Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?


          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/

Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?

December 23, 2021

            SUMMARY

After years of failing to take needed action to tear down disability barriers in the built environment, the Ford Government failed to hold a fair, open, merit-based competition before announcing the appointment of a person as Chair of the long-overdue AODA Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. Below we set out the AODA Alliance’s December 23, 2021 letter to the Ford Government. It raises our serious concerns. It calls on the Government to hold a fair, open and merit-based competition for both the Chair and the membership of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. We also set out the Government’s December 20, 2021 announcement to which we are responding.

Since it took office in the summer of 2018, we have been pressing the Ford Government to fulfil its legal duty to appoint the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on the standard that needs to be enacted to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to all people with disabilities by 2025. In its three and a half years of stalling on this, the Ford Government had ample time and opportunity to take the obvious and important step of announcing and holding a fair, open, merit-based competition. There is no justification for the Ford Government’s failure to do so.

To learn about the AODA Alliance’s efforts to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan to fully implement the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that David Onley conducted. The Ford Government received the Onley Report 1,057 days ago. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities and that progress on making Ontario disability-accessible has been “glacial.”

Send us your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

            MORE DETAILS

December 23, 2021 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

December 23, 2021

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

Via email: [email protected]

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Appointment of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

We have serious concerns about your December 20, 2021 announcement about your appointment of a person to chair a Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We ask you to take specific corrective action identified below.

This would have been a “good news” announcement by your Government, had it not been for the serious objection that we here outline. We have been waiting a long four years for the Ontario Government to fulfil its obligation under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to conduct the mandatory five-year review of the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard that was enacted in December 2012, nine years ago. We have asked you over and over to fulfil that obligation, starting as far back as our July 17, 2018 letter to you. No explanation or justification has ever been offered for the multi-year failure to appoint the mandatory Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee.

It is good that the Government is finally starting to take steps to comply with its clear legal obligation. It is also good that your announcement states that this new Standards Development Committee will review accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code as well as those in the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

However, your recent appointment of the Chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee should have been preceded by a proper open merit-based competition for the position. It was not. We understand that there was no public posting of this position and no invitation for members of the public to apply for the position, so that they could be considered on their merits. Only through such a process could the Government obtain the best pool of candidates and select the most qualified person for the position. Ontarians with disabilities deserve nothing less.

The Ford Government had ample time and opportunity to hold an open merit-based competition for this position and to invite applications and nominations. There is no justification for your failing to do so.

We have been very concerned for some time about your Government’s overall view on whether we even need a strong accessibility standard under the AODA to address the many barriers facing people with disabilities in the built environment. During National Access Ability Week in 2019, you and your Government denounced such measures as “red tape.” In contrast, two successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA by Mayo Moran which reported in 2014 and by David Onley, which reported in 2019, emphasized as a priority the need for the Government to take effective action to tear down the disability barriers in Ontario’s built environment.

For a Standards Development Committee to be credible and successful, the public, including the disability community, must have strong confidence in it and in the process for appointing it. Your failure to undertake a merit-based open competition for chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee undermines that needed public confidence.

Important qualifications for someone to chair an AODA Standards Development Committee include demonstrated expertise in leadership, team building, consensus-building, dispute resolution, and mediation of conflicting views. It also requires a strong knowledge of and experience with public policy development, and where possible, extensive knowledge of the regulatory context.

Nothing in your announcement suggests that the person you nominated has any of this experience and demonstrated expertise. A key qualification that you emphasize in your December 20, 2021 announcement is your nominee’s having taken the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) training course to conduct building accessibility assessments as part of the RHF private accessibility “certification” program. We have been on record for over two years demonstrating that that training program is woefully inadequate. It is far too short, being some eight days long as of the 2019 summer. It wrongly prioritizes some disabilities over others. It trains on how to conduct an RHF building assessment which is, in and of itself, fatally deficient. It includes troubling elements that are inappropriate for such training. All in all, it is not capable of effectively training someone to be an “accessibility professional,” the over-inflated label which the RHF gives to those completing this very short course.

We have amply documented that the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program is fundamentally flawed. There is no assurance that a building is in fact accessible when it has been “certified” as such by the RHF program. Indeed, even calling its assessments a “certification” of accessibility is false and misleading. For details on our concerns, see the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program and the AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program.

In the period of over two years since the AODA Alliance publicly and thoroughly documented the many deficiencies with the RHF program and its training course, neither your Government nor the RHF has disproven the flaws we identified. Feedback that we have received from the disability community has supported and endorsed our objections to the RHF program.

An excellent article in the August 19, 2021 edition of the Burnaby Beacon details many serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. In this news report, the RHF is quoted as in substance conceding that its training course does not make a person an expert in accessible design. The article states in part:

“‘We agree that the 2-week RHFAC training course is not sufficient to provide students with enough knowledge to consider themselves experts in the application of universal design,’ the foundation said.”

When it comes to assessing the accessibility of buildings, Ontario has a number of true experts who have taken more than eight days of training. It has experts who are trained to know about the accessibility needs of people with a wide spectrum of disabilities and not just the ones that the RHF prioritizes.

In raising these concerns, we do not wish to single out in any way the person whom you nominated to chair this Standards Development Committee. We do not question her commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities nor do we suggest or imply that she has no knowledge to bring to bear in this area. In a fair, open merit-based competition, she could be evaluated along with all others who apply.

It is very troubling that the Government did not take the time to conduct a proper, open, merit-based competition for the chair of this Standards Development Committee. That could be done at the same time as the Government conducts its recruitment for all the members of that Standards Development Committee. To date, we have seen no public announcement of any such competition, nor any invitation to apply to serve on that Standards Development Committee.

We are also very troubled by your December 20, 2021 announcement’s substantially watering down the purpose of the Standards Development Committee and of the AODA. Your announcement repeatedly spoke of the goal of making Ontario “more accessible.” The AODA does not simply require that Ontario become “more accessible” to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires that Ontario become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Simply replacing one staircase with a ramp somewhere in Ontario is all that is needed to make Ontario “more accessible.” People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

We urgently request that you now hold a proper, fair, open merit-based competition for the position of Chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee and for the membership of that committee. We have had no contact with your office for many months. We request a virtual meeting with you to discuss this.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Alison Drummond, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]

Ontario Government’s December 20, 2021 Announcement on the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

Originally posted at https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1001367/ontario-making-public-spaces-more-accessible

NEWS RELEASE

Ontario Making Public Spaces More Accessible

New Chair Julie Sawchuk to lead work on behalf of province to review and improve accessibility of public spaces for people with disabilities

December 20, 2021

TORONTO — The Ontario government continues the ongoing work of identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. Julie Sawchuk has accepted an invitation to be the chair of the Standards Development Committee that will lead the province’s review of the Design of Public Spaces accessibility standards for outdoor and indoor public spaces. The committee will include people with disabilities from all across the province, as well as businesses, municipalities, and other impacted stakeholders. It will review existing accessibility standards, and consider whether new standards might be needed to improve accessibility in Ontario’s public spaces.

“I am honoured that Julie Sawchuk has accepted the role of chair of this Standards Development Committee,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. “Her expertise and insights will be incredibly valuable in guiding the review of standards for accessibility in outdoor and indoor public spaces.”

Ms. Sawchuk is a best-selling author, professional speaker, and accessibility strategist. She holds Bachelors of Science and Education degrees and is a designated professional for Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification. Ms. Sawchuk’s lived experience as a person who has a spinal cord injury offers an important perspective for the committee’s work.

As part of the government’s commitment to making Ontario more accessible and inclusive, it is breaking down barriers in outdoor public spaces such as bike paths, parks and playgrounds and indoor public spaces in buildings such as service counters and accessible washrooms. This is a key area of focus in the cross-government Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework. The government is working with all levels of government, community partners, and businesses to identify, prevent, and remove barriers for people with disabilities.

“Creating accessible public spaces in Ontario is not the job of one person, it is the responsibility of all,” said Ms. Sawchuk. “I’m both grateful and incredibly proud to be asked to lead this discussion and look forward to adding a rural perspective as often as I can. This is an opportunity to bring people together to share what is working and what needs to be done differently in design and construction and to listen to all the voices who are looking for change.”

The Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee is expected to begin work in early 2022 and continue into 2023.



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Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 2, 2021 Toronto: Because of years of Ontario Government foot-dragging and broken promises, it is now impossible for the Government to fulfil its legal duty to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, a leading non-partisan disability coalition declared on the eve of December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities. In a November 22, 2021 letter sent to all party leaders (set out below), the grassroots AODA Alliance wrote:

“The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.”

The Ford Government is certainly not being let off the hook for living up to its obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There’s still time for the Ford Government to take its foot off the brakes and hit the accelerator.

“Three successive premiers and a parade of ministers caused this hurtful failure,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “When the Ford Government took power in 2018, we needed him to speed up action on accessibility, but instead, he slowed progress even more and created new disability barriers that make things even worse.”

For example, the vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On the Ford Government’s watch, hospitals trained doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. As well, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.

Fully 1,036 days ago, Premier Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the AODA’s implementation, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. It reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.

Ford’s accessibility minister said Onley did a “marvellous job.” Yet Ford still has no comprehensive action plan to implement Onley’s recommendations.

With next June’s Ontario election campaign already in effect underway, the AODA Alliance is getting out in front. It today releases the package of election commitments on disability accessibility that it seeks from all the political parties, detailed in its November 22, 2021 letter to the parties, below. Each party is asked to pledge to implement the AODA Alliance’s proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario laid out in that letter. In the meantime, the Ford Government should act now on all the actions spelled out in that plan.

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

For more background, visit www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
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/

November 22, 2021

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier
Via Email: [email protected]
Room 281, Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition
Via email: [email protected]
Room 113, Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:
Via email: [email protected]
Room 451 Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
Via email: [email protected]
344 Bloor St W,
Toronto On, M5S 1W9

Dear Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking your Parties’ 2022 Election Commitments to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

We write in a spirit of non-partisanship to ask your Parties to pledge in advance of the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, to implement our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario (set out below). Our non-partisan grass-roots community coalition seeks the achievement of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities, through the prompt, effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Below we set out specific commitments that we seek in order to make Ontario accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Taken together, they constitute the much-needed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we ask your parties to each endorse.

In each Ontario election since 1995, some or all parties made election commitments on this. They did so in letters to the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, to our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

We write over six months before the election, because these are big, important issues. We will make public responses we receive.

These Commitments are Vital

For people with disabilities, Ontario is at a very troubling crossroads. We must seek a substantial list of commitments, because of the Government’s cumulative failures to effectively implement and enforce the AODA for years.

People with disabilities had tenaciously advocated for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. It was an historic day in 2005 when the Legislature unanimously passed the landmark AODA.

The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. The Government must enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to lead Ontario to that goal.

Accessibility standards are enforceable provincial regulations. They are to specify, on an economic sector-by-sector basis, the disability barriers that an organization must remove or prevent, and the time lines for action, to become accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the Transportation Accessibility Standard is meant to spell out the actions that transit providers must take to tear down barriers that impede passengers with disabilities from fully using and benefitting from their transit services.

Since 2005, we have vigourously advocated to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced. There has been some progress since 2005. However, it has been too little and too slow.

With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. Responsibility for this entirely avoidable failure spreads out over many years. We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.

