In a powerful Open Letter sent to the Federal Government, An Extraordinary Lineup of Thirty-four Disability Organizations Unite to Press for Key Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

October 31, 2018

SUMMARY

A major effort has just been unveiled by Canada’s disability community to get the Federal Government to amend Bill C-81, the Federal Government’s proposed Accessible Canada Act, to transform it into a strong and effective bill. Thirty-four disability organizations in Canada have united to jointly send the Federal Government an open letter, set out below. This letter, delivered to the Federal Government by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), identifies nine “significant concerns” with the bill, where the bill must be strengthened through amendments. The letter states:

“These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.”

The timing of this open letter is pivotal. The crunch comes next week for Bill C-81. Public hearings on the bill ended last week. The political parties must file their proposed amendments to the bill this Friday. The House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities will start to vote on proposed amendments to the bill on November 8, 2018.

If people with disabilities are to have a real voice in these amendments, it will be when votes are taken on the amendments. The federal Liberals have a majority in Parliament, so they control which amendments will pass. If we are to have an impact, it must be right now. After amendments are tabled and voted on, the House of Commons will have made its decisions on the bill for practical purposes.

The Federal Government has said that this bill is designed to reflect the principle: “Nothing about us without us!” The amendments that will be made to this bill are where the Federal Government can put that pledge into action.

So many from Canada’s disability community, both organizations and individuals, have told the Federal Government what is needed to strengthen this law. There is real harmony among the many ideas that have been brought forward, including among those who presented at the Standing Committee’s public hearings. As is only natural, there are different ideas on the table, but they converge around important themes.

This open letter is an attempt to build on those themes, and to focus on especially critical problems with the bill. The signatories to this letter are not in any way suggesting that these are the only changes that are needed, nor is this meant to take away from any of the other important issues that individuals and community organizations have also raised. Rather, this is meant to be a helpful response, developed in an incredible hurry due to the Federal Government’s tight legislative time lines.

In our thriving democracy, the disability community, like our society in general, has a rich diversity of views. There is little on which everyone will agree. However, the impressive spectrum of community organizations that have signed this open letter shows a powerful shared voice that all political parties should heed.

We expect that more community organizations will wish to join this open letter. Some came forward even as this open letter was about to be emailed to the Federal Government. The list of signatories will be expanded after this, as they come forward. If a community organization wishes to add its name as a signatory to this open letter, please send an email to Robert Lattanzio, executive director of the ARCH Disability Law Centre, at [email protected]

For our part, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance is proud to be one of the many respected organizations that are signatories to this open letter. On October 25, 2018, speaking for the AODA Alliance, its chair David Lepofsky told the Standing Committee of the House of Commons that Bill C-81 is great on intentions but weak on implementation and enforcement. In joining in today’s effort, the AODA Alliance draws on its years of experience campaigning to get strong accessibility legislation passed, and then campaigning to get it effectively implemented. We’ve been around this block before. We believe this open letter at this time is a very important way for our voices to be heard, and to work with all parties in Parliament in our ongoing spirit of constructive, cooperative non-partisanship

MORE DETAILS

Open Letter Regarding the Need to Strengthen Bill C-81 Accessible Canada Act October 30, 2018

Dear Minister Qualtrough and HUMA Committee Members:
We the undersigned commend the Federal Government for committing to enact national accessibility legislation. As provincial and national disability rights organizations, we write to express significant concerns regarding Bill C-81. The following highlights our key concerns and reflects the concerns raised by our communities before the HUMA Committee. Amendments are essential to effectively remedy these concerns.
1. Bill C-81 requires timelines. Timelines are essential to ensure that key accessibility measures are taken. Timelines are also required so that progress on accessibility can be measured. In particular, we support recommendations for the Bill to include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers, and timelines by which accessibility standards are developed and enacted into law. Timelines are also needed for establishing the infrastructure necessary to implement the Bill.
2. Bill C-81 imposes no duty on Government to use the powers available in the Bill. We support recommendations to change the word may to shall to ensure that the Government implements key steps for achieving accessibility.
3. Bill C-81 requires federally-regulated organizations to establish accessibility plans. However, the Bill does not require these to be good plans. It does not require an organization to implement its accessibility plan.
4. Bill C-81 wrongly splinters the power to make accessibility standards (regulations) and the power to enforce the Bill across numerous Federal agencies. This splintering will make the Bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated, more costly, and will increase delay.
5. Bill C-81 wrongly gives the Federal Government and various federal agencies the sweeping, unjustified and unaccountable power to exempt organizations from a number of important accessibility obligations. The Government can even exempt itself.
6. The Bill does not require the Federal Government to use its readily-available power to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate barriers. The Bill must be amended to leverage the federal spending power, in order to promote accessibility.
7. The Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation. Therefore, the key federal agencies that will develop accessibility standards, oversee and enforce this legislation must be independent of the Federal Government. Under the Bill, they are not. They all report to the Federal Government. We support recommendations for amendments to ensure that CASDO, the Accessibility Commissioner and other key agencies are sufficiently independent.
8. Bill C-81 does not sufficiently address barriers created by poverty and intersectional discrimination. Nor does it address the unique barriers experienced by Indigenous and First Nations persons with disabilities.
9. Bill C-81 does not recognize ASL/lsq as the official languages of people who are Deaf.
We believe that if these priority changes are made, among the amendments to Bill C-81, this Bill has the potential to truly advance accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. We ask that the Bill be amended to address the concerns and objectives outlined above. These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.

In Solidarity,
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
In addition to the concerns outlined in this open letter, CDAC recommends that Bill C-81 address communication as a domain across all federal jurisdictions and includes the needs of people with speech and language disabilities.ARCH, CCD and other disability organizations support CDACs recommendations. DAWN-RAFH Canada
Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL)
National Network for Mental Health (NNMH)
Independent Living Canada (ILC)
March of Dimes Canada
Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
People First of Canada
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Québec Accessible
Views for the Visually Impaired
Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Community Living Ontario (CLO)
Barrier-Free Manitoba
Regroupement des associations de personnes Handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
DeafBlind Ontario Services
Community Living Toronto (CLT)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Confédération desorganismes depersonneshandicapées du Québec (COPHAN) Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre, Inc. (CMDCI)
Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)
Northwest Territories Council for Disability
Voice of Albertans with Disabilities
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Older Women’s Network
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto
Ontario Disability Coalition



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In a powerful Open Letter sent to the Federal Government, An Extraordinary Lineup of Thirty-four Disability Organizations Unite to Press for Key Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org  [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

In a powerful Open Letter sent to the Federal Government, An Extraordinary Lineup of Thirty-four Disability Organizations Unite to Press for Key Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

 

October 31, 2018

 

SUMMARY

 

A major effort has just been unveiled by Canada’s disability community to get the Federal Government to amend Bill C-81, the Federal Government’s proposed Accessible Canada Act, to transform it into a strong and effective bill. Thirty-four disability organizations in Canada have united to jointly send the Federal Government an open letter, set out below. This letter, delivered to the Federal Government by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), identifies nine “significant concerns” with the bill, where the bill must be strengthened through amendments. The letter states:

 

“These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.”

