New Toll-Free Number for Reporting AODA Violations

We need to send a clear message on the importance of AODA Enforcement by using this toll-free number when we see a violation of the Act. To report an AODA violation to the Government, call 1-866-515-2025. TTY: 1-800-268-7095

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) became law on June 13, 2005. Under this landmark legislation, the government of Ontario has developed mandatory accessibility standards that identifies, removes, and prevents barriers for people with disabilities.The AODA applies to all levels of government, nonprofits, and private sector businesses across Ontario who have one or more staff.

Ontario plans to conduct fewer compliance inspections this year, even though more than 60 per cent of businesses are still in violation of the province’s landmark accessibility legislation, according to new government data. We need to send a clear message on the importance of AODA Enforcement by using this toll-free number when we see a violation of the Act.

The following is from the AODA Alliance:

The Ontario Government has  established a toll-free phone number for the public to report violations of the AODA. This is an interim victory for us, on the long road of our ongoing effort to get the Government to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA.

Use this line if you encounter an organization in Ontario which you believe is violating the AODA.

To report an AODA violation to the Government, call 1-866-515-2025.

TTY: 1-800-268-7095

Take the steps we describe here, and then tell the Government operator you reach the specifics of the AODA violation, including what happened and when, and the name of the organization that violated the AODA.

When you call this number, it is not immediately clear from the Government’s audio announcement that this is the number to call to report AODA violations to the Government. Stick with it!

To reach a human being in order to report a violation of the AODA, first press 1 for English or 2 for French. The automated phone system will then offer to press 1 if you are an individual, or 2 for a business. Press 1, if you want to report an AODA violation.

You will then hear a longer audio announcement. At any time during that audio announcement, just press 0, to reach an operator. Tell the operator you want to report a violation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The first operator you reach does not take that information down from you.
Instead, that first operator is supposed to then connect you with a second operator, one who works at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, located at the Economic Development Ministry. That second operator is the person to whom you can report an AODA violation.

We encourage you to:

* Call this toll-free number if you know of a situation where an obligated organization is violating the AODA, or any accessibility standards under it.

* Ask the Ontario Government operator you reach what the Government will do with the information you give them. Ask them to be sure that the obligated organization is notified that you have contacted the Government with this report of an AODA violation.

* It is not necessary to yourself first notify the obligated organization of your concern that it has violated the AODA. However, it is quite worthwhile to first let that obligated organization know about the accessibility problem. When you call the Government’s toll-free number, you can include in your report any information on your efforts to get the obligated organization to fix the problem, and the response you received from the obligated organization.

* Encourage your friends and family members to also use this toll-free number to report violations of the AODA.

* Widely publicize the availability of this toll-free number. Include it in newsletters, letters to the editor, Facebook pages, etc.

Let us know what happens when you call this number. You can give us your feedback on your experience by emailing us at aodafeedback[at]gmail[dot]com

Why Disabled Canadians should care about Bill C – 51

Today I was asked why disabled people should be concerned about bill C-51. This was my response :

I’m not sure I’m understanding your question, are you saying that the serious potential for the violation of human rights is not a concern of the disability community? “Demonstrating without an official permit or protesting despite a court order, activities that are commonly carried out by Indigenous communities, environmental groups, the labour movement and many others, could be targeted by the new CSIS powers, even though they are fully protected under the Charter of Rights and international law.
These new powers to reduce security threats by CSIS agents are not defined. The only exclusions are acts that would lead to death, bodily harm, perversion of justice or violation of sexual integrity. Other internationally guaranteed human rights such as liberty, privacy and freedom of expression are not protected from these new CSIS powers.
CSIS agents can also seek authorization from Federal Court Judges for warrants to take action that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and permits them to act in disregard of local law in the countries where they are operating.” (Amnesty International)

Many disabled people are concerned about this bill, as it impacts our ability to support our rights, and it impacts the rights of those who show solidarity with us.

Say no to Bill C-51! Find a local rally, sign a petition, and contact your MP.

More ways to get involved

Ableism, not Assisted Suicide, is what we need to work against

The Supreme Court decision on assisted suicide brings up a lot of questions for Canadian disability activists, and some fear, but I think it’s worth looking at why we still have this fear.

I’d like to position myself in this conversation by noting a few things. The first is to acknowledge that within the disability community I hold a fair bit of privilege. As a white, well-educated, employed disabled activist I am aware that other disabled people face greater barriers and oppression and will likely have more to fear from this decision than I do, and I’m not saying that fear is misplaced. I am also a person who has attempted suicide in the past, and I have the privilege to be able to say that without shame. I was young and fighting many years of unnamed depression and ableism that I have since been able to climb out from. I have also known people for whom assisted suicide may have been a compassionate end to their suffering if that choice were possible at the time.

There are many disabled people who understandably feel that they’ve been made more vulnerable by this decision. It brings up many questions about what constitutes a valuable life. What does that mean for people who require assistance with daily activities of life? Does it impact the value of a disabled person’s life in the context of a capitalist society where the ability to produce, make and spend money, has become a mark of human value? What does it mean for mad people and psych survivors whose decisions to end their lives are often controlled by the medical community?

The reason I chose to try to end my life over a decade ago is a complicated one, but ableism, and my understanding of myself within society played a big role. This is a struggle that faces many disabled people still. The idea that we are burdens, and second-class citizen where other “experts” make choices and decisions about our lives is still as ever-present as it was then. The idea that needing help, and being anything less than 100% self-sufficient and independent makes us burdens; that we must all “overcome our disabilities” is holding us back. Yet this is the image we see presented to us not just in the media, but by the organization and presentation of some of our most cherished disability organizations. Yes, there are disability organizations in Canada promoting the oppression of other disabled people through their own internalized ableism. Their inability to recognize the privilege of their membership has silenced those who are more oppressed.