People with disabilities know from their daily life experience that we are now at this painful turning point. Reinforcing this, in January 2019, the third Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, found that progress on accessibility in Ontario has been “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal was nowhere in sight.

No one disputed these Onley Report findings. On April 10, 2019, the Government told the Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

There has been no significant progress since the Onley Report on actually removing and preventing disability barriers. The AODA’s implementation and enforcement have not been strengthened or sped up.

Undermining the AODA’s purpose, new disability barriers have been created since the release of the Onley Report. People with disabilities disproportionately bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its worst impacts. Yet the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning has not effectively addressed people with disabilities’ urgent needs.

For example, a new critical care triage protocol, systematically embedded in Ontario hospitals, enshrines discrimination against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving care, if hospital overloads require rationing of critical care beds. Another example of new barriers traceable to the Ontario Government are electric scooters, which are ridden by uninsured and unlicensed joy-riders in public and which now endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others in some Cities on a daily basis.

The AODA does not vanish on January 1, 2025. It remains the law of Ontario. The Government will remain responsible for leading its implementation and enforcement.

The Government elected on June 2, 2022 will be in power when the AODA’s January 1, 2025 deadline for accessibility arrives. That Government needs to have a plan of action. We here offer a carefully-designed one, based on our years of experience on the front lines, and ask you to pledge to implement it.

What Went Wrong?

Why do we ask your parties to endorse and commit to our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario, set out below? What led to this predicament? First, despite strong unanimous support for the AODA when it was passed, and a good start on implementing it in the early years, it substantially dropped as a Government priority after that. Premier after premier failed to show the strong leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities needed, which three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA called for. Second, the AODA accessibility standards passed to date, while helpful, are not strong enough. They do not cover all or even a majority of the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face. Third, the Government’s enforcement of the AODA has been weak and ineffective. Fourth, the Government has not used all the other levers of power conveniently available to it to promote accessibility for people with disabilities.

For over a decade, successive governments and ministers have been told about the need to strengthen and speed up the AODA’s implementation. They received strong, practical recommendations on how to do this. This all came from Ontario’s disability community, and from the reports of three successive mandatory Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA. The report of the first AODA Independent Review, conducted by Charles Beer, was made public in May 2010. The report of the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, was made public in February 2015. The report of the third AODA Independent Review, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, was made public in March 2019.

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

The 2022 election is the most pivotal one for Ontarians with disabilities since the 2003 election. This is because Ontario is on the verge of failing to comply with the AODA’s mandatory deadline. We need Ontario’s Government, elected on June 2, 2022, to commit to a bold plan of strong new action on disability accessibility, targeted at two goals. First, Ontario must get as close to full accessibility for people with disabilities as is possible by 2025. Second, Ontario must thereafter get the rest of the way to full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025.

In summary, our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we set out below, and to which we ask you to commit, includes requests that your party each agree to:

1. Foster and strengthen our ongoing relationship with your party. 2. Show strong leadership on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
3. Protect the gains on accessibility that people with disabilities have made so far. 4. Enact a comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. 5. Enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
6. Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards.
7. Enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
8. Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA and create an Accessible Housing Strategy.
9. Strengthen the weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA.
10. Develop additional new Accessibility Standards under the AODA, needed to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities.
11. Speed up the excessively long process for developing and enacting AODA Accessibility Standards.
12. Substantially strengthen AODA enforcement to ensure that all requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced.
13. Substantially reform and improve how the Ministry of Education and Ontario school system address the needs of students with disabilities.
14. Ensure that new generations of design professionals (like architects) are not trained to be new barrier-creators.
15. Ensure that taxpayers’ money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
16. Establish free independent technical accessibility advice for obligated organizations.
17. Make provincial and municipal elections accessible to voters with disabilities.
18. Substantially improve the accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s workplaces, services and facilities. 19. Review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
20. Root out recently-created new disability barriers traceable to the Ontario Government.
21. Give no more public money to the problematic and unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program.

Following Up on This Letter

Please respond to this request by February 1, 2022. Email us at [email protected] Please send your response in MS Word format, and not as a pdf, because the pdf format presents serious accessibility problems. We would be pleased to provide background briefings or to answer any questions you may have.

Our coalition addresses disability accessibility. We urge you to also take very seriously the requests you will receive from community groups for election pledges on other important disability issues, such as the pressing need to strengthen income supports like ODSP to tackle the protracted, rampant poverty among far too many Ontarians with disabilities.

Our non-partisan coalition does not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to secure the strongest commitments from each party.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

A Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario – 2022 Ontario Election Commitments Requested by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

I. Leadership Commitments

a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

Our coalition and its pre-2005 predecessor (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have been recognized in the Legislature and elsewhere for our leadership and advocacy for and expertise in disability accessibility. We offer input and advice to the Government and to opposition parties.

#1. As Premier, will you periodically meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility, including once within the first four months of taking office?

#2. If your Party does not form the Government, will you meet with us periodically? Will your Party raise our concerns in the Legislature, including in Question Period?

b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

Three successive Independent Reviews of the AODA concluded that Ontario needs strong new leadership within the Ontario Government on accessibility for people with disabilities, starting with the premier.

#3. As premier, will you show strong leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities? Will you substantially strengthen and accelerate the AODA’s implementation?

#4. Will you commit to get Ontario as close as possible to the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025? Will you also announce and implement a plan to get Ontario to reach full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025, if the 2025 deadline is missed?

Ontario has not had in place a comprehensive multi-year plan for implementing the AODA. We and others urged the Government for years to establish such a plan, and have offered proposals.

#5. Within four months of taking office, and after consulting the public including people with disabilities, will you announce a comprehensive action plan for ensuring that the Government leads Ontario to become as close as possible to full accessibility by 2025 for people with disabilities, and if the 2025 goal is not reached, to reach the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities as soon as possible after 2025?

#6. Will you assign a stand-alone minister responsible for disability issues, who will periodically meet with us? Will other ministers with responsibility bearing on our issues also meet with us?

The Government needs to lead by a good example. Yet it has not done so. Examples are given below where the Ontario Government itself is violating the AODA.

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

c) Protect the Gains on Accessibility that People with Disabilities Have Made So Far

It is vital that the AODA not be opened up in the Legislature or amended in any way.

#8. Will you ensure that no amendments to the AODA will be made?

#9. Do you agree not to eliminate or reduce any provisions or protections in the AODA or its regulations, or in policies or initiatives within the Ontario Government that promote its objectives, or any rights of persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

II. Develop and Enact Needed New Accessibility Standards Under the AODA

The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must then enforce those accessibility standards. When done right, these accessibility standards help business and public sector organizations know what to do. They contribute to the profitability and success of these organizations.

Since 2005, the Ontario Government has enacted five accessibility standards. They address disability barriers in customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and a very limited range of built environment barriers in “public spaces,” mostly outside buildings.

The Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that Ontario needs to enact more accessibility standards to address all the many recurring disability barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face. Yet no new AODA accessibility standards have been enacted since 2012, in almost a decade.

The AODA requires that each AODA accessibility standard must be independently reviewed by a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee after five years, to see if it needs strengthening. Only one of Ontario’s five accessibility standards has ever been revised. That was in June 2016, over half a decade ago. That is so even though four separate Government-appointed Standards Development Committees found that the four accessibility standards they reviewed all need to be strengthened.

We need the Ontario Government to develop and enact new accessibility standards, and to strengthen all the existing accessibility standards. The weak and limited accessibility standards enacted to date will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 or ever, even if all obligated organizations fully comply with them.

a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

For example, students with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) schools, colleges and universities. All political parties have agreed that an Education Accessibility Standard should be enacted under the AODA. This is needed to remove and prevent the many disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

In 2017, the Government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Last spring, both those Standards Development Committees sent the Government excellent, comprehensive Initial Reports. They give a strong roadmap for major reforms. A strong consensus supports their recommendations. They are expected to have submitted their final reports before the June 2022 election.

#10. Within one year of taking office, will you enact an AODA Education Accessibility Standard that accords with the recommendations in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 1, 2021, and the Initial Report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 25, 2021?

b) Enact a Comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

All political parties have agreed that Ontario needs to enact an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In 2016 or 2017, the Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. It was only mandated to address disability barriers in hospitals, even though people with disabilities face many disability barriers throughout the health care system.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee gave the Government an Initial Report at the end of 2020. It shows why Ontario needs a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard, and what that regulation should include. The Health Care Standards Development Committee is expected to submit a final report before the June 2022 Ontario election.

#11. Within one year of taking office, will you enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to remove and prevent the disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system (not limited to hospitals), that accords with the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report, made public on May 7, 2021?

c) Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

People with disabilities also still face many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, or try to get access to information and communication that is shared with the public. The accessibility standards in these three areas that were passed in 2011 under the AODA, while helpful, have not been effective at overcoming these barriers.

The Government has received recommendations to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 accessibility standards that address barriers in transportation, in information and communication and in employment. In the 2018 spring, almost four years ago, the Government received recommendations for reforms in transportation from the Transportation Standards Development Committee. Well over two years ago, in 2019 the Government received recommendations for reform from the Employment Standards Development Committee. Almost two years ago, in early 2020, the Government received recommendations for reform from the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. The Government has announced no plans to implement any of those recommendations.

#12. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

#13. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

#14. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

d) Enact a Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA

There are still far too many disability barriers in the built environment. There has been far too little progress on this since the AODA was enacted.

Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.

The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.

In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.

For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.

In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.

#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.

#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?

e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy

Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.

The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.

#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.

#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?

g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility

Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.

#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?

h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards

Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.

Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.

#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?

III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.

Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?

#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?

#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.

#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.

#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?

#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?

Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.

#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?

#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?

IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility

Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.

a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.

In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:

#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?

#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?

b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators

At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.

The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.

#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?

c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants?

There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.

#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?

#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?

d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.

#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?

#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??

f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities

The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.

#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?

#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.

#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.

#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?

#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?

h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government

Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.

The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.

Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.

#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?

#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?

#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?

#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?

In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.

#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?

#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?

#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?

The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.

#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?

i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program

In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.

We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.

#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?




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Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act

December 2, 2021 Toronto: Because of years of Ontario Government foot-dragging and broken promises, it is now impossible for the Government to fulfil its legal duty to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, a leading non-partisan disability coalition declared on the eve of December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities. In a November 22, 2021 letter sent to all party leaders (set out below), the grassroots AODA Alliance wrote:

“The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. … With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. …We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.”

The Ford Government is certainly not being let off the hook for living up to its obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There’s still time for the Ford Government to take its foot off the brakes and hit the accelerator.

“Three successive premiers and a parade of ministers caused this hurtful failure,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “When the Ford Government took power in 2018, we needed him to speed up action on accessibility, but instead, he slowed progress even more and created new disability barriers that make things even worse.”

For example, the vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On the Ford Government’s watch, hospitals trained doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. As well, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.

Fully 1,036 days ago, Premier Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the AODA’s implementation, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. It reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.

Ford’s accessibility minister said Onley did a “marvellous job.” Yet Ford still has no comprehensive action plan to implement Onley’s recommendations.

With next June’s Ontario election campaign already in effect underway, the AODA Alliance is getting out in front. It today releases the package of election commitments on disability accessibility that it seeks from all the political parties, detailed in its November 22, 2021 letter to the parties, below. Each party is asked to pledge to implement the AODA Alliance’s proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario laid out in that letter. In the meantime, the Ford Government should act now on all the actions spelled out in that plan.

