A Voice of Our Own: April 2010

Volume 28, Number 2

On the CCD Agenda

CCD Member Group Updates

On the CCD Agenda

Canada Ratifies United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Canadians with Disabilities Celebrate

Thursday March 11, 2010—Joy and celebration are the two primary emotions felt today by many Canadians with disabilities as the Government of Canada ratifies the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the United Nations. Canada today pledged to be governed by the CRPD, the newest international human rights treaty which boldly articulates a human rights framework for addressing the exclusion and lack of access people with disabilities have encountered in Canada and in all societies.

The dream of a more inclusive and accessible Canada motivated Canadians with disabilities and the Government of Canada to engage in a five year process to create the CRPD. CCD applauds the Government of Canada's leadership during the drafting and the steadfast commitment to a CRPD that is built upon Canadian values of equality, non-discrimination and the duty to accommodate.

The CRPD is a product of a historic partnership between the global movement of people with disabilities and their governments. Many in the government of Canada championed the cause of the CRPD. One of our first standard bearers was the Hon. Peter MacKay, then Minister of Foreign Affairs. Even when he accepted new responsibilities, Minister MacKay continued to demonstrate leadership on this file and to a large extent it is his good work that led the way forward to today's historic event. Equally, the Hon. Diane Finley through her department, supported the disability community to contribute to the drafting of the CRPD and to participate on the Canadian delegation that worked on this great endeavor at the United Nations. Steve Estey, Chair of CCD's International Committee attended all of the Ad Hoc Committee meetings in New York and was a member of the Canadian delegation at the UN that worked on the development of the CRPD. He and Anna MacQuarrie of CACL have shown exemplary leadership within the disability community on this file.

"Today's ratification by the Government of Canada signals the end of an era where people with disabilities were seen as objects of charity and passive recipients of rehabilitation and state-supported largesse. Today ushers in a new era where people with disabilities are viewed as full citizens with exactly the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens of Canada," stated Estey.

"The CRPD is not simply another well-intentioned declaration without any teeth. It requires the Government of Canada to act and monitor progress in achieving the commitments of the treaty. Canada's actions to create a more accessible and inclusive society will be the subject of both domestic and international scrutiny," said Marie White, National Chairperson of CCD. "Today we celebrate at the international level Canadian leadership on disability issues but tomorrow we get down to work on the domestic agenda of removing barriers that prohibit the full and equal participation of Canadians with disabilities," stated White.

Disability Rights: Coming of Age at the United Nations

By Steve Estey

It takes a long time to clear security at the UN headquarters these days. But after waiting nearly eight years for the moment, I was in no rush. On Thursday of this week, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as witness, the Government of Canada took the final step towards ratifying the new UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and I had a ringside seat!

As I stood there proudly watching our Foreign Minister, the Hon. Lawrence Cannon, hand over the formal articles of ratification to the Secretary-General I was filled with a sense of joy, a sense of history, and a feeling of optimism for the future of people with disabilities in Canada and all over the world.

This was a true moment of history for the disability movement. Ours has been described as the last civil rights movement. Thursday, March 11, 2010, in the presence of the Secretary-General, we finally came of age.

Between 2002 and 2006 representatives from over 100 governments, and hundreds more civil society organizations, came together over many weeks to draft and negotiate this new treaty, which people with disabilities have been seeking for more than a quarter century. It guarantees us the same basic human rights as other people have, including for example, the right to life, the right to education, and the right to freedom from torture or unlawful confinement.

In December of 2006 the UN General Assembly adopted the Treaty and on March 30, 2007 it was opened for UN Member States to sign and ratify. Canada was among the first countries in the world to sign the treaty that day and we have been working ever since to ensure that our laws at both the federal and provincial level are in compliance with the treaty. Ratification is the final signal that governments at all levels are in compliance and prepared to be bound by the new treaty.

Why does this matter? Globally the World Health Organization estimates there are 650 million people with disabilities, while in Canada we know there are over four million of us or 14.3 % of our population.

The CRPD is built on the fundamental belief that disabled people have exactly the same rights as everyone else: no more and no less. The treaty is an attempt by UN members to breathe life into this idea.

It speaks, for example, about the right people with disabilities have to be treated equally and not to be discriminated against. Fine words, to be sure, but what do they mean in practice? The CRPD says that in order to be fully equal, disabled people have a right to expect a reasonable accommodation, to ensure, for example, that they can attend school or access medical services. This is a concept well-developed by Canadian law.

These concepts and the laws needed to bring them to life offer tremendous hope for disabled people the world over and Canada's ratification of the treaty sends a strong signal that we support the approach both domestically and internationally.

(Steve Estey is the Co-Chairperson of the International Committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD). Mr. Estey was the disability community's representative on the official Canadian delegation which worked on drafting the CRPD at the UN.)

Dignity For All Campaign Mobilization Update

By Rob Rainer


(CCD has endorsed the Dignity for All Campaign and CCD Chairperson Marie White is on the Dignity for All Steering Committee.)

