We don’t care… unless you’re disabled when you’ll still be discriminated against!

The Canadian National Exhibition has been loudly praised for its use of brand new bathrooms with signs depicting a gender neutral figure with the words “we don’t care” underneath.

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While I strongly support their decision to defuse the argument about gender-specific bathrooms by simply making them all available to all genders it saddens me greatly that once again the disabled are still discriminated against.

These are brand new bathrooms designed and developed and custom-built for the Exhibition specifically.

Yet once again, the disabled were excluded. Each of these brand new bathrooms has a step on entry precluding entry by those in wheelchairs, or with mobility issues. Further, those with service dogs larger than a pocket dog are finding that they simply can’t fit in the tiny spaces provided.

Ironically, bathrooms for the disabled have been gender neutral for decades. Yet, they’re often hidden out of sight and rarely in the same location as the bathrooms for the able.

At first, I had just assumed that the existing bathrooms had been relabeled and while I didn’t like it, thought that at least the Exhibition was working to address discrimination.

However, let me repeat, these are brand new bathrooms custom-built for the Exhibition and they do not allow access for the disabled.

As Dave Hingsberger succinctly explains, we can provide disabled accessible bathrooms at roadside facilities in the middle of our country but we can’t provide them at our national Exhibition?

This is simply not acceptable.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has been law in Ontario since 2005. Yes, Ontario has another 8 years to come into full compliance with the Act however when brand new facilities are being custom-built one would think that they would be built to accommodate the disabled now, rather than wait for another 8 years!

Our Prime Minister stated last year when asked why it was so important to him to have a gender neutral cabinet that it was simply “because it’s 2015“.

It’s now 2016, shouldn’t we be no longer discriminating against the disabled?

The Canadian government is currently consulting regarding the development of federal disability legislation , similar to that which the USA established in 1990 the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Please take the opportunity to provide comments and feedback as part of this process. While you may not be disabled yourself, given that in 2012 13.7% of Canadian adults reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability the chances are that you know at least one person in your close circle of friends and family that is.

Also, while I wouldn’t wish such disabilities on anybody please keep in mind that the disabled population is the only minority of which you could become a member of at any point in time.

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Disability accommodation is not a privilege. It’s simply the humane consideration of our fellow human beings.

There is no excuse, when building something new, not to accommodate the disabled. I am very disappointed in our National Exhibition that rather than take this opportunity to be truly inclusive they once again discriminated against the disabled in their zeal to be seen to be inclusive.

Only when all human beings can use the same facilities, regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered, will they be truly inclusive.

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