Why Your Next Hire Should Be a Person With Disabilities


Anna Sharratt
The Globe and Mail, July 10, 2019

At Wanda’s Pie in the Sky bakery and café in Torontos Kensington Market, owners Wanda and David Beaver work to create a sense of comfort and belonging for their customers and staff. Its why the owners have a policy to hire workers with disabilities, incorporating both hospitality and inclusion into the business.

Ms. Beaver recently hired Francie Munoz, who has Down syndrome, to work in the café part-time. She comes a couple of times a week and peels apples, folds boxes, Ms. Beaver says. We pay her minimum wage. She is very happy here.

At a time when its challenging to find employees, small businesses often consider hiring people with disabilities. However, many falsely believe that the steps in doing so are time-consuming and complicated with uncertain outcomes.

With numerous agencies assisting in the recruitment and skill-matching process for people with disabilities, a large number of qualified candidates seeking work, and government funding available for businesses that hire disabled workers, small businesses can often find staff who will meet their needs.

John Rae, first vice-chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, says theres a large pool of candidates in Canada, with just over 2.1 million people aged 25 to 64, or 11 per cent of the population, reporting a mental or physical disability in 2012, according to Statistics Canada.

Still, disabled Canadians are lagging in employment compared with their nondisabled peers. In 2011, the employment rate of Canadians aged 25 to 64 with disabilities was 49 per cent versus 79 per cent for Canadians without a disability, according to Statistics Canada.

We are the most underemployed segment of Canadas population, says Mr. Rae, who is legally blind. We want to be hired and given the opportunity to contribute and progress.

Meanwhile, a BDC survey of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses says nearly 40 per cent are having trouble hiring new employees due to labour shortages. We do not expect labour shortages to get better for at least a decade, states the report, which suggests employers consider underused segments of the labour force, including new immigrants as well as people with disabilities.

They dont consider us as able, Mr. Rae says of some employers. But its not the reality.

There are several agencies focused on identifying suitable candidates with disabilities and matching them with small businesses. An example is EmployAbilities in Edmonton, a non-profit that provides skill development, education and employment services to adults and young people with medical issues, whether mental or physical.

Jon Garland, the employment development supervisor for EmployAbilities, says one of the agencys objectives is to educate businesses about the value disabled employees can bring.

Persons with disabilities have demonstrated that they tend to stay with employers that value their contributions and embrace them as part of the overall team, Mr. Garland says.

In addition to being productive team members, he says these employees can also offer guidance for businesses seeking to expand to new markets serving people with physical or mental impairments.

Examples include providing feedback on modifying products to ensure they can be used by clients with disabilities or ensuring that clients with a physical or mental impairment are able to receive a product or service during delivery.

The feedback from small businesses that have hired people with disabilities has been positive: According to a Bank of Montreal survey, 77 per cent of small business owners who hired someone with a disability reported that these employees either met or exceeded their expectations.

EmployAbilities offers programs that enable employers to hire disabled employees on a trial basis, at 25 hours a week for a period of 10 weeks. The skills of the employee are matched to the job theyll be doing, and employers are offered a wage subsidy during that period.

Other agencies such as the Ontario Disability Employment Network can also offer staffing solutions, ensuring there is a good fit for the employee and business. There are also provincial subsidies to help companies cover some of the costs associated with hiring a disabled person.

In Ontario, for example, small businesses can receive provincial grants covering up to half of an employees wages up to a maximum of $13,500 for three-to-nine months. Or they can receive up to $20,000 to offset salary and specialized training of employees for up to 12 weeks. There is also the option to have 90 per cent of assistive devices and specialized training covered, up to a maximum of $3,000 per application, according to MentorWorks Ltd., a private team of government funding planners based in Guelph, Ont.

But Mr. Rae says that many employers are intimidated by hiring employees with disabilities. Common concerns are that human rights legislation prevents them from asking questions about a persons disability, or the business believes it will be saddled with costly accommodations, such as building ramps or reconfiguring a workspace, if the disability is more severe than initially described.

If a small business has created a welcoming environment, has policies around inclusion and articulates an eagerness to accommodate, Mr. Rae says candidates will be more forthcoming about their needs. There needs to be a willingness [on the employer?s part] to make accommodations, he says.

Once the need for a specific accommodation has been identified, the employer also needs to have some flexibility. People with disabilities may have to have their workload adjusted or be given more time to complete a task. Many agencies can provide toolkits to help companies handle these issues.

Mr. Rae says many employees with disabilities require fewer accommodations than employers anticipate, adding that many have spent years finding ways to surpass their own physical and mental limitations. We develop our own strategies and workarounds and after all, an employer wants an adaptable person, he says.

When Ms. Munoz was first hired at Wandas Pie in the Sky bakery, colleagues observed what tasks she was comfortable doing, and which ones she couldnt complete. With that understanding, she was assigned jobs she could work on at her own pace, in an environment where she felt comfortable.

