AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities


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

April 24, 2019

SUMMARY

On April 23, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent the Senate of Canada a short 2-page supplementary brief. It emphasizes as a priority the pressing need for the Senate to remove a harmful and outdated provision that is perpetuated in Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That provision, section 172, lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations on accessibility in transportation that can cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. There is no reason for Parliament to leave that harmful provision in place. It flies in the face of the federal Disabilities Minister’s statement to the Senate that she doesn’t want anything in the bill to reduce the human rights of people with disabilities. We set this supplementary brief out below.
There is still a week left for you to help our campaign before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs decides what amendments to make to Bill C-81. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]
To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail
You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Supplemental Brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Regarding Bill C-81 April 23, 2019

This supplements our March 29, 2019 brief, our April 8, 2019 short list of amendments, and our April 11, 2019 oral presentation to the Standing Committee. We elaborate on one of the 11 amendments we requested. Our proposed Amendment #7 (set out below) asks this Committee to remove s. 172 from the bill. That would remove the identically-numbered 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Section 172 lets the CTA cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. The CTA should have no power to dilute our human rights. This is a top priority for us that would benefit all passengers with any kind of disability.

What’s the problem? On April 3, 2019, Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Contradicting this, s. 172 lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. Section 172 provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

For example, if the CTA passes a regulation to set accessibility requirements in air travel, that regulation is the final word on what airlines must do to accommodate passengers with disabilities, in the specific areas it regulates. The regulation sets the maximum of the airline’s human rights obligations. Passengers with disabilities cannot bring an accessibility complaint to the CTA to demand anything more of the airline in that area, even if the passenger can show that they needed more to accommodate them, and even if it poses no undue hardship to the airline.

Assume the CTA regulation said the airline can take up to 5 hours to guide a blind passenger from the check-in desk to their airplane. That means the airline could tell passengers with disabilities that they must show up to the airport 5 hours before their flight. A passenger is not permitted to show the airline could easily accommodate this need in 2 hours and doesn’t need 5 hours. All the passenger can thereafter complain about is a delay that is longer than 5 hours.

This is not a far-fetched hypothetical risk. Last month, the CTA posted proposed transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the existing human rights of passengers with disabilities. After our Senate presentation we filed a brief with CTA objecting to this.

The proposed CTA regulations would impose a new duty on passengers with disabilities to give an airline 48 hours advance notice of a request for certain listed accommodations that they now can get without any advance notice. An airline can unilaterally expand this to a 96 hour advance notice requirement in some situations. An airline does not have to let passengers know they will demand 96 hours’ notice.

If a passenger does not give this new required advance notice, the airline only has to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the listed accommodations. This reduces the airline’s existing human rights duty to provide such needed accommodations except where the airline can show that it is impossible to do more to accommodate without undue hardship to the airline. “Undue hardship” is a much tougher test for the airline to meet than mere “reasonable efforts”.

This new legislated barrier applies to important accommodations, such as assisting passengers with disabilities to go through airport security, to get to the departure lounge and onto the airplane, telling a blind passenger on the plane where the bathroom is, letting passengers with disabilities use a larger business class bathroom on the plane if it is larger than the economy class bathroom, or telling a passenger what food options are offered on the plane.

48 hours’ advance notice is not justified for these accommodations. For them, an airline uses existing staff. If any advance notice were justified, which we dispute, two days is not.

This discriminatory new barrier especially hurts last-minute travelers, for business, for an emergency or funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened.

Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee that the CTA aims for transportation in Canada to be the most accessible in the world. These draft regulations, which the minister trumpeted, fall far short. Especially because of s. 172, we oppose the enactment of these regulations, even if they elsewhere have some helpful measures for passengers with disabilities.

The outdated s. 172 only serves the interests of transportation providers who want the CTA to dilute their human rights duties. Neither the Minister nor the CTA presented any need for s. 172. The CRTC has no corresponding provision when it enacts regulations.

We therefore ask this Committee to amend Bill C-81 to remove s. 172 of the bill, which in turn would surgically excise the identically numbered s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 7 of the AODA Alliance Amendments Package
Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.



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AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities

April 24, 2019

          SUMMARY

On April 23, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent the Senate of Canada a short 2-page supplementary brief. It emphasizes as a priority the pressing need for the Senate to remove a harmful and outdated provision that is perpetuated in Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That provision, section 172, lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations on accessibility in transportation that can cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. There is no reason for Parliament to leave that harmful provision in place. It flies in the face of the federal Disabilities Minister’s statement to the Senate that she doesn’t want anything in the bill to reduce the human rights of people with disabilities. We set this supplementary brief out below.

There is still a week left for you to help our campaign before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs decides what amendments to make to Bill C-81. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

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

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

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Supplemental Brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Regarding Bill C-81

April 23, 2019

This supplements our March 29, 2019 brief, our April 8, 2019 short list of amendments, and our April 11, 2019 oral presentation to the Standing Committee. We elaborate on one of the 11 amendments we requested. Our proposed Amendment #7 (set out below) asks this Committee to remove s. 172 from the bill. That would remove the identically-numbered 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Section 172 lets the CTA cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. The CTA should have no power to dilute our human rights. This is a top priority for us that would benefit all passengers with any kind of disability.

What’s the problem? On April 3, 2019, Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Contradicting this, s. 172 lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. Section 172 provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

For example, if the CTA passes a regulation to set accessibility requirements in air travel, that regulation is the final word on what airlines must do to accommodate passengers with disabilities, in the specific areas it regulates. The regulation sets the maximum of the airline’s human rights obligations. Passengers with disabilities cannot bring an accessibility complaint to the CTA to demand anything more of the airline in that area, even if the passenger can show that they needed more to accommodate them, and even if it poses no undue hardship to the airline.

Assume the CTA regulation said the airline can take up to 5 hours to guide a blind passenger from the check-in desk to their airplane. That means the airline could tell passengers with disabilities that they must show up to the airport 5 hours before their flight. A passenger is not permitted to show the airline could easily accommodate this need in 2 hours and doesn’t need 5 hours. All the passenger can thereafter complain about is a delay that is longer than 5 hours.

This is not a far-fetched hypothetical risk. Last month, the CTA posted proposed transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the existing human rights of passengers with disabilities. After our Senate presentation we filed a brief with CTA objecting to this.

The proposed CTA regulations would impose a new duty on passengers with disabilities to give an airline 48 hours advance notice of a request for certain listed accommodations that they now can get without any advance notice. An airline can unilaterally expand this to a 96 hour advance notice requirement in some situations. An airline does not have to let passengers know they will demand 96 hours’ notice.

If a passenger does not give this new required advance notice, the airline only has to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the listed accommodations. This reduces the airline’s existing human rights duty to provide such needed accommodations except where the airline can show that it is impossible to do more to accommodate without undue hardship to the airline. “Undue hardship” is a much tougher test for the airline to meet than mere “reasonable efforts”.

This new legislated barrier applies to important accommodations, such as assisting passengers with disabilities to go through airport security, to get to the departure lounge and onto the airplane, telling a blind passenger on the plane where the bathroom is, letting passengers with disabilities use a larger business class bathroom on the plane if it is larger than the economy class bathroom, or telling a passenger what food options are offered on the plane.

48 hours’ advance notice is not justified for these accommodations. For them, an airline uses existing staff. If any advance notice were justified, which we dispute, two days is not.

This discriminatory new barrier especially hurts last-minute travelers, for business, for an emergency or funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened.

Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee that the CTA aims for transportation in Canada to be the most accessible in the world. These draft regulations, which the minister trumpeted, fall far short. Especially because of s. 172, we oppose the enactment of these regulations, even if they elsewhere have some helpful measures for passengers with disabilities.

The outdated s. 172 only serves the interests of transportation providers who want the CTA to dilute their human rights duties. Neither the Minister nor the CTA presented any need for s. 172. The CRTC has no corresponding provision when it enacts regulations.

We therefore ask this Committee to amend Bill C-81 to remove s. 172 of the bill, which in turn would surgically excise the identically numbered s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 7 of the AODA Alliance Amendments Package

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.



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At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (Proposed Accessible Canada Act) – Read the AODA Alliance’s Commentary on the Minister’s Key Answers


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (Proposed Accessible Canada Act) – Read the AODA Alliance’s Commentary on the Minister’s Key Answers

April 23, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is a rare glimpse into how the Federal Government is thinking about the concerns that we and many others have expressed about the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

On April 3, 2019, the federal minister responsible for people with disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to kick off that committee’s study of Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough made an opening statement to explain and defend Bill C-81. The Senators then took turns questioning her and her senior public service official, the Director General of the Office of Disability Issues James Van Raalte.

Many of the Senators’ questions sound like they were inspired in whole or in part by the AODA Alliance’s March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate and feedback from other disability organizations with similar concerns about the bill. We express our appreciation and gratitude for the Senators doing so.

Below we set out a series of 17 important excerpts from Minister Qualtrough’s presentation, with our comments on these statements. We will post her entire presentation to the Standing Committee on our website once it becomes available.

In our comments, set out below, we respectfully disagree with some of the minister’s statements, and explain why. In other cases, we identify key comments she has made which support the narrow package of amendments to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate last week, and asked for their adoption.

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

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

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.`

 

Please help our campaign. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

 

          MORE DETAILS

Excerpts from Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough’s April 3, 2019 Presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Plus AODA Alliance Commentary on Those Remarks

Excerpt 1

Minister Qualtrough: Bill C-81 complements the Human Rights Framework in Canada. It does not take anything away from existing human rights obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: This is not correct. Section 172 of the bill re-enacts section 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. That provision provides that when the Canada Transportation Agency enacts an accessibility standard regulation, it in effect prevails over and can water down or cut back on the duty to accommodate passengers with disabilities.

If a CTA regulation says that Air Canada has an excessive five hours to help a passenger with a disability off an airplane when it arrives, that passenger cannot complain to the CTA that Air Canada could easily have accommodated them more quickly without undue hardship.

This is not a hypothetical fear. The Canadian Transportation Agency has proposed new accessibility regulations that, if passed, threaten to cut back on disability human rights. We explain this in detail in the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA.

We’ve been asking the Federal Government for months to remove s. 172 from the bill. The AODA Alliance’s proposed amendments to Bill C-81, now before the Senate, would remove s. 172 from that bill. That would help make the minister’s statement here become true. However the Federal Government has not yet publicly said that it would agree to a repeal of s. 172. Our 7th proposed amendment to Bill C-81, placed before the Senate, is as follows:

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

As well, our 8th proposed amendment to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate provides as follows:

Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Excerpt 2

Minister Qualtrough: I’m extremely proud to say that the proposed accessible Canada act enjoys widespread endorsement and support from so many in the disabilities community.

Our Comment: The Federal Government has received widespread feedback from Canada’s disability community that Bill C-81 is too weak and needs to be strengthened. For example, see the Open Letter to the Federal Government which fully 95 disability organizations co-signed, and which was sent last October. See also the extensive feedback on Bill C-81 which disability organizations presented to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee. Disability organizations there repeatedly pressed for this bill to be strengthened.

Excerpt 3

Minister Qualtrough: As part of our whole-of-government approach, Bill C-81 builds upon the existing work done by regulators and, if passed, will strengthen their mandates to ensure accessibility in their sectors. This was demonstrated at the recent CTA announcement I attended, where the publication of draft accessibility regulations was announced, with the intention of making Canada’s transportation system the most accessible in the world.

Our Comment: It may at first sound good that the Canadian Transportation Agency wants to make Canada’s transportation system the most accessible one in the world. However, after a closer look, it falls far short of what people with disabilities in Canada need and deserve.

