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More than just dots on a page: the Disability Community and elections

Melissa Graham

August 7, 2013

Can politicians be counted on to support the rights of people with disabilities? That’s the question many are asking after the federal Conservatives showcased their ignorance by using fake braille on flyers.
Trying to distract from drastic changes to Employment Insurance, the flyers bragged that "our government has been determined to help remove barriers for those who are exluded from the workforce." The title "supporting jobs for all Canadians" appeared in Braille, implying the government's committment to the disability community. But the Braille was simply printed in ink and not raised, making it completely useless--and symptomatic of the Tories' ignorance and lip service to people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, during Ontario by-elections the non-profit group AODA Alliance asked the candidates if they would support the Ontario Government to develop new accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), to address barriers in education, health care, and housing. The AODA Alliance also asked the candidates if they would support the immediate and effective enforcement of the AODA, and to reveal their plans for doing so. In their final question, they asked the candidates if they agree that the Government should act now to ensure that public money isn’t used to finance the creation of new barriers against people with disabilities or to perpetuate existing barriers.
According to the AODA Alliance’s email update on July 29, NDP candidate Percy Hatfield made all the disability accessibility commitments. Liberal candidate, Peter Milczen, responded to all our questions but made none of the specific disability commitments; and no Conservative candidate answered their questions.
What does this mean now that the election has passed? A handful of by-elections have a relatively minor impact on Queens Park, especially with the mixed bag of politicians that were voted in. What we do have is a sense of how we can focus our energies in those ridings by knowing who we can hold up to their commitments, and who desperately needs a beginner course in disability politics. No one else would let a politician off the hook for ignoring their prominent concerns, neither should the disability community.
One thing is certain; we need to continue to keep disability politics on the forefront. While we cannot depend on politicians to give us our rights, or a truly accessible province; these political discussions can change the conversation in society about disability issues.
An opportunity to bring attention to the issues we face is coming up on Saturday October 5 in Toronto. The third annual Toronto Disability Pride March is coming up, check out for details and come march with us!

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