The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act


The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”

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

June 11, 2019

SUMMARY

On May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority to defeat a resolution in the Ontario Legislature about Ontario’s Disabilities Act, that was proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. Worded in measured terms that tracked Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility, that resolution called on the Government to create a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The Ford Government’s defeat of this resolution is a troubling setback for Ontarians with disabilities, as we explain in this Update. There have now been 132 days since former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted his final report on the need to substantially improve the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. to the Ford Government. Yet the Government has not announced a plan of action to implement that report. As a result, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind schedule for becoming accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline.

We will have more to say about this over the next days and weeks. We welcome your feedback and your suggestions of non-partisan actions we might take in response to it. Write us at [email protected]

The Harden Resolution and the Onley Report’s Findings and Recommendations

Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution read as follows:

“That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.”

The June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update showed that there were ample strong reasons for the Ford Government to support the resolution. Yet instead, the Ford Government voted against it. The opposition NDP, Liberals and Green Party all voted for the resolution. It is especially troubling that this resolution was defeated right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

Conservative Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho told the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Onley report found that Ontario is “mostly inaccessible” to people with disabilities and that the pace of change in Ontario on accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” The report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” It concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue.

The Onley report recommended major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. Among other things, he called for new accessibility standards to be enacted, and for existing ones to be strengthened. He urged strengthened AODA enforcement, and stronger Government leadership on accessibility. Among the measures he recommended are the four specific measures listed in Joel Harden’s proposed resolution.

Why Did the Ford Government Oppose the Harden Resolution?

The Ford Government opposed MPP Harden’s resolution in its entirety. The Government did not publicly propose any wording changes that would make the resolution acceptable to the Government.

The reasons which the Government gave in the Legislature for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution are deeply troubling. They reflect a serious misunderstanding of the needs of 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, of the AODA’s mandatory legal requirements and of the Onley Report’s findings and recommendations.

The Tories’ speeches repeatedly invoked harmful and false stereotypes about the actions we need to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities and about accessibility legislation that thankfully have not been voiced at Queen’s Park for some sixteen years. As explained further below, the PC MPPs’ speeches give rise to a serious concern that the Government does not plan to fulfil its election commitments on accessibility, or its duties under the AODA. Doug Ford did not voice this disparaging attitude towards the AODA during the 2018 election campaign.

The PC MPPs’ speeches read as if they were meant to make business owners, and especially small business owners, fear that the AODA is a terrible, unfair and massive burden on them, and that the PCs will defend them from this ogre. For example:

1. The Ford Government repeatedly claimed that the measures proposed in this resolution are merely wasteful, duplicative red tape that threaten to seriously harm businesses and impose high costs on them, with a particular emphasis on small business. This false claim revives old harmful stereotypes, akin to those which the former Conservative Government of Mike Harris propagated two decades ago. Ontario’s PC Party had moved well past this in 2005, when it unanimously voted in support of passing the AODA, and brought motions to try to further strengthen it.

Achieving accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by effectively implementing the AODA is not red tape!

2. The Ford Government’s response to this proposed resolution looks like an All-out attack on the AODA itself, and its core requirement to create and enforce accessibility standards to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. the Government in effect took the position that no AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard should ever be enacted under the AODA, because it might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code and confusing. Yet a new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while at the same time the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

3. The Ford Government wrongly claimed that implementing the David Onley Report, through such measures as creating a Built Environment Accessibility Standard and more effectively enforcing the AODA, would not help people with disabilities and would just create barriers for new economic opportunities. The Onley Report and our lived experience prove the Government wrong on this score.

4. The Government wrongly claimed that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution advocates for the Government to fine small businesses so as to drive them out of business. No one, not the Onley report, nor Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, is talking about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

5. The Ford Government appeared to reject outright any improvement in the AODA’s enforcement, which the Onley report found to be deficient and in need of strengthening, because there already is enforcement of the Ontario Building Code. Yet Building Code enforcement does not address barriers in customer service, employment, transportation, information and communication, or in existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations. Moreover the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements are substantially deficient. Enforcing them does not ensure the accessibility of buildings.

6. The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its diverting 1.3 million public dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into such a private accessibility certification process.

7. To justify its opposition to this proposed resolution, the Government pointed to a number of non-legislated strategies on accessibility which were in whole or in large part launched by the previous Liberal Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne. Simply relying on the insufficient strategies of the previous Liberal Government will not yield any better and faster progress on accessibility than the previous Government’s poor record on AODA implementation and enforcementa record which the Onley Report thoroughly documented and which the Ford Government itself has blasted.

8. At least some of the Ford Government’s reasons for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution fly in the face of Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges to Ontarians with disabilities on accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. Those pledges are spelled out below and in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.

9. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the proposed resolution’s call for a plan to stop public money from again being used to create new disability barriers. To allow public money to be used to create new accessibility barriers is to mismanage public money. The Ford Government’s “brand” has been to claim that it is far superior at managing public money than previous governments.

10. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the creation of a plan to ensure that design professionals (like architects) receive better accessibility training. Yet, Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance recognized

” We need Ontarios design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Below we set out:

* Our comments on key statements which Progressive Conservative MPPs made in the Legislature in opposition to Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution.

* MPP Harden’s May 30, 2019 news release, issued after the Government defeated his proposed resolution.

* The full text of the debate in the Legislature over MPP Harden’s proposed resolution on May, 30, 2019, as well as the list of how each MPP voted on this resolution.

* The Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations.

MORE DETAILS

Our Detailed Comments on the Reasons Why the Ford Government Voted to Defeat NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 30, 2019 Resolution

Here are a series of the key statements in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019 by PC MPPs in opposition to Joel Harden’s AODA resolution. they are each followed by our comment on that statement.

1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Im looking forward to discussing this motion because theres lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onleys report talked about these barriers. He called them soul-crushing barriers, and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onleys words, Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.”

Our comment:
It is helpful that the minister and Government recognize that much more needs to be done. Thus the attention must focus on whether what the Government is doing about the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

2 Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

” We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.”

Our comment:
This deeply troubling statement appears to summarize the Ford Government’s overall strategy for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. It is replete with seriously incorrect claims. It is not the position on accessibility that the PC’s communicated to us and the public during the 2018 Ontario election.

It is incorrect for the Ford Government to claim that to create a plan to implement the Onley report would ” lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that public money is never again used to create new disability barriers does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that design professionals like architects get proper training on accessibility does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Creating effective accessibility standards to ensure the accessibility standards of the built environment does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business”.

For the Government to effectively implement the AODA would help businesses make more money. Accessibility gets them access to a larger customer base and a larger pool of prospective competitive employees.

The Government’s claim, particularly in the context of the built environment, flies in the face of Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance , where he set out the PC Party’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility. In that letter, he said, among other things:

“Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.”

“This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Codes accessibility provisions. We need Ontarios design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Ontario’s Accessibility Minister is responsible to lead the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He or she is supposed to be a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the Cabinet table. For Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Cho to condemn these core recommendations in the Onley Report as “red tape and high costs for business” is to venture into some of the most harmful and false stereotypes about the implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation such as the AODA that we have faced in many years.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party voted unanimously to pass the AODA in 2005. That law requires the Ontario Government to enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The AODA explicitly includes “buildings” among the things that must become accessible. The minister’s statement here and during the rest of this debate, as well as those of other PC MPPs, read like a virtual repudiation of the AODA as “red tape”.

3. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isnt it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?”

Our Comment:
Again, the minister voiced inaccurate and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and accessibility for people with disabilities. No one, not the Onley report, not Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, ever talks about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

From disclosures we have extracted from the Ontario Government over the past several years, we know that a very small number of the obligated organizations have been subject to any AODA audits. The vast majority of obligated organizations are not audited at all.

Any audits have been quite minimal. The AODA “audits” have only been paper audits, with only one exception that we know of. In a paper audit, the Government only inspects the records or files that the obligated organization has kept on its AODA compliance. In those cases, the Government did not go to the organization’s premises to inspect it or find out if the claims about AODA compliance in the organization’s paper records are factual.

In the 14 years that the AODA has been on the books, a miniscule number of monetary penalties have been imposed. The previous Government knew of rampant AODA violations for over five years. Yet, the AODA Alliance revealed last year that in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s an average of less than two monetary penalties in each of those years.

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that any of those penalties were imposed on small businesses. There is no evidence that any of those penalties were so large that they threatened to drive any small business out of business. Indeed, under the AODA regulations that the former Wynne and McGuinty Governments passed on AODA enforcement, the formula for calculating the monetary penalty of a first violator tends to be small e.g. in the hundreds of dollars. There is no public evidence from any of the many Government records that we have unearthed, typically relying on Freedom of Information applications, that the Ontario Government ever imposed any monetary penalties that were larger than that.

4. Accessibility Minister Cho stated:

“Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, its my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.”

Our comment:
By the time of this debate in the Legislature, the Government had four months to consult on the Onley report. Moreover, the Onley report was itself the product of a province-wide consultation process. As such, there can be no excuse for the further Government delay that the minister here signalled, based on yet more consultations.

The minister said that the Government acted “quickly” on the Onley report’s recommendation to resume the work of the AODA Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. These had been frozen for nine months after the Ford Government was elected. We had been pressing the Government throughout those nine months to end that unjustified freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

Making matters worse, some four months after the Government received Mr. Onley’s report (recommending that that freeze be lifted) and well over two months after the Government said it would lift that freeze, the Government has still not scheduled meetings of those AODA Standards Development Committees to resume their work. That is not moving “quickly.”

5. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.”

Our Comment:
This is a second PC MPP who levelled the false and unfair accusation that any effort to improve Ontario’s accessibility standards should be rejected as “more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

This MPP did not give a fair and accurate account of what the David Onley report said about the need for more and better accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. He made it sound like the Onley report somehow supported the PCs’ claim that improving accessibility standards would amount to ” more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

The Onley Report said or implied no such thing. To the contrary, Mr. Onley explicitly recognized the need for more accessibility standards. For example, he echoed our call for the Government to resume the development of new accessibility standards in the areas of education and health care. He called for new and stronger regulatory measures to address disability barriers in the built environment. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution explicitly referred to the latter.

The Onley Report fully recognized the need for improved and sufficient AODA accessibility standards, and for having them effectively enforced. He added that they alone are not sufficient and that more is needed. With that, we also agree.

In the sentence from the Onley report which the MPP quoted out of context, Mr. Onley stated in effect that some accessibility standards may be inadequately written. He stated:

“Another fact of life is that the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right. Examples were cited in the consultations, as noted earlier from even the best building codes that leave much to interpretation, to power door buttons that some people using wheelchairs cannot push.”

6. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work were doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.”

Our Comment:
The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its spending 1.3 million public dollars over the next two years in the Rick Hansen private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into a private accessibility certification process, such as the one operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Toronto Star’s May 27, 2019 editorial echoes some of the concerns we’ve raised.

The Ford Government knew that we are deeply opposed to investing public funds in a private accessibility certification process before it chose to divert public money into that process. It is no substitute for modernizing and effectively enforcing Ontario’s deficient and outdated laws governing the accessibility of buildings. Leaving it to an unaccountable and unelected private accessibility certification process to decide what our standard should be for the accessibility of buildings is no solution.

7. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“To remove barriers on employment, our Employers Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. Theyre now working on developing sector-specific business casesto hire people with disabilitiesthat will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table.”

Our Comment:
There appears to be nothing new here. The Ford Government’s stated solution to the serious problem of chronic unemployment facing people with disabilities in Ontario is the same strategy that the previous Wynne Liberal Government had been proclaiming for years. This included claiming to bring to employers the positive business case for hiring people with disabilities, and operating a Partnership Council of employers. The previous Wynne Government had been operating two successive Partnership Councils of employers since 2014. Indeed, The Ford Government’s statement here sounds very similar to what the Liberal minister responsible for the AODA, Brad Duguid, was saying four years ago on this topic.

Chronic high unemployment facing people with disabilities continues to persist. The previous Government’s approach has proven itself to be entirely insufficient. The Onley report documented the serious barriers that still face people with disabilities in Ontario, including in employment.

Minister Cho has elsewhere rightly blasted the former Liberal Government for doing a poor job on accessibility. Yet the Ford Government is just carrying on in the employment context with the previous Government ‘s same approach.

The Ford Government here and elsewhere during this debate seemed to focus much of its talk and intended effort on “raising awareness on accessibility. We and others, and the Onley Report itself, have shown time and again that this alone is no solution for the problem of recurring disability barriers in our society, which the Onley Report described as “soul-crushing”.

Indeed, during Mr. Onley’s May 1, 2019 presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee that held hearings on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, he convincingly explained how he used to feel that this kind of strategy was sufficient. However, after hearing from people with disabilities during his public hearings in preparation for his report to the Ontario Government, he came to realize that it is not sufficient.

Moreover, the strategy of “raising awareness” was one which the Previous Conservative Ontario Government of Premier Mike Harris proclaimed as its core strategy on accessibility for people with disabilities from 1995 to 2003. That strategy was a failure. That is why Ontario needed the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. In 2005, the Conservative caucus, then in opposition, unanimously supported that legislation.

We therefore need the AODA to be effectively implemented and enforced. That requires much more than “raising awareness.”

8. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

Our Comment:
This is the third PC speaker who opposed Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution by repeating the false claim that it calls for “more duplication” and “more red tape”. This is made worse by this MPP’s further false claim that the resolution is calling for creating “confusion around the built environment.”

Right now, there is serious confusion around the built environment. Too many architects, other design professionals, businesses and government officials wrongly think that if they comply with the current highly-deficient accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code, they have therefore created a building that is accessible to people with disabilities. Yet we have shown the public, including the Ford Government, that complying with the Ontario Building Code and weak AODA standards does not assure accessibility at all.

For example, our three widely-viewed online videos on accessibility problems in new buildings prove that we need to enact new, stronger laws on the accessibility of the built environment and to improve the training of design professionals. These are two core actions that the Onley report recommended and that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution addressed. Check out:

1. The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 online video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/ 2. The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/

3. The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/ 9. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“David Onleys report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesnt make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Our Comment:
Speaking for the Government, this PC MPP in effect took the position that no Built Environment Accessibility Standard can ever be enacted under the AODA, no matter what it might contain. This is because a Built Environment Accessibility Standard might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code.

This is wrong. A Built Environment Accessibility Standard can be designed that is complementary to the Ontario Building Code and that creates no such problems for those who are building or renovating buildings.

Moreover, this flies in the face of the position of the Ontario Conservative Party itself. As we noted earlier, in 2005, the Ontario PC Party unanimously voted for the AODA. Its stated purpose is to achieve accessibility in Ontario by 2025, including accessibility in “buildings”. It does so through the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards. Yet this MPP seems to entirely repudiate that role for the AODA in the context of buildings.

A properly-designed Built Environment Accessibility Standard would not create “red tape and confusion.” A new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

This MPP has never spoken to the AODA Alliance about this, before deciding to publicly reject and disparage the entire idea of an AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard. That flies in the face of Doug Ford’s written election pledge in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance as follows:

“Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.”

10. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.”

Our Comment:
This PC MPP seems in effect to claim that there is no need for improved AODA enforcement. Yet the Onley Report called for strengthened AODA enforcement, as has the AODA Alliance.

This PC MPP spoke as if the only accessibility enforcement needed is for the built environment. This disregards three important facts:

First, as we mentioned earlier, the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions are woefully inadequate. To enforce those is to permit new buildings to be built that are replete with accessibility problems.

Second, the enforcement process for the Ontario Building Code, which the MPP points to as our total solution, does not enforce any of the built environment accessibility requirements that any AODA accessibility standards impose.

Third, AODA accessibility standards that require better enforcement relate to many other kinds of accessibility barriers, and not just requirements for the accessibility of the built environment. The Ontario Building Code enforcement does not enforce any requirements for accessibility in customer service, employment, transportation and information and communication. With great respect, it appears that this MPP knows very little about the AODA, or how it is now working, or about the Onley report.

11. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“We partnered with OCAD Universitys Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations, which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of the Worlds Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.”

Our Comment:
Once again, the Ford Government seems to be relying on, if not claiming credit for initiatives that were largely if not entirely started under the previous Liberal Government. For example, the “enabling Change” program to which this MPP refers has been around for many years. This is not the new action for which the Onley report called.

May 30, 2019 News Release by NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden

May 30th, 2019
Defeating accessibility motion is an insult to people with disabilities: NDP Accessibility Critic

QUEEN’S Park – NDP MPP Joel Harden, the Official Opposition critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, released the following statement in response to the Ford government defeating his motion to take action on accessibility:

“Im deeply disappointed that Doug Fords MPPs voted down our motion calling on the government to release an accessibility action plan, and implement key recommendations from David C. Onleys third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The message this sends to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is that their human rights are not a priority for this government. Eliminating barriers is not red tape as the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility and other PC MPPs shamefully said, its about ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities as able bodied citizens. People with disabilities deserve so much better than this. Ontario’s New Democrats will keep fighting for a fully accessible Ontario where no one is excluded.”

Ontario Hansard May 30, 2019

Private Members Public Business

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: Id like to move the following motion before the House, motion 68, that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onleys review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

Interruption.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Im going to ask our visitors to refrain from clapping or making any comment or any noise. Were delighted to have you here, but we need to allow the members to debate.

Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Once again, I recognize the member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Joel Harden: I want to thank my friends in the accessibility gallery and I want to thank my friends in the members gallery and the folks in the public gallery who have come here today.

There are a few people I want to acknowledge, Speaker, off the top, because I wouldnt be doing my job as a critic if our office didnt take the time over the last number of months to meet with people with lived experience, and people helping folks in the field. I want to acknowledge Anne Mason, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Carol-Ann Schafer, Richard Aubrey, Peter Vambe, Gerry Boily, Michele Gardner, Farrah Sattaur, Ryan Hooey, Rahima Mulla, Sinead Zalitach, Kirsten Doyle, Lark Barker, David Zivot and their son Sandino Campos. If Ive missed anybodyEmily, we acknowledged you and your power earlier. Thank you for coming again. Thank you all for being here; thank you indeed.

Interjections.

Mr. Joel Harden: We get to clap for you this time.

Speaker, with your indulgence, Id like to begin with a gesture of unanimous consent. One of the first things that happened to me was that the great David Lepofsky and Thea Kurdi gave me a t-shirt. I know the rules of the House are such that for a t-shirt with lettering on it, we need to ask for unanimous consent to wear it. It reads, Disability justice is love. Id like to wear this as I make my remarks.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa Centre is seeking unanimous consent of the House to wear a t-shirt while he makes his presentation. Agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Joel Harden: I wore an extra t-shirt just in case. Thank you, Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. Thank you, David, and thank you, Thea, for the t-shirt.

I begin wanting to wear this shirt because one of the people who got me started in politics was Jack Layton. Some of his closing words to Canadians before Jack died were: Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And well change the world. I think thats a fitting note on which to begin, Speaker, captured, I think, by the shirt David and Thea gave to me, because, as I think about whats before us, given David Onleys reportaccording to Mr. Onley, were about 30% of the way there to having a truly accessible province with a lot of row to hoe and a lot of barriers that remain.

Minister Cho has mentioned this quotation in the House, and Ill mention it again too. I think its a powerful one from Mr. Onleys report. Mr. Onley wrote, Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residentsits able-bodied residents…. For most disabled persons, however, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers. That captures succinctly what Ive heard from friends who have lived experience and what, quite frankly, people with disabilities are looking to this Legislature to do, and thats to act with some urgency.

The Onley report is a call to action like recent climate change reports, quite frankly, are a call to action. What we know is that right now, 1.9 million people in the province of Ontario have a disability of one kind or another, and attached to them are families, loved ones and friends. So I would like to say, as the critic for people with disabilities in this building, that this isnt just an issue for anyone; this is an issue for all of us. So far as we maintain services, building infrastructure, anything in this province which discriminates against anyone, its a human rights matter.

As one person who deputed to a town hall we hosted earlier in April said, Each and every one of us is one incident away from disability or trauma that requires physical or mental health supports. We also, Speaker, live in an aging society. In an aging society, we need now to be foreseeing the challenges that we have to have met in order to accommodate that aging society.

I want to talk, for the remainder of my time, about what Ive heard directly from folks with disabilities who have been so gracious as to inform me, our office and our party about what they believe needs to be done. I want to talk about Blaine Cameron, from back homehi, Blaine. Blaine is in the chapter of Ottawa ACORN. ACORN is an organization that fights for poor people in this province, in this country and indeed around the world. One of my favourite experiences with Blaine was street canvassing and farmers market canvassing. Blaine lives in a scooterlives in a powered wheelchair. What I found increasingly evident to me, every time I went out with Blainebecause he is easily, and Im sorry for picking favourites, friends in Ottawa, the most charismatic canvasser we have back homeis that he is unable to go door to door because of the built infrastructure of our city in Ottawa. But he kills at farmers markets, Mr. Speaker. The man cannot keep leaflets in his hands. The man gets donations in person constantly because of how powerfully he describes the need for social and economic justice. And what the people of Ottawa are missing, Speaker, given our built infrastructure, is the chance to see Blaine at the door doing what he does best: talking justice and talking fairness. Were missing out on that because of the way in which Ottawa is designed and the way in which our province is designed.

