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Examining Ontario’s New Disability Law

Sameen Amjad
Staff Writer

Ontario has joined other provinces in the move toward making its facilities and businesses more accessible for persons with disabilities. In June 2005,
the Ac- cessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law.

Elections Canada promoted this wheelchair-friendly mentality at the recent elections by installing accessible facilities at polling stations. The change
is occurring at all levels throughout the province. The government of Ontario has created a web page to promote awareness of this program to businesses, along with other initiatives that explain the effects and the changes the law requires these business owners to make in their facilities.

Public sector organizations, such as universities, have been legally required to draft an annual accessibility plan under the original Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 and share it for public viewing. This is reinforced by the implementation of AODA. This accessibility plan is made to contain initiatives that the university has taken to support staff and students with disabilities. Other university-wide initiatives are also mentioned in this plan, such as the creation of wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and elevators.

York University’s annual accessibility plan, published last year, shows off some of the significant improvements York has made in promoting the needs of people with disabilities.

York University’s policy on academic accommodation for students with disabilities states that it will make “reasonable and appropriate accommodations and adaptations in order to promote the ability of students with disabilities to fulfill the academic requirements of their programs.”

York University’s peer note-taking program is still in effect, and assigns physically challenged individuals with a peer note taker. This is organized through the Counsel- ling and Disability Services (CDS).

Academic accommodations for students are also available in the form of instructor-related services, as well as alternate arrangements for exams.

York University’s Keele campus provides students with special access to computer labs that cater to students with disabilities. These computer labs are
located at the TEL and the Scott Library centres, and are equipped with assistive technology programs.

York parking services offers accessible parking to people with disabilities and an application form can be filled out at the William Small Centre.

Financial assistance is available to students with disabilities in order to decrease the burden of academics. In this situation, a student would only need
to take a 40 percent course load (as op- posed to the regular 60 percent) to receive OSAP.

Individuals who apply to OSAP and disclose their medical conditions are automatically considered for grants of up to $2,000 per school year. This is meant to give these students resources and to provide support. York offers students with disabilities partial reimbursement for their tuition if they need to drop their course after the drop date.

York has also moved to make their libraries wheelchair friendly. The library accessibility services program was created in 1985 and is currently employed to make the libraries more accessible to persons with disabilities. A link is available on the library’s website which provides more informa- tion about the service as well as links to other resources that these students require.

Where it is required, the senate policy on accommodation for disabled students makes its explicit that the York administration will make the required effort to accom- modate a student’s needs in the way most appropriate to the individual case. In these cases, where the student and the instructor are unable to reach an agreement, the chair of the department would be consulted and an appropriate deal would be reached.

This law serves to make Ontario more wheelchair-friendly by 2025. The attempt is aimed to bridge the gap to the portion of Ontario’s pop- ulation that have a disability and give them the opportunities to be more engaged in their community.

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