CUPE Ontario marks the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on December 3 in acknowledgment of the myriad achievements of people with disabilities, as we work in solidarity to break down barriers to disability justice in workplaces and communities across the province. The day is also an important reminder of our collective obligation to ensure that the necessary accommodations and elements are in place to give everyone the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of society.

These twin recognitions sum up the work of CUPE Ontario’s Workers with Disabilities Committee, whose members are leaders in our union, ensuring inclusion for workers with disabilities, making it possible for all CUPE members in our province to have their say in safe, inclusive environments, and promoting universal access and universal design in recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities.

CUPE Ontario is also proud to represent CUPE members who support people with disabilities. Through their work and dedication, these members provide the high-quality and public services that make a difference every day in the lives of the individuals they support. Our members know that their own fight for well paid, secure and safe jobs is the foundation for ensuring high-quality services for people with disabilities.

This IDPD lets us also remind ourselves of the shameful record of the Ford Conservatives on disability issues, like the proposed discriminatory practices of their draft Clinical Triage Protocol. Had it not been for the vigilance and outcry of disability rights activists, people with disabilities would have denied critical health care during the pandemic. It’s time too to demand a fully funded and enforced Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) – legislation that has been on the books for nearly 20 years, but which successive governments have failed to resource sufficiently, leaving standards woefully under-enforced. Most recently, we have the example of Doug Ford’s government rushing through housing legislation that omits the assurance of built-in accessibility for all. These breaches of fundamental rights are just some of the many ways that Ontario’s Conservative government is failing people with disabilities, just has it continues to fail so many of our communities.

The neglect and disrespect from the provincial government toward persons with disabilities only serve to increase CUPE Ontario’s resolve to work alongside allies and advocates to advance the cause of disability justice. We encourage all CUPE locals to incorporate disability rights into their bargaining and use the range of materials from CUPE as powerful tools for advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

Working together in the coalition of advocates and allies for disability rights is our best way of ensuring that no one is left behind.