Accessibility crusader talks about his campaign to create a barrier-free Ontario

David Lepofsky, Toronto lawyer and award-winning disability advocate, will speak at York on Monday about his campaign to create a barrier-free Ontario.

Since the late 1970s when he graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Lepofsky (right) (LLB ’79) has been advocating for new laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada. In his one-hour talk, “Ontarians with Disabilities’ Tenacious Campaign for a Barrier-Free Province: What Progress? What Prospects? How Does It Affect You?", the blind activist will discuss reforms he has successfully pushed for. These include getting the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to announce subway, bus and streetcar stops for the benefit of passengers with vision loss, and the “extraordinary, decade-long grassroots campaign” he led that resulted in the passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. 

Lepofsky has been invited to speak about the campaign to students in the joint York-Seneca Rehabilitation Services Program. “It’s important that they hear this story,” says Lepofsky. “For one thing, disability touches everybody’s lives. You either have one, will have one or you know someone who has one.” For another thing, disability reform has a direct bearing on the work the students will do.  

The story of the campaign for disability reform is also an opportunity for students to learn that fighting for social justice can bring results. “Most people think they can’t do anything to make change,” Lepofsky says. “Most people think this is the kind of thing you leave to specialists. But our campaign was fought by ordinary folks.” 

“The battle with the TTC is a good illustration of what it takes to fight for simple accommodation,” says Lepofsky. “It also helps show that providing access to those with disabilities helps everybody.”  

Lepofsky has won multiple awards for his disability advocacy work. He has been invested into the Order of Canada (1995), the Terry Fox Hall of Fame (2004) and the Order of Ontario (2007). He has received honorary doctorates from Queen’s University and the University of Western Ontario, and awards from other organizations.  

Lepofsky practises constitutional, civil, administrative and criminal law. Since 1991 he has also served as a part-time member of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where he teaches an advanced constitutional law seminar on freedom of expression and the press. 

Lepofsky’s talk starts at 10am in the Kaleidoscope Room, Stephen E. Quinlan Building at Seneca@York (No. 40 on this map of York’s Keele campus). It is open to the public.

The event is hosted by the joint York-Seneca Rehabilitation Services Certificate Program, which trains students in rehabilitation counselling, and by York’s Department of Psychology. It is sponsored by the Clinical Developmental Program  Area in York’s Graduate Program in Psychology, Faculty of Health.

Contact Maggie Toplak at for more information.