The Ford Government Claims to Be Leading Ontario By Its Example on Achieving Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, But a Closer Look Shows That It Is Leading By a Poor Example


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

The Ford Government Claims to Be Leading Ontario By Its Example on Achieving Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, But a Closer Look Shows That It Is Leading By a Poor Example

March 2, 2020

          SUMMARY

Last Friday, February 28, 2020, at a media event to which the AODA Alliance was not invited, the Ford Government made an announcement, set out below, unveiling how it says it is leading Ontario by example to achieve accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities- people who face far too many barriers on a daily basis when they try to get a job, ride public transit, shop, or use public services. Yet a closer look shows that the example by which the Ford Government says it is leading is a very poor one. It lacks key ingredients that Ontarians with disabilities need.

“There is nothing new in The Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 announcement,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, Ontario’s voluntary grassroots watchdog on disability accessibility. “The Government once again staged an event to re-announce measures that are already in place or that have previously been announced, dressing them up as if this were some bold new initiative. Such pre-existing measures, while potentially helpful to a point, do not get Ontario on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025, or ever.”

A month ago, on January 28, 2020, the Ford Government held an earlier media event where it made another announcement on accessibility. It was thin gruel, mostly if not entirely made up of actions that were previously announced. That even included a program that has been in effect for over a quarter century, when Bob Rae was Ontario’s premier.

This is not the leadership on accessibility that Ontarians with disabilities deserve. Below we provide six amply documented examples that illustrate this. The AODA Alliance continues to offer the Government constructive ideas, and remains eager to work with the Government on this. To date, Premier Doug Ford continues to refuse to meet with us.

A troubling 396 days have now gone by since the Ford Government received the final report on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to come up with a comprehensive and effective plan of new measures to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations, needed to substantially strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. To date, all the Government has offered Ontarians with disabilities is thin gruel.

          MORE DETAILS

Six Illustrations of the Poor Example that the Ford Government has Set on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

The Ontario Government has for over a decade, under Conservative and Liberal leaders alike, and under Minister after Minister, repeatedly congratulated itself with the same incorrect claim that Ontario is leading by example on accessibility. The Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 announcement is the most recent repetition of that claim. Yet the AODA Alliance has researched and documented in great detail how the Ontario Government has for years been leading by a poor example on accessibility – an example which others should not follow. We documented this in Chapter 10 of the AODA Alliance’s June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran 2nd AODA Independent Review, and in Chapter 10 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to David Onley’s 3rd AODA Independent Review. Neither the current Ontario Government nor the previous Government disputed the accuracy of the facts in those briefs.

Both the Mayo Moran and David Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that the Ontario Government needed to show revitalized new leadership on accessibility. They found that the disability community recognizes that the Ontario Government’s leadership on this issue has been wanting. Their findings directly echo the submissions we made to those AODA Independent Reviews.

The 2014 final report of the 2nd Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, made this pivotal finding:

“One of the prominent themes that emerged from the consultations was the belief of the disability community that the Government of Ontario has not succeeded in embedding accessibility into its internal operations.”

Five years later, the 3rd AODA Independent Review by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley made the same findings in its report:

“Government Leadership Missing

Many stakeholders called on the Ontario government to revitalize and breathe new life into the AODA, echoing both the Beer and Moran Reviews. As far as government leadership goes, little has changed. The government largely has been missing in action.”

The Onley Report also found:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this. I am hopeful the current one will.”

Yet Premier Ford has not done so. He has to date refused to even meet with the AODA Alliance’s leadership.

The Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 re-announcement of pre-existing measures does not show the revitalized new leadership on accessibility for which the Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews called.

Here are six examples arising from the Ford Government’s announcement on February 28, 2020 that illustrate that it is not leading by the good example that it claims:

  1. This announcement includes measures that sound far better on paper than they have proven to be in practice. For example, the Ford Government said on February 28, 2020 that it is leading by example by “(e)nsuring ministries are taking accessibility into account as a key consideration when developing policies.” The Ford Government did just the opposite late last fall. Despite our pleas, it palpably ignored serious disability accessibility and safety concerns when it enacted a regulation allowing municipalities to permit electric scooters (e-scooters) on roads, sidewalks and other public places. An unlicensed, untrained and uninsured e-person as young as 16 silently racing towards people with disabilities endangers them, as an open letter from 13 disability organization attests.

The ford Government chose to listen only to corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies. It side-lined the safety of people with disabilities. Check out the AODA Alliance’s web page on the e-scooter issue.

The Ford Government’s e-scooter regulation threatens to create new and serious barriers against people with disabilities. That is not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.

  1. To lead by example in this area, the Ford Government needs to put in place a detailed plan that will ensure that Ontario will become accessible by 2025, the AODA’s deadline. Yet it still has no such plan. No plan was announced on Friday, February 28,2020, nor has the Government announced any plan to create a plan. That is not the leadership example that , Ontarians with disabilities deserve.
  1. To support its claim that it is leading by example on accessibility, the Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 announcement points to the fact that there are Standards Development Committees now developing recommendations on what the Government should enact in new AODA accessibility standards to address barriers in Ontario’s education system and health care system. We campaigned for years for those Standards Development Committees to be established.

However, this is hardly an illustration of the Ford Government leading by a good example. It was the previous Liberal Government under Premier Wynne that appointed those Standards Development Committees. In a very harmful move, the Ford Government kept those Standards Development Committees frozen for over a year after it took power. That freeze unjustifiably set back progress on accessibility. The AODA Alliance had to lead a tenacious campaign for many months just to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze. That is not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.

  1. The Onley Report found that the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face in the built environment must become a major Government priority. It called for new accessibility regulations to fix this. Doug Ford recognized the importance of this need in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance where he set out his party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility.

Yet last Friday’s announcement did not commit to develop new regulations, under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code or both, to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible. Existing legal requirements are inadequate. Last May, during National Accessibility Week, Doug Ford’s Government hurtfully derided such an idea as “red tape,” as if the rights to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities were red tape.

Making this worse, The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint an AODA Standards Development Committee over two years ago to review a weak accessibility standard that deals with barriers in public spaces, mainly outside buildings. The Ford Government continues to be in open, flagrant breach of that obligation. That is not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.

  1. The Ford Government’s announcement last Friday spoke of accessibility as being one of the criteria for assessing applications for some infrastructure spending. However, it did not commit to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Yet the Government has emphasized its commitment to be responsible in the use of public money. Spending public money in a way that creates new barriers against people with disabilities, as the Ontario Government has been doing for years, is not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.
  1. In last Friday’s announcement, the Ford Government pointed to measures to improve accessibility in public transit. However, it has made no commitment and announced no plan to ensure that its new public transit infrastructure will be fully accessible to passengers with disabilities. Metrolinx, the Ontario Government’s key agency in that area, has a troubling track record in this regard. Moreover, after over one and a half years in power, the Ford Government has announced no plans to strengthen the weak 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government received recommendations from the Transportation Standards Development Committee in the 2018 spring, around two years ago. This inaction is also not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.

Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 News Release

Ontario Leading by Example in Improving Accessibility

Government Continues Progress Through Cross-Government Actions

NEWS
February 28, 2020

WHITBY — Ontario is continuing to work towards an inclusive and barrier-free province through its comprehensive accessibility framework.

Today, Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, announced the second area of focus under the Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework – government leading by example – at the Abilities Centre in Whitby. This area demonstrates the government’s commitment and leadership in improving accessibility in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer.

“Our government is committed to protecting what matters most, and this means removing barriers in Ontario so we can empower people with disabilities,” said Minister Cho. “We are continuing to develop and enforce accessibility laws to help deliver critical services to Ontarians. It’s crucial that we set a strong example of moving accessibility forward to make a positive difference in the daily lives of people with disabilities.”

The government is taking leadership on this issue by applying an accessibility lens when evaluating capital project applications and spending public tax dollars. For example, while developing the provincial criteria for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility worked closely with the Ministry of Infrastructure to establish accessibility as one of the four main objectives that applications will be evaluated on under the program’s Community, Culture and Recreation stream. Projects will additionally be evaluated based on exceeding minimum standards; use of Universal Design Principles, accessible guidelines and innovative solutions to increasing accessibility.

“We are extremely pleased with the direction the Government of Ontario is taking with its Advancing Accessibly in Ontario framework,” said Stuart McReynolds, President and Chief Executive Officer of Abilities Centre. “We must all work together as partners to advance inclusion and accessibility throughout the province.”

As part of Ontario’s work towards creating a more accessible and inclusive province today and for future generations, the government formed a dedicated Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility in June 2018.

QUICK FACTS

  • There are 2.6 million people in Ontario that have a disability.
  • The Ontario Public Service Accessibility Office serves as an accessibility centre of excellence, elevating accessibility as a top priority within and beyond government. It supports ministries to meet their legislated obligations and embed accessibility into government policies, programs, services and internal activities.
  • The Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework was informed by the recommendations made by the Honourable David C. Onley in the third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, as well as input from key partners, organizations and people with disabilities.
  • Further information on the other key areas in Advancing Accessibility in Ontario will be announced in the coming weeks.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Government to lead by example

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Breaking down barriers in the built environment

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Accessibility in Ontario: Information for Businesses web page

MEDIA CONTACTS          

Pooja Parekh
Minister’s Office
[email protected]

Matt Gloyd
Communications Branch
647-268-7233
[email protected]

Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 Backgrounder

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Government to lead by example

BACKGROUNDER

February 28, 2020

Enhancing accessibility is a priority for the government. The province has elevated accessibility as a commitment by creating a dedicated Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility to work towards a more accessible and inclusive Ontario today and for future generations.

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a cross-government framework that will help focus the government’s work in four key areas:

  • breaking down barriers in the built environment
  • government leading by example in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer
  • increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities and
  • improving understanding and awareness about accessibility

The government leading by example demonstrates Ontario’s leadership in improving accessibility in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer.

In its role as a policy maker, the government is making significant progress in implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and as an organization is leading the way by:

  • Ensuring ministries are taking accessibility into account as a key consideration when developing policies.
  • Addressing barriers in the health care sector, such as a greater need for sensitivity when communicating with people with disabilities, by resuming the Health Care Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations for proposed accessibility standards for hospitals in regulation under the AODA. This committee is comprised of people with disabilities, disability organizations and sector experts.
  • Making sure students with disabilities have the supports they need to transition from one school system to another by resuming the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees to provide recommendations on how to make the education sector more inclusive. These committees will develop recommendations for proposed accessibility standards in regulation under the AODA.
  • Considering recommendations from the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee to assess how to make information and digital communications more accessible.
  • Creating more inclusive learning environments by providing educators with accessibility training, lesson plans and resources through the TeachAble Project website. The site was created with funding from the government’s EnAbling Change Program and gives people who work with students ways to create awareness about accessibility in the classroom.
  • Providing clearer and more transparent processes for families requesting service animals accompany their children to school, no matter where they live in Ontario. As of January 1, 2020, Ontario school boards are required to implement their service animal policies. This support will help all students be successful.
  • Providing organizations and the public with practical tips on how to be more accessible by delivering regular free webinars on various topics, such as accessible transit and creating accessible tourism experiences and customer service in Ontario.
  • Improving accessibility as part of broader efforts being made with the federal government and other provinces.