Shes in front of customers, which she likes, Ms. Beaver says. Weve found a happy medium. You want to make someone useful in the business.

Another employee with cognitive delay, Nancy Sevigny, has taken on a growing number of tasks in her 22 years at the bakery. Shes part of our family, Ms. Beaver says.

Original at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/small-business/article-why-your-next-hire-should-be-a-person-with-disabilities/



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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

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

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”

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!

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 enforcement—a record which the Onley Report thoroughly documented and which the Ford Government itself has blasted.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 Ontario’s 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:

“I’m looking forward to discussing this motion because there’s lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onley’s 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. Onley’s 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 Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s 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”.

  1. 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. Isn’t 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.

  1. 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, it’s 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.”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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 we’re 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.

  1. 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. They’re now working on developing sector-specific business cases—to hire people with disabilities—that 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.”

  1. 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/
  1. 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/
  1. 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/
  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“David Onley’s 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 doesn’t 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.”

  1. 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.

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“We partnered with OCAD University’s 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 World’s 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:

“I’m deeply disappointed that Doug Ford’s MPPs voted down our motion calling on the government to release an accessibility action plan, and implement key recommendations from David C. Onley’s 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, it’s 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: I’d 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 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.

Interruption.

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

Mr. Harden has moved private member’s 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 wouldn’t be doing my job as a critic if our office didn’t 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 I’ve missed anybody—Emily, 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, I’d 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.” I’d 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 we’ll change the world.” I think that’s 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 what’s before us, given David Onley’s report—according to Mr. Onley, we’re 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 I’ll mention it again too. I think it’s a powerful one from Mr. Onley’s 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 residents—its 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 I’ve heard from friends who have lived experience and what, quite frankly, people with disabilities are looking to this Legislature to do, and that’s 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 isn’t 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, it’s 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 I’ve 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 home—hi, 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 scooter—lives in a powered wheelchair. What I found increasingly evident to me, every time I went out with Blaine—because he is easily, and I’m sorry for picking favourites, friends in Ottawa, the most charismatic canvasser we have back home—is 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. We’re 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 we’ve interacted with before. I know that members in the government caucus have met with Rahima. She doesn’t get to come here very often to Queen’s Park, Speaker, because there are not always appropriate accessible parking spaces for her. She finds—as I’ve talked to some of my friends up in the accessibility gallery—the narrow runway up there to be very tricky to negotiate. That’s 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 didn’t 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 we’ve 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 which—my experience with Ryerson as an able-bodied person has been quite good, when I’ve 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 I’ve met in the time that I’ve had here—and it’s thanks to MPP Andrea Khanjin from Barrie–Innisfil, 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 I’ve 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 they’re treated with suspicion upon admission.

I’m not impugning the motives of any of our health care professionals. I love them. I’m 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, we’ve had people suffer fatalities or serious injuries because they haven’t been able to get the health care they need.

Speaker, I look forward to the debate on this motion. I think it’s an opportunity for us as a Legislature to say, yes, we’re ready. We’re ready to act on Mr. Onley’s report. I salute the fact that the minister has spoken with urgency on the need of work to be done in this place, and I’m 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, let’s set some timelines. Let’s set some goals. Let’s 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 doesn’t matter to us. Yes, I’m 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 you’ve 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. That’s 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. I’ve 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 Canada’s team, about $45 million is being taken out of provincial coffers in write-offs.

Here’s 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 I’m 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 Speaker’s lounge. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

I’m looking forward to discussing this motion because there’s lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onley’s 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. Onley’s 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. Isn’t 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, it’s 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: It’s an honour to rise today. I’d like to begin my remarks by introducing almost 20 people from Spadina–Fort 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. I’ll introduce the people who are here. We’ve 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 Schmitt—who is also known as “Unstoppable Tracy”—Kati Israel, Michau van Speyk.

I’d like to thank them all for joining us today. Could we give a round of applause to the people who’ve 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 meetings—and many of them are here in this room—because they taught me about what it’s like, or gave some glimpse of what it’s 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 you’re 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 out—and 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 I’d 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. She’s 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 you’re designing a building, you design it so that everybody can use it.

Just imagine, for example, if you built a building that only had women’s 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 you’ve got to think. If you’re building a building, you’ve got to make it for everybody, for anybody. Whether you’re using a walker or wheelchair, or whether you’re walking in, or whether you have a visual impairment or an auditory impairment, you’ve 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 it’s shameful in this province that we have allowed this to go on. Part of the reason for that, a big part of the reason—and we had a discussion in the committee last week where we were talking about transit—is that our buildings are not accessible and our transit systems are not fully accessible. That’s why it’s so hard for people to get to work if you have disability.

So when we talk about constructing things, when we’re building our subway infrastructure, our buses, we’ve 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 that’s not lived in poverty, the social network, all the things you need work for.