What people with disabilities deserve and are entitled to is an accessible transportation system. Bill C-81 is entitled an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The CTA’s much more diluted objective would be fulfilled if Canada’s transportation system were to become slightly more accessible than all others – no matter how inaccessible all others are. In other words, by the CTA’s impoverished approach to accessibility, people with disabilities in Canada could end up having to put up with many accessibility barriers in transportation forever.

As well, we noted earlier that the CTA has proposed new transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the human rights of passengers with disabilities, a very troubling development to which the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA objects.

Excerpt 4

Minister Qualtrough: This approach ensures that accessibility is everyone’s responsibility and that we can’t waste any time once the bill receives Royal Assent.

Our Comment: Regrettably, Bill C-81 does not ensure that we don’t waste any time once this bill receives Royal Assent. To ensure this, a series of mandatory time lines must be added to the bill.

Excerpt 5

Minister Qualtrough: Finally, the development of regulations has begun, with the CTA posting their first draft of accessibility regulations, and the consultation process has started for the development of the multi-year accessibility plan regulations.

Our Comment: This may seem a bit technical, but the regulations that the Canadian Transportation Agency are now finalizing are not being created under Bill C-81. They are being developed under the existing national transportation legislation that has been on the books for years. It is our understanding that these regulations have been under development for the past three years, well before Bill C-81 was introduced into the House of Commons in June 2018 for First Reading.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has had the power to make such regulations for many years. We anticipate that it was the fact that the Federal Government promised national accessibility legislation in the 2015 federal election that helped motivate the Canadian Transportation Agency to finally take a serious look at using its decades-old power to make comprehensive accessibility regulations in the transportation field.

Moreover, the CTA’s posting of those draft regulations is a matter of concern, as noted earlier, since they threaten to reduce human rights protections for passengers with disabilities, as the AODA Alliance’s April 22, 2019 brief to the CTA demonstrates.

Excerpt 6.

Minister Qualtrough: The Canadian Human Rights Act absolutely imposes a duty to accommodate. Nothing in this act changes that obligation on employers, on service providers and on program deliverers within the federal jurisdiction. There was confusion in provincial jurisdictions that had enacted accessibility legislation, and we’ve made every effort to avoid such confusion. Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.

I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments for Excerpt 1, above, where we disagree with the minister’s similar earlier statement.

We also respectfully disagree with the minister’s statement that “…we’ve made every effort to avoid such confusion” When this bill was before the House of Commons last fall, we asked the Federal Government to amend Bill C-81 to include language akin to the strong language on point in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Federal Government did not do so. Unlike this bill, section 38 of the AODA provides:

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

We are troubled by the minister’s equivocal statement as follows:

“Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.”

Compliance with a voluntary, non-binding standard recommended by the proposed new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization should simply not be a defence to a human rights complaint. Here the minister more equivocally said it is not “necessarily” a defence. That means that it could be a defence, in some situations.

It may be that the minister simply inadvertently misspoke here. However, her statement can contribute to the very confusion about the duty to accommodate that she wants to avoid.

Excerpt 7

Senator Munson: As you well know, the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought and we take looking at these bills very seriously. I am sure there will be an appetite for amendments by the time we are done our hearings.

On this particular sign language and other aspects of the bill, there are people in the community who feel it doesn’t go far enough. Yes, we’ll have it for the first time, and yes, it’s history in the making and that sort of thing, but it just doesn’t go far enough. Would you be open to amendments?

Minister Qualtrough: I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations, but yes, I want to make this bill, this eventual law, the best it can possibly be.

Our Comment: This is a very helpful, positive and important statement by the minister. The minister herself is open to the Senate making amendments to Bill C-81 to make it the best law it can possibly be. This should lay to rest any fear that by making such amendments, the Senate would thereby jeopardize the bill’s passage.

This is further reinforced by the statement by Senator Munson (the bill’s sponsor in the Senate) during the Committee’s April 10, 2019 hearings:

“We’re here for a reason. There are going to be amendments…”

Excerpt 8

Senator Forest-Niesing: With respect to deadlines, provinces with an Accessibility Act, their own Accessibility Act, have an implementation deadline, especially for total accessibility. What was the reasoning in not having a deadline in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: To be honest, this is one of the more difficult differences of opinion as we have had as a disability community in this law and in this whole process. This is because there is a very honest and staunch belief within the community that we need a deadline, that we need to make a statement saying Canada will be barrier free by X or Canada will be accessible by X. And there is an equally passionate group of individuals who believe that setting a timeline in the distant future will give people excuse to wait to take action and also believe that because accessibility is always changing and evolving as a concept, and as technology changes and as we grow in our understanding and evolve around accessibility, we won’t know what a barrier-free Canada looks like.

If we decided in this law to say by 2030 Canada will be barrier-free, first of all, I’m not sure we could achieve that, quite frankly. Second, we don’t know what barrier-free will mean and look like then.

I heard everyone, and we took back that feedback, and there are still some us of who are agreeing to disagree on this one. While we don’t disagree that we need to work towards a barrier-free Canada, we don’t agree about the need for that deadline.

Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on getting things started. Let’s get the first regulation made within two years. Let’s do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Let’s put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Let’s have the space for CASDO. Let’s get things going.

That seemed to be the broader consensus. It certainly ended up being where we landed as a government.

Quite frankly, it’s not necessary legislative practice to create these kinds of statements. We don’t have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date. We don’t have a Human Rights Act that says we will be discrimination free by this date. I’m not sure other jurisdictions have found it to be beneficial to have these timelines.

Every regulation that is established will have a timeline, so as soon as we have a standard, the regulation will say employers have to have this standard in place by X.

There will be built-in timelines. Some will be quick because we’re adopting an existing standard. Some will take longer because it’s a more complex issue.

At the end of the day, after listening to everyone, the decision was not to put that deadline in place. You will hear from stakeholders opinions that disagree with me and our government, but I assure you it has been thought out and considered. I respect their opinion, and this is where we landed.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with the minister. Our responses to her remarks are largely found in the April 11, 2019 presentation to the Standing Committee by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We add a few points here.

Yes, new kinds of barriers will no doubt crop up in the future. That is a marginal factor. We nevertheless need this legislation to set an end date to reach full accessibility. A resilient flexible law can be designed to identify and adapt to address those new kinds of barriers as they come up.

The Federal Government’s repeatedly referring to accessibility as some sort of amorphous moving target is unhelpful. Overwhelmingly, we know what accessibility is and what is needed. Obligated organizations don’t need any further reasons to be reluctant to act in this area.

Contrary to the minister’s statement, there is substantial support among people with disabilities for including in this legislation an end date for reaching full accessibility. This is not a matter of a dispute among people with disabilities at the grassroots. Rather there is a dispute between the disability community on the one hand, and the Federal Government on the other.

The minister here repeated the Federal Government’s weak reasons for rejecting this request last fall when the bill was before the House of Commons. She again stated at the Senate:

“We don’t have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date.”

Sadly, we know that there will always be crime. The Criminal Code is there to help reduce it, and to protect the public when it occurs. That is no comparison to disability barriers. Were it so, then the Government that is sponsoring a bill “to ensure a barrier-free Canada” is conceding before we even begin that we in reality will never achieve a barrier-free Canada. We believe Canada can do better than that.

The minister said that instead of including an end date in the bill for reaching full accessibility, they decided to focus on getting the bill’s machinery up and running over the next weeks and months. She said:

“Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on getting things started. Let’s get the first regulation made within two years. Let’s do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Let’s put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Let’s have the space for CASDO. Let’s get things going.”

This creates the incorrect idea that we have a false choice that we must make. We must either decide to add an end date to the bill for achieving full accessibility, or we must instead choose to work on getting the bill’s machinery up and running quickly now.

The Federal Government did not have to choose one or the other, to include an end date for reaching full accessibility in the bill, or instead, to get started right away on getting the bill’s implementation up and running. The Federal Government can do both.

It is very commendable that the minister is so eager, active and enthusiastic about getting the bill’s implementation up and running so quickly. We caution that in 2005, her Ontario counterpart was just as energetic and enthusiastic just as the AODA was being enacted. A few years later, things started to dramatically slow down in Ontario. We have never gotten it sped up again. We need this bill to include strong time lines, tied to an end date, to prevent that from recurring at the federal level.

We have provided the Senate with a complete solution to the minister’s concern that the addition of an end date for full accessibility to this bill might lead obligated organizations to delay taking action on accessibility. We have recommended that the Senate add the following to the bill:

“Clarification

5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Excerpt 9

Minister Qualtrough: Employment is definitely one of the seven areas recognized as an area of priority in the bill, and the bill applies to all areas of federal jurisdiction. It doesn’t apply to areas of provincial jurisdiction. Other provinces do have accessibility legislation. I’m encouraged by the fact that a number of provinces have basically put on hold their intention to create provincial legislation that parallels ours, waiting to see ours and then wanting to create something that’s seamless in terms of the experience for the everyday Canadian.

Our Comment: We would consider it a backwards step for people with disabilities if any provincial government put on hold its consideration of developing a provincial accessibility law pending the passage of Bill C-81. We need provinces to speed up action in this area, not slow it down. We know the since-defeated BC Liberal Government had used the development of Bill C-81 as its excuse for continuing to dodge the development of a BC Disabilities Act.

If any provincial government has its planning efforts on hold, we would urge them to get right back to work now on developing provincial accessibility legislation.

Excerpt 10

Senator Moodie: Thank you, Minister Qualtrough, for your presentation today. As a physician and a Canadian, I’m proud that we’re leaders in this space and that this bill is going to take us to the fore in continuing to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Canadians understand the needs of people with disabilities.

My question, though, challenges the bill a bit. The concerns I’m hearing are around the notion that the federal government and various federal agencies will have, with this bill, the sweeping power to exempt organizations from a number of these important accessibility obligations. The government can even exempt itself; is that correct?

Can you speak to the extent to which the federal government and federal agencies can exempt organizations from accessibility obligations, and can you explain why you felt it necessary to exempt organizations from the obligations that are stated in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Thank you for the question, senator. Again, this is not the first time I have heard this concern.

In this legislation, we had to balance wanting to encourage innovation — so organizations that are already doing things very, very well — with holding to account organizations that aren’t doing so well. Creating the opportunity for an exemption allows organizations that already have innovative and comparable accessibility practices to what we may create as a standard to get an exemption, because they’re already doing something that effectively has the same end results. At the same time, an organization that may need a little more time to get up to that standard is allowed the opportunity to be granted an exemption for a period of time.

This is not kind of an exclusion or a get-out-of-jail-free card. The reasons for granting the exemption have to be published publicly. It is not as though we are going to exempt you from ever having to be accessible. It is a recognition that, one, your practices are already akin to what is contained in a given standard, or two, you need a little bit more time to get up to the standard that has been established for a justifiable reason that will be made public and reviewed three years.

Senator Moodie: So I’m hearing you say that in three years, even if I get an exemption the first go-around, I will be reviewed again.

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely. The reason is technical.

Mr. Van Raalte: You’d actually have to reapply. It’s not just a review. You have to initiate the fact that —

Minister Qualtrough: It expires.

Mr. Van Raalte: It expires, and you would have to reapply, justify and demonstrate that you still require an exemption, from your perspective. Then there’s still an approval process.

Our Comment: We disagree with the minister’s justification for the bill’s current exemptions powers. An exemption from this legislation’s requirements is not needed to encourage innovation.

If an organization is already meeting or exceeding the requirements of an accessibility standard, they have no need for an exemption. If they are close, but need a bit more time, that is typically and easily dealt with through the flexibility in the enforcement process.

Moreover, the minister spelled out the specific situations when exemptions are to be granted. Yet the bill does not limit the Government to only granting exemptions in those situations. For example, the Government could exempt itself for any reason it wishes, not just for the reasons that the minister gave (i.e. they need a little more time or are already in substantive compliance with the results that the standard seeks to achieve).