  1. The Dignity for All Campaign has three goals: (1) a federal plan for poverty elimination that complements provincial and territorial plans; (2) a federal anti-poverty Act that ensures enduring federal commitment and accountability for results; and (3) sufficient federal investment in social security for all Canadians.
  2. As of April 1st, 312 groups have endorsed the campaign. The most recent are ASPECT (Victoria, BC); CWL Holy Trinity (Torbay, NL); Grand Erie Elementary Teachers' Federation (Brantford, ON); National Educational Association of Disabled Students; Nova Scotia Teachers Union; Society of Saint Vincent de Paul—National Council; and Sturgeon Lake First Nation—sub-office (Saskatoon)—thank you all!
  3. As of April 1st, 43 MPs, 6 Senators, 5 provincial/territorial politicians (down one from the last update, due to a resignation in NS) and Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, have endorsed the campaign.
  4. April 21st and 22nd are upcoming "Hill phone days" during which over 200 MP and Senator offices on the Hill will be phoned with a request for MP/Senator consideration to endorse the campaign. This effort should increase the number of parliamentary endorsements including from across all four parties represented on the Hill.
  5. Goal #1 re: federal plan: planning has begun for a working conference in Ottawa, Sep. 22 (evening) to Sep. 24, 2010 to help determine the campaign's vision for what a federal plan to eliminate poverty ought to include. Future mobilization updates will provide further details as they emerge, including the possibility of Web link-up to the event for those unable to attend in person.
  6. Goal #2 re: federal Act: Tony Martin, MP (NDP) is making strong progress in drafting a private members' bill for a federal "Poverty Elimination Act." According to Mr. Martin, this Act would "mandate the federal government to play a lead in a poverty plan working closely with provincial, territorial, municipal and Aboriginal partners. It will have a strong human rights framework, as well as create a government structure and independent Poverty Commissioner offices to shepherd or monitor the plan with timelines, accountability and appropriate resources." Future mobilization updates will provide further details.
  7. If passed into law, Bill C-304 for "An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians" would address a significant aspect of the housing component of a federal plan to combat poverty. The Bill has cleared the committee stage in the House and is moving to Third Reading. Dignity Campaign supporters can anticipate being asked soon to voice your support for this important legislation.
  8. Delegates to the May 28-31 convention in Toronto of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities will be asked to vote on a resolution put forward by the City of Calgary (attached), calling for the FCM to endorse the Dignity Campaign. If you or your group can assist in any way to help ensure this resolution is adopted by the FCM, please advise accordingly with email to Vicky at vicky@cwp-csp.ca.

Update on Bill C-304

Bill C-304 [PDF], an act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, was adopted by the HUMA Committee on Monday [March 22] and will be reported back to Parliament for 3rd Reading later in this session. Originally submitted as a private member's bill by Libby Davies, the Bill was enhanced by a number of important amendments at the HUMA Committee in December to provide stronger protections of the right to adequate housing. It had to be adopted again after the prorogation of parliament. We are very excited about the possibility of seeing this Bill pass into law during the current session of Parliament. The Bill provides a ground-breaking framework for a new accountability to international human rights and includes a clear commitment to eliminating homelessness.

It will, however, take a concerted effort by organizations and individuals across the country to ensure that Bill C-304 is passed at 3rd Reading. The major obstacle at this point is that the Bill includes an amendment (3(5)) that was deemed inadmissible by the Chair of the Committee, providing for Quebec to be exempted from the Act while still receiving full unconditional payments. The Liberals and NDP joined the Bloc in over-ruling the Chair at Committee in order to keep this provision in the Bill for the Report back to Parliament. However, the Speaker of the House may make a similar ruling on 3rd reading if the Conservatives challenge the provision, as they did at Committee. That would mean the Bloc amendment would be struck from the Bill, and the Bloc has said they will not support it if that happens. Liberal and NDP support is not enough to constitute a majority without either Bloc support or some Conservative support for the Bill.

While Parliament was prorogued we worked with a number of Quebec groups to try to solve the problem of the inadmissibility of the Quebec provision. We developed proposals providing for asymmetrical status for Quebec, built around Quebec's "ratification" of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1976 and its commitment to implementing the right to adequate housing through control of its own housing programs. It was a challenge to come up with a version of a new provision that was deemed admissible by the legislative clerks. At any rate, at the last minute, when the Committee was about to meet, the Bloc indicated that they would not support any alternative provision to the original opt-out. So the Bill was adopted as it had previously been amended in December 2009. The Conservatives also refused to support an amendment to the definition of accessible housing that had been proposed by disability rights groups, and which would have required unanimous consent.

We will keep people posted on strategies to get this bill passed as things develop. We have posted unofficial texts in English and French of Bill C-304 at the following links. We will circulate the official version once it is reported to Parliament.

We look forward to working with all of you to get this passed into law.

In solidarity

Bruce Porter - Social Rights Advocacy Centre
Leilani Farha - Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)

New savings tools help Canadians with disabilities and their families invest in their future

In December 2008, the Government of Canada introduced the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), Canada Disability Savings Grant and Canada Disability Savings Bond to help Canadians with disabilities and their families save for the future.

The RDSP is available to Canadian residents under the age of 60 who are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit, which is also known as the Disability Amount. People who are eligible, and the parents or guardians of eligible minors, can open an RDSP at one of several financial organizations across the country.

There is no annual contribution limit to an RDSP. The lifetime contribution limit is $200,000. Friends and family can also contribute to a plan with written permission of the plan holder. Any investment income earned in the plan accumulates tax free, until money is withdrawn. The contribution deadline this year is December 31, 2010.

To encourage savings, the Government of Canada introduced the Canada Disability Savings Grant and the Canada Disability Savings Bond.