So what do we do about it? We can start with opening our doors and minds to a shift in the disability movement; one with zero tolerance for oppression within its ranks. One where working disabled people work towards becoming allies to people on social assistance, where disabled athletes can talk openly about needing supports. Most importantly we evolve our organizing to a level where disabled people are each experts in the disability experience, and all of us are equally valuable. We can no longer tolerate a movement or organizational community that positions non-disabled people as our champions and runs rampant with classism, racism, sexism, ableism, or any other form of discrimination.

The decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada on assisted suicide is about choice, and we too have a choice. We can choose to allow this decision to divide us into “achievers” and “victims”; or we can reject that ableism. We can use our collective power as disabled people to define lives worth living in terms that include all disabled people. This does not have to conflict with the right of other people who would make that choice. We have no reason to fear assisted suicide if we can overcome ableism within society and within ourselves. We have that choice, let’s choose to start now.

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Let’s Remember our Rights

In 2010 Prime Minister Stephen Harper ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  (CRPD). This historic document recognized specific ways that disabled people are often left out of society such as Access to Justice (Article 13), Living independently and being included in the community (Article 19), Education (Article 24), Adequate standard of living and social protection (Article 28), as well as participation in political and public life (Article 29); the CRPD also recognized that women and children are further disenfranchised (Articles 6 and 7).

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities states that the CRPD marks a paradigm shift by addressing the human rights of persons with disabilities from a progressive social model approach to disability. In many instances, this new approach requires a new way of understanding the exercise of key human rights.

However, CRPD also has an Optional Protocol that Harper left unsigned. The Optional Protocol on Communications (OP) provides for a complaints mechanism whereby groups and individuals, after having exhausted all national resources, can have the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities consider a claim that a State Party has violated the provisions in the CRPD. In other words, while the Harper government was agreeable to these rights for disabled people, it did not want to be held accountable for upholding these rights.

Disabled people face different levels of oppression depending on the communities they come from. This varies not only on an international level, but also across province and territories, genders, age, race, class, disability, and whether or not the person is Aboriginal.

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, 2014, we call on Canadians with Disabilities and organizations to demand that the federal government of Canada sign the Optional Protocol in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Let this be a first step towards greater social justice for Canadians with Disabilities, and the international communities we come from.

Melissa Graham, on behalf of the Toronto Disability Pride March.

Sign the Petition

Letter to Ontario’s Minister of Health on Wheelchair Repair Regulations

Dear Minister Hoskins,

I am writing to inquire as to why wheelchair repair companies do not appear to be subject to any formal regulation or accountability in Ontario. I am a disabled Canadian who has used an electric wheelchair throughout my lifetime. I have continually received appalling service from my repair company, including charges for unnecessary and incomplete repairs, lack of communication about the repairs or possible completion date, and wheelchairs loaned to me that were infested with cockroaches and bed bugs. Upon communication with others, I find that this situation is common whether the wheelchair user pays out of pocket or has social assistance. Why is there no accountability on something so vital to our quality of life?

To date I have not found any accountability measures through repair companies, the manufacturers, or government. Also, it has been my experience that this accountability is not as much of an issue with the technicians, but with the administrative staff and others who profit from their work.

I’m sure that in your time as Minister, and in your past experience with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has helped you realize that for those of us who use wheelchairs on a regular basis these are not just medical devices, but tools that connect us to our communities, families, jobs, and all of the other aspects of our lives.

Does it not seem reasonable and fair that customers of these companies receive accountable service? What can be done to ensure this takes place?

A Call for Wheelchair Repair Regulations in Canada

My message to Health Canada. I welcome your thoughts.

Are wheelchair repair companies subject to any formal regulation or accountability in Canada, and if not, why is that? I am a disabled Canadian who has used an electric wheelchair throughout my lifetime. I have continually received appalling service from my repair company, including charges for unnecessary and incomplete repairs, lack of communication about the repairs or possible completion date, and wheelchairs loaned to me that were infested with cockroaches and bed bugs. Upon communication with others, I find that this situation is common whether the wheelchair user pays out of pocket or has social assistance. Why is there no accountability on something so vital to our quality of life?

Note: To date I have not found any accountability measures through repair companies, the manufacturers, or government. Also, it has been my experience that this accountability is not as much of an issue with the technicians, but with the administrative staff and others who profit from their work.

A letter to my wheelchair – in need of repair

Dear Chair:

Two and a half years ago you and I made a deal. I would work and in return we could go on adventures together. We’ve been to Edmonton, where the snow fell in March and we could barely get through the snow. In England, where I blew up my transformer and you held on for as long as you could. We learned that English chargers do it quietly, and with style.

You are a part of my identity. Accompanying me on everything; my daily commute, protests, coffee meetings, kisses, and cat cuddling sessions. You make my life possible, and I’ve failed you.

I took a risk. Like many who work in wheelchairs I pay your repairs out of pocket. It gets expensive. It would’ve cost $200 for them just to show up this weekend, just to look at you. Instead I chose to pay rent, and student loans, and that amazing new coffee maker I bought the week before. But hey, this was the deal we made, to live life without fear of broken parts.

Now we’re here, you and I, unmoving. Let down by an unregulated wheelchair repair system that encourages people to stay on poverty; on ODSP repairs are free, and you and I thank the credit card. It’s funny how with all my activism I missed what’s right under my feet. Now we wait, without any sense of when the work will be done, or what it will cost.

There has to be something better, for all of us.