Have your say on the future of the Canadians with Disabilities Act

The Federal Government will be hosting a public forum to get input from the public on what the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include.

where and when this takes place:

When: Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Time: 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Where: Chelsea Hotel Toronto – Churchill Ballroom, 33 Gerrard Street West, Toronto, ON

If you would like to attend this event, you will need to contact the Office for Disability Issues in advance so they can send you a short form with your contact information and accessibility needs.

Pro-Tip: Go with a group and plan the questions you want answered.

Would you like some suggestions of what you might say to the Federal Government at these consultations?

Here are a few starting points from the AODA Alliance.

Here are a few points that I’ve made regarding an Accessible Canada for All.

  • The need for accessible, affordable housing. People can’t be expected to find decent work without decent housing that meets their access needs.
  • Protection of the rights of parents with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in healthcare and all stages of education.
  • Including Indigenous Peoples and refugees in the discussion, and allowing them the same or greater accessibility as the rest of Canada.
  • Police training in effectively and sensitively working with disabled people.
  • Distribution of Health and Social transfers to address the inequities in the systemic barriers that exist between provinces and territories.

This is an opportunity for disabled Canadians to have equitable status as citizens and residents of this country. We need effective enforceable legislation that works for all of us.

Disabled Canadians are more than consumers and potential employees. The Federal legislation must have a broader scope to create equitable rights for disabled people with effective enforcement.

Other ways to Participate:

  • Write to your MP
  • Submit your thoughts to be gathered by SCI Ontario.
  • Participate in the online questionnaire until February 28th, 2017. The questionnaire is also available in an accessible PDF version.
  • Submit your feedback in the language of your choice (English, French, American Sign Language or Langue des signes québécoise) and preferred format such as online, handwritten, video or audio submissions. You can provide your input to the Office for Disability Issues via:

Phone: 1-844-836-8126

TTY: 819-934-6649

Fax: 819-953-4797

Email: accessible-canada@hrsdc.gc.ca

Mail:
Consultation – Accessibility Legislation
c/o Office for Disability Issues
Employment and Social Development Canada
105 Hotel-de-ville St., 1st floor, Bag 62
Gatineau QC K1A 0J9

All of the feedback we receive will be incorporated into reports that will be made available on the consultation website and in alternate formats, on request.

You can also consult the Discussion Guide for more information.

 

Toronto Area Community Consultations on Electoral Reform

Let’s make sure disabled voices are heard on this important issue!

  • The following is a list of community consultations on electoral reform happening in the Toronto area, please find the consultation closest to you if you wish to attend.
  • There are consultations happening across Canada. Please contact your MP for more information on these consultations.
  • Please Note: Some locations require RSVP.
  • Please also note: At time of writing, no accessibility information is readily available regarding these consultations. I will update as more information is available (all the more reason to make sure disabled people are heard on this issue).

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Town Hall, Hosted by the Hon. Kirsty Duncan and MP James Maloney. 7 – 9 pm, Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, Etobicoke, ON

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 – Willowdale Electoral Reform Town Hall with MP Ali Ehsassi, 7pm – 9pm, North York Civic Centre Council Chambers, North York, ON RSVP

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Salma Zahid, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Scarborough Centre Scarborough Civic Centre, Committee Rooms 1-2, 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough, ON

Thursday, September 8th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Bill Blair, 6 – 8pm, Warden Hilltop Community Centre 25 Mendelssohn St, Toronto, ON

Sunday September 11th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with Hon. Carolyn Bennett, 3 – 5 pm, Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Federal electoral reform community dialogue tour with Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, time and location to be confirmed, Toronto, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MPs Jane Philpott and John McCallum, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, Markham Village Library Fireside Lounge, 6031 Highway 7, Markham, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Community Consultation at 6:30pm at the Calvary Church to discuss and share ideas about the future of Canada’s democratic principles, and to identify and study other voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post. Toronto-Danforth, ON

Sunday September 18th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Town Hall with MP Rob Oliphant, (Special Guest to be announced), 2 – 4 pm, Don Valley West at Temple Emanu-El, 120 Old Colony Rd., Toronto, ON, RSVP

Sunday September 25th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Francesco Sorbara, 3 – 6 pm, Vellore Village Community Center, Open to all residents of Vaughan-Woodbridge, Woodbridge, ON

Come out for TTC Accessibility for All!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 4:00pm
Please join us at Yonge and Bloor Station, Toronto, Ontario


D!ONNE Renée is the organizer behind this event. If you have any questions, want to throw your virtual support behind her, or have comments, reach out to her via email or on Twitter at @OnElectionDay.