Excerpt 11

Senator Omidvar: You’ve described the bill as a first or an incremental step. There are critics who say it is unnecessarily timid. I’m going to read a portion of an email that I got that deals with splintering — with a multitude of agencies being responsible for enforcement, regulation-making and overseeing complaints.

So the concern is that the bill’s implementation and enforcement are therefore less effective, it is more confusing, it’s more complicated, it’s more costly, and there is a variability of decision-making and possibly of standards. I hear this when the advocates say that this will make it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have and to get violations fixed.

So I understand the no-wrong-door approach, but I also understand that too much of a GPS with variability will make it completely confusing. Will you respond to this criticism?

Minister Qualtrough: I will. I, too, have received email — maybe that same email and maybe more than once.

Senator Omidvar: We all did.

Minister Qualtrough: If I had a blank piece of paper, and I could design the system of my liking and choosing, it might not look like this. However, we didn’t start out with a blank piece of paper; we started out with a fully functioning, complicated system of federal government that included regulators that were already doing this work — regulators that, to be honest, we didn’t always hear good things about and regulators whose powers we have beefed up.

But it became very clear very quickly as the design of the system started to take hold that we were in a position of having to either pull out from the CTA and CRTC. There are three at play here: the CTA, the CRTC and then the Canadian Human Rights Commission does everything else. In terms of the number of regulators, we’ve got the CTA doing transportation, the CRTC doing telecommunications and broadcasting; and then the Human Rights Commission doing everything else. Taking it out of the CTA or the CRTC would be costly. In some ways, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t recognize the expertise they had built up and that they absolutely can and will improve upon.

But we heard very concretely — and I’m sure you’ll hear yourselves from the kind of more technically minded regulators that are the CTA and the CRTC — that when you’re designing and responsible for safety — CTA airplane seat design comes to mind. The CTA is responsible to design an airplane seat, and the first consideration is safety, of course, and what has to be built into that seat design.

For an outside regulator to come in and say, “Yes, you have to design a seat, but you have to take into consideration all of these accessibility needs,” it was deemed better for the CTA to be the one to include and incorporate accessibility considerations into the design of that seat.

To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard — those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.

It was a compromise, because I recognize it makes the system more complicated for the complainant and the end user. That’s why we’ve taken the efforts we have even now. There are committees. The heads of the CTA, the CHRC and the CRTC are already meeting to figure out how they’re going to work together to make sure that from the complainant’s point of view it is seamless, but we know it’s more complicated. It was a sectoral approach that we chose as a compromise, recognizing we weren’t starting from scratch and recognizing the complicated technical nature of the business in which these two established regulators are in.

I’m confident that there will be bumps along this road, but we will get to a place where whenever someone files a complaint, it will end up where it needs to be, and the chief accessibility officer and the chief accessibility commissioner will make sure of that.

Our Comment: Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC do not have demonstrated expertise in disability accessibility. Their insufficient performance in this area for many years suggests much the opposite.

We have warned that this splintering of the bill’s implementation and enforcement among different federal agencies is very confusing. It is hard to figure out from the bill who does what, as between the Accessibility Commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The minister’s presentation reinforced this concern. She incorrectly described the division of responsibility between these agencies. She stated:

“To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard – those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.”

The minister here is saying that the Canadian Transportation Agency will be responsible for technical issues regarding transportation, but not things like the built environment. In fact, under Bill C-81, the Canadian Transportation Agency and not the Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for setting standards for the built environment in places like airports and train stations. Section 120 of the bill provides in part:

“120 The only regulations made under subsection 117(1) that apply in respect of a regulated entity that is required to comply with any provision of regulations made under subsection 170(1) of the Canada Transportation Act are those that relate to the identification and removal of barriers, and the prevention of new barriers, in the following areas: …

…(b) the built environment, other than a passenger aircraft, passenger train, passenger bus, passenger vessel, aerodrome passenger terminal, railway passenger station, bus passenger station or marine passenger terminal;”

We sympathize with the minister’s confusion. This bill is itself very confusing and difficult to understand, even for those with extensive expertise in this area.

The minister said the Government is splintering the bill because of the costs of not splintering the bill. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the Federal Government has claimed that it would be more costly to have this bill’s accessibility regime all enforced by one federal agency, the new ,Accessibility Commissioner , rather than splintering it among four agencies. It is the first time the Government has claimed it would be more costly to have all regulations made by the Federal Cabinet, rather than splintering this responsibility among three agencies, the Cabinet, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The Government offered no specifics on what these supposed added costs would be. It did not offset these against the greater costs under this bill, as written, to the Government, to people with disabilities and to obligated organizations of having this bill’s implementation and enforcement so splintered. For example, under the bill as now written, it will cost the airlines more to produce two separate accessibility plans and to deal with two different regulatory agencies, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Canadian Transportation Agency, than if they only had to prepare one plan and file it with one federal agency.

Excerpt 12

Senator Poirier: On Bill C-81, it does not include a deadline for achieving full accessibility, compared to the different provincial accessibility legislation, like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This act has clear deadlines for achieving the full accessibility for Ontarians on or before January 1, 2025.

Can you explain to us why you have not put a deadline established in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely, senator. As I said, that was a topic of rigorous debate and discussion, and sometimes disagreement, over the course of going through this whole journey with respect to this legislation. Where we landed, as I said, was focusing on getting things started, not imposing a deadline that in any way would disincentivize organizations to get going on this. It was about recognizing that what we consider accessible today will not be good enough 10 years from now and knowing, quite frankly, that we’re a long way off from being accessible or barrier-free.

We concluded that it just wasn’t the best way to get going on this. I don’t know if I could elaborate further. At the end of the day, we figured putting in place the requirement that regulations and standards be put in place within two years by each of the regulators and that a review of the law happen within five years of the first regulation coming into force — taking the steps in parallel now to get this thing off the ground and going was the better course of action.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpt 8, above.

Excerpt 13

Senator Dasko : I guess another thing that I’ve heard from some people who think this bill should go farther than it does has to do with the federal government’s lack of intention here to take a stronger role when it comes to direct federal spending on infrastructure projects or spending in many areas where the federal government funds projects and creates projects and so on, the critique being that it doesn’t go far enough in insisting that barriers are not there when these projects are undertaken. So just at the beginning, I suppose, before federal money is given to these projects, not enough is being done in this bill to ensure that those projects are barrier-free. It’s a critique I’ve heard, and I’d like to hear what you might have to say about it.

(Procedural discussion omitted)

Minister Qualtrough: At the end of the day, what I would say is we’ve pushed the language in the law as far as we can go while still respecting federal jurisdiction. James is probably better to answer the technical side as to how far we can go, but this will apply to federal policies and federal programs. It won’t apply to financial transfers like the health transfer because that’s effectively a provincial jurisdiction that we’re helping to fund, but it doesn’t give us authority, as I understand it, to actually impose that condition down that far. Maybe I’m not explaining it right. I apologize. It’s jurisdictional.

To be very clear, though, this will transformatively change the Government of Canada in terms of every department and agency will have to have an accessibility plan. We have already established in my office, for example, a centre for accessible procurement, meaning we will be having policies and processes. We won’t procure things that aren’t accessible.

The Prime Minister has appointed a deputy minister responsible for an accessible public service, whose job it is every day to figure out how we are going to have to be ready and how we will be ready in our government with its employees to adhere to this law.

Can you talk to more about how far we can go down, please? Because I can’t remember the language in the law.

Mr. Van Raalte: I think you’ve covered it, minister. Departments will have to be able to report on their programs, policies and services. They will have to do that reporting in consultation with people with disabilities. They are at the table for that. So that will actually give both the government and the public forward-looking perspective on the plans of those organizations, such as planned spending and program priorities in a forward-looking way that will allow us to have those discussions. You want to be thinking about the accessibility measures included in those investments.

Ms. Qualtrough: Having said that, in terms of what’s in the law, we’ve taken a number of steps in parallel to embed accessibility into our new programs and our new processes. I’ll give you an example. With the National Housing Strategy or our infrastructure program, accessibility is baked into these initiatives.

A fun example I like to give is around our infrastructure. Transit is a priority for our government. Historically, for whatever reason, whether it be oversight or intention, upgrades with respect to making buses more accessible have not been included as eligible expenses for communities to claim and use infrastructure dollars for. We literally added a box on a piece of paper three years ago where we told communities that they could use this money to make their community buses more accessible. In that one year, $810 million was spent on accessible transit. We didn’t advertise it. We didn’t highlight it anywhere. We changed the form, and communities recognized the values of accessible transit and invested in their communities.

I could give you so many examples, as we’ve pursued this law, of the things that we’ve done in terms of government policy, programs and initiatives to make the way we govern a more accessible experience, both for the people who work in government and the people we serve.

Our Comment: As the AODA Alliance presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 shows, we respectfully disagree with the minister’s claims that the Federal Government cannot do more here. The minister’s statements make it sound like the Federal Government is powerless to attach accessibility strings when it gives federal public money to a local or provincial government to help build a hospital, subway station, or university building.

This is incorrect. The Federal Government has a significant “spending power” which lets it attach federal conditions to federal money that it gives out. If a provincial government or other local organization doesn’t want to comply with those strings, it is free to simply refuse to accept the federal money.

For over three decades, the Canada Health Act, a federal law, has attached federal strings to federal money that is given to provinces to help finance their health care systems. One of those legal requirements is the accessibility of health care services (not in the disability sense of accessibility) If the minister is correct – that the Federal Government has no power to attach strings to federal money that is spent in provincial areas of responsibility – then she is admitting that the Canada Health Act is unconstitutional. That would be a surprising thing for a federal cabinet minister to claim.

We believe that the Federal Government could include in Bill C-81 a requirement that no federal cabinet minister or department may agree to give federal public money to any organization, federal or provincial, to contribute to the building or renovating of infrastructure, unless the recipient agrees to meet federal accessibility requirements. If the minister were correct, then the Federal Government is simply powerless here. It can give money to help fund the construction of a local subway station, but is powerless to say that the subway station must have elevators, and not just stairs, to reach the subway. We disagree.

This too is not a hypothetical issue. The AODA Alliance has produced a widely-viewed online video that shows serious accessibility problems at new Toronto subway stations, recently opened, that were built in part with federal money.

The minister gave examples of commendable new policies that the Federal Government has adopted to promote the procurement by the Government of accessible goods, services and facilities. We applaud these. However, they are merely policies, not legal requirements. A subsequent minister or Government could abolish or disregard them with the stroke of a pen, without requiring any public debate. That is why we want such requirements embedded in the bill.

Excerpt 14

Senator Kutcher: Thank you, minister, for your very clear and well considered answers to these questions. Our task is to try to assist in making the bill the best it can be. You mentioned one area that I think you suggested we could dive a little bit deeper on and that was the sign language domain. So my question is: Are there any other areas that you or your team —

Minister Qualtrough: Boy, am I allowed to answer this question?

Senator Kutcher: — would like to highlight as something we could have a more intensive focus on as we study the bill?

Minister Qualtrough: I think some sort of recognition, as you say, of sign languages as being the first language of Canadians who are Deaf is certainly what we have all heard and you will hear.

Senator Munson asked a question about the duty to accommodate, and perhaps to avoid confusion that could be explicit. I know it is at law and I would suggest case law has already clarified that point but I think it might be worth . . . nobody usually asks me that question.

Yes, I mean, if there are things that you think can be improved, certainly please explore that. My concern is getting it passed. I think it’s a really good piece of law and I wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of that. Sorry to be so direct. The community has done such good work and I feel a real heightened obligation to deliver this for them. This is once in a generation and people have fought for a long time before me to have this conversation nationally. This is a genie we are not putting back in the bottle. It’s pretty exciting. Sorry I don’t have further feedback for you but those two would be at the top of my mind.

Our Comment: The minister here again indicates that she is open to amendments to the bill. That is helpful.

