Equality through Access
Canadian society upholds the values of diversity and equality. Statutes such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial Human Rights legislation protect members of society from discrimination in employment, accommodation, services and facilities.
However, language barriers and discriminatory attitudes have served to deny Deaf people adequate access in all sectors of society including health care, legal proceedings, education, training and politics. As a result, Deaf people have sometimes experienced a compromised quality of life. In recent years our judicial system has affirmed, through the Supreme Court of Canada, the rights of Deaf people to be provided with professional interpreting services to facilitate their participation in various situations.
In 2001 the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) was passed by the Ontario provincial government. The act requires the provincial and municipal governments as well as organizations that receive provincial funding such as schools, universities and hospitals to review their policies and programs and to develop accessibility plans that address existing barriers and prevent new barriers from being established.
In 2005 the Ontario government, recognizing the historical discrimination against persons who have disabilities or who are Deaf, passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the purpose of which is to develop, implement and enforce accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities and for people who are Deaf.
Interpreting services are an essential means to bridge the linguistic and cultural divide between Deaf people and society at large. Providing access may call for the use of technologies (such as captioning services) in addition to contracting interpreters. Diversity within the Deaf community leads to the need for flexibility and respect for individual preferences when arranging services.