 

The timing of this open letter is pivotal. The crunch comes next week for Bill C-81. Public hearings on the bill ended last week. The political parties must file their proposed amendments to the bill this Friday. The House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities will start to vote on proposed amendments to the bill on November 8, 2018.

 

If people with disabilities are to have a real voice in these amendments, it will be when votes are taken on the amendments. The federal Liberals have a majority in Parliament, so they control which amendments will pass. If we are to have an impact, it must be right now. After amendments are tabled and voted on, the House of Commons will have made its decisions on the bill for practical purposes.

 

The Federal Government has said that this bill is designed to reflect the principle: “Nothing about us without us!” The amendments that will be made to this bill are where the Federal Government can put that pledge into action.

 

So many from Canada’s disability community, both organizations and individuals, have told the Federal Government what is needed to strengthen this law. There is real harmony among the many ideas that have been brought forward, including among those who presented at the Standing Committee’s public hearings. As is only natural, there are different ideas on the table, but they converge around important themes.

 

This open letter is an attempt to build on those themes, and to focus on especially critical problems with the bill. The signatories to this letter are not in any way suggesting that these are the only changes that are needed, nor is this meant to take away from any of the other important issues that individuals and community organizations have also raised. Rather, this is meant to be a helpful response, developed in an incredible hurry due to the Federal Government’s tight legislative time lines.

 

In our thriving democracy, the disability community, like our society in general, has a rich diversity of views. There is little on which everyone will agree. However, the impressive spectrum of community organizations that have signed this open letter shows a powerful shared voice that all political parties should heed.

 

We expect that more community organizations will wish to join this open letter. Some came forward even as this open letter was about to be emailed to the Federal Government. The list of signatories will be expanded after this, as they come forward. If a community organization wishes to add its name as a signatory to this open letter, please send an email to Robert Lattanzio, executive director of the ARCH Disability Law Centre, at [email protected]

 

For our part, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance is proud to be one of the many respected organizations that are signatories to this open letter. On October 25, 2018, speaking for the AODA Alliance, its chair David Lepofsky told the Standing Committee of the House of Commons that Bill C-81 is great on intentions but weak on implementation and enforcement. In joining in today’s effort, the AODA Alliance draws on its years of experience campaigning to get strong accessibility legislation passed, and then campaigning to get it effectively implemented. We’ve been around this block before. We believe this open letter at this time is a very important way for our voices to be heard, and to work with all parties in Parliament in our ongoing spirit of constructive, cooperative non-partisanship

 

          MORE DETAILS

 

Open Letter Regarding the Need to Strengthen Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act

October 30, 2018

Dear Minister Qualtrough and HUMA Committee Members:

We the undersigned commend the Federal Government for committing to enact national accessibility legislation.  As provincial and national disability rights organizations, we write to express significant concerns regarding Bill C-81. The following highlights our key concerns and reflects the concerns raised by our communities before the HUMA Committee. Amendments are essential to effectively remedy these concerns.

  1. Bill C-81 requires timelines. Timelines are essential to ensure that key accessibility measures are taken. Timelines are also required so that progress on accessibility can be measured. In particular, we support recommendations for the Bill to include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers, and timelines by which accessibility standards are developed and enacted into law. Timelines are also needed for establishing the infrastructure necessary to implement the Bill.
  2. Bill C-81 imposes no duty on Government to use the powers available in the Bill. We support recommendations to change the word may to shall to ensure that the Government implements key steps for achieving accessibility.
  3. Bill C-81 requires federally-regulated organizations to establish accessibility plans. However, the Bill does not require these to be good plans. It does not require an organization to implement its accessibility plan.
  4. Bill C-81 wrongly splinters the power to make accessibility standards (regulations) and the power to enforce the Bill across numerous Federal agencies. This splintering will make the Bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated, more costly, and will increase delay.
  5. Bill C-81 wrongly gives the Federal Government and various federal agencies the sweeping, unjustified and unaccountable power to exempt organizations from a number of important accessibility obligations. The Government can even exempt itself.
  6. The Bill does not require the Federal Government to use its readily-available power to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate barriers. The Bill must be amended to leverage the federal spending power, in order to promote accessibility.
  7. The Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation. Therefore, the key federal agencies that will develop accessibility standards, oversee and enforce this legislation must be independent of the Federal Government. Under the Bill, they are not. They all report to the Federal Government. We support recommendations for amendments to ensure that CASDO, the Accessibility Commissioner and other key agencies are sufficiently independent.
  8. Bill C-81 does not sufficiently address barriers created by poverty and intersectional discrimination. Nor does it address the unique barriers experienced by Indigenous and First Nations persons with disabilities.
  9. Bill C-81 does not recognize ASL/lsq as the official languages of people who are Deaf.

We believe that if these priority changes are made, among the amendments to Bill C-81, this Bill has the potential to truly advance accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. We ask that the Bill be amended to address the concerns and objectives outlined above. These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.

In Solidarity,

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

In addition to the concerns outlined in this open letter, CDAC recommends that Bill C-81 address communication as a domain across all federal jurisdictions and includes the needs of people with speech and language disabilities. ARCH, CCD and other disability organizations support CDAC’s recommendations.

DAWN-RAFH Canada

Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL)

National Network for Mental Health (NNMH)

Independent Living Canada (ILC)

March of Dimes Canada

Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)

People First of Canada

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Québec Accessible

Views for the Visually Impaired

Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Community Living Ontario (CLO)

Barrier-Free Manitoba

Regroupement des associations de personnes Handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

DeafBlind Ontario Services

Community Living Toronto (CLT)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN)

Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre, Inc. (CMDCI)

Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)

Northwest Territories Council for Disability

Voice of Albertans with Disabilities

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Older Women’s Network

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto

Ontario Disability Coalition



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What are communication supports?


The Information and Communications Standards under the AODA states that organizations must provide information in accessible formats and communication supports. This requirement may leave people asking: what are communication supports?

What are Communication Supports?

Communication supports are ways for people who cannot access verbal or audio information to receive it visually or ways for people who are non-verbal to communicate with people who speak. For instance, people who do not understand verbal communication may:

  • Be deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing
  • Have a learning disability that affects how they understand verbal information

Sign Language

English-Canadians who are Deaf often use American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is a visual language. For instance, signers convey meaning through:

  • Handshapes
  • Movements
  • Facial expressions

ASL is a complete language with its own grammar.

Many people identify ASL as their first language and learn English as a second language. They may communicate with people who do not sign by speaking, gesturing, writing, emailing, or text messaging.