As areas that the Senators might focus on as part of their study of the bill, the minister referred to possible recognition that Sign Language is the first language of people who are deaf, and something explicit about the duty to accommodate. She said that those two items are at the top of her mind. She did not specifically commit to passage of amendments to that end. She commendably invited the Senate to explore things in the bill that “can be improved.”

Excerpt 15

Minister Qualtrough: May I add something on the duty to accommodate piece because it’s really important and kind of something I’m obsessed with. We need to make it very clear to Canadians that this is a really important legally enshrined tenet of human rights law in this country and nothing we are doing here takes away any organization’s obligation to accommodate individuals. In some cases, a small business who has complied with the standard might say, “We have complied,” and that might meet their duty to accommodate but the Government of Canada it might not. We need to be very clear and I need it on the record from me so I can sleep tonight that this in no way, in any way negates any organization’s obligation to accommodate individuals on the grounds of disability.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpts 1 and 6 above.

Excerpt 16

Senator Eaton: Minister, is there another country who does this better than we are going to do it? Is there another country that is an example to us?

Minister Qualtrough: Our neighbour to the south has the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has an anti-discrimination component which would be covered off in our country by the human rights legislation and an accessibility standards component. So we have spent a lot of time looking at their model. It’s obviously a different kind of structured country, federal, state, but what I’m hoping, because I’m at heart a competitive athlete, is that this becomes the international standard that has built upon what other countries have been doing. The States has been doing it for 30 years, but I would like to believe ours will be better.

Our Comment: We commend the minister for wanting Canada’s new accessibility legislation to be better than the American legislation, and better than other laws around the world. However, as now written, Bill C-81 regrettably falls well short of that goal. It is also in some key ways weaker than Ontario’s AODA, which itself has run into significant implementation and enforcement problems over the past 14 years.

Excerpt 17

Senator Omidvar: Very quickly, you have talked about the fact that there is a timeline, that within two years agencies have to enact one regulation. However, what is the quality of that regulation? Is there a concern that it could be an inconsequential one, a minor procedural matter without actually embracing the spirit of what you are trying to propose?

Minister Qualtrough: I don’t think the law provides the safeguard that you are asking about. What I do think, though, is that CASDO is that safeguard. So having CASDO created with a board of directors with a majority of individuals with lived experience, and they get to decide which regulations take priority and what comes first and what comes second and who does what and what the priorities are. That group of individuals will be tasked with making sure there are substantive regulations in place as quickly as possible based on their agreed upon priorities.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with parts of the minister’s description of this legislation. The minister correctly stated that the bill does not ensure that the regulation that must be enacted within two years is something more than an inconsequential procedural regulation.

However, she is incorrect in stating that the new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization is a safeguard to ensure that substantive regulations are enacted as soon as possible. CASDO has no such power under this bill. CASDO has no authority to enact any regulations whatsoever. It can only give advice. It can recommend what should be included in accessibility standard regulations. The Federal Government, the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency need never listen to CASDO’s advice, and need never give a reason for refusing to act on CASDO’s advice.

As for the regulation that must be enacted within two years, that regulation is NOT an accessibility standard regulation. As the Senator’s question mentions, it is a procedural regulation that the Government must enact in the first two years. CASDO has no control over those procedural regulations. Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, CASDO is therefore not an effective safeguard to ensure that those regulations are meaningful.



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Please Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement


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

January 18, 2019

SUMMARY

We wish one and all a happy and barrier-free New Year! We are kicking off 2019 by making public the AODA Alliance’s finalized brief that calls for significant reforms to the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We have just submitted this finalized brief to the hon. David Onley, whom the Ontario Government appointed last February to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

You can download our entire finalized brief in an accessible MS Word document by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Jan-15-2019-AODA-Alliance-brief-to-david-onley-AODA-Independent-Review-with-pagination.docx

If you want to just read the findings that we urge David Onley to reach, and the recommendations we urge him to make, you can see all of these gathered, chapter by chapter, in one place, in the brief’s appendix, which you can download in an accessible MS Word document by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/jan-15-2019-appendix-to-AODA-Alliance-brief-to-david-onley-with-pagination.docx

Late last fall, we made public a draft of this brief, and invited input. Thanks to all who shared their feedback. Our finalized brief includes everything that was in the draft brief. There have been some minor wording adjustments, typos fixed, and formatting adjustments.
We have added three short sections to the brief. We set these out below. They total 12 pages. In summary:

1. In the introductory chapter, we added the new heading 6. It urges Mr. Onley to issue a strong and if at all possible, immediate recommendation that the Ontario Government now lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the 2 Education Standards Development Committees. We did so after learning that late last month; Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the Health Care Standards Development Committee and two Education Standards Development Committees to say that the Government is now awaiting David Onley’s report before deciding what to do about the Government’s seven-month-long freeze on the work of those AODA Standards Development Committees. This new part of the brief reproduces what the Ontario Government said in that letter.

2. In Chapter 1, we added the new heading 6. It explains why, in our view, Ontario has fallen behind schedule for reaching its 2025 accessibility deadline.

3. In Chapter 1, we added the new heading 10 at the end of that chapter. It spells out why, in our view, our recommendations fit well within the agenda of Ontario’s new Government. We encourage Mr. Onley to address that topic in his report.

We encourage one and all to send David Onley a short email, voicing your support for the findings and recommendations in the AODA Alliance finalized brief. You can email him at [email protected]

If you don’t have time to say more, you might just say something like this:

“I support the findings and recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review.”

MORE DETAILS

Major New Additions in the AODA Alliance’s finalized January 15, 2019 Brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review

Introductory Chapter
8. Right Off the Top The Pressing Need for This Independent Review to Recommend that the New Ontario Government Immediately Lift Its Freeze on the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees

Before diving into the range of issues that this brief explores in depth in the following chapters, we wish as an important preliminary matter to urge this AODA Independent Review to recommend as soon as possible that the Ontario Government should immediately lift its 7-month freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees that have been appointed under the AODA. We encourage this Independent Review to issue a short interim report, in order to make this recommendation, and to get it in the Government’s hands as soon as possible.

Heading 7 in Chapter 5 of this brief addresses the need for Ontario to develop and enact an Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the disability accessibility barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, and a Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the barriers facing patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. Students with disabilities face too many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Patients with disabilities face too many barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

That chapter addresses the pressing need for the new Ontario Government to lift its freeze on the work of three Standards Development Committees which were already at work before the 2018 Ontario election. These committees were developing recommendations for an Education Accessibility Standard and a Health Care Accessibility Standard.

It took us many years and tenacious advocacy to eventually get the former Ontario Government to agree to develop new AODA accessibility standards to address those barriers. In 2017, the former Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee. In Early 2018, it appointed a K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and a Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. They were hard at work when their work was frozen last June, in the wake of the June 2018 Ontario election. Their work remains frozen to this day.

Chapter 5 explains why it is essential for these Standards Development Committees to be allowed to resume their work without further delay, and for this seven-month freeze to be lifted. In our unsuccessful efforts over the past seven months to get this freeze lifted, the new Government has never claimed that Ontario’s education system and health care system are barrier-free for people with disabilities, or that there is no need for people with disabilities to have accessibility in the areas of health care or education. However, just days ago, we learned that the Government has said that it is waiting for the report of this AODA Independent Review before it decides whether to lift its freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

On January 9, 2019, we received a copy of the December 20, 2018 letter from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho to the chair of the K-12 Standards Development Committee. In that letter, Minister Cho stated:

“I am writing to update you on the status of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

As you know, the Hon. David Onleys Third Legislative Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is currently underway and nearing its submission date. At Mr. Onleys request, he has been granted a one-month extension to complete his work, and his report is now due on January 31, 2019. I am looking forward to reading his assessment of the AODA and any proposed recommendations.

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

Since taking office in June, our new Government for the People has acted swiftly and with determination to implement change that will get Ontario back on track. Once we have analysed and carefully considered the Review, we intend to move forward with the same determination to break down barriers, improve accessibility and make Ontario open for business for everyone.

Your committee has already done meaningful work exploring barriers faced by kindergarten to Grade 12 students. As the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, I appreciate your valuable contribution. I wish you a happy holiday season and look forward to working with you in the New Year.”

Before this, the Government had not made any public statement that it was awaiting this AODA Independent Review’s report before deciding on the future of these Standards Development Committees. The Government has known of the existence of this AODA Independent Review for months. Had the Government earlier said that it was awaiting this Independent Review’s advice on point, we would have immediately urged this Independent Review to issue a short interim report to recommend that this freeze be lifted.

Much public attention in the past months has focused on the new Government’s concern to reduce the costs of government. Chapter 5 of this brief offers several recommendations on how the standards development process under the AODA can be conducted in a more cost-effective way.

The impact of this freeze has been an increased cost to the public, including people with disabilities. As long as Ontario continues without effective accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education, health care providers and facilities, as well as schools, colleges and universities will continue to create new disability barriers, including doing so with public money. (See further Chapter 7) It will cost the public more for those barriers to later be removed. It also costs the public more when the Government leaves it to each education organization and each health care organization to re-invent the accessibility wheel, rather than having the benefit of the directions of clear and strong accessibility standards in these areas.

There is no need for the Government to study and decide on the other issues that this Independent Review will address before it decides on lifting the freeze on these Standards Development Committees. Last fall, the Government was able to decide, without the benefit of this Independent Review’s report, to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. As is documented in Chapter 5, the new Government, when in opposition, was sufficiently familiar with these issues to demand that the former Ontario Government agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard, and to appoint a Standards Development Committee to work on it.

Any further delay in deciding on lifting the freeze only continues to hurt students with disabilities and patients with disabilities. An immediate, short interim report making the recommendation requested here would help more swiftly bring that delay to an end.

If this Independent Review does not issue an interim report on this topic, then we encourage this Independent Review to place a recommendation to lift this freeze close to the start of its final report to the Government, so that it is prominent.

Chapter 1

6. Why is Ontario So Far Behind Schedule for Becoming Accessible to People with Disabilities by 2025?

Pervading this brief is a fundamentally important question: Why is Ontario so far behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025? How did Ontario find itself in this predicament over 13.5 years after the AODA was enacted, and less than 6 years before the 2025 deadline for becoming accessible?

It is important for this AODA Independent Review to consider this question, in order to formulate appropriate reform recommendations that will hit the mark. We here identify several causes for Ontario’s current accessibility predicament. We do not list them in order of importance or significance. These causes combine together to produce the problem Ontario now faces.

Before listing these causes, we must address one factor that is clearly not a cause for this predicament. The problem is not that the Ontario Government didn’t know what needs to be done to get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. What needs to be done has been very clear for years. The AODA spells much of it out in the legislation itself. Two successive Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews, the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, each gave the Ontario Government clear and productive recommendations.

The Government has had ample avenues to get input and advice. AODA Standards Development Committees have given the Government detailed recommendations. The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council has been available to advise the Government. For three years, the Government also had the benefit of the position of Special Advisor on Accessibility, reporting to the minister responsible for the AODA.

As well, community organizations like the AODA Alliance have given the Government advice and detailed recommendations through formal consultation sessions, and informal meetings and discussions. Time and again, this advice pointed in the same direction. As well, needed action has often been spelled out in election promises, by some or all of the political parties, including the Ontario Liberal Party that brought forward the AODA in 2004-2005 and that was in power for most of the time since then. Opposition parties raised concerns and suggestions in debates in the Legislature and through informal discussions with Government MPPs.

Thus, we turn our attention to the causes for this predicament. Prominent among these, especially in recent years, is the fact that there has been a troubling lack of concerted and effective leadership on this issue from Ontario’s Premier and from the Premier’s Office. This chapter later discusses this.

Both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review Report and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report called for the Ontario Government to show new leadership on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Both reports called for the AODA’s implementation to be revitalized, and for new life to be breathed into it. The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review specifically called for new leadership by the Premier, as a priority. Despite these strong recommendations from authoritative reviews that the former Ontario Government itself appointed, none of this new leadership and revitalization ever materialized.