The other group that we’ve been working with over the years, the big issue that we’ve been focusing on at this disability advocacy group is employment. I mentioned that it’s 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 that’s something we really need to focus on, because that’s an incredible amount of potential that is being lost, and it’s lives that are being disrupted and not being lived to their fullest extent, because of the way that we have designed our society.

Let’s see. When the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility was talking about soul-crushing barriers, making inaccessible spaces, making inaccessible transit systems, making inaccessible buildings—these 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 we’re looking at, but I would invite all of the members in this House to please listen to people with disabilities. I’ve 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.

I’m so thankful to the member from Ottawa Centre for bringing forward this motion. I’m 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: I’m 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 we’re 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. They’re now working on developing sector-specific business cases—to hire people with disabilities—that 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 London–Fanshawe. It brings me great pleasure today to speak in support of my colleague’s bill, the member from Ottawa Centre’s motion taking action on accessibility with regard to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act review by the Honourable David Onley, Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor. I had the honour of being in the Legislature when the Honourable David Onley was serving as Lieutenant Governor.

Back in 2005—and that was before I was here—all parties at the time in the Legislature unanimously supported the AODA Act. They actually said, “This is not a partisan issue. It’s a non-partisan issue, and we’re 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.

That’s 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 that’s going to happen is in 2020, and as far as I’m concerned, we are behind. I hear the member from the Conservative Party talking about how this is going to be more red tape and it’s 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. I’m 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 can’t get to work because there are stairs and there’s no elevator, you can’t say, “You don’t 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 don’t support this bill in the House today, I think we’re sending a message to people that it’s not a priority. We’re saying, “You’ve got to get to work, and the government side has said that the best social program is a job.” That’s what they’re 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? That’s what they forget. Usually what they say doesn’t sound good to me. They think it sounds good, but they don’t 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. You’ve done that in a few places when you’ve 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.

We’ve 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 Onley’s 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 doesn’t 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 Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government. As announced in More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s 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. Onley’s 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 University’s 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 World’s 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 Ontario’s 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: It’s 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 it’s like to live in a province that is not accessible to them—not 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 can’t get into hospitals, can’t 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. We’re 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 government’s Premier’s 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. I’m 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 member’s 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): I’m 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 member’s 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 Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

  1. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA.

Define “accessibility”.

Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.

Update the definition of “disability”.

  1. 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.

  1. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.
  1. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
  1. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
  1. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.
  1. 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.

  1. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.
  1. 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.

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

Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations.

Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

  1. 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.

  1. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.
          1. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.



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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

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

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

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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.””

  1. 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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Toronto PreSchool for Kids With Disabilities Can’t Accommodate Staff Who Use Wheelchairs


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.”

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



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Why Ontarians With Developmental Disabilities Still Face Employment Barriers


An employment rate below 25 per cent. An average income below the poverty line. Getting a good job can be tough for people with developmental disabilities. But for workers like Julie Timmermans, full economic citizenship is about more than just money. By Kevin Spurgaitis – Published on April 2, 2019

STRATHROY Its an unexpectedly wintry day in March, and Julie Timmermans is starting her evening shift at Sprucedale Care Centre, in Strathroy, 35 kilometres west of London. Nudging her dish dolly forward, she manoeuvres around elderly residents and their nurses exiting the dining room. Shes given to smiling widely. She speaks softly and measures her words slowly. Her work scrubs patterned with rainbow-coloured, jigsaw-puzzle-shaped butterflies match the Tiffany light fixtures and floral-patterned chairs and curtains.

To begin with, she removes the cups, cutlery, and plates, which still have traces of chicken thighs, Salisbury steak, mashed-potato medley, and squash. She sets down napkins, salt and pepper shakers, and packets of jam and cheese for next days morning meal. Then, theres a new seating chart to commit to memory more residents to get to know a little better. Over the sound of staff scraping and stacking dishes, she briefly chats with her co-workers. One tells Timmermans that shes killing it with the speed of her efforts. Another calls her a rock star and suggests that they go for a couple of wobbly pops after work.

Timmermans is invariably punctual. And, barring a cold, flu, or family vacation, the 31-year-old doesnt like to miss work. [Sprucedale] is a good fit for me, but it wasnt easy at first the fast pace, I mean, says Timmermans, who has Down syndrome and has been a dining-support worker at the centre since June 2017. Now, its not so difficult, and Im good at a lot of stuff. Im dedicated, hard-working, and a people person.

She enjoys the routine and keeping busy. She loves meeting and chatting with other staff members and residents who know her by name. But, mostly, its my first paying job. And I like being paid, she says with a laugh.

Today, there are more than 500,000 working-age Canadians with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, according to the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), which has been advocating for people with such disabilities since 1958. In many ways, people with Down syndrome, specifically, have far better prospects today than theyve had at any other point in history. Theyre now living not in government-run institutions but with their own families, in group homes, or independently a model known as community living. Yet major employment barriers remain.

