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Changing Discussions about Disability in Mainstream Media

In the fourth review of the AODA, Rich Donovan states that Ontario will not be fully accessible by 2025. In other words, the provincial government will not meet its own deadline under the AODA. Limited creation, implementation, and enforcement of AODA standards impacts the well-being and safety of Ontarians with disabilities. Therefore, Donovan recommends that the Ontario government should declare this lack of progress on accessibility a crisis. This crisis state should last six (6) months. During this time, the Ontario government should form a crisis committee to implement crucial accessibility improvements in the province. The Premier should act as the chair of this committee, and the Secretary of Cabinet should act as co-chair. Furthermore, Donovan outlines tactical recommendations the province should follow to fulfill its remaining responsibilities in the public sector. One of these tactical recommendations is changing discussions about disability in mainstream media.

Changing Discussions about Disability in Mainstream Media

The review states that most people with disabilities in Ontario today experience attitudinal barriers. This type of barrier often leads to discrimination in various forms. However, the law cannot regulate how non-disabled people feel about or react to people with disabilities. Nonetheless, new messages in mainstream media may help non-disabled people learn to think and talk about disability differently.


Therefore, the review recommends that the accessibility agency should conduct research on discussion about disability in mainstream media and social media platforms. In other words, the research team should discover common attitudes about disability and accessibility that circulate in the media today. The team should avoid media made by groups that advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, because these groups will already be spreading positive messages. Instead, the team should gather information about messages from people or groups with limited exposure to disability. As a result, the team will gain knowledge about current attitudes toward people with disabilities.

Many of these attitudes may be based on myths, stereotypes, or stigma. Moreover, some people’s attitudes may be based on ableist beliefs. In short, changes in these beliefs and attitudes should have great positive impact on people’s lives. Consequently, after the initial research, the agency should determine how to spread ideas about disability and accessibility that are free from discrimination.

For instance, the agency should identify people to act as “first movers” who can begin sharing accurate information about people with disabilities. In addition, the agency should consult people with disabilities who are willing to speak publicly about their lived experience on mainstream media platforms. These narratives will contrast false representations of disability based on stereotypes and limited knowledge. The agency should also consult non-governmental specialists on media outreach to ensure that messages reach and engage a variety of people.

Finally, the agency should develop methods to assess how these new messages change the discussions about disability that happen in mainstream and social media.