For example, Premier Wynne never kept her 2014 written election promise to the AODA Alliance that she would instruct her ministers on their accessibility obligations and commitments. As this chapter and Chapter 10 discusses, she did not include many if not most of these commitments and obligations in her Mandate Letters to her ministers. No doubt, the ministers got the implicit message from this that these simply were not priorities.

Closely related to that cause for Ontario’s predicament, the lack of effective leadership on this issue thereafter appears to have trickled down to the senior political levels within the Ontario Government. Within any large organization like the Ontario Government, if there is a lack of effective leadership at the top on an issue, this risks spreading in the organization as a negative signal. When this persists over time, it becomes even more embedded within the organization’s DNA and harder to change.

That clearly appears to have occurred within the Ontario Government in the case of the accessibility issue. After the AODA was enacted, there has too often been a demonstrable lack of sustained political will on this issue in the party in power. Ministers periodically make encouraging speeches. During elections, political parties make encouraging pledges on accessibility. Yet at an operational level, it has quite infrequently gone beyond this at senior levels within the Ontario Government. This is so even though there were individuals within the governing party’s caucus, and even within its Cabinet, that wanted to do much more on accessibility.

By now, most of the MPPs who advocated for the enactment of the AODA and who voted for it have left politics. Their replacements came into public life without having taken part in the events leading to the AODA’s enactment.

Further contributing to this predicament are problems at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, addressed further later in this chapter and in Chapter 5. The Accessibility Directorate is the Government office that is responsible for leading the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Here again, within the Accessibility Directorate were any number of dedicated, hard-working individuals who wanted to do a good job. However, despite this, problems persisted. Our brief offers several recommendations to fix this recurring problem.

As Chapter 10 details, the Ontario Public Service appears more generally too often to have served as a barrier to progress on accessibility. There are some within the Ontario Public Service who are dedicated supporters on this issue. However, as an overall organization, it too frequently has served as a collective drag on progress, and even an impediment or opponent to progress.

Chapter 10 of this brief shows that the Ontario Government including the Ontario Public Service has not ensured that it is a fully accessible service-provider and employer. The Ontario Government repeatedly claims to lead by example, but continues to lead by a poor example. Over the years, we have met with successive deputy ministers responsible for the operations of the Ontario Public Service as an employer and service-provider, and with successive Secretaries of Cabinet to highlight this problem and to offer constructive solutions, too often without needed success for our efforts.

Making the foregoing worse as a cause of this problem has been the Government’s excessive secrecy around the operations of the Government on this issue, addressed later in this chapter and in Chapter 5. As but one example, the Ontario Government went to excessive lengths to throw obstacles in the AODA Alliance’s path when we tried to get access to information about the AODA’s enforcement in 2013 and 2015. They even sent an armada of fully five lawyers to an Information and Privacy Commission hearing in opposition to the AODA Alliance, in order to further that goal. Similarly, undue secrecy surrounds the work of AODA Standards Development Committees, and conceals the Government’s planning process for new public infrastructure. Thus, bureaucrats and private contractors can with impunity resist efforts at ensuring that this new infrastructure is accessible, without being subject to effective and timely public scrutiny or accountability. Chapters 1, 2, 5 and 7 7 further address this.

Also, slowing progress has been the lack of a multi-year provincial plan for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement to get Ontario to reach the 2025 deadline on time. This chapter later explores this.

Progress on accessibility has also been slowed by weak and ineffective AODA enforcement. Chapter 2 addresses this in detail. Those who violate the AODA, even knowingly and repeatedly, have little if anything to fear in the way of real and practical consequences. This is so despite the Government knowing of rampant AODA violations in the private sector for years, and despite ample unused funds being on hand for AODA enforcement.

Also, slowing progress on accessibility has been the fact that the AODA accessibility standards enacted to date, while helpful, are too weak and limited, as Chapter 3 addresses. Even if fully obeyed, the existing AODA accessibility standards won’t ensure that obligated organizations will become accessible by 2025, or ever. The Ontario Government has done very little to address this problem which the 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review had amply documented. Chapter 4 of this brief also shows several important areas where new accessibility standards are needed under the AODA, including, for example, a strong, effective and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Our efforts to get the Ontario Government to develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard for patients with disabilities and an Education Accessibility Standard for students with disabilities have met with years of foot-dragging by the previous Government, exacerbated by more foot-dragging by the new Ontario Government.

Creating new accessibility standards and reviewing the sufficiency of existing accessibility standards every five years is core to the AODA’s capacity to lead Ontario to 2025 as a fully accessible province. The process for developing new AODA accessibility standards and for conducting periodic reviews of existing standards is fraught with problems, as Chapter 5 demonstrates. Chapter 5 of this brief shows that there is a need to substantially reform and strengthen the process for developing AODA accessibility standards.

Also exacerbating this predicament, there remain serious problems with the Ontario Government’s efforts at educating the public, including obligated organizations, about accessibility and the AODA. As but two examples, there is a pressing need for schools to provide students with curriculum on accessibility standards, and for there to be mandatory accessibility training for professionals in fields like architecture and interior design. Chapter 6 describes this problem and recommends reforms.

Further slowing progress towards 2025, there remain in place several levers of readily available public power that the Ontario Government could easily and far more effectively use to promote progress on accessibility, but which the Government has not effectively used. Chapter 7 of this brief demonstrates that the Ontario Government has failed to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. Chapter 8 of this brief shows that the Ontario Government has not effectively reviewed all Ontario laws to ensure that they do not create or permit disability accessibility barriers. This is so even though all parties in the 2007 election promised that such a review would be completed. Chapter 9 of this brief explains that the Ontario Government has not acted effectively to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities.

Finally, Chapter 11 shows that there is a pressing need for the Ontario Government to implement a strong and effective new strategy, beyond enacting an Employment Accessibility Standard, to substantially increase the opportunities for the employment of people with disabilities in Ontario. The former Ontario Government promised action in this area. Yet it dragged its feet for years, and then announced a strategy in June 2017 that is too weak and high-level.

All of the above explains the causes for Ontario being behind schedule up to the June 2018 Ontario election. Over the past seven months since then, an additional cause has arisen. The new Ontario Government has not implemented any new action to kick-start new efforts on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. In addition, it injected more delay, by maintaining for months a freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees. This is addressed in Chapters 4 and 5. That freeze was lifted later last fall in the case of two of the frozen Standards Development Committees. That freeze remains in effect for three other Standards Development Committees, as is addressed at several points in this brief, including in the Introduction.

It is, of course, entirely understandable that a new Government will take some time to get up to speed on the wide range of issues it must handle. However, to reduce this risk, we had provided assistance to Ontario’s new government early on, by:

* Briefing Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party over the months in advance of the election on key accessibility issues that the Government is facing.

* Last spring, sending all party leaders a detailed list of commitments on disability accessibility that we sought in the June 2018 election. It briefs all parties on the key issues.

* Sending Premier Doug Ford and Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho detailed letters in July 2018 that spell out the key actions needed in this area, as are referenced throughout this brief.

All political parties have agreed that Ontario should become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, and that the Ontario Government, through the AODA, should lead our concerted efforts towards that goal. Any comprehensive strategy to get Ontario back on schedule needs to address all the multiple causes for our current predicament of being far behind schedule. This brief offers concrete and constructive recommendations to that end. At one time or other, and often on many occasions, we have pressed the Ontario Government to take all of these measures. As this brief details, in a good number of cases, the former Ontario Government promised any number of these actions, but too often failed to keep its word. We urge this AODA Independent Review to make all the recommendations we propose so that Ontario’s new Government and the public have a constructive action plan that can be implemented to kick-start a new era of faster and more effective progress on accessibility.

Chapter 1

10. Why Strong Action on Accessibility Fits within the Agenda of Ontario’s New Government

Strong, effective Government action on accessibility fits well within the agenda of Ontario’s new Government. In addressing this, we emphasize that this AODA Independent Review, like the AODA Alliance, is strictly non-partisan.

Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is a non-partisan issue. All parties in the Legislature have, at various times, brought forward legislation or amendments, and pressed for more action on accessibility. All parties have emphasized that disability barriers eventually hurt everyone, since everyone eventually is bound to get a disability. Each party has emphasized that accessibility is good for people with disabilities, for all members of the public, and for business.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party has made written election commitments on the need for disability accessibility legislation in elections in 1995, 2007, 2014 and 2018. These letters were signed by PC leaders Mike Harris, John Tory, Tim Hudak, and most recently, by Doug Ford.

On October 29, 1998, when Mike Harris was Ontario’s premier, the Legislature unanimously passed an historic resolution. It adopted eleven important principles that a strong and effective Disabilities Act should fulfil. Each PC MPP in the Legislature voted for that resolution.

In 2005, all parties, including each PC MPP, voted unanimously to pass the AODA, and gave it a standing ovation. The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires the Government to lead Ontario to that goal by enacting and effectively enforcing regulations called accessibility standards.

During the 2005 clause-by-clause debate on the AODA, the PC Party proposed amendments at the request of our predecessor coalition, to make the bill even stronger. After the AODA was enacted, the PC leader congratulated the Government for passing it. On a number of occasions while in opposition, the Ontario PC Party has put questions to the Ontario Government at our request, to press for more action on the AODA’s implementation.

In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford continued the PC Party’s commitment to this legislation and its goal, reaffirming:

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

That record fits within a bigger picture. In each of the three Canadian provinces which enacted accessibility legislation, namely Ontario (2005), Manitoba (2013) and Nova Scotia (2017), that legislation unanimously passed. Each Conservative Party supported it.

Similarly, last fall, when the House of Commons passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, it was unanimously supported, including by the Conservative Party of Canada. On behalf of the disability community, the Conservative Party of Canada proposed amendments in the House of Commons that would have strengthened Bill C-81 amendments which the Federal Government voted down.

Looking more broadly. The Americans with Disabilities Act was proudly signed into law in 1990 by Republican US President George H.W. Bush. Earlier, when he was US Vice President, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to chair a national de-regulation task force. The Americans with Disabilities Act was supported in the US Congress by Democrats and Republicans alike, including by Senator Bob Dole, who later ran for president as Republican nominee.

The need for the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to disability accessibility by 2025 aligns with the PC Party’s current agenda. In Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, he committed:

“Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus” and
“they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party.”

He committed during the 2018 election to lead a Government “for the people”. At least 1.9 million of the people of Ontario now have a disability. The rest are bound to later get a disability, as they grow older. “The people” are, at some time in their lives, all people with disabilities.

The Government has announced the goal to make Ontario open for business. This needs to include ensuring that Ontario is open for employees, job-seekers, business owners and customers with disabilities.

The new Government said it aims to be responsible in the use of taxpayers’ money. We suggest it was irresponsible for public money to be used in the past to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities, as we address further in Chapter 7. An ounce of barrier prevention is worth many pounds of cure. A firm commitment to accessibility saves taxpayers the expense of re-doing projects after the fact, to fix accessibility barriers that should have been prevented. Clear and time-based accessibility standards promote stability for businesses, who can then plan with those standards in mind.

In Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, written during the 2018 election campaign, he made a number of important points. These show why it is so important for the AODA to be effectively implemented.

As we explain in Chapter 3, the 2011 AODA Employment Accessibility Standard, now under review by the Employment Standards Development Committee, needs to be strengthened to ensure that the workplaces of tomorrow are barrier-free for job-seekers and employees with disabilities. To do so fits well within the position of the PC Party. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

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

It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.”

As Chapter 9 of this brief shows, voters with disabilities can still encounter unfair voting barriers in elections in Ontario. Fixing this problem with new legislation is well within the PC Party’s record. It was commendable that in 2010, when the Legislature was considering bill 231 (intended to modernize Ontario elections), the PC Party proposed a number of good amendments at our request to make voting fully accessible to voters with disabilities. The previous Government defeated those amendments.

