Progress of Ontario's disabilities act being reviewed

An independent reviewer is checking on the progress of making Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.

Mayo Moran, University of Toronto's law dean, holding public consultations across Ontario

An independent reviewer is checking on the progress of making Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. (Nicole Ireland/CBC News)

An independent reviewer is checking on the progress of making Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. 

The dean of law at the University of Toronto is holding public consultations across the province and online.

Mayo Moran was recently in Thunder Bay hearing from the public.

Tracy Hurlbert, who uses a wheelchair to get around, was one of several people with various disabilities who gathered at the conference at a Thunder Bay hotel last week.

Hurlbert made a presentation noting the barriers of getting public transportation, for example.

The accessible transit service in Thunder Bay requires users to pre-book their trips, including doctor's appointments, days in advance.

"Why should we be expected to ... book our rides and our lives a week in advance?” Hurlbert said. “Do you know today that you're going to get sick next Tuesday? Of course not. Neither do I.”

Hurlbert told the hearing she missed two funerals because she couldn't give enough notice to book the accessible transit service. 

Hurlbert said there are smaller, everyday barriers, too. Hurlbert said many establishments, such as restaurants, call themselves accessible because they have wheelchair-friendly entrances. But that's where the accessibility ends, she said.  

"Imagine going to a restaurant, eating your meal, only to discover that there are no washrooms," she said. "The bathrooms are in the basement or they're upstairs.”

Toronto law dean Moran said concerns like Hurlbert's have come up before.

"I think what that points to is ... the really significant need for awareness and for people to have training that helps them think through everything that would matter to someone who doesn't have the same mobility that they do,” Moran said.

Moran said people are also worried about how — even whether — the accessibility law will be enforced. 

"It's like having a hockey game without any referee. You need enforcement; proper, court-appointed enforcement,” said Eugene Lefrancois, who became disabled while working in forestry more than 25 years ago.

There will be online consultation Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m ET. It's open to anyone in Ontario who wants to participate.

Another live meeting is scheduled in Toronto on April 29.

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