I want to talk about Rahima Mulla, whom I met in the hall yesterday and whom weve interacted with before. I know that members in the government caucus have met with Rahima. She doesnt get to come here very often to Queens Park, Speaker, because there are not always appropriate accessible parking spaces for her. She findsas Ive talked to some of my friends up in the accessibility gallerythe narrow runway up there to be very tricky to negotiate. Thats work we have to do, quite frankly, in this building.

I want to talk about Neil, whom I met a number of days ago, earlier this week, a lovely gentleman who came in with a walker. Neil asked me to walk him into the members gallery over there and confided to me as we were walking up the aisle that he really didnt feel it was appropriate that there were stairs in front of the members gallery on the floor. He looked forward to a day when people with accessibility needs could be seated on the floor, like when the great Steven Fletcher, a member of the federal Conservative caucus, took his place in the House of Commons, as a person who lives in a wheelchair, on the floor. I look forward to the way in which we can make this building more open so that can happen.

I also want to talk about what weve learned in the last number of months from people who have episodic disabilities, Speaker, or what some might call hidden disabilities. I want to talk about Shanthiya Baheerathan, who shared a podium with me earlier this week as she talked about, as a student, what it was like for her to seek accommodation at Ryerson University for her learning disabilities and how difficult it was to self-advocate in an institution whichmy experience with Ryerson as an able-bodied person has been quite good, when Ive been faculty and visiting and running programs there. But the daily struggle to prove her disability because of the nature in which it fluctuates was extremely difficult for her.

Odelia Bay, who is a scholar at Osgoode Hall Law School who has also been here and has testified before the town hall we held earlier in April, has said the same thing: that we need to have an expanded concept of what disabilities are.

Other folks Ive met in the time that Ive had hereand its thanks to MPP Andrea Khanjin from BarrieInnisfil, who hosted a reception for people from sickle cell Ontario. Sickle cell disease is something that not enough of us are aware of, Speaker. It is, to sight, an invisible disease. But what Ive been very saddened to learn, particularly for members of Black and Brown racialized communities, is that when they admit themselves to emergency rooms in great trauma, suffering incredible pain, which is hard for most people to understand, as it has been explained to me, sometimes theyre treated with suspicion upon admission.

Im not impugning the motives of any of our health care professionals. I love them. Im married to one. I love the work they do. But the reality of people living with sickle cell disease is such that the University Health researchers in this great city of Toronto have begun to do epidemiological studies to figure out why it is that people are treated differently when they contact their primary health care system when they have black or brown skin. In the most sad of cases, weve had people suffer fatalities or serious injuries because they havent been able to get the health care they need.

Speaker, I look forward to the debate on this motion. I think its an opportunity for us as a Legislature to say, yes, were ready. Were ready to act on Mr. Onleys report. I salute the fact that the minister has spoken with urgency on the need of work to be done in this place, and Im here to support you in that work, but what I like about the motion that I proposed for our consideration today is that it tells us: Actually, lets set some timelines. Lets set some goals. Lets require of people who are being trained to design our public infrastructure in our buildings that they should never again do that in a way that discriminates against people with disabilities.

Thank you, Thea, and thank you, David Lepofsky, and thank you, folks who are here with us today, for all of your advice in that regard. And never let any child feel in this province ever again that their learning doesnt matter to us. Yes, Im looking at Lark Barker over there, who advocates for dyslexia, people who have stood by children who have felt humiliated as they tried to advance in the public education system, and youve been there for them.

As a province, we need to generalize that right across the board. We need to be there for brain-injured people. We need to be there for everybody who deserves what, quite frankly, socialism means for me: an equal-opportunity society where everybody has the chance to develop themselves to their utmost ability and contribute to this wonderful society in which we live. Thats the just society that I first saw embodied in heroes of mine like Jack Layton, Libby Davies, Olivia Chow and others.

When it comes to advocating for people with disabilities, that is something we are perfectly poised to do.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The member from York Centre will come to order.

Mr. Joel Harden: On a closing note, because I know the member who was just heckling is a Raptors fan just like myself, on a note of levity, I would invite the government to consider a potential revenue source for you to fund a serious accessibility reserve. We know tonight is game one of the NBA finals. We know, unfortunately, that at the moment, businesses can deduct 50% of the cost of tickets against their business income. Ive got a PhD in political economy, so I ran some numbers, given what people are assessing the cost of tickets to be. What that leads me to believe, Speaker, is that tonight, as we celebrate Canadas team, about $45 million is being taken out of provincial coffers in write-offs.

Heres what I would propose to the minister or to the government. I will happily put on a tie, look respectable and go with you to any employer in this province and ask them, Do you need that business write-off, or do we need that money to make sure that we can make every building in this province accessible, for our health care, our education, our transportation services, and so that this place is open and accessible for people with disabilities? That is a revenue source we could tap, and Im here to help you make it happen.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Madam Speaker, I would also like to warmly welcome all the visitors in the Speakers lounge. Welcome to Queens Park.

Im looking forward to discussing this motion because theres lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onleys report talked about these barriers. He called them soul-crushing barriers, and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onleys words, Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have. He also points out that while rules and regulations are crucial, what is also required to eliminate barriers is a change of heart.

We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.

Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isnt it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?

Madam Speaker, Mr. Onley delivered a thorough and thoughtful report about the barriers many Ontarians face. Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, its my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Chris Glover: Its an honour to rise today. Id like to begin my remarks by introducing almost 20 people from SpadinaFort York and from the city of Toronto who have joined us to be part of this debate. I want to especially thank the MPP for Ottawa Centre, Joel Harden, for bringing forward this motion. Ill introduce the people who are here. Weve got Paula Boutis, Heather Vickers-Wong, Madora Rana, Robert Boileau, Alicia Boileau, Mitchell Feinman, Erica Howard, Deborah Fletcher, Dante Wellington, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Ipek Kabatas, Varla Anne Abrams, Tracy Schmittwho is also known as Unstoppable TracyKati Israel, Michau van Speyk.

Id like to thank them all for joining us today. Could we give a round of applause to the people whove joined us for this debate?

Applause.

Mr. Chris Glover: When I became a school board trustee in 2010, I organized a group that was called the Special Education Forum, and for eight years we advocated for changes to the school system to make it more accessible. I want to thank the people who came to those meetingsand many of them are here in this roombecause they taught me about what its like, or gave some glimpse of what its like, to be a person with disabilities. Some of the most important lessons I learned from some students. There were two students in particular, Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama from Martingrove Collegiate, which is the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. They came one day and they talked about their day in that school.

Terrence pointed out something. He said that the nice thing about that school is that the corners in the corridors are cut at 45 degrees, which, when youre using an electric wheelchair, makes it much easier to see people coming from another direction so you avoid collisions. The other thing that he pointed outand I had been a trustee for a few years at this time and I had never noticed it: The front door to that school was not accessible. There was a hot dog stand, and that hot dog vendor is legendary at Martingrove Collegiate. He said that sometimes he had to take his wheelchair down the grassy slope to get to the hot dog vendor, and it was hazardous. I went to the school the next day and I met him. He was sitting in his chair at the top of the steps, and there were snowbanks on either side, so he actually could not get down to the hot dog vendor, and so he had to get one of his friends to go down. This was the front entrance to the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. So we started advocating.

The other thing that I learned through that group and from the disability advocates Id been working with is the amount of persistence it takes to make change. It took us four years to finally get an accessible ramp on the front entrance of that school, but finally it was done.

The other person who taught me a lot was Sarah Jama. Shes the founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. She taught me about something called universal design. Every Ontario should know this term, universal design. Universal design means that when youre designing a building, you design it so that everybody can use it.

Just imagine, for example, if you built a building that only had womens washrooms and what that would mean for men who wanted to be employed, potentially, in that building. Where would they go? How would they possibly get employment in that building? So youve got to think. If youre building a building, youve got to make it for everybody, for anybody. Whether youre using a walker or wheelchair, or whether youre walking in, or whether you have a visual impairment or an auditory impairment, youve got to build a building that makes it possible for everybody to be there.

A big part of the problem that comes from not making our buildings with universal design is the unemployment rate. The employment rate among people with disabilities is only 55%, and its shameful in this province that we have allowed this to go on. Part of the reason for that, a big part of the reasonand we had a discussion in the committee last week where we were talking about transitis that our buildings are not accessible and our transit systems are not fully accessible. Thats why its so hard for people to get to work if you have disability.

So when we talk about constructing things, when were building our subway infrastructure, our buses, weve got to make sure that people with disabilities are going to be able to get to work so that they can have employment and get all the benefits that come with employment, including a life thats not lived in poverty, the social network, all the things you need work for.

The other group that weve been working with over the years, the big issue that weve been focusing on at this disability advocacy group is employment. I mentioned that its only 55% of people with disabilities; that drops to 26% of people with intellectual disabilities. And that is a real shame.

In Washington state, 87% of people with intellectual disabilities have paid employment versus 26% here in Ontario, which means that 60% of people with intellectual disabilities have the potential to work but we have not designed our society in order to invite them and to make our workplaces welcoming to them. So thats something we really need to focus on, because thats an incredible amount of potential that is being lost, and its lives that are being disrupted and not being lived to their fullest extent, because of the way that we have designed our society.

Lets see. When the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility was talking about soul-crushing barriers, making inaccessible spaces, making inaccessible transit systems, making inaccessible buildingsthese are some of those soul-crushing barriers. We may not think of it because we may not be affected by the design of the buildings that were looking at, but I would invite all of the members in this House to please listen to people with disabilities. Ive learned so much from listening to people like Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama to understand what it means to have a universally designed society where everybody can reach their full potential.

Im so thankful to the member from Ottawa Centre for bringing forward this motion. Im absolutely going to support it and I hope the members opposite will support it as well.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Im proud to rise here today to speak to the motion of accessibility. As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.

I know that the minister is doing a great job working with stakeholders to chart the best path forward to improve accessibility in Ontario. As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work were doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.

To remove barriers on employment, our Employers Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. Theyre now working on developing sector-specific business casesto hire people with disabilitiesthat will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table.

Our goal is to make Ontario open for business for everyone. This is meaningful work that is already under way to improve the lives of people with disabilities. To help businesses better understand the benefits of accessibility, the ministry has taken steps to begin to redesign their website, to make it a more comprehensive one-stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses, as recommended by Mr. Onley in his report.

In addition to providing resources on accessibility requirements and regulations, we have posted accessibility resources for businesses, to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

A business that commits to accessibility sends a strong message that people with disabilities are welcome. For this reason, it is much more likely to attract people with disabilities and their families. This goes for any and all businesses in Ontario that are providing goods and services to the public.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It is truly always an honour to rise in this Legislature on behalf of my constituents of LondonFanshawe. It brings me great pleasure today to speak in support of my colleagues bill, the member from Ottawa Centres motion taking action on accessibility with regard to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act review by the Honourable David Onley, Ontarios 28th Lieutenant Governor. I had the honour of being in the Legislature when the Honourable David Onley was serving as Lieutenant Governor.

Back in 2005and that was before I was hereall parties at the time in the Legislature unanimously supported the AODA Act. They actually said, This is not a partisan issue. Its a non-partisan issue, and were all on board. We all agree unanimously that this needs to happen, and it needs to happen by 2025.

Every three years, they appoint an independent reviewer of the progress of what has been going on, on this act. In 2017, Lieutenant Governor David Onley was appointed to review the act and report back on what was happening.

He did his homework. He went out and toured the province, and he spoke to people. Then he obviously came up with a conclusion on what was reported.

Thats what we need to do. As many people said, we need to listen to the people who have lived experience with disabilities that are physical but also episodic or non-visual, and not only listen but actually take action. Really, 2025 is coming very quickly.

The next review thats going to happen is in 2020, and as far as Im concerned, we are behind. I hear the member from the Conservative Party talking about how this is going to be more red tape and its going to have barriers for more economic opportunities. In order to get to work, there has to be a pathway to get there, so therefore places have to be accessible. Im sure that people who are capable of working want to go out and do their part; they want to feel valuable and contribute to society. But if you cant get to work because there are stairs and theres no elevator, you cant say, You dont want to work. There has to be a logical process of how to get people to work, and first we need to make sure that places of work are all accessible. That makes sense.

I think that the member who spoke earlier has it reversed. This is not a red-tape bill. This is not making it harder for economic opportunities for Ontario. This is actually moving the bar forward to getting Ontario into a really positive economic opportunity for everyone. If we dont support this bill in the House today, I think were sending a message to people that its not a priority. Were saying, Youve got to get to work, and the government side has said that the best social program is a job. Thats what theyre saying, but then if you need that to happen, what do you logically believe you need to put in place, what metrics do you need in place, to bring out those outcomes? Thats what they forget. Usually what they say doesnt sound good to me. They think it sounds good, but they dont have real steps on how to get there.

Put your money where your mouth is and start making things accessible so then you can have those opportunities for people who have disabilities to explore those jobs that they are so capable of doing and they so want. I hope this government is going to stop thinking so narrow-mindedly when it comes to what they think is best and actually listen to what people are telling them, and then act on that. Youve done that in a few places when youve pulled back legislation. We know that you did that recently with land ambulance, public health and child care. This is your opportunity to do the right thing from the beginning, rather than backtracking. I hope they support this bill, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Natalia Kusendova: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this motion. The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

Weve taken real action through our $1.3-million partnership with the Rick Hansen building certification program, which will see us provide accessibility ratings of an estimated 250 buildings across Ontario. These ratings will not only certify buildings as being accessible, but it will provide a report with directions to buildings about how they can improve their accessibility. This is real action that we are taking now.

David Onleys report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesnt make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.

The Onley report highlights the importance of coordinating Ontarios accessibility efforts with those of the federal government. As announced in More Homes, More Choice: Ontarios Housing Supply Action Plan, the government will harmonize our building code with national codes to open new markets for manufacturers and to bring building costs down.

What we are really here to debate is creating a barrier-free Ontario, and a government cannot do this alone. This is why work on Mr. Onleys recommendations, along with other important initiatives, is ongoing. Our government is working closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

We partnered with OCAD Universitys Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations, which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of the Worlds Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to inform a whole-of-government approach advancing accessibility. As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services, and identify areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontarios 2.6 million people with disabilities. Speaker, this government is committed to accessibility and improving employment prospects for people with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. I return to the member for Ottawa Centre, who has two minutes to reply.

Mr. Joel Harden: Its hard to know what to say. I had hoped that there would be some goodwill here and I leave out hope that we may have some support for this motion, a declaration of intent, Speaker, written not by me but written by David Onley in this report, written by experts with lived experience and who know what its like to live in a province that is not accessible to themnot accessible to them.

When I hear words like red tape, the hair on the back of my neck stands up because I think about people who cant get into hospitals, cant get into schools. I think about children who are being forbidden the opportunity to learn because our services and systems are not accessible to them. And what makes me even angrier, to be honest, although I am trying to be hopeful and optimistic today, is that we are presiding over a province where people tonight will write off $45 million in Raptors game expenses, and we as a province are fine with that. Were fine with that. Last week we announced $1.3 million in a partnership for people with disabilities, which is less, Speaker, than we pay this governments Premiers private lawyer, Gavin Tighe, in salary.

So what people with disabilities are being told is that they matter less than the corporate folks going to the Raptors game tonight, they matter less than the salary we give the lawyer serving the Premier of this province, and that when they ask for better, they are told they are ruining the economy and that it amounts to red tape. That is a really shameful moment for me in this place.

This motion commits us to action. Im not allowed to ask for money from this government, but I am asking you, on behalf of my friends who are here today and all over this province, to get off the pot and act.

(Later that day in the Legislature after debate on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): We will deal first with ballot item number 73, standing in the name of Mr. Harden.

Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say aye.

All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

In my opinion, the nays have it. We will deal with this vote after we have finished the other business.

(After votes on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Im actually going to seek direction from the table. Is it a five-minute bell right now? Okay.

Call in all the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1531 to 1536.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes
Armstrong, Teresa J.
Begum, Doly
Bell, Jessica
Berns-McGown, Rima
Des Rosiers, Nathalie
Fife, Catherine
Fraser, John
Glover, Chris
Harden, Joel
Hassan, Faisal
Hatfield, Percy
Karpoche, Bhutila
Lindo, Laura Mae
Mamakwa, Sol
Mantha, Michael
Morrison, Suze
Natyshak, Taras
Rakocevic, Tom
Sattler, Peggy
Schreiner, Mike
Shaw, Sandy
Singh, Gurratan
Singh, Sara
Stiles, Marit
Tabuns, Peter
West, Jamie
Yarde, Kevin

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): All those opposed, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Nays
Anand, Deepak
Baber, Roman
Babikian, Aris
Bailey, Robert
Bethlenfalvy, Peter
Bouma, Will
Calandra, Paul
Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
Cho, Stan
Coe, Lorne
Crawford, Stephen
Cuzzetto, Rudy
Downey, Doug
Dunlop, Jill
Fedeli, Victor
Fee, Amy
Ghamari, Goldie
Gill, Parm
Harris, Mike
Hogarth, Christine
Jones, Sylvia
Kanapathi, Logan
Karahalios, Belinda C.
Ke, Vincent
Khanjin, Andrea
Kramp, Daryl
Kusendova, Natalia
Lecce, Stephen
Martin, Robin
Martow, Gila
McDonell, Jim
McKenna, Jane
Miller, Norman
Mulroney, Caroline
Oosterhoff, Sam
Pang, Billy
Parsa, Michael
Pettapiece, Randy
Phillips, Rod
Piccini, David
Rasheed, Kaleed
Roberts, Jeremy
Sabawy, Sheref
Sandhu, Amarjot
Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
Skelly, Donna
Smith, Dave
Thanigasalam, Vijay
Thompson, Lisa M.
Tibollo, Michael A.
Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.
Wai, Daisy

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 27; the nays are 52.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I declare the motion lost.

Motion negatived.

Summary of the Recommendations of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.
Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.
Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers. Lead by example.
Coordinate Ontarios accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

2. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA. Define accessibility.
Clarify the AODAs relationship with the Human Rights Code.
Update the definition of disability.

3. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.
Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.
Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.
Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

4. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.

5. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.

6. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.

7. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.

8. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:
Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards
Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

9. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.

10. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.
Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units. Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

11. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.

12. Enforce the AODA.
Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations. Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

13. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation. Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.
Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.
Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

14. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.

15. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.



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During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford Government to Create a Plan to Implement the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution

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

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

A Commendable Effort to Advance the Goal of Accessibility for 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Marking Canada’s National Accessibility Abilities Week, Ontario NDP MPP and Accessibility Critic Joel Harden proposed a resolution in the Ontario Legislature for debate on Thursday May 30, 2019. The resolution called on the Government to come up with a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The proposed resolution stated:

“That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.”

We appreciate MPP Harden’s bringing forward this proposed resolution for debate in the Legislature. This is an important issue for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.

The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of soul-crushing accessibility barriers. It concluded that Ontario is still mostly inaccessible to people with disabilities, and is not a place where people with disabilities can fully participate as equals. It recommended strong new action to substantially speed up progress in Ontario on accessibility, so that Ontario can reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA imposes.

Why the Ford Government Should Support MPP Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution

For several reasons, the Ford Government has every reason to find this proposed resolution agreeable, and to support it:

* Last December, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated that the Government was awaiting the Onley Report before it decided how it would proceed in the area of disability accessibility. the Ford Government has now had the Onley Report in its hands since January 31, 2019, a total of 131 days. The Government has shown itself ready and willing to act decisively and very quickly on issues that it considers important.

* The Ford Government has been eager to show voters that it takes a different and better approach to governing Ontario than did the previous Government. The Onley Report shows that the former Government did a poor job of implementing and enforcing the AODA. The new Ford Government has an incentive to do a much better job at this.

* On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in this report. Speaking for the Ford Government in the Legislature, the minister acknowledged that Ontario is not yet even 30% along the way to becoming accessible.

* MPP Harden’s proposed resolution in key ways tracks commitments that Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservatives made to Ontarians with disabilities during the 2018 Ontario general election. It is in line with the Ford Government’s core messages:

1. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance (set out below), spelling out the PC Party’s election pledges on accessibility, Doug Ford committed that our issues regarding accessibility “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates.”

2. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford recognized:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

3. The Onley Report found that Ontario is clearly not on schedule to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”

4. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a new plan of action for improved enforcement of the AODA, as the Onley Report recommended. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

5. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for new accessibility standards in the area of the built environment and new accessibility training for design professionals (such as architects). The Onley Report showed the need for such actions. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

6. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a plan to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers. The Ford Government has emphasized that it wants to ensure that public money is always used responsibly. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford promised a change from the ” government mismanagement” of the previous Government. No one disputes that using public money to create new accessibility barriers is a form of “government mismanagement.”

* Such resolutions in the Legislature are not legally binding. However, they can be viewed as a strong political statement. The Ford Government should not want to be seen as voting against so straightforward a resolution that is important to so many Ontarians, especially since it has repeatedly called itself the “Government for the People.”

* The proposed resolution was worded in a neutral and tempered way. It gives the Government a great deal of flexibility on what it could include in a plan to implement the Onley Report, on what to include in an accessibility standard to address the built environment, on how to strengthen AODA enforcement, and on how to ensure that public money is no longer used to create new accessibility barriers. The resolution’s wording neither states nor implies any criticism of the Government, nor any partisan arguments or claims against the Ford Government.

