds before, and were determined to beat the odds again, said Lepofsky. Whether its opposing the provincial plan to unleash electric scooters in Ontario that threatens our safety and accessibility or the Ontario Government wastefully using public money to create new barriers against people with disabilities in the built environment, our sleeves remain rolled up and ready for action.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Check out the background on the actual events at Queens Park on November 29, 1994 that led to the birth of the AODA movement. Read a timeline of major events over the first 20 years of this campaign.




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Disability Activists Mark a Quarter Century of Tenacious Advocacy for Accessibility for Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

News Release – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Activists Mark a Quarter Century of Tenacious Advocacy for Accessibility for Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

December 3, 2019 Toronto:

What does Ontario learn when two veteran disability rights advocates compare their approaches to tenacious non-partisan political activism on disability issues, especially when they do so on the International Day for People with Disabilities, and mark the 25th anniversary of the birth of the grassroots movement for strong provincial accessibility legislation?? At a Queen’s Park news conference this morning, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, leading this accessibility campaign, was interviewed by the highly-successful president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, Laura Kirby-McIntosh, that led the relentless campaign against the Ford Government’s cuts to the Ontario Autism Program.

“Even after a quarter century of tireless advocacy, over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many unfair barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education shop in stores, eat in restaurants or use public services like our health care system,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, the non-partisan grassroots coalition that spearheads this accessibility campaign. He earlier chaired the predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, that carried this torch from 1994 to 2005. “After our first decade we won good accessibility legislation in 2005 that was passed unanimously. Initially, the former Liberal Government acted decisively to implement it. But since the 2011 summer, progress under three successive premiers ground down to a snail’s pace, with endless delays.”

The 2005 Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, by enacting and enforcing all the accessibility standards needed to show the way to full accessibility, for the public and private sectors. Yet the blistering report of a Government-appointed Independent Review of progress on disability accessibility conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, delivered to the Ford Government last January, concluded that progress has been at a “glacial” pace and “barely detectable.” the report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” And that for most Ontarians with disabilities, Ontario is replete with “soul-crushing barriers.”

“We’ve worked together and learned from each other’s strategies and tactics as we press to make disability issues achieve the prominence they deserve,” said Kirby-McIntosh. “And we want to be sure that any victories we win benefit people with all kinds of disabilities.”

Advocates for accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities are not the least daunted by the fact that Ontario has only five years left to reach full accessibility, while the Ford Government has done nothing new to strengthen the Disabilities Act’s implementation and enforcement. They’ve faced insurmountable odds when they launched this campaign on November 29, 1994.

“When we started 25 years ago, no one thought we had any hope of uniting a movement behind us and winning legislation. We’ve beat the odds before, and we’re determined to beat the odds again,” said Lepofsky. “Whether it’s opposing the provincial plan to unleash electric scooters in Ontario that threatens our safety and accessibility or the Ontario Government wastefully using public money to create new barriers against people with disabilities in the built environment, our sleeves remain rolled up and ready for action.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Check out the background on the actual events at Queen’s Park on November 29, 1994 that led to the birth of the AODA movement. Read a timeline of major events over the first 20 years of this campaign.



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Disability and Organizational Barriers


Organizational barriers occur when policies, practices, or procedures give people with disabilities fewer opportunities than non-disabled people. Businesses do not create these barriers purposely. Instead, barriers happen because businesses have not thought about how a customer or client with a disability would access their services.

Disability and Organizational Barriers

One example of this type of barrier is a no-refund policy in a clothing store. The policy assumes that every customer can try on clothing in the store’s fitting rooms before buying it. However, the store’s fitting rooms may not be accessible for customers using assistive devices.As a result, these customers cannot try clothing on before they buy it. Therefore, the store’s policy discriminates against people using assistive devices. These customers must buy clothing without knowing whether or not it fits them. If it does not fit, they cannot return it.

In another example, businesses often hire using an online job application process. This practice assumes that every applicant has access to all websites. However, some applicants cannot use certain websites because of information or technology barriers. If the employer’s website is not accessible, many strong candidates may not apply for jobs with that employer.

Moreover, some agencies have policies requiring intake appointments in person. This practice assumes that all customers or clients can travel to and enter the agencies’ buildings. However, some customers can never enter certain buildings or areas because of physical barriers. These customers may need to access service remotely. Therefore, the in-person policy denies them equal opportunities for service.

Barrier Removal Helps Everyone

When businesses change their policies to remove barriers, they can welcome people with and without disabilities. For instance, stores with refund policies welcome all people who cannot use traditional fitting rooms, such as parents with strollers.