Furthermore, signers can also communicate with non-signers through Sign language interpretation.  A professionally trained interpreter relays information between signers and non-signers. Interpretation is available through organizations, such as Ontario Interpreter Services (OIS), for important, specialized, or prolonged communications, including:

  • Job interviews and training
  • Medical or legal settings

People usually arrange interpretation in advance of events. In addition, organizations that regularly host events like performances, tours, or lectures sometimes arrange for interpreters to be present at certain showings. The interpreter is often physically present. However, video relay service (VRS) technology now allows deaf and hearing people connect to an interpreter remotely through the Internet.

Speechreading

Other people who are deaf communicate by speaking and follow the other side of the conversation by speechreading, once called lip reading. People who speechread understand speech through people’s facial movements and expressions, body language, and context. Speakers should ensure that speechreaders can see them clearly.

Captions and Text Transcripts

Captions are displays of text that reproduces or describes audio elements of videos, presentations, or performances. Video producers can caption content when they make it, or add captions later. People watching TV or movies with closed captions (CC) can turn them on and off. In contrast, audience members at live events with open captions cannot turn them off because they are part of the event. People attending smaller live events, such as meetings, may use Real-Time Captioning (RTC). A trained captioner records speech and it appears almost right away on a large screen. If RTC is not available for an event, a typist can summarize key points. This process is called computerized note-taking.

Assistive Listening Devices

Assistive listening devices transmit one speaker’s voice straight to a person’s ear and bypass background noise. People who are hard of hearing use them in group situations where they need to concentrate on one speaker or area, such as:

  • Classrooms
  • Performances, tours, or lectures

Many venues offer assistive listening devices on loan to people attending events.

Telephones

People who are hard of hearing can use telephones with hearing aids, which amplify sounds, or with cochlear implants, prostheses in the inner ear that transmit sound directly to the brain, while others may use telephone amplifiers that interact with certain hearing aids to lower background noise and increase ringing and conversation volume.

Telephones can have lights or vibrations that signal when the telephone rings. Some people who are Deaf use TTYs (teletypewriters), devices carrying typed conversation over telephone lines. TTY users can contact someone who does not use TTY through a telephone relay operator. Others use video relay service (VRS) to communicate with signers or non-signers.

Texting and emails are also options that some people may prefer to use when communicating.

Communication Supports for People who are Non-Verbal

Several of these communication supports are also valuable for people who are non-verbal. In addition, these individuals may also use computers or other devices with speech output, word prediction, or word processing software. Some people may use Augmentative or Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, which allow users to communicate by typing or through pre-programmed words, phrases, or pictorial symbols. Others may use communication boards, which display letters, words, phrases, or symbols the user can point to.

More to Say

There are still not enough communication supports available for people to fully access all the information they need. Shortages of trained ASL interpreters, captioners, or note-takers mean that many people must carefully choose the times when they most need those supports and do without them at all other times. Some people may rely on loved ones, volunteers, or short-term workers who are not fully trained, to provide some of this information. However, incomplete training sometimes leads to people receiving incomplete or inaccurate information.

People who are non-verbal or do not understand audible information have many ways to enjoy and benefit from the spoken word. Technology continues to make new ways of communicating possible. However, more must be done to ensure that all information truly becomes accessible to everyone.



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Today is the 20th Anniversary of the Ontario Legislature’s Historic Unanimous Resolution, Calling for Ontario to Enact Strong and Effective Disability Accessibility Legislation


How Far Have 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Progressed Since that Day?

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

October 29, 2018

SUMMARY

Twenty years ago today, tireless and tenacious grass roots disability advocacy paid off, with long term consequences for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities!

On October 29, 1998, when the Conservative Government of Premier Mike Harris was in power, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) got the Ontario Legislature to unanimously pass a powerful resolution, which we set out below. It called for the enactment of a provincial disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated.

The events of that dramatic day are summarized in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s detailed article that summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html

Two decades later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, against the 11 principles the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998. We also continue to measure any accessibility standards and other actions taken under the AODA 2005 against the 11 bedrock principles which the Ontario Legislature adopted on that historic day.

Since then, we’ve certainly made progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. We’ve had tremendous high points and frustrating low points along the way.

High points include:

* Getting the Ontario Legislature to pass the weak Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and then later, the stronger the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

* Getting helpful, though limited accessibility standards enacted under the AODA to address a number of disability accessibility barriers.

* In every provincial election over the past two decades, getting some or all of the political parties to make pledges for more progress on disability accessibility, in letters to us.

* Where actions have fallen short on accessibility, offering constructive feedback and practical recommendations on how to improve.

* Holding governments accountable for actions that impede progress on accessibility.

* Getting two Independent Reviews, appointed under the AODA, to identify the need for much more progress on accessibility, in 2010 and 2014.

* Sharing our experience as our efforts helped motivate others to press for accessibility legislation in Manitoba (passed in 2013), and Nova Scotia (in 2017). These principles have also influenced advocacy efforts on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, now before Canada’s Parliament.

Over these two decades, we have also seen government after government and minister after minister miss many great opportunities to make more progress on accessibility.

Yet on this anniversary, our advocacy work is far from finished. For example, it is a painful irony that on the anniversary of this major event, Ontario’s new provincial government still has in place its freeze on the work of some Standards Development Committees. Frozen are those working on recommendations for the Government on what needs to be done to remove the many barriers in Ontario’s education system that impede students with disabilities, and the many barriers in Ontario’s health care system that impede patients with disabilities. The Ontario Government said it imposed this freeze in order to get a chance to brief Ontario’s new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho.

Since then, the Government has had fully 131 days to brief that minister. The accessibility issue is an obvious top priority for that minister. It’s time to lift that freeze, so that the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the Education Standards Development Committee can get back to work now. When the Ontario Conservatives were in opposition, they slammed the previous Wynne Government for delay in getting to work on creating an Education Accessibility Standard. Now that they are in power, they are causing more delays.

For more on this freeze, read the AODA Alliance’s August 29, 2018 letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Cho.

One year ago today, illustrating how far we still have to go, we unveiled a shocking online video. It shows serious accessibility problems at a brand-new publicly-funded building, the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre. That video, and two others we’ve created, have gone viral and have gotten great media attention. The Ryerson video alone, in its various forms, has been viewed 13,818 times in the past year.

Learn more about the ODA Committee’s campaign that led to the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign to get the Federal Government to enact strong national accessibility legislation.

MORE DETAILS

RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE OCTOBER 29, 1998

In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation;

and since all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province;

And since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:

a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and

b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.

and since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise,

Therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:

1. The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier- free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.

2. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;

3. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;

4. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;

5. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;

6. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;

7. As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation- making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;

8. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;

9. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;

10. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;

11. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.

Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act The First Chapter

(2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)
By David Lepofsky

8) FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL

a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles

Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.

We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.

Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.

Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.

Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.

Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.

We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.

Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.

The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”

In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.

The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.

All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.

This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.

We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.

Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.

One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.

An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.

The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.

Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.

As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44

Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.

It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.

The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.

In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.

44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.



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Today is the 20th Anniversary of the Ontario Legislature’s Historic Unanimous Resolution, Calling for Ontario to Enact Strong and Effective Disability Accessibility Legislation – How Far Have 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Progressed Since that Day?


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org  [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the Ontario Legislature’s Historic Unanimous Resolution, Calling for Ontario to Enact Strong and Effective Disability Accessibility Legislation – How Far Have 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Progressed Since that Day?

October 29, 2018

          SUMMARY

Twenty years ago today, tireless and tenacious grass roots disability advocacy paid off, with long term consequences for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities!

On October 29, 1998, when the Conservative Government of Premier Mike Harris was in power, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) got the Ontario Legislature to unanimously pass a powerful resolution, which we set out below. It called for the enactment of a provincial disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated.

The events of that dramatic day are summarized in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s detailed article that summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html

Two decades later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, against the 11 principles the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998. We also continue to measure any accessibility standards and other actions taken under the AODA 2005 against the 11 bedrock principles which the Ontario Legislature adopted on that historic day.

Since then, we’ve certainly made progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. We’ve had tremendous high points and frustrating low points along the way.

High points include:

* Getting the Ontario Legislature to pass the weak Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and then later, the stronger the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

* Getting helpful, though limited accessibility standards enacted under the AODA to address a number of disability accessibility barriers.

* In every provincial election over the past two decades, getting some or all of the political parties to make pledges for more progress on disability accessibility, in letters to us.

* Where actions have fallen short on accessibility, offering constructive feedback and practical recommendations on how to improve.

* Holding governments accountable for actions that impede progress on accessibility.

* Getting two Independent Reviews, appointed under the AODA, to identify the need for much more progress on accessibility, in 2010 and 2014.

* Sharing our experience as our efforts helped motivate others to press for accessibility legislation in Manitoba (passed in 2013), and Nova Scotia (in 2017). These principles have also influenced advocacy efforts on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, now before Canada’s Parliament.

Over these two decades, we have also seen government after government and minister after minister miss many great opportunities to make more progress on accessibility.

Yet on this anniversary, our advocacy work is far from finished. For example, it is a painful irony that on the anniversary of this major event, Ontario’s new provincial government still has in place its freeze on the work of some Standards Development Committees. Frozen are those working on recommendations for the Government on what needs to be done to remove the many barriers in Ontario’s education system  that impede students with disabilities, and the many barriers in Ontario’s health care system that impede patients with disabilities. The Ontario Government said it imposed this freeze in order to get a chance to brief Ontario’s new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho.

Since then, the Government has had fully 131 days to brief that minister. The accessibility issue is an obvious top priority for that minister. It’s time to lift that freeze, so that the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the Education Standards Development Committee can get back to work now. When the Ontario Conservatives were in opposition, they slammed the previous Wynne Government for delay in getting to work on creating an Education Accessibility Standard. Now that they are in power, they are causing more delays.

For more on this freeze, read the AODA Alliance’s August 29, 2018 letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Cho.

One year ago today, illustrating how far we still have to go, we unveiled a shocking online video. It shows serious accessibility problems at a brand-new publicly-funded building, the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre. That video, and two others we’ve created, have gone viral and have gotten great media attention. The Ryerson video alone, in its various forms, has been viewed 13,818 times in the past year.

Learn more about the ODA Committee’s campaign that led to the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign to get the Federal Government to enact strong national accessibility legislation.

          MORE DETAILS

RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE OCTOBER 29, 1998

In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation;

and since all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province;

And since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:

  1. a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and
  1. b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.

and since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise,

Therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:

  1. The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier- free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;
  1. As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation- making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.

 Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act — The First Chapter

(2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

By David Lepofsky

8)         FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL

  1. a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles

Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.

We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.

Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.

Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.

Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.

Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.

We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.

Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.

The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”

In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.

The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.

All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.

This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.

We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.

Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.

One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.

An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.

The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.

Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.

As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44

Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.

It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.

The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.

In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.

44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.



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At Public Hearings, The AODA Alliance Urges Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act — and – The Work of Two of Five Ontario Standards Development Committees Appear to Be Unfrozen While Three Others Inexplicably Still Remain Frozen


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org  [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

At Public Hearings, The AODA Alliance Urges Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act — and – The Work of Two of Five Ontario Standards Development Committees Appear to Be Unfrozen While Three Others Inexplicably Still Remain Frozen

October 26, 2018

          SUMMARY

Again, here is more breaking news on both the federal and Ontario fronts, in our campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

1. The AODA Alliance October 26, 2018 Presentation on Bill C-81 to Parliaments Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

On Thursday, October 25, 2018, the AODA Alliance made its formal presentation on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in Ottawa. Below we set out our unofficial transcript of our opening remarks.

Between 8 and 9 a.m. that morning, the Committee at the same time also heard from the CNIB and the Canadian hard of Hearing Association. The Committee then asked the presenters questions. Most of the questions were directed to the AODA Alliance. When the text of that entire meeting is made available, we will circulate the full text.

We understand that the Standing Committee will resume on November 8, 2018, to consider clause-by-clause debate over the bill. This is when each party can table, debate and vote on amendments. We are asking the political parties to give us accessible copies of their intended amendments, so we can send them to you. We will make any available when we get them and are able to circulate them.

We offer two observations about the exchanges at these public hearings on Bill C-81, which are now completed. First, the Federal Government seems resistant to the broad call from the disability community, including the AODA Alliance, that the bill be amended to set an end date for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities. We understand that at an earlier hearing, the Federal Government argued that the Criminal Code does not set an end date for Canada to become crime-free. Our response is that this is a totally incorrect comparison. We all know that the criminal law is in place because sadly, violent and unlawful conduct has persisted throughout time, and will always be present in our society. The Criminal Code tries to address it the best we can.

In contrast, an accessibility law can set an end date for reaching accessibility. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act commendably set a 20-year time line. That deadline has been a vital part of our advocacy efforts in Ontario since 2005. It provides the best benchmark against which we can measure progress. Without it, progress in Ontario, which has not been fast enough, would have been even slower.

If the Federal Government passes this law with no time line for reaching accessibility in Canada, it would tell people with disabilities in Canada that this is put off to the indefinite future. People with disabilities deserve better.

At the hearings, the Federal Government tried to argue that it is not possible to set an ultimate time line for reaching accessibility, because our understanding of accessibility is evolving over time. Some new barrier or new kind of disability could come up later.

This too, is no reason for the Federal Government’s refusing to include an end date in the bill. If a law sets an end-date for reaching accessibility, that means that by that date, Canada needs to become accessible, as the concept of accessibility is then understood. If some new kind of barrier is later discovered, then there will be a duty to address it so Canada will remain an accessible country.