Click to listen to audio announcement.

The announcement reads:

Accessibility is a Right — Not an Option

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016 – Between 4pm – 8pm, on behalf of community and Public interests, an #AccessibilityNow! TTC campaign/protest will take place starting in the Yonge and Bloor area to raise issues concerning discrimination based on disability, barriers, and ableism in transit and its services.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets out the interpretation for “barriers.” Too many barriers exist within the TTC. It is not acceptable to take a “minimum/at least” approach in improving access for all. The standard should be a model that reflects an equal to or greater than the access that is currently available, model. The equal to or greater than the access that is currently available model is a model of equity and equality.

People have a right to access public systems; in this right, people should feel that they have the option to be free to choose whether they access those systems or not. We are all not free just to be.

Approximately 35 out of 65 subway stations are “partially accessible,” on good days. Functioning equipment = good days. “Partially accessible” means that all patrons don’t have the option to access the system for lack of elevators, Braille information and helps, proper signage (large print, clear, large-enough digital boards), functional escalators, inaccessible entrances/exits (now including Presto Card gates and readers) to subway stations, buses, streetcars, and extraordinary Wheel Trans wait/scheduling. Plus the TTC worsened accessibility when they began replacing the names of Toronto’s subway lines with confusing numbers.

TTC (and transit across Ontario and Canada) must be proactive in its operations and provide equality in its services and not discriminate against anyone, including people with disabilities and/or people requiring accessible access in order to use its systems. TTC was able to find money to implement Presto Card systems into its subway, bus, and streetcar services even though the gate systems being used at subway and bus stations are all not accessible; but TTC seems to be unable to be actively proactive in ensuring that all areas of TTC are fully accessible.

While this event will take place in downtown Toronto, the issues and concerns being raised affect all of Ontario and Canada. We want everyone to have the ability to travel independently, or in group, as we so choose.

We want a barrier-free Canada.

Will you help?

Will you join the protest and invite others to do so too? Will you gather with community in accessibility advocacy? #AccessibilityNow #GetItRight #AODA #AODAFail

Real Change means an Accessible Canada for All

#On December 3rd, let’s remind Trudeau what an #AccessibleCanada4All looks like.

Canada has a new government, and with that new opportunities for change, new potential, new possibilities. Among those possibilities is the Canadians with Disabilities Act.

It seems that Trudeau has taken up the call, and made this potential Act a part of the mandate for our new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough.

But what does this mean in terms of real change in the disparity of equity that disabled people face across this country?

There are some promising points here, Minister Qualtrough has a background as a human rights lawyer and Paralympian; this suggests that she is familiar with the struggles we as disabled people face.

Unfortunately, this potential legislation is already being framed in terms that will favour some of us over others. There are people who firmly believe that this national idea should follow in the path of provincial legislation that came before it, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This legislation was not so much focused on preserving our rights, as it was about getting disabled people involved in the economy, employment and industry.

These are still important points, but sometimes the more privileged disabled people tend to forget the many other hurdles that keep so many more of us behind.

  • The need for accessible, affordable housing.
  • Protection of the rights of parents with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in healthcare, including Indigenous Peoples and refugees.
  • Police training in effectively and sensitively working with disabled people.
  • Distribution of Health and Social transfers to address the inequities in the systemic barriers that exist between provinces and territories.

These are just a few examples, I’m sure there are many more.

This is why I’m asking all disabled people in Canada and their allies to make their voices heard.

Thursday December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is also the day before Prime Minister Trudeau’s Throne Speech.

That is why on December 3rd I’m asking all of you to show our new Prime Minister and his Cabinet what an Accessible Canada for all looks like.

Using the hashtag #AccessibleCanada4All please take to social media and remind them that real change is not a continuation of the status quo, where only the most advantaged of us move forward.

This is our time. Let’s make it count.

Please share the #AccessibleCanada4All campaign with your networks.

Disabled People making more waves than Election Candidates?

For those of you who might not know, we’re having a federal election here in Canada. I’m not a huge fan of electoral politics. I think there’s much more that we can do to influence social policy than cast our votes, and let’s be honest, the choice between three white one-percenters in 2015 says a lot about the level of change that needs to happen in this country.

Aside from that, it is a great time to push for change, while the public eye is on politics, and surprisingly disabled people are making space in election time.

There are some really exciting things happening in the disability movement in this election, and you need to know about them.