In its role as a service provider, the government is working to provide barrier-free services through initiatives including:

  • Better serving transit users and commuters by investing in improvements to the GO transit experience as part of the GO Expansion program. Progress continues at the five remaining GO stations in the Greater Toronto Area that are not yet accessible, including installing ramps and platform elevators as needed.
  • Continuing to improve accessibility on trails, beaches and provincial parks in Ontario by adding features like mobility mats to make it easier for everyone to use public spaces.
  • Streamlining the Accessible Parking Permit process to reduce misuse while ensuring access by making it easier for people 80 years of age and older, Canadian veterans of any age and certain people with disabilities to apply for an accessible parking permit.
  • Investing $1.07 million in 2019-20 to support Abilities Centre in Whitby to advance inclusion and accessibility for people of all ages and abilities. Initiatives include:
    • researching social inclusion and social enterprise
    • developing a pre-employment skills program
    • piloting a 12-week pan-disability program for adults with disabilities
    • supporting local private and non-profit sector organizations to develop inclusion and accessibility plans
  • Improving community agencies across Ontario through the annual Partner Facility Renewal program, which includes an investment totalling $11.5 million that goes towards more than 350 upgrade and repair projects. This program includes an investment of more than $1.6 million for building repairs and upgrades at community agencies across northern Ontario so they can continue providing services to children and families. For example, a new elevator will be installed at Ontario Native Women’s Association, helping to make the building more accessible.
  • Continuing to help Ontario residents with long-term mobility disabilities remain in their homes and participate in their communities by funding the Home & Vehicle Modification Program, which is administered by March of Dimes Canada. With an annual investment of $10.6 million, this program reduces safety risks by approving grants up to $15,000 to make basic home and vehicle modifications.
  • Addressing barriers in the digital environment to move towards a modern digital approach so that our accessibility resources, reports and publicly available data are easier to access. For example:
    • We’re making it easier for people who are blind to use Ontario GeoHub, a website that provides descriptive information about the characteristics, quality and context of Ontario’s geospatial data. For this project, the Ministry of National Resources and Forestry collaborated with the Canadian National Institute of the Blind, which led to helpful adjustments to the site that make it more user friendly for people with disabilities. The ministry will use these learnings to inform how it delivers digital services moving forward.

In its role as an employer and as an organization, the government is working to establish a more inclusive employment culture in the OPS by:

  • Supporting OPS employees – roughly 12 per cent of which self-identify as having a disability – and ministries to meet the requirements of the AODA and embed accessibility into internal activities through the Ontario Public Service Accessibility Office, which serves as an accessibility centre of excellence.
  • Addressing systemic barriers and gaps through Deputy Ministers’ committees within the OPS. These groups work on accessibility planning and implementation across government, as well as ensure accessibility is meaningfully reflected in government policies, programs and initiatives. This helps to improve access to government services for the public, which enhances health, employment and social inclusion.
  • Using the OPS’ annual Multi-Year Accessibility Plan Report to summarize the OPS’ work to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility. The OPS also works to help foster a culture of inclusion both within the organization and across the province.
  • Increasing opportunities for hands-on work experience and training in the OPS for youth with disabilities by expanding eligibility for the Ontario Internship Program. The criteria have recently changed so that students with disabilities that have graduated within the last five years – rather than two years – can now apply to the year-long program.
  • Expanding the professional networks of youth with disabilities by connecting them with mentors across the OPS and broader public sector through Connexions, an annual session that helps post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities prepare for the job market by practicing job-seeking skills.

 

 

MEDIA CONTACTS

Matt Gloyd

Communications Branch

647-268-7233

[email protected]



Source link

Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Steven Del Duca Only Makes Four of the Ten Full Commitments on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities that the AODA Alliance Seeks, and Gives Weaker Commitments on the Other Six Issues – We Analyze Del Duca’s Responses Compared to Leadership Candidate Michael Coteau Who Made All Ten Commitments We Seek


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Steven Del Duca Only Makes Four of the Ten Full Commitments on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities that the AODA Alliance Seeks, and Gives Weaker Commitments on the Other Six Issues – We Analyze Del Duca’s Responses Compared to Leadership Candidate Michael Coteau Who Made All Ten Commitments We Seek

February 17, 2020

          SUMMARY

On January 11, 2020, the AODA Alliance sent an open letter to all Ontario Liberal leadership candidates. We asked for 10 pledges to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. On February 15, 2020, Steven Del Duca became the second Ontario Liberal leadership candidate to write to the AODA Alliance in order to spell out his specific responses regarding those commitments. We set out his letter below.

The first Ontario Liberal leadership candidate to give a detailed response to us, Michael Coteau, earlier made all ten commitments on disability accessibility that we sought. In contrast, Mr. Del Duca in substance made only four of the ten commitments we sought. On the other six issues, his commitments fell short of what we seek. Below we provide an issue-by-issue comparison.

We urge Mr. Del Duca and all the Liberal leadership candidates who have not yet done so to now make all the commitments we seek. There is still time for them to do so.

We will be closely watching the televised Liberal Leadership Candidates Debate on February 19, 2020 at 8 pm and 11 pm on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin to see what the candidates have to say about disability rights, including accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.

As always, in this leadership race or in similar races in other parties, we do not support, endorse or oppose any candidate. We seek their commitments and make public their responses. We aim to get strong commitments from all of them.

The issue of achieving accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is important as the Ontario Liberal Party seeks to rejuvenate itself after it so resoundingly lost the 2018 Ontario election. It is our hope that their rejuvenation includes a strengthened approach to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. As always, we aim to get all parties to take as strong an approach to accessibility as we can achieve.

Turning brief attention to the current Ontario Government, as of today, 382 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It called for strong new action to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. The Ford Government has still not announced a plan of action to strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the AODA. On January 28, 2020, the Ford Government held a media event where it mainly re-announced some measures that will not strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, measures which we describe as thin gruel for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities

Would you like to send us feedback? Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

Analysis of Steven Del Duca’s Commitments on Disability Accessibility Compared to the Other Five Liberal Leadership Candidates

Mr. Del Duca in effect fully made four of the ten commitments we sought, and gave more general  answers on the other six. Michael Coteau made all ten commitments we seek.

It is good that Mr. Del Duca committed to meet with accessibility advocates should he become party leader, and again should he become Ontario premier (our request #1). It is also good that he promised to press the Ford Government on accessibility issues (our request #2), and that in advance of the next election, he would set out policies on accessibility for people with disabilities (our request #3). When asked for commitments to ensure that elections become accessible to people with disabilities (our request #10), he committed that he would “work hard to ensure that elections in Ontario are accessible to everyone.”

However, Mr. Del Duca did not make six of the specific commitments we sought. His responses on those issues were more limited.

Mr. Del Duca did not commit to fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 nor did he commit not to weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any Government policies, practices, strategies or initiatives that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives (our request #4). Michael Coteau gave the commitment we sought. So did Kathleen Wynne when she was running in 2012 for Ontario Liberal Party leadership, though she did not later keep that promise. On this issue, Mr. Del Duca more generally pledged: “my government will fulfill the AODA standards and will strive to implement fair policies that advance accessibility for all Ontarians.”

Unlike Michael Coteau in this race and Kathleen Wynne in the last Liberal leadership race, Mr. Del Duca did not commit to honour past Liberal Party commitments on accessibility (our request #5). He only committed to enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), just one of those prior Liberal Party commitments.

When asked if he would show new leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into the AODA’s implementation (our request #6), Mr. Del Duca more generally said “my government will consult closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the AODA is implemented and enforced effectively.”

Mr. Del Duca did not specifically commit to direct cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior public officials in his mandate letters to them to implement his Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility (our request #7) . He gave the more limited commitment that “I will expect all members of my government to work in a coordinated fashion to advance our accessibility policies.”

Here again, Michael Coteau gave the commitment we sought. In substance, so did the Kathleen Wynne Government in the 2014 Ontario election. The Wynne Government did not keep that pledge in many cases.

Unlike Michael Coteau, Mr. Del Duca did not commit to ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires. Should the Liberals form the Government at a time when it is too late to achieve that deadline, he did not commit to get Ontario as close to being accessible as reasonably possible by 2025. In that event, he did not commit to work with us and to take any needed action, including passing new legislation, to set a new achievable deadline and to institute measures that will ensure that it is achieved (and that will not weaken or reduce any provisions or policies then in place,our request #8).

Mr. Del Duca gave this more limited commitment:

“I will consult closely with all stakeholders to determine how Ontario can achieve greater accessibility, and I will work with all stakeholders to implement accessibility policies that achieve our goals.”

We note that “greater accessibility” is a very weak goal. Merely installing one more ramp somewhere in Ontario fulfils that goal. The AODA has the far more substantial goal of making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Mr. Del Duca did not categorically commit that under his leadership, public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities (our request #9). He gave this more limited commitment:

“I will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that public buildings are accessible to all Ontarians.”

This is helpful, but limited. Accessibility concerns many different kinds of barriers, not only those in the built environment.

Once again, Michael Coteau gave the commitment we sought. Kathleen Wynne’s Government also gave this commitment in the 2014 Ontario election, but broke that promise during its time in office.,

As for the four other Liberal leadership candidates, Mitzie Hunter has not responded to us at all. Kate Graham thanked us for sharing our requests with her, but did not answer any of them.

Brenda Hollingsworth sent us a message on Facebook around January 14, 2020. She said she would send us a letter making all the commitments we seek. However, we have not yet gotten a letter to that effect from her.

Finally, on January 11 or 12, 2020, Alvin Tedjo sent us a tweet on Twitter. He said that

“As leader, I’ll consult with Ontarians with disabilities, advocates and service providers to make sure our party puts forward a robust and achievable accessibility platform in 2022.”

That answer does not give most of the ten commitments we sought.

February 15, 2020, Letter to the AODA Alliance from Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Steven Del Duca

Steven Del Duca Leadership Campaign

February 15, 2020

Mr. David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, AODA Alliance

Dear David,

Thank-you for your letter. You and the AODA Alliance have been tireless champions for accessibility in Ontario, and I am pleased to respond to your important questions.

Achieving real accessibility for all Ontarians is vital to building an Ontario where everyone can fully enjoy our province’s social and economic prosperity. If I am honoured to be elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and Premier of Ontario, I am committed to working closely with all Ontarians to make Ontario accessible.

  1. We have welcomed face-to-face meetings with the past two Premiers, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, to discuss accessibility issues (in addition to face-to-face meetings with different cabinet ministers, successive Secretaries of Cabinet, and other senior government officials). If you become your Party’s leader, will you maintain the practice of personally meeting with us to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to our meetings with your appropriate caucus members? As part of this, will you meet with us within 60 days of becoming your party’s leader, so that we can brief you on these issues? If your Party is elected to form the Government, will you as Premier agree to periodically meet with us, in addition to our meeting with appropriate cabinet ministers?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader, I will meet with accessibility leaders and advocates within 60 days. If I am honoured to be elected Premier of Ontario, I will meet regularly with the accessibility leaders and advocates to hear concerns and develop policies that advance accessibility in Ontario.