Similarly, employers with flexible job application processes can interview more applicants. Likewise, agencies that allow remote appointments can gain clientele based in other places. Therefore, businesses should prevent or remove barriers whenever they can.
Our next article will explain how businesses can find solutions for organizational barriers.




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Disability and Technology Barriers


Technology often helps people with disabilities perform every-day tasks. Computers, the Internet, and self-service kiosks make it easier for people to interact and do business. However, technology can sometimes be a barrier that limits people’s access to the world around them. Technology barriers happen when technology is not accessible to people with disabilities. For instance, some technology barriers are:

  • Lack of computer accessibility, including:
    • Hardware, such as key guards, trackballs, large monitors, or head-pointing systems
    • Software, such as screen reader, screen magnification, or speech recognition programs
  • Website functions that only work when users click with a mouse
  • Self-service kiosks without accessibility features
  • Touch screens without screen reader software or tactile keyboards
  • Out-of-order equipment, including:
    • Lifts
    • Captioning mirrors
    • Description headsets

Technology Barriers

These and other technology barriers limit life for people with different disabilities. For example, websites that require mouse-clicking are barriers for people who always use keyboard commands instead of a mouse. Likewise, these websites are also barriers for people controlling their computers through speech. Moreover, touch screens can be barriers for people with limited upper body movement. Similarly, touch screens without speech output are also barriers to people who are blind.

Barrier Removal Helps Everyone

Therefore, businesses that can remove or prevent technology barriers become more welcoming to people with and without disabilities. For instance, speech recognition software makes computers accessible for people with mobility disabilities. In addition, people who are multi-tasking also find it useful. Furthermore, when websites are designed for use with keyboard commands, they also become easier for search engines to find. As a result, people who create websites accessibly also make it more likely that visitors will notice and browse them. In other words, many people find barrier-free spaces helpful. However, for people with disabilities, removing barriers is not only a help, but a need. Therefore, businesses should prevent or remove barriers whenever they can.

Our next article will consider how businesses can implement these and other solutions for technology barriers.




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Disability and Information or Communication Barriers


Information or communication barriers exist because not all people read or understand in the same way. For instance, some information or communication barriers are:

  • Audio-only fire alarms
  • Lack of large print and Braille on elevators, signs, or room numbers
  • Live events or public meetings without captions or Sign language interpretation
  • Forms, pamphlets, or menus offered only in standard-sized print
  • Telephone-only contact information
  • PDF documents made from images instead of text
  • No audio-visual announcements on public transit
  • Websites that do not comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA

Disability and Information or Communication Barriers

Information or communication barriers happen when businesses offer information in only one way. This type of barrier most often affects people with sensory or print disabilities. For instance, these barriers impact people who are:

  • Blind
  • Visually impaired
  • Deaf
  • Hard of hearing
  • Deafblind

In addition, these barriers also impact people who have:

  • Learning disabilities that affect how they process writing
  • Physical disabilities that prevent them from holding or turning pages

Different types of barriers limit life for people with various disabilities. For instance, audio-only alarms lessen the safety of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Similarly, safety briefings only in print reduce the safety of people who do not read print. Furthermore, buses without visual announcements limit how people with hearing disabilities can travel. Alternatively, buses without audio announcements limit the movement of people with print disabilities.

Barrier Removal Helps Everyone

Therefore, when businesses present information in many ways, they can welcome people with and without disabilities. For instance, captions or signage help people:

  • With hearing disabilities
  • Learning English
  • In noisy locations

Likewise, online forms can help people:

In other words, many people find barrier-free documents and events helpful. However, for people with disabilities, removing barriers is not only a help, but a need. Therefore, businesses should prevent or remove barriers whenever they can.

Our next article will explain how businesses can find solutions for information or communication barriers.




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Preventing and Removing Physical Disability Barriers


In our last article, we explored how physical barriers limit access for people with various disabilities. In this article, we will consider how organizations can prevent or remove barriers. Preventing and removing physical disability barriers makes organizations welcoming to people of all abilities.

Preventing and Removing Physical Disability Barriers

Organizations can find many solutions to help people access buildings and services. Some solutions are low-cost. For instance, the Stop Gap Foundation provides ramps for businesses with one step leading to their front doors. In contrast, other solutions, such as installing elevators, may be more costly or disruptive. However, federal, provincial, or local funding may help organizations create spaces with fewer barriers.