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

For more background, visit www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders

 

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

November 22, 2021

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: [email protected]

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

Via email: [email protected]

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: [email protected]

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: [email protected]

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

Dear Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking your Parties’ 2022 Election Commitments to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

We write in a spirit of non-partisanship to ask your Parties to pledge in advance of the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, to implement our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario (set out below). Our non-partisan grass-roots community coalition seeks the achievement of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities, through the prompt, effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Below we set out specific commitments that we seek in order to make Ontario accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Taken together, they constitute the much-needed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we ask your parties to each endorse.

In each Ontario election since 1995, some or all parties made election commitments on this. They did so in letters to the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, to our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

We write over six months before the election, because these are big, important issues. We will make public responses we receive.

 These Commitments are Vital

For people with disabilities, Ontario is at a very troubling crossroads. We must seek a substantial list of commitments, because of the Government’s cumulative failures to effectively implement and enforce the AODA for years.

People with disabilities had tenaciously advocated for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. It was an historic day in 2005 when the Legislature unanimously passed the landmark AODA.

The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. The Government must enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to lead Ontario to that goal.

Accessibility standards are enforceable provincial regulations. They are to specify, on an economic sector-by-sector basis, the disability barriers that an organization must remove or prevent, and the time lines for action, to become accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the Transportation Accessibility Standard is meant to spell out the actions that transit providers must take to tear down barriers that impede passengers with disabilities from fully using and benefitting from their transit services.

Since 2005, we have vigourously advocated to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced. There has been some progress since 2005. However, it has been too little and too slow.

With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. Responsibility for this entirely avoidable failure spreads out over many years. We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.

People with disabilities know from their daily life experience that we are now at this painful turning point. Reinforcing this, in January 2019, the third Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, found that progress on accessibility in Ontario has been “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal was nowhere in sight.

No one disputed these Onley Report findings. On April 10, 2019, the Government told the Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

There has been no significant progress since the Onley Report on actually removing and preventing disability barriers. The AODA’s implementation and enforcement have not been strengthened or sped up.

Undermining the AODA’s purpose, new disability barriers have been created since the release of the Onley Report. People with disabilities disproportionately bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its worst impacts. Yet the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning has not effectively addressed people with disabilities’ urgent needs.

For example, a new critical care triage protocol, systematically embedded in Ontario hospitals, enshrines discrimination against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving care, if hospital overloads require rationing of critical care beds. Another example of new barriers traceable to the Ontario Government are electric scooters, which are ridden by uninsured and unlicensed joy-riders in public and which now endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others in some Cities on a daily basis.

The AODA does not vanish on January 1, 2025. It remains the law of Ontario. The Government will remain responsible for leading its implementation and enforcement.

The Government elected on June 2, 2022 will be in power when the AODA’s January 1, 2025 deadline for accessibility arrives. That Government needs to have a plan of action. We here offer a carefully-designed one, based on our years of experience on the front lines, and ask you to pledge to implement it.

 What Went Wrong?

Why do we ask your parties to endorse and commit to our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario, set out below? What led to this predicament? First, despite strong unanimous support for the AODA when it was passed, and a good start on implementing it in the early years, it substantially dropped as a Government priority after that. Premier after premier failed to show the strong leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities needed, which three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA called for. Second, the AODA accessibility standards passed to date, while helpful, are not strong enough. They do not cover all or even a majority of the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face. Third, the Government’s enforcement of the AODA has been weak and ineffective. Fourth, the Government has not used all the other levers of power conveniently available to it to promote accessibility for people with disabilities.

For over a decade, successive governments and ministers have been told about the need to strengthen and speed up the AODA’s implementation. They received strong, practical recommendations on how to do this. This all came from Ontario’s disability community, and from the reports of three successive mandatory Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA. The report of the first AODA Independent Review, conducted by Charles Beer, was made public in May 2010. The report of the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, was made public in February 2015. The report of the third AODA Independent Review, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, was made public in March 2019.

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

The 2022 election is the most pivotal one for Ontarians with disabilities since the 2003 election. This is because Ontario is on the verge of failing to comply with the AODA’s mandatory deadline. We need Ontario’s Government, elected on June 2, 2022, to commit to a bold plan of strong new action on disability accessibility, targeted at two goals. First, Ontario must get as close to full accessibility for people with disabilities as is possible by 2025. Second, Ontario must thereafter get the rest of the way to full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025.

In summary, our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we set out below, and to which we ask you to commit, includes requests that your party each agree to:

  1. Foster and strengthen our ongoing relationship with your party.
  2. Show strong leadership on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
  3. Protect the gains on accessibility that people with disabilities have made so far.
  4. Enact a comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  5. Enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  6. Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards.
  7. Enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  8. Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA and create an Accessible Housing Strategy.
  9. Strengthen the weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA.
  10. Develop additional new Accessibility Standards under the AODA, needed to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities.
  11. Speed up the excessively long process for developing and enacting AODA Accessibility Standards.
  12. Substantially strengthen AODA enforcement to ensure that all requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced.
  13. Substantially reform and improve how the Ministry of Education and Ontario school system address the needs of students with disabilities.
  14. Ensure that new generations of design professionals (like architects) are not trained to be new barrier-creators.
  15. Ensure that taxpayers’ money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
  16. Establish free independent technical accessibility advice for obligated organizations.
  17. Make provincial and municipal elections accessible to voters with disabilities.
  18. Substantially improve the accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s workplaces, services and facilities.
  19. Review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
  20. Root out recently-created new disability barriers traceable to the Ontario Government.
  21. Give no more public money to the problematic and unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program.

Following Up on This Letter

Please respond to this request by February 1, 2022. Email us at [email protected]. Please send your response in MS Word format, and not as a pdf, because the pdf format presents serious accessibility problems. We would be pleased to provide background briefings or to answer any questions you may have.

Our coalition addresses disability accessibility. We urge you to also take very seriously the requests you will receive from community groups for election pledges on other important disability issues, such as the pressing need to strengthen income supports like ODSP to tackle the protracted, rampant poverty among far too many Ontarians with disabilities.

Our non-partisan coalition does not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to secure the strongest commitments from each party.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

A Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario – 2022 Ontario Election Commitments Requested by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 I. Leadership Commitments

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

Our coalition and its pre-2005 predecessor (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have been recognized in the Legislature and elsewhere for our leadership and advocacy for and expertise in disability accessibility. We offer input and advice to the Government and to opposition parties.

#1. As Premier, will you periodically meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility, including once within the first four months of taking office?

#2. If your Party does not form the Government, will you meet with us periodically? Will your Party raise our concerns in the Legislature, including in Question Period?

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

Three successive Independent Reviews of the AODA concluded that Ontario needs strong new leadership within the Ontario Government on accessibility for people with disabilities, starting with the premier.

#3. As premier, will you show strong leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities? Will you substantially strengthen and accelerate the AODA’s implementation?

#4. Will you commit to get Ontario as close as possible to the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025? Will you also announce and implement a plan to get Ontario to reach full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025, if the 2025 deadline is missed?

Ontario has not had in place a comprehensive multi-year plan for implementing the AODA. We and others urged the Government for years to establish such a plan, and have offered proposals.

#5. Within four months of taking office, and after consulting the public including people with disabilities, will you announce a comprehensive action plan for ensuring that the Government leads Ontario to become as close as possible to full accessibility by 2025 for people with disabilities, and if the 2025 goal is not reached, to reach the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities as soon as possible after 2025?

#6. Will you assign a stand-alone minister responsible for disability issues, who will periodically meet with us? Will other ministers with responsibility bearing on our issues also meet with us?

The Government needs to lead by a good example. Yet it has not done so. Examples are given below where the Ontario Government itself is violating the AODA.

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

 c) Protect the Gains on Accessibility that People with Disabilities Have Made So Far

It is vital that the AODA not be opened up in the Legislature or amended in any way.

#8. Will you ensure that no amendments to the AODA will be made?

#9. Do you agree not to eliminate or reduce any provisions or protections in the AODA or its regulations, or in policies or initiatives within the Ontario Government that promote its objectives, or any rights of persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

 II. Develop and Enact Needed New Accessibility Standards Under the AODA

The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must then enforce those accessibility standards. When done right, these accessibility standards help business and public sector organizations know what to do. They contribute to the profitability and success of these organizations.

Since 2005, the Ontario Government has enacted five accessibility standards. They address disability barriers in customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and a very limited range of built environment barriers in “public spaces,” mostly outside buildings.

The Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that Ontario needs to enact more accessibility standards to address all the many recurring disability barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face. Yet no new AODA accessibility standards have been enacted since 2012, in almost a decade.

The AODA requires that each AODA accessibility standard must be independently reviewed by a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee after five years, to see if it needs strengthening. Only one of Ontario’s five accessibility standards has ever been revised. That was in June 2016, over half a decade ago. That is so even though four separate Government-appointed Standards Development Committees found that the four accessibility standards they reviewed all need to be strengthened.

We need the Ontario Government to develop and enact new accessibility standards, and to strengthen all the existing accessibility standards. The weak and limited accessibility standards enacted to date will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 or ever, even if all obligated organizations fully comply with them.

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

For example, students with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) schools, colleges and universities. All political parties have agreed that an Education Accessibility Standard should be enacted under the AODA. This is needed to remove and prevent the many disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

In 2017, the Government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Last spring, both those Standards Development Committees sent the Government excellent, comprehensive Initial Reports. They give a strong roadmap for major reforms. A strong consensus supports their recommendations. They are expected to have submitted their final reports before the June 2022 election.

#10. Within one year of taking office, will you enact an AODA Education Accessibility Standard that accords with the recommendations in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 1, 2021, and the Initial Report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 25, 2021?

 b) Enact a Comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

All political parties have agreed that Ontario needs to enact an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In 2016 or 2017, the Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. It was only mandated to address disability barriers in hospitals, even though people with disabilities face many disability barriers throughout the health care system.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee gave the Government an Initial Report at the end of 2020. It shows why Ontario needs a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard, and what that regulation should include. The Health Care Standards Development Committee is expected to submit a final report before the June 2022 Ontario election.

#11. Within one year of taking office, will you enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to remove and prevent the disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system (not limited to hospitals), that accords with the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report, made public on May 7, 2021?

 c) Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

People with disabilities also still face many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, or try to get access to information and communication that is shared with the public. The accessibility standards in these three areas that were passed in 2011 under the AODA, while helpful, have not been effective at overcoming these barriers.

The Government has received recommendations to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 accessibility standards that address barriers in transportation, in information and communication and in employment. In the 2018 spring, almost four years ago, the Government received recommendations for reforms in transportation from the Transportation Standards Development Committee. Well over two years ago, in 2019 the Government received recommendations for reform from the Employment Standards Development Committee. Almost two years ago, in early 2020, the Government received recommendations for reform from the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. The Government has announced no plans to implement any of those recommendations.

#12. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

#13. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

#14. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 d) Enact a Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA

There are still far too many disability barriers in the built environment. There has been far too little progress on this since the AODA was enacted.

Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.

The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.

In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.

For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.

In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.

#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.

#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?

 e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy

Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.

The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.

#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.

#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?

 g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility

Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.

#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?

 h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards

Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.

Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.

#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?

 III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.

Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?

#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?

#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.

#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.

#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?

#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?

Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.

#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?

