Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org
June 3, 2022
What a hectic month it has been! The June 2, 2022 Ontario election campaign is the seventh successive Ontario general election in which the AODA Alliance, and before it, its predecessor the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, waged a non-partisan campaign to secure commitments from the major political parties on tearing down the many barriers that impede people with disabilities from full participation in competitive jobs, education, public transit, housing, health care and the like. We never endorse or oppose any party or candidate. We try to get the strongest election commitments we can from every party. We are always ready, willing and eager to work with any and all political parties on disability accessibility issues.
The Ford Government will return for a second term in office. We are poised to continue our unstoppable advocacy efforts, after we take an extremely brief break. We have lots up our collective sleeve. Stay tuned!
We shall soon reach out to Premier Doug Ford to offer to work with him on fulfilling his obligation to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. We are keenly aware that Doug Ford and his party were the only party that refused to make any election commitments to us in this campaign on the issue of disability accessibility. This will not slow us down or deter us. Our grassroots accessibility movement has been here before.
In the 1995 Ontario election, Conservative leader Mike Harris promised in writing that he would enact a Disabilities Act in his first term in office, and would work with our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, to develop it. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was co-chair and later chair of the ODA Committee. Mike Harris had branded himself as the politician who would keep all his promises, and committed to resign if he did not do so.
Mike Harris and the Tories won a second majority government in the 1999 election. However, when he called the 1999 election, he had broken his written promises to the ODA Committee. He had not enacted any Disabilities Act. He had not worked with the ODA Committee. He had refused every request to meet with the ODA Committee. Moreover, he broke his promise to resign if he broke any of his promises. It is puzzling that some journalists and pundits to this day still talk about Mike Harris as the politician who keeps his promises.
As was the case in the 2022 election, the Tories made no commitments to the ODA Committee on disability accessibility in the 1999 election. When the Tories won a second majority term in 1999, the non-partisan ODA Committee forged ahead, worked harder than ever, and expanded its advocacy efforts over the next four years. After all those efforts, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was unanimously passed in 2005. We will learn from that past experience.
We thank everyone who has helped our cause over this election campaign, by reading and circulating our AODA Alliance Updates, by “liking” and retweeting our tweets and sharing our Facebook posts, by raising our issues with candidates, friends and family, and by never giving up! Tenacity is our middle name!
What We Achieved in the 2022 Ontario Election Campaign
Let’s reflect on the collective accomplishments in this election campaign, about which we all should be proud:
* We prepared for this election campaign well in advance, because it was the most important one in almost two decades for people with disabilities. Six months ago, in our November 22, 2021 letter, we sent the major party leaders a comprehensive list of the election commitments on disability accessibility that we were seeking. These are especially important since Ontario’s next government will be in power for the remaining years before January 1, 2025. That letter remains a clear blueprint or agenda for the future. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by that date. It is only 943 days from now. We were available to any party to brief them on our requests as they formulated their election platforms.
* We secured detailed and helpful commitments from the Ontario Liberal party, the Ontario Greens and the Ontario NDP. Some 59% of voters supported parties with those agendas. Particularly in the case of the Liberal Party, their commitments were far stronger in this election than their commitments to us in the 2018 Ontario election. These commitments can form the basis of our non-partisan work with each of these parties over the next four years. We also will call on those parties to stand by their 2022 commitments as a starting point for their platforms on this issue in the 2026 Ontario election. Yes, it is true! We are already thinking and planning that far ahead!
* An impressive number of different disability advocates and community organizations around Ontario raised a spectrum of important disability issues. We, the AODA Alliance, of course were focused on the effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Accessible housing advocates focused on the crisis due to the shortage of accessible housing. Parents of children with autism drove home the harmful doubling of the waitlist for desperately-needed autism services. Health advocates brought to public light festering problems in long term care, in hospital care, and in addressing mental health needs. These disability issues all overlap and compound each other. In this election, disability advocacy on them coalesced more than ever before during any provincial election. After this election, we aim to build on that energy, shared mission and momentum.
* It appears that we secured more media coverage of our disability accessibility issues in this campaign than we have in any of the past six Ontario elections, including local, provincial and national coverage. We have found in election after election that it is harder to get coverage of provincial disability issues during an election campaign than it is during the years between election campaigns. Of course, that makes no sense, since the media devotes more time to provincial political and policy issues during a provincial election campaign than at any other time.
Once again, too often the Queen’s Park media corps and many of the usual pundits and commentators gave our issues little or no coverage. As in the past, they did a disservice to voters by reporting too much on a blizzard of polls, predicting outcomes, and even debating the future of the NDP and Liberal leaders before voting day had even arrived. Indeed, some of the same reporters or media outlets that failed to cover our issue at all were asking two of the candidates for premier whether they will step down after the election as party leader if they lose. Ontarians are far better served by the media if they use more time before voting day asking about disability issues, rather than such “gotcha” questions that they know party leaders understandably will not answer (no matter what be their party).
* Our use of social media in this election was at least as extensive if not more extensive than ever before. We got so many “likes” and retweets from people with whom we had not previously had any direct involvement. We have more social media followers and supporters than ever before. Welcome, one and all to the team effort, on which we will continue to build!
* We equipped our supporters with action tips so that they could swing into action and raise our issues on their own at the local level.
* The AODA Alliance website’s rapidly-growing 2022 election page quickly grew as a useful place to find all you need to understand this election’s disability accessibility issues. It can also be a helpful resource for future advocacy efforts.
* We achieved all this through volunteer efforts, fully adhering to our non-partisan status. We are known and respected for this, as is illustrated in the headline of the City News Ottawa’s May 30, 2022 report:
“The chair of a non-partisan group that campaigns for disability and accessibility reform wants Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford to make commitments to tear down barriers for the over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.”
This is important since we always remain ready to work with any party and any premier.
Get ready for another round of advocacy on accessibility for people with disabilities!