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March 4, 2005

Fairness for Ontario's Deaf and Blind

From: Canada NewsWire (press release) - Canada - Mar 4, 2005

TORONTO, March 3 /CNW/ - With reluctance and great personal difficulty, six deaf and blind Ontario residents have launched a lawsuit against the Province of Ontario seeking fairness in the way the Province dispenses services to its deaf and blind residents.

One of the six, thirty-three year old father and spokesperson Elio Riggillo, who himself is totally deaf and legally blind and who communicates via sign language with the help of 2 1/2 hrs per week of intervenor (interpreter) service advises, "It's simply not fair." Mr. Riggillo's 2 1/2 hours a week of intervenor service compares with the roughly 12 hours per day of intervenor service provided for Ontario residents who were born deaf-blind.

People who are deaf and blind usually become so after birth and generally over time (i.e., Usher Syndrome). "We desperately need expanded intervenor service. Without it we are helpless and incapable of leading any kind of productive life," communicates Mr. Riggillo.

"The system is discriminatory. It offends the Charter of Rights. It offends the Ontario Human Rights Code and it offends common decency," stated former Ontario Attorney General David Young, who represents Elio and the five others in the legal proceeding.

The last straw for Mr. Riggillo and his group occurred when the Ontario Human Rights Commission denied their request "to be treated fairly."

The commission replied to Mr. Riggillo's complaint by mailing him a thick sheaf of documents, including fine-print legal rulings that he was unable to read without the help of an intervenor. The commission then refused his request for an intervenor to interpret the documents. While they finally relented, it clearly demonstrated the failure of the very institution that is enshrined with the responsibility to ensure fairness in Ontario society.

Across Canada, about 15,500 people over age 12 are totally deaf and blind, with about 40 per cent of them living in Ontario.

For further information: Joyce Thompson,, Tel: (905) 763-6736, Fax: (905) 763-2087

© 2005 CNW Group Ltd.