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Accessibility committee chair quits, alleges disability law violated

wheelchair user entering the building

In Canada, politicians promised change, but accessibility issues still aren’t taken seriously, so advocates say that leading a longtime chairperson to resign her post and file complaints alleging city hall violated Ontario’s accessibility law.

City hall’s accessibility advisory committee hasn’t met since the start of the pandemic — missing seven meetings so far — and members say there’s been no reasonable explanation for the gap, the London Free Press reported.

“After all this, the city obviously does not value us in any way, shape, or form. I thought I’m not going to beg or plead anymore, I’m just going to go,” former chair Jacqueline Madden said.

She filed a report arguing the lack of meetings violates the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which requires all cities with a population of more than 10,000 people to have an accessibility advisory committee. By law, the group’s job is to advise the council about accessibility standards and requirements.

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Madden and Michael Dawthorne, a 10-year veteran of the committee, say council business has continued without any thought to accessibility issues since their group doesn’t have the chance to do its work.

“This has just gone on and on and on, and in the meantime, they’re doing their normal city business. I know, in particular,  sidewalks they decided not to construct. If that’s not an accessibility issue, I don’t know what is,” Madden said.

Under Ontario disability law, corporations that violate the act can face penalties up to $100,000 for every day the offence occurs.

But Jeff Preston, professor of disability studies at King’s University College, said there are only a few extreme scenarios where the province has agreed an organization didn’t comply with the act.

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