This is no excuse for the Federal Government to refuse to set any deadline. Ontario could do it. All parties in Ontario voted unanimously for it. Canada can do it too.

Stay tuned for more news as it happens. Check out our detailed brief on how to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, and our four-page summary of top priority amendments that are especially needed.

2. The Ontario Front

Earlier AODA Alliance Updates informed you that after the last Ontario election, the Ontario Government froze the work of all AODA Standards Development Committees, pending briefing the new Ontario Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. The Ontario Government has had 119 days to brief that minister. Accessibility is his core job.

Five AODA Standards Development Committees were hard at work last spring, before this freeze. Days ago, we announced that we had learned that one of the five frozen Standards Development Committees had been unfrozen and allowed to go back to work, the Employment Standards Development Committee. Earlier this week we learned from a member of a second Committee, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee that it too was being allowed to go back to work. We emailed the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to confirm this. We have received no response.

This means that the Health Care Standards Development Committee remains frozen and unable to work on barriers in the health care system. It also means that the two Standards Development Committees addressing barriers in Ontario’s education system, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee, also remain frozen. We have no word from the Ontario Government on when that freeze will be lifted.

These Standards Development Committees were all appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. They are required to do their work. the Ontario Government is required to let them all get back to work. If two Standards Development Committees were unfrozen, there is no reason why the remaining three Standards Development Committees should remain under a freeze.

          MORE DETAILS

Unofficial Transcript of the AODA Alliance October 25, 2018 Presentation to the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities During Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Presentation by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

Good morning, our society has for too many years indeed, decades been designed on the ridiculous assumption that for the most part it’s there for people without disabilities. It’s not that people wanted us excluded. But we just have never been part of the thinking, much of the time, when our buildings are built our public transit is created our workplaces are designed the goods and services we use are designed and sold.

It’s a ridiculous idea, because over 5 million of us now have a disability. But even that number underestimates us because, you see, every one of us in this room every voter that voted for you or against you, either has a disability now or is bound to get one later in their life. We are the minority of everyone. And no politician, no political party can go soft on the minority of everyone.

We commend the Federal Government for committing to bring forward Bill C-81, and for undertaking a good public consultation on it.

However, the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions, but very weak on implementation and enforcement. The groups that have come before you have provided a roadmap of how to fix it, and that can be done.

When you come to vote on amendments before this committee, when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today. We do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now, and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft. But we urge you to think about what you would say to you, 20 years from now, if you don’t already have a disability. Now, but you get one later. What would you come back in time and say about your reluctance to support strong amendments?  We urge you to come together and unanimously support strong amendments.

You’ve heard many groups focusing on very common themes are top priorities are in a brief which is being circulated to you in braille, and a more detailed brief that you’ve got, that spells much more out in detail. Let me use my time to focus on to that other groups have supported, but which have not been discussed as much at this committee.

First, this bill wrongly splinters the creation of accessibility standards and their enforcement among multiple federal agencies. This is a formula for a week Bill. Please unsplinter it. This bill provides that accessibility standards can be enacted. And that’s good. But it divides the power to make them among the federal cabinet who should have all that power, and the Canadian Transportation Agency, for transportation providers, and the CRTC for broadcasters and telecom companies. That is a formula for confusion, contradiction, delay and weak standards. All standards should be made by one body alone, and that is the politically-accountable federal Cabinet.

Giving the power over public transit to the Canadian Transportation Agency will have the effect of weakening the measures you take on transportation. That Agency, like the CRTC, has no demonstrated expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities. Moreover, both the CTA and the CRTC have substantially inadequate track records in the use of the power they’ve had for years on accessibility. If you go to folks who got a bad track record, you’ve got a predictable future of more bad track record.

Let me give you one example that says it all. The Canadian Transportation Agency has had a power to make accessibility standards for people with disabilities and federally regulated transit providers, transportation providers, for over three decades. They are so excited and so eager to use that power that they’ve made absolutely none! So, giving them that power now can give us no enthusiasm that they’ll be any more willing to use it, and to use it well in the future.

Moreover, you might think I’d be upset that they haven’t used it. In fact, I’m happy they haven’t used it, because the legislation now, and as this bill is written, the legislation in the future would provide that if they make a federal accessibility standard, it can actually cut back on the rights that the legislation now provides, because once a regulation is made, it is fully dispositive of the right to accommodation under the transportation legislation. That is really bad.

We need you to first remove that feature in the Transportation Act, so that standard, if enacted, can only extend our rights, and never cut them back, and second, concentrate all power to make accessibility standards in the federal Cabinet.

As well, this bill splinters the power to enforce this legislation among four federal organizations. The three: the accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, the CRTC and the tribunal that regulates federal employment. Again, of formula for confusion.

Now, the Federal Government to date has responded to this with an inadequate response. It simply said all will have a policy that there will be no wrong door, which ever agency you go to, no matter how confusing it is to figure it out. And believe me it is. No matter how confusing it is, we will send you to the right door. Problem solved.

No it isn’t, because all that does is fix the problem of which door you go in. It does not solve the substantial problem, that happens once you’re inside that door. Four agencies. That means we’ve got to lobby four, to get them up to the level of expertise needed to deal with this. That means we’ve got to learn four different sets of procedures, because they all use different procedures, once you get inside the door. That means we’ve got to go to agencies that may not have any expertise in disability accessibility. It makes far more sense to simply mandate the new Accessibility Commissioner with all accessibility enforcement under this act.

The fact is simply this, the design of this bill splintering among these agencies serves only two interests, the bureaucracies that want to preserve their turf, and those obligated organizations that would rather this law have weaker standards, slower implementation and weaker enforcement. That is not consistent with the Federal Government’s commendable motivations and intentions under this legislation,

Let me conclude by turning to one other point we’d like to emphasize.

Members of this committee have asked what could be done to ensure that, on day one, this law will make a real difference. Here’s the answer, and it’s not now in this bill. This bill should be amended in accordance with our proposals in our brief, to ensure that whenever federal money is spent. It can never be used to create a new barrier or perpetuate an old barrier against people with disabilities. Now, it’s commendable that the bill allows the making of access standards for Federal procurement of goods and services. But that’s not the only way the Federal Government spends money. The Federal Government right now spends a lot of money on infrastructure, not only federal infrastructure, but money transferred to communities or provinces for local projects, public transit, hospitals, and so on.

We urge that any federal spending on procurement, on infrastructure, on loans or grants to business or otherwise, that any of that money have strong accessibility strings attached, monitored and enforced, so that federal money is never used to make things worse for us. On day one, that can start making a difference.

In conclusion, I have a real strong sense of personal history today, because 38 years ago, when the Charter of Rights was only a proposal, it did not include equality for people with disabilities. And I had the privilege of being one of the many people that came here, to argue that the Charter be amended to include equality for people with disabilities.