In 1982, Canadas Charter of Rights and Freedoms gave people with developmental disabilities the same status as all other Canadians. Provinces and territories later followed suit with their own human-rights codes. Changing attitudes and cost concerns led to the closure of provincially funded institutions by the late 2000s, only a handful remained across the country. Last month marked the 10th anniversary of the closure of Ontarios last three, an event commemorated by the disability community on March 31. One year after they shut their doors for good, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Weve definitely moved the needle when it comes to community living, says Sean Wiltshire, an employment specialist and board member with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. But were not, by any stretch of the imagination, at a decent place when it comes to the employment for folks with intellectual disabilities.

Whats needed, says Wiltshire, is full economic citizenship: When folks with disabilities have their own money, thats when theyre free. Thats when theyre truly independent.

The employment rate for people with developmental disabilities is below 25 per cent, less than a third of the rate for people without disabilities, according to a 2017 Statistics Canada survey. And those who do have jobs often work part-time and make less money. Canadians with disabilities, more broadly, earn nearly 45 per cent less than those without disabilities and are more likely to live in poverty.

There are several reasons for this: provincial and territorial income-support programs that penalize recipients for earning above capped limits; employment services that keep individuals underpaid and separated from the regular workforce; and negative community and employer attitudes.

Theres been a lot of progress made in terms of the status of people with disabilities, certainly, from a legislative and social perspective, says Chris Beesley, CEO of Community Living Ontario. And yet, if you look at someone with Down syndrome, specifically, the social perspective remains that theres something wrong with that person. Theyre not seen as productive; theyre not seen as having value and having a contribution to make. But when theyre viewed as an employee, Beesley says, theyre cast in a much more positive light.

Theres also a business case to be made for companies and institutions to become more accessible. According to a 2018 report from the Conference Board of Canada, half a million working-age adults with developmental and physical disabilities could contribute to the competitive labour force at rates similar to other Canadians over the next decade. That could increase the countrys GDP by nearly $17 billion by 2030, when skills shortages and labour-market supply issues are expected to be more widespread.

It costs a lot to hire and train and all those things, but heres a labour pool thats ready, willing, and able to work, Beesley says. They have equal or better productivity and attendance. They have equal or better safety records. They also have equal or better morale Although it used to be sort of charitable, now its a smart economic decision to pair up someone [with a developmental disability] with a paid position.

Today, the average earnings of people with developmental disabilities are $18,000, according to Statistics Canada. Nearly half receive provincial or territorial social assistance. In comparison, the average earnings of adults with disabilities as a whole are nearly $30,000. The Ontario Disability Support Program and Canadas Registered Disability Savings Plan and Disability Tax Credit provide some incentives and assistance about $15,000 for a single person per year but ODSP can be challenging to navigate and can make it difficult for adults with any disability to find an employer. If an individuals earnings, however modest, are considered to be just high enough by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, they no longer qualify for ODSP.

At her job at Sprucedale Care Centre, which Middlesex Community Living helped her find, Timmermans works two split shifts, totalling three hours, two days a week, and earns $14.15 an hour. Shes occasionally called in to cover extra shifts mostly in the summer, when her co-workers take vacation. She also volunteers nearly four hours every week at her local Salvation Army Thrift Store, the Strathroy Public Library, and a YMCA daycare, which was one of her high-school co-op placements.

I feel very lucky to be working at this job, Timmermans says. I have a friend with Down syndrome whos having a hard time finding a job right now.

In July 2010, Timmermans experienced a stroke that affected her entire right side; two days later, she had a grand mal seizure, marked by violent muscle contractions and a loss of consciousness. She spent weeks being treated in hospitals and months undergoing intensive speech, physical, and occupational therapy at home. Ive worked hard to recover, Timmermans says of her stroke. Im able to do lots of things again.

But her speech and movement are now partially impaired. She has to take low doses of medication to prevent seizures and can work only for relatively short amounts of time. Decisions can be a source of frustration and fatigue. So, for Timmermans, its a matter of keeping up the pace, and keeping going as best she can.

Until recently, sheltered workshops and day programs, which provide some vocational training in exclusive environments, were among the most common approaches to supporting people with developmental disabilities. In the absence of other employment options, they represented a reliable form of respite and daytime activity for individuals and their families, according to the CACL. The problem, it says, is that enclave-based employment reinforces marginalization and often sees participants completing contracts for agencies without being paid a minimum wage, instead receiving a so-called training stipend (or monthly or weekly allowance) for activities classified as some combination of day activity, training, and employment preparation.

The good news, disability advocates say, is that demand for such services is now falling across the country, and theyre far less prevalent in Ontario. In May 2018, the Liberals Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (Bill 148), eliminated an exemption in Ontario labour law that had allowed people with developmental disabilities to work for less than the minimum wage. (The Progressive Conservative governments Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, has delayed the repeal of the exemption.)