#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?

 IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility

Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.

 a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.

In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:

#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?

#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?

 b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators

At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.

The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.

#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?

 c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants?

There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.

#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?

#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

 e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.

#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?

#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??

 f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities

The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.

#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?

#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.

#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.

#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?

#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?

 h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government

Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.

The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.

Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.

#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?

#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?

#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?

#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?

In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.

#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?

#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?

#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?

The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.

#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?

 i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program

In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.

We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.

#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?



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Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act


AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead

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

October 8, 2021

Summary

Here are two major updates in our campaign to get the Ontario Government to effectively implement the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

1. Ontario’s Divisional Court Dismisses David Lepofsky’s Court Application, Without Ruling On Whether Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho Violated the AODA

On Friday, October 1, 2021, the Ontario Divisional Court released its ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho. We set the 2-page ruling out below.

The Court dismissed the application by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, without ruling on his contention that Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho violated s. 10(1) of the AODA. That section requires the minister to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s initial report upon his receiving it. Minister Cho did not post the health care Standards Development Committee’s initial report until over four months after he received it. He did not post the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report until 3.5 months after he received it. He did not post the K-12 Education Standards Development Committees initial report until 2.5 months after he received it.

The Court decided not to rule on the merits of David Lepofsky’s claim, concluding that the application had become moot after the Government eventually publicly posted all three reports. The Court had the authority to rule on the case, even though it was moot, but decided not to, for the reasons set out below. Minister Cho had urged the Court not to rule on the question whether he had violated the AODA. David Lepofsky urged the Court to rule on the case even if it was moot.

This ruling does not vindicate the Ford Government’s conduct. There are at least two important developments arising from this case.

First, Minister Cho, through his lawyer, conceded in court for the first time that he must post a Standards Development Committees initial report after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. See the ruling, below. Second, the evidence in the case showed that the Government had created bureaucratic barriers that delayed the public posting of these reports. For example, the Government requires Cabinet Office to give permission to post something online, in accordance with Government marketing priorities. Yet, the AODA gives Cabinet Office no right to veto or delay the public posting of these reports.

2. AODA Alliance Writes Accessibility Minister Cho to Call on Him to Fulfil His Unmet Statutory Duties

On October 8, 2021, the AODA Alliance sent a detailed letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, set out below. It gives some specific examples of how the Ford Government has violated the AODA. It asks the Government to give these three commitments:

“1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?”

“2. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?”

“3. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:

a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?

b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?

c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.

d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?

e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?”

3. Getting Close to 1,000 Days of Ford Government Inaction on the David Onley Report

There have now been a breathtaking 981 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act undertaken by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s mandatory deadline. It found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” impeding people with disabilities. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan in place for implementing the Onley Report.

Send us your feedback. Write the AODA Alliance at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

October 1, 2021 Divisional Court Ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho

CITATION: Lepofsky v. Cho, 2021 ONSC 6466

DIVISIONAL COURT FILE NO.: 364/21 DATE: 2021/10/01

SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE ONTARIO DIVISIONAL COURT

RE: DAVID LEPOFSKY, Applicant

AND:

RAYMOND CHO, THE MINISTER FOR SENIORS AND ACCESSIBILITY, Respondent

BEFORE: Sachs, R. D. Gordon and Kristjanson JJ.

COUNSEL: David Lepofsky, on his own behalf

Michael J. Sims and Wan Yao Chen, for the Respondent

Dianne Wintermute, for the Intervenor, Citizens with Disabilities, Ontario

HEARD at Toronto by videoconference: September 27, 2021

ENDORSEMENT

The Applicant initially sought an order in the nature of mandamus compelling the Respondent to make public proposed accessibility standards the Minister had received from three committees (the “Reports”). The Reports have now been made available. The Applicant amended his application to seek a declaration that the Respondent breached his duty to make the Reports public upon receipt, as is required by s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “Act”).

We agree with the Respondent that the Application’s application is moot. The live controversy between the parties, namely, the failure to make the Reports available to the public, has now disappeared.

The Applicant argues that even if we find that the application is moot, we should proceed to hear it as to do so would provide guidance to the parties for future cases. We agree with the Applicant that accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is an urgent issue and that the deadline provided for in the Act for achieving the purpose of the Act is fast approaching. Thus, anything that can be done to eliminate delay in achieving the goal of accessibility should be done. We disagree that issuing a declaration in this case to the effect that the Respondent breached its duty to make the Reports public upon receipt would meaningfully advance this goal.

Page: 2

Issuing a declaration that would have a meaningful effect in the future requires adopting an interpretation of the term “upon receipt” used in the English version of s. 10(1) of the Act (the term does not appear in the French version) that is not dependent on the analysis of a particular set of circumstances. Yet, neither the Applicant nor the Respondent is advocating such an interpretation. Both agree that the Reports are required to be released only after the Respondent has taken the reasonable steps necessary to prepare the Reports for public release. Where they disagree is on the question of which steps were reasonably necessary in this particular case and how much time was reasonably required to take those steps. For example, the Respondent asserts that it was necessary to brief the government about the content of the Reports and to make sure that the Reports did not exceed the mandate of the committees who issued them and that the language in the reports is appropriate. The Applicant counters by stating that these steps were not necessary since in this case the Respondent had representatives on the committees that prepared the Reports, which should have obviated the necessity for any more review. Both parties agree that before the Reports could be released they had to be “coded” and translated into French. Where they disagree is on the question of how long this process should have taken.

The Respondent states that part of the delay in this case was due to COVID 19. The Applicant disputes this explanation. Determining whether the requested declaration should be issued would require this Court to assess the evidence about the circumstances in this particular case. If we were to conclude that in this case the Respondent breached its duty, this would say nothing about what a subsequent court might decide in a different case. The analysis is an individual and contextual one and will necessarily vary in each case. For the court to engage in this exercise when the desired objective (the release of the Reports) has been achieved would not be an appropriate use of its resources.

The Applicant argues that failing to hear his application would be deny him a remedy in the face of the Respondent’s breach of its statutory obligation. Again, we disagree. The Applicant’s remedy in this situation was to seek an order requiring the Respondent to comply with its obligation and make the Reports available. Due to the fact that the Reports have now been made available, there is no further need for court intervention.

For these reasons the application is dismissed. The parties agree that there should be no order as to costs.

Sachs J.

I agree
R. D. Gordon J.

I agree
Kristjanson J.

Date: October 1, 2021

October 8, 2021 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
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/

October 8, 2021

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Via email: [email protected]
College Park 5th Floor
777 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Your Statutory Duties Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We ask you to take specific overdue actions, required of you as Ontario’s cabinet minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These actions would help you fulfil your duty under section 7 of the AODA to oversee the development and implement all the accessibility standards necessary to achieving the AODA’s purpose.

The AODA’s purpose is to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. That looming deadline is only a little more than three years away. It is beyond dispute that Ontario is not on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025. A failure to swiftly take the actions we identify in this letter would push Ontario further behind in reaching that deadline.

The Duty to Appoint Standards Development Committees to Review the Sufficiency of an Accessibility Standard Enacted Under the AODA Within Five Years After It is Enacted

Within five years after an accessibility standard is enacted under the AODA, section 9 of the AODA requires the minister, responsible for the AODA, to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of that accessibility standard. You are in clear violation of that requirement in the following two instances.

a) The Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard was enacted in December 2012. The AODA required that a Standards Development Committee be appointed to review it no later than December 2017. Yet in the almost four years since then, no Standards Development Committee has been appointed for that purpose.

The previous Kathleen Wynne Government is responsible for not taking this action over the last six months of its term in office, from December 2017 to June 2018. You and your Government have been in violation of that mandatory requirement for your entire term in office to date, well over three years.

We have brought this unfulfilled requirement to your Government’s attention. We and others have urged your Government on several occasions to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard, in order to fulfil the AODA’s requirement that buildings become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Your Government has never agreed to do so. To the contrary, during debates on this idea in the Legislature on May 30, 2019, during National Access Awareness Week, you inaccurately and hurtfully condemned this idea as creating “red tape.”

b) In 2007, the previous Ontario Government enacted the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard to be enacted under the AODA. In June 2016, the previous Government enacted revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You were therefore required to appoint a Standards Development Committee no later than June 2021, to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You have not done so. As far as we have seen, you have announced no plans to do so.

People with disabilities in Ontario continue to face recurring disability barriers in many areas, such as in the built environment and in access to customer service. In important areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this situation even worse for people with disabilities. Moreover, your own Ministry enforcement data has revealed over the years that there have been rampant AODA violations in the context of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?

The Pressing Need to Strengthen the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted three important accessibility standards under the AODA, the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. These three standards are enacted together in one regulation, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011.

The AODA required the previous Government to appoint Standards Development Committees by 2016 to review the sufficiency of each of those three accessibility standards. It therefore appointed the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

Quite some time ago, each of those advisory committees fully completed their reviews and submitted their final reports to the Ontario Government. The Transportation Standards Development Committee’s final report was made public in the spring of 2018, before the June 2018 Ontario election. The Employment Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over two and a half years ago, on January 22, 2019. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over one and a half years ago, on February 23, 2020.

According to the AODA, once the Government receives a Standards Development Committee’s final report, the Government can amend the accessibility standard that it reviewed. It can enact some, all or none of the changes that the Standards Development Committee recommended, and/or can make other reforms to the standard that the Government thinks helpful.

Despite all this work having been done, and all the recurring barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in transportation, employment and information and communication, your Government has enacted no revisions to the Transportation Accessibility Standard the Employment Accessibility Standard or the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. In fact, your Government has not enacted or strengthened any accessibility standards at all in its entire term in office.

You have failed to do so, even though over two and a half years ago, you received the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA. He found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025, and is full of “soul-crushing barriers” that hurt people with disabilities. In the Legislature, you said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in preparing his report.

2. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?

Ensuring that the Forthcoming Final Reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee Are Made Public Upon Your Receiving Them, Without Delay

Three Standards Development Committees, appointed under the AODA, are to resume their work this fall. They are required to review public feedback on their respective initial reports received over the summer and fall. They must then come up with their final reports and submit them to you. They will address disability barriers facing people with disabilities in the health care system, in the K-12 education system, and the post-secondary education system.

It is very important that you make public each of those Committees’ final reports upon receiving each of them, and that you not continue the Government’s practice of delaying for months the public posting of initial and final reports of Standards Development Committees appointed under the AODA.

These three forthcoming reports will, taken together, address serious disability barriers in the important areas of health care and education. The initial reports of these three Government-appointed advisory Standards Development Committees already documented that Students with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities. Their initial reports also reaffirm how patients with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

The AODA requires the minister responsible for the AODA to make public the initial or final report of a Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” the report. Regarding a Standards Development Committee’s initial report, s. 10(1) of the AODA provides:

10. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

As for any progress report that a Standards Development Committee submits to you, including the Committee’s final report, s. 11(2) of the AODA provides:

Progress reports
11. (1) Each standards development committee shall provide the Minister with periodic reports on the progress of the preparation of the proposed standard as specified in the committee’s terms of reference or as may be required by the Minister from time to time.

Progress reports made public
(2) Upon receiving a report under subsection (1), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

The Government has a troubling track record of withholding the initial or final reports of Standards Development Committees from the public for months or even years after receiving them, despite the minister’s statutory duty to post these reports upon receiving them. One troubling example of these was your Government’s withholding the final report of the Employment Standards Development Committee for over two years, from the time you received it in January 2019 to the time you publicly posted it in February 2021. You did so while people with disabilities continued to languish, facing troubling barriers in access to employment.

