David Onley, former Lieutenant governor for Ontario delivered a report demonstrating the pervasive lack of accessibility province wide. Onley served as Lieutenant Governor for Ontario from 2007 to 2014, the second longest term ever served in Canada. Onley highlighted numerous faults in how the province approaches accessibility, likening many of them to the same barriers experienced by people of colour during the height of racial discrimination during the segregation era in the United States.
“This is a matter of civil rights.” Said Onley in a telephone interview, expressing further displeasure and frustration with the lack of options for those living with disability in Ontario. Onley directed his attentions towards the lackluster accessibility options in numerous public and private institutions across the province. These concerns have been present for years, not only in Ontario, but across Canada. Onley raised additional issues with Ontario’s approach to disability legislation and policy, highlighting a number of potential solutions that could address these inadequacies:
- Offer tax breaks and financial incentives to prompt more public and private institutions to prioritize accessibility
- Ensure proper training in inclusive design to architects.
- Include accessibility training in public and private education starting in Kindergarten.
- Improve the way infrastructure projects are handled to ensure that public money is increasing accessibility instead of creating additional barriers.
Onley sees the oversight from the Ontario government in creating a truly accessible environment across the country as discrimination, which is only made worse by the cursory attempts at inclusion made by public and private sectors across the province. Onley highlights numerous examples of outright poorly designed, “accessible design” in Ontario, including hotels with ramps and automatic doors, but with beds and facilities that are inaccessible within the buildings themselves, along with buildings that have automatic doors that are placed at the top of stairs, with no accessible path to them.
Ontario is still years away from realizing true accessibility across the province, and David Onley is just one of many public icons and heroes of the disability community who is putting pressure on the Ontario government to increase visibility and access to people living with disability in public and private spaces across the country. Steps being towards accessibility made in isolated examples are not enough to turn Ontario towards becoming an inclusive space and more is required before those living with and without disability can feel like Ontario is for everyone.