Yet another major barrier remains: employers attitudes toward people with developmental disabilities and their reluctance to hire them. According to a 2014 report from the Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and York University, many worry about additional training, work hours, supervision, and job accommodations, as well as potential legal liabilities.

Some legislative action is being taken, though: in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act mandated that the province develop accessibility standards for areas including hiring and employment practices and ensure that the public and private sectors meet them. The ultimate goal of the act is to make Ontario fully accessible to 1.8 million people with disabilities by 2025. Nevertheless, despite the provinces 2015 accessibility action plan called Path to 2025 implementation has fallen behind in recent years, say disability advocacy groups such as the AODA Alliance.

At the national level, the Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81) is making its way through the Senate. Its aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers for the estimated 4 million Canadians with physical, sensory, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, and other disabilities. But its scope is limited to government agencies and programs, as well sectors that fall under federal jurisdiction.

Most people in the disability community view [Bill C-81] as a starting point, Wiltshire says. We have concerns that its limited to government programs and services, but we hope that itll be adopted as a model by [the private sector]. Besides, forcing businesses to do anything will go badly. They need to support [accessibility] because they want to, not because they have to.

Wiltshire, for one, hopes that happens sooner rather than later. Many people with intellectual disabilities have aging parents, and theres not a lot of estate planning so that individuals are able to manage their own life once their parents pass away, he says. We just have to create the streams that allow them to work to their capacity, to be taxpayers and fully contribute to society.

Community agencies and service providers often fill the gap, helping people with developmental disabilities find and keep jobs and assisting employers in placing them in traditional retail, service, maintenance, and office positions.

Jackie Moore a labour-market consultant for Community Living Ontario and ReadyWillingAble.ca, a national inclusive-employment initiative says that a lot of the time, its just working with employers to help them understand that it may look a little bit different than how they typically recruit, onboard, and [train] someone. Moore advises them to communicate better, make accommodations when necessary, and be more flexible overall. Together, well try to work around whatever may present a barrier and find a way that will set someone up best for success, she says.

The Ontario Disability Employment Network works in a similar fashion. A non-profit funded by the province, ODEN is a network of 120 agencies, each focused on working with people with a different type of disability particularly Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder and their employers.

Mailing, faxing, retrieving documents, setting up meetings, and greeting customers and clients these are all soft skills that will be increasingly important for people with developmental disabilities in the workplace, especially with digitization and automation, says Ingrid Muschta, a diversity-and-inclusion specialist with ODEN. There are a lot of barriers, though, that have been built within the HR processes, albeit inadvertently, and that have kept a lot of people who are quite capable out of the workforce. So we help [employers] build that internal capacity. That way, they can attract people who have a disability and avoid the pitfalls when it comes to managing people who have a disability.

For instance, Muschta says, many companies now use online portals for their application processes. Those with cognitive disabilities may require longer to process information, meaning that their session may time out. ODEN recommends that employers offer job applicants information in alternative formats and assure successful ones that arrangements for interviews can be made at no additional cost as part of the recruitment process.

When businesses hire inclusively with motivated intent because they understand the business proposition of an inclusive workforce, Muschta says, thats when success is sustained long-term.

Muschta, who is also the parent of an eight-year-old son with Down syndrome, says that children should, generally speaking, be encouraged to be more ambitious.

We often ask kids in elementary school, What do you dream that youre going to be when you grow up? she says. But how many kids who have Down syndrome are being asked that same question early on? In the Down syndrome community, in particular, we dont often find parents pushing their children to go and get meaningful co-ops, summer jobs, and other positions. So theres an opportunity for families, service providers, and schools to do a much better job of mentally preparing students for the meaningful work thats out there.

In other words, higher expectations lead to better outcomes in the world of employment, Muschta says. To parents [of those with developmental disabilities], I just say, dream bigger and ask more of [your children].

For Timmermans, life isnt just about work. She enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, friends, and family; going out to dinners and the movies; and hanging out at bookstores and shopping malls. She won a medal in curling at the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Winter Games. One day, she can see herself moving out of her parents home and into one of her very own maybe with some friends.

Im doing very well now, and Im kind of good where everything is, she says. And there is this one other thing I could say about myself: Im very proud.

Kevin Spurgaitis is Toronto-based freelance writer and editor. His work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and the Guardian, among others.