Removing Barriers

In some cases, organizations may not receive funding. Alternatively, installing lifts or building accessible washrooms may not be possible. However, there are still ways for staff to make their premises welcoming to all customers, workers, or visitors. For instance, staff can remove barriers in organizations such as:

Staff can help people access their organizations by:

  • Meeting with customers, clients, or workers on the first floor
  • Opening doors
  • Retrieving items from narrow aisles or high shelves
  • Serving customers away from high counters or weak lighting
  • Reading aloud
  • Serving customers remotely
  • Knowing where near-by accessible services are, such as barrier-free washrooms

In addition, staff should try to make every customer aware that they will provide all these services.

Preventing Barriers

Moreover, designers of new buildings and services can prevent physical barriers from happening in the first place. For instance, they can design buildings with level entrances, wide doorways and aisles, good lighting and colour contrast, and elevators. Furthermore, they can consult with people who have disabilities during the design process. In this way, they can find out if they have designed barriers without meaning to. They can also learn how to avoid those barriers in future. As a result, people will create fewer physical disability barriers and move more freely.




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Disability and Physical Barriers


Many barriers that people with disabilities face are physical or architectural barriers. Physical barriers happen when features of buildings or spaces limit people’s access. For instance, some physical disability barriers are:

Physical Barriers

These and other physical barriers limit life for people with different disabilities. For example, stairs without ramps or elevators deny access to people using wheelchairs. Likewise, stairs may also limit the access of people with invisible physical disabilities. For instance:

  • Arthritis
  • Difficulties with balance, energy level, or pain level
  • Heart or lung conditions

Furthermore, low lighting makes it hard for people who are deaf to communicate visually. Similarly, low lighting also limits access for people who are visually impaired.

Barrier Removal Helps Everyone

Therefore, organizations that can remove or prevent physical barriers become more welcoming to people with and without disabilities. For instance, stair-free access, wide paths, and automatic doors, are often useful to:

  • Families with small children
  • Parents with strollers
  • Shoppers with bags or carts
  • Travellers with luggage

In other words, many people find barrier-free spaces helpful. However, for people with disabilities, removing barriers is not only a help, but a need. Therefore, organizations should prevent or remove barriers whenever they can. For example, organizations can have:

  • Accessible sidewalks and parking
  • Ramped or level building entrances
  • Automatic doors and wide doorways
  • Good lighting and colour contrast
  • Elevators or lifts
  • Accessible washrooms
  • Wide aisles and hallways
  • Accessible line areas, waiting areas, and service counters

Our next article will consider how organizations can implement these and other solutions for physical barriers.




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Disability Barriers


Many mandates in the AODA are designed to help organizations recognize, prevent, or remove disability barriers. In our next series of articles, we will explore what some types of disability barriers are. Moreover, we will also consider  how to recognize, prevent, and remove them.

What are Disability Barriers?

Under the AODA, a barrier is defined as “anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability”. In other words, barriers happen when places and activities that all people should have access to are designed in ways that limit this access. Barriers limit the things people with disabilities can do, the places they can go, or the attitudes of others toward them. For example, heavy doors are barriers for people with limited upper body movement. These types of doors prevent people from entering buildings.

Recognizing, Removing, and Preventing Barriers

People who own or operate organizations can welcome more visitors or customers when they recognize, remove, and prevent barriers. Identifying a barrier means knowing that a barrier exists. For instance, a building owner recognizes a barrier when they realize that heavy doors limit people’s access to the building.

Removing a barrier means finding a way for everyone to access the organization. For instance, a building owner can install automatic doors that every visitor can use. Finally, preventing a barrier means knowing about possible barriers in advance and designing barrier-free access. For instance, building designers who plan to have automatic doors in the first place have prevented the barrier of heavy doors.

Five Types of Barriers

Five of the most common kinds of barriers are:

  • Physical or Architectural Barriers
  • Informational or Communicational Barriers
  • Technological Barriers
  • Organizational Barriers
  • Attitudinal Barriers

Fewer Barriers Help Everyone

When organizations remove barriers, they make themselves more accessible to people with disabilities. As a result, they can gain more customers or clients. In addition, they become more welcoming to people without disabilities as well. For instance, the families, friends, neighbours, and colleagues of people with disabilities may want to bring their business to accessible companies. Furthermore, people without disabilities may find accessible features, from widened aisles to welcoming staff, useful or enjoyable. Finally, accessible organizations can also start hiring valuable employees with disabilities.Recognizing, preventing, and removing barriers helps the whole province.




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Disability in School Curriculums


The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. Our recent articles have considered how the education standards can build on requirements from the AODA’s existing standards. Now, we will explore new mandates that the education standards could create. One issue that an education standard should address is disability in school curriculums. If students learn about disability during elementary and high school, they will know the truth about how disability impacts people’s lives. Moreover, they will be comfortable interacting with people who have disabilities.

