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To the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 Consultations

Monday, March 1, 2004

The National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality (NFB:AE) supports the strengthening of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001, to create an Act whose purpose, as noted by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee: " is to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, where persons with disabilities can be treated with dignity, and fully participate in all aspects of Ontario life."

The National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality (NFB:AE) was founded in 1992, as a consumer organization of blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians with the mandate of providing our community with a vehicle for self-expression and action on issues of common concern. Throughout our history, our work has focused primarily on public education and advocacy related to blindness.

We believe that the following recommendations, if implemented, would lead to a piece of legislation that we could be proud of, and which would help improve the lives of persons with disabilities living in the province of Ontario, now and in the future.

  1. The scope of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 must be expanded to include all Sectors, especially the Private Sector.
  2. Taken from the original eleven principles which were introduced in and passed unanimously by the Ontario Legislature: The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require Government, companies, and organizations to make their programmes, services and premises fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of new barriers, within strict timeframes to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations.
  3. Procurement: The provincial and municipal Governments should lead by example in refusing to purchase any products, goods and services, including but not limited to computer hardware and software, educational textbooks, and communication and transportation equipment, unless and until they are universally usable by all Ontarians.
  4. The Act should require the provision of information in various alternative formats, along with the development of a plan to inform the public of the increased availability of information in these formats.
  5. All restaurants and Hotels should be required to provide menus and other information available to guests in accessible formats.
  6. The Act should require all provincial and municipal Government websites and electronic documents to be made fully accessible and usable within the next six months by those using screen-reader and screen magnification technology.
  7. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require all employers to conduct an employment systems review of all their current workplace practices, including recruitment, hiring, job descriptions, training and development, and promotions, in order to identify existing barriers and develop plans for their removal.
  8. Employers, especially in the Government and Public Sectors, should be required to adopt as policy the Ontario Human Rights Commission's policy guidelines on the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities, and conduct training of all managers and supervisors on these guidelines.
  9. The Government of Ontario should lead by example and become a model employer, by taking proactive steps to improve the level of representation of persons with disabilities in its employ.
  10. The Act should guarantee the right to accessible and dignified voting at both the provincial and municipal levels for all citizens.
  11. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario should facilitate networking among the province's Accessibility Advisory Committees to assist Committees to learn from each other's activities, methods and successes.
  12. Section 21 of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 should be proclaimed, thus providing for enforcement of the submission of Accessibility Plans and creation of Accessibility Advisory Committees. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also prescribe development of specific time-lines for implementation of all measures identified in the Accessibility Plans being submitted.
  13. The Act should be expanded to include increased penalties for those who fail to file Plans on time, and who fail to make meaningful progress towards implementing accessibility measures that will make a real difference in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities.
  14. The NFB:AE believes that persons with disabilities have the right to participate directly in the development of all legislation, policies and programmes that will ultimately affect our lives. We encourage the Ministry to involve consumers more extensively in its work.

In conclusion, the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality supports the creation of a strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes requirements for proactive measures to remove existing barriers and prevent new ones, in a systemic approach aimed to reduce the need for the case by case process available currently through the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

We thank you for your consideration of our suggestions and look forward to working with you in pursuit of a barrier-free Ontario for all its citizens.

Marcia Cummings
Secretary, National Board of Directors
130 Neptune Drive, Apt. 803
Toronto, Ontario
M6A 1X5

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