Original at https://www.tvo.org/article/why-ontarians-with-developmental-disabilities-still-face-employment-barriers



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NTEC Awards Business Champions Who Strive for Inclusivity, Accessibility


Hiring the disabled is not only the right choice ethically speaking its the smart choice, says Mike Bradley, long-time Mayor of Sarnia-Lambton
by Cathy Pelletier

At a gala banquet in Niagara Falls last week, N-Tec awarded its Business Champions for hiring the disabled. Joining N-Tec staff Jodi Delage and Kathleen Kelly were: Darla Bell, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark; Wilma Olive-Mills, Chocolate F/X; Norm Kraft, Niagara Recyling; Ryan Wills, Fallsview Casino Resort; Chris DiRaddo, Sassafrass Farms; Rob Welch, Lancaster Brooks & Welch; Bruce Vandersluys, Dobbie’s Florist; Mike DiRaddo, Plant’s Choice; Craig Maguire, Oh Canada, Eh; Sylvia McCormick, Third Space Café; Meghan Grove, Future Waste Recycling; Kayleigh Sexton, The Powerhouse Project; Dan Bouwman, Heartland Forest; Gary Beynon, Doc Magilligan’s Irish Pub.

Gary Beynon needed help in his kitchen at Doc Magilligans Irish Pub.

We needed a dishwasher and someone to butter toast, explained the executive chef, reflecting on his relationship with NTEC (Niagara Training and Employment Agency).

Within a week, I had two great employees, said the Niagara Falls business leader. Job coaches come in and work with the employee the first couple hours of the shift. When Brett came in, he was very shy. He started buttering toast and now hes a line cook. He cooks and helps out with every aspect of the breakfast. Hes a key player. Everybody loves him. Hes so much more confident than when we hired him. You just have to be willing to take a chance, so I encourage everyone to go out and find their own Brett.

NTEC hosted a gala awards ceremony last week to celebrate Beynon and other local Niagara entrepreneurs for being business champions, and including disabled people among their work force.

Agencies such as Community Living, March of Dimes Niagara, Start Me Up Niagara, the NRP Diversity and Inclusive Program, the Niagara Parks Commission, and Venture Niagara, were also recognized for their inclusiveness.

NTEC has committed to finding the best fit for those individuals we support and the businesses, said John Fast, interim CEO and CFO. “Tonights about celebrating success. It is very satisfying to see the growtha 400 per cent increase in just the past two yearsfor individuals placed in competitive employment.

Revealing the agencys new Work Now logo, NTECs manager of employment Jodi Delage stated, Business champions are accessible and inclusive, and from the top down, develop innovation to suit their objectives.

Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia-Lambton appeared as guest speaker at the banquet. In 2012, Sarnia was nationally recognized for its accessibility and inclusiveness, and in 2014, Bradley received the Lieutenant Governors award for his personal contributions as an advocate for the disabled, both on the physical and mental spectrum.

Bradley, who has acquired countless additional awards for his inclusive philosophy and activism in his 30 years as mayor of Sarnia, issued a challenge to his fellow Ontario mayors.

The mayors challenge started in 2010, he explained, and it was to hire the intellectually-challenged and disabled. In 2016, we changed it from Do the right thing to do the smart thing. At some point, youve got to find something else besides being elected. You need something within your soul as an elected person to inspire you while advancing your community.

When it comes to accessibility, most communities are doing the minimum, stated Bradley.

In my own community, were building a new sports complex. We did the maximum number of (disabled) parking spots. Its about creating a culture of inclusiveness in your community; to bring people into your business. You can do much more at the grassroots level than at the provincial or federal.

Bradley said he struggles with the language of disability and its related issues.

I dont like intellectually-challenged, he said. To me, this is not about charity. Its just about human rights. I hope you wont just think about one day a year, but think about being a part of the population thats disenfranchised as a citizen. The unemployment rate for those who are disabled is incredible. The barriers of employment are soul-crushing barriers. Our government said its going to change by 2025. Its not even close. If it were any other segment of society, people would fight back.

According to Bradley, Im not just appealing to peoples good nature. Its time. We are all full citizens of the community. Some people see employment and accessibility as a medical issue. Its not. There are 17 million Ontarians who are not included right now, and its not right.

Original at https://www.thoroldnews.com/local-news/ntec-awards-business-champions-who-strive-for-inclusivity-accessibility-1341392



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People With Disabilities Don’t Need Lip Service, They Want Opportunities


by: Heidi Ulrichsen
Nov. 30, 2018

The executive director of Independent Living Sudbury Manitoulin has a message for business owners: please hire more people with disabilities.

What I’d like to say is give that person with a disability an opportunity, said Rob DiMeglio, speaking to Sudbury.com at the 10th annual Persons with Disabilities Breakfast Nov. 30.

I think it’s an untapped market We have degrees, and we went to school, and we work to become a pro at our disabilities. Give us a chance to work and be a contributing person to our community.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, who gave the keynote speech at the event, which celebrates the United Nations Day of Persons With Disabilities, said it’s illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of disability.

Employers cannot discriminate against employees who become disabled, she said. They have to find a way to accommodate their disability. And an employer cannot discriminate against people with disabilities when they hire, either.

She said a big deadline is looming for all public establishments and workplaces in Ontario a little more than six years from now.