The Canada Disability Savings Grant is a matching grant that the Government deposits into the RDSP. Each year, the Government will match contributions made by paying up to $3 for every $1 paid into the plan, depending on the amount contributed and the beneficiary's family income. The Government will deposit a maximum of $3,500 each year, with a lifetime limit of $70,000. Grants will be paid into the RDSP until the year the beneficiary turns 49 years old.

For example:

If the beneficiary's family income is less than or equal to $78,130*:

  • The Government will deposit $3 for every $1 on the first $500 contributed to the RDSP and $2 for every $1 on the next $1,000.
  • If the beneficiary's family income is over $78,130*:
  • The Government will match $1 for every $1 contributed on the first $1,000.

The Government of Canada will also pay a Canada Disability Savings Bond of up to $1,000 to low-income and modest-income Canadians. The good news is that no contributions are necessary to receive the bond; simply open an RDSP and fill out an application form at the financial organization where you have your RDSP. Bonds will be paid into the RDSP until the year the beneficiary turns 49 years old.

For example:

If the beneficiary's family income is less than or equal to $21,947*:

  • The Government will deposit $1,000 each year into the RDSP.
  • For beneficiary family incomes between $21,947 and $39,065*:
  • The Government will deposit a portion of the $1,000. As your income increases, the bond amount paid decreases.

Money paid out of an RDSP will not affect a person's eligibility for federal benefits, such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Goods and Services Tax credit, Old Age Security or Employment Insurance benefits. In addition, RDSPs will have little or no impact on provincial and territorial social assistance payments. For further details, contact your provincial or territorial government.

For more information on the RDSP, grant and bond, including a list of participating financial organizations, please visit the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Web site at www.disabilitysavings.gc.ca or call 1 800 O-Canada (1 800 622-6232).

* Income amounts shown are for 2010 and will be updated yearly based on the rate of inflation.

Member Group Updates

BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD)

Community Engagement and Training to Help Save the Lives of People with Disabilities in Emergencies

The BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD) and Volunteer Canada have formed a new partnership to bring volunteer centers and disability organizations together to collaborate, create and deliver community training on emergency preparedness for people with disabilities across Canada.

According to the Canadian Disaster Database, there has been a significant increase in the number of Canadians affected by natural disasters. In addition to this, an increasing number of Canadians are reporting having a disability. However, the majority of local, provincial and federal emergency planning in Canada does not take into consideration the needs of people with disabilities in disasters. Community-based organizations that serve and work with individuals with disabilities can play a significant role in emergency preparedness and response.

Over the next two years, members from the voluntary sector and the disability community across Canada will be trained in innovative approaches to emergency preparedness that focus on addressing individual functional needs, supporting social networks and capacity building.

The community workshops will provide community-based organizations with tools that will help them identify vulnerabilities, strengthen community resiliency and increase the safety and well-being of people with disabilities and the communities they live in.

We are very excited about this project and look forward to working with our community partner, Volunteer Canada. It builds on the previous emergency preparedness and community resiliency work we have done and on Volunteer Canada's project with the voluntary sector across Canada.

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the funders of this project: the Government of Canada's Social Development Partnerships Program—Disability component.

Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD)

2009 CCD Award Recipients

ACCD is proud to announce this year's CCD award recipients, Lorrie Goegan and Hilda Campbell.

For the past 15 years, Lorrie Goegan has dedicated her life, in a volunteer capacity, to establishing a deeper and more complete understanding of learning disabilities. She has served in leadership roles all across the country, including tenures as the Chair of the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta. She is presently the Vice Chair and chair elect for the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. Her efforts at the provincial and national levels are changing our systems to improve programs, services, policies, and funding in support of this often misunderstood disability. Congratulations, Lorrie!

Hilda Campbell worked for more than 50 years as an educator, a writer, and an advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing. Although she was born profoundly deaf, Hilda grew up learning to communicate verbally through elocution lessons, by feeling throat vibrations, and by developing speech reading skills. Remarkably, Hilda attended public school and university without assistive devices or extra help from her teachers or professors.

Hilda spent most of her career teaching in the public school system, and, until very recently, she facilitated adult speech reading classes in ACCD's boardroom. Hilda retired from teaching at Alberta School for the Deaf in 1992. During her retirement, she wrote several books and contributed to a variety of publications.

Hilda was a compassionate woman whose contributions to the deaf and hard of hearing community are immeasurable.

Sadly, Hilda Campbell lost her brief battle with cancer on February 3, 2010, shortly after receiving the CCD award. She will be deeply missed by all of us.

Research Update: Barrier-Free Health and Medical Services in Alberta

This past January, ACCD's Barrier-Free Health and Medical Services in Alberta project began. ACCD's project team is now working with an advisory committee comprised of government personnel, medical professionals, disability community representatives, and various experts in the field of health and medical services delivery, to identify barriers—physical, attitudinal, or otherwise—and gaps in existing service delivery methods. Once existing barriers and gaps are better understood, a draft recommendations document will be produced. This document can serve as a guide for barrier-free health and medical services in Alberta.

Our project's goal is to remove barriers that prevent Albertans with disabilities from properly accessing Alberta's health and medical services. This will benefit any Albertan who, at some point in his or her life, might acquire a short- or long-term disability, seniors and those with age-related disabilities, and any person who accesses health and medical services in a community.

For more information on this project, please contact Melita at 780-488-9088 or toll-free at 1-800-387-2514.

ACCD Launches Certificate of Recognition Program

In January, 2010, ACCD submitted the guidelines for our Certificate of Recognition Program to all 34 colleges and universities across Alberta. VP Academics at each institution will receive nominations for the certificate from faculty and staff and assemble lists at the end of the fall and winter semesters. These lists will then be sent to ACCD for review. ACCD will mail certificates of recognition to each person who is nominated.

