The Barrier Free Canada August 2015 newsletter

Table of contents

  1. A special request to our readers
  2. Summary for the month of August
  3. Next steps
  4. How you can support us
  5. Contact info

A special request to our readers

We would like to start with an important appeal to our readers. From now until October 19, we are asking you to please help our cause by taking to social media.

We need as many of you as possible to start tweeting and retweeting. You can either make up your own tweets or retweet any tweet that you come across with the hashtag #canadiansdisabilitiesact. Or write to us at info@barrierfreecanada.org and we will be pleased to provide you with sample tweets.

Every voice and every tweet counts and it is only like this that we will convince our next Canadian Parliament to implement a Canadians Disabilities Act. Use Twitter and Facebook and let’s share each other’s tweets and posts!

We are counting on you!

Summary for August

Welcome to the Barrier Free Canada August newsletter and we’ll start with our summary for August. This month continued to be a very hectic one for us as we prepare to launch an all out offensive on social media as well as to encourage more organizations to express their support on our website.

Our list of yes supporters continued to grow at a fast clip and our social media efforts are coming along as more people are retweeting our tweets and liking our Facebook page as well as sharing our links.

On Aug 11, Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières received an important endorsement from well known newspaper columnist André Picard of the Globe and Mail newspaper. The text of his column follows.

EQUALITY: It’s past time for our own Disabilities Act

The Globe and Mail August 11, 2015

By ANDRÉ PICARD

Twenty-five years ago, the United States adopted a momentous civil liberties law, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The purpose of the law was four-fold:

  • to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
  • to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
  • to ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing the standards; and
  • to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities.

In short, the ADA gave people legal rights to be full participants in everyday life, and it has had a revolutionary effect.

The most visible impact is the tearing down of physical barriers: Schools, stores, sports stadiums, government buildings, public transit systems that are accessible to people with mobility-impairments are now the norm.

The law has been used by thousands with psychiatric, development and physical disabilities to leave institutional care in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities and receive care in the community.

Discrimination against those with disabilities is no longer tolerated in the workplace, and employment rates have improved, though the jobless rate among people with disabilities remains stubbornly high with about two-thirds out of work (compared with about one-quarter of those without disabilities.)

This is a reminder that anti-discrimination laws, while important, are not enough; a supportive social safety net is also required to ensure inclusion and full citizenship.

But back to the law: As the United States celebrates the ADA, it’s worth reflecting how Canada compares.

In this country, there is no comprehensive legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities. What we have instead is a mish-mash of vague principles and tame enforcement bodies.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees persons with disabilities the right to “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on … mental or physical disability.” The Canadian Human Rights Act also prohibits discrimination, as do provincial human rights codes.

The fundamental difference in approaches is that, in the United States, the ADA was proactive – it forced governments and private businesses to tear down barriers or face punishing sanctions, and it gave people with disabilities legal tools to demand change.

In Canada, we continue to treat inclusion of people with disabilities as a privilege rather than a right.

That needs to change.

It’s well past time for a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

The non-partisan group BarrierFree Canada is calling on all the federal parties to make a commitment to this approach. And despite some high-profile support, such as that of disability activist Rick Hansen, the campaign has not received attention in the mainstream political discourse.

What better time is there for our political leaders to take a stand for a barrier-free and inclusive Canada than during a federal election campaign?

There are roughly four million Canadians now living with a physical, psychiatric or developmental disability. That number is expected to rise to about nine million by 2030. (Let’s not forget that aging – not injury or genetics – is the principal cause of disability.)

The barriers people with disabilities face are many: physical, legal, bureaucratic, communication, technological and, above all, attitudinal.

We don’t have an inclusive society because of deep-rooted fears about those who are “different.”

We also tend to have erroneous beliefs that accommodation is expensive when, in fact, the biggest economic and social cost comes from excluding people from participating in society to the full scope of their abilities.

Change has happened in Canada but it has been painfully slow.

The purpose of a Canadians with Disabilities Act would be essentially the same ones as laid out in the ADA a quarter-century ago – to speed up the march toward equality and inclusion.

What Barrier-Free Canada is calling for, in a nicely articulated statement of principles, is legislation that moves beyond the rhetoric of breaking down barriers to creating a structure in which plans to do so will actually be devised and implemented, and the rules enforced.

Aspirations, values and bons mots – like those in our cherished Charter of Rights and Freedoms – are not enough. There needs to be concrete action to give values life.

As Barrier-Free Canada states: “The Canadians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window-dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Canada. It must have real force, effect and teeth.”

