The Barrier Free Canada May update

The Barrier Free Canada May 2015 newsletter

Table of contents
1. Please Support Barrier-Free Canada -A New Disability Coalition that Advocates for a nation-wide Canadians with Disabilities Act – And – More
2. Pushing forward – some of our initiatives
3. Why you need to support the Barrier Free Canada initiative
4. How you can support us
5. Contact info

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Welcome to the Barrier Free Canada for May 2015 and we’d like to start by publishing the text of an article that recently appeared in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update.
This article has started a wave of support for our initiative. We thank David Lepofsky for helping to facilitate this article.
Below is the text.

Introducing You to Barrier-Free Canada – why Not Get in Touch?
Ever since the movement began over 20 years ago for an Ontario accessibility law, we have been asked over and over: “Why not go for a nation-wide Canadians with Disabilities Act?” Now, a community coalition has formed to achieve that goal.
Across Canada, the first province to enact a provincial Disabilities Act was Ontario. The second was Manitoba. The Government of Nova Scotia is on the record as planning to do the same. BC is considering the possibility of a new accessibility law. In 2006, the federal Conservative party promised to enact a national disabilities law. However, it has not done so, and has not introduced a bill to achieve this into Parliament.
A federal Canadians with Disabilities Act would not replace any provincial accessibility law, like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Instead, it would fill the gap, covering the turf that a provincial accessibility law cannot cover. A CDA could, for example:

  1. Address barriers to the accessibility of the Government of Canada and its various agencies, federal Crown corporations like CBC, federally regulated companies like ViaRail and Air Canada, and recipients of federal grants, loans and other such payments.
  2. Ensure that public money which the Federal Government spends or distributes is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.
  3. Help get all provinces across Canada to enact provincial accessibility laws, to cover barriers that only a provincial government can fully regulate.
  4. To the extent possible for the Federal Government, implement national standards on accessibility which would enable organizations operating across Canada to have a clear direction on what to do across Canada to ensure the accessibility of their goods, services, facilities and workplaces.

A CDA would not replace such important laws as the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Instead, a CDA would help effectively implement the rights which those important enactments create for people with disabilities in Canada. So don’t think of it as a choice, either we get full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, or we go for a CDA. The two would work hand in hand.
Below we introduce you to Barrier-Free Canada, a non-partisan volunteer coalition. Its mission is to win the enactment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. We set out its list of 14 principles that a CDA should embody. Barrier-Free Canada developed these principles by drawing heavily on the core principles which Ontario’s disability community crafted to underpin Ontario’s accessibility legislation, and the principles which Barrier-Free Manitoba developed to underpin Manitoba’s accessibility legislation. Barrier-Free Canada seeks to achieve federal legislation which learns from what has been achieved at the provincial level, and which learns from problems that have been experienced under existing provincial accessibility legislation.
We encourage you to sign up with Barrier-Free Canada. Barrier-Free Canada is a new coalition, made up of volunteers, with no budget. The founding chair of Barrier-Free Canada is Donna Jodhan. She is well-known for winning a landmark disability rights case against the Government of Canada that requires it to ensure that all of its websites are accessible to people with disabilities, under the equality rights provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
David Lepofsky, the AODA Alliance’s chair, is a member of the founding steering committee of Barrier-Free Canada. We will offer Barrier-Free Canada our help and advice as this new coalition gets off the ground. Organizations already voicing support for Barrier-Free Canada as of now include the March of Dimes, the MS Society of Canada, the Canadian Hearing Society the CNIB and AMI (Accessibility Media).
Below we also show you the text of the January 26, 2015 letters that Barrier-Free Canada has written to the main federal parties’ leaders. These letters seek a commitment in the upcoming hotly-contested federal election, to enact a strong and effective CDA. So far, no federal party has answered this correspondence.
We encourage you to:

