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The Ontarians With Disabilities Act

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Barbara Anello is Acting Chair, DAWN Ontario.

While I don't want to undermine the importance of designated parking spots for people with disabilities, it's incredible that the Ontario Conservative government decided to focus on this particular issue as the only provision of the ODA with teeth.

This reminds me of the old attitude that accessibility is just about wheelchair Access, and that doesn't even seem to be an issue worthy of legislation. The government has increased the fines for parking in designated disabled spots to a maximum fine of $5,000. Was that supposed to impress anyone?

In North Bay in the May 2 2002 by-election, Al McDonald (a cab driver who became a cab owner) replaced Mike Harris, the outgoing Premier of Ontario, as the new MPP for Nipissing. Al McDonald opened up his constituency office in an inaccessible office location downtown. Well, actually, if you call ahead they will put out a temporary ramp. So much for Voluntary compliance!

I shudder to think where we would be if drunk drivers had to voluntarily comply to drive without drinking, rather than the stiff penalties that exist today.

We legislate a minimum wage for workers because, if we didn't, employers wouldn't voluntarily pay people enough (if you can call the existing minimum wage "enough").

We require paramedics to take the flu shot, or they can be fired from their jobs, but you don't see the Tories insisting that nurses or doctors be vaccinated.

Now there is legislation that will require social assistance recipients to Undergo mandatory drug testing in September. If they're found to have any Non-prescription substance in their system, it's either off to rehab or lose benefits.

The Education Act requires mandatory testing of children in grades three and six. Millions of dollars are spent on this waste of taxpayers' money--testing that serves no useful purpose -- and our children don't have textbooks or extra-curricular programs! Why? Because some private sector corporation (friend of the Tories) is financially benefiting from the legislation.

The government even passed legislation to get rid of squeegy kids...

But to pass legislation that would remove and prevent barriers to 1.5 Million Ontarians with disabilities is not a concept that would appeal to the Tory government who are not prepared to do anything to upset their private sector supporters.

It's easier for government to victimize low income people and to criminalize the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our society simply because they can--because they know that these are the folks who don't turn up at the polls to exercise their democratic right to vote in large enough numbers.

In North Bay on election night there were only four votes separating the top two candidates. A re-count changed the number to ten. That proves that every vote counts.

The all-candidates meetings held in my community were hosted by businesses and the teachers union. The Liberal and Conservative candidates declined to participate in a social justice debate (about housing, disability, healthcare and education). The NDP candidate, the only candidate who was prepared to participate in a social justice debate, didn't do as well as many of us had hoped at the polls.

So the people who really ought to get out and vote don't. Why? Maybe they're apathetic. Maybe they're not informed. I think for many people I know who don't vote and don't care about politics, it's because they don't believe in the system--a system that doesn't work for them.

An example of this type of system is the Tories first appointments to the Accessibility Council-five appointments and all males--one blind man and four non-ambulatory men. Regardless of how well qualified these men may be for appointment to the Council, the lack of representation of women and Ontarians with other disabilities is a huge concern. What about the access issues confronting women with disabilities, not to mention deaf, hard of hearing and cognitively impaired people who are ambulatory?