* When the Ontario Conservatives last formed a government in Ontario, under Premier Mike Harris, they voted for each of the three resolutions on proposed accessibility legislation that the opposition presented in the Legislature on behalf of the AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. For a trip down memory lane, check out the text of the different resolutions which the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed on May 16, 1996, October 29, 1998 and November 23, 1999 regarding the need for accessibility legislation in Ontario.

What Happened in the Legislature on the Day Before It Was to Debate Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

How would the Ford Government respond to this proposed resolution? On May 29, 2019, the day before Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was scheduled to be debated in the Legislature, Mr. Harden raised this in Question Period. He Pressed the Government to commit to action to make disability accessibility a priority, given that it was then National Access Ability Week. Below we set out the transcript of the exchange that day during Question Period. We offer these observations about that exchange:

1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.”

The Government has elsewhere said this would lead to certification or audit of 250 buildings over two years.

We have serious and substantial concerns with this. First, as reiterated in our May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, we have for years made it clear that we do not agree with investing public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. It is an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead spend that money on AODA implementation and enforcement.

Second, the minister said that the Rick Hansen Foundation is conducting those building audits as “us” i.e. the Ontario Government. Yet there is no public accountability for this private accessibility certification process, for the measures of accessibility it chooses to use, and for how it goes about its business. If the Ontario Government is to do a building audit, it should be conducted by public auditors with a public mandate and public accountability, based on accessibility standards that the public sets through the Government.

2. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho understandably blamed the previous Liberal Government for insufficient action on accessibility. However, the minister then cast some of the blame on the New Democratic Party for the former Liberal Government’s poor record on accessibility. The minister said:

“The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.”

While we don’t wade into partisan political bickering in the Legislature, we are not aware of any support by the NDP of the former Government’s slow action on accessibility. To the contrary, the NDP helped us press the previous Liberal Government to take swifter action on accessibility.

3. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

“Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report.”

It is true that the Ford Government made public the Onley Report quicker than the previous Government made public the 2010 AODA Independent Review by Charles Beer or the 2014 AODA Independent Review report by Mayo Moran.

However, by May 29, 2019, the date of this exchange in Question Period in the Legislature, the Ford Government had had ample time to study the Onley Report and arrive at a plan of action.

SoWhat Happened with Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?
So, what happened to Joel Harden’s proposed resolution? Was it passed or defeated during
debates in the Legislature on May 30, 2019? For the answer to this suspenseful question, watch for the next AODA Alliance Update. Same AODA Alliance time. Same AODA Alliance channel!

Below we set out:

* The text of NDP MPP Joel Harden’s resolution that he presented to the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019.

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 27, 2019 news release, announcing that his proposed resolution would be debated in the Legislature on May 30, 2019

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s guest column in the May 30, 2019 Ottawa Citizen. It explained the resolution that Mr. Harden was seeking to get the Legislature to pass that day. It refers, among other things, to the AODA Alliances efforts on accessibility, and to the online video about public transit accessibility barriers that we made public in May, 2018, and

* A transcript of the May 29, 2019 question that MPP Joel Harden asked the Ford Government during Question Period regarding his proposed resolution on the AODA.

* Text of the May 15, 2018 letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the Private Member’s Motion by Joel Harden, NDP Accessibility Critic, Debated in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019

That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre calls on Ford to implement recommendations from AODA third review

QUEEN’S PARK The Ontario NDP critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), held a press conference today to introduce his private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from David Onley’s third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“The over 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities face constant barriers to their participation in areas including employment, education, health care and recreation,” Harden said. “As the population ages, the number of people living with a disability will grow.”

The AODA seeks to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025; every three years, an independent reviewer is appointed to assess the Act’s effectiveness.

“Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s third legislative review of the AODA, which was informed by consultations with the disability community and tabled in the Legislature on March 8, makes the disconcerting assertion that, ‘For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity, but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers,’” said Harden.

“The Liberals dragged their feet on meeting the AODA’s target, and now the Ford Conservatives are dragging Ontario further backwards, neglecting to lay out a plan of action to implement Onley’s recommendations. The recommendations include a commitment to implementing new standards for Ontario’s built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals such as architects and an assurance that public funds won’t be used to create new accessibility barriers.”

At the conference, Harden was joined by Shanthiya Baheerathan of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and Kate Chung of the Older Women’s Network, who both spoke about the need for a more accessible Ontario.

“I, myself, had to fight for years to have my disability recognized and accommodated by my university, and in that process I lost years of my life,” Baheerathan relayed. “Enforcing AODA would work towards ensuring that no other 18-year-old need to waste time overcoming barriers and advocating for an accessible space to learn. Instead, they could use that time and energy to actually learn.”

Chung said it won’t cost the government anything to change building code standards to ensure housing is built accessibly for the many Ontario seniors and people with disabilities who need it. “Yet, it will save millions in health care dollars for vast numbers of people, it will reduce the demand for long-term care beds, and end ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.”

“Ontarians with disabilities deserve to have a government that listens to their needs and takes concrete action to reduce the barriers that prevent them from enjoying a full life. The Ford government must act now and implement the Onley report’s key recommendations,” Harden said.

Harden’s motion will be debated in the Legislature on May 30.

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

Originally posted at: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/harden-ontarios-accessibility-standards-are-falling-woefully-short

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

Joel Harden
?
Outgoing Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley is saluted while arriving for his last full day in office at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Monday, September 22, 2014. A former Ontario lieutenant-governor tasked with reviewing the disability legislation says the province is nowhere near meeting its stated goal of full accessibility by 2025. Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS

For an able-bodied person, whether the pillars on the platform of a train station or bus stop are straight or angled is easily taken for granted. For someone who is sight impaired, an angled pillar can mean the difference between constantly bumping one’s head or shoulder on a part of the pillar that can’t be anticipated by a cane, or being able to commute without threat of pain or injury.

This distinction, which David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, demonstrates in a video he posted online last spring, is just one of countless examples of Ontario’s standards of accessibility falling short of the disability community’s needs.

For the more than 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities, lack of accessibility is an ongoing barrier to participation in things like education, employment, transit and recreation. From public space design to health care to public information, Ontario’s accessibility standards are nowhere near where they need to be to meet peoples’ needs, nor where the province pledged they would be in the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

On Thursday, the legislative assembly at Queen’s Park will debate my private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from the third legislative review of the AODA. The AODA mandates the standards that public, private and non-profit sector entities must adhere to in the areas of customer service, public space design, communications, transportation and employment. It has set a firm deadline to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by the year 2025 a target that, in 2019, no longer feels far off.

To ensure the AODA stays on track, every three years, an independent, non-partisan reviewer is appointed to consult with the disability community and assess whether the AODA and its standards are doing what they’re supposed to do making Ontario more accessible plus recommending additional steps as needed, to meet the 2025 obligation.

Conducted by David Onley, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario and a disability rights advocate, the AODA’s third review should be a major call to action for Ontarians, and certainly, for the Ford government. Onley’s report paints a grim picture of the status quo for people with disabilities in this province, and portrays the sluggish pace at which Ontario is moving when it comes to setting or enforcing accessibility standards.

In his report, submitted to the Ford government on Jan. 31, 2019, Onley writes that the AODA’s vision has turned out to be “a mirage.”

“Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents its able-bodied residents,” he writes. “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

Onley’s words echo the frustrations I heard from the dozens of Ontarians living with disabilities who traveled from across the province to attend an April 10 town hall on accessibility that our office held at Queen’s Park. Several of my fellow NDP MPPs joined Lepofsky, Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, and myself, to listen to account after account of people fed up with Ontario’s agonizingly slow progress towards accessibility. Many spoke of the daily barriers they face that stop them living full lives.

Onley’s key recommendations to the government include committing to implementing new standards for our built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals and an assurance that public money never again be used to create new accessibility barriers.

The Ford Conservatives should establish a clear plan of action for getting Ontario on track to meet its AODA obligations. I invite the government to vote with the NDP on Thursday, and implement Onley’s key recommendations right away, so that Ontarians with disabilities no longer have to wait to live the full lives they deserve.

Joel Harden is the Ontario NDP critic for accessibility and persons with disabilities, as well as the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question is for the Premier. This week is National AccessAbility Week. While we’ve made strides and progress in this province, it’s thanks to disability rights activists around our towns and cities. Unfortunately, the previous government paid lip service to the goal of accessibility, and this government is on track to do the same.

During the election campaign, the Premier promised stronger enforcement of accessibility laws, a clear strategy to meet accessibility standards, examining our building code requirements for accessibility provisions and requiring design professionals to have accessibility training. But we didn’t hear any announcement in the budget on this, and I’m wondering why there’s no prioritization of accessibility during National AccessAbility Week for this government.

Hon. Victor Fedeli: To the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I thank the member of the opposition for raising the important question. I want to assure this House that this government takes our responsibilities for Ontarians living with disabilities very seriously.

Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.

We know there’s more to do, but it’s also time for real action and we are taking it right now.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

Mr. Joel Harden: To put that in perspective, to what the minister said, $1.3 million is less than what the Premier of this government is spending on his own personal lawyer in his office, Mr. Gavin Tighe.

People with disabilities deserve more from this government. We know that the last government talked a great talk but delivered very little. We know that Queen’s Park, the very building in which you and I are working, is not fully accessible. That is true across this province: Health care, education, transportation and our spaces of recreation remain inaccessible, Speaker, and we are obliged by law to make this province fully accessible by 2025.

Tomorrow, we are going to be introducing a private member’s motion that will require us, as a Legislature, to set clear targets on accessibility. I have a very clear question for the Premier or for the minister: Will you be supporting this motion tomorrow?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I will repeat what the opposition member said. The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.

Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report. I will respond to your motion tomorrow.

May 15, 2018 Letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

The Ontario PC Party is pleased to respond to the AODA Alliance’s survey for the 2018 Ontario election. Our team is focused on providing a clear alternative to voters. After 15 years of high taxes and government mismanagement under the Wynne Liberals, the people of Ontario are ready for change.

Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.

Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.

Christine Elliott, our former Health Critic and Deputy Leader, has been a tireless advocate for Ontarians with disabilities. Ms. Elliott called to establish the Select Committee on Developmental Services, with a mandate to develop a comprehensive developmental services strategy for children, youth and adults in Ontario with an intellectual disability or who are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and a mental illness.

When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination.

There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election. It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.

This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.

The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce.

Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.

When I am elected Premier on June 7th, I promise I will focus on investing in the priorities that matter most to the people of Ontario. Jobs and economic development will be a key focus, and Ontario will be open for business again.

In the coming weeks, our team will be releasing our platform of policies and priorities and a clear vision for a prosperous Ontario.

If you have any further questions please feel free to reach out at any time.

Sincerely,

Doug Ford
Leader, Ontario PC Party



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A Toronto Star News Report and New Editorial Together Show Why the Ford Government Must Now Announce a Comprehensive Plan to Substantially Improve the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities 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

June 5, 2019

SUMMARY

On May 21, 2019, the Toronto Star published a report, set out below, that accounted a troubling employment barrier that a job-seeker with a disability has recently faced in Ontario. On May 27, 2019, the Toronto Star published a powerful follow-up editorial on this issue, also set out below.

This editorial was published during National Accessibility Abilities Week in Canada. This is the 15th time a media editorial has backed an issue on which we have been campaigning during the past 25 years of our non-partisan campaign for accessibility.

Here are four important comments on these two newspaper items.

1. These reports describe an event in our province that, sadly, is not an isolated or unique incident. This incident is just one of many examples that show how far Ontario lags behind when it comes to meeting the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. In the workplace, people with disabilities continue to face disability barrier after barrier. The result is an unfairly high unemployment rate facing people with disabilities. We have often quoted former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who said that the unemployment rate facing people with disabilities in Canada is not only a national crisis It is a national shame.

2. In the face of recurring situations like this, the current Ontario Government has no comprehensive plan of action to meet the goal of full accessibility by 2025. The Ford Government has now been in power for almost one year. It has promised to be a “government for the people”. Yet 1.9 million people with disabilities in Ontario don’t seem to be treated as a full and equal part of “the people”.

A readily-available plan of action is available to the Ford Government, if only it would put it into action. It is the plan of action set out in the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted to the Government on January 31, 2019. That report largely incorporates recommendations that the AODA Alliance presented to the Onley Review.

There have now been 126 days since the Ford Government received the David Onley Report. Yet the Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to implement that report. This is so even though back on April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said in the legislature that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” and that Ontario isn’t 30% towards its goal of being accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires. Moreover, last December, the Ford Government said that it was waiting for the Onley Report before it decided how to proceed to address the disability accessibility issue.

3. It is encouraging and very much appreciated that the media again came to the AODA Alliance to comment on the broader implications of stories such as these. Indeed, the May 21, 2019 Toronto Star article quoted and drew upon the May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update as follows:

“Accessibility advocate David Lepofsky praised Judge for trying to hold Holland Bloorview and the city to account, but said the problem ultimately lies with Queen’s Park and its lack of action on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

As noted in a government review of the legislation by former lieutenant-governor David Onley, people with disabilities face “soul-crushing” barriers in their daily lives, particularly when trying to access public and private buildings. And without a renewed commitment and immediate action, Ontario would not meet the law’s goal of making the province fully accessible for its 1.9 million residents with disabilities by 2025, he said.

Onley’s report, released in March, calls for stronger enforcement and repeated earlier calls for the province to develop new accessibility standards for both new construction and building retrofits, Lepofsky noted.

“The government has announced no plans to implement the report’s spectrum of recommendations, even though (Accessibility Minister) Raymond Cho said in the legislature that David Onley did a ‘marvellous job’ and that Ontario has only progressed 30 per cent towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities,” Lepofsky said.

Although Ontario’s April budget earmarked $1.3 million over two years for the Rick Hansen Foundation to help finance a private accessibility certification process, Lepofsky said public money should be spent to fund Onley’s recommendations.

“The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take,” he said. “It did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.””

4. It is also very encouraging to us and to all who support and take part in our ongoing grassroots accessibility campaign that the Toronto Star added its important voice to ours in its May 27, 2019 editorial, set out below. That editorial called for the Ford Government to take action on the Onley Report. It also echoed our disagreement with the Ontario Government’s spenting 1.3 million public dollars on the problematic strategy of a private accessibility certification process in this case, the one being offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation. The editorial stated:

“Onley’s report was both a withering indictment of how far (or, rather, not far) we’ve come and a guide to help get Ontario on track.

He called attention to the still extensive barriers in the built environment – such as the corridor too narrow for an adult wheelchair that kept Judge from getting her dream job – and the need for better accessibility rules, which the province is far too slow in developing, let alone implementing.

He recommended tax breaks for those improving accessibility in public and private buildings, training for architects in inclusive design and dramatically boosting enforcement. In total, he made 15 recommendations in his report, which was released two months ago.

The Ford government, by way of Raymond Cho, the minister for seniors and accessibility, thanked Onley for a “marvellous job.” Then, seemingly, it shelved his report.

It has not acted with any urgency on his recommendations. Instead, in its April budget – a month after Onley’s report – the government opted to put $1.3 million into financing a private accessibility rating system.

For a building to be certified under the Rick Hansen Foundation’s accessibility program, its “public entrance and all its key functional spaces and amenities must be physically accessible for everyone.”

The province already knows well how poorly it’s doing on that front and how few buildings will meet the gold standard. The minister himself claims Ontario’s “accessibility is not done even 30 per cent.”

So, as worthy as the foundation’s certification program may be, a government that is earmarking so few resources for accessibility as this one would do better to spend them removing actual barriers than on handing out certificates and window decals to the good buildings.

Only then will the province be moving toward its promise to “ensure people with disabilities have the support and resources they need to live fulfilling and productive lives.”

Because right now, as Onley wrote, for “most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.””

We know we’ve been sending out more Updates than usual, in order to get you caught up on recent developments. Stay tuned for more news on this issue over the next days. And always feel free to send us your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Toronto Star May 21, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/05/19/toronto-preschool-for-kids-with-disabilities-cant-accommodate-staff-who-use-wheelchairs.html

She lost out on a job working with disabled kids – because she uses a wheelchair Laurie Monsebraaten
The Toronto Star May 21, 2019

As a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, Ashleigh Judge has faced barriers all her life. But the Toronto early childhood educator didn’t expect to be turned down for a job in a preschool that serves children with disabilities because the building is inaccessible.

“It’s not the first time I have faced this problem,” said Judge, 33.

“But it’s the first time it was so blatant. It was really disappointing, especially coming from an agency that should be doing better.”

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital has been operating Play and Learn Nursery School in a city building on Eglinton Ave. W. for 33 years. Although the Forest Hill-area program is on the main floor, it does not have an accessible washroom and the classrooms are located off a hallway that is too narrow for an adult wheelchair.

Judge says she is happy to use the accessible washroom in the library next door, but wonders why the city’s leading agency serving children with disabilities has done so little to make the learning space more accessible.

Stewart Wong, a spokesperson for Holland Bloorview, says the hospital’s main campus near Bayview and Lawrence Aves. is fully accessible, as is a community-based preschool in Scarborough. But he acknowledges the Play and Learn site is not.

“We have spoken to the city about accessibility issues,” Wong said.

“We have worked really hard to be as inclusive as possible in everything that we do. But working in buildings that are decades old presents a challenge.”

The hospital has not considered moving Play and Learn, Wong said, but would “welcome a conversation to explore more accessible options.”

Judge called the office of area Councillor Mike Colle in early April with her concerns, but never heard back.

When the Star contacted Colle’s office last week, the councillor said he sympathizes with Judge.

“People with disabilities have enough problems without having difficulty getting jobs because buildings are inaccessible,” said Colle, who represents Ward 8 (Eglinton-Lawrence).

As part of a city audit of the building last year, the Play and Learn site has been targeted for an accessibility upgrade in early 2020, he said.

“I don’t know if Holland Bloorview knew that, but the city is on track to make those upgrades in January or February next year,” he said.

“I will certainly be keeping an eye on it and make sure our facilities manager also knows there is an interest here.”

Judge is pleased the city is planning to renovate the building, but is frustrated it has taken so long, noting she first raised the issue with Holland Bloorview in 2017 during its “Dear Everybody” accessibility awareness campaign, and that the province introduced accessibility legislation in 2005.

“This is the first I am hearing about it,” she said about the planned retrofit.

“And you’d think Holland Bloorview would have told me if they knew about it. It makes me wonder if the city is doing this just because (the Star) called.”

Judge has an honours BA in psychology from York University along with Seneca College certificates in rehabilitation services and life skills coaching.

In 2011, she obtained her early childhood education diploma from George Brown College and has just completed certification as an early childhood resource consultant to work with kids who have special needs.

Over the years, Judge has worked at March break and summer camps at Holland Bloorview and logged more than 500 volunteer hours at the hospital.

“I grew up in the system. I know what it’s like and I think I have a lot to offer,” she said.

“I also think I would be a good role model for the children – and their parents.”

Judge says she is well qualified and physically able to work in a preschool setting. She has worked part-time jobs with the city’s EarlyOn child and family centres since 2015. She has no trouble picking up small children and can change diapers using a lower change table.

“When I saw a chance to work at Holland Bloorview, I jumped at it,” she said of the two permanent part-time jobs that were posted at Play and Learn last December.

According to a memo from the preschool staff shared with the Star, Judge “gave an excellent interview” for the position, “has a lot to offer children and families at Holland Bloorview” and would be “well suited for a wide variety of roles working with both children and families.”

Judge says she told the preschool she could rearrange her school schedule to start when needed.

But staff told her the building’s inaccessible hallways were an insurmountable barrier to Judge’s employment there. Undeterred, Judge asked if the program could accommodate her in its accessible Scarborough location. And if there were no positions there, she asked if the hospital would commit to offering her the next position that became vacant that matched her skill set.

“I also told them I would be willing to help them advocate to renovate the Eglinton Ave. location,” Judge said.

Judge says her advocacy offer was ignored and that her request for placement in the next available position was met with a long email from human resources, telling her the hospital follows strict hiring protocols and procedures and that she would have to apply like everyone else.

“It was pretty frustrating. What happens when the kids they’re serving now get older and they want to come back and get a job with Holland Bloorview?” she said.

“Advocacy and accessibility and the need for inclusiveness don’t stop when you turn 18.”

The hospital doesn’t comment publicly on personnel matters, Wong said. But he said it has specialized staff teams that work with job applicants and current employees to make the workplace accessible.

The hospital is also committed to helping youth find meaningful employment as adults and offers a wide range of services, including volunteer opportunities, employment training programs and supported job placements, he said.

“We have lots of programming that opens up a world of inclusion for persons with disability.”

Accessibility advocate David Lepofsky praised Judge for trying to hold Holland Bloorview and the city to account, but said the problem ultimately lies with Queen’s Park and its lack of action on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

As noted in a government review of the legislation by former lieutenant-governor David Onley, people with disabilities face “soul-crushing” barriers in their daily lives, particularly when trying to access public and private buildings. And without a renewed commitment and immediate action, Ontario would not meet the law’s goal of making the province fully accessible for its 1.9 million residents with disabilities by 2025, he said.

Onley’s report, released in March, calls for stronger enforcement and repeated earlier calls for the province to develop new accessibility standards for both new construction and building retrofits, Lepofsky noted.