Further showing that action in this area fits within the new Government’s agenda, in his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford also wrote:

“There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election.”

Creating, enacting and enforcing a strong Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA falls well within the PC Party’s platform and perspective. While in opposition, the PC Party helped us in Question Period over the past three years to get the previous Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Moreover, in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford also wrote:

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

Developing needed accessibility standards, including in the area of the built environment, is also well within the PC Party’s platform. As well, Doug Ford wrote:

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

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

Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter highlighted Christine Elliot’s important role within the PC Party on disability issues. The PC Party designated her to speak on behalf of the Ontario PC Party at the May 16, 2018 provincial all-candidates’ debate on disability issues, held in Toronto. She there made important commitments on the PC Party’s behalf, on issues such as the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, on ensuring that students with disabilities can fully participate in education at school, colleges and university, on ODSP reform, on the need for affordable, accessible and, where needed, supportive housing, and other topics.

In his letter, Doug Ford expressed a strong desire to work with the AODA Alliance on disability accessibility issues. He wrote:

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

The new Government ran for office on a platform to try to make the Ontario Government a more efficient operation. This brief identifies a number of troubling inefficiencies in how the Ontario Government has approached accessibility and recommends cost-effective improvements.

The new Government ran for office on an agenda to reduce the number of regulations, particularly as they apply to businesses. That platform doesn’t stand in the way of the Government effectively implementing and enforcing the AODA, including through the enactment of needed accessibility standards under the AODA.

The points made above give illustrations where AODA accessibility standard regulations fit within the PC agenda. Moreover, it was not the new Government’s platform to eliminate all regulations in Ontario, or to refuse to ever enact any new regulations in any circumstance.

Conservative governments with a strong de-regulation agenda can nevertheless enact and enforce regulations where they are needed. As noted above, US Vice President Bush led a national de-regulation task force in the US, and yet, when later elected president, proudly supported the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark new regulatory law.

Moreover, Ontario’s Conservative Party had a similar platform in favour of a reduction in regulatory burdens when its MPPs unanimously voted to pass the AODA. That party, with that platform, made commendable efforts on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities to get the AODA’s regulatory requirements strengthened in 2005, when it was still a bill before the Legislature.

As well, nothing in Premier Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, quoted earlier, signals any reluctance to or objection to the use of regulatory measures to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. As just noted above, and as is addressed at various points in this brief, the PC Party did not run on a platform to reduce the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. When in opposition, the PC Party supported the AODA Alliance’s efforts to get a new regulation developed in Ontario under the AODA, an Education Accessibility Standard.

The new Government is concerned about regulatory burdens on small business. The AODA was carefully designed so that accessibility standards need not be “one size fits all.” accessibility standards can and do set different requirements for big business than for small businesses, and can set different timelines for big business than for small business. In fact all accessibility standards to date enacted under the AODA do so. If anything, accessibility standards to date exempt or provide substantially reduced provisions for small business.

Finally, in the end, any AODA accessibility standard regulations do not impose any new substantive obligations on businesses or other organizations. Rather, they implement the rights which are already guaranteed to people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and where applicable, the Charter of Rights. If those regulations are developed properly and are effective, they can help businesses in Ontario make money. Accessibility means a business gets access to a wider customer base and a wider pool of potential employees. They help a business retain existing employees as they acquire disabilities, through illness, injury or the natural aging process. They are able to serve a huge international market. There are upwards of one billion people with disabilities around the world.

Therefore, Ontario’s new Government should be open to consider, to accept and to welcome the recommendations for action that this brief proposes.



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Please Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Please Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement

January 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

We wish one and all a happy and barrier-free New Year! We are kicking off 2019 by making public the AODA Alliance’s finalized brief that calls for significant reforms to the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We have just submitted this finalized brief to the hon. David Onley, whom the Ontario Government appointed last February to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

You can download our entire finalized brief in an accessible MS Word document by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Jan-15-2019-AODA-Alliance-brief-to-david-onley-AODA-Independent-Review-with-pagination.docx

If you want to just read the findings that we urge David Onley to reach, and the recommendations we urge him to make, you can see all of these gathered, chapter by chapter, in one place, in the brief’s appendix, which you can download in an accessible MS Word document by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/jan-15-2019-appendix-to-AODA-Alliance-brief-to-david-onley-with-pagination.docx

Late last fall, we made public a draft of this brief, and invited input. Thanks to all who shared their feedback. Our finalized brief includes everything that was in the draft brief. There have been some minor wording adjustments, typos fixed, and formatting adjustments.

We have added three short sections to the brief. We set these out below. They total 12 pages. In summary:

  1. In the introductory chapter, we added the new heading 6. It urges Mr. Onley to issue a strong and if at all possible, immediate recommendation that the Ontario Government now lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the 2 Education Standards Development Committees. We did so after learning that late last month; Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the Health Care Standards Development Committee and two Education Standards Development Committees to say that the Government is now awaiting David Onley’s report before deciding what to do about the Government’s seven-month-long freeze on the work of those AODA Standards Development Committees. This new part of the brief reproduces what the Ontario Government said in that letter.
  1. In Chapter 1, we added the new heading 6. It explains why, in our view, Ontario has fallen behind schedule for reaching its 2025 accessibility deadline.
  1. In Chapter 1, we added the new heading 10 at the end of that chapter. It spells out why, in our view, our recommendations fit well within the agenda of Ontario’s new Government. We encourage Mr. Onley to address that topic in his report.

We encourage one and all to send David Onley a short email, voicing your support for the findings and recommendations in the AODA Alliance finalized brief. You can email him at [email protected]

If you don’t have time to say more, you might just say something like this:

“I support the findings and recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review.”

MORE DETAILS

Major New Additions in the AODA Alliance’s finalized January 15, 2019 Brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review

Introductory Chapter

8. Right Off the Top – The Pressing Need for This Independent Review to Recommend that the New Ontario Government Immediately Lift Its Freeze on the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees

Before diving into the range of issues that this brief explores in depth in the following chapters, we wish as an important preliminary matter to urge this AODA Independent Review to recommend as soon as possible that the Ontario Government should immediately lift its 7-month freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees that have been appointed under the AODA. We encourage this Independent Review to issue a short interim report, in order to make this recommendation, and to get it in the Government’s hands as soon as possible.

Heading 7 in Chapter 5 of this brief addresses the need for Ontario to develop and enact an Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the disability accessibility barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, and a Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the barriers facing patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. Students with disabilities face too many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Patients with disabilities face too many barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

That chapter addresses the pressing need for the new Ontario Government to lift its freeze on the work of three Standards Development Committees which were already at work before the 2018 Ontario election. These committees were developing recommendations for an Education Accessibility Standard and a Health Care Accessibility Standard.

It took us many years and tenacious advocacy to eventually get the former Ontario Government to agree to develop new AODA accessibility standards to address those barriers. In 2017, the former Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee. In Early 2018, it appointed a K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and a Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. They were hard at work when their work was frozen last June, in the wake of the June 2018 Ontario election. Their work remains frozen to this day.

Chapter 5 explains why it is essential for these Standards Development Committees to be allowed to resume their work without further delay, and for this seven-month freeze to be lifted. In our unsuccessful efforts over the past seven months to get this freeze lifted, the new Government has never claimed that Ontario’s education system and health care system are barrier-free for people with disabilities, or that there is no need for people with disabilities to have accessibility in the areas of health care or education. However, just days ago, we learned that the Government has said that it is waiting for the report of this AODA Independent Review before it decides whether to lift its freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

On January 9, 2019, we received a copy of the December 20, 2018 letter from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho to the chair of the K-12 Standards Development Committee. In that letter, Minister Cho stated:

“I am writing to update you on the status of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

As you know, the Hon. David Onley’s Third Legislative Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is currently underway and nearing its submission date. At Mr. Onley’s request, he has been granted a one-month extension to complete his work, and his report is now due on January 31, 2019. I am looking forward to reading his assessment of the AODA and any proposed recommendations.

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

Since taking office in June, our new Government for the People has acted swiftly and with determination to implement change that will get Ontario back on track. Once we have analysed and carefully considered the Review, we intend to move forward with the same determination to break down barriers, improve accessibility and make Ontario open for business for everyone.

Your committee has already done meaningful work exploring barriers faced by kindergarten to Grade 12 students. As the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, I appreciate your valuable contribution. I wish you a happy holiday season and look forward to working with you in the New Year.”

Before this, the Government had not made any public statement that it was awaiting this AODA Independent Review’s report before deciding on the future of these Standards Development Committees. The Government has known of the existence of this AODA Independent Review for months. Had the Government earlier said that it was awaiting this Independent Review’s advice on point, we would have immediately urged this Independent Review to issue a short interim report to recommend that this freeze be lifted.

Much public attention in the past months has focused on the new Government’s concern to reduce the costs of government. Chapter 5 of this brief offers several recommendations on how the standards development process under the AODA can be conducted in a more cost-effective way.

The impact of this freeze has been an increased cost to the public, including people with disabilities. As long as Ontario continues without effective accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education, health care providers and facilities, as well as schools, colleges and universities will continue to create new disability barriers, including doing so with public money. (See further Chapter 7) It will cost the public more for those barriers to later be removed. It also costs the public more when the Government leaves it to each education organization and each health care organization to re-invent the accessibility wheel, rather than having the benefit of the directions of clear and strong accessibility standards in these areas.

There is no need for the Government to study and decide on the other issues that this Independent Review will address before it decides on lifting the freeze on these Standards Development Committees. Last fall, the Government was able to decide, without the benefit of this Independent Review’s report, to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. As is documented in Chapter 5, the new Government, when in opposition, was sufficiently familiar with these issues to demand that the former Ontario Government agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard, and to appoint a Standards Development Committee to work on it.

Any further delay in deciding on lifting the freeze only continues to hurt students with disabilities and patients with disabilities. An immediate, short interim report making the recommendation requested here would help more swiftly bring that delay to an end.

If this Independent Review does not issue an interim report on this topic, then we encourage this Independent Review to place a recommendation to lift this freeze close to the start of its final report to the Government, so that it is prominent.

Chapter 1

6. Why is Ontario So Far Behind Schedule for Becoming Accessible to People with Disabilities by 2025?

Pervading this brief is a fundamentally important question: Why is Ontario so far behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025? How did Ontario find itself in this predicament over 13.5 years after the AODA was enacted, and less than 6 years before the 2025 deadline for becoming accessible?

It is important for this AODA Independent Review to consider this question, in order to formulate appropriate reform recommendations that will hit the mark. We here identify several causes for Ontario’s current accessibility predicament. We do not list them in order of importance or significance. These causes combine together to produce the problem Ontario now faces.

Before listing these causes, we must address one factor that is clearly not a cause for this predicament. The problem is not that the Ontario Government didn’t know what needs to be done to get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. What needs to be done has been very clear for years. The AODA spells much of it out in the legislation itself. Two successive Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews, the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, each gave the Ontario Government clear and productive recommendations.

The Government has had ample avenues to get input and advice. AODA Standards Development Committees have given the Government detailed recommendations. The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council has been available to advise the Government. For three years, the Government also had the benefit of the position of Special Advisor on Accessibility, reporting to the minister responsible for the AODA.

As well, community organizations like the AODA Alliance have given the Government advice and detailed recommendations through formal consultation sessions, and informal meetings and discussions. Time and again, this advice pointed in the same direction. As well, needed action has often been spelled out in election promises, by some or all of the political parties, including the Ontario Liberal Party that brought forward the AODA in 2004-2005 and that was in power for most of the time since then. Opposition parties raised concerns and suggestions in debates in the Legislature and through informal discussions with Government MPPs.

