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Accessibility activist puts pressure on MPP

Politician said ramp is on the way

Fri Jul 04, 2008

By Jillian Follert

OSHAWA -- Scott Pigden is happy to report Oshawa is well on its way to becoming a fully accessible city.

As chairman of the Oshawa Accessibility Advisory Committee (OAAC), he is watching the City chip away at a long list of barriers in municipal facilities and he said he is pleased Oshawa's redesigned City Hall will include lots of accessibility features.

But there are some places still lagging behind the trend and Mr. Pidgen said they are precisely the ones that should be leading the charge.

The OAAC chairman said he has spent years asking Oshawa MPP Jerry Ouellette to provide a ramp at his Athol Street constituency office, noting the MPP promised a ramp by this past spring, but so far nothing has changed.

"Politicians represent everyone, not just able-bodied people," Mr. Pigden said. "I've been quiet about this for years and now I want something done."

Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, constituency offices for MPPs are not required to be accessible because they are not government offices owned by the Province.

Mr. Ouellette said he wants his Oshawa office to be welcoming to all, and stressed he is working on the situation.

The MPP said funding for constituency offices is approved through the Board of Internal Economy at Queen's Park and can take time to come through.

"We just got the funding this spring. It took months to get it," he explained.

A sum of $4,000 has been allotted to construct a ramp and Mr. Ouellette said plans have been drawn up. Now he's now waiting for the builder to start work.

"This is important. I understand the concern and we're fixing it," he said.

But Mr. Pigden still has questions. Questions like why the problem is only being addressed now when Mr. Ouellette has been in that office more than 10 years and why there are no accessibility laws governing constituency offices.

He is pleased to note Oshawa MP Colin Carrie's office on Simcoe Street South is accessible, with power-assist doors at the main entrance to the building and an elevator to take visitors up to the politician's second floor office.

However, Mr. Pigden said there is no way of knowing how many other MP and MPP offices are lacking basic accommodations.

"You have politicians saying they'll go to people's houses if they need to meet with them but that's not good enough," he said. "It's about everyone being treated the same."