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Welcome to Citizens with Disabilities - Ontario (CWDO)

CWDO

Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario (CWDO) actively promotes the rights, freedoms and responsibilities of persons with disabilities through community development, social action, and member support and referral.  Our primary activity is public education and awareness about the social and physical barriers that prevent the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in Ontario.

CWDO Project Researches Barriers and Gateways to Participation

As this project unfolds over the next 18 months, we will build a comprehensive picture of Ontario programs, policies, services and activities that improve or limit the participation and inclusion of people with disabilities. The project focuses on several key areas of participation including employment, human rights, transportation, access and inclusion legislation, technology, international issues, and ending of life ethics. Read Report #1. Read Report #2. Read Report #3.

CWDO's Report on the Fed's Consultation on Accessibility Legislation

 

A federal government consultation on accessibility legislation was held in Toronto on February 8. A representative from CWDO was there.

There was such an overwhelming response to the pre-registration, that a second ballroom was in place across the hall. Our rooms were linked together for opening comments, including comments from the Hon. David Onley, formerly the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.  He has been appointed the Ontario Champion for accessibility as it relates to this legislation.

This consultation was one in a series of consultations held across the country, and was the last one scheduled. It was well represented, with over 200 people in attendance between the two rooms. Those who registered received a consultation guide outlining a number of questions the government had to address in developing the legislation.

After introductory remarks, people were asked to raise their hand so that they could be given a card with a number on it, and then people spoke in order of the number on their card. Each speaker was given 3 minutes to speak.

There were three key questions for feedback, and speakers could address any or all of them in their 3 minutes:

  1. What are the key barriers you are experiencing?
  2. What do you think should be done to address those barriers?
  3. What can be done to make attitudes toward people with disabilities more positive?

The federal government was particularly interested in hearing from us about whether we favoured a prescriptive approach, that is, setting timelines, standards, etc., or whether we preferred an outcomes-based approach, for example, awareness campaigns, and measuring progress over time. A couple of people spoke to this point – one who felt that a prescriptive approach was the only way to go since we've been working on "feel-good" campaigns since the 1970s and 1980s, and have not made much headway. Another speaker felt the opposite, and believed people had to have their heart in it to make progress.

Key points raised:

  • The organizers pointed out that employment was a main focus of interest, since everything else serves to be a barrier to employment if it is not available – transportation, housing, etc.
  • They wanted to hear from us about things that were within the federal purview – that is, things under their control and authority.
  • Several speakers in both rooms raised the importance of having an Ombudsman or other independent overseer to hold people accountable to the legislation
  • Several speakers raised the importance of having effective enforcement mechanisms
  • Individuals who were Deaf were very well represented in both rooms and very well organized. They spoke quite eloquently about various aspects of employment and inclusion that are barriers. It was suggested that the unemployment rate in the deaf community is approximately 88%. They also stressed the importance of education as a foundation for employment.
  • Many applicants in both rooms raised concerns related to unemployment rate for persons with disabilities. Statistics Canada has stated that 49% of persons with disabilities who could work are not employed in Canada
  • People recommended setting goals and targets for employers to hire people with disabilities
  • A couple of people spoke out to ensure that their groups would be included in the definition of disability for the legislation – autism and environmental sensitivities. They felt they were not included now
  • Several people raised points about the importance of the federal government using their leverage with regard to transfer payments to the provinces to insist that standards be in place, for example, education and healthcare
  • The point was made that taxpayer dollars should not be spent if the product or service was not accessible, that the government can use its "buying power" to address a number of barriers
  • Concerns were also raised regarding provincial and municipal procurement policies and how they impact accessibility here in Ontario.  The example used was the purchase of buses for a municipal transportation system that could not be made accessible.
  • The AODA Alliance recommended that the federal government NOT copy Ontario's approach to the AODA
  • Someone suggested that persons with disabilities be given access to sexual supports a comment which raised a huge round of applause
  • Some people representing municipal accessibility advisory committees think the committees have no role. stated clearly that the advisory committees are not working very well

There were other points raised, most of which are included in our submission which will be published on this website at the end of February. 