“The government has announced no plans to implement the report’s spectrum of recommendations, even though (Accessibility Minister) Raymond Cho said in the legislature that David Onley did a ‘marvellous job’ and that Ontario has only progressed 30 per cent towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities,” Lepofsky said.

Although Ontario’s April budget earmarked $1.3 million over two years for the Rick Hansen Foundation to help finance a private accessibility certification process, Lepofsky said public money should be spent to fund Onley’s recommendations.

“The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take,” he said. “It did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.”

Toronto Star May 27, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/05/27/ontario-is-falling-short-on-breaking-down-barriers.html

Editorial
The barriers are still up

An early childhood educator who is uniquely qualified to work in a preschool for disabled children couldn’t get the job because the building isn’t fully accessible for wheelchairs.

Surely this is just what former Ontario lieutenant-governor David Onley meant when he wrote of the “soul-crushing” barriers that people with disabilities face in their daily lives.

Ashleigh Judge, a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, has worked incredibly hard to make her way in a world that is clearly not designed for her, and
the Ontario government has failed her by not moving quickly enough or thoroughly enough to change that, as it is required by law to do.

Judge is not the only person who is unable to fully contribute to the workforce and broader community because of the barriers she encounters. She’s just one of the 1.9 million Ontarians with a disability.

But when a woman with a disability can’t get a job working with children with disabilities because a City of Toronto building isn’t up to the task, that really should be a wake-up call about how far Ontario is from meeting its legal obligation to create a barrier-free province.

In 2005, Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the province to be fully accessible by 2025.

It was groundbreaking legislation when it was introduced; it even served as a blueprint for other jurisdictions.

But, as Onley said in his recent review of that legislation, “14 years later, and the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.”

To make matters worse, the province is now all but certain to miss its legislated deadline of 2025.

Onley’s report was both a withering indictment of how far (or, rather, not far) we’ve come and a guide to help get Ontario on track.

He called attention to the still extensive barriers in the built environment – such as the corridor too narrow for an adult wheelchair that kept Judge from getting her dream job – and the need for better accessibility rules, which the province is far too slow in developing, let alone implementing.

He recommended tax breaks for those improving accessibility in public and private buildings, training for architects in inclusive design and dramatically boosting enforcement. In total, he made 15 recommendations in his report, which was released two months ago.

The Ford government, by way of Raymond Cho, the minister for seniors and accessibility, thanked Onley for a “marvellous job.” Then, seemingly, it shelved his report.

It has not acted with any urgency on his recommendations. Instead, in its April budget – a month after Onley’s report – the government opted to put $1.3 million into financing a private accessibility rating system.

For a building to be certified under the Rick Hansen Foundation’s accessibility program, its “public entrance and all its key functional spaces and amenities must be physically accessible for everyone.”

The province already knows well how poorly it’s doing on that front and how few buildings will meet the gold standard. The minister himself claims Ontario’s “accessibility is not done even 30 per cent.”

So, as worthy as the foundation’s certification program may be, a government that is earmarking so few resources for accessibility as this one would do better to spend them removing actual barriers than on handing out certificates and window decals to the good buildings.

Only then will the province be moving toward its promise to “ensure people with disabilities have the support and resources they need to live fulfilling and productive lives.”

Because right now, as Onley wrote, for “most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

That’s why Judge is not wheeling her way down the hallway to her dream job working with preschoolers.



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Failures in Air Travel in Canada


CBC National News Reveals Appalling Incidents of Accessibility

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

June 4, 2019

SUMMARY

On June 2 and 3, 2019, CBC TV and radio national news broke a story of two appalling failures to ensure proper accessibility for air travel passengers in Canada. These were two episodes at the Vancouver Airport where passengers using wheelchairs were left stranded in the airport for hours by airline ground assistance staff. CBC asked the AODA Alliance to comment on the incidents which CBC had uncovered.

These reports were included in the June 2, 2019 edition of CBC TV’s “The National” and CBC national radio’s “World Report” broadcast on June 3, 2019. We offer four important observations:

1. These are not the only such incidents that air travellers have reported. As a result of this CBC report, on June 3, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to appear on the Fight Back program on Toronto’s Zoomer Radio station, hosted by Libby Znaimer. Two callers to the program said they had experienced somewhat similar incidents. The podcast of that program is available at https://www.zoomerradio.ca/show/fight-back-on-zoomer-radio/fight-back-on-zoomer-radio-podcast/treatment-vulnerable-passengers-airlines-june-03-2019/

These disability accommodations in air travel must be consistent and reliable. Even if such appalling incidents are the exception, passengers with disabilities should not be left to fear that they might be the victim of such treatment.

2. This is a further illustration of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTAs) poor long-term track-record of regulating airlines in the area of accessibility. It is because of the poor CTA track-record in this area that we and others in the disability community had urged the Federal Government to assign the regulation of air travel accessibility to the new Canada Accessibility Commissioner. Instead, and over our objection, Bill C-81, the new Accessible Canada Act, leaves the CTA as mainly in charge of regulating air travel accessibility.

3. It is good that the CTA has decided to propose regulations to set some accessibility standards in the area of air travel. However, as our April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA shows, those proposed regulations are too weak. This story should be a wake-up call to the CTA to listen to us and strengthen those proposed regulations.

4. It should not be left to individual victims of such inexcusable treatment to have to file complaints with the CTA. If the victim is just flying into Canada for a visit and then returning home, they likely would not incur the expense and inconvenience of returning to Canada just to litigate a complaint before the CTA. For meaningful reform, we need the CTA to do its own strong “secret shopper” monitoring of airlines to catch deficiencies in the efforts of airlines or airports.

4. The troubling incidents of accessibility failures about which CBC reported took place at the Vancouver International Airport. We note that on December 5, 2018, the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process announced that it gave the Vancouver International Airport a gold rating for accessibility. This is the Rick Hansen Foundation’s highest accessibility rating.

This illustrates some of the serious problems with such a private accessibility certification process. We have previously raised our serious concerns with the whole idea of a private accessibility certification process.

We recognize that such a private accessibility certification process may only examine a building, and not the services provided in that building. That is part of the problem. Those hearing that an airport got a “gold” certification can well be expected not to draw fine distinctions between the accessibility of an airport building on the one hand, and the accessibility of the services provided in that airport on the other.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

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CBC TV The National June 2, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/seniors-abandoned-by-airlines-in-wheelchairs-1.5154364

Edmonton GO PUBLIC

‘Appalling treatment’: Couple in wheelchairs left alone for almost 12 hours at Vancouver airport

Airlines are shirking responsibility to accommodate disabled passengers, advocate says

Rosa Marchitelli CBC News · Posted: Jun 02, 2019 6:00 PM MT | Last Updated: 5 hours ago

Narayan Karki, left, and her husband, Chhaya, right, missed their flight from Vancouver to Edmonton after being left in their wheelchairs without assistance for hours at the airport. They were travelling from Nepal to visit their son, Mohan, shown at centre. (Rosa Marchitelli/CBC)

The son of an elderly couple says he wants two major airlines to stop blaming each other and take responsibility for abandoning his parents in their wheelchairs for half a day, with no help to access food, water or a washroom.

Mohan Karki’s parents, who don’t speak English and require assistance to travel, were found almost 12 hours after being dropped off at a service counter at the Vancouver airport just not by the airlines responsible for assisting them during their trip, WestJet and Cathay Pacific.

“We were thinking they were somewhere in the corner of the airport … not knowing where to go,” said Karki. “My parents told me, ‘We never left this place’ 12 hours they were there. They tried to communicate with some other people, passersby, and nobody responded to them. Maybe they couldn’t understand what they were saying.”

On Feb. 23, Chhaya and Narayan Karki, aged 66 and 69, were on the final leg of a trip from their home in Kathmandu, Nepal, to visit their son and his family in Edmonton, with a stopover in Vancouver.

Mohan Karki said Cathay Pacific told him it delivered his parents to the WestJet customer service counter at the airport, and WestJet was to transport the pair to the gate for their final flight to Edmonton.

The Karkis sat just steps from the WestJet service counter at the Vancouver airport for almost 12 hours, until the RCMP found them. (Rosa Marchitelli/CBC)

When his parents failed to arrive, a worried Karki spent hours on the phone trying to track them down. They didn’t have a cellphone. “For about six or seven hours, I kept on calling both airlines, but they never found my parents,” he said.

Karki then called the RCMP. It took officers 20 minutes to find the couple, located just steps from the service counter.

The couple had placards with Karki’s name and phone number, in case of an emergency. No one responded when they tried to get help by holding them up, he said.

According to an Ontario-based advocate for people with disabilities, services for those who need assistance travelling are “unreliable and inconsistent” because airlines are allowed to set their own rules instead of being told to meet specific standards.

“It is appalling treatment the regulator should make it clear that [airlines] can’t pass the buck to each other,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Left at the wrong gate for 8 hours

Thanh Phan shares that frustration; the same thing happened to his 76-year-old mother at the same airport.

In August, Niem Thi Le, who has trouble walking and doesn’t speak English, was left in a wheelchair for eight hours after being dropped off at the wrong departure gate by WestJet.

Le was on her way home to Hanoi, Vietnam, after visiting family in Victoria. WestJet was supposed to connect her with China Southern Airlines for her next flight.

“My mom told me that the wheelchair attendant just left her there without talking to anyone. I was shocked this is a human being,” Phan said.

Niem Thi Le, 76, was on her way back to Vietnam after visiting her family in Victoria. She missed her flight after being left at the wrong gate at the Vancouver airport. (Submitted by Thanh Phan)

An employee with another airline eventually noticed Le sitting alone, found someone who could speak Vietnamese and brought the woman to the China Southern Airlines counter.

That airline contacted Phan and suggested he call WestJet to find out what happened. He did, asking if someone could help his mother until he could get there himself.

“I said, ‘Could you please help her give her some food and drinks.’… They said, no, they didn’t do anything wrong and that’s not their business,” Phan said.

He called China Southern Airlines back and it agreed to help, bringing Le a hamburger and a drink.

‘They did not think it’s a serious problem’

Phan complained to customer service and WestJet apologized, saying it would review its internal process. But he said the airline never got back to him to explain what happened.

WestJet also told him travellers who don’t speak English shouldn’t be travelling alone, he said, though they offered him a $100 travel voucher.

“It’s very frustrating because they blame passengers, and they did not think that is a serious problem.”

Phan said he was ‘shocked’ to receive a phone call from South China Airlines, telling him his mother had missed her flight and he needed to come pick her up. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

WestJet ‘reaching out to the families involved’

Both Phan and Karki are still demanding an explanation from the airlines involved in their respective cases.

“We sincerely apologize for the stress and worry that these guests and their families experienced,” WestJet’s media relations manager Lauren Stewart wrote in an email to Go Public.

“The nature of these incidents is serious, and we are in touch with both airline partners involved to investigate and make enhancements to our processes to prevent this type of incident from happening again. We are also reaching out to the families involved.”

Karki says Cathay Pacific told him it took his parents to the WestJet counter, but the couple never made it on their next flight. They spent almost 12 hours sitting in wheelchairs at the airport. (CBC)

The airline says it provides mobility assistance to more than 900 guests per day.

Cathay Pacific told Go Public it was sorry to hear what happened to the Karkis, adding it followed “standard operating procedure” when it delivered the couple to WestJet staff and exchanged wheelchairs.

“The proper turnover to WestJet was made by our staff. Additionally, we are in the process of reviewing this situation with WestJet and we will apply learnings from this experience to future transitions between our airlines,” wrote Julie Jarratt, the airline’s communications director.

‘I dread entering Canadian airspace’

Lepofsky, who is blind, said he’s had his own problems travelling. “I dread entering Canadian airspace if I’m travelling alone not because the service is always bad, but because it’s not reliably and consistently good.”

Airlines have a duty to accommodate passengers with disabilities under Canada’s human rights laws, he said. But when that doesn’t happen, it’s tough to figure out where to turn for help.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says services for those with disabilities are ‘unreliable and inconsistent’ when it comes to air travel in Canada. (Gary Morton/CBC)

“There are multiple agencies involved,” Lepofsky said. “The Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Transportation Agency and you could be kicked from one to the other, trying to figure out where you’re supposed to go.

“The Canadian Transportation Agency, where you’re often kicked to, does not, from the perspective of people with disabilities, have a good track record in this area.”

Proposed rules require airlines to take responsibility

The CTA says it’s aware some of the standards are out of date and a binding set of rules is needed. Until now, accessible transportation has been governed by mostly voluntary codes of practice.

The agency has proposed new accessible transportation regulations for airlines and all travel providers. The new rules would be legally binding and impose penalties up to $25,000 for non-compliance. And if another proposed law passes, the Accessible Canada Act, that fine could jump to a maximum of $250,000.

“They need to make sure that passengers don’t fall between the cracks,” said Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

CTA chair and CEO Scott Streiner says his agency has proposed legally binding regulation for accessible transportation. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Under the CTA’s proposed rules, airlines would have to provide people who need assistance a place to wait, near personnel who can assist them and will “periodically inquire” about the person’s needs.

Airports would be responsible for providing assistance from curbside to check-in, while the airlines would be responsible from check-in to boarding.

Streiner said the proposed recommendations would have helped in both cases. The agency plans to have the final regulations published before summer and hopes to have the majority of requirements in place in about a year.

“Persons who require wheelchair assistance, including older Canadians, absolutely are covered by these regulations,” Streiner said. “We want to make sure that there’s no confusion about who’s providing assistance and that people aren’t left without assistance.”

As for Karki, he said that the next time his parents visit, he won’t leave them in the hands of the airlines. Instead, he’ll try to match their itinerary with other Nepali-speaking travellers.

After hearing from Go Public, WestJet called Karki last week, promising an explanation once it looks into what went wrong.

Phan said WestJet has yet to follow up with him, adding that his mother is now afraid to travel and will no longer come visit.

Submit your story ideas

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories you want to make public.

Submit your story ideas at [email protected]



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Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, the 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

June 3, 2019
SUMMARY

We are right back in action, after being off-line during a short but eventful time in the campaign for accessibility in Canada and Ontario. Get ready for a number of updates to bring you up to speed!

In the most important development last week, right in the middle of National Accessibility Week, the House of Commons passed all the amendments to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate earlier made to the bill. Therefore, Bill C-81 has completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament.

The Accessible Canada Act does not go into effect until the Federal Government gives the bill “Royal Assent.” We understand that this step may well take place in the next few weeks.

We thank everyone who helped in our shared efforts to get this bill improved. We thank those disability organizations and groups who worked with us on this shared goal. We thank all the AODA Alliance supporters and volunteers who contributed to our efforts. We appreciate every tweet or email sent to add pressure in favour of a stronger bill. As well the feedback we regularly received from our supporters have helped improve our message and our strategies.

We also thank all the MPs and Senators and their staff who helped press for a stronger bill, and all the federal public servants who did the same. Some of their efforts were undertaken behind the scenes, and without an opportunity for public acknowledgement and thanks.

Below we offer seven reflections on this achievement. In summary:

1. Final passage of the amended Bill C-81 is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada.

2. We got some of the ingredients in the bill that we were seeking.

3. We found creative ways to constructively contribute to advocacy efforts on this legislation where there are so many disability organizations and groups spread over such a big country.

4. While helpful, Bill C-81 still falls well short of what people with disabilities need.

5. We’re ready for the next round in this non-partisan campaign.

6. Our advocacy principles served us well.

7. The media too often failed to cover this important issue a disservice to all Canadians.

As well, for those who want more detail on all of the above, below we provide this further background information:

* A May 30, 2019 report by CTV on line, written by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press, on the final passage of Bill C-81.

* The May 24, 2019 Globe and Mail article, also by CP’s Michelle McQuigge, on the Federal Government’s announcement that it would agree to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

* The May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article reporting on efforts to get the Federal Government to finally pass Bill C-81. This article includes some of the inaccurate statements that overstates what Bill C-81 requires.

* The May 30, 2019 news release by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, on the passage of Bill C-81, which provides a good response to the bill’s final passage with which we agree.

* The final version of this spring’s second open letter to the House of Commons, calling for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 to be ratified. Fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed this open letter, listed below.

MORE DETAILS

Our Top Seven Preliminary Reflections on the Enactment of the Accessible Canada Act

Here are our top seven preliminary reflections we offer about this news:

1. Final Passage of the Amended Bill C-81 is a Helpful Step Forward

It is a helpful step forward that Parliament has passed the Accessible Canada Act, replete with all the amendments to it that the Senate made last month. As amended, this law gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. We plan to be active in pressing the Federal Government to ensure the achievement of the law’s goal of a barrier-free Canada without delay, and in any event, no later than 2040.

2. We Got Some of the Ingredients in the Bill that We Were Seeking

The Act includes features for which we and others pressed over the past four years. These include a fixed deadline to achieve an accessible Canada, a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Working with others in the disability community, we saw improvements to the law at each stage of the process. We saw improvements when the law was being initially designed, when it first came before the House of Commons for debate in the fall of 2018, and after that, when it came before the Senate this spring. This included some improvements to which the Federal Government had been opposed throughout the process.

3. We Found Ways to Constructively Contribute in a Country with so Many Disability Organizations and Groups

We found constructive and creative ways to work within Canada’s disability community throughout this four-year process. From coast to coast, Canada has a large and diverse landscape of disability organizations and groups. The AODA Alliance is but one of them. We certainly were not the leader of the effort, and at no time purported to be such. There was no one “leader” in this effort.

Moreover, in a country as big as Canada, there is no way to bring all of these disability organizations and groups together at one time and in one place to operate as one unanimous voice. With over five million people with disabilities, there are bound to be differences of opinion and approach.

Our goal was to try to offer influential ideas for the content of Bill C-81 and effective strategies for achieving as strong a bill as possible. We wanted to offer ideas around which as many people with disabilities and disability organizations could rally, based on the strength of those ideas.

We found it very constructive to collaborate with a good number of disability organizations and groups. Among other things, this included a close and ongoing collaboration with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Among our contributions and efforts in this process were the following:

* We took part in behind-the-scenes efforts to get 2016 election commitments to pass national accessibility legislation from the federal Liberals and New Democratic Party. We also mounted a major social media campaign to press candidates across Canada to support the enactment of strong national accessibility legislation.

* In 2016, we made public a detailed Discussion Paper on what the national accessibility legislation should include. We refined it after receiving public input on it. We can trace some key features in Bill C-81 to ideas set out in this Discussion Paper. The Discussion Paper built on experience with provincial accessibility legislation.

* In August 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky designed and moderated a 3-hour captioned online policy experts conference on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include. Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough and her deputy minister attended and took active part in this event. It remains archived online for any Canadian province or other government around the world to learn from our ideas. This was conducted under the auspices of a coalition that formed for purposes of the Federal Government’s consultation on this bill, the Alliance for an Accessible and Inclusive Canada.

* We took part in behind-the-scenes briefings of several successive ministers that had responsibility for this file, several MPs from the various federal parties, and senior public servants involved with this issue.
* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky delivered a lecture on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include at the Osgoode Hall Law School where he is a part-time faculty member. This captioned lecture has remained available online, to assist others advocating in this area.

* Before Bill C-81 was introduced into Parliament in June 2018, we made public a beginner’s guide to how a law goes through parliament. This was written to help everyone involved in this campaign learn the processes for passing a federal law.

* We submitted a very detailed brief to the House of Commons in Fall 2017. It analyzed Bill C-81 in detail and sought 96 amendments. We also made an oral presentation to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee that held public hearings on the bill last fall.

* We joined together with ARCH Disability Law Centre and CCD to collectively spearhead an open letter to the House of Commons at the conclusion of its public hearings. Over 90 disability organizations and groups signed it. It listed key amendments needed to make this legislation strong and effective.

* After the House of Commons passed the bill with some but not all of the amendments we and others had sought, we worked together with other disability organizations to advocate at the Senate for further amendments to the bill. Again, our efforts were coordinated with other like-minded organizations, with a special effort together with ARCH and CCD.

* This spring, we submitted a brief to the Senate as well as the text of a short list of amendments that we proposed. We were also one of the disability organizations that made an oral presentation at the Senate’s Standing Committee hearings in April and May of this year. Here again, the Senate made some but not all of the amendments that we and others sought.

* At the Senate, as at the House of Commons, we were also very busy with extensive behind-the-scenes advocacy efforts with several Senators and their staff. We were delighted at how many were open to consult with us right up to the last minute.

* Over the final three weeks, we and others mounted a concerted and successful campaign to get the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. This ratification was far from a certainty when we began that effort. This included our Twitter blitz to as many MPs as possible.

Again, we joined with ARCH and CCD to create another open letter to the House of Commons. This one called for the House to approve all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. Set out below, fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed it.

* We kept our supporters and the broader public aware of each major step in this four-year campaign via our AODA Alliance updates and our tweets. This entire saga is reported at www.aodaalliance.org/canadaHere

* We attempted to use the conventional media, as well as social media, to spread the word on this campaign and get more public support for our cause. We issued news releases at several major steps along the way. Most recently, the April 30, 2019 online Toronto Star included our guest column on this campaign.

* Throughout this process, several members of the House of Commons and the Senate made supportive and flattering references to our presentations and recommendations and advocated for their adoption. We, like ARCH and CCD, were often the sources quoted when a member of the House or Senate was pointing out deficiencies with the bill and the needed improvements. Several other disability organizations pointed to and relied on the detailed analysis of the bill and the detailed recommendations for amendments that we and/or ARCH presented. We worked very closely with ARCH to coordinate our respective analysis and proposals.