Thus, we turn our attention to the causes for this predicament. Prominent among these, especially in recent years, is the fact that there has been a troubling lack of concerted and effective leadership on this issue from Ontario’s Premier and from the Premier’s Office. This chapter later discusses this.

Both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review Report and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report called for the Ontario Government to show new leadership on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Both reports called for the AODA’s implementation to be revitalized, and for new life to be breathed into it. The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review specifically called for new leadership by the Premier, as a priority. Despite these strong recommendations from authoritative reviews that the former Ontario Government itself appointed, none of this new leadership and revitalization ever materialized.

For example, Premier Wynne never kept her 2014 written election promise to the AODA Alliance that she would instruct her ministers on their accessibility obligations and commitments. As this chapter and Chapter 10 discusses, she did not include many if not most of these commitments and obligations in her Mandate Letters to her ministers. No doubt, the ministers got the implicit message from this that these simply were not priorities.

Closely related to that cause for Ontario’s predicament, the lack of effective leadership on this issue thereafter appears to have trickled down to the senior political levels within the Ontario Government. Within any large organization like the Ontario Government, if there is a lack of effective leadership at the top on an issue, this risks spreading in the organization as a negative signal. When this persists over time, it becomes even more embedded within the organization’s DNA and harder to change.

That clearly appears to have occurred within the Ontario Government in the case of the accessibility issue. After the AODA was enacted, there has too often been a demonstrable lack of sustained political will on this issue in the party in power. Ministers periodically make encouraging speeches. During elections, political parties make encouraging pledges on accessibility. Yet at an operational level, it has quite infrequently gone beyond this at senior levels within the Ontario Government. This is so even though there were individuals within the governing party’s caucus, and even within its Cabinet, that wanted to do much more on accessibility.

By now, most of the MPPs who advocated for the enactment of the AODA and who voted for it have left politics. Their replacements came into public life without having taken part in the events leading to the AODA’s enactment.

Further contributing to this predicament are problems at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, addressed further later in this chapter and in Chapter 5. The Accessibility Directorate is the Government office that is responsible for leading the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Here again, within the Accessibility Directorate were any number of dedicated, hard-working individuals who wanted to do a good job. However, despite this, problems persisted. Our brief offers several recommendations to fix this recurring problem.

As Chapter 10 details, the Ontario Public Service appears more generally too often to have served as a barrier to progress on accessibility. There are some within the Ontario Public Service who are dedicated supporters on this issue. However, as an overall organization, it too frequently has served as a collective drag on progress, and even an impediment or opponent to progress.

Chapter 10 of this brief shows that the Ontario Government including the Ontario Public Service has not ensured that it is a fully accessible service-provider and employer. The Ontario Government repeatedly claims to lead by example, but continues to lead by a poor example. Over the years, we have met with successive deputy ministers responsible for the operations of the Ontario Public Service as an employer and service-provider, and with successive Secretaries of Cabinet to highlight this problem and to offer constructive solutions, too often without needed success for our efforts.

Making the foregoing worse as a cause of this problem has been the Government’s excessive secrecy around the operations of the Government on this issue, addressed later in this chapter and in Chapter 5. As but one example, the Ontario Government went to excessive lengths to throw obstacles in the AODA Alliance’s path when we tried to get access to information about the AODA’s enforcement in 2013 and 2015. They even sent an armada of fully five lawyers to an Information and Privacy Commission hearing in opposition to the AODA Alliance, in order to further that goal. Similarly, undue secrecy surrounds the work of AODA Standards Development Committees, and conceals the Government’s planning process for new public infrastructure. Thus, bureaucrats and private contractors can with impunity resist efforts at ensuring that this new infrastructure is accessible, without being subject to effective and timely public scrutiny or accountability. Chapters 1, 2, 5 and 7 7 further address this.

Also, slowing progress has been the lack of a multi-year provincial plan for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement to get Ontario to reach the 2025 deadline on time. This chapter later explores this.

Progress on accessibility has also been slowed by weak and ineffective AODA enforcement. Chapter 2 addresses this in detail. Those who violate the AODA, even knowingly and repeatedly, have little if anything to fear in the way of real and practical consequences. This is so despite the Government knowing of rampant AODA violations in the private sector for years, and despite ample unused funds being on hand for AODA enforcement.

Also, slowing progress on accessibility has been the fact that the AODA accessibility standards enacted to date, while helpful, are too weak and limited, as   Chapter 3 addresses. Even if fully obeyed, the existing AODA accessibility standards won’t ensure that obligated organizations will become accessible by 2025, or ever. The Ontario Government has done very little to address this problem which the 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review had amply documented. Chapter 4 of this brief also shows several important areas where new accessibility standards are needed under the AODA, including, for example, a strong, effective and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Our efforts to get the Ontario Government to develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard for patients with disabilities and an Education Accessibility Standard for students with disabilities have met with years of foot-dragging by the previous Government, exacerbated by more foot-dragging by the new Ontario Government.

Creating new accessibility standards and reviewing the sufficiency of existing accessibility standards every five years is core to the AODA’s capacity to lead Ontario to 2025 as a fully accessible province. The process for developing new AODA accessibility standards and for conducting periodic reviews of existing standards is fraught with problems, as Chapter 5 demonstrates. Chapter 5 of this brief shows that there is a need to substantially reform and strengthen the process for developing AODA accessibility standards.

Also exacerbating this predicament, there remain serious problems with the Ontario Government’s efforts at educating the public, including obligated organizations, about accessibility and the AODA. As but two examples, there is a pressing need for schools to provide students with curriculum on accessibility standards, and for there to be mandatory accessibility training for professionals in fields like architecture and interior design. Chapter 6 describes this problem and recommends reforms.

Further slowing progress towards 2025, there remain in place several levers of readily available public power that the Ontario Government could easily and far more effectively use to promote progress on accessibility, but which the Government has not effectively used. Chapter 7 of this brief demonstrates that the Ontario Government has failed to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. Chapter 8 of this brief shows that the Ontario Government has not effectively reviewed all Ontario laws to ensure that they do not create or permit disability accessibility barriers. This is so even though all parties in the 2007 election promised that such a review would be completed. Chapter 9 of this brief explains that the Ontario Government has not acted effectively to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities.

Finally, Chapter 11 shows that there is a pressing need for the Ontario Government to implement a strong and effective new strategy, beyond enacting an Employment Accessibility Standard, to substantially increase the opportunities for the employment of people with disabilities in Ontario. The former Ontario Government promised action in this area. Yet it dragged its feet for years, and then announced a strategy in June 2017 that is too weak and high-level.

All of the above explains the causes for Ontario being behind schedule up to the June 2018 Ontario election. Over the past seven months since then, an additional cause has arisen. The new Ontario Government has not implemented any new action to kick-start new efforts on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. In addition, it injected more delay, by maintaining for months a freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees. This is addressed in Chapters 4 and 5. That freeze was lifted later last fall in the case of two of the frozen Standards Development Committees. That freeze remains in effect for three other Standards Development Committees, as is addressed at several points in this brief, including in the Introduction.

It is, of course, entirely understandable that a new Government will take some time to get up to speed on the wide range of issues it must handle. However, to reduce this risk, we had provided assistance to Ontario’s new government early on, by:

* Briefing Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party over the months in advance of the election on key accessibility issues that the Government is facing.

* Last spring, sending all party leaders a detailed list of commitments on disability accessibility that we sought in the June 2018 election. It briefs all parties on the key issues.

* Sending Premier Doug Ford and Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho detailed letters in July 2018 that spell out the key actions needed in this area, as are referenced throughout this brief.

All political parties have agreed that Ontario should become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, and that the Ontario Government, through the AODA, should lead our concerted efforts towards that goal. Any comprehensive strategy to get Ontario back on schedule needs to address all the multiple causes for our current predicament of being far behind schedule. This brief offers concrete and constructive recommendations to that end. At one time or other, and often on many occasions, we have pressed the Ontario Government to take all of these measures. As this brief details, in a good number of cases, the former Ontario Government promised any number of these actions, but too often failed to keep its word. We urge this AODA Independent Review to make all the recommendations we propose so that Ontario’s new Government and the public have a constructive action plan that can be implemented to kick-start a new era of faster and more effective progress on accessibility.

Chapter 1

10. Why Strong Action on Accessibility Fits within the Agenda of Ontario’s New Government

Strong, effective Government action on accessibility fits well within the agenda of Ontario’s new Government. In addressing this, we emphasize that this AODA Independent Review, like the AODA Alliance, is strictly non-partisan.

Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is a non-partisan issue. All parties in the Legislature have, at various times, brought forward legislation or amendments, and pressed for more action on accessibility. All parties have emphasized that disability barriers eventually hurt everyone, since everyone eventually is bound to get a disability. Each party has emphasized that accessibility is good for people with disabilities, for all members of the public, and for business.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party has made written election commitments on the need for disability accessibility legislation in elections in 1995, 2007, 2014 and 2018. These letters were signed by PC leaders Mike Harris, John Tory, Tim Hudak, and most recently, by Doug Ford.

On October 29, 1998, when Mike Harris was Ontario’s premier, the Legislature unanimously passed an historic resolution. It adopted eleven important principles that a strong and effective Disabilities Act should fulfil. Each PC MPP in the Legislature voted for that resolution.

In 2005, all parties, including each PC MPP, voted unanimously to pass the AODA, and gave it a standing ovation. The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires the Government to lead Ontario to that goal by enacting and effectively enforcing regulations called accessibility standards.

During the 2005 clause-by-clause debate on the AODA, the PC Party proposed amendments at the request of our predecessor coalition, to make the bill even stronger. After the AODA was enacted, the PC leader congratulated the Government for passing it. On a number of occasions while in opposition, the Ontario PC Party has put questions to the Ontario Government at our request, to press for more action on the AODA’s implementation.

In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford continued the PC Party’s commitment to this legislation and its goal, reaffirming:

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

That record fits within a bigger picture. In each of the three Canadian provinces which enacted accessibility legislation, namely Ontario (2005), Manitoba (2013) and Nova Scotia (2017), that legislation unanimously passed. Each Conservative Party supported it.

Similarly, last fall, when the House of Commons passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, it was unanimously supported, including by the Conservative Party of Canada. On behalf of the disability community, the Conservative Party of Canada proposed amendments in the House of Commons that would have strengthened Bill C-81 – amendments which the Federal Government voted down.

Looking more broadly. The Americans with Disabilities Act was proudly signed into law in 1990 by Republican US President George H.W. Bush. Earlier, when he was US Vice President, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to chair a national de-regulation task force. The Americans with Disabilities Act was supported in the US Congress by Democrats and Republicans alike, including by Senator Bob Dole, who later ran for president as Republican nominee.

The need for the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to disability accessibility by 2025 aligns with the PC Party’s current agenda. In Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, he committed:

“Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus”

and

“they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party.”

He committed during the 2018 election to lead a Government “for the people”. At least 1.9 million of the people of Ontario now have a disability. The rest are bound to later get a disability, as they grow older. “The people” are, at some time in their lives, all people with disabilities.

The Government has announced the goal to make Ontario open for business. This needs to include ensuring that Ontario is open for employees, job-seekers, business owners and customers with disabilities.

The new Government said it aims to be responsible in the use of taxpayers’ money. We suggest it was irresponsible for public money to be used in the past to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities, as we address further in Chapter 7.  An ounce of barrier prevention is worth many pounds of cure. A firm commitment to accessibility saves taxpayers the expense of re-doing projects after the fact, to fix accessibility barriers that should have been prevented. Clear and time-based accessibility standards promote stability for businesses, who can then plan with those standards in mind.

In Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, written during the 2018 election campaign, he made a number of important points. These show why it is so important for the AODA to be effectively implemented.