Another troubling illustration of this pattern was your withholding the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee from the public for over four months after you received it. You did this during some of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when you knew that people with disabilities were facing added barriers and hardships during that pandemic, and that the initial report you withheld from the public called for strong action on health care barriers, including those which are COVID-19-related.

In the recent case of David Lepofsky v. Raymond Cho, a senior Ministry official took the incorrect and harmful position that the AODA does not even require you to ever make public a Standards Development Committees final report. The Government had never before claimed that it had no statutory duty to make a Standards Development Committee’s final report public upon receiving it. That official’s affidavit, filed on your behalf, stated:

While posting of Initial Recommendations Reports is required by the Act and follows the process as outlined above, the Act does not require that the Minister post Final Recommendations Reports. In practice, the Ministry has posted these final reports as well.

In Lepofsky v Cho, I had filed a court application for judicial review on May 7, 2021, seeking a court order to force you to fulfil your duty to make public the initial reports that you had already received from the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. You had withheld those reports from the public much longer than necessary to post them online. It remains my position that you were in violation of your duty under s. 10(1) of the AODA to post each of those initial reports upon receiving them.

Although the court dismissed my application, it did not conclude that you complied with your legal obligations. Instead, at your request and over my objection, the Divisional Court declined to rule on my application, based on the fact that you had subsequently made all those initial reports public.

Your delay in posting those three initial reports was inexcusable. The Health Care Committee’s initial report was posted over four months after you received it. The K-12 Committee’s initial report was posted two-and-a-half months after you received it. The Post-Secondary Committee’s initial report was posted three-and-a-half months after you received it.

You made public the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial report just moments after I filed my court application on May 7, 2021, and no doubt before you had learned of my court application. You made public the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 1, 2021, over three weeks after I filed my court application. You made public the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 25, 2021, over six weeks after I filed my court application.

During the September 27, 2021 oral argument on my court application, your counsel conceded that section 10(1) of the AODA requires you to post an initial report that you have received after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. The evidence that you placed before the Court showed that in the case of each of those three initial reports, your Ministry delayed its public posting well beyond the time it took to translate the report into French and to code it for online posting. (Even if it were assumed that your Ministry needed as much time as it actually took for French translation and coding.

According to your Ministry’s own evidence, you and your Government injected additional bureaucratic steps that delayed their posting. This included time taken to brief you or your office, and/or other Government officials. It included time taken to get Cabinet Office’s approval for their public posting in according with the Government marketing priorities, even though s. 10(1) gives Cabinet Office no authority to veto or delay their public posting. It included time taken to develop an online survey about each initial report, even though this is unnecessary to ready a report for public posting. It included time taken for the Government to develop a communication strategy (even though this too is unnecessary before a report is publicly posted). Finally, included time taken to edit the report for conformity with the Government’s standard for online posts, even though the Government has no authority to alter a Standards Development Committees report before publicly posting it.

It is extremely significant that your lawyer conceded in the face of the Court’s questions that the time needed to translate a report into French and to code it for public posting was a small part of the time which the Government actually took before it publicly posted an initial report. There was no evidence that your Government tried to speed up the reports’ translation or coding as a priority, or that most if not all of this work could not be done during the days or weeks before each report was formally submitted to you. Your staff were intimately involved with the work of each Standards Development Committee from beginning to end.

Your delays in publicly posting those three initial reports has further delayed Ontario’s progress toward reaching the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. As noted earlier, Ontario is already well behind in reaching that goal, as the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA amply documented over two years ago. Moreover, you withheld those reports from the public at an especially harmful time, during pivotal months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was especially urgent to let hospitals, other health care providers, schools, colleges, and universities know as soon as possible about their disability barriers, and about initial recommendations of what they should do to remove and prevent them. Instead, you stalled that process.

It is essential that the Health Care, K-12 and Post-Secondary Standards Development Committees are able to complete their work and submit their final reports to you as soon as possible. Your Ministry should take every step it can to facilitate this.

Once any of those Committees submit their final report to you, you should make public the fact that you have received it. You should publicly post it upon receiving it, without any delay. You should not hold up the public posting for such things as briefing ministers or other Government officials, for getting Cabinet Office approval, for formatting the report to meet Ontario Government posting standards, or for developing communication strategies or survey instruments.

The next Ontario election is only eight months away. We want to ask each party to make commitments to implement those final reports. For you to delay the public posting of any of those reports would impede and frustrate that effort.

3. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:

a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?

b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?

c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.

d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?

e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?

As always, we remain ready, willing and able to assist the Government on the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. May we ask for your prompt reply to this letter, including the three commitments that we seek.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Twitter: @davidlepofsky
CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford [email protected]
Denise Cole, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]
Alison Drumming, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]




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Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act — AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead


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/

Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act — AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead

October 8, 2021

Summary

Here are two major updates in our campaign to get the Ontario Government to effectively implement the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

1. Ontario’s Divisional Court Dismisses David Lepofsky’s Court Application, Without Ruling On Whether Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho Violated the AODA

On Friday, October 1, 2021, the Ontario Divisional Court released its ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho. We set the 2-page ruling out below.

The Court dismissed the application by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, without ruling on his contention that Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho violated s. 10(1) of the AODA. That section requires the minister to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s initial report upon his receiving it. Minister Cho did not post the health care Standards Development Committee’s initial report until over four months after he received it. He did not post the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report until 3.5 months after he received it. He did not post the K-12 Education Standards Development Committees initial report until 2.5 months after he received it.

The Court decided not to rule on the merits of David Lepofsky’s claim, concluding that the application had become moot after the Government eventually publicly posted all three reports. The Court had the authority to rule on the case, even though it was moot, but decided not to, for the reasons set out below. Minister Cho had urged the Court not to rule on the question whether he had violated the AODA. David Lepofsky urged the Court to rule on the case even if it was moot.

This ruling does not vindicate the Ford Government’s conduct. There are at least two important developments arising from this case.

First, Minister Cho, through his lawyer, conceded in court for the first time that he must post a Standards Development Committees initial report after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. See the ruling, below. Second, the evidence in the case showed that the Government had created bureaucratic barriers that delayed the public posting of these reports. For example, the Government requires Cabinet Office to give permission to post something online, in accordance with Government marketing priorities. Yet, the AODA gives Cabinet Office no right to veto or delay the public posting of these reports.

2. AODA Alliance Writes Accessibility Minister Cho to Call on Him to Fulfil His Unmet Statutory Duties

On October 8, 2021, the AODA Alliance sent a detailed letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, set out below. It gives some specific examples of how the Ford Government has violated the AODA. It asks the Government to give these three commitments:

“1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?”

“2. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?”

“3. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:

  1. a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?
  1. b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?
  1. c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.
  1. d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?
  1. e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?”

3. Getting Close to 1,000 Days of Ford Government Inaction on the David Onley Report

There have now been a breathtaking 981 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act undertaken by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s mandatory deadline. It found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” impeding people with disabilities. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan in place for implementing the Onley Report.

Send us your feedback. Write the AODA Alliance at [email protected]

        MORE DETAILS

October 1, 2021 Divisional Court Ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho

CITATION: Lepofsky v. Cho, 2021 ONSC 6466

DIVISIONAL COURT FILE NO.: 364/21 DATE: 2021/10/01

SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE – ONTARIO DIVISIONAL COURT

RE: DAVID LEPOFSKY, Applicant

AND:

RAYMOND CHO, THE MINISTER FOR SENIORS AND ACCESSIBILITY, Respondent

BEFORE: Sachs, R. D. Gordon and Kristjanson JJ.

COUNSEL: David Lepofsky, on his own behalf

Michael J. Sims and Wan Yao Chen, for the Respondent

Dianne Wintermute, for the Intervenor, Citizens with Disabilities, Ontario

HEARD at Toronto by videoconference: September 27, 2021

ENDORSEMENT

The Applicant initially sought an order in the nature of mandamus compelling the Respondent to make public proposed accessibility standards the Minister had received from three committees (the “Reports”). The Reports have now been made available. The Applicant amended his application to seek a declaration that the Respondent breached his duty to make the Reports public upon receipt, as is required by s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “Act”).

We agree with the Respondent that the Application’s application is moot. The live controversy between the parties, namely, the failure to make the Reports available to the public, has now disappeared.

The Applicant argues that even if we find that the application is moot, we should proceed to hear it as to do so would provide guidance to the parties for future cases. We agree with the Applicant that accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is an urgent issue and that the deadline provided for in the Act for achieving the purpose of the Act is fast approaching. Thus, anything that can be done to eliminate delay in achieving the goal of accessibility should be done. We disagree that issuing a declaration in this case to the effect that the Respondent breached its duty to make the Reports public upon receipt would meaningfully advance this goal.

Page: 2

Issuing a declaration that would have a meaningful effect in the future requires adopting an interpretation of the term “upon receipt” used in the English version of s. 10(1) of the Act (the term does not appear in the French version) that is not dependent on the analysis of a particular set of circumstances. Yet, neither the Applicant nor the Respondent is advocating such an interpretation. Both agree that the Reports are required to be released only after the Respondent has taken the reasonable steps necessary to prepare the Reports for public release. Where they disagree is on the question of which steps were reasonably necessary in this particular case and how much time was reasonably required to take those steps. For example, the Respondent asserts that it was necessary to brief the government about the content of the Reports and to make sure that the Reports did not exceed the mandate of the committees who issued them and that the language in the reports is appropriate. The Applicant counters by stating that these steps were not necessary since in this case the Respondent had representatives on the committees that prepared the Reports, which should have obviated the necessity for any more review. Both parties agree that before the Reports could be released they had to be “coded” and translated into French. Where they disagree is on the question of how long this process should have taken.

The Respondent states that part of the delay in this case was due to COVID 19. The Applicant disputes this explanation. Determining whether the requested declaration should be issued would require this Court to assess the evidence about the circumstances in this particular case. If we were to conclude that in this case the Respondent breached its duty, this would say nothing about what a subsequent court might decide in a different case. The analysis is an individual and contextual one and will necessarily vary in each case. For the court to engage in this exercise when the desired objective (the release of the Reports) has been achieved would not be an appropriate use of its resources.

The Applicant argues that failing to hear his application would be deny him a remedy in the face of the Respondent’s breach of its statutory obligation. Again, we disagree. The Applicant’s remedy in this situation was to seek an order requiring the Respondent to comply with its obligation and make the Reports available. Due to the fact that the Reports have now been made available, there is no further need for court intervention.

For these reasons the application is dismissed. The parties agree that there should be no order as to costs.

Sachs J.

I agree

  1. D. Gordon J.

I agree

Kristjanson J.

Date: October 1, 2021

October 8, 2021 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

October 8, 2021

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

Via email: [email protected]

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Your Statutory Duties Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We ask you to take specific overdue actions, required of you as Ontario’s cabinet minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These actions would help you fulfil your duty under section 7 of the AODA to oversee the development and implement all the accessibility standards necessary to achieving the AODA’s purpose.

The AODA’s purpose is to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. That looming deadline is only a little more than three years away. It is beyond dispute that Ontario is not on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025. A failure to swiftly take the actions we identify in this letter would push Ontario further behind in reaching that deadline.