  1. Under your leadership, will your Party make it a priority to press the current Government to keep its commitments and fulfil its duties on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader, the Ontario Liberal Party will advocate for real action by the Ford Government to advance accessibility in Ontario and will demand that the Ford Government fulfill its obligations to all Ontarians with disabilities.

 

  1. In Ontario elections, will you continue the practice of the last three Ontario Liberal Party leaders, of making specific election commitments to us on the issue of achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities, in letters to us?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader, I will set out policies in advance of the 2022 election that will demonstrate real leadership by the Ontario Liberal Party on accessibility, in stark contrast to the regressive policies of the Ford Government.

  1. Under your leadership, will the Liberal Party fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any Government policies, practices, strategies or initiatives that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, my government will fulfill the AODA standards and will strive to implement fair policies that advance accessibility for all Ontarians.

 

  1. Will you keep the past commitments that your Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility, including e.g. its previous commitments to effectively enforce the AODA? We set out links to those commitments below.

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, my government will work with all stakeholders to ensure that the AODA is enforced effectively and fairly.

 

  1. Under the AODA, three Government-appointed mandatory Independent Reviews have examined the Government’s implementation of the AODA. These were conducted in 2009-2010 by Charles Beer, in 2013-2014 by Prof. Mayo Moran and in 2018-2019 by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. All three reports called on the Government to revitalize and breathe new life into the implementation of the AODA, and for the Government to show strong new leadership on this issue. The Moran report and the Onley Report specifically recommended that Ontario’s Premier should show strong new leadership on disability accessibility. (See a quotation later in this letter) If you become Ontario’s Premier, will you show new, strong leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into and revitalize the Government’s implementation of the AODA?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, my government will consult closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the AODA is implemented and enforced effectively and fairly. It is essential that we build an Ontario where everyone can fully participate in our society and economy.

 

  1. Each premier sends Mandate Letters to each of his or her cabinet ministers, setting out their priorities. In your Mandate Letters, will you direct your cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior public officials to implement your Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, I will expect all members of my government to work in a coordinated fashion to advance our accessibility policies.

 

  1. If you become Premier, will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires? Should your party form the Government at a time when it is too late to achieve that deadline, will you commit to get Ontario as close to being accessible as reasonably possible by 2025? In that event, will you also commit to work with us and to take any needed action, including passing new legislation, to set a new achievable deadline and to institute measures that will ensure that it is achieved (and that will not weaken or reduce any provisions or policies then in place)?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, I will consult closely with all stakeholders to determine how Ontario can achieve greater accessibility, and I will work with all stakeholders to implement accessibility policies that achieve our goals.

 

  1. The Moran and Onley reports expressed concerns that public money has been used to create new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Will you commit that under your leadership, public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, I will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that public buildings are accessible to all Ontarians.

 

  1. Ontario voters and candidates with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Under your leadership as premier, will the Government bring forward new measures, including new legislation, to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities?

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, my government will work hard to ensure that elections in Ontario are accessible to everyone.

Sincerely,

 

Steven Del Duca

Candidate for the Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party



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Ford Government’s Long Delayed Response to the Blistering Report of the David Onley Independent Review of the Implementation of Ontario’s Disability Accessibility Law Offers Thin Gruel to 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ford Government’s Long Delayed Response to the Blistering Report of the David Onley Independent Review of the Implementation of Ontario’s Disability Accessibility Law Offers Thin Gruel to 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

January 28, 2020 Toronto: After a year delay, the Ford Government today offered thin gruel to 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities in its response set out below to the searing report of the Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation of Ontario’s disability accessibility law conducted by David Onley. On January 31, 2019, the Government received Onley’s blistering report that concluded that for people with disabilities, Ontario is not a place of opportunity, but is instead full of “countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing Barriers”, with progress on accessibility being “barely detectable” and coming at a “glacial” pace.

To fix this, today the Ford Government mainly re-announced existing measures, in place for months or years, primarily focusing on public education efforts that are proven to be insufficient. Among these, it even re-announced a program for purchasing accessible buses that was started a quarter century ago by the Bob Rae Government.

“After a year, this is the best they can do? Premier Ford has still announced no action plan to implement the Onley Report’s important recommendations to strengthen and speed up the implementation and enforcement of the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible by 2025, under five years from now,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance that leads the campaign for accessibility in Ontario. “How long must we wait for a real plan to actually implement the Onley Report? A year’s dithering mainly produced a re-announcement of earlier voluntary programs that the Onley Report shows were insufficient to meet the needs of Ontarians with disabilities who want to ride public transit, get an education, use our health care system or get a job.”

The Onley Report found that Ontario has suffered from years of ineffective leadership on accessibility. Today’s announcement shows none of the new leadership by the premier for which the Onley Report called. Indeed, Premier Ford has to date refused to even meet with the AODA Alliance.

Since taking office, the Ford Government has taken steps setting back accessibility, such as:

* For months, it froze the work of five advisory committees, appointed under the AODA to propose new measures to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities in education, health care, information and communication and employment. The AODA Alliance had to campaign hard to get that unjustified freeze lifted.

* It rejected recommendations to create a long-overdue Accessibility Standard to ensure that buildings in Ontario become accessible. The Ford Government unfairly slammed that proposal as “red tape.” Today’s re-announcement that the Ford Government plans to harmonize the weak Ontario Building Code with the weak federal building code could lead to a further weakening of already-inadequate accessibility protections for Ontarians with disabilities.

* Again re-announced today, it wastefully diverted $1.3 million public dollars into the deeply-flawed and unaccountable Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program – funds which should have been used to create new regulations on building accessibility, rather than having the Hansen Foundation use inadequate standards to have its insufficiently-trained people inspect a meager 250 buildings across all of Ontario.

* It mandated the creation of serious new barriers against people with disabilities by legalizing electric scooters on Ontario roads and sidewalks, endangering accessibility and safety of people with disabilities and others. Today’s announcement says the Ford Government will lead by example on accessibility, but it’s example so far is one that no one should follow.

* It is considering allowing builders to hire the private building inspector of their choice to inspect their construction project – a proposal riddled with conflicts of interest. Here again the Government is showing a weak commitment to accessibility in the built environment, despite the Onley Report’s emphasizing it as a top priority and the Government’s announcement today emphasizing barriers in the built environment.

* It has not committed to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. This is so even though the Government has emphasized its commitment to be responsible in the use of public money.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Text of the Ford Government’s January 28, 2020 Announcement In Response to the Onley Report

Ontario Establishes a New Framework to Continue Progress on Accessibility

Applying Cross-Government Actions to Advance Accessibility

TORONTO — When a society is inclusive and barrier-free, people can fully participate in their communities. Making Ontario a province where communities and businesses are accessible for everyone benefits us all.

The government continues to build momentum in creating a barrier-free Ontario, but a lot of work still needs to be done to make the province accessible for everyone. That is why Ontario has developed a new framework informed by the recommendations made by the Honourable David C. Onley in the third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), as well as input from key partners, organizations and people with disabilities. The new framework will make a positive difference in the daily lives of people with disabilities.

Today, Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, announced Advancing Accessibility in Ontario at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. This cross-government framework will help focus the province’s work in four key areas:

  • breaking down barriers in the built environment
  • government leading by example
  • increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities and
  • improving understanding and awareness about accessibility

“We know that making Ontario accessible is a journey that cannot be completed overnight or alone. The Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework will support our work with all of our partners across government and beyond to remove barriers for people with disabilities,” said Minister Cho. “Our government created a dedicated Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility because we are working towards a more accessible and inclusive province today and for future generations.”

“As I conducted the third legislative review of the AODA, it became increasingly clear that the people of Ontario wanted an all-of-government commitment to making Ontario far more accessible. This could not be achieved with a single stand-alone ministry attempting to resolve the problem alone,” said David C. Onley. “That is why I am pleased that the government is coordinating access activities and programs with multiple ministries in an-all-of-government commitment.”

The first area in Advancing Accessibility in Ontario – breaking down barriers in the built environment – shows how government is working with partner ministries and businesses to reduce barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities in the built environment and housing.

For example, the Ontario Building Officials Association is receiving funding from the government’s EnAbling Change Program to enhance its curriculum and training on accessibility. By making building officials more aware of the challenges people with disabilities face in accessing buildings and training them about areas of improvement, new and existing buildings can be planned and built to be more accessible.

There are several additional examples that illustrate progress and upcoming initiatives as the government continues its work towards making Ontario accessible.

Ontario is committed to protecting what matters most to people with disabilities.

QUICK FACTS

  • There are 2.6 million people in Ontario that have a disability.
  • The government is investing $1.3 million over two years for the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in Ontario to help remove barriers in buildings. An update on the program will be announced shortly.
  • Further information on the other key areas in Advancing Accessibility in Ontario will be announced in the coming weeks.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Breaking down barriers in the built environment

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

 

Accessibility in Ontario: Information for Businesses web page

-30-

Ontario Government Backgrounder

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario:

Breaking down barriers in the built environment

BACKGROUNDER January 28, 2020

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a cross-government framework that will help focus the government’s work in four key areas. The four key areas are:

  • breaking down barriers in the built environment
  • government leading by example in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer
  • increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities and
  • improving understanding and awareness about accessibility

The first area in Advancing Accessibility in Ontario – breaking down barriers in the built environment – shows how government is working with partner ministries and businesses to reduce barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities in the built environment and housing.

Work the government is doing to break down barriers in the built environment includes:

  • Making buildings safer and more accessible for people with disabilities by increasing harmonization of Ontario’s Building Code with the National Construction Codes. This process is reducing barriers and has resulted in accessibility changes, including new requirements for the design of barrier-free ramps, clearer accessibility requirements in barrier-free washrooms and easier-to-understand requirements for universal washrooms in large buildings and equipment such as grab bars and faucets.
  • Investing $1.3 million over two years for the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in Ontario to help remove barriers in buildings. An update on the program will be announced shortly.
  • Improving access to buildings and places for people with disabilities by working with key partners in architecture, design, and building. We are exploring ways to enhance training for those practicing in the field and undertaking discussions with the post-secondary sector to reach a new generation of professionals. For example:
    • We are partnering with the Ontario Building Officials Association to enhance its curriculum and training on accessibility, helping to ensure that new and existing buildings can be planned and built to be more accessible.
    • The Royal Architecture Institute of Canada is introducing a new course on accessibility to be available March 2020. Introduction to Successful Accessible Design will analyze the impacts of accessibility in society, the built environment, and the development industry. The course will be offered in English and French, both as a complete university graduate level course and as a continuing education course for practicing professionals.
  • Making places of worship more accessible so people can connect with their faith groups by funding Our Doors Are Open – a free guide created by OCAD University that provides practical information on how places of worship can remove physical barriers to accessibility.
  • Giving retailers of all sizes in Ontario practical information on how to make their store more welcoming for customers and staff with disabilities by funding EnAbling Change for Retailers: Make your Store Accessible – a free guide created by Retail Council of Canada that covers how stores can implement accessibility in their communications, customer service and recruitment and retention.
  • Ensuring better access for people with disabilities throughout Ontario by continuing to require that all public transportation vehicles bought with provincial funding be accessible.
  • Continuing to help Ontario residents with long-term mobility disabilities remain in their homes and participate in their communities by funding the Home & Vehicle Modification Program, which is administered by March of Dimes Canada. With an annual investment of $10.6 million, this program reduces safety risks by approving grants up to $15,000 to make basic home and vehicle modifications.