The Certificate of Recognition Program will be open to full- and part-time students with disabilities in all faculties and programs. The program's intent is to encourage students with disabilities to continue their hard work, while reinforcing their role in breaking down barriers to full participation in society.

For more information on the Certificate of Recognition Program, please contact Travis at 780-488-9088 or toll-free at 1-800-387-2514.

Alberta's Hate Bias Crimes and Incidents Committee

With only 1 in 10 ever reported to law enforcement officials, hate crimes prevalence is not well exposed in our province. One of the main reasons hate crime often goes unreported is people's uncertainty about what hate crime is, exactly. How do you know when you've witnessed a hate crime? How do you know when you've been the victim of a hate crime? And if you are a witness or a victim, what should you do about it?

According the Criminal Code of Canada, a hate crime is committed to intimidate, harm or terrify not only a person, but an entire group of people to which the victim belongs. The victims are targeted for who they are, not because of anything they have done. Furthermore, Canada's hate crime laws encourage judges who are sentencing individuals to consider whether the crime was motivated by hatred of the victim's race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, or any other similar factor.

Since 2001, the Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities has been involved with the Alberta Hate Bias Crimes and Incidents Committee, to voice our concerns and perspectives regarding hate bias crimes committed against people with disabilities. ACCD strongly supports the Hate Bias Committee's vision: to ensure all Albertans are living in inclusive, safe, caring, and respectful communities.

The committee is comprised of representatives from the justice sector, government, and community organizations, such as ACCD, who are concerned with hate motivated violence. The committee has been meeting regularly since 2001 and works towards systematically addressing the issue of hate crimes. The Committee aims to develop a provincial wide framework encouraging a collaborative, integrated approach between police, the courts, and community in preventing, enforcing, and responding to hate motivated crime.

To learn more about the Alberta Hate Bias Crimes and Incidents Committee, please visit www.albertahatecrimes.ca or contact ACCD at 780-488-9088 or toll free at 1-800-387-2514.

Alberta Disabilities Forum (ADF) Develops Prioritization Strategy for Continuing Care Working Group

When it comes to continuing care, ADF recognizes that one size does not fit all. People and groups perceive priorities differently depending on their circumstances—different disabilities have different needs all along the spectrum of continuing care. Central to this is understanding the need for people to direct their own care, and to have choices regarding how and where they live. The prioritization document's creation was guided by this understanding.

The continuing care working group divided areas of continuing care into three main categories: home living, supportive living, and facility living. These categories share a few common priorities, such as staff retention and support, and communication and conflict resolution. There are also category-specific priorities, such as the Residential Access Modification Program for home living, addressing the issue of limited space in supportive living facilities, and age-appropriate accommodations and disability-appropriate services in long-term care facilities.

ADF plans to present the continuing care working group's findings to Alberta Health and Wellness and Alberta Health Services.

For more information on the Continuing Care working group and other ADF working groups, please contact Melita at 780-488-9088 or toll free at 1-800-387-2514.

The ACCD Annual General Meeting

May 21, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
Providence Renewal Centre, Edmonton

ACCD will soon be having its annual general meeting. We welcome your attendance and invite you to learn more about ACCD's projects and services. If you have any questions about the Annual General Meeting, contact us in Edmonton at 780-488-9088 or toll free at 1-800-387-2514.

Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities

Update on Saskatchewan Income for Disabled Program

Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabled (SAID) is now a reality. The program is in the start-up stage; people living in residential care, private approved homes and group homes were the first people invited to enroll.

A Provincial Implementation Advisory Team has been working on developing the criteria for eligibility, developing a training package for staff and is now setting up a committee to look at adequacy. The current rates are the same as social assistance.

Announcing Silent Voices Conference

Work is progressing on the "Silent Voices" conference in Saskatoon in October. This will be an exciting time as the whole conference will be addressing abuse of persons with disabilities. There will be three streams: Consumers; Caregivers/Families; Government and Community Based Organizations.

A call for proposals has gone out, and we have been receiving some very exciting proposals.

If you know of anyone or you would like to attend or participate, please contact Bev at the Voice office at: Toll Free: 1-877-569-3111 or Email: bev@saskvoice.com.

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Council Update

The MLPD continues to be very active in the community advocating on behalf of its members on a number of issues. One of these issues is Bill C-384 which would legalize euthanasia in Canada. The MLPD joins the Council of Canadians with Disabilities this fall in its opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia because of the adverse impact it would have on persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities would bear the negative social consequences of any legislation that allows the killing of people perceived to be suffering. With the resumption of Parliament, Bill C-384 has been re-introduced into the House. We renewed our advocacy efforts with Manitoba MPs to ensure this bill does not pass.

The MLPD Housing Committee is conducting a survey of community organizations to update information gathered in 1998. The survey will provide an overview of how well Manitobans with disabilities are meeting their housing-related needs and will assist us in our advocacy efforts.

We were pleased to learn that the Province of Manitoba has reached an agreement with Greyhound Bus Lines to provide interim financial support for a one year period so that passenger bus service in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario will not be disrupted. Negotiations are underway between Greyhound and the provinces on a long-term resolution to the challenges facing bus transportation. We are pleased that persons with disabilities will continue to benefit from the transportation options provided by Greyhound. The MLPD will continue to monitor the situation and will respond in the best interests of all Manitobans with disabilities. The Transportation Committee continues its work with Handi-Transit to deal with issues around scheduling, driver training, vehicle safety, etc.

The MLPD applied for additional funding to re-establish and broaden the "Thumbs Up" program in October, 2009 which centered around the accessibility of downtown businesses in Winnipeg, and we are currently looking at ways to expand the program to other locations. The "Thumbs Up" program focuses on recognizing businesses and services within a community, that have consistently made an effort to make their facilities accessible, safe, and user friendly for individuals with mobility disabilities. It is a positive and voluntary program that awards a place or a service a 'Thumbs Up' decal, after an evaluation has been completed. The Thumbs-Up project produced a helpful hints booklet and an accessibility checklist to assist businesses in making their facilities more accessible to persons with disabilities.

In March, the MLPD participated in a community forum to report to the community on the progress made in implementing the recommendations in "Opening Doors" (a strategy paper outlining the province's commitment to persons with disabilities).

The MLPD will be participating in the Sinclair inquest which will take place over a three-month period beginning some time in the spring of 2010. For a number of reasons, the inquest was delayed and a new date has not yet been set. When the inquest takes place, we plan to be present in the courtroom as observers and to speak with the media when the opportunity presents itself, about the implications of the Sinclair case for people with disabilities in Manitoba. Brian Sinclair was an Aboriginal man with a disability who died in the emergency room without receiving treatment after waiting 34 hours.

As the result of a grant from the United Way of Winnipeg, Zana Joyce has been engaged on contract to assist the MLPD in developing fund-raising proposals and conducting workshops for members interested in developing proposal writing skills. A fund raising workshop for members is scheduled for April 7.

The MLPD is chairing the Steering Committee (composed of representatives from the Provincial Disabilities Issues Office and community organizations) to coordinate activities for the Province of Manitoba's Access Awareness Week, which takes place from May 30 to June 5, 2010. The MLPD continues to implement the strategic plan which it unveiled almost a year ago and is looking to its future with great optimism.

The MLPD annual general meeting will be held early in June 2010, at which time a new Provincial Council will be elected.

PEI Council of People with Disabilities

Renewal of Parking Permits

Council staff and volunteers have been working hard to ensure that the Designated Parking Permit renewal process is completed. We are proud to say that just under 6000 Islanders with mobility issues have received their 2010 permits in a timely and cost efficient manner. Congratulations to all involved in the delivery of the program.

Update on Work of Employment and Access Teams

The Employment Team has assisted over 280 consumers find employment and access training programs and the Access Team has secured over $400,000.00 of CPP-D benefits for Islanders living with disabilities. It continues to be busy as we continue to serve Islanders with disabilities.

Rolling Out Summer Tutoring Program

We are currently in the early implementation stages of our Summer Tutoring Program. Funding proposals have been completed and now the search begins for the 16 Instructional Assistants we will hire to tutor over 160 youth with disabilities. The program is built on a learning retention model and each youth meets with their tutor once a week to have fun and learn. The program ensures that the participants retain prior learning so they are ready for the new school grade in the fall.

Working to Ensure There is Accessible Housing

The PEI Council of People with Disabilities in partnership with the Government of PEI and the Association of Community Living hosted a Developers Forum to share information with housing developers about government funds that are available to builders who want to address the housing needs of people with disabilities in Kings County. The event was a huge success as it was standing room only for the large crowd. The meeting has generated some ideas and partnerships are being formed.

The Council also attended Spot Light on Housing hosted by CMHC. An in-depth analysis was provided by CMHC around the housing market trends. Also provided was the number of new apartments being constructed on PEI. This information re-enforced the importance of municipalities having By-Laws stating that a certain ratio of new apartments need to be based on universal design. The Council continues to work with municipalities to ensure that such By-Laws are written, enacted and enforced.

Partnering to Create Poverty Reduction

Poverty is the one all encompassing issue that face people living with disabilities on PEI. Sixty-five percent of all households living on income support are headed by an Islander living with a disability. We are a founding member of the PEI Working Group for Livable Income and continue to be active on this working group. In the last couple of months, we spoke out against a two-tier minimum wage system that is currently being explored by a Legislative Standing Committee. We also supported members as they presented to the Standing Committee on Health, Social Development and Seniors. The Council has completed a comprehensive review of the Social Services Act and will present a detailed brief to this committee as well.

We also participated in a strategic planning session for the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning. The Department invited its community partners to give feedback on the current programs and services being offered under the Labor Market Development Agreement and the Labor Market Agreement. We also assisted in identifying gaps in services and priority program and demographics for the coming year.

Council Addressing Access to Services

Council staff met with the planners and research team from the Canadian Human Rights Museum. We took this opportunity to explain the history of the disability rights movement on PEI and expressed what our hopes are for an accessible Canada in the future. It was a valuable exercise and great information was shared by all parties involved.

We are also working with the PEI Food Security Network as a member of the Access Committee. This group is looking at the limits and vulnerabilities of our current food distribution system and how it affects Islanders and people with disabilities. The committee is currently working on plans for World Food Day. We plan to have a film showing of Food Inc. followed by a dinner using locally produced food and a panel discussion.

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO)

NSLEO Works with Provincial Partners to Build Capacity

During the past several months, the NSLEO board and staff have been working on several fronts to build capacity in the disability community. The disability strategy initiative has succeeded in bringing together more than 20 disability groups working collaboratively toward a common goal. The recent ratification of the UNCRPD has provided the group with a solid framework on which to base strategy goals, and the group has put forward a brief to the government which outlines both the importance of human rights based and person centered approaches to disability supports and services. This group has been successful in securing a meeting with the Minister of Community Services and will present their brief to her on April 6th. In spite of the province's current fiscal situation, we are hopeful that there are some opportunities for the disability community which will recognize the value of this highly collaborative work.

A key component of building capacity rests with the ability of the disability community to reach out across the province and support its citizens in the process of ensuring they are prepared for emergency situations. NSLEO has been involved in the production of an Emergency Preparedness Booklet for persons with disabilities and frail seniors. This booklet has been widely distributed and has provided critical information around preparation for many kinds of disasters.

We are very pleased that we are moving forward with the next phase of this project—the Train the Trainers course. This training module has been prepared by the province's Emergency Management Office in collaboration with the disability community. In April, a pilot training session will be held in Halifax, and when the process has been refined, it will be offered to disability groups around the province.

NSLEO Presents Annual Position Paper to Caucus

February of 2010 saw the presentation and release of NSLEO's annual position paper to all three Nova Scotia caucuses. The initiative is designed to ensure that disability issues remain in the forefront with all Members of the Legislative Assembly and to continue to cultivate productive relationships with elected officials. This year's paper was designed to highlight the need for the integrated disability strategy lending support for, and giving strength to, the strategy group's work with government.

The primary focus of the paper was the guiding principles set out by the group—person-centered supports and services; human rights based policies, programs, and services; adoption of the social model of disability within departments; and full collaboration with the disability community. The essential message that was communicated is that Nova Scotia needs an integrated, holistic, and coordinated disability strategy which must be developed in full collaboration with the community.

The 2010 position paper appeared to be well received, and all political parties indicated they were interested in working with us and with the disability community to make Nova Scotia a more inclusive province. In particular, all parties took note of the number of disability groups that were working together toward the strategy development—this seemed to indicate to government that we had made significant strides in building capacity within the disability community. The position paper can be found on the NSLEO website at www.novascotialeo.org.

Valuing People = Inclusive Communities

This is the theme for our 2009 Access Awareness Week activities through Partnership for Access Awareness Nova Scotia (PAANS). This theme is designed to highlight the importance of valuing people and what they bring to community life rather than focusing on disability, limitations, and costs. The week will feature several events across the province which will profile personal and community achievements and will bring greater awareness to the access issues encountered on a daily basis by Nova Scotian's with disabilities.

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador (COD)

Minister Announces Appointments to Advisory Council

Human Resources Minister Susan Sullivan announced appointments Friday, November 27, 2009 to the newly established Provincial Advisory Council for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

COD–NL would like to take this opportunity to sincerely congratulate all those appointed and wish the new council success in all its endeavours.

Appointed are: Susan Ralph (Chairperson, COD), Karen Westcott, Len Baker, Carmel Casey, Elizabeth Chaulk, Delia Connell, Sheryl (Sherry) Gamin-Walsh, Dennis Gill, Oswald Gould, Lynn Green, Joan Karmazyn, Joanne Macdonald, Raymond McIssac, Leon Mills, Ian Murley, Myles Murphy and Karen Ann Parsons.

Provincial Standards for Installation of Blue Zone Signage

Late last fall COD member and Blue Zone user, Mr. Craig Reid proposed several amendments to the Buildings and Accessibility Regulations under the Buildings Accessibility Act. Having reviewed Mr. Reid's proposal, COD agreed that this was an initiative worthwhile of pursuit and offered our full support and cooperation.

In January, COD met with Minister of Government of Services, Hon. Kevin O'Brien and several departmental officials to present Mr. Reid's proposal. Minister O'Brien agreed to review the existing regulations with his officials and present COD with the results.

Mr. Reid's proposal includes that vertical signs for Blue Zone parking will be installed in accordance with the current standards adopted in Ontario. An 8 inch diameter tube form will be embedded 3 feet below the ground with 3 feet exposed above ground; filled with cement surrounding the signage pole and painted yellow to alert any and all vehicles of the signs placement. Other items included in Mr. Reid's proposal is that the Department of Government Services be given the authority to execute fines and restrictions on those building owners that are not compliant; Government Services allocate additional personnel to properly inspect new and existing buildings; and increase fines for persons that abuse Blue Zone parking.

COD will be requesting a follow up meeting with Minister O'Brien and his officials later this spring for an update on their research. It is worth noting that, although this legislation has not been adopted, Mr. Reid has been successful convincing several large businesses in the metropolitan St. John's and Mount Pearl area to install Blue Zone vertical signage in accordance of the standard he has proposed.

Let's talk about sex, Nov. 20, 2009

By Michelle Murdoch

Lets Talk about Sex was a truly inclusive event! This event happened thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (COD), the St. John's Women's Centre (SJWC), the Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC), and the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women (PACSW).

Thank you to Director, Mary Reid of the Disability Policy Office (DPO), and the Department of Human Resources, Labour Employment for their support.

The event itself gave women with disabilities an opportunity to gather and discuss in a respectful environment their issues regarding sexual health and sexuality. Two sexologists, Dr. Jennifer Spracklin and Dr. Jillian Nugent began the conversation and immediately invited women to bring forward their issues. These doctors have a wealth of knowledge and are valuable resource for NL. Susan Ralph gave a very vibrant first hand description of her personal experiences around sexuality and what it is like being sexual while identifying as a woman with a visible disability. Catherine Allix, also dynamic, presented a very different view of sexuality and body image as it relates to women with non visible disabilities, in particular Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This combination of speakers was bounded with positive energy!

Women were notified of the event through a diverse collection of emails, posters, listserves and word of mouth. Brailed invitations were appropriately mailed and we posted an American Sign Language (ASL) invitation on YouTube and the ILRC website. The organizing committee thanks Jennifer Sooley, who volunteered to sign the message for us. This approach invites a large number of women who identify as being deaf to attend.

This event brought forward a need within the disability and women's communities to be more inclusive in the way we do outreach. Many women who attended the event said they were unaware there was even a Women's Centre. The importance of this event was to relay information to women with disabilities and also to expose women to organizations that provide many services and opportunities outside the realms of disability.

An event is successful if participants feel included and respected. It was a great endeavour and the feedback I have received is that we need to do more in the future.

Contact Michelle at womenwithdisabilities@gmail.com for more information.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)

AEBC to Meet in Montreal in May

The AEBC's 2010 Conference and AGM will take place at the Days Hotel & Conference Centre 1005 Rue Guy, Montreal over the long weekend of May. This year, we will feature workshops on the media, accessible mainstream products, library services, filing human rights complaints, and considerable time is being set aside for discussion on our organization's future direction. For the latest information and updates on the conference, please visit http://www.blindcanadians.ca/ourfuture.

AEBC Actively Supports Charter Case on Information Access

The AEBC is actively supporting Donna Jodhan, who has filed a Charter case against the federal government over information access. Following is some background on this important case, which we hope you will all support by signing the petition, details at the end of this section:

After years of not being able to complete online forms independently on governmental websites, request information independently on governmental websites, or even apply for jobs independently on governmental websites, I decided to launch a Charter challenge.

My decision was also governed by the following:

From 2000 to 2003, I made several attempts to encourage various governmental officials to work with the Blind community along with accessibility experts to address our growing concerns with regard to inaccessible websites and related content and information on these websites.

In 2002, I managed to get my Federal MP to request a ministerial inquiry over my concerns but this request failed.

In 2003, I wrote to the then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien about my concerns but did not receive a satisfactory response.

In 2004, during my application to Statistics Canada for an open competition job, I was unable to complete online forms on the Public Service Commission website and had to depend totally on sighted assistance to do so. In the ensuing months, Statistics Canada refused to allow me to write a mandatory exam in Braille and I took this matter to the Federal Human Rights Commission, where Statistics Canada was found guilty of willful and reckless discrimination.

In 2006, I approached Bakerlaw with my frustration and they advised me that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I, along with other blind Canadians, was being discriminated against.

In late 2006, Bakerlaw wrote to the then Minister John Baird requesting that governmental websites be made accessible and reasons as stated above were given. The Minister refused to entertain our request.

In June 2007, Bakerlaw launched a Charter Challenge and the government attempted to have proceedings stayed but failed.

Between 2007 and 2009, settlement negotiations were attempted but failed because we did not feel that the government was willing to seriously address our concerns. Instead, they kept insisting that this not be made public among other things.

In March 2009 I, along with my accessibility expert Jutta Treviranus, was cross-examined by the government's lawyers and at the same time Bakerlaw cross-examined their witnesses including Cynthia Waddell; a prominent American lawyer on accessibility.

The government continues to refuse to enter into meaningful settlement negotiations, being fully aware that their websites are not access compliant. In addition, several companies wishing to do business with the government have to spend funds in order to make their software backward compatible to that of the government. The international accessibility community is very aware of this case and the consensus is that Canada is way behind with regard to accessibility compliance.

Some examples include: Inaccessible online forms for passport applications, no forms in alternate formats for EI applications, and the job application process is still very much inaccessible. In addition, blind Canadians have to wait for months at a time before receiving requested information pertaining to such things as: CPP and old age pensions, the H1N1 flu, the Canada food guide, and information on public safety and security. This list is by no means complete.

We are presently waiting for a court date to be set. Hopefully this will be within the next few months.

It saddens me greatly that this government has deliberately chosen to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting this case instead of using these precious funds to make their websites and related information and content accessible and available to us.

An online petition has been created, and we would appreciate it if you would go to the following link and add your name: http://www.petitiononline.com/GCWAP/petition.html.

AEBC Applauds Canada's ratification of U.N. Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons

AEBC welcomes Canada's ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Now it's time for all of us to develop ways to use the CRPD to advance our agenda here in Canada.

For Immediate Release: March 11, 2010

Members of the Canada-wide Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians are celebrating today's Canadian ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD).

"This is an exciting and historic day for all people with disabilities in Canada," says Robin East, President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC). "The Convention boldly articulates a human rights framework," East declares. "This sets out the way we believe disability related issues should be dealt with throughout Canada."

Today's ratification grew out of a five year partnership between Canadians with disabilities and the Government of Canada. "We deeply appreciate the leadership role that Canada played throughout the drafting of this important human rights instrument," said John Rae, AEBC's 1st Vice President. "We hope this ratification ushers in a new era where persons with disabilities will no longer be seen as objects of charity and passive recipients of rehabilitation."

AEBC defines persons with disabilities as 'rights holders', who require a leadership role in the development of "all new legislation, policies and programs designed to improve our quality of life", Rae explains. "In brief - Nothing about us, without us."

