March 5, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Students in Disability Studies had the rare opportunity to speak directly to a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hon Tracy MacCharles is the Minister of Government and Consumer Services, and also the minister responsible for accessibility. She spent an hour using Skype to talk with students enrolled in DS3311: “Changing Contexts and Practices” with Dr. Jeff Preston. She spoke about accessibility, legislation, and employment strategies that bridge the gap between persons with disabilities and employers in Ontario.

In discussing the importance of AODA, MacCharles said, “Many would say disabled people are the most marginalized group in our society.”

In her role, MacCharles coordinates disability issues with the other provincial cabinet ministers. Her work revolves largely around the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This Act aims to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. Ontario is the first Canadian province to pass a law to improve accessibility in the areas that impact the daily lives of people with disabilities. The goal is to make Ontario accessible by 2025. King's works hard to be AODA compliant. Review King's accessibility policy, guidelines and processes regarding accessibility

The Skype call ended with a question and answer period and a discussion on the attitudinal barriers that may persist in the workplace despite policies and accessible spaces. “Accessibility, in my mind, is about an even playing field. It’s about inclusiveness,” said MacCharles at the end of this discussion.

For students interested in getting involved in disability issues in the community, MacCharles suggested joining an Accessibility Advisory Committee. These councils provide recommendations, advice and information to the Municipal Council to promote a barrier-free city for citizens of all abilities.

DS3311 introduces students to key innovations in leadership, rights, laws, policy and practices in the human services and modern disability sector. Research and cases highlight the tensions and possibilities between conceptual ideals and the constraints of practice.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, Dr. Preston is teaching three courses at King’s: Exploring Disability; Disability, Media and Madness; and Changing Contexts and Practices. He is also a popular social media communicator @jeffpreston and a blogger/motivational speaker. Dr. Preston advocates for the needs of himself and others with disabilities in order that all may live an independent and barrier-free life.