As the government moves forward with making Ontario more accessible, upcoming work includes:

  • Funding free resources and training materials for the building sector through the EnAbling Change Program to further educate associations and employers about how to improve accessibility in the built environment. Many of these resources are available on a comprehensive one-stop-shop government web page that provides businesses and communities with information to help them be more accessible and inclusive.
  • We are committed to developing an innovation guide with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that will be used to support the implementation of Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan. The action plan will address housing challenges and support fresh approaches to help make homes more accessible.
   
MEDIA CONTACTS

Matt Gloyd

Communications Branch

647-268-7233

[email protected]

ontario.ca/msaa-news

Disponible en français



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AODA Alliance Sends an Open Letter to the Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Seeking Specific Commitments on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities


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

AODA Alliance Sends an Open Letter to the Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Seeking Specific Commitments on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities

January 11, 2020

          SUMMARY

Happy new year to one and all. Although the new year has scarcely begun, we’re already back at it, sleeves rolled up, plowing ahead with advocacy to tear down the barriers that people with disabilities too often still face. Here is the first news for you in 2020.

At its party convention starting on March 7, 2020, the Ontario Liberal Party will choose its next leader. Today, we wrote an open letter to all the candidates for Ontario Liberal leadership, which we set out below. In it, we ask each candidate to make commitments on making our society accessible for people with disabilities. We will make public any responses that we receive.

We will not endorse, support or oppose any candidate. As always, our non-partisan goal is to get strong commitments from all the leadership candidates, whatever be their party.

This is certainly not the first such leadership race in which we have used this strategy. When the Ontario Liberals last had a leadership race, in 2012-13, we did the same thing. In that leadership race, all six candidates made written commitments to us. During the two leadership races held by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party since then, we deployed the same strategy. In both of those leadership races, none of the candidates answered our request for commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Stay tuned for lots more news on accessibility issues over the next days, weeks and months. There have now been 345 days, or over eleven months, since the Doug Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still failed to announce a plan to implement that report. The AODA’s mandatory 2025 deadline for Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities is now less than 5 years away.

In this new year, we welcome your feedback as much as ever! Write us at [email protected] Tweet us at @aodaalliance. Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the January 11, 2020 Open Letter from the AODA Alliance to All Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: [email protected]

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

January 11, 2020

To: Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party

Michael Coteau

Email: [email protected] and [email protected]

Twitter: @coteau

 

Steven Del Duca

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @StevenDelDuca

Kate Graham

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @KateMarieGraham

Brenda Hollingsworth

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @OttawaLawyers

Mitzie Hunter

Email: [email protected] and [email protected]

Twitter: @MitzieHunter

Alvin Tedjo

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AlvinTedjo

Dear Candidates,

This open letter to all candidates for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal party seeks each candidate’s commitments on disability accessibility. These commitments would aim at ensuring that Ontario achieves the goal of full accessibility for some 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities on or before 2025, the end date that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) requires by law. We will make public all responses we receive to this open letter.

In the last race for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, back in 2012-2013, all six leadership candidates made written commitments to us on accessibility for people with disabilities. We hope that each candidate in this leadership race will do the same.

The Issue

Some 2.6 million people with disabilities in Ontario still face too many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get around in our community, or enjoy the goods, services and facilities that are available to the public. This hurts all Ontarians. Everyone either has a disability now or is bound to get one later as they age. That is why we often say that people with disabilities are the minority of everyone.

The Ontario Liberal Party can be proud that when it formed Government in 2003, it had committed to pass strong new Ontario accessibility legislation, working in consultation with Ontario’s disability community to design it. Ontario’s Liberals can also be proud that in 2005, the Legislature unanimously passed the AODA, and shortly afterwards, got a good start on implementing it.

However, after that, progress slowed. It got mired in the bureaucracy. Since then, Ontario has made some progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. However there is still a great deal to be done to achieve the goal of full accessibility by 2025 that the AODA requires of us all.

Ontario is far behind reaching full accessibility by 2025. One year ago, the final report of the Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, made strong findings about this. Based on public feedback, Mr. Onley found that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” The Onley report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

Mr. Onley found “…this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley report correctly concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley report in substance found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

As of this letter’s date, the current Ontario Government under Premier Doug Ford has not strengthened or accelerated the AODA’s implementation or enforcement. It has not shown the new revitalized leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities need. If anything, progress has slowed even more.

What We Ask of You

We are eager to ensure that the next Ontario Liberal Party leader will fully maintain the Liberal Party’s past commitments on disability accessibility, and will build on those commitments. We would be delighted if you could simply give a “yes” answer to the following questions. We realize that in a busy leadership campaign, you may not be in a position to write more extensively than that on these questions:

  1. We have welcomed face-to-face meetings with the past two Premiers, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, to discuss accessibility issues (in addition to face-to-face meetings with different cabinet ministers, successive Secretaries of Cabinet, and other senior government officials).

If you become your Party’s leader, will you maintain the practice of personally meeting with us to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to our meetings with your appropriate caucus members? As part of this, will you meet with us within 60 days of becoming your party’s leader, so that we can brief you on these issues? If your Party is elected to form the Government, will you as Premier agree to periodically meet with us, in addition to our meeting with appropriate cabinet ministers?

  1. Under your leadership, will your Party make it a priority to press the current Government to keep its commitments and fulfil its duties on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities?
  1. In Ontario elections, will you continue the practice of the last three Ontario Liberal Party leaders, of making specific election commitments to us on the issue of achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities, in letters to us?
  1. Under your leadership, will the Liberal Party fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any Government policies, practices, strategies or initiatives that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives?
  1. Will you keep the past commitments that your Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility, including e.g. its previous commitments to effectively enforce the AODA? We set out links to those commitments below.
  1. Under the AODA, three Government-appointed mandatory Independent Reviews have examined the Government’s implementation of the AODA. These were conducted in 2009-2010 by Charles Beer, in 2013-2014 by Prof. Mayo Moran and in 2018-2019 by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. All three reports called on the Government to revitalize and breathe new life into the implementation of the AODA, and for the Government to show strong new leadership on this issue. The Moran report and the Onley Report specifically recommended that Ontario’s Premier should show strong new leadership on disability accessibility. (See a quotation later in this letter)

If you become Ontario’s Premier, will you show new, strong leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into and revitalize the Government’s implementation of the AODA?

  1. Each premier sends Mandate Letters to each of his or her cabinet ministers, setting out their priorities. In your Mandate Letters, will you direct your cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior public officials to implement your Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility?
  1. If you become Premier, will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires? Should your party form the Government at a time when it is too late to achieve that deadline, will you commit to get Ontario as close to being accessible as reasonably possible by 2025? In that event, will you also commit to work with us and to take any needed action, including passing new legislation, to set a new achievable deadline and to institute measures that will ensure that it is achieved (and that will not weaken or reduce any provisions or policies then in place)?
  1. The Moran and Onley reports expressed concerns that public money has been used to create new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Will you commit that under your leadership, public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?
  1. Ontario voters and candidates with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Under your leadership as premier, will the Government bring forward new measures, including new legislation, to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities?

Who Are We?

As a volunteer grassroots non-partisan community coalition, the AODA Alliance does not seek to get any party or candidate elected. We do not endorse or oppose any candidate for leadership of any party.

Founded in 2005, we united to achieve a fully accessible Ontario for over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities, through the prompt and effective implementation of the AODA. Our supporters include persons with disabilities, people who have not yet gotten a disability, and community organizations concerned with the rights of persons with disabilities in Ontario.

Our predecessor coalition was the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (ODA Committee). From 1994 to 2005, the ODA Committee spearheaded a province-wide accessibility campaign. It led to the enactment of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (passed by the Mike Harris Government), and later, the AODA (passed by the Dalton McGuinty Government).

Our leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as that of our predecessor coalition, has been repeatedly recognized by all parties in the Ontario Legislature, as well as by the media. We have been recognized as a leading non-partisan grassroots voice in Ontario, that advocates to make Ontario a fully disability-accessible province.

We have also given our input on these issues to the Federal Government, and to those addressing these issues in Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Our input has also been sought from others outside Canada, including in Israel, New Zealand and the European Union.

The Ontario Liberal Party’s Past Commitments on Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities

Starting in 1995, the Ontario Liberal Party has made written election commitments on accessibility legislation for persons with disabilities, in each of the past seven Ontario general elections. These commitments were set out in letters from the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party to the ODA Committee in the 1995, 1999, and 2003 elections. After the ODA Committee wound up in 2005 with the passage of the AODA that year, the Ontario Liberal leader made these commitments in letters to its successor coalition, the AODA Alliance, in the 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2018 Ontario general elections.

On October 29, 1998, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a landmark and historic resolution setting out eleven important principles that a strong and effective Disabilities Act should fulfil. That resolution was introduced into the Legislature by Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan, at the request of our predecessor coalition, the ODA Committee. Right after that resolution was passed, Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty took part in a joint Queen’s Park news conference with ODA Committee Chair David Lepofsky. At that news conference, Mr. McGuinty, then Ontario’s Opposition leader, committed that a Liberal Government would implement a Disabilities Act that fulfilled that resolution.

To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 1999 Ontario election, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/letters/march26-99.html

To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2003 Ontario election, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/news80.html#letter

To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2007 Ontario election, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/newsub2011/liberal-party-writes-aoda-alliance-with-election-commitments-regarding-disability-accessibility/

To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2011 Ontario election, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new2011/read-the-ontario-liberal-partys-august-19-2011-letter-to-the-aoda-alliance-setting-out-its-2011-election-commitments-on-disability-accessibility/

To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2014 election, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new2015-whats-new/may-14-2014-letter-from-liberal-party-leader-premier-kathleen-wynne-on-her-partys-2014-disability-accessibility-election-pledges/

To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2018 election, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/read-the-may-14-2018-letter-from-the-liberal-party-to-the-aoda-alliance-setting-out-its-2018-election-commitments-on-accessibility/

In Conclusion

The Ontario Liberal Party’s leadership race concludes on March 7, 2020. We would very much appreciate a response to these questions by February 15, 2020. Please send your response by email to [email protected] and please attach it as an accessible MS Word file. Do not send it as a PDF as that format presents accessibility problems. We would be delighted to give you and your team any background information on this issue that you request.

We look forward to working with the leaders and members of all Ontario’s political parties now and in the future on the shared goal that all the major parties have endorsed, of achieving a fully accessible Ontario on or before 2025.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont,

Chair AODA Alliance





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AODA Alliance Asks Federal Party Leaders For a New Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act – AODA Alliance


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

AODA Alliance Asks Federal Party Leaders For a New Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act

November 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

We today kick off the next phase in our campaign for accessibility at the federal level in Canada.