We also created a new page on our website called Election 2015 and this page will give you some very helpful tips on how you can support our initiative to have the next Canadian Parliament enact a Canadians Disabilities Act.

We have included an election action kit along with letters that we have mailed and emailed to the party leaders with regard to our request for equal access for Canadians with disabilities to candidates forums. We encourage you to visit this page at http://barrierfreecanada.org/election-2015/ and check back regularly as we may be including new content as we go along.

Letters from all of the supporting organizations are now posted to our website. Our five founding organizations are: 
CNIB, March of Dimes, the MS Society of Canada, the Canadian Hearing Society, and Accessible Media Inc. A list of our supporting organizations is listed below along with the date on which they signed on.

April 02
Irene Lambert
(Past president, program director)
The Low Vision Self-Help Association
West Island, Montreal Quebec

June 01
Kim White, Manager of Strategic Initiatives
On behalf of Kelly White, Executive Director
The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL

June 12
Louise Gillis
National President, Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

June 15
Dar Wournell
National President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)

June 16
Shane Holten
President, SPH Planning & Consulting Limited

June 21
The Rick Hansen Foundation

June 22
Lucio D’Intino
President, Quebec Federation of the blind

June 26
Barbara Collier Reg. CASLPO. F. ISAAC
Executive Director, Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

July 14
Karen Bell
Manager Policy & Stakeholder Relations
Community Living Toronto

July 21
Roxanna Spruyt Rocks
Chief Executive Officer
Deaf Blind Ontario Services

July 31
Jerry Dias
Unifor National President

We continued to work hard to increase our presence on Facebook and on Twitter and our efforts are starting to pay off as more visitors are coming to us on Facebook and the number of our followers on Twitter are steadily climbing. For the month of August the number of persons signing up as supporters increased markedly. We thank everyone for their support and ask that you continue to help us by spreading the word.


Next steps

From now until Election Day, we will be doubling our efforts to garner support from as many organizations and individuals as possible and for the month of September we will be working to make ourselves better known in the media.

If you would like to join our growing band of volunteers who have taken to social media to tweet and post to Facebook on our behalf, then please send us an email to info@barrierfreecanada.org and we will provide you with samples of tweets and twitter handles that you can include in your posts and tweets.

In like manner; If you would like to receive our election action kit which you can use to help you spread the word then please send your email to info@barrierfreecanada.org and we would be delighted to send you a copy. Or you can also access our election action kit at http://barrierfreecanada.org/election-2015/.

We are also looking for volunteers who can help us to translate our newsletter from English to French. Please, email us at info@barrierfreecanada.org if you can be of assistance.

We have already started to attract some international attention as some time in September we are going to be interviewed by the Royal National Institute of the Blind’s radio station. The RNIB radio station is a UK based entity.

Also in September and in October, we will be making appearances on the Welcome to my World program of the 93.1 Ottawa based radio station CKCU www.ckcufm.com.

In September we will be interviewed by the Association de sphina-bifida et d’hydrocéphalie du Québec and the issue is called “Le spinnaker”.

We are calling on everyone to circulate our election action kit far and wide and we will be emailing this kit to all of our founding and supporting organizations as well as to those who have requested updates from us.

We will be calling on all Canadians to lobby the next Canadian Parliament to enact a Canadians disabilities Act and would it not be a great and wonderful present for Canadians to receive a present in the form of a CDA on Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017?


How you can support us

You can support us in several ways.

First visit us at www.barrierfreecanada.org and read our founding principles.

Next visit our support us page and sign up as a supporter. You can also choose to have your name published on our website, receive updates such as these, or simply register your support by completing our online form.

If you represent an organization and you wish to register your organization’s support, you can send an email to us at info@barrierfreecanada.org and we will be delighted to post the name of your organization on our website.

We will even post your letter of support to our website if you give us permission and you will be able to see your letter of support by visiting http://barrierfreecanada.org/support/from-other-supporting-organizations/

You can also spread the message by word of mouth, write to or visit your MP, your MPP, and even write to your provincial Premier or provincial party leaders.


Contact info

To contact us, please send an email to info@barrierfreecanada.org.

To keep abreast of our updates visit http://www.barrierfreecanada.org/category/general

Visit us at www.barrierfreecanada.org
Follow us on Twitter @barrierfreeca
And like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/barrierfreeca

Yours sincerely
Donna J. Jodhan
Chair; Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

On behalf of
David Lepofsky, Robert Pearson, Steven Christianson, Marc Workman, Jutta Treviranus (Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières steering committee)
Leo Bissonnette; admin support

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