Working together, we succeeded then. Working together now, we can succeed to make this bill — which is strong on intention but weak on enforcement and implementation — we now have the opportunity to again work together with you, to create a strong law that will make the victory of 38 years ago, equality for people with disabilities, not only a legal guarantee, but a reality in the lives of all of us. Thank you very much.



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At Public Hearings, The AODA Alliance Urges Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


and The Work of Two of Five Ontario Standards Development Committees Appear to Be Unfrozen While Three Others Inexplicably Still Remain Frozen

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

October 26, 2018

SUMMARY

Again, here is more breaking news on both the federal and Ontario fronts, in our campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

1. The AODA Alliance October 26, 2018 Presentation on Bill C-81 to Parliaments Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

On Thursday, October 25, 2018, the AODA Alliance made its formal presentation on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in Ottawa. Below we set out our unofficial transcript of our opening remarks.

Between 8 and 9 a.m. that morning, the Committee at the same time also heard from the CNIB and the Canadian hard of Hearing Association. The Committee then asked the presenters questions. Most of the questions were directed to the AODA Alliance. When the text of that entire meeting is made available, we will circulate the full text.

We understand that the Standing Committee will resume on November 8, 2018, to consider clause-by-clause debate over the bill. This is when each party can table, debate and vote on amendments. We are asking the political parties to give us accessible copies of their intended amendments, so we can send them to you. We will make any available when we get them and are able to circulate them.

We offer two observations about the exchanges at these public hearings on Bill C-81, which are now completed. First, the Federal Government seems resistant to the broad call from the disability community, including the AODA Alliance, that the bill be amended to set an end date for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities. We understand that at an earlier hearing, the Federal Government argued that the Criminal Code does not set an end date for Canada to become crime-free. Our response is that this is a totally incorrect comparison. We all know that the criminal law is in place because sadly, violent and unlawful conduct has persisted throughout time, and will always be present in our society. The Criminal Code tries to address it the best we can.

In contrast, an accessibility law can set an end date for reaching accessibility. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act commendably set a 20-year time line. That deadline has been a vital part of our advocacy efforts in Ontario since 2005. It provides the best benchmark against which we can measure progress. Without it, progress in Ontario, which has not been fast enough, would have been even slower.

If the Federal Government passes this law with no time line for reaching accessibility in Canada, it would tell people with disabilities in Canada that this is put off to the indefinite future. People with disabilities deserve better.

At the hearings, the Federal Government tried to argue that it is not possible to set an ultimate time line for reaching accessibility, because our understanding of accessibility is evolving over time. Some new barrier or new kind of disability could come up later.

This too, is no reason for the Federal Government’s refusing to include an end date in the bill. If a law sets an end-date for reaching accessibility, that means that by that date, Canada needs to become accessible, as the concept of accessibility is then understood. If some new kind of barrier is later discovered, then there will be a duty to address it so Canada will remain an accessible country.

This is no excuse for the Federal Government to refuse to set any deadline. Ontario could do it. All parties in Ontario voted unanimously for it. Canada can do it too.

Stay tuned for more news as it happens. Check out our detailed brief on how to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, and our four-page summary of top priority amendments that are especially needed.

2. The Ontario Front

Earlier AODA Alliance Updates informed you that after the last Ontario election, the Ontario Government froze the work of all AODA Standards Development Committees, pending briefing the new Ontario Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. The Ontario Government has had 119 days to brief that minister. Accessibility is his core job.

Five AODA Standards Development Committees were hard at work last spring, before this freeze. Days ago, we announced that we had learned that one of the five frozen Standards Development Committees had been unfrozen and allowed to go back to work, the Employment Standards Development Committee. Earlier this week we learned from a member of a second Committee, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee that it too was being allowed to go back to work. We emailed the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to confirm this. We have received no response.

This means that the Health Care Standards Development Committee remains frozen and unable to work on barriers in the health care system. It also means that the two Standards Development Committees addressing barriers in Ontario’s education system, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee, also remain frozen. We have no word from the Ontario Government on when that freeze will be lifted.

These Standards Development Committees were all appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. They are required to do their work. the Ontario Government is required to let them all get back to work. If two Standards Development Committees were unfrozen, there is no reason why the remaining three Standards Development Committees should remain under a freeze.

MORE DETAILS

Unofficial Transcript of the AODA Alliance October 25, 2018 Presentation to the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities During Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Presentation by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

Good morning, our society has for too many years indeed, decades been designed on the ridiculous assumption that for the most part it’s there for people without disabilities. It’s not that people wanted us excluded. But we just have never been part of the thinking, much of the time, when our buildings are built our public transit is created our workplaces are designed the goods and services we use are designed and sold.

It’s a ridiculous idea, because over 5 million of us now have a disability. But even that number underestimates us because, you see, every one of us in this room every voter that voted for you or against you, either has a disability now or is bound to get one later in their life. We are the minority of everyone. And no politician, no political party can go soft on the minority of everyone.

We commend the Federal Government for committing to bring forward Bill C-81, and for undertaking a good public consultation on it.

However, the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions, but very weak on implementation and enforcement. The groups that have come before you have provided a roadmap of how to fix it, and that can be done.

When you come to vote on amendments before this committee, when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today. We do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now, and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft. But we urge you to think about what you would say to you, 20 years from now, if you don’t already have a disability. Now, but you get one later. What would you come back in time and say about your reluctance to support strong amendments? We urge you to come together and unanimously support strong amendments.

You’ve heard many groups focusing on very common themes are top priorities are in a brief which is being circulated to you in braille, and a more detailed brief that you’ve got, that spells much more out in detail. Let me use my time to focus on to that other groups have supported, but which have not been discussed as much at this committee.

First, this bill wrongly splinters the creation of accessibility standards and their enforcement among multiple federal agencies. This is a formula for a week Bill. Please unsplinter it. This bill provides that accessibility standards can be enacted. And that’s good. But it divides the power to make them among the federal cabinet who should have all that power, and the Canadian Transportation Agency, for transportation providers, and the CRTC for broadcasters and telecom companies. That is a formula for confusion, contradiction, delay and weak standards. All standards should be made by one body alone, and that is the politically-accountable federal Cabinet.

Giving the power over public transit to the Canadian Transportation Agency will have the effect of weakening the measures you take on transportation. That Agency, like the CRTC, has no demonstrated expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities. Moreover, both the CTA and the CRTC have substantially inadequate track records in the use of the power they’ve had for years on accessibility. If you go to folks who got a bad track record, you’ve got a predictable future of more bad track record.

Let me give you one example that says it all. The Canadian Transportation Agency has had a power to make accessibility standards for people with disabilities and federally regulated transit providers, transportation providers, for over three decades. They are so excited and so eager to use that power that they’ve made absolutely none! So, giving them that power now can give us no enthusiasm that they’ll be any more willing to use it, and to use it well in the future.