The AODA Alliance today wrote the leaders of the federal parties in Canada’s newly-elected Parliament. We have asked them to pass a proposed new bill that we have outlined to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act that Parliament passed last June. We set out that letter below. It includes our framework for the new short but punchy bill that we are proposing and explains why we need it. In summary, we want this bill to:

  1. a) ensure that enforceable accessibility standards are enacted under the Accessible Canada Act within five years;
  1. b) remove an unfair and discriminatory provision So that passengers with disabilities who are the victims of accessibility barriers in federally-regulated travel (like air travel) are always able to seek monetary compensation when they deserve it;
  1. c) ensure that the Accessible Canada Act never reduces the rights of people with disabilities, and that in any conflict between laws, the one that provides the highest level of accessibility prevails;
  1. d) ensure that federal laws never create or permit accessibility barriers;
  1. e) ensure that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities;
  1. f) simplify the Accessible Canada Act‘s unnecessarily confusing and complicated enforcement process;
  1. g) eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act, and
  1. h) require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens when it makes decisions or policies.

As our letter to the party leaders explains, it is good that Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. However, it needs to be strengthened to ensure that it fulfils its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over six million people with disabilities by 2040. While the Act’s commendable goal is a barrier-free Canada, it does not require any disability accessibility barriers to ever be removed or prevented.

The recent federal election has opened the door to a tremendous new opportunity for us to advocate for this proposed new bill. Canada now has a minority government. All parties supported the goal of a barrier-free Canada and recognized the need for strong legislation to achieve this. The opposition Conservatives, NDP and Greens have all supported amendments to strengthen this bill. However, because our last government was a majority government, the opposition parties did not have the ability to make this happen.

The new minority government situation changes all that, and creates a new window of opportunity for us. However, minority governments typically only last for two or, at most, three years. We must move quickly. We are eager to work with any and all parties on this issue, in our well-known tradition of non-partisanship.

As our framework for this bill shows, our proposals for this bill are intentionally short and limited. They are the most high-impact changes with the best chance of getting them through Parliament. They reflect concerns that disability organizations repeatedly pressed for over the past year during public hearings in the House of Commons and the Senate on Bill C-81. Our experience with provincial disability accessibility legislation amply shows that these are top priorities.

Some might think it will be an uphill battle to get Parliament to amend the Accessible Canada Act now, so soon after it was enacted. We are used to uphill battles, including very daunting ones! For example, just one year ago, many thought it would be impossible to get the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81, especially so close to an election, and then to get the House of Commons to ratify any Senate amendments. Yet we and many others from the disability community tenaciously persisted. As a result, the Senate passed some amendments to strengthen Bill C-81 last spring. After that, the House of Commons approved all the Senate’s amendments.

We have nothing to lose in presenting this new proposal, and a lot to gain! Please urge your Member of Parliament to support this proposal for a new bill. Help us get all parties to make this a priority in the forthcoming session of Canada’s new Parliament.

Stay tuned for more on this issue. For more background on the non-partisan campaign for a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/Canada

We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS — AODA Alliance Letter to Federal Party Leaders on a New ACA Bill

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

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

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

November 18, 2019

To:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Via email: [email protected]

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition and of the Conservative Party

Via email: [email protected]

Leader of the Conservative Party

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Twitter: @AndrewScheer

The Hon. Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

3750 boul. Crémazie Est, bureau 402

Montréal Quebec H2A 1B6

Twitter: @yfblanchet

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP

Via email: [email protected]

300 – 279 Laurier West

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9

Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

The Hon. Jo-Ann Roberts, Interim Leader of the Green Party; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Twitter: @JoAnnRobertsHFX

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Strengthening the Accessible Canada Act to Achieve a Barrier-Free Canada for Over Six Million People with Disabilities

As the new Parliament prepares to meet, we ask your parties to ensure that its agenda includes a new short, but vital bill to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. This is important for over six million people with disabilities who face too many accessibility barriers every day. It is also important for everyone else in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they grow older.

At the end of this letter we set out a framework detailing what this new bill should include. In summary, this new bill should:

  1. a) ensure that enforceable accessibility standards are enacted under the Accessible Canada Act within five years;
  1. b) remove an unfair and discriminatory provision So that passengers with disabilities who are the victims of accessibility barriers in federally-regulated travel (like air travel) are always able to seek monetary compensation when they deserve it;
  1. c) ensure that the Accessible Canada Act never reduces the rights of people with disabilities, and that in any conflict between laws, the one that provides the highest level of accessibility prevails;
  1. d) ensure that federal laws never create or permit accessibility barriers;
  1. e) ensure that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities;
  1. f) simplify the Accessible Canada Act‘s unnecessarily confusing and complicated enforcement process;
  1. g) eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act, and
  1. h) require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens when it makes decisions or policies.

Founded in 2005, the AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario and Canada. We presented to the House of Commons and Senate to ask for amendments to strengthen Bill C-81. During debates in Parliament, MPs and Senators quoted and relied on our submissions.

In June, before rising for the election, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. We appreciate and commend its unanimous passage. Many people with disabilities were encouraged by Parliament’s unanimity in recognizing that Canada has too many barriers impeding people with disabilities, and that the needed legislative solution to this problem must be based on the principle of “Nothing about us without us!”

It is good that the Accessible Canada Act sets the goal of Canada becoming barrier-free by 2040, and that it gives the Federal Government a range of important powers to achieve that goal. However, there was also commendable recognition from many in Parliament that the bill needs to include more to achieve its goal. Even though the Accessible Canada Act has the goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free by 2040, it does not require that a single disability barrier ever be removed.

In the House of Commons Standing Committee hearings, many disability advocates identified ways Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. During clause-by-clause debate in the House last fall, the Conservatives and NDP presented a substantial number of proposed amendments at the request of disability organizations. The Federal Government presented a shorter package of amendments. The Federal Government’s amendments were passed.

After that, the bill came to the Senate last spring. A Senate Standing Committee held a second round of public hearings. The Senate heard that there was ample support for the need for this legislation, but that the bill still needed strengthening.

Commendably, the Senate passed a short package of improvements to the bill, before returning it to the House of Commons. Senators saw that the bill needed improvements. They were reluctant to pass more than a bare number of amendments, because they did not want to risk the bill dying on the order paper when the imminent election was called.

The Senate did what little it could to strengthen the bill within these substantial constraints. However, it did not fix all the key deficiencies with Bill C-81. When the bill was returned to the House of Commons last spring, it was commendable that the House unanimously passed the Senate’s improvements.

The job of coming up with an Accessible Canada Act that meets the needs of over six million people with disabilities in Canada is therefore still unfinished. We urge Parliament to now finish this important work, by strengthening the Accessible Canada Act. We propose amendments. Set out below, these amendments echo key requests from the disability community to the House of Commons and later to the Senate before the election. For Parliament to now act on them is true to the parties’ commitment to the principle “Nothing about us without us.”

To past a modest bill now to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act is consistent with the calls last year by the Conservative, NDP and Green Parties for Bill C-81 to be strengthened. During Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 in the House of Commons, the Conservatives promised, if elected, to make the strengthening of this bill a priority. The NDP promised specific amendments to this bill during the 2019 federal election. The Liberals promised that this new law would be historic and would ensure that Canada becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The Liberals also promised during the recent election to apply a disability lens to all government decisions. When a disability lens is applied to the Accessible Canada Act itself, it brings into sharp focus the fact that the amendments we seek are needed now.

These amendments would not delay the Federal Government’s current activity on implementing the Accessible Canada Act. Parliamentary debate over this short amendments package need not hold up other pressing Parliamentary business.

We anticipate that some within the Federal Public Service may push back that this should all await an Independent Review of the Accessible Canada Act’s operations. Yet people with disabilities cannot wait the seven or more years for that review to begin. The need for these amendments is clear and present now. Any delay in making them will only slow Canada’s progress towards the goal of full accessibility.

In the new minority Parliament that voters elected, your parties have committed to work together. Our proposed bill is an excellent opportunity for this. It reflects what your parties have said about accessibility for people with disabilities and to what many disability advocates told Parliament.

We would welcome the opportunity to speak to any of your parties’ officials about this. Please let us know with whom we should speak within your party.

We urge you to support the bill we seek, and to make this a priority on Parliament’s agenda. We are eager to work together with you on this positive proposal in the spirit of non-partisanship that is the hallmark of our many years of grassroots disability advocacy.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Framework of a Proposed Federal Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act

November 18, 2019

Introduction

We call on Canada’s Parliament to pass a new bill to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act is federal legislation that has the purpose of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for over six million people with disabilities by 2040. This framework explains the amendments to the Accessible Canada Act that we seek via a new bill.

A. Enforceable Accessibility Standard Regulations Should Be Enacted Within Five Years

The Accessible Canada Act’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standard regulations. These regulations will specify what an organization must do, and by when to become accessible. The Act lets the Federal Cabinet, the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) enact these regulations. However, it does not require them ever to be enacted. If they are not enacted, the Act will fail.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the Act covers within five years. We therefore propose:

  1. The Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

(1.2) The Governor in Council must make all the regulations under paragraphs 1(c) and (d) necessary to achieving the purposes of this Act, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, must make at least one regulation under paragraphs (1c) and (d) in each of the areas referred to in section 5 within the period of five years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force.”

B. The Accessible Canada Act Should Never Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

The Accessible Canada Act includes insufficient protections to ensure that nothing under the Act reduces the rights of people with disabilities and that if there is a conflict between two laws regarding accessibility, the stronger one will prevail.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to provide that if a provision of that Act or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the Accessible Canada Act or in any regulations enacted under it or actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 6 of the Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it that govern the Act:

“(2) (a) If a provision of this Act or of any regulation under this Act conflicts with or guarantees a different level of accessibility for people with disabilities than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

(b) Nothing in or under this Act or regulations enacted under it may be construed or applied to reduce the rights of people with disabilities enjoyed at law.”

C. An Unfair and Discriminatory Provision of the Accessible Canada Act Should Be Removed So that Passengers with Disabilities Who Are the Victims of Accessibility Barriers in Federally-Regulated Travel (Like Air Travel) are Always Able to Seek Monetary Compensation When They Deserve It

An unfair and discriminatory provision, section 172, was included in the Accessible Canada Act. It is helpful that the Senate somewhat softened it, after tenacious pressure from disability advocates. However, it should be repealed altogether.

Specifically, section 172(3) of the Accessible Canada Act unfairly takes away important rights from people with disabilities in a discriminatory way. It bars the CTA from awarding justly-deserved monetary compensation to a passenger with a disability, even if the CTA finds that an airline or other federally-regulated transportation-provider imposed an undue barrier against them, so long as a federal transportation accessibility regulation says that the airline did not have to provide the passenger with that accommodation.

This unfairly protects huge, well-funded airlines and railways from having to pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up. Our proposed bill would repeal the offending portion of section 172(3). We therefore propose:

  1. To ensure that the Canadian Transportation Agency can decide whether there is an undue barrier that makes federal transportation inaccessible for persons with disabilities and can always order the full range of remedies to remove and prevent such barriers, and to ensure that s. 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act does not reduce rights of persons with disabilities, subsection 172(3) of the Accessible Canada Act and the corresponding s. 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act should be amended to remove the words “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”

Section 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act currently reads:

“Compliance with regulations

(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”

With this amendment, section 172(3) would read:

“Compliance with regulations

(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter.”