  • Connect up with Barrier-Free Canada, and offer your help and support. There is no membership fee. The Barrier-Free Canada website has an on-line form at the “Support Us” link, to sign up, or you can just send an email to join. You can also send a letter of support to its email address. Email Barrier-Free Canada at info@barrierfreecanada.org
  • Help spread the word about Barrier-Free Canada:
    Publicize Barrier-Free Canada and this new effort to your friends, family members, and any community organization to which you have connections. If you or an organization to which you are connected has a website, please put a link to the Barrier-Free Canada website to your home page. Barrier-Free Canada’s new website can be found at http://www.barrierfreecanada.org/
    Follow Barrier-Free Canada on Twitter @barrierFreeCa
  • Write your Member of Parliament. Urge him or her to personally support the call for the enactment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Press him or her to get their party to make an election commitment to pass a Canadians with Disabilities Act.
  • Stay tuned for action tips from Barrier-Free Canada on how to raise this issue during the upcoming federal election. With the public opinion polling showing that this federal election will be very close, the capacity to raise important grassroots issues like this can only increase.

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Pushing forward – some of our initiatives

Starting immediately, Barrier Free Canada will be going on a blitz to secure the support of organizations both nationally as well as provincially. We will be calling organizations to support our initiative and those who do will have their names posted on our website at www.barrierfreecanada.org. To learn more visit the letters from supporting organizations page.

Our Barrier Free Canada online campaign is scheduled to be kicked off some time in June and we thank the CNIB for working with us to spread the word. We are hoping that our online campaign will help to circulate the message far and wide and that participants will be encouraged to take this important cause to their MPs. This campaign is open to everyone! Please watch for this important campaign.

We will be starting to lobby disabilities critics of the three main Federal Parties to tell us what their respective parties are planning to do when it comes to addressing the needs of Canadians with disabilities. Additionally, we will be lobbying them to place this specific item in their party’s manifesto and to include it as part of their agenda if elected.

We are also planning other activities for September as the elections draw closer and through out the Summer we will be campaigning very diligently to increase the number of supporters on our website through such techniques as by word of mouth and through social media. Stay tuned for more announcements of our initiatives.

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Why you need to support the Barrier Free Canada initiative

No one likes to be at the end of broken promises. Over the years, the Federal Government has made several promises to improve opportunities and to create several initiatives to improve the playing field for Canadians with disabilities. They have spent millions of dollars setting up committees and commissioning reports but alas! We do not really know any more than this. We are still awaiting the implementation of the recommendations from many of these reports.

In 2007, Prime Minister Harper made a speech outlining an agenda for a safer and stronger Canada with regard to accessibility. In this speech he promised to enact legislation to pass a bill along the lines of a Canadians Disabilities Act but alas! We are still awaiting this promise to be fulfilled. Here is a link to the speech
http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2007/02/06/prime-minister-harper-outlines-agenda-stronger-safer-better-canada#accessibility

In 2012 the federal government established a panel to discover what can be done about the unemployment and under-employment of qualified people with disabilities in Canada. They explored the barriers (some physical and many attitudinal) but chose to focus on the positive. The goal is to shine the light on best practices and successes among Canadian employers who have welcomed people with disabilities into their ranks. Their examples can help us learn and do better. In its January 2013 report, the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities highlighted that there are approximately 800,000 working-age Canadians with a disability who are not working even though their disability does not prevent them from doing so. You can read about the Key Findings at:
Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector | ESDC
http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/disability/consultations/rethinking_disabilities.shtml

Where is this report today? Has anything been done to act upon the recommendations of this report along with others?

This is why support for a Canadians Disabilities Act is so badly needed and no time like the present! With a Federal Election scheduled for anytime now; Federal Parties need to be asked the appropriate questions. For believe it or not, the number of Canadians with disabilities is only going to increase with the passing of time and this is the group that will have the stronger voice and the one that will have increasing influence over the direction of our country’s path.

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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.

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.

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Contact info

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