A statute called the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was enacted by the provincial government in 2005.

Its purpose is to improve standards with physical and mental disabilities at all public establishments by 2025. Compliance deadline dates depend on the size of the institution and the sector in which it operates.

Most of those changes require planning, they require resources, Gélinas said.

They require people to do things, and if you do nothing for 20 years, you can’t expect that you will meet the deadline of 2025. It’s not that far off anymore. It is time for everybody to really look at it.

Businesses need to think not only about removing barriers for people with physical disabilities whether they’re employees or clients but also things like making websites accessible.

Your website should be able to scale up for people that are visually impaired, Gélinas said.

The politician said she decided to speak about the legislation to show people at the breakfast how it can help those with disabilities.

It has a lot of tools, but a lot of people don’t know that it exists, don’t know how they can use it, and don’t know the power that it has, Gélinas said.

DiMeglio, who is visually impaired and uses a guide dog to help him get around, said he’s noticed a lot of accessibility improvements over the past decade.

That includes wheelchair buttons, wider doorways, and braille and large-print signs in government buildings.

You know what I’ve noticed too, just in the downtown core, is having those push buttons to cross the street are huge, DiMeglio said. I think the City of Greater Sudbury is becoming more friendly for seniors and people with disabilities.

Independent Living Sudbury Manitoulin provides a number of services to people with disabilities, including skills development, peer support and information and networking.

Those with disabilities who require support workers for their personal care can also hire their own workers through the agency’s direct funding program.

For more information about the services provided by Independent Living Sudbury Manitoulin, visit its website at https://www.ilsm.ca/index.php?utm_source=sudbury.com&utm_campaign=sudbury.com&utm_medium=referral
Original at https://www.sudbury.com/local-news/breakfast-message-people-with-disabilities-dont-need-lip-service-they-want-opportunities-1142890



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There’s a Business Case for Accessibility Legislation


Marie Bountrogianni
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published September 7, 2018

Dean, G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University, Toronto

First and foremost, national accessibility legislation is an act of human rights and inclusion. Nobody wants to live in isolation or feel forgotten by society. Through my research on employment trends, I found that a large majority of people with disabilities have a strong desire to work and pay taxes. Unfortunately, these individuals still make up a disproportionate number of people working in jobs below their skill level, a trend called mal-employment.

A poll commissioned by CIBC in 2017 found only half of Canadians with a disability are employed.

Canada, it is time for a paradigm shift.

There is a strong business case for the Accessible Canada Act; it is a shrewd move for the Canadian economy. In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, making Canadian businesses architecturally, physically, technologically and attitudinally accessible will significantly help their bottom line. After making reasonable accommodations, business owners will also find that they can recruit from a new pool of highly skilled workers.

The proudest moment of my tenure as Ontario cabinet minister came in June, 2005, when the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) received Royal Assent and came into force. However, the most profound moment occurred much earlier in the AODA consultation process. Following a meeting between business representatives and community members, a senior executive informed me, “minister as a businessman, you are scaring me, but as a father of a girl with a disability, you are not moving fast enough.”

His sentiments summarized the core our challenge. As indicated by Statistics Canada, approximately one in seven Canadians report living with a disability that affects their mobility, cognition, sight, hearing, learning or mental well-being. Whether we know it or not, all of us love someone who lives with a disability. It is our responsibility to help ensure these individuals feel like valued members of society.

For small-business owners, the prospect of costly modifications to their physical or virtual place of business may be especially daunting. However, I assure you that implementing these changes will come back to you in a positive way, financially. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, the U.S. General Accounting Office reports that revenues in the U.S. hospitality industry alone have increased by 12 per cent. People with disabilities are not unique in that if they feel their business is appreciated, they will be repeat customers for life.

Nearly every Canadian will face a challenge to their accessibility at some point in their lifetime. Adults at the age of 65 and older outnumbered children in Canada for the first time in 2016 a clear illustration of our country’s aging population. Statistics Canada further predicts that by the year 2031, one in every four Canadians will fall into the 65-plus demographic. Although their mobility may be limited, seniors want to stay active and engaged in their golden years and they often have monetary resources to spend on these endeavours. Consider the lucrative small-business opportunities this could present for savvy entrepreneurs. Simply integrating accessibility into your business plan could help you engage a loyal customer base.

The Chang School and DMZ at Ryerson University recently introduced the Accessibility Project a community and grant program that champions innovative ideas, products or solutions that support people with disabilities and the aging population. Some of the funded projects include a technology that allows hands-free interaction with iOS and Android devices as well as personal computers; an adaptive, two-garment clothing line that maximizes comfort and functionality; and a smartphone app that helps people with mobility challenges identify barrier-free businesses. Many of the teams who applied for funding consisted of at least one team member who is living with a disability. Consider the unlimited potential for innovation when we empower entrepreneurs of all ages and abilities.