D. No Federal Laws Should Create or Permit Disability Barriers

The Accessible Canada Act does not ensure that federal laws never impose or permit the creation of barriers against people with disabilities.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act’s definition of “barrier” to include laws that create or permit disability barriers. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 2 of the Accessible Canada Act’s definition of “barrier” should be amended to add the words “a law”, so that it will read in material part:

“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation. (obstacle)”

E. Federal Public Money Should Never Be Used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers

The Accessible Canada Act does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the Act doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients are left free to use federal public money to design and build new infrastructure that is not fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the Act doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

It is helpful that the Act lets the Federal Government impose accessibility requirements when it buys goods or services. However, it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

This allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs that held hearings on Bill C-81 made this important observation in its May 7, 2019 report to the Senate:

“Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided.”

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to require that no one may use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g., payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity. We therefore propose:

  1. The Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada or any agency thereof by loan, grant, or other like payment in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

(2) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, subsection 1 includes payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity.

(3) Within the period of two years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, the minister must establish and make public policies and procedures to implement, monitor compliance with, and report to the public on compliance with subsections 1 and 2.

(4) The power to make regulations under clauses 117 (1) (c) and (d) includes the power to make regulations to implement this section.

F. The Confusing and Complicated Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act Should be Simplified

The lengthy Accessible Canada Act is very complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities to navigate it. It splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, and the CRTC.

This makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities have to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint.

Our proposed bill would require that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to those that the Accessible Canada Act sets out for the Accessibility Commissioner. We therefore propose:

  1. The following provision should be added to the Accessible Canada Act:

“Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the Act.”

G. The Accessible Canada Act’s Power to Exempt the Federal Government from Some of the Act’s Requirements Should be Eliminated

The Accessible Canada Act has too many loopholes. For example, it lets the Federal Government exempt itself from some of its duties under the Act. The Government should not ever be able to exempt itself.

Our proposed bill would eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 72(1) of the Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the words “except any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada)”, so that the provision will read in material part:

“72 (1) The Minister may, by order, exempt any regulated entity or class of regulated entities except the any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada) from the application of all or any part of sections 69 to 71, on any terms that the Minister considers necessary. The order ceases to have effect on the earlier of the end of the per­iod of three years that begins on the day on which the order is made and the end of any shorter period specified in the order.”

H. The Federal Government Should Be Required to Apply a Disability Lens to All Its Decisions

 

In the 2019 election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada promised that it would apply a disability lens to all Federal Government decisions. Proposed opposition amendments to Bill C-81 last year would have made this a permanent legal requirement, not a voluntary practice that future governments could ignore.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to entrench in law a disability lens, that must be applied to all Government policies and decisions and would make it binding on both the current Government and future governments. We therefore propose:

 

  1. The following provision should be added to the Accessible Canada Act:

In order to systemically entrench the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all opportunities available in Canada, the government shall implement a disability lens whereby:

(a) Within two years the government shall have reviewed all existing policies to ensure that they do not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities.

(b) within 3 months of completing this review, the Minister shall submit a report to Parliament on the findings of the review and corrective measures taken.

(c) the government shall review all new policies and decisions to ensure that they do not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities.

(d) Before the Government of Canada adopts any new policies or makes any new decisions, the Minister shall certify that the policy has been reviewed to ensure that it does not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities, and shall annually report to Parliament on the reviews conducted and corrective measures taken



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The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government


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 British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government

October 1, 2019

          SUMMARY

The grassroots movement for enacting comprehensive disability accessibility legislation has spread to British Columbia and is making important progress. The BC Government has committed to bring forward a provincial accessibility law, and is now seeking public input on a proposed Framework for this legislation. Below we set out the input that the AODA Alliance has just submitted to the BC Government based on our experience in Ontario and on the federal scene. The Framework for the BC legislation, which the BC Government has posted for public comment, is permanently available on the AODA Alliance website as well at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BC-Framework-for-Accessibility-Legislation.pdf .

Anyone can send input to the BC Government from September 16 to November 29, 2019, by emailing [email protected] or by using the other avenues for input that the BC Framework specifies.

In summary, we commend the BC Government for committing to bring forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. However, the Framework’s proposal, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our 12 recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

We congratulate Barrier-Free BC’s tireless grassroots efforts over the past four years that have led to this important development. The AODA Alliance is proud to have played a small part in the launch of the grassroots movement that has brought BC to this point. Four years ago this month, on October 28, 2015, a meeting of grassroots activists was held in Vancouver. It led to the birth of Barrier-Free BC. Barrier-Free BC is BC’s counterpart to the AODA Alliance. At that kick-off meeting, the keynote speaker was AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We congratulate Barrier-Free BC on their excellent work over the past four years, and continue to be available to offer our advice whenever asked.

Today, the topic of BC disability accessibility legislation is expected to be the focus of CBC’s provincial radio call-in program in BC. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be one of that program’s guests. If the program goes ahead as scheduled, the broadcast can be streamed live at this link https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-4-bc-today It should then be available as a podcast, at least for a few days. Search for the program “BC Today” on your favourite smart phone podcasting app, or via your computer, on the web.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Submission of the AODA Alliance to the Government of British Columbia on the BC Framework for New Provincial Accessibility Legislation

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

This is the AODA Alliance’s submission to the BC Government on its proposed Framework for a new BC disability accessibility law. We welcome this opportunity to share our experience in this area. We would be delighted to do whatever we can to assist the BC Government with this endeavour.

The BC Government’s proposed Framework for disability accessibility is available at ##

We heartily commend the BC Government for committing to bringing forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for posting its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. We call for all provincial governments in provinces lacking accessibility legislation to show this kind of commendable leadership.

This submission shows that the BC Framework, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are also predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

Below we provide 12 practical suggestions on what to add to the BC Framework to make this legislation effective. What is needed is both clear and readily doable. We want to help BC learn from both the accomplishments and the problems experienced with existing legislation. BC has the chance to lead Canada by coming up with the best accessibility law developed to date. The Appendix at the end of this submission lists all our 12 recommendations in one place.

In addition to the specific recommendations below, we ask the BC Government to read the AODA Alliance’s September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is among the most extensive analyses of that bill at First Reading. Some of our recommendations were eventually incorporated into the Accessible Canada Act. They were also incorporated into amendments which the federal NDP and Conservatives tried to get the Federal Government to agree to as amendments to the bill. However, the analysis is almost entirely applicable to the provincial context that the BC Government will be addressing. You can download the September 27, 2018 AODA Alliance brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-in-ms-word-format-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-september-27-2018-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-requesting-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-bill-c-81/

Who Are We?

What does the AODA Alliance have to offer BC? The AODA Alliance has extensive experience with the design, implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation in Canada. Founded in 2005, we are a voluntary, non-partisan, grassroots coalition of individuals and community organizations. Our mission is:

“To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.”

To learn about us, visit our open filing cabinet at https://www.aodaalliance.org.

Our coalition is the successor to the non-partisan grassroots Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years, from 1994 to 2005, for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee’s broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue. In 2016, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky made public a Discussion Paper on what federal accessibility legislation should include. That widely-read Discussion Paper is now published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law at (2018) NJCL 169-207. Its contents can provide a great deal of guidance to BC, even though it was written to address the federal legislative sphere. You can download our Discussion Paper on what the promised national accessibility law should include by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

We presented on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to both the House of Commons and the Senate. Our recommendations played a role in improvements to the Accessible Canada Act. Both the Government of Canada and opposition parties referred to the AODA Alliance and its proposals during parliamentary debates over that legislation.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on the topic of designing and implementing provincial accessibility legislation. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the previous BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that legislation. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at the October 28, 2015 meeting in Vancouver where Barrier-Free BC was established.

We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand. In addition, in June 2016, we presented on this topic at the UN annual international conference of state parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

The BC Framework proposes that the BC accessibility law should have these purposes, and asks what the public thinks of them:

“1. To support Canada’s ratification of the UNCRPD by promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and by promoting respect for their inherent dignity.

  1. To identify, remove, and prevent barriers encountered by people with disabilities in their daily lives through the development, implementation, and enforcement of accessibility standards.
  2. To allow persons with disabilities and other impacted stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work collaboratively towards the timely development of accessibility standards.
  3. To ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to track progress on accessibility.
  4. To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

The proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law set out in the BC Framework, while helpful, are far too weak. It is very important to substantially strengthen the proposed purposes for the BC disabilities legislation. We have learned that the goal must be the achievement of an accessible or barrier-free society, or both, pure and simple. Nothing short of that will do.

We have also learned that an end date must be set in the legislation. Ontario’s AODA has both the goal of accessibility, and nothing less, and an end date. These are real strengths in that legislation. The Accessible Canada Act has both the goal of a barrier-free Canada and an end date. We and others fought long and hard to get this goal enshrined in the Accessible Canada Act. The Senate added the end date of 2040 to Bill C-81 last May. At the last minute, when Bill C-81 came back to the House of Commons this past June, on the eve of its rising for the federal election, the Federal Government finally withdrew its objection to enshrining an end date for accessibility in the bill.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

Do Not Let the Accessible Canada Act Serve as a Constraint or Limit on BC Accessibility Legislation

The BC Framework includes the following, among other things, in its discussion of the proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law:

” To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

At first, that may seem sensible. However, it risks having BC measures on accessibility sink to the lowest common denominator. BC should never feel constrained to follow or imitate anything done at the federal level if it is too weak. BC should not commit in advance to be compatible with a federal accessibility measure that is insufficient.

For example, the Canadian Transportation Agency has recently adopted new federal transportation regulations on accessibility. They are helpful in part, but have serious problems. BC should not tie its hands in such circumstances.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

 Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

It is important that nothing be done under the new BC accessibility law that reduces the rights or opportunities of people with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law, or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

Several provincial laws address aspects of accessibility for people with disabilities. A new BC accessibility law and regulations enacted under it will hopefully add more accessibility requirements.

There is no assurance that these laws will all set the same level of accessibility. The new BC accessibility law should ensure that the law which provides the greatest amount of accessibility should always prevail. Section 38 of the AODA is instructive. It commendably provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

We therefore recommend that:

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

A central and fundamentally important part of the BC accessibility legislation would be the Government enacting new accessibility regulations. These would specify in detail what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards would provide guidance about best practices for accessibility including desired accessibility outcomes.”

The BC Framework suggests at one point that it would be permissible for the Government to enact accessibility regulations that are enforceable. However, it does not there make it clear that the Government would have a duty to do so. The Framework states:

“Government envisions accessibility legislation that allows for the creation of both voluntary accessibility standards as well as mandatory accessibility regulations. Accessibility legislation would allow the Government of British Columbia to adopt standards as binding regulations in part or in whole.”

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

“To ensure progress, accessibility legislation could require timelines to achieve the timely development, implementation and revision of accessibility standards.”

It is essential that the law impose a clear and strong duty on the Government to create these standards, and for it to set enforceable timelines for creating these standards. Otherwise, they may never be created, or they may take excessive amounts of time to be created.

We know from experience under Ontario’s AODA’s predecessor law, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, that it is insufficient to merely give a Government the power to enact accessibility standards or regulations, without requiring that Government to ever do so. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 permitted the Ontario Government to enact accessibility standards, but that Government never enacted any under that legislation. That in part is why Ontario later enacted the stronger AODA.