Disability in School Curriculums

Many people without disabilities cannot imagine what it is like to have a disability. As a result, they may think that living with a disability means a low quality of life. They may think this way because they assume it must be hard or impossible for people with disabilities to do many things, such as:

  • Work
  • Raise families
  • Make friends and have fulfilling social lives
  • Travel, from the corner store to vacation destinations

People who do not have any friends or family members with disabilities may also feel uncomfortable starting a conversation with someone with a disability. They may fear saying the wrong thing, or be unsure about what topics the other person would want to talk about. Disability in school curriculums would teach children and young adults that talking to and befriending people with disabilities is easier than they might expect.

Learning about Accessibility, Barriers, and Inclusion

There are resources to help teachers offer lessons about the daily lives of children and adults with various disabilities. For instance, the ReelEducation program provides films about disability that teachers can stream in their classrooms. Films show some barriers that people with disabilities face, and how they can overcome barriers through inclusion and accessibility. Moreover, films are targeted to various age groups and come with lesson plans, so that teachers can hold class discussions or activities. Films also include open captioning and video description. Therefore, they are accessible for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, learning English, or blind. In addition, students without disabilities can learn about how people who are blind or deaf watch TV and movies.

Learning from Lived Experience

Furthermore, teachers can invite guest speakers with disabilities to visit their classrooms. Guest speakers can tell students about their experience growing up with a disability or gaining one later in life. Moreover, they can do live demonstrations of how they:

Furthermore, guest speakers can answer many of the questions students might have about daily life with a disability. For instance, students might be curious about how a guest speaker:

  • Cooks, cleans, or does other household chores
  • Cares for children or pets
  • Travels through the community (by car, bus, cab, special transportation, walking, etc.)
  • Confronts barriers (physical, technological, etc.) or social exclusion

Younger children may have more questions about how a person:

  • Eats
  • Dresses
  • Cares for other daily living needs

Long-Term Benefits of Disability in School Curriculums

Older children who have never met someone with a disability may still wonder about these and other questions. However, when they do meet someone with a disability in their school or neighbourhood, they might feel that asking this kind of question would be rude. As a result, children without discussion of disability in their school curriculum may grow up feeling uncomfortable whenever they meet someone with a disability. Moreover, they may one day believe the idea that people with disabilities always have very hard or sad lives. As a result, they may choose not to get to know neighbours, classmates, or colleagues who could have become their friends.

Disability in school curriculums would ensure that children grow up with realistic ideas about people with disabilities. Mandatory lessons about disability would make more future adults aware of how people with disabilities live day-to-day. Students who learn about disability in school could grow up into adult:

  • Employers happy to hire someone with a disability
  • Architects who design buildings without barriers
  • Restaurant staff or cab drivers who welcome customers with service animals or assistive devices
  • Event organizers who make information and communications accessible

Finally, students would find out that most problems people with disabilities experience are not due to their disabilities. Instead, problems happen because of barriers and misunderstandings. Students who learn about disability in school will understand that preventing and removing disability barriers allows all people to be involved in their communities. More community involvement makes economically and socially stronger cities, provinces, and countries.




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A Non-Partisan Look at the 2019 Federal Election Results from a Disability Accessibility Perspective


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

October 22, 2019

SUMMARY

What is the upshot of last night’s federal election results, from the perspective of over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada who want this country to become accessible to them?

We congratulate all those candidates who ran in this election and won. We are ready to again roll up our sleeves and work with all of the federal parties, as we further describe below, to advance the goal of making Canada barrier-free for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

Last June, Parliament unanimously endorsed the goal of making Canada barrier-free by 2040. We turn our attention to what the Federal Government should now do to ensure that Canada is on schedule for meeting this mandatory goal which the new Accessible Canada Act has set.

MORE DETAILS

The Recent Election Campaign

Our movement has now succeeded in mounting a non-partisan campaign for disability accessibility during a total of nine elections since 1995, seven at the provincial level in Ontario and 2 at the federal level. For its part, the AODA Alliance wrote the major federal parties back on July 18 2019, well before the formal election campaign began, to ask them to make 11 specific commitments on disability accessibility.

Our agenda for reform was not pulled out of the air. It built on key issues that so many disability organizations and advocates raised with the Federal Government over the past year during public hearings on the Accessible Canada Act before the House of Commons last fall, and later before the Senate last spring. These in turn built substantially on experience that we have had with the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It is so important for us to come forward with concrete and workable action requests, and not to be satisfied or distracted by the broad plattitudinal pronouncements of politicians, whatever be their political party.

