Why Won’t Doug Ford Make Election Commitments to Tear Down Barriers for Ontarians With Disabilities?

Ford’s record on disability issues is ‘abysmal’, writes David Lepofsky BY DAVID LEPOFSKY

Imagine going to a new school, university, hospital or public transit service, funded with your tax dollars, only to discover that the government didn’t design it to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Imagine you have been trying to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, only to find that Doug Ford’s one-size-fits-all pandemic response ignored the urgent needs of people with disabilities who don’t fit his simplistic mould.

Imagine your autistic child was waiting for years for desperately needed therapy, but Ford doubled that wait list, after promising to reduce it.

Imagine you are one of the many people with disabilities who cannot find a job in our booming economy, due to easily-prevented workplace barriers. Ford is still sitting on recommendations to address workplace barriers that a government-appointed advisory committee recommended three years ago – recommendations that Ford concealed for two years, in contravention of Ontario’s Disabilities Act.

In the 2018 election, Ford pledged disability issues would be “close to the hearts” of the Progressive Conservatives. Since then, his record on disability issues is abysmal.

Has Doug Ford’s election war room decided they’ll never get any votes from people with disabilities or from anyone who cares about their plight? Ford is the only major Ontario party leader in almost two decades to refuse to even answer our request to make election commitments to tear down soul-crushing accessibility barriers obstructing over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities from competitive jobs, health care, education, transit, housing and other essentials.

Ford’s “new normal” has more serious barriers impeding people with disabilities, not fewer. Ontario Disability Support Program recipients, languishing in poverty, got no increase since fall 2018. We’ve ironically asked if ODSP recipients should declare themselves “small businesses” to get Ford to care?

The non-partisan coalition I chair doesn’t endorse any party. We campaign to get strong commitments from all parties.

We wrote the parties six months ago, requesting commitments. The NDP, Greens and Liberals made commitments. Ford hasn’t. It’s not too late for him to respond.

We’re tweeting Ford’s candidates, asking them to press Ford to answer us. None reply.

Too many of the press corps, trailing the leaders, give Ford a free pass by not covering this issue. Only a few media cover it, led by TVO’s Steve Paikin.

Earlier media coverage of another vital disability issue, Ontario’s cruel sub-poverty ODSP rate, drove Ford to belatedly pledge the first ODSP hike in almost four years, just days after his pre-election budget included no increase. Ford could change his tune on our accessibility issues, if more media stop giving him this free pass.

The media should spend less time with pundits speculatively telling us what issues we supposedly care about, and trying to read tea leaves about the campaign horse race. They should spend more time covering under-reported disability accessibility issues that we care about and that affect us all!

Accessibility for people with disabilities benefits everyone, and hurts no one. Ford’s war room staffers and candidates should realize they too are bound to get disabilities. Hey, Tory war room! How about promising that new hospitals, schools and transit you build, using our money, will be accessible?

David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School. Twitter: @davidlepofsky.

Original at https://www.toronto.com/opinion/why-wont-doug-ford-make-election-commitments-to-tear-down-barriers-for-ontarians-with-disabilities/article_7da5a79e-8c77-5142-aba9-8a588890a945.html