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Today, Dec. 3, is International Day for Disabled Persons. It is an opportunity for federal election candidates to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

We’ve heard plenty of lip service from both Liberals and Conservatives about the need to fully include Canadians with disabilities in society, yet both parties continue to promote the privatization of services that disabled persons need. This election is the time to add real commitment to the rhetoric.
It’s time to break down the obstacles for people with disabilities. We need to hear serious campaign commitments to mobilize support for the equality of persons with disabilities and pledges that, if elected, they will work to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully take part in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, and have an equal share in improved conditions resulting from socio-economic development.
To do that, we need more than tax measures. We need well-developed programs and services in the areas of transportation, training, education, employment and income support. Those are issues that candidates need to address today on the campaign trail and throughout the campaign
The parties also need to commit to increasing public awareness of the gains to be made from integrating persons with disabilities into every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

In 1981, the first international year of disabled persons brought us the ‘Obstacles ‘ report. It was a comprehensive study on these issues facing people with disabilities and it became the touchstone for significant change. But, on nearly every front, difficult obstacles remain and more studies accumulate.

As recently as last December, the federal minister responsible for social services released another report on the gaps. The minister affirmed that a key priority over the next year will be persons with disabilities.

But so far, the Liberals have been long on promises and short on delivery. The Conservatives say they have a plan but as recently as September they issued party advertising without paying the $200 fee for close captioning to ensure it was accessible.

The NDP lobbied successfully for the creation of a parliamentary subcommittee on people with disabilities. They have continously advocated for a national Canadians with Disabilities Act.

Four million Canadians or roughly 13 per cent of the population have a disability. Do they fit the Conservative party profile of “ordinary, mainstream Canadians” that party leader Stephen Harper pledged to help at the outset of the campaign?