The Duty to Appoint Standards Development Committees to Review the Sufficiency of an Accessibility Standard Enacted Under the AODA Within Five Years After It is Enacted

Within five years after an accessibility standard is enacted under the AODA, section 9 of the AODA requires the minister, responsible for the AODA, to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of that accessibility standard. You are in clear violation of that requirement in the following two instances.

  1. a) The Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard was enacted in December 2012. The AODA required that a Standards Development Committee be appointed to review it no later than December 2017. Yet in the almost four years since then, no Standards Development Committee has been appointed for that purpose.

The previous Kathleen Wynne Government is responsible for not taking this action over the last six months of its term in office, from December 2017 to June 2018. You and your Government have been in violation of that mandatory requirement for your entire term in office to date, well over three years.

We have brought this unfulfilled requirement to your Government’s attention. We and others have urged your Government on several occasions to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard, in order to fulfil the AODA’s requirement that buildings become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Your Government has never agreed to do so. To the contrary, during debates on this idea in the Legislature on May 30, 2019, during National Access Awareness Week, you inaccurately and hurtfully condemned this idea as creating “red tape.”

  1. b) In 2007, the previous Ontario Government enacted the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard to be enacted under the AODA. In June 2016, the previous Government enacted revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You were therefore required to appoint a Standards Development Committee no later than June 2021, to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You have not done so. As far as we have seen, you have announced no plans to do so.

People with disabilities in Ontario continue to face recurring disability barriers in many areas, such as in the built environment and in access to customer service. In important areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this situation even worse for people with disabilities. Moreover, your own Ministry enforcement data has revealed over the years that there have been rampant AODA violations in the context of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

  1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?

 The Pressing Need to Strengthen the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted three important accessibility standards under the AODA, the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. These three standards are enacted together in one regulation, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011.

The AODA required the previous Government to appoint Standards Development Committees by 2016 to review the sufficiency of each of those three accessibility standards. It therefore appointed the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

Quite some time ago, each of those advisory committees fully completed their reviews and submitted their final reports to the Ontario Government. The Transportation Standards Development Committee’s final report was made public in the spring of 2018, before the June 2018 Ontario election. The Employment Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over two and a half years ago, on January 22, 2019. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over one and a half years ago, on February 23, 2020.

According to the AODA, once the Government receives a Standards Development Committee’s final report, the Government can amend the accessibility standard that it reviewed. It can enact some, all or none of the changes that the Standards Development Committee recommended, and/or can make other reforms to the standard that the Government thinks helpful.

Despite all this work having been done, and all the recurring barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in transportation, employment and information and communication, your Government has enacted no revisions to the Transportation Accessibility Standard the Employment Accessibility Standard or the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. In fact, your Government has not enacted or strengthened any accessibility standards at all in its entire term in office.

You have failed to do so, even though over two and a half years ago, you received the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA. He found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025, and is full of “soul-crushing barriers” that hurt people with disabilities. In the Legislature, you said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in preparing his report.

  1. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?

Ensuring that the Forthcoming Final Reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee Are Made Public Upon Your Receiving Them, Without Delay

Three Standards Development Committees, appointed under the AODA, are to resume their work this fall. They are required to review public feedback on their respective initial reports received over the summer and fall. They must then come up with their final reports and submit them to you. They will address disability barriers facing people with disabilities in the health care system, in the K-12 education system, and the post-secondary education system.

It is very important that you make public each of those Committees’ final reports upon receiving each of them, and that you not continue the Government’s practice of delaying for months the public posting of initial and final reports of Standards Development Committees appointed under the AODA.

These three forthcoming reports will, taken together, address serious disability barriers in the important areas of health care and education. The initial reports of these three Government-appointed advisory Standards Development Committees already documented that Students with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities. Their initial reports also reaffirm how patients with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

The AODA requires the minister responsible for the AODA to make public the initial or final report of a Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” the report. Regarding a Standards Development Committee’s initial report, s. 10(1) of the AODA provides:

  1. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

As for any progress report that a Standards Development Committee submits to you, including the Committee’s final report, s. 11(2) of the AODA provides:

Progress reports

  1. (1) Each standards development committee shall provide the Minister with periodic reports on the progress of the preparation of the proposed standard as specified in the committee’s terms of reference or as may be required by the Minister from time to time.

Progress reports made public

(2) Upon receiving a report under subsection (1), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

The Government has a troubling track record of withholding the initial or final reports of Standards Development Committees from the public for months or even years after receiving them, despite the minister’s statutory duty to post these reports upon receiving them. One troubling example of these was your Government’s withholding the final report of the Employment Standards Development Committee for over two years, from the time you received it in January 2019 to the time you publicly posted it in February 2021. You did so while people with disabilities continued to languish, facing troubling barriers in access to employment.

Another troubling illustration of this pattern was your withholding the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee from the public for over four months after you received it. You did this during some of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when you knew that people with disabilities were facing added barriers and hardships during that pandemic, and that the initial report you withheld from the public called for strong action on health care barriers, including those which are COVID-19-related.

In the recent case of David Lepofsky v. Raymond Cho, a senior Ministry official took the incorrect and harmful position that the AODA does not even require you to ever make public a Standards Development Committees final report. The Government had never before claimed that it had no statutory duty to make a Standards Development Committee’s final report public upon receiving it. That official’s affidavit, filed on your behalf, stated:

While posting of Initial Recommendations Reports is required by the Act and follows the process as outlined above, the Act does not require that the Minister post Final Recommendations Reports. In practice, the Ministry has posted these final reports as well.

In Lepofsky v Cho, I had filed a court application for judicial review on May 7, 2021, seeking a court order to force you to fulfil your duty to make public the initial reports that you had already received from the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. You had withheld those reports from the public much longer than necessary to post them online. It remains my position that you were in violation of your duty under s. 10(1) of the AODA to post each of those initial reports upon receiving them.

Although the court dismissed my application, it did not conclude that you complied with your legal obligations. Instead, at your request and over my objection, the Divisional Court declined to rule on my application, based on the fact that you had subsequently made all those initial reports public.

Your delay in posting those three initial reports was inexcusable. The Health Care Committee’s initial report was posted over four months after you received it. The K-12 Committee’s initial report was posted two-and-a-half months after you received it. The Post-Secondary Committee’s initial report was posted three-and-a-half months after you received it.

You made public the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial report just moments after I filed my court application on May 7, 2021, and no doubt before you had learned of my court application. You made public the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 1, 2021, over three weeks after I filed my court application. You made public the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 25, 2021, over six weeks after I filed my court application.

During the September 27, 2021 oral argument on my court application, your counsel conceded that section 10(1) of the AODA requires you to post an initial report that you have received after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. The evidence that you placed before the Court showed that in the case of each of those three initial reports, your Ministry delayed its public posting well beyond the time it took to translate the report into French and to code it for online posting. (Even if it were assumed that your Ministry needed as much time as it actually took for French translation and coding.

According to your Ministry’s own evidence, you and your Government injected additional bureaucratic steps that delayed their posting. This included time taken to brief you or your office, and/or other Government officials. It included time taken to get Cabinet Office’s approval for their public posting in according with the Government marketing priorities, even though s. 10(1) gives Cabinet Office no authority to veto or delay their public posting. It included time taken to develop an online survey about each initial report, even though this is unnecessary to ready a report for public posting. It included time taken for the Government to develop a communication strategy (even though this too is unnecessary before a report is publicly posted). Finally, included time taken to edit the report for conformity with the Government’s standard for online posts, even though the Government has no authority to alter a Standards Development Committees report before publicly posting it.

It is extremely significant that your lawyer conceded in the face of the Court’s questions that the time needed to translate a report into French and to code it for public posting was a small part of the time which the Government actually took before it publicly posted an initial report. There was no evidence that your Government tried to speed up the reports’ translation or coding as a priority, or that most if not all of this work could not be done during the days or weeks before each report was formally submitted to you. Your staff were intimately involved with the work of each Standards Development Committee from beginning to end.

Your delays in publicly posting those three initial reports has further delayed Ontario’s progress toward reaching the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. As noted earlier, Ontario is already well behind in reaching that goal, as the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA amply documented over two years ago. Moreover, you withheld those reports from the public at an especially harmful time, during pivotal months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was especially urgent to let hospitals, other health care providers, schools, colleges, and universities know as soon as possible about their disability barriers, and about initial recommendations of what they should do to remove and prevent them. Instead, you stalled that process.

It is essential that the Health Care, K-12 and Post-Secondary Standards Development Committees are able to complete their work and submit their final reports to you as soon as possible. Your Ministry should take every step it can to facilitate this.

Once any of those Committees submit their final report to you, you should make public the fact that you have received it. You should publicly post it upon receiving it, without any delay. You should not hold up the public posting for such things as briefing ministers or other Government officials, for getting Cabinet Office approval, for formatting the report to meet Ontario Government posting standards, or for developing communication strategies or survey instruments.

The next Ontario election is only eight months away. We want to ask each party to make commitments to implement those final reports. For you to delay the public posting of any of those reports would impede and frustrate that effort.

  1. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:
  1. a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?
  1. b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?
  1. c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.
  1. d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?
  1. e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?

As always, we remain ready, willing and able to assist the Government on the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. May we ask for your prompt reply to this letter, including the three commitments that we seek.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Alison Drumming, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]



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In this Close Election, Will Erin O’Toole Stand By the Tories’ 2018 Pledge in the House of Commons to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 8, 2021 Toronto: Will Erin O’Toole’s Tories keep their three-year-old pledge to six million people with disabilities in Canada to strengthen the 2018 Accessible Canada Act? Voters with disabilities await an answer from all the federal parties except the NDP on whether they would strengthen that legislation, enacted to make Canada accessible to people with disabilities by 2040.

When Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, was before Parliament in 2018, the NDP and Conservatives proposed lists of much-needed amendments to strengthen it, at the request of disability advocates including the non-partisan AODA Alliance. The governing Liberals used their majority in the House to defeat most if not all of those amendments.

During those debates, the Conservatives, including Erin O’Toole himself, argued that Bill C-81 was too weak, and commended disability advocates’ criticisms of that bill, including those from the AODA Alliance. (See quotations below) Tory MP John Barlow resolutely pledged during Third Reading debates on November 22, 2018 that if the Tories form the next Government, they will strengthen it. Among the key excerpts, set out below, Tory MP John Barlow said this:

Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.

With this election looming, On August 3, 2021, the non-partisan AODA Alliance wrote all party leaders, seeking 12 commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities, including the passage of those defeated amendments. On September 4, 2021, the NDP wrote the AODA Alliance, promising to pass all their amendments to the Accessible Canada Act, proposed in 2018. None of the other party leaders have responded so far.

“In such an extremely close election, all party leaders have even more reason to promise to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act and to speed up its sluggish implementation,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, a grassroots disability accessibility advocacy coalition. “It was great that in 2018 the Tories including Erin O’Toole pressed to get the Federal Government to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We’re eager for Mr. O’Toole to now reaffirm the solemn pledge his party made three years ago to strengthen this legislation if the Tories are elected.”