4. While Helpful, Bill C-81 Still Falls Well Short of What People with Disabilities Need

While the final version of Bill C-81 is helpful and a step forward, it still suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:

* It gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, but largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.

* It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies, which is a real disadvantage to people with disabilities.

* It continues to allow federal public money to be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

* It lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.

* It is excessively complicated and hard to read. This threatens to make it less effective and harder to implement.

In the excitement over the passage of a new law called “the Accessible Canada Act,” it is important not to overstate what this law actually does. As we noted in our April 30, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, Rick Hansen incorrectly stated in a guest column in the April 22, 2019 Globe and Mail that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

We regret that the Globe never ran our letter to the editor correcting this inaccuracy, and that, to our knowledge, Mr. Hansen did not himself correct it. We had asked him to do so.

Similarly, a May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article, set out below, included these two inaccuracies about Bill C-81:

* “If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.”

* “Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.”

We wish Bill C-81 did what the Globe reported in that article and what Rick Hansen wrote in the April 22, 2019 Globe. We regret that it does not require these measures. It only permits them.

5. We’re Ready for the Next Round in This Non-Partisan Campaign

Our volunteer advocacy work is not finished. Over the next weeks and months, we will launch a non-partisan campaign to get the federal political parties to make strong commitments during the upcoming 2019 federal election campaign. We will ask them to make detailed commitments to effectively implement this law, and to strengthen it with further amendments that the Federal Government did not agree to over the past year. Stay tuned for more on this.

6. Our Advocacy Principles Served Us Well

Throughout this process we adhered to important principles:
* We never give up. We took every opportunity up to the last to get this bill strengthened. We did not simply settle for what we considered a weak bill, and we did not give up the chance to get more amendments.

* We maintained complete independence from the Federal Government by not applying for any grant money from the Government at any time. We also will seek no federal grant money in the future.

* We offered our best ideas to the Government and the disability community, focusing on amendments that are substantive and as impactful as possible for all people with disabilities.

7. The Media too Often Failed to Cover this Important Issue A Disservice to All Canadians

It remains deeply troubling that throughout the past four years, the campaign for this legislation secured very little media coverage. It deserved much more coverage, both during the 2015 federal election campaign, during the Federal Government’s 18-month public consultation leading to the bill, and during the bill’s two trips through the House of Commons and one trip through the Senate. It is commendable that despite this, a few reporters tried to cover this issue. You can find most of these reports at www.aodaalliance.org/canada

This is a newsworthy subject. This bill directly affects the needs of over five million people with disabilities in Canada. It ultimately addresses the needs of all in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they age.

The media should reflect on this. It is profoundly regrettable that the media’s preoccupation with certain scandals and perceived headline-grabbing issues has left far too many Canadians unaware that there even was a Bill C-81 or a campaign to get it strengthened.

CTV News Online May 30, 2019

First national accessibility legislation gets unanimous support in House

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/first-national-accessibility-legislation-gets-unanimous-support-in-house-1.4444877?cache=yes%3FclipId%3D375756%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3Fot%3DAjaxLayout%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3FclipId%3D89619

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Service and Procurement and Accessibility stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Disabled Canadians declared a partial victory Thursday hours after the government voted to enact Canada’s first national accessibility law, calling it a major step forward while cautioning that more work was still needed to ensure it achieves its goal.

The Accessible Canada Act, which aims to improve life for those with disabilities, received unanimous support in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening. It awaits only royal assent, expected in the coming weeks, before officially becoming law.

Advocates who fought for amendments to strengthen the legislation praised the governing Liberals for delivering on a promise to implement the bill and bring Canada more in line with other countries that have had such laws for years. But they also cautioned against complacency, saying more work lay ahead.

“We applaud the government for its willingness to listen to Canadians with disabilities,” Council of Canadians with Disabilities chair Jewelles Smith said in a statement.

“CCD reminds the government that there are many serious ongoing barriers that will not be addressed by this act, and encourages the federal government to pursue policy solutions to these well-known concerns.”

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, who spearheaded national consultations on the bill and shepherded it through Parliament, hailed its passage as a significant moment.

“This is the most transformative piece of legislation since enacting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a true testament to the work, commitment and contributions of the Canadian disability community,” she said in a statement. “This historic act sends a clear signal to Canadians that persons with disabilities will no longer be treated as an afterthought.”

The act passed by Parliament bears striking differences from the version initially tabled last June.

Its stated purpose — to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction — was greeted with enthusiasm and remains the same. Those areas include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

But disabled advocates almost immediately began raising concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation and lobbied for changes.

Last fall, a group of 95 disability groups signed an open letter outlining nine areas of perceived weakness, including the lack of a timeline for the bill’s implementation and failure to recognize various forms of sign language as official languages of the deaf.

The Senate’s committee on social affairs, science and technology, citing community concerns, amended the bill to include sign language recognition as well as a timeline for the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

Those amendments were reflected in the bill that garnered parliamentary approval.

Activists celebrated the passage of the act as genuine progress, but some continued to voice concerns about areas where they feel it still falls short.

The Arch Disability Law Centre indicated Thursday that it was particularly troubled by the language employed throughout the bill, which repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives.

This language gives government … power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers,” Arch said in a statement.

An amendment before the Senate committee addressed that concern but was defeated.

Advocates also criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies, and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures. Conservatives and New Democrats echoed those issues in Parliament.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, said the government’s failure to address those areas leaves the law lacking compared to similar legislation in other countries. She said she questions whether the law will prove significant for all its meant to serve.

“I and many like me will be at home with my broken wheelchair in my tiny box of an improperly adapted apartment living in poverty in a city with 8,000 corners where I can’t cross the street,” she said.

“Nothing in the act will change that. But I am glad Canada finally has an Accessible Canada Act, however lacking I find it, and I want to recognize the work of those who actually worked on and for it.”

The Globe and Mail May 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-federal-government-will-implement-senate-proposals-to-strengthen/

Accessibility bill will be amended to address concerns: minister

By MICHELLE MCQUIGGE
THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government will heed the calls of Canada’s disabled community and amend the country’s first piece of national accessibility legislation to
include some of the changes they sought, the minister spearheading the effort said Thursday.

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government will be adopting all the amendments the Senate introduced to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act, when it comes back before the House next week.

Earlier this month, the upper chamber’s committee on social affairs, science and technology amended the proposed act to include a handful of measures disability
advocacy organizations across the country said were necessary to make the bill more effective.

Ms. Qualtrough conceded that the government had initially resisted some of their most pressing calls, such as the demand to include a timeline that would require the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

But Ms. Qualtrough said the legislation, which was drafted after cross-country consultations with disabled individuals and advocacy groups, needed to reflect the will of the people it’s meant to serve.

“It’s just paying tribute to all the work and all the people that have been here in the past 40, 50 years really insisting that disability rights are human rights,” Ms. Qualtrough said in a telephone interview.

Activists had been crusading for Canadian accessibility legislation for decades and watched as other countries, including the United States, got laws on their books.

The Liberals began making good on an election promise to deliver a Canadian version when they tabled the Accessible Canada Act last June, pledging $290-million over six years toward its implementation.

The act’s stated purpose is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes built
environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

Barrier, as defined by the act, includes anything “architectural, physical, technological or attitudinal” that “hinders the full participation in society
of a person with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication or sensory impairment.”

Disabled Canadians reacted with wary optimism when the draft act was first tabled, but soon began voicing concerns that it was too weak to make a difference in their lives.

Last year, an open letter signed by 95 organizations, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March
of Dimes Canada, raised a number of measures they said the act must include to be effective.

Chief among their concerns was the bill’s unwillingness to include a timeline for implementation, as well as its failure to name various forms of sign language as official languages of deaf Canadians.

The Senate’s social-affairs committee, citing community concerns, amended the bill to address those issues. Ms. Qualtrough said their proposed amendments
will now be incorporated into the bill, which will come before Parliament for final debate next week and could be officially passed into law by the end of June.

The government, Ms. Qualtrough said, has already begun work to appoint the people who will be tasked with implementing and enforcing the bill.

A chief accessibility officer will oversee the implementation of the legislation across all sectors, while a new Accessibility Commissioner will be responsible
for compliance. A new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, comprised largely of people with a broad spectrum of disabilities, will also be put in place.

“Canadians deserve this,” Ms. Qualtrough said.

Activists celebrated the inclusion of the Senate’s amendments, saying they help to strengthen the bill in some key areas.

“This is an important victory,” accessibility activist David Lepofsky said in a statement. “While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies with Bill C-81 … they are an important and helpful step forward.”

Many community members said they remain concerned about other areas the Senate did not address when making revisions to the act.

The open letter criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies,
and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures.

Advocates also raised concerns about the way the bill was written. The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives,
meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them, they argued.

The Globe and Mail May 22, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-push-is-on-to-pass-canadian-accessibility-law/

Activists urge Ottawa to pass accessibility law before summer

By MIKE HAGER
Globe and Mail, May 22, 2019

VANCOUVER – Disabled Canadians and their supporters are pushing Ottawa to pass a bill enshrining their right to more accessible and inclusive federal workplaces before the next election, legislation they say could help improve the lives of those with physical and mental disabilities.

Bill Adair, a spokesperson for a group of 96 organizations, said more than a thousand people and non-profit groups have recently sent letters to every MP in a blitz aimed at getting Bill C-81, known as the Accessible Canada Act, passed by Parliament and written into law before the summer break begins next month.

“We worked hard at bringing this into effect over the past three years and it is time for our country to take this step forward and throw the doors wide open for participation,” said Mr. Adair, who is also executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada.

Mr. Adair said his umbrella group believes the bill, which would “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in agencies and programs that fall under federal jurisdiction, could help level the considerable unemployment gap for disabled people, roughly 60 per cent of whom are employed, compared with 80 per cent for the general population.

If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.

As well, the bill would recognize various forms of sign language – including Indigenous sign languages – and include them among government services.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, said passing the amended bill remains a priority for her government.

“I expect the debate in the House of Commons to take place next week coinciding with National AccessAbility Week – a timely opportunity to highlight the work our government is doing to create a more accessible and inclusive Canada for all,” her statement Tuesday said.

Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.

The government has pledged $290-million over six years toward implementing the act, which will see Ottawa appoint an accessibility commissioner and create an organization to develop accessibility standards for the industries covered by the law.

Rick Hansen, a former Paralympian whose eponymous foundation is part of the push to pass the bill, said it would be a huge disappointment if the act didn’t pass before the federal election. “Canada can’t afford to let down the one in five Canadians with disabilities,” Mr. Hansen said.

In the absence of national accessibility standards, his organization is launching an awareness campaign called Everyone Everywhere to identify common barriers disabled people face. These include: a lack of visual fire alarms; no push button doors at a building’s main entrance; steep curbs, narrow parking spaces, circular doorknobs; signage without Braille or raised lettering; ramps that are too steep or not wide enough and a lack of grab bars in bathrooms.

Mr. Hansen said a pilot project completed over two years rated about 1,100 buildings across B.C.

for their accessibility and found just more than a third didn’t meet the minimum standard.

Mr. Hansen’s organization also commissioned a Conference Board of Canada report last year that suggested the estimated 2.9 million Canadians with physical disabilities would be able to contribute $16.8-billion more to the gross domestic product by 2030 if they faced fewer barriers to participating in the workforce. Earlier this year, an independent review found deficiencies to nearly all aspects of Ontario’s 14-yearold accessibility law, including that too many buildings are still designed in ways that make it impossible for some disabled people to enter.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouverbased writer who led a campaign that created a matted trail for wheelchair users to access one of the city’s most popular beaches last summer, said Bill C-81 needs to give Ottawa the teeth to limit the funding of any agencies not making the effort to improve life for disabled Canadians. Ms. Peters, who uses a wheelchair, said she is genuinely uncertain how the legislation would affect her own life and the lives of other disabled people if it passes. Text of the ARCH Disability Law Centre May 30, 2109 News Release

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/press-release-arch-disability-law-centre-welcomes-the-passage-of-the-accessible-canada-act/ Press Release ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act

ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, an important moment in Canadas disability rights movement continuing towards our goal of full inclusion and equality for persons with disabilities across Canada.

The Accessible Canada Act is federal accessibility legislation. Its stated purpose is to achieve a barrier free Canada by 2040. To do this, the Act gives powers to the Government of Canada, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission to create new legal requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, the built environment, transportation, procurement of goods, services and facilities, information and communication technologies, communication, and the design and delivery of programs and services. These new legal requirements will be aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers, which the Act defines as anything that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or functional limitation.

Bill C-81 Accessible Canada Act was first introduced in the House of Commons in June 2018. As the Bill wound its way through the legislative process, a number of important changes were made to it. In particular, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made several amendments which strengthened the Bill. For example, SOCI included in the Bill a timeline of 2040 for achieving a barrier free Canada; added multiple and intersectional discrimination as a principle which must be considered when laws, policies, services and programs are developed; clarified that nothing in the Bill or its regulations limits the existing legal obligation to accommodate persons with disabilities; and recognized sign languages as the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.

SOCI adopted these amendments after receiving recommendations from disability organizations across Canada. ARCH thanks Senators for listening to the concerns of disability communities and taking action to address them. The amendments made by the Senate strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We commend Minister Qualtrough and the Government for voting to pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments made by the Senate said Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of ARCH.

Throughout Bill C-81s journey, disability communities across Canada were actively involved in advocating for the Bill to be as strong as possible. ARCH worked closely with Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), AODA Alliance and over 90 national, provincial and local disability groups. To support disability communities with their advocacy, ARCH wrote an extensive legal analysis of Bill C-81, provided updates on the Bills progress in our quarterly newsletter, gave presentations on the legislation, and produced a series of Briefing Notes explaining key amendments sought. ARCH also worked with CCD and AODA Alliance to coordinate 2 Open Letter campaigns. Advocating to strengthen Bill C-81 has provided opportunities for disability communities to work together. It has been a privilege to work closely with so many dedicated advocates. The Accessible Canada Act is stronger because of their tireless work said Kerri Joffe, ARCH Staff Lawyer.

Despite the helpful amendments that were made to the legislation, a number of concerns raised by ARCH and other disability groups remain. One such weakness is the use of permissive language may rather than directive language shall or must in the Accessible Canada Act. This language gives government, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the CRTC and other bodies power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers.

The Accessible Canada Act has been passed by the House of Commons, but there is still one more step before it becomes law the Act must receive Royal Asset. ARCH urges the Government to ensure that the Act receives Royal Assent before the next federal election is called.

For more details contact:

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director
416-482-8255 x. 2233

Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer
416-482-8255 x. 2222

Open Letter to the House of Commons Updated

Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament
Date: May 14, 2019
The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.
We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.
The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities. SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committees debates by stating that the committees amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: Nothing about us without us.
While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senates amendments improve Bill C-81. The amendments include: setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people; making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bills employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.
It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senates amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senates amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.
We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senates amendments to Bill C-81.
If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the fall election. Signed:
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
StopGap Foundation
Travel for All
Older Womens Network
PONDA
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs
Keremeos Measuring Up Team
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada The Project Group Consulting Cooperative
VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) DeafBlind Ontario Services
March of Dimes Canada
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Québec Accessible
CNIB
Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Rick Hansen Foundation
Access 2 Accessibility
BALANCE for Blind Adults
Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)
Canadian Association of the Deaf Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC) Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)
Community Living Ontario
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
Hydrocephalus Canada
LArche Canada
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) NWT Disability Council
Realize
Tetra Society of North America Ontario Division
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Vibrant Healthcare Alliance
Vie Autonome Montréal
Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec
Association multiethnique pour lintégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
Canadian Association for Community Living
Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance
Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)
Deaf Literacy Initiative
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)
Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
National Network for Mental Health
OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada People First of Canada
reachAbility Association
Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Silent Voice Canada Inc.
The Canadian Council of the Blind
The Club Inclusion
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter) Family Network for Deaf Children
SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)
Disability Awareness Consultants
Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)
Empowered Kids Ontario Enfants Avenir Ontario
Sound Times Support Services
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities
JRG Society for the Arts
A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland
Community Inclusion Society
Abilities Centre
Ontario Association of the Deaf
L’Arche Comox Valley
ALS Society of Canada
Saskatchewan ALS Society
Lettre ouverte pour une rapide ratification des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81, la Loi canadienne sur laccessibilité. À: Tous les membres du Parlement
Date: 14 mai 2019
Nous, les soussignés, organisations nationales, provinciales et locales de personnes handicapées, recommandons à tous les membres du Parlement de sengager à adopter rapidement toutes les modifications au projet de loi C-81, Loi canadienne sur laccessibilité, adoptées le 2 mai 2019 par le Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, sciences et technologie (SOCI).
Nous félicitons lhonorable ministre Carla Qualtrough davoir défendu ce projet de loi et, tel quexprimé au Comité sénatorial permanent, de son ouverture envers les modifications proposées.
Le Comité sénatorial a entendu une vaste gamme dorganisations de personnes en situation de handicap et dintervenants marteler le besoin dune loi nationale sur laccessibilité et recommander lamélioration de certains secteurs afin que le projet de loi atteigne son objectif, à savoir faire du Canada un pays exempt dobstacles. En clôturant les débats, la sénatrice Chantal Peticlerc, présidente du SOCI, a déclaré que les modifications apportées par le Comité traduisaient le slogan des collectivités de personnes handicapées Rien pour nous, sans nous.
Bien que nincluant pas toutes les améliorations revendiquées par les organisations de personnes handicapées et les intervenants, les modifications sénatoriales améliorent le projet de loi C-81. Elles stipulent : que le Canada devienne un pays totalement exempt dobstacles dici 2040; que cet échéancier ne justifie aucun délai quant à lélimination et la prévention des obstacles le plus tôt possible; que lAmerican Sign Language, de la langue des signes québécoise et de les langues des signes autochtones soient reconnues comme langues de communication fondamentales des personnes Sourdes; que les formes multiples et intersectorielles de discrimination subies par les personnes en situation de handicap soient un principe sous-tendant lapplication du projet de loi; que le projet de loi C-81 et les règlements afférents ne puissent restreindre les droits humains des personnes handicapées, garantis par la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne; que lors du règlement des plaintes basées sur les obstacles dans les transports, lOffice des transports du Canada ne puisse atténuer les droits des voyageurs en situation de handicap, actuellement garantis; que soient réglés les problèmes identifiés par le gouvernement fédéral entre les dispositions du projet de loi en matière demploi et la loi régissant la GRC.
Le Sénat devrait adopter le projet de loi C-81, tel que modifié, avant le 16 mai 2019. Le projet de loi reviendra alors en la Chambre des communes pour un vote sur les modifications sénatoriales. Et pour que le projet de loi devienne rapidement loi, ces modifications doivent absolument être adoptées.
Nous demandons à la Chambre des communes de programmer un vote aussitôt que possible et nous demandons à tous les membres du Parlement de voter en faveur des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81.
La Chambre des communes affaiblira le projet de loi si elle se contente de moins; dans ce cas-là, la course parlementaire de ce projet de loi risque dêtre stoppée avant lélection de cet automne. Lettre ouverte signée par:
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
StopGap Foundation
Travel for All
Older Womens Network
PONDA
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs
Keremeos Measuring Up Team
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada The Project Group Consulting Cooperative
VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) DeafBlind Ontario Services
March of Dimes Canada
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Québec Accessible
CNIB
Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Rick Hansen Foundation
Access 2 Accessibility
BALANCE for Blind Adults
Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)
Canadian Association of the Deaf Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC) Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)
Community Living Ontario
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
Hydrocephalus Canada
LArche Canada
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) NWT Disability Council
Realize
Tetra Society of North America Ontario Division
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Vibrant Healthcare Alliance
Vie Autonome Montréal
Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec
Association multiethnique pour lintégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
Canadian Association for Community Living
Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance
Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)
Deaf Literacy Initiative
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)
Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
National Network for Mental Health
OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada People First of Canada
reachAbility Association
Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Silent Voice Canada Inc.
The Canadian Council of the Blind
The Club Inclusion
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter) Family Network for Deaf Children
SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)
Disability Awareness Consultants
Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)
Empowered Kids Ontario Enfants Avenir Ontario
Sound Times Support Services
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities
JRG Society for the Arts
A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland
Community Inclusion Society
Abilities Centre
Ontario Association of the Deaf
L’Arche Comox Valley
ALS Society of Canada
Saskatchewan ALS Society



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An Important Victory – The Trudeau Government Announced Yesterday that It will Vote in the House of Commons to Ratify All the Senate’s 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

May 23, 2019

Yesterday, May 22, 2019, the Federal Government announced by email and Twitter that it will vote to approve all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate passed earlier this month. The debate in the House of Commons on these amendments is expected to begin next week according to the Federal Government. Next week also happens to be National accessibility Week in Canada.

“This is an important victory for those disability advocates who have devoted so much effort and energy over the past weeks and months to strengthen Bill C-81,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, which has campaigned on accessibility for people with disabilities for many years, and which has been involved in the campaign for this legislation since at least 2014. “The Senate’s amendments set 2040 as the legal deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities, and cut back on the power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations that could weaken the accessibility rights of passengers with disabilities when travelling on airlines or other inter-provincial modes of transportation, among other things.”