Moreover, you might think I’d be upset that they haven’t used it. In fact, I’m happy they haven’t used it, because the legislation now, and as this bill is written, the legislation in the future would provide that if they make a federal accessibility standard, it can actually cut back on the rights that the legislation now provides, because once a regulation is made, it is fully dispositive of the right to accommodation under the transportation legislation. That is really bad.

We need you to first remove that feature in the Transportation Act, so that standard, if enacted, can only extend our rights, and never cut them back, and second, concentrate all power to make accessibility standards in the federal Cabinet.

As well, this bill splinters the power to enforce this legislation among four federal organizations. The three: the accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, the CRTC and the tribunal that regulates federal employment. Again, of formula for confusion.

Now, the Federal Government to date has responded to this with an inadequate response. It simply said all will have a policy that there will be no wrong door, which ever agency you go to, no matter how confusing it is to figure it out. And believe me it is. No matter how confusing it is, we will send you to the right door. Problem solved.

No it isn’t, because all that does is fix the problem of which door you go in. It does not solve the substantial problem, that happens once you’re inside that door. Four agencies. That means we’ve got to lobby four, to get them up to the level of expertise needed to deal with this. That means we’ve got to learn four different sets of procedures, because they all use different procedures, once you get inside the door. That means we’ve got to go to agencies that may not have any expertise in disability accessibility. It makes far more sense to simply mandate the new Accessibility Commissioner with all accessibility enforcement under this act.

The fact is simply this, the design of this bill splintering among these agencies serves only two interests, the bureaucracies that want to preserve their turf, and those obligated organizations that would rather this law have weaker standards, slower implementation and weaker enforcement. That is not consistent with the Federal Government’s commendable motivations and intentions under this legislation,

Let me conclude by turning to one other point we’d like to emphasize.

Members of this committee have asked what could be done to ensure that, on day one, this law will make a real difference. Here’s the answer, and it’s not now in this bill. This bill should be amended in accordance with our proposals in our brief, to ensure that whenever federal money is spent. It can never be used to create a new barrier or perpetuate an old barrier against people with disabilities. Now, it’s commendable that the bill allows the making of access standards for Federal procurement of goods and services. But that’s not the only way the Federal Government spends money. The Federal Government right now spends a lot of money on infrastructure, not only federal infrastructure, but money transferred to communities or provinces for local projects, public transit, hospitals, and so on.

We urge that any federal spending on procurement, on infrastructure, on loans or grants to business or otherwise, that any of that money have strong accessibility strings attached, monitored and enforced, so that federal money is never used to make things worse for us. On day one, that can start making a difference.

In conclusion, I have a real strong sense of personal history today, because 38 years ago, when the Charter of Rights was only a proposal, it did not include equality for people with disabilities. And I had the privilege of being one of the many people that came here, to argue that the Charter be amended to include equality for people with disabilities.

Working together, we succeeded then. Working together now, we can succeed to make this bill — which is strong on intention but weak on enforcement and implementation — we now have the opportunity to again work together with you, to create a strong law that will make the victory of 38 years ago, equality for people with disabilities, not only a legal guarantee, but a reality in the lives of all of us. Thank you very much.



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What are Accessible Formats?


The Information and Communications Standards under the AODA states that organizations must create, provide, and receive information in accessible formats. This requirement may leave people asking: what are accessible formats?

Accessible formats, sometimes called alternate formats, are ways of presenting printed, written, or visual material so that people who do not read print can access it. People who do not read print may:

  • Be blind or visually impaired
  • Have a learning disability that affects reading
  • Have a physical disability and be unable to hold or turn pages

Here we briefly describe what some common accessible formats are. We also discuss the many things to read that are not yet available in these formats.

Types of Accessible Formats

Braille

Braille is a way of writing the alphabet using a system of raised dots that readers feel with their fingers. Many books and magazines are translated into Braille and are available to buy or borrow. Books for young children often include both print and Braille, so that parents or children who are blind can read with their families. Some businesses offer information in Braille, such as:

  • Bank statements
  • Bills
  • Forms
  • Menus
  • Event programs

Buildings may install Braille signs for elevator buttons, washrooms, and room numbers.

Braille displays connect to computers or phones and display the screen’s contents in Braille. People can also print files in Braille using a Braille printer or embosser. They can write in Braille using several devices, from a computer to a slate and stylus, which is portable like a pencil and paper.

Large Print

People who are visually impaired often read print that is 18-point font or larger with good colour contrast. Large-print copies of books, signs, and other media are sometimes available. People may read standard-sized print by using a magnification device, although print may still not be large enough, there may not be enough colour contrast, or people may only see a few letters at a time. People may read from large monitors, use mobile devices with screen magnification software, or select the option on certain websites to enlarge text and images.

Computer Files and Accessible Web Content

People can read digital text files and accessible web content using screen readers, software programs that read aloud most text on the screen of a computer or mobile device. Screen reader users can read information in Microsoft Word or HTML files, emails, text messages, and text on websites that comply with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Organizations should ensure that screen reader users can access online or emailed versions of print information, such as:

  • Bank statements
  • Bills and receipts
  • Forms
  • Brochures, menus, and event programs

Mobile devices also make other information available. Travellers can use GPS apps on their mobile devices to learn street or building names. Apps allow people to take pictures of writing, such as product labels or mail, which their phones can translate into text and read aloud. However, this technology is not always reliable because pictures may not turn out well or the software may not translate them accurately.

Audio

Today, audio consists of digital files. Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) files allow readers to navigate to specific sections or pages as they could if holding a printed document. mp3 files allow readers to move through them but they have less control over which parts they read.

Some audiobooks are available commercially, while others are produced by organizations, such as the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA). CELA creates accessible books, newspapers, and magazines for non-print-readers. Many commercial audiobooks are abridged or shortened to reduce cost. However, more readers are downloading books rather than buying CD copies. So,  more unabridged books have become available. Audio also makes people aware of other information presented visually, including:

  • Audible announcements of stops on public transit
  • Audio-guided tours of venues such as museums and galleries

More to Read

There are still countless materials available only in standard-sized print. Some readers use software to scan books or mail and convert the images into text, but this process is often time-consuming and full of errors. Other people may rely on loved ones or volunteers to read their mail aloud or fill out print forms. However, this set-up violates people’s right to keep personal information confidential.

Non-print-readers have many ways to enjoy and benefit from the printed word. Technology continues to make new ways of reading possible. However, more must be done to ensure that all information truly becomes accessible to everyone.

