Monday, 3 October 2011

Accessibility and Priorities

Canadian Parliament Buildings
I never said that I wouldn't comment on Canadian politics. :)

Not Politics, Per se - More About Accessibility...

...and the level of disability awareness and priority of disability issues within our political system.

I saw two stories on yesterday that intrigued me. The first was a piece about how the carpet in the House of Commons really lowers accessibility in the House for NDP Member of Parliament Manon Perreault. She finds it very difficult to get over the thick carpet in her wheelchair. I didn't even know that any of our MP's used a wheelchair, but there are apparently two: Perreault, and Conservative MP Steven Fletcher. A lot of the article was devoted to their thoughts on whether they would work together...because, you know, it's only natural that they would world work together, both having disabilities, even though they're from different parties, and his first language is English while she speaks almost exclusively French. After all, don't all people with disabilities enjoy each other's company (I'm laying the sarcasm on really thick, for people that haven't got it yet. The assumption that people with disabilities should want to do things together just because they have disabilities is a big pet peeve of mine.)

Back to accessibility: They're obviously improved accessibility in the House of Commons and and made changes to its procedures to accommodate Perreault's wheelchairs (which I'm assuming is manual). But if she still  has to rely on a page to push her through the carpet to her place in the's not an accessible space for her.  For a government that (rightfully) insists that the places it runs (like post offices) have a high level of accessibility, that's not acceptable.

Business Cards with *What* on Them?

And meanwhile:

Minister of Affairs John Baird just got $428.88 for from the government for gold-embossed business cards.

I believe that he's rightfully taking a lot of flack for it, and it's not just because I don't support the Conservatives. I don't believe that gold-embossed business cards are necessary for anyone accepting public money. But that's another debate, really. Here's how I link it back to accesibility:

We've got two individuals in Parliament who use wheelchairs, and 306 who, as Fletcher said in the in the first article to which I linked, don't know very much about the needs of people with disabilities.  Now, the $428.88 that John Baird spent on his business cards won't go far to remedy that, but it's the wasted money that bothers me. Before taxpayer money goes to things like that, is money going to educate MP's about any potential needs that their colleagues with disabilities may have while the House of Commons is sitting? What about the needs of their constituents with disabilities (a number that will keep increasing as the population ages)?

Do the MP's in Ontario, for example, know about the deadlines for making public and private businesses completely accessible under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act? Could they talk about those deadlines with their constituents?

There are a lot of things that need money right now. Gold-embossed business cards are just too much of a luxury for taxpayer money.

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