We succeeded in launching a major blitz on social media to try to get the parties and their candidates to make the election pledges that we sought. We sent hundred and hundreds of tweets over the past weeks, and generated real attention on this issue in the social media context. We thank all those who retweeted our tweets, or took other actions to raise disability accessibility issues with any candidates over the past weeks. To see what we were up to, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

We secured written election commitments from two of the major parties, the NDP and later the Liberals. We plan to hold them to those commitments. A comparison of the parties’ responses is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

While the Conservatives did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter, we plan to hold them to their strong statements on November 22, 2018 in the House of Commons during Third Reading debates on Bill C-81. They promised that if elected, they would treat the strengthening of Bill C-81as a priority. Similarly, the Green Party did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter. However it spoke in strong terms about the need to strengthen Bill C-81 during debates in Parliament over the past year. We aim to urge them to act on that policy position in the upcoming Parliament.

We express our strong regret and deep frustration that the conventional media once again gave far too little attention to these issues during the recent election campaign. This is a sad continuation of the conventional media’s failure to give much attention to the proposed Accessible Canada Act during its journey through Parliament over the past months. We commend those few reporters who bucked this trend, and covered this issue.

The Election’s Results

As we often repeat, the AODA Alliance does not campaign for or against any party or candidate. We aim to get strong commitments on disability accessibility from all parties and candidates.

Canada now will have a minority government. This provides a wonderful opportunity for us to press to try to get the Accessible Canada Act strengthened by legislative amendments. The Liberals suggested during the election campaign that they did not plan to amend the Accessible Canada Act. However, because they do not have a majority government, the door is open to us to try to get an amending bill through Parliament, and to try to get the Liberals to support it.

We have a recent and relevant track record in this regard. Last spring, we and others, working together, got the Senate to make some amendments to Bill C-81 to somewhat strengthen it. These included amendments that the Liberal Government had rejected when the bill was before the House of Commons in the 2018 fall. When the Senate’s amendments came back to the House of Commons last June, the Liberals ultimately agreed to approve the Senate’s amendments which included changes to the bill that the Liberals had earlier opposed. We and others in the disability community have done it before. We can do it again!

We thank any and all MPs who worked on making this bill as strong as they could. Let’s take a quick look at the election outcome. Several key MPs who have played key roles regarding Bill C-81 have been re-elected. These include Liberal MP Carla Qualtrough, the Accessibility Minister who led the Government’s efforts to get Bill C-81 through Parliament, and Liberal MP Bryan May, who chaired the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81. Also re-elected were Conservative MPs John Barlow (who was the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81), and who promised Tory support for strengthening Bill C-81) and MP Mike Lake (who was the Tory critic in this area as Bill C-81 was going through the Senate).

NDP MP Cheryl Hardcastle, the NDP’s critic on this issue who pressed for amendments at our request, was narrowly defeated. Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who was Accessibility Minister for a short time while Bill C-81 was being developed, was also defeated.

What’s Next

We will be eagerly watching to see whom Prime Minister Trudeau will appoint to be the next minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Bill C-81. We also will be eager to see whom the opposition parties appoint as their critics in this area.

We won’t just sit around and wait. We are already working on ideas of what to include in a new bill, whether a Government bill or an opposition private member’s bill, to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We welcome your ideas. Write us at [email protected] We will also be monitoring the Government’s implementation of the Accessible Canada Act to see where we might be able to helpfully contribute to it.

Last night’s election results have some echoes in history. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau won a majority government in his first try in 1968. His son did the same in his first try in 2015. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau only won a minority government in his second try, in 1972. So did his son in 2019. In both cases, the NDP held the balance of power. From 1972 to 1974, they instituted some progressive reforms. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the past weeks that if re-elected, he would lead a progressive government.

In the dying days of this most recent campaign. The Liberals promised to apply a “disability lens” to all government decisions. Last fall, the opposition had pressed without success for Bill C-81 to be amended to entrench in it just such a disability lens.

Even though the Liberals said during the recent election campaign that it didn’t intend to amend Bill C-81, we nevertheless see it as worthwhile to press for an amendment to Bill C-81 to entrench such a “disability lens”. If it is added to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, it would become a mandatory part of law, one which a future government cannot simply ignore. People with disabilities in Canada need a mandatory disability lens, not a weak, voluntary one that can be ignored at will.

We have lots to do ahead of us. We are ready to be as tenacious as ever! Just watch us.




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