While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies with Bill C-81 with which we have been concerned, they are an important and helpful step forward. The AODA Alliance and others have been hard at work over the past three weeks, mounting an all-out blitz on social media and elsewhere to press all MPs in the House of Commons to agree to vote to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. It was by no means a certainty that the Federal Government, which holds a majority in the House of Commons, would agree to do so. Opposition parties in the House of Commons have since last fall been supporting our call for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

We express our gratitude and appreciation to the Federal Government, including the minister responsible for this bill, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, for making its announcement yesterday in which it agreed to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We thank the opposition parties that have pressed for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

The House of Commons only needs to hold one vote to ratify these amendments. No further public hearings or Standing Committee study of the bill are needed. Once the amendments are passed during that vote, Bill C-81 will have completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament. It will be a law. It will come into force when the Federal Government gives Bill C-81 royal assent. The Federal Government decides when that will take place.

With the Federal Government’s announcement yesterday, there is no doubt that the vote in the House of Commons will be successful. The bill had been unanimously passed last fall on Third Reading in the House of Commons. That was the case even though opposition parties had agreed with us and other similarly-disposed disability advocates that Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. It is an important fact that up to now, all provincial accessibility legislation passed so far in Ontario in 2005, in Manitoba in 2013 and in Nova Scotia in 2017, has passed unanimously.

“This good news does not mean that our advocacy work is finished,” said Lepofsky. “Our attention now turns to the federal election this fall. We will be unleashing a non-partisan campaign to get election commitments from all the federal political parties regarding the future of Bill C-81 and its implementation and enforcement.”

We thank all those who have toiled tirelessly at the grassroots to help our campaign in the Senate and the House of Commons to get Bill C-81 strengthened. Every tweet or re-tweet, and every email or phone call to a Senator or MP, plays a crucial part in our efforts.

We thank all the disability organizations, numbering at least 71, that signed the open letter to the House of Commons sent earlier this month, that called for the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. The AODA Alliance is a co-signatory to that letter. We also thank all those other disability organizations with whom we have teamed up over the past weeks and months to work on our shared objective of getting Bill C-81 strengthened.

Today’s announcement again shows that we were right to not simply accept Bill C-81 as it was, when the House of Commons passed it last fall. It was right for us and so many others to agree that people with disabilities deserve better, and to keep working to get the Senate to strengthen the bill. The improvements that we and others have won are helpful and important.

Our tenacity has always been one of our strengths. We remain resolved to do what we can with Bill C-81 to make as much progress as we can for over five million people with disabilities in Canada, and to keep working to get the bill further improved in the future.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail
To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/ For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/canada



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Despite No Announced Plans to Implement the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report, the Ford Government Gives 1.3 Million Dollars to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Program — A Use of Public Money We Don’t Support


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

May 17, 2019

SUMMARY

Why has the Ford Government dragged its feet for months on taking new action to effectively implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)? Why instead, amidst a flurry of its controversial budget cuts across the Ontario Government, has the Government decided to invest 1.3 million new public dollars over two years in the private accessibility certification process now operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF)?

This is not an appropriate use of public money. Instead, the Ford Government needs to now announce a bold and comprehensive plan of action to implement the key recommendations of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Any new public money in this area should be allocated to that effort.

The Ford Government has in effect done nothing new to strengthen the AODA’s implementation in its first 11 months in office, apart from this new announcement. It has been 106 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and Enforcement. The Government has announced no plans to implement that Report’s spectrum of recommendations. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility minister Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in that report and that Ontario has only progressed 30% towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities.

The Onley Report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025 as the AODA requires. It concluded that progress on accessibility in Ontario has proceeded at a glacial pace, and that Ontario remains a province full of disability barriers.

Instead of announcing any new measures that the Onley Report recommended, in this spring’s Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it is giving the RHF some 1.3 million dollars over two years for its private accessibility certification process. We have serious concerns with this.

We have been on the public record for over four years expressing our strong opposition to any public money going into any private accessibility certification process, no matter who runs it. This Update tells you why. In summary:

a) A private accessibility certification in reality certifies nothing. It provides no defence to enforcement proceedings under the AODA, the Ontario Building Code, a municipal bylaw, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

b) A private accessibility certification process lacks an assurance of public accountability.

c) A private certification of accessibility can be misleading to the public, including to people with disabilities.

d) The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another.

e) Spending public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money.

f) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take, but it did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.

MORE DETAILS

1. Why We Oppose Public Money Being Spent to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Process, No Matter Who Operates It A Closer Look

1. Overview

The RHF has for some time been offering a private accessibility certification process for buildings. From what we understand, an organization can choose to pay the RHF to have someone visit that building and give it an accessibility rating based on whatever standard of accessibility that the RHF has decided to use. They call this an accessibility “certification.” You can learn more about the RHF program by visiting its website at: https://www.rickhansen.com/become-accessible

We have several serious concerns about investing any public money in this. It is not a responsible use of public money. We voice these concerns no matter what organization were to be publicly funded to conduct this private accessibility certification process. We voiced these concerns before the RHF began offering its certification services. We recognize the RHF’s good work in other areas.

Whether a private organization wants to offer its accessibility certification services, and whether any organizations wish to pay for those services, is up to those organizations. The issue we address here is whether the taxpayer’s money should be used to help subsidize this.

We have publicly stated over the past four years that the Ontario Government should not invest any public money in a private accessibility certification process. The former Ontario Government flirted with the idea of investing public money in a private accessibility certification process four years ago. It evidently invested a great deal of public money in a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to create a public report exploring this idea. We took part in that consultation and voiced our strong and principled opposition to this whole idea as a place to put any public money.

Fortunately, the former Government eventually saw the light, and dropped the idea. It is deeply troubling that the new Ford Government is going further down the wrong road that the former Government had explored.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief to Deloitt on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process, visit https://www.aoda.ca/aoda-alliance-sends-the-deloitte-company-its-submission-on-the-first-phase-of-the-deloitte-companys-public-consultation-on-the-wynne-governments-problem-ridden-proposal-to-fund-a-new-private-ac/

2. A Private Accessibility Certification in Reality Certifies Nothing

The very idea of a private organization certifying another organization or its building as accessible is fraught with problems. Organizations that seek this certification of their building will eventually realize that a so-called accessibility certification through a private accessibility certification process is not what it may appear to be.

Such a certification does not mean that the organization is in fact accessible. All that is certified is a building. The services delivered inside the building may have serious accessibility barriers.

Moreover, the certification does not even mean that the built environment in the building is in fact accessible and free of disability barriers.

Such a certification cannot give that organization a defence if there is an objection that the building does not comply with accessibility requirements in the AODA, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaws. An accessibility certification similarly does not provide a defence if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, or in the case of a public-sector organization, a disability equality rights claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. An organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaw, or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law and was accessible.

In addition, a private accessibility certification can have a very limited shelf-life. If anything changes in that building, such as a garbage can blocking an accessibility ramp, the assertion of certified accessibility becomes disconnected with the actual experience of people with disabilities.

When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as is under development in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

An accessibility certification from a private accessibility certification process ultimately means nothing authoritative. At most, it is an expression of opinion by a private self-appointed certifying organization that it thinks the building in question meets whatever standard for accessibility that the private certifying organization chooses to use. That standard may itself be deficient. Its inspection may be faulty or incomplete.

It is therefore an over-statement to call this an accessibility certification. What it boils down to in real terms is something along the lines of the advice an organization might seek from one of many accessibility consultants.

Several such consultants now operate in Ontario, on a fee-for-service basis. They are available to audit an organization’s building or its plans for a new building. They can give advice on barriers in the building. They can recommend accessibility improvements to an existing building or plans for a new building. What they give is advice, not certification.

As well, there is no assurance that the people who do the actual certifying have as much expertise on accessibility as do other accessibility consultants.

3. A Private Accessibility Certification Process Lacks an Assurance of Public Accountability

There is no assurance of public accountability in a private accessibility certification process. For example, the public has no way to know or assure itself that the private certifier is making accurate assessments.

4. A Private Certification of Accessibility Can Be Misleading to the Public, Including to People with Disabilities

If an organization receives a top-level accessibility certification, that organization may be led to think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be led to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This may turn out not to be the case if the certifier uses an insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if things change in the building after the certification is granted.

5. The Government Should Not Be Subsidizing One Accessibility Consultant over Another

In a field where there are a number of accessibility consultants providing advisory services, there is no good reason why the Ontario Government should choose to subsidize one of them. If it were to do so, it should presumably first hold an open competitive bid process. It should not be limited to an organization that calls its accessibility advice a “certification” for the reasons set out above.

Moreover, we see no reason why there should be any public subsidy here. Such an accessibility certification should simply operate on a fee-for-service basis, as do all other accessibility consultants and advisors, whether or not they call their advice accessibility certification.”

6. Spending Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process Is Not a Priority for Efforts on Accessibility in Ontario or a Responsible use of Public Money

Due to its concern over the public debt and deficit, the Ford Government is now implementing major and controversial budget cuts in a large number of areas across the Government. At least some of those cuts have real and troubling implications for people with disabilities.

If the Ontario Government was looking for somewhere to inject a new spending of 1.3 million public dollars to serve the needs of people with disabilities, including in the accessibility context, public spending on a private accessibility certification process would certainly not be a priority. It is not an appropriate public expenditure.

For example, as we covered in our May 13, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Ford Government appears to be cutting its expenditures on existing Standards Development Committees that are doing work in the health care and education areas. This new 1.3 million dollars could better be spent in part to ensure that there is no cut to the number of days that those Standards Development Committees can work.

As well, there is a pressing need for the Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend an appropriate accessibility standard to deal with barriers in the built environment. These public funds could also be far better used to beef up the flagging and weak enforcement of the AODA.

7. The Onley Report Recommended Important Measures to Address Disability Barriers in the Built Environment that the Ford Government has not yet Agreed to take, But it did not Recommend Spending Scarce Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process

It is striking that the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, which Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho called “marvelous,” did not recommend that public money be spent on a private accessibility certification process. This takes on special importance since the AODA Alliance had urged the Onley Report not to recommend any public investment in a private accessibility certification process. Below we set out an excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review.

It makes no sense for the Ford Government to announce only one new action on the accessibility front, and for it not to be any of the priority actions that that the Onley Report recommended. The Ford Government indicated last fall that it was awaiting the Onley Report before deciding on what to do in the area of accessibility for people with disabilities. In his December 20, 2018 letter to the chair of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, Accessibility Minister Cho wrote:

“In this regard, we will be waiting to review Mr. Onleys report before considering the best path forward to further improving accessibility in Ontario.”

We commend the Onley Report for not recommending that public money be spent in that area. Mr. Onley clearly knew about this issue from our brief and from his prior activities in the accessibility field. He declared that the built environment should be a priority area for new action. Moreover, he offered other specific recommendations to address barriers in the built environment recommendations that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take.

More broadly, the Onley Report also made a number of important recommendations for new Government action on accessibility beyond the built environment. With one exception addressed below (that is not relevant here), the Government has not yet announced any action on any of them, even though it has had the Onley Report for some 106 days.

Moreover, last July, long before the Onley Report was submitted, we called on the Ford Government to take a number of the priority actions that the Onley Report was later to recommend. See the AODA Alliance’s July 17, 2018 letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho and our July 19, 2018 letter to premier Doug Ford. Publicly funding a private accessibility certification process is not a substitute for, or better than, Government action on any of those important priorities.

Over the past eleven months, the only new action which the Ford Government has announced on accessibility and that is recommended in the Onley Report has been to belatedly lift the Government’s unwarranted and harmful 9-month freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees that were previously developing recommendations for what to include in new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education. Yet it was the Ford Government that let that freeze run for nine months.

Investing public funds in implementing key recommendations in the Onley Report is far more important to progress on accessibility for people with disabilities than publicly subsidizing a private accessibility certification process.

2. Excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement, Entitled “The Need for New Accessibility Standards, Including a Strong and Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard”

d) The Ontario Government Should Not Invest Public Funds in or Support any Private Accessibility Certification Process in Ontario

Several years ago, the former Ontario Government toyed with the idea of supporting the establishment of a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. It evidently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to explore this. Eventually, after Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid was shuffled out of the AODA portfolio in June 2016, this idea was in effect dropped. We opposed the idea of a private accessibility certification process and opposed the Government investing any public money in it. We urge this AODA Independent Review not to re-open that topic, and not to recommend a private accessibility certification process.

The February 1, 2016 AODA Alliance Update set out this backgrounder on this issue, including a summary of the AODA Alliance’s submission to the Deloitt consulting firm. It said:

“Back on November 16, 2015, the Wynne Government launched a public consultation on its proposal that the Government create a private process for an as-yet-unnamed private organization to provide a private, voluntary accessibility certification of the obligated organization. The Government’s November 16, 2015 email, news release and web posting on this were thin on details.

The Government did not have its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation. Instead, at public expense, the Wynne Government hired the private Deloitte firm to consult the public.

Last fall, we moved as fast as possible to prepare and circulate a draft submission to Deloitte. It was emailed and posted on the web for public comment on November 25, 2015. We have repeatedly sent out invitations for input on it via Twitter and Facebook.

Last fall, we promptly shared our draft submission with Deloitte and with senior Government officials. On December 5, 2015, we wrote Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid to ask for important specifics on the Deloitte consultation. The Government has not answered that letter.

2. Summary of the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 Submission to the Deloitte Company

This submission’s feedback on the idea of the Ontario Government financing the creation of a private accessibility certification process is summarized as follows:

1. It is important to probe beyond any superficial attractiveness that some might think a private accessibility certification process has.

2. It is important for the Government to first decide whether it will adopt a private accessibility certification process, before public money and the public’s effort are invested in deciding on the details of how such a process would work. Several serious concerns set out in this submission are fatal to any such proposal, however its details are designed.

3. Instead of diverting limited public and private resources, effort and time into a problematic private accessibility certification process, the Government should instead increase efforts at creating all the AODA accessibility standards needed to ensure full accessibility by 2025 and keeping its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA. A private accessibility certification process is no substitute for needed accessibility standards that show obligated organizations what they need to do, and a full and comprehensive AODA audit or inspection, conducted by a director or inspector duly authorized under the AODA.

4. The Government cannot claim that it has deployed the AODA’s compliance/enforcement powers to the fullest and gotten from the AODA all it can in terms of increasing accessibility among obligated organizations. The Government has invested far too little in AODA enforcement.

5. The entire idea of a private organization certifying an obligated organization as “accessible” is fraught with inescapable problems. Obligated organizations will ultimately realize that a so-called “accessibility certification” through a private accessibility certification process is practically useless. It does not mean that their organization is in fact accessible. It cannot give that obligated organization any defence if an AODA inspection or audit reveals that the organization is not in compliance with an AODA accessibility standard, or if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. An obligated organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law.

6. A private accessibility certification could mislead people with disabilities into thinking an organization is fully accessible in a situation where that organization is not in fact fully accessible.

7. Obligated organizations that have spent their money on a private accessibility certification will understandably become angry or frustrated when they find that this certification does not excuse unlawful conduct. They will understandably share these feelings with their business associates. Ontarians with disabilities don’t need the Government launching a new process that will risk generating such backlash.

8. A private accessibility certification could have a very limited shelf-life. When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as it has promised to do in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

9. The Government’s idea that a private accessibility certification process would be self-financing creates additional serious problems.

10. Any private certification process raises serious concerns about public accountability. As such, the public will not be able to find out how it is operating, beyond any selective information that the Government or the private certifier decides to make public. Without full access to the activities and records of a private certifier, the public cannot effectively assess how this private accessibility certification process is working, and whether it is helping or hurting the accessibility cause”



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In a powerful Open Letter sent to the House of Commons, An Extraordinary Lineup of Twenty-Eight Disability Organizations Unite to Press for the House of Commons’ Ratification of All the Amendments that the Senate Just Passed to Strengthen 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

May 15, 2019

SUMMARY

A strong concerted effort by Canada’s disability community has been unveiled to get the House of Commons to swiftly ratify all the amendments that the Senate just passed to improve Bill C-81, the Federal Government’s proposed Accessible Canada Act. This legislation is needed to tear down the many accessibility barriers that impede over six million people with disabilities in Canada, in areas that the Federal Government can regulate, such as air travel, banking, broadcast, telecommunication services, and the services of the Federal Government itself.

Twenty-eight disability organizations in Canada have just united to jointly send the House of Commons an open letter, set out below. It urges all MPs to swiftly ratify all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate recently passed. Check out what those Senate amendments say, and why they’re needed.

This open letter, which the Council of Canadians with Disabilities delivered to all MPs on behalf of its 28 signatories (all listed below), explains that these amendments improve the bill. The Senate formulated these amendments after holding public hearings, where disability organizations and advocates pointed out the need to strengthen the bill that the House of Commons originally passed last fall. The Senate got the message, and formulated a short package of 11 amendments that together fit on two pages.

If the House of Commons passes all these amendments, the bill becomes a law. If the House of Commons rejects even one of those amendments, the bill must go back to the Senate yet again. As the open letter explains, that could delay the bill at a time when Parliament will soon rise for the fall election campaign.

The timing of this open letter is pivotal. A swift House of Commons vote on these amendments is needed to ensure that the bill does not die on the order paper.

“A federal election is fast approaching, and Canada has millions of voters with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance who made presentations to a House of Commons Standing Committee last fall, and a Senate Standing Committee last month, on why this bill needed to be strengthened. “What political party would want to vote against measures to strengthen protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 and risk it dying on the order paper?”

Any disability organization or group, whether national, provincial or local, can co-sign this open letter. The list of signatories will be updated as more disability organizations and groups sign on.

For your Organization/Group to co-sign this letter, just email [email protected]

Please give the following information:
a) Name of your organization/Group
b) Name of a contact person at your organization/group
c) Email address for your organization/group
d) A statement to the effect that:
My organization/group would like to sign the May 14, 2019 Open Letter to the House of Commons on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81 Accessible Canada Act.

To see more about the blitz that the AODA Alliance now has underway to press MPs to vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

MORE DETAILS

Text of the May 14, 2019 Open Letter from Disability Organizations and Groups to the House of Commons of Canada

Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament
Date: May 14, 2019
The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.
We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.
The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities. SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committees debates by stating that the committees amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: Nothing about us without us.
While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senates amendments improve Bill C-81. The amendments include: setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people; making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bills employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.
It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senates amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senates amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.
We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senates amendments to Bill C-81.
If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the fall election. Signed:
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)
Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
StopGap Foundation
Travel for All
Older Womens Network
Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs
Keremeos Measuring Up Team
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada The Project Group Consulting Cooperative
VIEWS Ontario for the Vision Impaired
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) DeafBlind Ontario Services
March of Dimes Canada
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Québec Accessible
CNIB Foundation (Ontario and Québec)
Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Rick Hansen Foundation
Lettre ouverte pour une rapide ratification des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81, la Loi canadienne sur laccessibilité. À: Tous les membres du Parlement
Date: 14 mai 2019
Nous, les soussignés, organisations nationales, provinciales et locales de personnes handicapées, recommandons à tous les membres du Parlement de sengager à adopter rapidement toutes les modifications au projet de loi C-81, Loi canadienne sur laccessibilité, adoptées le 2 mai 2019 par le Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, sciences et technologie (SOCI).
Nous félicitons lhonorable ministre Carla Qualtrough davoir défendu ce projet de loi et, tel quexprimé au Comité sénatorial permanent, de son ouverture envers les modifications proposées.
Le Comité sénatorial a entendu une vaste gamme dorganisations de personnes en situation de handicap et dintervenants marteler le besoin dune loi nationale sur laccessibilité et recommander lamélioration de certains secteurs afin que le projet de loi atteigne son objectif, à savoir faire du Canada un pays exempt dobstacles. En clôturant les débats, la sénatrice Chantal Peticlerc, présidente du SOCI, a déclaré que les modifications apportées par le Comité traduisaient le slogan des collectivités de personnes handicapées Rien pour nous, sans nous.
Bien que nincluant pas toutes les améliorations revendiquées par les organisations de personnes handicapées et les intervenants, les modifications sénatoriales améliorent le projet de loi C-81. Elles stipulent : que le Canada devienne un pays totalement exempt dobstacles dici 2040; que cet échéancier ne justifie aucun délai quant à lélimination et la prévention des obstacles le plus tôt possible; que lAmerican Sign Language, de la langue des signes québécoise et de les langues des signes autochtones soient reconnues comme langues de communication fondamentales des personnes Sourdes; que les formes multiples et intersectorielles de discrimination subies par les personnes en situation de handicap soient un principe sous-tendant lapplication du projet de loi; que le projet de loi C-81 et les règlements afférents ne puissent restreindre les droits humains des personnes handicapées, garantis par la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne; que lors du règlement des plaintes basées sur les obstacles dans les transports, lOffice des transports du Canada ne puisse atténuer les droits des voyageurs en situation de handicap, actuellement garantis; que soient réglés les problèmes identifiés par le gouvernement fédéral entre les dispositions du projet de loi en matière demploi et la loi régissant la GRC.
Le Sénat devrait adopter le projet de loi C-81, tel que modifié, avant le 16 mai 2019. Le projet de loi reviendra alors en la Chambre des communes pour un vote sur les modifications sénatoriales. Et pour que le projet de loi devienne rapidement loi, ces modifications doivent absolument être adoptées.
Nous demandons à la Chambre des communes de programmer un vote aussitôt que possible et nous demandons à tous les membres du Parlement de voter en faveur des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81.
La Chambre des communes affaiblira le projet de loi si elle se contente de moins; dans ce cas-là, la course parlementaire de ce projet de loi risque dêtre stoppée avant lélection de cet automne. Lettre ouverte signée par:
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)
Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
StopGap Foundation
Travel for All
Older Womens Network
Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs
Keremeos Measuring Up Team
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada The Project Group Consulting Cooperative
VIEWS Ontario for the Vision Impaired Doing It Blind
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) DeafBlind Ontario Services
March of Dimes Canada
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Québec Accessible
CNIB Foundation (Ontario and Québec)
Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Rick Hansen Foundation



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Canada’s Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill


But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?