First is the Toronto Disability Pride March, happening tomorrow Saturday October 3rd. Full disclosure I am the founder and a co-organizer of this march, but even if I weren’t I would still be shouting from the rooftops, because this is going to be an amazing event and you all should be there. It starts at 1:00 pm at Queen’s Park at 111 Wellesly Street West, and wraps up at 99 Gerrard Street East with a post march celebration at 4:00 pm

We have some great speakers lined up including David Lepofsky of Barrier-Free Canada and the AODA AllianceDiem LaFortune, myself, and Kevin Jackson. This is not just a time to raise disability issues, but also a time for disabled people who are not often involved to have their voices heard, and take to the streets as part of the community of disabled people. You can find the march on Facebook, and on Twitter @DisabilityPM hashtag #tdpm2015.

In Toronto, there was a election debate on disability issues earlier this week, you can still see the video.

There have also been some exciting developments with Barrier-Free Canada’s efforts to encourage all federal parties to commit to enacting a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

They’ve introduced a letter writing tool that makes it easier than ever to join the campaign. All you need to do is fill out a short form, and a prewritten letter will automatically be addressed to all the candidates in your riding.

You’ll have the option of changing the letter or sending it as is. And you’ll have the ability to easily share through email and social media.

The beauty of this tool is that there’s no need for you to look up candidates or to try to find their email addresses. We take care of all of that. You simply fill out the form, and you’re ready to go!

There are still a few hiccups with this tool, but I encourage you to check it out.

Please take two minutes to let candidates in your area know that you support the call for a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Then invite your friends and family to join the campaign. So far the NDP and Greens have promised to enact it, but we need more than a press release, we need action. Visit www.barrierfreecanada.org/campaign/. They are asking people to promote the campaign on social media with the hashtag #canadiansdisabilitiesact.

Elections are a great time to raise our voices as a diverse disability community. I will be raising more issues to not in the coming days, but until then I hope to see you at the march tomorrow!

 

“Here in Canada, we won’t see your disability”…unless we can profit from it.

The Parapan Am Games, August 2015. I was at the Torch Relay a few weeks ago, and one of the speakers, a well-known member of the disability community, and founder of a disability organization said, “Here in Canada, we won’t see your disability”.

My jaw dropped. I wanted to believe that he hadn’t just said that like it was a good thing, but he did. In fact he went on about it for another few minutes with great enthusiasm.

I doubt anyone has gone from shameless fan girl to outraged disability activist as fast as I did in that moment, but it was an uncomfortable transformation that went something like this:

“Wait, what?”… “Are you kidding me?”… “Ok, any minute now he’s going to turn around and tell all the politicians behind him that they need to step up”… “Somebody must’ve put him up to this.”… “Nope, no, please just stop”.

He meant this as a positive statement I’m sure, I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a country where ableism doesn’t exist. I think the PR department forgot to tell the white guy with the microphone that Canada isn’t that country. If that country exists right now it probably has unicorns, wizards flying on brooms…and much better Games.

I want to believe this speaker meant well; he’s a Canadian icon. Maybe he’s just speaking from his lived experience.

Maybe he doesn’t realize that there’s disabled people still fighting for accessible transportation, like RAPLIQ in Montreal. Maybe he doesn’t realize people are fighting to keep their existing accessible transportation, like Save Handydart in Vancouver.

It’s not like Canada’s a country that still euthanizes disabled people, but it does do research to screen genes for disabilities, and let’s not forget the ableism in assisted suicide.

It’s a country were disabled people can move freely…unless you’ve have been forced to live in an institution (another example), or have a suicide attempt on record that prevented you from crossing the border.

It is a country where disabled people have free will, unless compliance with medication is forced on you, someone decides you’re too disabled to parent, or you’re a refugee seeking healthcare.

Perhaps it’s easy to be misdirected by the billions of dollars that was spent on the Games and forget we’re in a province that underfunds social assistance and social housing, still has high unemployment for disabled people despite the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the Guy Mitchell inquest.

If I may, let’s take a lesson from our Prime Minister on what not to do, and stop trying to make problems go away by pretending they don’t exist. Disabled people exist in Canada, and not seeing that is part of the problem. Shielding our eyes from oppression is not something to be proud of and it won’t make ableism disappear.

How about we focus on making Canada a country that sees disabled people, and sees them as an asset. That sounds like something to shout into a microphone.

For more on ableism see The Invisible Backpack of Able-Bodied Privilege Checklist.

Support a Barrier-Free Canada.

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