Thank you to the many CWDO members who attended the consultation and responded to our survey. Thank you also to the Canadian Disability Alliance(CDA) for reporting comments which were offered in the second room. Read the CDA's proposals on their Facebook page, and give them your feedback. 

CWDO Attends Federal Government Consultation on a National Accessibility Act

CWDO attended a federal government consultation on a national accessibility act on February 8, 2017 in Toronto. Over 200 people were in attendance.

IDPD…Again

 

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) reminds us that our progress has been measured in decades, not days, and that the timetable for making our province accessible takes even longer.

The United Nations declared 1981 the Year of the Disabled. When it became clear that barriers for people with disabilities were not going to be overcome in one year, the Decade of Disabled Persons was proclaimed. So, since 1992 we’ve celebrated the achievements of persons with disabilities and our growing ability to participate in all aspects of life, community, family, school and work. These advances have come about because of the perseverance of persons with disabilities, organizations run by persons with disabilities, our allies and even, at times the will of the governments of the day.

Ontario's accessibility legislation promises accessibility by 2025. While this puts a stake in the ground, it is absolutely clear that we will not be fully accessible by 2025. For example, new buildings are going to be more accessible because they will follow the new Building Code rules, but many renovation projects get around them. Without a requirement to retrofit, it could be another hundred years before all buildings are accessible.

Technology is rapidly advancing, and while it probably has the greatest potential to be an equalizer for persons with disabilities, especially in employment, employers are slow to upgrade systems so that they will be more accessible, and only rarely do they hire people with disabilities. All too frequently, new apps arrive on the market that at best, show an afterthought to accessibility.

While attitudes, awareness and understanding of people with disabilities has increased, this is offset by a fixation on ableism in our society. Health sciences works to eradicate disability by offering genetic counselling to decrease the potential number of children being born with a disability. In fact, most recently, there are comprehensive protocols to ensure a disabled person's rights are protected so they can kill themselves if they want to. Very few people understand what is wrong with that. Due to a pervasive ableist mentality, accessibility and accommodation remain an afterthought. Ironically, my computer’s spell checker cannot even spell “ableism.”

So, this year, on this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we celebrate the untiring and unwavering spirit of people with disabilities to prevail, despite centuries of rejection and promises of accessibility way off in the future. When services did not exist – housing, accessible transportation, attendant services, assistive devices – people with disabilities negotiated skilfully and strategically to get them designed.

Here are some names every person with a disability living in Ontario should know: Scott Allardyce, Luke Anderson, Linda Cairns, Sandra Carpenter, Catherine Frazee, Helen Henderson, Pat Israel, Donna Jodhan, David Lepofsky, John Lord, Gary Malkowski, Ron Ross, Fran Odette, David Onley, Bill Owen, Jeff Preston, Peter Park, John Rae, Geoffrey Reaume, Jim Roots, Trish Robichaud, Hazel Self, Judith Snow, Traci Walters, Ing Wong-Ward, Maayan Ziv…and the list goes on.

These visionaries devoted themselves to breaking down barriers, and drew allies into the cause. We have definitely moved forward since 1981, and we continue to do so. But it will take all of us, plus our allies, to create an accessible society that lives out the simple yet essential goals set out in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will allow all of our citizens to prosper.

  • As long as there are waiting lists when more services are needed,
  • As long as there are people with disabilities who are unemployed or underemployed despite being able to work,
  • As long as transportation remains inaccessible and inadequate,
  • As long as people with disabilities live precariously because work, accessible medical facilities, housing, attendant and other services are not available to us...

...We must continue to work together to make Ontario fully accessible!

Recently, Independent Living Canada released "Come Join the Movement," a song meant to attract people to the independent living movement. Listen to the song, read the lyrics, and work together to make Ontario fully accessible in our lifetime.

Together we are stronger.

 

Pat Seed, President

Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario