The time for a CDA is now

What does ADA stand for? Americans with Disabilities Act. This month the ADA is 25 years old. Congratulations! What about the CDA? Canadians with Disabilities Act? There isn’t one.

I notice the impact of the ADA whenever I travel or buy equipment. Whether it be as diverse as looking for a hotel room or looking for a pole to help me transfer at my bedside, it will say that the room or the appliance is “ADA compliant.” For Americans with Disabilities, the act is much more wide reaching, as it covers all aspects of their daily lives, from access to buildings to access to employment, education and healthcare.

For Canadians, there is no single act to legislate standards. Yes, it’s covered by Human Rights, but that’s not the same as a tailor made act that sets out standards that must be adhered to. Manitoba and Ontario have provincial acts, but for the rest of the country, there may be separate pieces of legislation, like building regulations, but nothing else.

Here’s a phone call I had with a hotel in the Inner Harbour in Victoria:

“Hi, I can’t find the details of your wheelchair accessible rooms on your website.”

“Oh we don’t have any accessible rooms. We don’t have to do that because it would cost too much for us to alter the hotel.”

A worldwide major chain in a prime tourist spot, within a few metres of the BC legislature. And I’m not welcome there. It costs too much. Sorry.

It happens everywhere. Restaurants, stores, businesses. A major fast food chain with no wheelchair accessible bathroom. When I was asked they told me they couldn’t afford. But you’ve served over 3 billion burgers. How can you not afford?

As I have mentioned before, I am advocating for better HandyDart provision in Kelowna. It is very difficult without having legislation to refer to. Basically we are appealing to their better nature and shaming them against examples from elsewhere. Yeah. Good luck with that, Michelle!

And this is with physical things, like ramps and washrooms and doors. It doesn’t begin to cover discrimination that is ingrained in the stereotypes and attitudes that we see.

I can only speak to my personal experience. I cannot work or go to college, but I imagine that there are many similar stories there..   These are the crucial situations that speak to the daily lives of those with disabilities.

What can we do? Barrier-Free Canada are campaigning for a CDA and they are asking for support. I am proud to see that the MS Society of Canada has already endorsed their campaign. It covers all disabilities – physical, intellectual, invisible (see the site for their excellent extended desciption of people with disabilities) – and sets out detailed principles of what the act should cover.

Unfortunately, it’s not getting much attention, either political or from the media. And it deserves it. We have the best opportunity until October 19th to get this issue into the spotlight it needs. I will be asking the following question to every candidate – and I hope you think about it too:

“The ADA is 25 years old. If your party forms the next government, how much longer will we have to wait for a CDA?”

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