When the national accessibility legislation was tabled in Parliament this past June, the government called for the future appointment of a Chief Accessibility Officer and an Accessibility Commissioner. I encourage the government to stand by these appointments and to stay vigilant in overseeing the implementation of the law. Leading up to the 2025 deadline of an accessible Ontario, there has been criticism over efforts to hold businesses accountable for making the appropriate changes. Personally, I think this may simply stem from a lack of communication. If businesses were more aware of the benefits of becoming accessible, I believe that they would be much more receptive to accessibility modifications. Premier Doug Ford’s recent appointment of a Minister for Seniors and Accessibility could be a step in the right direction for addressing this information gap.

Without a doubt, I believe that the Accessible Canada Act presents excellent potential for economic growth. All Canadians will benefit when the accessibility legislation is properly implemented and enforced. Furthermore, it is a great opportunity for us to emphasize the best attributes of this great country.

Original at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/careers/leadership/article-theres-a-business-case-for-accessibility-legislation/



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Harsher Penalties to Stop Workplace Discrimination, Boost Accommodation


by Stuart Rudner
Thursday, August 30, 2018

Human rights legislation across the country prohibits discrimination on the basis of various protected grounds. Accessibility legislation such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in Ontario seeks to remove barriers to employment for people who have disabilities.

The message seems clear: in 2018, people should not be prevented from working due to barriers that have no relation to their ability to do their job. And yet our courts and tribunals continue to award nominal compensation when organizations discriminate against candidates or employees in contravention of human rights legislation.

As part of the training required in Ontario to comply with the AODA, we are to review videos such as this. The video is a well-written, simple yet powerful reminder of the challenges that people with disabilities face in the workplace. One of the examples is an individual who was interested in applying for a position as a disability counsellor. Unfortunately, he was not able to review the details of the position, as the website was not accessible, and his screen reader could not read it. When he called to inquire, he was told that they were busy and that someone would call back. No one ever did.

So, here’s my concern: if he had filed a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, he would likely have been told that his claim is worth something in the range of $5,000-$10,000. And, of course, to obtain that, he would have to go through a lengthy proceeding and, while having a lawyer is not necessary, it is certainly advisable, and would probably cost as much if not more than what he would receive. Is that really consistent with the message that we are trying to send?

In recent years, our firm has represented many individuals who have been discriminated against on the basis of grounds protected by human rights legislation. They include individuals with physical and psychological disabilities, pregnant employees, mothers with young children, and in one case, an individual who was discriminated against because she had an abortion. We have attended many mediations at the tribunal, which are typically presided over by vice-chairs, who could otherwise be the “judge.” And we have repeatedly been told that this type of case, where there is no harassment or assault, is worth closer to $0 than $30,000, so settlement should be in the $5,000-$10,000 range.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is time for courts and tribunals to put their money where their mouth is by awarding substantial damages when there is a breach of human rights. The costs associated with such discrimination cannot be seen as a cost of doing business. I said the same thing last fall in the context of workplace sexual harassment.

So how does this change? We have seen positive change in recent years. As I have said before in a previous The Lawyer’s Daily article: “Harassment is not tolerated as it once was. However, before we can take even more significant strides toward eliminating harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace, we have to remove any notion that allowing such conduct, the damage it does to the victims and others, and the risk of liability, is all simply a cost of doing business. Harassment should never go unpunished, no matter who the harasser is.”

Currently, there is little to dissuade an employer from discriminating against a pregnant employee, or an applicant with a disability. After all, the odds are that the individual will simply walk away. If they file a claim, you can simply throw a few thousand dollars at them to make it go away.

At the same time, human rights tribunals need to have the authority to award costs as our courts do. Under the current model, there is nothing to discourage frivolous complaints. We have represented many employers that have been the victim of such, having done nothing wrong but facing the reality that they may have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees in order to obtain a relatively hollow victory. That is not right.

And, of course, in some cases employers take advantage of the reality that they have deeper pockets than the complainant and know that the complainant will not be able to fund a claim all the way to hearing and will ultimately have to accept less than they are entitled to. Cost awards should be used in those circumstances as well.

Discrimination on the basis of personal characteristic that are entirely unrelated to employment is reprehensible. Barriers should be eliminated, not created. That is true whether we are discussing an individual who cannot get to the second-floor office because they are in a wheelchair, a female employee dismissed because she is pregnant or an applicant unable to proceed through the hiring process because it is not accessible.

Employers will take their duty to provide accessible workplaces, accommodate their employees and not discriminate when the penalties for breaching those duties are more than token amounts.

Stuart Rudner is a leading Canadian employment lawyer and mediator at Rudner Law. He can be reached at 416-864-8500 or [email protected]

Original at https://www.thelawyersdaily.ca/articles/7194/harsher-penalties-to-stop-workplace-discrimination-boost-accommodation-stuart-rudner



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