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

May 14, 2019

SUMMARY

Last evening the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading, complete with all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs added to the bill on May 2, 2019. This is an important step forward for this bill, and a helpful step for people with disabilities in Canada. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of the Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 that took place in the Senate last evening.

The first among the speeches on the bill was by Senator Jim Munson. Senator Munson is the Federal Government’s sponsor of the bill in the Senate. It is likely that some or all of his speech was written by the Federal Government.

Bill C-81 is not yet an enforceable law. It is still just a bill, a proposed law.

For Bill C-81 to become a law, it must go back to the House of Commons. The House must vote on the amendments that the Senate has added to the bill. If the House of Commons passes all those amendments, Bill C-81 becomes a law. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of those amendments, it remains a bill, a proposed law. The Senate would then have to vote again on the bill, but without the Senate’s amendments.

Thus, all attention must now focus on the House of Commons, and especially on the Trudeau Government which has a majority of seats in the House. The Federal Government has not yet said it will vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

As we announced days ago, we and many other people with disabilities and disability organizations are campaigning to get the House of Commons to pass ALL the amendments to the bill that the Senate has just passed. We are focusing special attention on the Senate’s commendable amendments that would set the time line of 2040 for Canada to reach full accessibility to people with disabilities, while making it clear that this may not delay progress before then on accessibility.

For tips on how to help with this time-sensitive blitz, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

Please email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/ To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

Our overall strategy regarding Bill C-81 is unfolding as we planned. The Senate’s amendments, for which we and others fought so hard, help improve this bill. The bill clearly needed improvements. Now the issue will come before the House of Commons just months before an impending federal election.

From a disability advocacy perspective, this timing is very helpful to our cause. What elected politician or party would want to vote against measures to strengthen the protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What elected politician or party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 from becoming a law?

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Senate of Canada Hansard May 13, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/287db_2019-05-13-e

Accessible Canada Bill

Third Reading

Hon. Jim Munson moved third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, as amended.

He said: Honourable senators, what a journey we have been on. What a journey all of us have been on.

Senators, as the sponsor of this bill, I’m pleased to speak tonight at the third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, also known as the Accessible Canada Act. I am humbled and honoured to speak to a bill that will no doubt become a proud part of Canadian history.

Making history takes dedication, hard work and perseverance. So I want to acknowledge the work of many people who helped get this bill to this stage.

I want to thank the chair and deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Senators Petitclerc and Seidman, and all members who attended the committee meetings. Questions were engaging and led to an enlightening input from witnesses and to constructive amendments. This committee works so well together; I am honoured to be a member.

Thank you also to our clerk and administrator, Dan Charbonneau and Ericka Dupont, for arranging sign language, ASL, and CART services, Communication Access Real-time Translation, and the special room set-up, which helped to make the Senate committee meetings the most accessible to date. The Senate should be proud in this regard. We have shown leadership by example.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Carla Qualtrough. She and her team have shown great leadership on accessibility, and I can confidently say that Bill C-81 enjoys widespread support due to their efforts.

Most importantly, I want to recognize persons with disabilities, stakeholders, and organizations who all play a crucial role in accessibility in Canada. They have all invested tremendous work and energy into this historic bill, ensuring that it reflects the priorities of persons with disabilities. Their contributions have been instrumental in getting the bill in its amended form to this stage. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and stories with us. I know it takes courage. We could not have done any of this without your involvement and expertise. Some of those folks are here in the Senate tonight.

Senators Petitclerc and Seidman gave excellent speeches at the report stage of the bill last week, summarizing the amendments that were adopted at committee. I will not go over the amendments and details again. However, I do want to highlight some important testimony.

Over the course of our committee hearings we heard repeatedly that the time for an accessible Canada act is now. Canadians facing barriers to fully participating in their workplaces and society told us and are still telling us to pass this bill into law. Here is what Bill Adair from Spinal Cord Injury Canada and with the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, or FALA, told us at committee:

What people are telling us across the country who are participating with FALA is: We want the bill. Give us something to work with. Yes, push for the changes, but at the end of the day, before the election, we want the bill. That gives us structure and the framework so that we can get to work on removing barriers and we want it now. We’ve been waiting far too long and this is our day.

Senators, everyone is eager to see this bill become law. We must continue our essential work in order to take it over the finish line. This community has waited long enough for this recognition and respect.

Another significant and positive change is that Bill C-81 will shift the responsibility on to the system and away from the individuals facing barriers in their daily lives. Diane Bergeron from CNIB said during her testimony:

Having a disability is exhausting, and I do not say that lightly. But when you have to deal with discrimination, rights violations, different pieces of legislation, criticisms, people not thinking that you have value, it makes it worse. The current system is unfair and unacceptable.

Colleagues, we know the history. It is one of institutionalization, sterilization and social isolation. Canada had a system that took children away from their families and power away from our citizens. Persons with disabilities were seen as burdens and treated as if they were broken. Our country simply cannot continue to place the burden of advancing human rights on individuals. We can do better, and we must do better. In fact, with this bill we will do better.

In addition to this necessary shift in responsibility, the accessible Canada act, when passed, will set best practices and a framework that the provinces and the private sector can mirror. Most importantly, this bill will start to shift culture, perception and understanding of what inclusion in our society should really look like. I cannot come up with a better analogy that encompasses my hope for what this legislation will achieve than that of Minister Qualtrough. You have to be a sports fan to get this. I couldn’t agree more when she said at committee:

I think we will look back on this as a “TSN Turning Point” on disability rights and the way we talk about disability in this country.

The words of the minister.

Honourable senators, in 2017, approximately 6.2 million people, or about 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability. This percentage is expected to increase in the coming years due to Canada’s aging population, since the prevalence of disability increases with age. This is why the government consulted with over 6,000 individuals from across the country with lived experience over the course of this bill’s development. They have continued to be consulted and included as witnesses and experts at committee so that we can use their knowledge and their experiences to help drive the change needed for a better tomorrow.

One of those witnesses was Steven Estey from Nova Scotia, from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. This organization helped facilitate some of these consultations. Mr. Estey gave us a good summary of what that meant. He said:

. . . to talk to Canadians with disabilities about what they wanted in this legislation. We had a chance to talk to over a thousand people across the country. We had 22 separate consultations in towns and cities across the country. We had telephone consultations. We had Internet consultations. We really spent a lot of time trying to figure out what people wanted to see in this legislation. It’s an important thing for us to be involved with. We have really appreciated the opportunity and the support that we have had to be able to do that.

This is what inclusion looks like, honourable senators. Consultation, collaboration, cooperation and real input from real life experience. I know that the finer points of the bill have been outlined to you many times, including by myself, but I do want to talk again about the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. The landmark importance of the CASDO board membership aligning with the community’s mantra of “nothing about us without us.” Think about it. Because it’s the board membership who will be responsible, with their own lived experience, in making standards.

I’ve always said this, that you need to be in the room when it comes to communications. It is just as important in policy making; you need to be in the room to make a difference and to influence change. In this case, CASDO will set regulations that will lead to better results for people in this country. I hope it reoccurs in other areas of policy development. Applying a disability lens is crucial in moving forward.

Barbara Collier, Executive Director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada explained in her testimony at committee what that organization represents. Her list included people with or affected by cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down’s syndrome, learning disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, cognitive and intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, head and neck cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

(1910)

Senators, these are common conditions. It made me realize again that we will all face barriers to fully participating in society at some point in our lives. This is legislation that will affect us all in a positive way.

We learned at committee that many wheels are already in motion in anticipation of the bill coming into force. Job postings are already online for the chief accessibility officer and the CEO and board of the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, or CASDO. In fact, CASDO is expected to open its doors this summer. We know that the organizations responsible for accessibility have taken advanced steps towards planning regulations. In fact, the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA, has already released the first draft of its accessibility regulations.

Committee members gave the bill and its adopted amendments a deserved thorough study and consideration despite time constraints. I know that many of these amendments came right from the community, witnesses and organizations; I think we should pass the bill with these changes and let the other place do its job and reflect on our amendments. This is the process of our democracy and of our Parliament. We all need to move swiftly.

I will say it again: An accessible Canada act is a long-overdue recognition for human rights equality for 6.2 million or one in five Canadians. The 2017 disability survey also indicated that of the approximately 1.5 million Canadians with a disability aged 15 to 64 who are unemployed, approximately 654,000 are potential candidates for work in an inclusive, discrimination-free and accommodating labour market.

Yes, senators, there is a business case for inclusion. There is a huge untapped talent pool that could help improve Canada’s shrinking labour market.

As I mentioned, the spirit of collaboration on this bill has been and continues to be exceptional. I’m always an optimist, so over the course of study and consultations it became obvious that the removal of barriers is universal in scope and understanding. Together, our society is ready to take this step, the first of many towards a fair and equal-opportunity society. The momentum is with us.

Colleagues, I am proud of Bill C-81. I am proud of the amendments made at committee. We need to send the amended bill to the other place this week so that we can receive it back in time to do what Canadians have been asking us to do through testimony, letters, emails and phone calls: Give Canada a framework toward being barrier-free and accessible for all.

This is the time, colleagues. This is their time. It’s our opportunity to help make this happen and to be on the right side of history.

I will close tonight with some words from the great Jean Vanier, the master of inclusion. As you know, he passed away last week at the age of 90. At a 1998 Massey Lecture entitled Becoming Human, he said:

As we become more conscious of the uniqueness of others, we become aware of our common humanity. We are all fundamentally the same, no matter what our age, gender, race, culture, religion, limits or handicaps may be.

Honourable senators, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we are on a shared journey. What we have discovered on this journey is a new path of inclusion, a path where, as they say in the disability community:

Nothing About Us Without Us.

I recognize we haven’t satisfied everyone. That’s the way it is when you’re building something we have never had before: a Canada without barriers.

But we have done our job. We have discovered more about each other. We have captured the meaning of empathy. We have amended the bill. We recognize there will always be next steps. This is a step toward a more inclusive society.

Thank you very much.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Honourable senators, I rise today at third reading stage of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

For one last time, I want to express my full support for the bill and commend the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on its excellent work. I also want to acknowledge the work of the chair of the committee, Senator Petitclerc, as well as that of the deputy chair, Senator Seidman, on a decisive and historic bill for Canada.

I won’t get into the details of the thorough review undertaken by the committee, since Senators Petitclerc and Seidman already did so quite eloquently. However, I’d like to draw your attention to the remarkable work that the committee has done since March 21, 2019.

The committee studied the bill in depth over the course of four meetings, with the intention of widening its scope. After hearing testimony from 20 interest groups four organizations, the committee did indeed make changes that are favourable to the primary goal of the bill.

Although I’m not a member of that committee, it is clear that those long, well-informed deliberations led to the adoption of 11 amendments. Through those deliberations, the vast and unique needs of many groups of disabled persons were identified by the committee, which led to specific amendments that improve Bill C-81 without jeopardizing its long-awaited passing.

To sum up, the changes to the bill remain faithful to its principles while doing more to recognize, eliminate and prevent barriers in all areas of federal jurisdiction. This new version of the bill also takes into account the fact that seniors living with disabilities also experience multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination.

Another amendment recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada and an integral part of their accessibility. After all, the recognition of sign languages constitutes an essential part of their culture and a valuable tool that enables them to participate in society.

[English]

Honourable senators, these are some examples of the positive changes that were made to the bill in consultation with experts and in collaboration with the extensive work that was previously accomplished in the other place.

I feel this bill should also act as a signal and reminder to the government regarding the recent news of 34 developmentally disabled federal workers who hold segregated and redundant jobs in Ottawa. Their contract is set to end in March 2020. I hope that, once enacted, this law will eventually represent further actions for every Canadian with a disability in order to help them become full, equal members of society.

After all, a barrier-free Canada requires us to understand the norms, societal attitudes and stigma that prevents people with intellectual, cognitive and physical disabilities from fully participating in society.

I truly believe this bill, once enacted, will be a tool for many organizations that are ready and have been patiently preparing for the implementation in order to respond to these emergent challenges and obstacles.

Honourable senators, this historic law is a testament of the great work that was accomplished in the hallmarks of this great chamber in defence of the rights of minorities.

It marks a new beginning. We will transform and address accessibility by becoming proactive instead of reactive for Canadians who do not want to be treated as a burden but as full and equal members of society as we continue to grow and learn how to become more inclusive. Thank you.

(1920)

Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. I have listened with great interest to my colleagues, as well as to the many witnesses we had at the Social Affairs Committee. I speak today to share with you my perspective, my story, based on a lifetime of learning and action in this very important area.

When I arrived in Senate 15 months ago, there was much to learn; there is still much to learn. For instance, when I arrived here, I had incorrectly assumed that accessibility had already been addressed as a national issue with a fulsome national strategy. Why? Because my own formal leadership on accessibility began in Ontario, 14 years ago. I thought silly me that the same regulations were being mandated nationally, given how much time had elapsed since this successful law in Ontario was implemented and began its implementation in 2005.

Honourable senators, 2019 is far too late in the game to be discussing and mandating accessibility for all at the federal level, and it’s why the bill before us is so important.

In my previous life, as an educator, every day I was faced with an issue by a student, their family, a teacher or a community member who challenged fair, equitable and inclusive access. One case and sometimes it just takes one in particular crystallized for me what would be become a lifetime commitment to universal accessibility.

Imagine now a single mother with six children, all under the age of 10. Three of them carry the positive gene for Duchenne’s disease, a severe type of muscular dystrophy that over time reduces muscular function. It eventually results in the young person being immobilized, weakened and in need of a wheelchair.

The family survives on a low income, and, frankly, the school and the community are their lifeline. As principal of the school, on a one-floor facility, my staff and I gave the family everything we had, from meals to fundraisers, to transportation, to tutoring, and finally to the purchase of a well-used wheelchair for her oldest son, Ricky.

This school goes up to Grade 6, and now it becomes time for Ricky to graduate from junior school and move on to middle school. We meet with a team of educators and medical support people to determine the best plan for Ricky. As a former secondary school administrator, new to elementary administration, I learn that due to Ricky’s physical needs he will not be able to attend the middle school just down the road. There are just too many accessibility issues. Eventually, I learn that he will have to take a 50-minute bus ride to the nearest school that will provide some sort of wheelchair access.

How do I tell his mother, with so much on her plate already, that her son will now spend over 100 minutes a day with strangers, with different untrained bus drivers, travelling on several highways, with no significant network of support, and that in two years, if Ricky is able to keep on attending school, his ride to high school will be even more challenging and disconnected with yet another group of young people, all at the same time his condition worsens and that in two years she will have to go through this all over again with her next child?

As it turned out, it was a hard lesson I needed to learn. This was in 2005, the same year that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act became law. As you know, the act was aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. It applied then to government, non-profit and private sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees.

My own school board needed an established leader to commit to this AODA work for at least three years. Somewhat fortuitously, I was invited to take on this role. It was going to be tough work, very political, but an opportunity to bring many internal and external stakeholders together to do the right thing. Most of the table I worked with was represented by those representing diverse accessibility needs in our community. My job would be to ensure that all aspects of the act were being addressed, that all staff and volunteers were trained, that we had an accessibility policy and procedures, and that we had a multi-year accessibility plan with annual public updates, timelines and monitoring in place. I continued this leadership for 10 years. The work was ongoing and a challenge politically, financially and ensuring equity while the voices of all were heard.

Senator Moncion highlighted her work related to the AODA at second reading. I will not repeat her message. However, I will indicate how the “visible” and “invisible” needs of those with a disability are far-reaching and diverse. We started with the built environment and spaces in 130 buildings and new builds. I learned more about architecture, facility design, ramps, lifts, nine styles of elevators, more than I dreamed possible. One basic washroom to upgrade for one child was $35,000; one elevator was half a million dollars. How do you prioritize? Every student matters.

These are the more visible physical needs we are familiar with. It’s the invisible needs that are often overlooked; that is, making sure every individual just as we do in the Senate feels they are part of their community.

As a result of deep consultation, we were determined that every decision had to result in our students being able to attend a school within their family of schools, which is a geographically smaller region. This would not be the closest to their home, perhaps, but still in their community full stop. We had to find the way and we did. Every decision was and continues to be backward mapped with this in mind; that is, to find a way to keep our students and families in their community.

Honourable senators, imagine your son or daughter being told they could go on a bus for a class trip with their classmates on a bus all by themselves not with their friends, not with their peers.

One of my proudest moments was meeting with 200 bus drivers, getting some buses retrofitted, modified and ensuring more of our students could travel and experience being with their classmates. The visible need was physically getting the student to their destination by ensuring the best barrier-free environment. The invisible need was ensuring the student would not be stigmatized on a separate bus and they could contribute and participate in this class trip to the same extent as their peers something they deserve.

This is why this legislation is so important. It will aim to make federally regulated entities so much more accessible. However, it will also unlock the potential of a huge group of Canadians who have been held back in one way or another. It will allow them to participate and contribute to their community in ways that, quite frankly, they should have been able to do long ago. With this legislation, Canada could become a world leader in accessibly. This leadership is sorely needed.

In my role as an international coach and sports leader travelling internationally, I saw first-hand and continue to see first-hand the great disparity in the respect and understanding of what it means to try to embrace and provide support for those with a disability. I observed countries that “hid” those with disabilities, countries whose representatives said to my face, “We have no citizens with disabilities.” I watched first-hand a political leader of a G7 country, while on Canadian soil, say, “There is no place for athletes with a disability in a major sporting event.”

Thankfully, this culture is changing. I’m excited to say, after 12 years of advocacy, my sport will have its debut at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. To get to this point, again, we had to educate the countries that did not support their para-athletes and para-children, and did not demonstrate their beliefs in accessibility or inclusion. This has taken over a decade.

This past weekend, at Carleton University in Ottawa, I was able to speak with families and para-athletes from many countries about what sport means to them, what it means to be barrier-free and the work that must still continue around the world. The passage of Bill C-81 for Canada will set the kind of example needed to keep this momentum going.

Senators, I want to shift my thinking before I wrap up. I want to thank the steering committee of the Social Affairs Committee Senator Munson, Senator Seidman and our chair, Senator Petitclerc, for guiding us through such a comprehensive and in-depth process. You have heard that said earlier this evening. It is so very true. It was a collective effort by all groups and caucuses represented at committee, and that showed in fulsome but respectful discussions that played out at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which led to some good amendments in the legislation.

To the large but important number of Canadians who will be directly affected by this legislation, I can say to you with confidence that every member of the Social Affairs Committee has listened to your concerns. I want to thank the many individuals who gave us such compelling evidence at committee, as well as the hundreds who took the time to write and meet with us. Colleagues, many of these stakeholders have been advocating for years. They are very tired, exhausted but hopeful for the immediate passage of this bill.

(1930)

While no piece of legislation is perfect, I am confident that the bill before us gives us a solid foundation and permission to rebuild our culture in the years to come. A senator last week reminded me that there is progress and there is perfection. This bill is no different. Bill C-81, the time for all is now. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today also to speak very briefly at third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Bill C-81 enacts the accessible Canada act in order to enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons living with disability, in our society. This bill will require federally regulated entities across the country to ensure accessibility to workplaces, public spaces, employment, programs, services and information.

Bill C-81, as others have stated, is an important step in the right direction to address the barriers that many Canadians face. The message that we have heard from advocates has been the same: Bill C-81 is a good bill and deserves to be enacted into law but no one can be certain of the full effect that this bill will eventually have. This will require further knowledge and learning from a practical perspective and a commitment to work in consultation with stakeholders across Canada.

I want to associate myself with some of the very important comments that have been made in this chamber and especially recognize our colleague Senator Munson, who has dedicated so much of his life to really be quite a voice and a champion for Canadians with disabilities and, of course, on issues like autism. He has been a cosponsor on a number of events, and we have done some meaningful work together. I know that one of the motions that we cosponsored that recognized June as Deafblind Awareness Month recognizes this important subgroup of Canadians who are living with some incredible challenges.

This motion was adopted unanimously in 2015, and it was sort of thanks to our retired former colleague Senator Vim Kochhar who many of us know to be a real champion and a strong voice for Canadians living with physical disabilities as well as other disabilities. Through his outstanding effort and inspiration, we have worked together to achieve certain outcomes through the Senate. Senator Kochhar also cofounded the Canadian Helen Keller Centre and Rotary Cheshire Home, which is said to be one of the only facilities in the world where those who live with deaf-blindness can live independently.