One of the major criticisms of the Accessible Canada Act is that it gives the Federal Government a number of helpful powers, such as the power to enact accessibility regulations, but for the most part does not require that these powers be used. it also does not for the most part set timelines for their deployment. That is why we and so many others said that the Accessible Canada Act is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including:

Service Delivery

Employment

Built Environment

Information and Communication

Transportation”

These are all helpful areas. However, we know from extensive Ontario experience that this list is insufficient. It is helpful if the bill lists some of the areas that enforceable accessibility regulations can cover, so long as it is clear that they are not the only areas that these regulations can cover.

Moreover, the list that the law spells out should be expanded. It should include enforceable accessibility regulations to address disability accessibility barriers in education, health care, housing, and ensuring public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. This last area is addressed further below.

In Ontario, after years of campaigning, accessibility regulations are now under development in the areas of education and health care. The AODA Alliance led the fight for these to be included. We have been asking for almost a decade for an accessibility regulation to be created to address accessibility in residential housing. British Columbians with disabilities should not have to endure the hardship of having to wage similar multi-year battles just to get these topics on the regulatory agenda.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

The BC Government is contemplating the possibility of adopting some pre-existing accessibility standards that are in place elsewhere, as part of its efforts under this legislation. The BC Framework states:

“The Government of British Columbia could seek to expedite the development of accessibility standards by adopting or building on existing standards, policies and practices developed elsewhere in Canada or around the world.”

It is desirable to avoid re-inventing the wheel. However, we caution that pre-existing accessibility standards can be seriously deficient. For example, those enacted to date in Ontario are fraught with problems, as earlier Independent Reviews of the AODA have documented on our urging. We can provide ample details on this.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

We strongly commend to BC our recommendations for governance, compliance and enforcement that are set out in our published Discussion Paper on what a national accessibility law should include, and our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, both referred to above.

The BC Framework considers as a possible feature of its implementation/enforcement regime the following:

“Reduced reporting requirements for individuals and organizations that show accessibility leadership.”

We disagree. It is of course commendable for an obligated organization to show leadership on accessibility. However, that should not lead to any reduction in that organization’s reporting obligations. Just because an organization has done well on accessibility in the past does not mean that it will continue to do so in the future and need only have reduced accountability. Reporting requirements are always needed to help monitor and motivate compliance.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

How Often Should There Be an Independent Review of the BC Accessibility Law’s Implementation?

It is good that the BC Framework contemplates including in the law a requirement for the Government to periodically appoint an Independent Review of the new accessibility law’s implementation. These have been very important in Ontario.

The BC Framework asks how often these should take place. Ontario’s legislation got it right.

The AODA required the first Independent Review to begin three years after the AODA was passed. It requires each successive Independent Review to be appointed four years after the previous one was completed. Each Independent Review takes one year to conduct, once appointed. Therefore, the interval between the first and second AODA Independent Review, and between the second and third AODA Independent Review, have in each case been in the range of 5 years, not four. Nothing shorter would be appropriate.

The recommendations from each of the three AODA Independent Reviews came at important times. It would have been harmful to Ontarians with disabilities had they been delayed any longer. We only regret that the Ontario Government has not acted promptly on any of those reports’ helpful findings and recommendations.

In contrast, the Federal Government set too long a period in the Accessible Canada Act. The first Independent Review won’t begin under federal legislation til almost twice as long a period as was the case in Ontario. That will work to the substantial disadvantage of people with disabilities across Canada. This is especially troubling since under the Accessible Canada Act, the Federal Government need not create any enforceable accessibility standard regulations in that period.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

Key Features Needed in the BC Accessibility Law that the BC Framework Does Not Identify

While the BC Framework includes several helpful key ingredients for a new BC accessibility law, there are additional features that are very important, and that were not identified in that Framework. We summarize these here. They are discussed in greater length in our Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) Specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) Impose specific duties and implementation time lines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) Require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) Enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) Require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) Require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) Require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) Include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) Require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

We especially focus on one of these needed additions. The BC Government can bring about significant progress towards accessibility by making sure that no one uses public money to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability barriers. Many in society want to receive provincial public money, as venders, infrastructure builders, businesses, colleges, universities, hospitals, and governmental transfer partners. The law should attach clear monitored, enforced mandatory accessibility strings to that money. Anyone accepting those funds should be bound by the strings attached.

Provincial spending that should be subject to this requirement should include, for example:

  1. a) spending on procuring goods, services and facilities, for use by the BC Public Service and the public.
  1. b) BC spending on capital and infrastructure projects, including projects built by the BC Government, municipalities or others.
  1. c) BC spending on business development grants and loans, and on research grants for universities and other organizations.
  1. d) BC transfer payments to transfer agencies for programs, like health care.
  1. e) Any other BC Government contract.

This spending would give the BC Government substantial leverage to promote accessibility. Widely-viewed AODA Alliance online videos have demonstrated that new construction, including construction on infrastructure using public money, have included serious accessibility problems. These videos secured significant media coverage. See:

The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated Toronto area public transit stations.

The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre.

The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video, showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary arts Centre.

Ontario experience shows that this must be specifically legislated, monitored and enforced. There has been limited success in getting some new Ontario laws enacted and policies adopted. They lack needed visibility, strength and enforcement. They have not had the impact needed. The Ontario Government has thereby missed out on huge opportunities to generate greater accessibility.

The Federal Government has similarly missed out on a huge opportunity here. It declined to include the needed measures to address this in the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act allows the Government to make accessibility standards in the area of procurement, but does not require these to be made.

Canada’s Senate made a formal “observation” on Bill C-81 when it passed other amendments to strengthen the bill. It called for federal action to ensure that federal public money is not used to create disability barriers.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes in the Accessible Canada Act

We commended the Federal Government for committing to national accessibility legislation, and have identified several helpful features in the Accessible Canada Act. However despite the efforts and recommendations of many from the disability including the AODA Alliance, there are several shortcomings in that law. BC should avoid these. These are extensively identified on the Canada page of the AODA Alliance website and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament.

Apart from deficiencies already discussed above are the following major problems, identified in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate on Bill C-81:

* “The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.”

* “The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.”

* “The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.”

Concerns with Public Funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility Certification Program

The BC Framework notes that the BC Government has given the Rick Hansen Foundation 10 million dollars in connection with its private accessibility certification program. When the Ontario Government recently announced its intention to give public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation for this purpose, we raised serious concerns. Our investigation of this process resulted in our making public two reports. These amply document our serious concerns.

Among other things, we are concerned that there is no assurance that those who conduct the RHF’s private accessibility certification assessments are qualified to do so. The RHF 8-day training course is woefully inadequate. As well, the RHF process for assessing a building’s accessibility itself has serious problems. It also lacks proper safeguards against conflicts of interest on the part of its assessors or the RHF itself.

As a result, there can be no assurance that a building that the RHF certifies as “accessible” is in fact accessible. Moreover, a government should not delegate to an unaccountable private organization any responsibility to decide what standard for accessibility should be used.

Any BC accessibility legislation should not involve any such private accessibility certification process. Any accessibility standards should be publicly set, publicly monitored and publicly enforced.

Feedback from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns in this area. Our concerns have garnered media attention and coverage.

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/

The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplement report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-doug-ford-governments-controversial-plan-to-divert-1-3-million-into-the-rick-hansen-foundations-private-accessibility-certification-program-is-plagued-with-even-more-problems-than-earlier-rev/

We therefore recommend that:

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.

Appendix – List of Recommendations

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law , or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) impose specific duties and implementation timelines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.



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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

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

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

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

So—What Happened with Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

So, what happened to Joel Harden’s proposed resolution? Was it passed or defeated during

debates in the Legislature on May 30, 2019? For the answer to this suspenseful question, watch for the next AODA Alliance Update. Same AODA Alliance time. Same AODA Alliance channel!

Below we set out:

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

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

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

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

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

          MORE DETAILS

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

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

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

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

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

Joel Harden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Doug Ford

Leader, Ontario PC Party



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102 Days after the Ford Government Received the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

102 Days after the Ford Government Received the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It

May 13, 2019

          SUMMARY

We have recently focused a lot of attention on Parliament in Ottawa, and on Bill C-81, the proposed federal Accessible Canada Act. Yet we never lose sight of important issues at the provincial level at Queen’s park. Here’s the latest!

In a nutshell, the Ford Government has been proceeding at the speed of a turtle in slow motion, when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Almost 11 months after the new Ontario Government took office, we’ve seen no indication of any action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s faltering implementation and enforcement. This stands in striking contrast to certain other areas of governing, where the new Ontario Government has shown itself quite ready to act in a swift and decisive way. In this Update you can read the latest about the following issues, and then read the actual documents on point:

* Ontario Accessibility Minister wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2019 but had little to say.

* On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister was questioned in Question Period in the Legislature about the Onley Report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, but again had little to say.

* Letters to the editor in newspapers continue to be a great way to help our accessibility campaign, as recent examples show, and

* Over two months after the Ford Government said it was lifting its 9-month freeze on the work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, no new meetings of These Committees have even been scheduled.

We will have more to say on recent developments on the Ontario front over the next weeks.

          MORE DETAILS

1. A Closer Look at Recent Developments on the Provincial Front

a) Ontario Accessibility Minister Wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2-019 But Had Little to Say

On April 3, 2019, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the AODA Alliance. We set out his letter below.

The minister was answering two earlier letters from the AODA Alliance. In our February 6, 2019 letter, we asked the Minister to immediately lift his Government’s long freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees that were developing recommendations on what to include in new AODA accessibility standards to tear down disability barriers in the areas of health care and education. We also asked his Government to quickly make public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

In our March 11, 2019 letter, we asked the Government to “clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.” We also asked him to quickly take action on five priority areas identified in the Onley report, namely:

  1. to appoint a new Standards Development Committee under the AODA to address the removal and prevention of all kinds of disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley report identified this as a top priority. That Standards Development Committee should be free to address, among other things, requirements in the deficient Ontario Building Code. It should be able to address built environment in residential housing. It should also conduct the mandatory 5-year review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government remains in violation of the AODA, because it has not yet appointed a Standards Development Committee to conduct that mandatory review. It was obligatory to appoint that review by the end of 2017, when the former Ontario Government was still in power.
  1. to now launch a short, focused public consultation leading to your Government’s identifying the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that the AODA leads Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.
  1. to substantially strengthen the Government’s enforcement of the AODA, which the Onley report showed to be substantially deficient and ineffective.
  1. to launch a major reform to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, whether as a result of public spending on infrastructure, procurement, business grants or loans, or research grants. As part of this, a major reform is desperately needed regarding how Infrastructure Ontario deals with disability accessibility needs in the projects in which it is involved. We would add to the Onley report the fact that a similar reform is desperately needed at Metrolinx when it spends billions of public dollars on public transit infrastructure, and
  1. to now implement a program to ensure that students in Ontario schools receive curriculum on accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, and to ensure that key professional, like architects, get much-needed training on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Our March 11, 2019 letter thanked the Government for releasing the Onley report to the public on March 7, 2019 and for announcing that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the existing AODA Standards Development Committees that had been working in the areas of health care and education. Our letter urged the Government to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible.

Minister Cho’s responding April 3, 2019 letter to us, set out below, was exceedingly general. It said nothing and committed to nothing on any of the issues we had raised and that then remained outstanding. He re-announced that the Government had lifted the freeze on the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of disability barriers in health care and education, something he’d earlier announced on March 7, 2019. Beyond that he only said that he’d have more to say at some unspecified future time.