"The CRPD must become a living, breathing human rights instrument that helps Canadians with disabilities to remove the many barriers that continue to impede our search for equality in all aspects of life in Canada. The AEBC looks forward to participating in developing Canada's domestic agenda to implement today's ratification."

AEBC Pleased with Additional Access within Ontario Public Service

Access to print material is one of the greatest barriers facing persons who are blind. Here is a promising development:

MEMORANDUM TO: All Ontario Public Service Employees

SUBJECT: Accessible Formats in the Ontario Public Service

April 9, 2010

As you know, the Ontario Public Service (OPS) recently reported compliance with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service regulation. This is a commendable achievement, but plenty of hard work is still ahead of us.

Going forward, we must strive to remain in compliance everyday, in all our interactions. That means ensuring everything we create, from memos to videos, are accessible to everyone. For example, did you know that information contained within scanned PDF documents, and in most cases, documents saved in PDF format, are inaccessible to persons with disabilities who use assistive devices? While awaiting specific standards related to information and communications, we must lead by example to ensure the way we communicate with the public and with each other is accessible.

One way to do this is to stop sending PDF attachments just to show the document was originally signed. Where possible, place the message directly in the body of your e-mail and avoid the need for an attachment. If attachments are necessary, then ensure that:

  • the text of the attachment (if short) is copied into the body of the e-mail; and/or
  • context is provided with a website link to an HTML version of the full document.

Instructional materials on preparing accessible formats can be found on the Diversity Office Access OPS intranet site. I encourage everyone to visit this site for more accessibility tips and to help increase your awareness of accessibility barriers, including how to prevent them in OPS workplaces.

Accessibility, including the provision of accessible formats, is a shared responsibility requiring our ongoing vigilance. By working together, everyone can get the message.

Thank you for your ongoing support and leadership.

Ron McKerlie
Deputy Minister, Ministry of Government Services, Associate Secretary of the Cabinet and Secretary of Management Board of Cabinet

Upgrading Canada's Paper Currency

When the press reported that Canada plans to make improvements in our currency, the AEBC wrote the Minister, and we await a substantive response:

March 8, 2010

Hon. James Flaherty
Minister of Finance
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Minister Flaherty:

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians understand that starting in late 2011, the Bank of Canada will replace the country's cotton-paper bank notes - prone to wear and tear - with synthetic polymer ones that last two to three times as long.

As a national organization of Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted, we welcome plans to improve Canada's paper currency.

We believe this upgrade provides an excellent opportunity to consider adopting currency bills of different sizes, as is the practice in so many other countries around the world.

The tactile markings currently present on Canadian bank notes do not hold up well, and quite quickly become almost indistinguishable. The synthetic polymer material being planned could help overcome some of the wear and tear on the current cotton notes, and we strongly recommend tactile markings be retained if no change in size is implemented.

We would welcome the opportunity to participate in consultations and in testing the Government of Canada and/or Bank of Canada prototypes if and when any such moves are implemented.


Robin East President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD)

CAD President's Report

By Doug Momotiuk

Canada Ratifies United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

Hon. Lawrence Cannon and Hon. Diane Finley announced that the Government of Canada has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on March 11, 2010.

Five articles (2, 9, 21, 24, and 30) in the Convention relate to Deaf issues: "facilitating and recognizing the use of sign languages"; "education of deaf and deaf blind children"; "teachers who are qualified in sign languages"; "accessibility with professional sign language interpreters"; and "specific culture and linguistic identity including sign languages and deaf culture".

CAD Council Meeting in Fredericton, New Brunswick

The 8 provincial affiliate delegates, British Columbia invitees, New Brunswick visitors, board members, and staff enjoyed the CAD Council Meeting at the Crowne Plaza Fredericton Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton on March 5 & 6, 2010.

The highlights of CAD businesses and actions were the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities; project evaluations; Video Relay Services update; Statistics Canada; committee reports; education action; CAD membership structure; review correspondence about the International Congress of Educators of the Deaf 2010; preparation for the Annual General Meeting and Deaf Canada Conference 2010.

You may contact the provincial delegates for more information.


Re: Compliance in the Disability Charity Sector Project—Scott Simser, Project Director, reported that they contacted over 2000 charities and all the Deaf organization affiliates. They hosted seminars with 140 organizations. They created over 300 copies of a CD and over 500 DVD copies in ASL, LSQ, English captions, and French captions. The survey indicated an 84% high satisfactory rating. Congratulations to Scott for his great job!

Re: Deaf Women Leadership Training Project—Leonor Vlug, Leanne Gallant and Evelyne Gounetenzi coordinated and hosted the wonderful Deaf Women Leadership Training at Montreal in November 2009. There were 38 Deaf women in attendance for four days. They had their action plans and sharing information. This project will be continuing for another year.

Re: Privacy, Fraud, and Identity Theft Project—Evelyne Gounetenzi and CAD staff coordinated the successful conference in Ottawa on October 9, 2009 which included the provincial invitees, financial consumer agencies, RCMP, Royal Bank, and others. The invitees will host workshops in their own provinces.

Deaf Canada Conference 2010

The theme for DCC 2010 is "In Solidarity We Act". We encourage you to attend this conference to share or learn more about a variety of Deaf issues. It will take place at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre in Vancouver, BC on July 13-18, 2010. There will be CAD/CCSD's Annual General Meetings, workshops, special interest groups, wine & cheese event, theatres, films and banquet & award ceremony. Please contact www.dcc2010.com for registration and information.