Ontario Premier Launches New Accessibility Legislation
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 12, 2004
TORONTO, ONTARIO--Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty introduced legislation that would make the province totally accessible to people with disabilities by 2024.
In a speech to the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Mr. McGuinty said the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2004, would strengthen the province by improving access to workplaces, public spaces, employment, customer service, communications and transportation.
"Every person deserves the opportunity to learn, work and play to his or her full potential," he said. "Every Ontarian benefits when we tap into the potential of each Ontarian."
"I often say that Ontario succeeds when we all work and dream and build together. And 'all' must certainly include, in every way, the 1.5 million Ontarians with a disability."
McGuinty, a Liberal, pointed out that many Ontario businesses and organizations are learning that becoming accessible carries tremendous economic benefits. Collectively, Ontarians with disabilities have about $25 billion in annual buying power. Improving access also generates new spending in the hospitality, retail, and tourism industries, he noted.
The proposed legislation would replace the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001, which has been criticized as ineffective by disability advocates.
The new measure was developed in consultation with people who have disabilities. Accessibility standards would be set for the public and private sectors, along with specific timelines for compliance. Tougher penalties would also be established.
Conservatives and members of the New Democratic Party expressed skepticism over the proposal and the Premier's intentions.
"In reality it's very, very vague," Conservative Garfield Dunlop told the Canadian Press. "(McGuinty is) trying to get a very positive story out of what is probably going to be the beginning of a very, very negative session for this government."
Peter Kormos, NDP house leader, said, "Twenty years is an embarrassment . . . It guarantees that at least one more generation of Ontarians with disabilities are going to be denied access."
McGuinty responded, "It is gradual, but inexorable, and we'll determine which are those that we are going to do within the first five years."
"Background: New Legislation Helps Improve Accessibility, Quality Of Life For Ontarians With Disabilities" (Government of Ontario)
"Disability legislation overhaul to phase in new access rules for businesses" (Canadian Press via CanadaEast.com)