 



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Trudeau Government’s Proposed Federal Law on Accessibility for People with Disabilities Falls Far Short and Must be Substantially Beefed Up, Disability Advocates to Tell Parliamentary Committee Today


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Trudeau Government’s Proposed Federal Law on Accessibility for People with Disabilities Falls Far Short and Must be Substantially Beefed Up, Disability Advocates to Tell Parliamentary Committee Today

 

October 25, 2018 Ottawa: Bill C-81, a bill now before Parliament, which aims  to ensure that Canada becomes accessible to over 5 million people with disabilities, must be amended to make it strong and effective, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities will be told from 8 to 10 a.m. today at the Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street, Ottawa. Among the presenters from 8 to 9 a.m. will be AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, who led the campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get Ontario’s 2005 accessibility law passed, and now leads the campaign to get it effectively implemented.

“It’s good the Federal Government agrees that Canada needs a new federal law because people with disabilities face too many barriers when travelling by air or train, when trying to use banks, cell phone or cable TV services, or when dealing with the Federal Government itself,” said David Lepofsky. However, he cautioned: “This bill is great on intentions but palpably weak on implementation and enforcement.”

The AODA Alliance is one of many groups presenting similar strong concerns with Bill C-81, although they heartily commend the Federal Government for agreeing to bring forward a bill and for consulting widely on it. For its part, the AODA Alliance submitted a 114-page brief, tabling 97 specific amendments, backed by detailed analysis. Seven key amendments are summarized in an easy-to-read 4-page summary sent to MPs.

“With a federal election coming next year, MPs from all parties will want to be sure this bill is amended to make it a historic law,” said Lepofsky. “We’ll remind MPs at the hearings today that people with disabilities are the minority of everyone, since everyone either has a disability now or is bound to get one later. No politician or party can afford to disregard the needs of the minority of everyone!”

“For me, this day has a real feel of history,” said Lepofsky. Thirty-eight years ago, Lepofsky, now a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School, appeared before a Standing Committee of Parliament on CNIB’s behalf, to urge the Pierre Trudeau Government to amend the proposed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms so it would guarantee equal rights for people with disabilities in Canada. (That December 12, 1980 presentation to Parliament is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBdYFUtAslc “Today’s presentation aims to get the proposed new Accessible Canada Act amended so that it will make the Charter’s guarantee of disability equality at last become a reality in the lives of over 5 million people with disabilities in Canada and all others, who are bound to get a disability later in life,” Lepofsky explained.

The AODA Alliance is tweeting MPs one at a time, to urge them to support these amendments. Follow @aodaalliance

The AODA Alliance’s proposed amendments draw on front-line experience with accessibility legislation in Ontario since 2005, in Manitoba since 2013, in Nova Scotia since 2017, in the US since 1990 and in Israel since 1998. The hearings are open to the public, and streamed live at www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/HUMA Presenters will be available to media after the Committee adjourns at 10am.

Presenters at the hearing will include:

8-9 a.m. AODA Alliance, CNIB and the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association

9-10 a.m. Canadian Association of the Deaf and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission

Contact:  David Lepofsky, [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for strong national accessibility legislation is available at www.aodaalliance.org/Canada

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org



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What is the Information and Communications Standards?


Ontario businesses must follow the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) to prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities. The IASR is a grouping of five standards under the AODA. In this article, we will explain the Information and Communications Standards, what it is and what is included in it.

What is the Information and Communications Standards?

The Information and Communications Standards of the AODA lists rules for organizations to create, provide, and receive information and communications that people with disabilities can access. The standard gives all people an equal chance to learn and be active in their communities.

What is included in the Information and Communications Standards?

Formats and communication supports

Organizations must create and provide accessible formats and communication supports to people with disabilities.

For instance, accessible formats include:

  • Html or Microsoft Word
  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Audio
  • Described video
  • Text transcripts of visual or audio information
  • Reading aloud

For example, a clinic handing out pamphlets about its programs must have the same information available in different formats. For people who cannot read print, digital text would be a good option to have. People with visual disabilities can read digital text by using screen reading software, magnification, or a Braille display.

Communication supports include:

  • Writing, email, or texting
  • Captions
  • Sign language interpretation
  • Video relay service
  • Assistive listening systems
  • letter, word, or picture boards
  • Rephrasing in clear language

An example of a communication support is the use of email instead of the phone. For instance, a company doing a phone survey should email the same questions to clients who are deaf or have speech disabilities.

Accessible formats and communication supports must be given in a timely manner when requested. Organizations should work with the person asking for the information to find out what format or support the person needs. If conversion to a certain accessible format or communication support is not technically possible, the organization must explain why and summarize the information. Moreover, organizations cannot charge more for accessible formats or communication supports than for the original format.

This standard also applies to customer feedback systems. One example is the option for online or telephone feedback instead of hand-written surveys.

Websites and web content

By January 1, 2021, all internet, websites, and web content must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. These guidelines make websites more accessible for people who use computers differently because of their disabilities. People must be able to navigate websites using technologies that make browsing possible without certain actions, such as looking at the screen or clicking a mouse. For example, these technologies include:

  • Speech recognition software
  • Screen reader software
  • Screen magnification software

Emergency Procedures

All organizations must ensure that people have access to public emergency information. For example, an emergency safety brochure for a university campus should be available upon request in other formats, such as large print or online.

Educator Awareness Training

School boards must provide accessibility awareness training to educators. Educators are defined as those who:

  • Design courses
  • Prepare and/or deliver lessons
  • Are school-board staff

However, best practice suggests that educators also include:

  • Early childhood educators
  • Educational assistants
  • Child and youth workers
  • Support staff
  • Administrative staff

Best practice classifies these workers as educators because they all encounter students with disabilities.

Training should help educators correct or work around any classroom barriers, such as:

  • Narrow aisles with physical obstacles
  • Lack of resources, such as speech recognition software or Braille Books

Training should also help educators understand some techniques that improve the learning environment for students with disabilities, such as:

  • Visual
  • Hearing
  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Learning
  • Mental health disabilities

Educators should also learn about different resources and materials to use when planning lessons that are designed with all learners in mind.

Education Materials and Training Resources

In addition, schools must provide accessible versions of materials such as:

  • Course and program information
  • Educational materials
  • Training resources
  • Student records

Schools may need to use in-house or outside contractors to convert texts and images. Additionally, staff need to work closely with people with disabilities to find out which format best suits their needs and meet them accordingly.

Public Library Materials and Resources

All public libraries must provide alternative accessible formats, wherever possible, of all new and old library materials, such as:

  • Literary
  • Musical
  • Artistic
  • Dramatic works

Library workers should let the public know when these resources are available and consider the variety of users’ accessibility needs when procuring new materials.

Likewise, upon request, libraries of educational or training institutions must provide, procure, or acquire accessible formats of resources, such as:

However, some materials are exempt, such as:

  • Special collections
  • Archival materials
  • Rare books
  • Donations

Why do we need the Information and Communications Standards?

We are constantly communicating: verbally, non-verbally, through text, sound, or images. Everyone should be able to read, see, or hear information through different formats and communication supports.

 



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