May 30, 2008

National Access Awareness Week 2008

National Access Awareness Week began in 1988 to honour Rick Hansen. In 1985, he began a two-year, 40,000-kilometre trek through 34 countries in his wheelchair to raise awareness about the need for accessibility for people with disabilities. Since then, communities across Canada have continued Hansen's mission during the last week of May.

National Access Awareness Week promotes access for people with all disabilities, who encounter barriers that prevent them from participating in day-to-day activities. The range of barriers includes:

  • Physical barriers that result from a building's or structure's design
  • Communication barriers that make it difficult for people to understand information
  • Technology - or lack of it - that prevent people from accessing information
  • Systemic barriers that restrict people through practices and rules
  • Attitudinal barriers that result in a person being discriminated against or stereotyped

Some examples of common barriers include:

  • Narrow entrances that a wheelchair can't fit through
  • Small text in a menu that someone who is visually impaired can't read
  • A movie that does not have captioning for someone who is hearing impaired
  • Service animals that are not permitted.

Disability impacts many Ontarians and the number of people with disabilities is increasing. Today, 15.5 per cent of Ontario's population has a disability and this number will grow as the population ages.

Better accessibility is good for Ontario's economy. According to the Royal Bank of Canada, people with disabilities have an estimated spending power of about $25 billion annually across Canada.

Better accessibility will also help build a better society. Ontario is a diverse province, where people have diverse abilities. An accessible province will allow everyone to participate.

Regardless of ability, accessibility is good for everyone - from the athlete hauling a hockey bag to an arena, to the delivery person trying to find their destination on a sign, to a mom struggling to get her stroller on a bus. By making an accessible Ontario, we all benefit.

For more information on how Ontario is improving accessibility, visit www.AccessOn.ca.

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Julia Sakas,
Minister's Office,
416 325-5219

Erika Botond,
Media Office,
416 325-5760

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