The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party. It is campaigning to get all the federal parties to make strong commitments on disability accessibility. So far, the federal Liberals, Conservatives, Green Party, and Bloc Quebecois have not made any of the 12 disability accessibility pledges that the AODA Alliance requested of them in its August 3, 2021 letter.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance For background, check out:
The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to all federal party leaders. The New Democratic Party’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance.
The AODA Alliance’s August 24, 2021 news release slamming the Federal Government’s grant of up to 7.5 million dollars for the Rick Hansen Foundation’s problem-ridden private accessibility certification and training program.
The AODA Alliance website’s Canada page, setting out its efforts since 2015 to secure the enactment and effective implementation of the Accessible Canada Act.

Excerpts from Parliamentary Debates on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act

Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons on September 24, 2018

Originally posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/read-what-was-said-during-the-second-day-of-second-reading-debates-in-the-house-of-commons-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-september-24-2018/

Hon. Erin O’Toole (Durham, CPC):

Madam Speaker, the member from the NDP mentioned David Lepofsky. He has been a leading advocate for a barrier-free Canada and is probably one of the best examples of thoughtful advocacy I have seen in my time in public life. I recall him teaching, in my bar admission course in Ontario, through the Law Society of Upper Canada, issues related to people facing disabilities. I want to thank Mr. Lepofsky. He is also quite tenacious on social media in making sure that these issues are not forgotten.

The member highlighted a number of the areas where this falls short. All parties, I think, want to see fewer barriers, more engagement and more opportunities for people. The fact is, and this is what Mr. Lepofsky’s group has also highlighted, the government provides the ability for itself to set standards or regulations but sets no timeline for the government to lead by example with respect to future plans for its infrastructure in future federal jurisdiction areas, such as ports, airports and these sorts of things. Is that lack of a timeline and a commitment to federal leadership something the member feels is a bit of a shortcoming in Bill C-81?

Third Reading Debates in the House of Commons on November 22, 2018

Posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/transcript-of-the-2nd-and-final-day-of-third-reading-debates-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-in-the-house-of-commons-on-november-22-2018/

Erin O’Toole Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the comments from the Liberal parliamentary secretary suggesting my colleague and friend is misleading people. I spoke to my friend just yesterday about the conversation I had last week with David Lepofsky, probably the most prominent Canadian in terms of disability advocacy. He has the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, as a constitutional lawyer and disability advocate.

What my friend is saying to the House today is exactly what is being said by people like David Lepofsky. One of the things I heard from him was the fact that there is no end date for accessibility within Bill C-81, no timeline. Ontario has set a 20-year goal of making sure accessibility is paramount. The other thing I heard from him was that there is no clear commitment in Bill C-81 to ensure no infrastructure dollars would go to new projects unless accessibility is at the centre of the project. There are no timelines and no teeth.

The Liberal member is suggesting that my friend is misleading Canadians. This is what disability advocates are asking for. Will my friend comment on the fact that we have an opportunity with Bill C-81 to get it right, if only the Liberals will listen?

Alex Nuttall BarrieSpringwaterOro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commit to the member that we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians. It is interesting the member brought up Mr. Lepofsky, because he said the following:

…the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Those are the words of Mr. Lepofsky. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party did not listen to them.

John Barlow Foothills, AB

We mentioned David Lepofsky today who is with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I really want to put in his comment here today. He said:

The bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Mr. Lepofsky was speaking for Canadians across the country asking us as parliamentarians to not get cold feet. This is an opportunity to make some substantial, historic change for Canadians with disabilities, and we failed.

I have to share a little of the frustration on this, as we will be voting in support of Bill C-81. For those organizations, those stakeholders listening today, the reason we are voting in support of Bill C-81 is certainly not because we agree with it. In fact, I have outlined today in my speech the many reasons why we are not. We heard from the stakeholders time and time again of their disappointment. But their comments were always that, although it fell well short of what they wanted, it was a start, and I will grant them that, it is a start.

I know they were expecting much more from the minister, the Liberal government and from us as members of that committee. Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.




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In this Close Election, Will Erin O’Toole Stand By the Tories’ 2018 Pledge in the House of Commons to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In this Close Election, Will Erin O’Toole Stand By the Tories’ 2018 Pledge in the House of Commons to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act?

September 8, 2021 Toronto: Will Erin O’Toole’s Tories keep their three-year-old pledge to six million people with disabilities in Canada to strengthen the 2018 Accessible Canada Act? Voters with disabilities await an answer from all the federal parties except the NDP on whether they would strengthen that legislation, enacted to make Canada accessible to people with disabilities by 2040.

When Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, was before Parliament in 2018, the NDP and Conservatives proposed lists of much-needed amendments to strengthen it, at the request of disability advocates including the non-partisan AODA Alliance. The governing Liberals used their majority in the House to defeat most if not all of those amendments.

During those debates, the Conservatives, including Erin O’Toole himself, argued that Bill C-81 was too weak, and commended disability advocates’ criticisms of that bill, including those from the AODA Alliance. (See quotations below) Tory MP John Barlow resolutely pledged during Third Reading debates on November 22, 2018 that if the Tories form the next Government, they will strengthen it. Among the key excerpts, set out below, Tory MP John Barlow said this:

Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.

With this election looming, On August 3, 2021, the non-partisan AODA Alliance wrote all party leaders, seeking 12 commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities, including the passage of those defeated amendments. On September 4, 2021, the NDP wrote the AODA Alliance, promising to pass all their amendments to the Accessible Canada Act, proposed in 2018. None of the other party leaders have responded so far.

“In such an extremely close election, all party leaders have even more reason to promise to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act and to speed up its sluggish implementation,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, a grassroots disability accessibility advocacy coalition. “It was great that in 2018 the Tories including Erin O’Toole pressed to get the Federal Government to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We’re eager for Mr. O’Toole to now reaffirm the solemn pledge his party made three years ago to strengthen this legislation if the Tories are elected.”

The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party. It is campaigning to get all the federal parties to make strong commitments on disability accessibility. So far, the federal Liberals, Conservatives, Green Party, and Bloc Quebecois have not made any of the 12 disability accessibility pledges that the AODA Alliance requested of them in its August 3, 2021 letter.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

For background, check out:

The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to all federal party leaders.

The New Democratic Party’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance.

The AODA Alliance’s August 24, 2021 news release slamming the Federal Government’s grant of up to 7.5 million dollars for the Rick Hansen Foundation’s problem-ridden private accessibility certification and training program.

The AODA Alliance website’s Canada page, setting out its efforts since 2015 to secure the enactment and effective implementation of the Accessible Canada Act.

Excerpts from Parliamentary Debates on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act

Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons on September 24, 2018

Originally posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/read-what-was-said-during-the-second-day-of-second-reading-debates-in-the-house-of-commons-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-september-24-2018/

Hon. Erin O’Toole (Durham, CPC):

Madam Speaker, the member from the NDP mentioned David Lepofsky. He has been a leading advocate for a barrier-free Canada and is probably one of the best examples of thoughtful advocacy I have seen in my time in public life. I recall him teaching, in my bar admission course in Ontario, through the Law Society of Upper Canada, issues related to people facing disabilities. I want to thank Mr. Lepofsky. He is also quite tenacious on social media in making sure that these issues are not forgotten.

The member highlighted a number of the areas where this falls short. All parties, I think, want to see fewer barriers, more engagement and more opportunities for people. The fact is, and this is what Mr. Lepofsky’s group has also highlighted, the government provides the ability for itself to set standards or regulations but sets no timeline for the government to lead by example with respect to future plans for its infrastructure in future federal jurisdiction areas, such as ports, airports and these sorts of things. Is that lack of a timeline and a commitment to federal leadership something the member feels is a bit of a shortcoming in Bill C-81?

Third Reading Debates in the House of Commons on November 22, 2018

Posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/transcript-of-the-2nd-and-final-day-of-third-reading-debates-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-in-the-house-of-commons-on-november-22-2018/

Erin O’Toole Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the comments from the Liberal parliamentary secretary suggesting my colleague and friend is misleading people. I spoke to my friend just yesterday about the conversation I had last week with David Lepofsky, probably the most prominent Canadian in terms of disability advocacy. He has the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, as a constitutional lawyer and disability advocate.

What my friend is saying to the House today is exactly what is being said by people like David Lepofsky. One of the things I heard from him was the fact that there is no end date for accessibility within Bill C-81, no timeline. Ontario has set a 20-year goal of making sure accessibility is paramount. The other thing I heard from him was that there is no clear commitment in Bill C-81 to ensure no infrastructure dollars would go to new projects unless accessibility is at the centre of the project. There are no timelines and no teeth.

The Liberal member is suggesting that my friend is misleading Canadians. This is what disability advocates are asking for. Will my friend comment on the fact that we have an opportunity with Bill C-81 to get it right, if only the Liberals will listen?

Alex Nuttall Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commit to the member that we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians. It is interesting the member brought up Mr. Lepofsky, because he said the following:

…the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Those are the words of Mr. Lepofsky. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party did not listen to them.

John Barlow Foothills, AB

We mentioned David Lepofsky today who is with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I really want to put in his comment here today. He said:

The bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Mr. Lepofsky was speaking for Canadians across the country asking us as parliamentarians to not get cold feet. This is an opportunity to make some substantial, historic change for Canadians with disabilities, and we failed.

I have to share a little of the frustration on this, as we will be voting in support of Bill C-81. For those organizations, those stakeholders listening today, the reason we are voting in support of Bill C-81 is certainly not because we agree with it. In fact, I have outlined today in my speech the many reasons why we are not. We heard from the stakeholders time and time again of their disappointment. But their comments were always that, although it fell well short of what they wanted, it was a start, and I will grant them that, it is a start.

I know they were expecting much more from the minister, the Liberal government and from us as members of that committee. Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.



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Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First and Only National Leader to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. What Will the Other Parties Pledge in This Election to Make Canada Accessible for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities by 2040?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 4, 2021 Toronto: In the current federal election, the NDP is the first federal party to write the AODA Alliance to commit to strengthen the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against over six million people with disabilities. The NDP’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance is set out below.

In its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders, the non-partisan AODA Alliance requested 12 specific commitments to strengthen the ACA and to ensure its swift and effective implementation and enforcement. (12 requests set out and answered below in Mr. Singh’s letter). The NDP’s letter, set out below, Mr. Singh makes many of the commitments the AODA Alliance sought.

“We’ve now gotten commitments from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, so now we aim to get the other federal party leaders to meet or beat those commitments,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We and other disability advocates together got the Accessible Canada Act introduced into Parliament, and then got it strengthened somewhat between 2018 and 2019 before it was passed. It has helpful ingredients, but is too weak. We are seeking commitments to ensure that this law gets strengthened, and that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced.”

In Parliament during debates over that bill in 2018-2019, the Liberals made promising statements about what the new law would achieve for people with disabilities. Commitments are sought in this election to turn those statements into assured action.

In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals promised the timely and ambitious implementation of this legislation. It repeated that pledge in its 2021 platform released days ago. Two years after first making this pledge, the Government has taken some steps, but has been dragging its feet. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

Even though Parliament unanimously passed the ACA, the federal parties were substantially divided on whether it went far enough to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The Tories, NDP and Greens argued in Parliament for the bill to be made stronger, speaking on behalf of diverse voices from the disability community. In 2018, the Liberals voted down most of the proposed opposition amendments that were advanced on behalf of people with disabilities.

In 2019, the Senate called for new measures to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. The ACA does not ensure this.