The minister also said this in his letter:

“We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility.”

He made no mention of consulting with people with disabilities on accessibility. This takes on greater significance below. Read on!

b) On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Was Questioned in Question Period About the Onley Report But Had Little to Say

On April 10, 2019, MPP Joel Harden, the NDP accessibility critic, directed questions at Accessibility Minister Cho about the Onley Report. He asked the minister if the Government accepts the findings in the Onley Report. He also asked for the minister’s plans regarding the implementation of the Onley Report’s recommendations. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of that exchange.

This was raised in the Legislature on an especially appropriate day. Later that day, NDP MPP Joel Harden held and hosted a Town Hall meeting at the Legislature for people with disabilities to describe the disability barriers they face and the corrective action they need. MPPs of all parties were invited to attend.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to co-MC the Town Hall. For several hours stretching through the afternoon, individuals and disability organizations presented pointed and troubling illustrations of the barriers that persist in 2019, 14 years after the AODA was enacted.

In response to MPP Harden’s question whether the minister accepts the Onley Report’s findings, Minister Cho said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Minister criticized the previous Ontario Liberal Government’s performance on the accessibility issues and said “…the accessibility is not done even 30%.” This seems to be a helpful recognition by the minister that Ontario has a long way to go to reach full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires. The Onley Report did not cite a specific 30% figure, but found that Ontario is far behind its goal of reaching accessibility by 2025.

In response to Mr. Harden’s question whether the minister would be releasing a plan of action in response to the Onley Report, and if so, when, the Minister said:

“After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to him—three times, I went to see him—and he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. That’s why we’re going to focus and I’m going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community.”

That answer included no commitment to create a plan of action in response to the Onley Report. The minister committed to no time lines for doing so.

The only action that the minister announced was a plan to hold a town hall for businesses. Of course, that could be one helpful step. However it is far less than what we need or what the Onley Report calls for. Here again, as in the case of the minister’s April 3, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance the minister talked about consulting businesses, but not people with disabilities. We need the Government to do much more than to hold a town hall for businesses.

We want to thank MPP Harden for raising this issue in Question Period. We also thank him, his staff, and the other NDP MPPs and staff who helped make this Town Hall such a success. We also thank the MPPs from other parties who came to watch some of the Town Hall. In our usual spirit of non-partisanship, we encourage and invite all parties to host similar Town Hall events for the public including people with disabilities.

c) Letters to the Editor in Newspapers Continue to Be a great Way to Help Our Accessibility Campaign

As in the past, letters to the editor in Ontario newspapers remain a great way to help advance our ongoing non-partisan accessibility campaign.

On March 15, 2019, the Toronto Star ran two letters to the editor about the need for more provincial action on accessibility. One was by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other was by Janis Jaffe-White, a tenacious advocate for students with disabilities. We set these out below.

These letters were written to comment on and follow up on a great March 13, 2019 Toronto Star editorial that had called for action on accessibility as a result of the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report.

Whenever you notice an article on an accessibility issue in a newspaper, we encourage you to take the opportunity to get more coverage for this issue by sending in your own letter to the editor. If it gets published, let us know. You can always write us at [email protected].

d) Over Two Months After the Ford Government Said It Was Lifting Its 9-Month Freeze on the Work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, No New Meetings of These Committees Have Even Been Scheduled

Last June, in the wake of the June Ontario election, the work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the areas of disability barriers in our health care system and education system were frozen. For those of you who have been following our AODA Alliance Updates for several months, You will recall that we spent a great deal of time and effort to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

After months of this effort, the Ford Government agreed partway through last fall to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it left the other Standards Development Committees frozen. They were focusing on disability barriers in health care and education. We need those remaining advisory committees to get back to work, developing recommendations on the disability barriers and education that need to be removed and prevented in new AODA accessibility standards.

The Ford Government gave various excuses for that freeze. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors needed time to be briefed, we were originally told. Six months after the freeze went into effect, and long after the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors had had ample time to be briefed, the Government said for the first time that it was awaiting the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report before it decide what to do about the freeze.

That reason for continuing the freeze was unconvincing. It was quite obvious that Mr. Onley would recommend that that freeze be lifted. Mr. Onley submitted his report to the Ontario Government on January 31, 2019, fully 102 days ago. He did indeed recommend that that freeze be lifted.

The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 to announce that it was lifting that freeze. Yet over two months since that announcement, and over four months since the Ford Government received the Onley Report, no meetings have yet even been scheduled for the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of health care or education.

On May 6, 2019, members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee received an email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of that Standards Development Committee. We set that email out below.

On the one hand, it is good that Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is finally reaching out with preliminary steps that aim towards scheduling the next meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. As well, the email describes some changes to the way the Standards Development Committee will be operating.

We are open to improving the process for the Standards Development Committees. Our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review included an entire chapter that detailed problems with the way the former Ontario Government operated those committees. The previous minister had, we regret, been unwilling to make changes as a result of concerns we had raised last spring.

We are, however, concerned about some of the specific changes announced in this new email. There is no reason why the Government should have waited over two months since it announced it decision to lift its freeze on these Standards Development Committees just to ask members of those committees whether they want to continue on those committees, and whether they have changed their job. That inquiry should have been made back on March 7, 2019, when the Government announced that these committees would resume their work. The Government has not yet canvassed about available dates so that the next committee meeting can be scheduled.

It appears that the Government has substantially reduced the amount of actual time when the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee can meet and do its important work. We assume that the same will be the case for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Government is reducing meetings from two days to one, and reducing by an undisclosed amount the total number of meeting days. This is especially problematic since the committees lost the chance to do any work over the past year due to the Government’s freeze on their work. During that year, they could have been making substantial progress if not coming close to finishing their work. students with disabilities and health care patients with disabilities are suffering the consequences.

It appears that the Government wants out-of-town committee members to take part in meetings by phone rather than in person. While reasonable cost-saving measures are understandable, this measure threatens to create real problems. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has over 20 members. It is hard to build the kind of cooperative exchange of ideas and views if some if not many are taking part over a speaker phone.

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s email says that Committee members will later receive a letter of re-engagement from the minister. This is an unnecessary step. Those who were previously appointed to these Standards Development Committees remain as members of these Standards Development Committees under the AODA. The June 2018 election and its results did not change that, or dissolve these Committees. There is no need to add yet another bureaucratic step to this process which has already been delayed for too long.

We will keep you posted on developments on this front.

2. April 3, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, In Response to the AODA Alliance’s February 6 and March 11, 2019 Letters to the Minister

Thank you for your letters regarding the review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns.

The government is taking immediate action as it continues to work towards improving the lives of people with disabilities. We are resuming the Health Care and K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, which is something we’ve heard Ontarians ask for.

We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility. I am also working with my colleagues across other Ministries to review the Honourable David Onley’s Third Legislative review of the AODA and move forward with a plan to improve accessibility in Ontario.

The government will continue to consider Mr. Onley’s recommendations and will have more to say on next steps in the future. We are committed to working with Ontarians towards improving accessibility and we will take the time to get this right for all Ontarians.

Thank you again for writing. Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister

3. Ontario Hansard April 10, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/house-documents/parliament-42/session-1/2019-04-10/hansard

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question today is for the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. Today, people with disabilities from across Ontario are converging right here at Queen’s Park because we’re hosting an open forum for them. They are fed up with our province’s agonizingly slow progress towards making this province fully accessible and the barriers that are preventing them from living their lives to the fullest.

In his report on the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Honourable David Onley said the following: “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

My question to the minister: Do you accept the findings of the Onley report?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I’d like to thank the member for raising that question. First of all, I’d like to thank the Honourable David Onley. He did a marvelous job; I read the report.

I’d like to refer that question to the Liberal Party. They were in government for 15 years and the accessibility is not done even 30%.

By the way, I will drop by your town hall meeting.

Our government is open for business for everybody, even people with disabilities, and I’ll try my best as minister.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Joel Harden: Thank you to the minister for that answer, but 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities actually deserve better. This is a human rights issue. Stalling any further and only looking backwards is not an option.

The AODA sets a target for this province to be fully accessible by 2025, but the Onley report says we are nowhere near achieving that goal. Mr. Onley has 15 recommendations—Speaker, to the minister—for improving accessibility through stronger enforcement, new standards for buildings and making sure public money is never used again to create new barriers. Will the minister be releasing a plan of action and response to the Onley report, and if so, Speaker, when can we expect that plan of action?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Thank you again for the question. After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to him—three times, I went to see him—and he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. That’s why we’re going to focus and I’m going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community. Thank you for the question.

4. The Toronto Star March 15, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/03/15/praising-advocacy-for-those-with-disabilities.html

Letters to the Editor

Praising advocacy for those with disabilities

Time to clear the way, Editorial, March 13

Three cheers for the Star editorial “Time to clear the way.” It calls for the Ford Government to swiftly implement former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s report that shows that 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many disability accessibility barriers. As the leading non-partisan disability coalition that’s campaigned for accessibility for almost a quarter century, we strongly support Onley’s findings and key recommendations.

We’ve asked Ford’s minister to accept Onley’s findings and to get to work swiftly on taking action. Ontarians with disabilities cannot afford more months of waiting.

As Onley said, Premier Ford needs to make accessibility for people with disabilities a major priority.

David Lepofsky, Toronto

The editor is right. This situation is “clearly unacceptable.” Thisis a violation of human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The basic problem is lack of enforcement of the law. Everyone has the legal right to be treated equitably.

Onley is right as well. People with disabilities often feel they “don’t belong here.” School is a mini-society where inclusion develops attitudes of acceptance and belonging. It is not the curriculum that is the problem. It is the living of acceptance of all individuals within the school system and wider community. To achieve accessibility and full participation of everyone, an emphasis must be placed on compliance with and enforcement of the legally mandated human-rights requirements.

Janis Jaffe-White, Toronto

5. May 6, 2019 Email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Please see the message below, sent from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division. We ask that you kindly provide your response by Friday May 10th.

________________________________________

Dear Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee Members,

We are pleased to confirm that the Government has announced that it will be resuming the work of the committees that have been exploring the development of new accessibility standards in Health Care, Kindergarten – Grade 12 and Post-Secondary Education under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

We wish to confirm your continued interest to sit on this committee. In addition, per the requirements of the Act regarding committee composition, we will be reviewing members’ institutional affiliations or roles to determine if any have changed – for example, if any members have switched employers or organizational affiliations, or moved to new roles within the same organization.

It is important to note that since your last meeting, there have been some changes to the way the committees will move forward. Changes will include:

  • The overall number of meeting days will be decreased;
  • The time allocated for meetings will be decreased (e.g., 1-day versus 2-day meetings);
  • Members are asked to participate in meetings via teleconference, where appropriate; and,
  • Before scheduling travel and/or accessibility supports, Ministry pre-approval is required.

This new approach is consistent with the government’s efforts to increase efficiencies and is intended to help the committees reach their goal of submitting an initial recommendations report to the minister in a more effective and streamlined way.

Please reply to this email to confirm your continued interest in sitting on the Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee, as well as any relevant changes to your status.

All returning members will receive a formal invitation to re-engage from the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho.

We look forward to working with you once again soon.

Sincerely,

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division



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