Some of the intervenors who have come to the Hill have spoken about their work to help Canadians living with deaf-blindness communicate. Their work is truly astonishing. It’s a real calling for them to serve in this capacity. They work in a unique space where they allow those who cannot communicate otherwise to communicate with the outside world.

I also know that the work of our former colleague Senator Asha Seth also led to a motion to designate May as National Vision Health Month. That, too, was unanimously adopted in the Senate.

I stand together with many of you who have spoken on this measure and also recognize the great work of our Social Affairs Committee, the chair, the deputy chair and committee members to ensure that important amendments were adopted that will help towards ensuring a barrier-free Canada as is envisioned in this bill.

I had the opportunity to meet with the Canadian Association of the Deaf and President Frank Folino, who was also a witness during committee hearings on this bill, as well as Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. They expressed their firm support of passage of Bill C-81 as a very important step, but they were also hopeful that there will be continued vigilance and effort towards proper implementation and, of course, that same intention beyond implementation. In some ways we have achieved this important milestone, but our work will begin to ensure that implementation and the work beyond implementation will be successful.

I recognize these men and others who have been the real heroes and champions who inspired this important legislation and once again thank our colleagues Senator Munson, Senator Ngo and members of the Social Affairs Committee for your leadership helping this chamber arrive at this significant moment in our legislative history.

Your Honour and honourable senators, I am definitely ready for the question.

Hon. Tony Dean: Thank you Senator Martin and others who have spoken. Thank you, Senator Munson, for your very fine sponsorship of this legislation.

I have some brief introductory remarks and then I want to speak specifically about the inclusion of communication in this bill as a category of challenge in the spectrum of disabilities.

I rise to add my voice to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. We all know now that the stated policy objective of this important and historic piece of legislation is to enhance the full and equal participation of all individuals, with a special emphasis for those living with disabilities. The bill is designed to achieve a barrier-free Canada through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Many groups, including various disability advocacy groups, support Bill C-81 and are urging us to pass this bill before our summer break. Senate leaders met on April 4 to sign an agreement to ensure several pieces of legislation are voted on prior to the break and the next federal election. This bill is one of them.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, the Leader of the independent Senate Liberals, the Government Representative in the Senate and the Senate Conservative Leader on this important modernizing step. You will know, I think, that I and others here believe that we could benefit greatly from more organized and effective business planning of this sort. Moreover, that’s what Canadians expect of us, and they expect and deserve timely votes on all bills, but particularly on bills that are inclusive of all members of our society and that aim to protect some of our most vulnerable people, bills like Bill C-81.

An act to ensure a barrier-free Canada is a direct response to a 2016 federal budget announcement that made a commitment to “eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities.”

Among other things, the bill aims to guide future interpretations of the accessible Canada act by setting out important principles and including a provision that states that all persons, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, must be treated with dignity, enjoy equality of opportunity, be able to fully and equally participate in society without barriers and have autonomy.

It also establishes the application of the accessible Canada act bringing greater clarification to which bodies and entities are bound by accessibility legislation and allows the Governor-in-Council to designate a minister to be responsible for this act.

Another important piece of this legislation is the proposed establishment of the Canadian accessible standards development office, CASDO, which Senator Munson has spoken about eloquently.

I emphasize that the CASDO would be overseen by a board of directors whose majority identify as persons with disabilities. The board would be responsible for setting the organization’s strategic direction and managing the activities and affairs in accordance with its mandate.

The inclusion of people with disabilities on the board would ensure fair representation for the many Canadians who don’t currently have a voice in accessibility standards.

Honourable senators, while no single area of accessibility is more important than any other, I would like to now focus some remarks on the issue of communication.

I am delighted that communication is recognized in key definitions in this bill, including in the definitions of barrier and disability. This legislation says that “barrier” means anything including physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a policy or practice that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation.

(1940)

It also defines “disability” as a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation, whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature that an interaction with a barrier hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

This recognition of communication is critically important, as communication includes the half million Canadians who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused by significant hearing loss and who do not require or use sign language. They may have lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, learning or cognitive disabilities. Other people may have acquired disabilities that affect communication, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, ALS, multiple sclerosis and much more.

Having a communication disability can affect one or more areas of a person’s ability to speak, to understand what others are saying, read or write. People with theses disabilities may communicate using unclear speech, writing, typing, pictures, symbols, speech-generating devices, sign language interpreting, captioning and communication assistive devices.

Recognizing the broad scope of communication is also consistent with the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, of which Canada is a signatory. This is obviously important for many reasons, but I’d like to highlight a tangible example for honourable senators to consider.

Similar to the need for sign language services for people who are deaf or translation services for people who don’t speak English or French, victims, witnesses and accused persons with speech and language disabilities may require appropriate communication supports in police, legal and justice services. Despite the fact that people with speech and language disabilities are at high risk for all types of abuses and crimes and remember, for violators, the best victims are often the ones who are perceived not to be able to tell. Communication support services in police, legal and justice services are not routinely provided as an accessibility accommodation.

Communications intermediaries are qualified speech-language pathologists who have extra training from Communication Disabilities Access Canada, CDAC, to work in justice settings. CDAC maintains a database of trained intermediaries with limited funding from a small private foundation. These services are provided to people who require assistance, understanding questions posed to them or supporting them communicating what they want to say to police, legal and justice professionals.

In a case in Canada I recently learned about, an elderly woman indicated to her son, a police officer, that she had been sexually assaulted by a personal support worker in a retirement or long-term care facility. The woman had a stroke two years before the incident, which left her with aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage to the language centres of the brain. She had difficulty understanding spoken language and expressing her thoughts in words, as well as difficulties in reading and writing. She communicated what happened using gestures, some speech and pointing to pictures.

The Crown attorney recognized that she would require assistance to communicate in court and engaged a communication intermediary who conducted an assessment. The intermediary concluded that the woman could effectively communicate in court if provided with appropriate communication intermediary support to ensure that she rephrase questions posed to her in ways she could understand and to facilitate her responses using pictures. The judge denied the woman access to the communication supports that she required to testify.

This case illustrates the lack of understanding about accessibility accommodations required by a victim, witnesses or an accused person who has speech and language disability.

Having strong accessibility legislation in place makes it mandatory for all justice services to provide people with the communication accommodations and supports they need, including communication boards, speech-generating devices, sign language interpretation, captioning and communications assistance devices, and is an important move in ensuring that the policy objectives of this bill are realized. Access to appropriate supports for people living with disabilities that affect communications would go beyond our justice system and would also include access to health services, education and more.

Honourable senators, I want to share with you one other brief story, the story of a friend of mine of 30 years who in the past several months came to know all too well the challenges associated with difficulty in communications. Kim Clarke Champniss, as some of you will recall from his work in the heyday of MuchMusic as a veejay, TV producer and a challenging interviewer of the world’s top rock and roll artists, lost his voice permanently in the past months due to radical throat surgery that was used to address throat cancer.

I’ve watched Kim over the last weeks and months heroically take on this challenge, including the challenge of access to supports and technologies that would assist in his ability to continue engaging in the world with his upbeat energy and curiosity about the human condition. Kim will get through this. He would say, “I’m all right, Tone. I’m all right.” But Kim would also wish for better services for those who were alongside him and those who will undoubtedly follow him with communications challenges.

I would urge the government to ensure someone with a disability that affects their speech, language and communication be considered as a member of the board of the proposed Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, CASDO, which was mentioned earlier. Their contributions would greatly benefit the 500,000 people living with speech and language difficulties and ensure that no one is left behind.

I would also like to recognize that standards and regulations under Bill C-81 will need to be updated every five years, which allows for changes in innovation. They will also require public review before they are adopted.

I close by saying, senators, that Bill C-81 needs to pass now. We have an obligation as parliamentarians and senators to protect the needs of all Canadians, especially those who are among the most vulnerable in our society. I strongly believe that acknowledging this community is an essential part of meeting the objectives of this bill, which will ultimately aim to remove and prevent barriers for all people in this country.

I end by thanking Barbara Collier, who has been a tireless advocate for a communications amendment passed in the House of Commons. With these final words, I would ask my honourable colleagues to join me in voting in favour of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Thank you, all.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed.)



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102 Days after the Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It


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

May 13, 2019

SUMMARY

We have recently focused a lot of attention on Parliament in Ottawa, and on Bill C-81, the proposed federal Accessible Canada Act. Yet we never lose sight of important issues at the provincial level at Queen’s park. Here’s the latest!

In a nutshell, the Ford Government has been proceeding at the speed of a turtle in slow motion, when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Almost 11 months after the new Ontario Government took office, we’ve seen no indication of any action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s faltering implementation and enforcement. This stands in striking contrast to certain other areas of governing, where the new Ontario Government has shown itself quite ready to act in a swift and decisive way. In this Update you can read the latest about the following issues, and then read the actual documents on point:

* Ontario Accessibility Minister wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2019 but had little to say.

* On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister was questioned in Question Period in the Legislature about the Onley Report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, but again had little to say.

* Letters to the editor in newspapers continue to be a great way to help our accessibility campaign, as recent examples show, and

* Over two months after the Ford Government said it was lifting its 9-month freeze on the work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, no new meetings of These Committees have even been scheduled.

We will have more to say on recent developments on the Ontario front over the next weeks.

MORE DETAILS

1. A Closer Look at Recent Developments on the Provincial Front

a) Ontario Accessibility Minister Wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2-019 But Had Little to Say

On April 3, 2019, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the AODA Alliance. We set out his letter below.

The minister was answering two earlier letters from the AODA Alliance. In our February 6, 2019 letter, we asked the Minister to immediately lift his Government’s long freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees that were developing recommendations on what to include in new AODA accessibility standards to tear down disability barriers in the areas of health care and education. We also asked his Government to quickly make public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

In our March 11, 2019 letter, we asked the Government to “clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.” We also asked him to quickly take action on five priority areas identified in the Onley report, namely:

1. to appoint a new Standards Development Committee under the AODA to address the removal and prevention of all kinds of disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley report identified this as a top priority. That Standards Development Committee should be free to address, among other things, requirements in the deficient Ontario Building Code. It should be able to address built environment in residential housing. It should also conduct the mandatory 5-year review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government remains in violation of the AODA, because it has not yet appointed a Standards Development Committee to conduct that mandatory review. It was obligatory to appoint that review by the end of 2017, when the former Ontario Government was still in power.

2. to now launch a short, focused public consultation leading to your Governments identifying the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that the AODA leads Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

3. to substantially strengthen the Government’s enforcement of the AODA, which the Onley report showed to be substantially deficient and ineffective.

4. to launch a major reform to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, whether as a result of public spending on infrastructure, procurement, business grants or loans, or research grants. As part of this, a major reform is desperately needed regarding how Infrastructure Ontario deals with disability accessibility needs in the projects in which it is involved. We would add to the Onley report the fact that a similar reform is desperately needed at Metrolinx when it spends billions of public dollars on public transit infrastructure, and

5. to now implement a program to ensure that students in Ontario schools receive curriculum on accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, and to ensure that key professional, like architects, get much-needed training on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Our March 11, 2019 letter thanked the Government for releasing the Onley report to the public on March 7, 2019 and for announcing that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the existing AODA Standards Development Committees that had been working in the areas of health care and education. Our letter urged the Government to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible.

Minister Cho’s responding April 3, 2019 letter to us, set out below, was exceedingly general. It said nothing and committed to nothing on any of the issues we had raised and that then remained outstanding. He re-announced that the Government had lifted the freeze on the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of disability barriers in health care and education, something he’d earlier announced on March 7, 2019. Beyond that he only said that he’d have more to say at some unspecified future time.

The minister also said this in his letter:

“We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility.”

He made no mention of consulting with people with disabilities on accessibility. This takes on greater significance below. Read on!

b) On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Was Questioned in Question Period About the Onley Report But Had Little to Say

On April 10, 2019, MPP Joel Harden, the NDP accessibility critic, directed questions at Accessibility Minister Cho about the Onley Report. He asked the minister if the Government accepts the findings in the Onley Report. He also asked for the minister’s plans regarding the implementation of the Onley Report’s recommendations. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of that exchange.

This was raised in the Legislature on an especially appropriate day. Later that day, NDP MPP Joel Harden held and hosted a Town Hall meeting at the Legislature for people with disabilities to describe the disability barriers they face and the corrective action they need. MPPs of all parties were invited to attend.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to co-MC the Town Hall. For several hours stretching through the afternoon, individuals and disability organizations presented pointed and troubling illustrations of the barriers that persist in 2019, 14 years after the AODA was enacted.

In response to MPP Harden’s question whether the minister accepts the Onley Report’s findings, Minister Cho said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Minister criticized the previous Ontario Liberal Government’s performance on the accessibility issues and said “the accessibility is not done even 30%.” This seems to be a helpful recognition by the minister that Ontario has a long way to go to reach full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires. The Onley Report did not cite a specific 30% figure, but found that Ontario is far behind its goal of reaching accessibility by 2025.

In response to Mr. Harden’s question whether the minister would be releasing a plan of action in response to the Onley Report, and if so, when, the Minister said:

“After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to himthree times, I went to see himand he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. Thats why were going to focus and Im going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community.”

That answer included no commitment to create a plan of action in response to the Onley Report. The minister committed to no time lines for doing so.

The only action that the minister announced was a plan to hold a town hall for businesses. Of course, that could be one helpful step. However it is far less than what we need or what the Onley Report calls for. Here again, as in the case of the minister’s April 3, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance the minister talked about consulting businesses, but not people with disabilities. We need the Government to do much more than to hold a town hall for businesses.

We want to thank MPP Harden for raising this issue in Question Period. We also thank him, his staff, and the other NDP MPPs and staff who helped make this Town Hall such a success. We also thank the MPPs from other parties who came to watch some of the Town Hall. In our usual spirit of non-partisanship, we encourage and invite all parties to host similar Town Hall events for the public including people with disabilities.

c) Letters to the Editor in Newspapers Continue to Be a great Way to Help Our Accessibility Campaign

As in the past, letters to the editor in Ontario newspapers remain a great way to help advance our ongoing non-partisan accessibility campaign.

On March 15, 2019, the Toronto Star ran two letters to the editor about the need for more provincial action on accessibility. One was by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other was by Janis Jaffe-White, a tenacious advocate for students with disabilities. We set these out below.

These letters were written to comment on and follow up on a great March 13, 2019 Toronto Star editorial that had called for action on accessibility as a result of the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report.

Whenever you notice an article on an accessibility issue in a newspaper, we encourage you to take the opportunity to get more coverage for this issue by sending in your own letter to the editor. If it gets published, let us know. You can always write us at [email protected]

d) Over Two Months After the Ford Government Said It Was Lifting Its 9-Month Freeze on the Work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, No New Meetings of These Committees Have Even Been Scheduled

Last June, in the wake of the June Ontario election, the work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the areas of disability barriers in our health care system and education system were frozen. For those of you who have been following our AODA Alliance Updates for several months, You will recall that we spent a great deal of time and effort to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

After months of this effort, the Ford Government agreed partway through last fall to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it left the other Standards Development Committees frozen. They were focusing on disability barriers in health care and education. We need those remaining advisory committees to get back to work, developing recommendations on the disability barriers and education that need to be removed and prevented in new AODA accessibility standards.

The Ford Government gave various excuses for that freeze. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors needed time to be briefed, we were originally told. Six months after the freeze went into effect, and long after the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors had had ample time to be briefed, the Government said for the first time that it was awaiting the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report before it decide what to do about the freeze.

That reason for continuing the freeze was unconvincing. It was quite obvious that Mr. Onley would recommend that that freeze be lifted. Mr. Onley submitted his report to the Ontario Government on January 31, 2019, fully 102 days ago. He did indeed recommend that that freeze be lifted.

The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 to announce that it was lifting that freeze. Yet over two months since that announcement, and over four months since the Ford Government received the Onley Report, no meetings have yet even been scheduled for the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of health care or education.

On May 6, 2019, members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee received an email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of that Standards Development Committee. We set that email out below.

On the one hand, it is good that Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is finally reaching out with preliminary steps that aim towards scheduling the next meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. As well, the email describes some changes to the way the Standards Development Committee will be operating.

We are open to improving the process for the Standards Development Committees. Our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review included an entire chapter that detailed problems with the way the former Ontario Government operated those committees. The previous minister had, we regret, been unwilling to make changes as a result of concerns we had raised last spring.

We are, however, concerned about some of the specific changes announced in this new email. There is no reason why the Government should have waited over two months since it announced it decision to lift its freeze on these Standards Development Committees just to ask members of those committees whether they want to continue on those committees, and whether they have changed their job. That inquiry should have been made back on March 7, 2019, when the Government announced that these committees would resume their work. The Government has not yet canvassed about available dates so that the next committee meeting can be scheduled.

It appears that the Government has substantially reduced the amount of actual time when the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee can meet and do its important work. We assume that the same will be the case for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Government is reducing meetings from two days to one, and reducing by an undisclosed amount the total number of meeting days. This is especially problematic since the committees lost the chance to do any work over the past year due to the Government’s freeze on their work. During that year, they could have been making substantial progress if not coming close to finishing their work. students with disabilities and health care patients with disabilities are suffering the consequences.

It appears that the Government wants out-of-town committee members to take part in meetings by phone rather than in person. While reasonable cost-saving measures are understandable, this measure threatens to create real problems. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has over 20 members. It is hard to build the kind of cooperative exchange of ideas and views if some if not many are taking part over a speaker phone.

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s email says that Committee members will later receive a letter of re-engagement from the minister. This is an unnecessary step. Those who were previously appointed to these Standards Development Committees remain as members of these Standards Development Committees under the AODA. The June 2018 election and its results did not change that, or dissolve these Committees. There is no need to add yet another bureaucratic step to this process which has already been delayed for too long.

We will keep you posted on developments on this front.

2. April 3, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, In Response to the AODA Alliance’s February 6 and March 11, 2019 Letters to the Minister

Thank you for your letters regarding the review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns.

The government is taking immediate action as it continues to work towards improving the lives of people with disabilities. We are resuming the Health Care and K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, which is something we’ve heard Ontarians ask for.

We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility. I am also working with my colleagues across other Ministries to review the Honourable David Onley’s Third Legislative review of the AODA and move forward with a plan to improve accessibility in Ontario.

The government will continue to consider Mr. Onley’s recommendations and will have more to say on next steps in the future. We are committed to working with Ontarians towards improving accessibility and we will take the time to get this right for all Ontarians.

Thank you again for writing. Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,
Raymond Cho
Minister

3. Ontario Hansard April 10, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/house-documents/parliament-42/session-1/2019-04-10/hansard

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question today is for the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. Today, people with disabilities from across Ontario are converging right here at Queens Park because were hosting an open forum for them. They are fed up with our provinces agonizingly slow progress towards making this province fully accessible and the barriers that are preventing them from living their lives to the fullest.

In his report on the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Honourable David Onley said the following: For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.

My question to the minister: Do you accept the findings of the Onley report?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Id like to thank the member for raising that question. First of all, Id like to thank the Honourable David Onley. He did a marvelous job; I read the report.

Id like to refer that question to the Liberal Party. They were in government for 15 years and the accessibility is not done even 30%.

By the way, I will drop by your town hall meeting.

Our government is open for business for everybody, even people with disabilities, and Ill try my best as minister.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Joel Harden: Thank you to the minister for that answer, but 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities actually deserve better. This is a human rights issue. Stalling any further and only looking backwards is not an option.

The AODA sets a target for this province to be fully accessible by 2025, but the Onley report says we are nowhere near achieving that goal. Mr. Onley has 15 recommendationsSpeaker, to the ministerfor improving accessibility through stronger enforcement, new standards for buildings and making sure public money is never used again to create new barriers. Will the minister be releasing a plan of action and response to the Onley report, and if so, Speaker, when can we expect that plan of action?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Thank you again for the question. After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to himthree times, I went to see himand he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. Thats why were going to focus and Im going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community. Thank you for the question.

4. The Toronto Star March 15, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/03/15/praising-advocacy-for-those-with-disabilities.html

Letters to the Editor

Praising advocacy for those with disabilities

Time to clear the way, Editorial, March 13

Three cheers for the Star editorial “Time to clear the way.” It calls for the Ford Government to swiftly implement former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s report that shows that 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many disability accessibility barriers. As the leading non-partisan disability coalition that’s campaigned for accessibility for almost a quarter century, we strongly support Onley’s findings and key recommendations.

We’ve asked Ford’s minister to accept Onley’s findings and to get to work swiftly on taking action. Ontarians with disabilities cannot afford more months of waiting.

As Onley said, Premier Ford needs to make accessibility for people with disabilities a major priority.

David Lepofsky, Toronto

The editor is right. This situation is “clearly unacceptable.” Thisis a violation of human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The basic problem is lack of enforcement of the law. Everyone has the legal right to be treated equitably.

Onley is right as well. People with disabilities often feel they “don’t belong here.” School is a mini-society where inclusion develops attitudes of acceptance and belonging. It is not the curriculum that is the problem. It is the living of acceptance of all individuals within the school system and wider community. To achieve accessibility and full participation of everyone, an emphasis must be placed on compliance with and enforcement of the legally mandated human-rights requirements.

Janis Jaffe-White, Toronto

5. May 6, 2019 Email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Please see the message below, sent from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division. We ask that you kindly provide your response by Friday May 10th.



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