Among the disability organizations that are raising disability issues in this election, the AODA Alliance is spearheading a blitz to help the grassroots press these issues on the actual and virtual hustings and in social media. The AODA Alliance is tweeting candidates across Canada to solicit their commitments and will make public any commitments that the other party leaders make. Follow @aodaalliance. As a non-partisan effort, the AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate.

The AODA Alliance is also calling on the Federal Government and Elections Canada to ensure for the first time that millions of voters with disabilities can vote in this election without fearing that they may encounter accessibility barriers in the voting process.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
For background on the AODA Alliance ‘s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, and its efforts to get it effectively implemented since then, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Text of the New Democratic Party of Canada’s September 4, 2021 Email to the AODA Alliance
1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years of the ACA’s enactment? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years of the ACA’s enactment?

We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner.

The NDP fought repeatedly to include implementation timelines in Bill C-81. During committee study of the bill, the Government there was overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to how the bill needed to be amended. The NDP listened and introduced amendments based on the feedback of the disability community but nearly all our amendments were defeated by the Liberals. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.

2. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively and vigourously enforced?

Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. The NDP fought hard to amend Bill C-81 to ensure that the accessibility standards would be enforced, introducing amendments that were called for by Canadians living with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Liberals defeated nearly all of our amendments. An NDP government will strengthen the ACA to ensure accessibility standards are enforced.

3. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by strong monitored public policy, that no one will 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?

The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity when they introduced the ACA. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The NDP fought to include this provision in the bill, putting forward an amendment at committee. Unfortunately, the Liberals voted against.

New Democrats want to build a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We believe that this cannot happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. The NDP would require that federal public money never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, including federal money received for procurement; infrastructure; transfer payments; research grants; business development loans or grants, or for any other kind of payment, including purpose under a contract.

4. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA 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 ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

Yes, an NDP government will ensure that if a provision of the ACA 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 for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

5. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.” and replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?

We will review section 172(3) of the ACA and take the appropriate corrective measures to make sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.

6. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, 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 set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

Yes. The ACA tabled by the Liberal government gave several public agencies and officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of the Act. The ACA separates enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. New Democrats believe it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: a single service location or one-stop-shop.. We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.

7. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

“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.”

The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of governmentevery budget, every policy and regulationshould be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.

8. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities?

New Democrats recognize that our public institutions and our public policies are stronger when they are representative and allow for full participation. Within our own party, we have sought to address barriers for candidates with disabilities guided by the advice of our Persons Living With Disabilities Committee, and have established a fund specifically to support candidates living with disabilities.

We have also fought to create change for candidates in all parties, bringing forward amendments to C-81 that would have required the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. An NDP government will make sure that review happens, and bring forth legislation within 12 months of the completion of that review to address the barriers that were identified.

9. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

Eleven years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has introduced an Accessibility Act, its exemptions mean Canada’s accessibility legislation falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.

10. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible to participants with hearing disabilities?

Our country cannot be barrier-free if our public institutions are not accessible to all Canadians, including Canadians with hearing disabilities. The NDP brought forward an amendment during hearings on the ACA that would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. An NDP government will implement this requirement and ensure that we remove barriers to justice for Canadians living with disabilities.

11. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

Absolutely! The NDP fought to improve this bill and brought forward numerous amendments that were proposed by stakeholders in the disability community. We do not see this fight as over just because the Liberals have given up; an NDP government will work to fix the ACA, including the many issues that were flagged during hearings on Bill C-81.

12. Will your party commit to ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will your party commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities?

Yes, an NDP government will apply a disability lens to all government legislation, regulations, codes, and procedures to ensure that we are removing barriers to full inclusion and respecting the rights of Canadians living with disabilities. Where there are gaps or shortcomings in existing policies, we will work with the disability community to fix the legislation or policies, including with the National Building Code. We will apply this same lens to any conversations with the provinces and territories about harmonization of laws and regulations.




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Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First and Only National Leader to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. What Will the Other Parties Pledge in This Election to Make Canada Accessible for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities by 2040? – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 4, 2021 Toronto: In the current federal election, the NDP is the first federal party to write the AODA Alliance to commit to strengthen the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against over six million people with disabilities. The NDP’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance is set out below.

In its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders, the non-partisan AODA Alliance requested 12 specific commitments to strengthen the ACA and to ensure its swift and effective implementation and enforcement. (12 requests set out and answered below in Mr. Singh’s letter). The NDP’s letter, set out below, Mr. Singh makes many of the commitments the AODA Alliance sought.

“We’ve now gotten commitments from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, so now we aim to get the other federal party leaders to meet or beat those commitments,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We and other disability advocates together got the Accessible Canada Act introduced into Parliament, and then got it strengthened somewhat between 2018 and 2019 before it was passed. It has helpful ingredients, but is too weak. We are seeking commitments to ensure that this law gets strengthened, and that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced.”

In Parliament during debates over that bill in 2018-2019, the Liberals made promising statements about what the new law would achieve for people with disabilities. Commitments are sought in this election to turn those statements into assured action.

In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals promised the timely and ambitious implementation of this legislation. It repeated that pledge in its 2021 platform released days ago. Two years after first making this pledge, the Government has taken some steps, but has been dragging its feet. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

Even though Parliament unanimously passed the ACA, the federal parties were substantially divided on whether it went far enough to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The Tories, NDP and Greens argued in Parliament for the bill to be made stronger, speaking on behalf of diverse voices from the disability community. In 2018, the Liberals voted down most of the proposed opposition amendments that were advanced on behalf of people with disabilities.

In 2019, the Senate called for new measures to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. The ACA does not ensure this.

Among the disability organizations that are raising disability issues in this election, the AODA Alliance is spearheading a blitz to help the grassroots press these issues on the actual and virtual hustings and in social media. The AODA Alliance is tweeting candidates across Canada to solicit their commitments and will make public any commitments that the other party leaders make. Follow @aodaalliance. As a non-partisan effort, the AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate.

The AODA Alliance is also calling on the Federal Government and Elections Canada to ensure for the first time that millions of voters with disabilities can vote in this election without fearing that they may encounter accessibility barriers in the voting process.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

For background on the AODA Alliance ‘s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, and its efforts to get it effectively implemented since then, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Text of the New Democratic Party of Canada’s September 4, 2021 Email to the AODA Alliance

  1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years of the ACA’s enactment? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years of the ACA’s enactment?

We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner.

The NDP fought repeatedly to include implementation timelines in Bill C-81. During committee study of the bill, the Government there was overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to how the bill needed to be amended. The NDP listened and introduced amendments based on the feedback of the disability community but nearly all our amendments were defeated by the Liberals. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively and vigourously enforced?

 

Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. The NDP fought hard to amend Bill C-81 to ensure that the accessibility standards would be enforced, introducing amendments that were called for by Canadians living with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Liberals defeated nearly all of our amendments. An NDP government will strengthen the ACA to ensure accessibility standards are enforced.

  1. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by strong monitored public policy, that no one will 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?

 

The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity when they introduced the ACA. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The NDP fought to include this provision in the bill, putting forward an amendment at committee. Unfortunately, the Liberals voted against.

New Democrats want to build a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We believe that this cannot happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. The NDP would require that federal public money never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, including federal money received for procurement; infrastructure; transfer payments; research grants; business development loans or grants, or for any other kind of payment, including purpose under a contract.

 

  1. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA 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 ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

Yes, an NDP government will ensure that if a provision of the ACA 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 for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

  1. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.” and replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?

We will review section 172(3) of the ACA and take the appropriate corrective measures to make sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.

  1. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, 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 set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

Yes. The ACA tabled by the Liberal government gave several public agencies and officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of the Act. The ACA separates enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. New Democrats believe it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: a single service location or one-stop-shop.. We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.

  1. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

 

“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.”

The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of government—every budget, every policy and regulation—should be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.

  1. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities?

New Democrats recognize that our public institutions and our public policies are stronger when they are representative and allow for full participation. Within our own party, we have sought to address barriers for candidates with disabilities guided by the advice of our Persons Living With Disabilities Committee, and have established a fund specifically to support candidates living with disabilities.

We have also fought to create change for candidates in all parties, bringing forward amendments to C-81 that would have required the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. An NDP government will make sure that review happens, and bring forth legislation within 12 months of the completion of that review to address the barriers that were identified.

  1. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

Eleven years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has introduced an Accessibility Act, its exemptions mean Canada’s accessibility legislation falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.

  1. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible to participants with hearing disabilities?

Our country cannot be barrier-free if our public institutions are not accessible to all Canadians, including Canadians with hearing disabilities. The NDP brought forward an amendment during hearings on the ACA that would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. An NDP government will implement this requirement and ensure that we remove barriers to justice for Canadians living with disabilities.

  1. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

Absolutely! The NDP fought to improve this bill and brought forward numerous amendments that were proposed by stakeholders in the disability community. We do not see this fight as over just because the Liberals have given up; an NDP government will work to fix the ACA, including the many issues that were flagged during hearings on Bill C-81.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will your party commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities?

Yes, an NDP government will apply a disability lens to all government legislation, regulations, codes, and procedures to ensure that we are removing barriers to full inclusion and respecting the rights of Canadians living with disabilities. Where there are gaps or shortcomings in existing policies, we will work with the disability community to fix the legislation or policies, including with the National Building Code. We will apply this same lens to any conversations with the provinces and territories about harmonization of laws and regulations.

 



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With a Federal Election Looming, Two Captioned Videos Explain Why Canada Needs a Strong Accessible Canada Act and Why the One that Passed in 2019 Needs to Be Strengthened


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

July 28, 2021

It sure looks, sounds, tastes and smells like there is a federal election in the air. That means it is time for disability advocates to gear up to ask the federal parties for election commitments on accessibility for over six million people with disabilities in Canada!

To get ready, we would welcome your feedback. What should we be asking for regarding the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. It was passed over two years ago. Yet the Federal Government has still not hired the national Accessibility Commissioner or the Chief Accessibility Officer to lead its implementation. No accessibility standards have yet been enacted to require specific action to remove and prevent disability barriers.

To learn more about this subject, we today unveil for you two captioned videos. Together, they bring you up to speed.

The first video, ” What should Canada’s promised national accessibility legislation include?” tells you why Canada needs a strong national accessibility law. It is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzUKVs28T8U

The second video, called “2018-2019 Campaign to get Canada’s parliament to Pass a Strong Accessible Canada Act,” gives you the history of the trip that the Accessible Canada Act took through Canada’s House of Commons, Senate, and back to the House of Commons again, in 2018-2019. That video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMdC0wi5FlM
Together these videos show that the Accessible Canada Act is helpful, but too weak. We and many others were especially worried because it commendably gave the Federal Government new powers, without imposing needed time lines on the Government to ensure that the law is implemented in a timely and effective way. By splintering its implementation and enforcement across three federal agencies, it made the law unnecessarily complicated and hard to navigate. Events since then have proven us correct.

In the October 2019 federal election, the governing Liberal party made election commitments on its implementation. It pledged to use a disability lens for all Government decisions. It also committed:

” We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians.”

Have they kept their word? What promises should we ask all the major parties to make? The Accessible Canada Act requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040, at least within federal jurisdiction. In the two years since the Accessible Canada Act was passed, has Canada made two years’ worth of progress towards that goal? Are we on schedule?

Send us your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

For even more background on the AODA Alliance’s efforts regarding the Accessible Canada Act, visit the AODA Alliance website’s Canada page.




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