December 3, 2014
1.8 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Still Waiting for Justice:
OFL Statement for International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, 2014
December 3 marks the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities. According to the UN, persons with disabilities make up 15 percent of the world’s population and it is estimated that one quarter of the global population is directly affected by disability, as caregivers or family members. The OFL is committed to eliminating the individual and systemic barriers that continue to marginalize so many people with disabilities. Full social and economic inclusion for our brothers and sisters with disabilities must be a priority for a province striving for economic and social justice.
According to Statistics Canada, about 3.8 million Canadians (13.7 percent) reported having a disability in 2012. In Ontario, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers and challenges that prevent them from fully contributing to their society and economy. According to the 2010-2011 Annual Report of the Canada-Ontario Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities:
“A disproportionately high number of people with disabilities in Ontario, as in the rest of the country, have no employment earnings. In 2009, 63% of people with disabilities in Ontario reported employment earnings, compared to 85% of people without disabilities. For those who do work, average earners are lower among people with disabilities as compared to the rest of the population.”
It is an unfortunate and persistent reality that significant disparities persist between persons with disabilities and the general population, which are evidenced by grossly differential access to education, employment, housing and other determinants of quality of life. These disparities were extensively documented in the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s recent Report on Equality Rights of People with Disabilities, published in 2012.
Public sector agencies including government ministries, municipalities, hospitals, public transportation authorities, school boards, colleges and universities are required to prepare and publish annual accessibility plans, as a legal obligation under Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). The purpose of the AODA is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards with people with disabilities, the Government of Ontario, sector representatives and others, in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.
However, it was over 10 months ago that Ontarians learned the shocking news from the front page of the Toronto Star newspaper that the Ontario government had known for months of massive violations of the Disabilities Act among private sector organizations and that it has failed to enforce this law. In the words of the Accessibilities for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance), “this dereliction of duty took place despite the Government having budgeted ample funds for the AODA‘s implementation and enforcement.” In fact, Freedom of Information applications have revealed that the government has been sitting on a detailed plan for enforcing the Act, prepared by public servants in 2012.
Since then, little has changed and Ontario’s 1.8 million persons with disabilities continue to wait for justice.
During the 2014 provincial election, the Premier Kathleen Wynne promised to enforce the Act immediately, as well as to:
- Invest $30 million over two years into partnerships with business to create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities;
- Increase the Ontario Disability Support Program rates for people with disabilities by one percent in 2014-15; and
- Invest $810 million over three years to provide better services for people with developmental disabilities and more support for caregivers and their families.
While these promises do not go far enough to redress the inequalities facing the disability community, they have not yet been implemented. The OFL will continue to work closely with organizations such as AODA Alliance, the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Action Coalition and the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG), among others, to ensure that the Government of Ontario surpasses the Premier’s modest promises and becomes a province that is accessible, supportive and welcoming to all.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.
For further information:
Joel Duff, OFL Communications Director: 416.707.0349 or JDuff@ofl-org.flywheelsites.com *ENG/FRE*