As we explain in Chapter 3, the 2011 AODA Employment Accessibility Standard, now under review by the Employment Standards Development Committee, needs to be strengthened to ensure that the workplaces of tomorrow are barrier-free for job-seekers and employees with disabilities. To do so fits well within the position of the PC Party. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

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

…It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.”

As Chapter 9 of this brief shows, voters with disabilities can still encounter unfair voting barriers in elections in Ontario. Fixing this problem with new legislation is well within the PC Party’s record. It was commendable that in 2010, when the Legislature was considering bill 231 (intended to modernize Ontario elections), the PC Party proposed a number of good amendments at our request to make voting fully accessible to voters with disabilities. The previous Government defeated those amendments.

Further showing that action in this area fits within the new Government’s agenda, in his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford also wrote:

“There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election.”

Creating, enacting and enforcing a strong Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA falls well within the PC Party’s platform and perspective. While in opposition, the PC Party helped us in Question Period over the past three years to get the previous Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Moreover, in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford also wrote:

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

Developing needed accessibility standards, including in the area of the built environment, is also well within the PC Party’s platform. As well, Doug Ford wrote:

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

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

Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter highlighted Christine Elliot’s important role within the PC Party on disability issues. The PC Party designated her to speak on behalf of the Ontario PC Party at the May 16, 2018 provincial all-candidates’ debate on disability issues, held in Toronto. She there made important commitments on the PC Party’s behalf, on issues such as the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, on ensuring that students with disabilities can fully participate in education at school, colleges and university, on ODSP reform, on the need for affordable, accessible and, where needed, supportive housing, and other topics.

In his letter, Doug Ford expressed a strong desire to work with the AODA Alliance on disability accessibility issues. He wrote:

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

The new Government ran for office on a platform to try to make the Ontario Government a more efficient operation. This brief identifies a number of troubling inefficiencies in how the Ontario Government has approached accessibility and recommends cost-effective improvements.

The new Government ran for office on an agenda to reduce the number of regulations, particularly as they apply to businesses. That platform doesn’t stand in the way of the Government effectively implementing and enforcing the AODA, including through the enactment of needed accessibility standards under the AODA.

The points made above give illustrations where AODA accessibility standard regulations fit within the PC agenda. Moreover, it was not the new Government’s platform to eliminate all regulations in Ontario, or to refuse to ever enact any new regulations in any circumstance.

Conservative governments with a strong de-regulation agenda can nevertheless enact and enforce regulations where they are needed. As noted above, US Vice President Bush led a national de-regulation task force in the US, and yet, when later elected president, proudly supported the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark new regulatory law.

Moreover, Ontario’s Conservative Party had a similar platform in favour of a reduction in regulatory burdens when its MPPs unanimously voted to pass the AODA. That party, with that platform, made commendable efforts on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities to get the AODA’s regulatory requirements strengthened in 2005, when it was still a bill before the Legislature.

As well, nothing in Premier Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, quoted earlier, signals any reluctance to or objection to the use of regulatory measures to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. As just noted above, and as is addressed at various points in this brief, the PC Party did not run on a platform to reduce the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. When in opposition, the PC Party supported the AODA Alliance’s efforts to get a new regulation developed in Ontario under the AODA, an Education Accessibility Standard.

The new Government is concerned about regulatory burdens on small business. The AODA was carefully designed so that accessibility standards need not be “one size fits all.” accessibility standards can and do set different requirements for big business than for small businesses, and can set different timelines for big business than for small business. In fact all accessibility standards to date enacted under the AODA do so. If anything, accessibility standards to date exempt or provide substantially reduced provisions for small business.

Finally, in the end, any AODA accessibility standard regulations do not impose any new substantive obligations on businesses or other organizations. Rather, they implement the rights which are already guaranteed to people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and where applicable, the Charter of Rights. If those regulations are developed properly and are effective, they can help businesses in Ontario make money. Accessibility means a business gets access to a wider customer base and a wider pool of potential employees. They help a business retain existing employees as they acquire disabilities, through illness, injury or the natural aging process. They are able to serve a huge international market. There are upwards of one billion people with disabilities around the world.

Therefore, Ontario’s new Government should be open to consider, to accept and to welcome the recommendations for action that this brief proposes.



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Click here to download in an accessible MS Word format the AODA Alliance’s December 7, 2018 Submission to the Ontario Government’s Provincial Consultation on the Future of Ontario’s Education System



Click here to download in an accessible MS Word format the AODA Alliance’s December 7, 2018 submission to the Ontario Government’s Provincial Consultation on the Future of Ontario’s Education System



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Send Us Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


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

November 23, 2018

SUMMARY

Today we make public a draft of the brief that the AODA Alliance is aiming to submit to the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ontario Government appointed the Honourable David Onley to conduct. We are eager for your feedback. Do you have any additional findings that we should suggest to Mr. Onley, or any additional recommendations that we should make?

What is this about? Under the AODA, every few years, along a timetable that the AODA sets, the Ontario Government must appoint an independent person to conduct an inquiry into the effectiveness of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. The AODA was enacted in 2005. The third AODA Independent Review is now underway.

As in the past, our main way to have our say is to submit a detailed brief to this AODA Independent Review. We have been hard at work preparing a brief for Mr. Onley. We make it public as a draft today and welcome any feedback you can give us. Send any feedback to us by December 3, 2018, at [email protected]

We will then take into account the feedback we receive as we finalize the brief. We will be submitting the brief to Mr. Onley by December 8, 2018.

You can download the entire brief in an accessible MS Word format by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Nov-23-2018-Draft-AODA-Alliance-Brief-to-David-Onley.docx

We realize that the brief is rather long about 450 pages! Many won’t have the time to read it all.

To make it much easier for you, we set out below the brief’s appendix. It gives you, chapter by chapter, an introduction to each chapter’s subject, the findings we ask Mr. Onley to make, and the recommendations we are urging upon Mr. Onley.

If you cannot look at all of it, feel free to look at any of it! We regret that we cannot allow more time for feedback. We have been inviting and collecting your feedback over the past weeks and months. We have to get this brief finalized and submitted in time for Mr. Onley to be able to make full use of it.

As you can imagine, the preparation of this brief took quite a bit of work. We are indebted to all who have helped us along the way, resulting in this brief’s detailed analysis. We believe it is likely the most thorough and detailed exploration of what has been done, and what has not been done, to implement and enforce the AODA.

When sending us your feedback, please do not use track-changes. Just explain in the email anything you want to say, and mention which chapter of the brief you are commenting on, if you are able to do so.

MORE DETAILS

Appendix to the November 23, 2018 Draft AODA Alliance Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Chapter 1 The Big Picture How is Ontario Doing?

1. Introduction

Before this brief’s detailed discussion in the following chapters of each of the major facets of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), this chapter first takes a look at the “big picture.” It addresses some common themes that the later chapters’ discussions, proposed findings and recommendations address in greater detail.

This chapter considers first whether Ontario is on schedule for reaching accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. It concludes that we are not. That is not to say that nothing has been done, or that no progress has been made. Rather, our conclusion is that progress has continued to be far too slow, compared to what is readily achievable in Ontario with proper leadership from our Government.

This chapter then addresses the need for new Ontario Government leadership on this file, as both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review urged. It addresses the need for Ontario to develop and implement a comprehensive multi-year plan to lead Ontario to accessibility by 2025. The rest of this brief fills in details of what that plan should include.

This chapter then takes a look at the lead office within the Ontario Government, charged with leading the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. It addresses the need for significant reform there. Finally, this chapter explores the excessive confidentiality and secrecy that the Ontario Government has too often sought to achieve with the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards. This all sets the stage for the more specific topics considered in the following chapters.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make these findings:

* There has been progress on accessibility since the AODA’s enactment. However, this progress has been far too slow.

* Ontario is not now on schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. At the present rate of progress, Ontario will not even come close to reaching full accessibility by 2025. A dramatic improvement is needed now to the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

* Since the 2014 report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, the Ontario Government did not show the renewed leadership and revitalized approach to the AODA’s implementation that the Moran report recommended.

* The Ontario Government has never had and now has no comprehensive plan for leading Ontario to reaching accessibility by 2025. There is a clear and present need for such a plan.

* There is a clear need for substantial reform at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, the Government office that has lead responsibility for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, such as the development of AODA accessibility standards. This is so despite the fact that there are many hard-working, dedicated people working at various positions in the Accessibility Directorate.

* The Ontario Government has tried to shroud the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, with far too much secrecy. The public is entitled to expect the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, to be open, transparent and publicly accountable.

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

3 Recommendations Regarding the Big Picture

We therefore recommend that:

#1-1. The Ontario Government must act promptly to re-vitalize and breathe new life into the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This should start with strong new leadership from the top, including the Premier, the Cabinet and he senior leaders within the Ontario Public Service.

#1-2. The Ontario Government should act quickly to adopt, implement and make public a comprehensive multi-year plan for effectively leading Ontario to become accessible by 2025, which includes the issues regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that are addressed in this brief.

#1-3. There should be substantial reform at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario so that it better provides the leadership on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that Ontario needs.

#1-4. As is addressed in further detail elsewhere in this brief, the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, should be carried out in an open, public transparent and accountable way. The current pre-occupation with secrecy and confidentiality should be eliminated. For example, members of and presenters at Standards Development Committees should not be asked or required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

* * Chapter 2 the Ongoing Unmet Need for the AODA’s Effective Enforcement

1. Introduction

It has been widely recognized and repeatedly reported in the media that the AODA has not been effectively enforced, despite the former Ontario Government’s repeated promises to effectively enforce this legislation. Part 2 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrated the importance for the AODA to be effectively enforced. It also documented the former Ontario Government’s failure to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA, up to the spring of 2014.

In this chapter of this brief, we bring the situation up to the present. In short, the former Ontario Government continued to fail to effectively enforce the AODA for the past four years, even though it had unused funding on hand that could be used for enforcement, and even though the Government knew of rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The limited enforcement that the former Ontario Government did deploy was weak and limited in scope.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:

* For years, the AODA has not been effectively enforced, even though the former Ontario Government knew for years about unacceptably high levels of AODA non-compliance, particularly within the private sector. Enforcement efforts have been too weak.

* This ineffective AODA enforcement does a disservice to Ontarians with disabilities, to the broader public, and to all the obligated organizations who have opted to comply with the AODA.

* The former Ontario Government did not significantly improve AODA enforcement after the 2014 Mayo Moran Report called for strengthened enforcement. To the contrary, within a week of the former Ontario Government’s public release of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in February 2015, the former Ontario Government instituted a substantial cutback of the already-weak AODA enforcement. In June 2015, the former Ontario Government announced that it had a new plan for increased AODA enforcement, to begin in 2016. Subsequent Government records and the results of an AODA Alliance Freedom of Information application demonstrate that this never took place.

* The former Ontario Government failed to effectively publicize the Government’s promised toll-Free number for the public to report AODA violations, for purposes of AODA enforcement.

* It is important to make AODA enforcement independent of the Ontario Government. The Ontario Government should not enforce the AODA against itself. Moreover, independent enforcement of the AODA will better ensure effective enforcement of the AODA. AODA enforcement should not be subject to any political involvement.

* While enforcement is not the only way to get obligated organizations to comply with the AODA, it is one important way to do so. The failure to effectively enforce the AODA has contributed to low rates of AODA compliance.

* The failure to effectively enforce the AODA also works against the efforts of those who try to get obligated organizations to comply, such as accessibility consultants. Those consultants can point to strong enforcement powers in the AODA. However, the fact that only five monetary penalties were imposed in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, is ample proof that obligated organizations need not fear any real consequences if they don’t comply with the AODA.

* It is not sufficient for AODA enforcement to take the form of “paper audits”, where Government officials review an obligated organization’s documentary records on AODA compliance, such as records of an obligated organization’s accessibility policy and of its staff training on accessibility. Effective auditing or inspections need to include on-site examination of the actual accessibility of the obligated organizations, not just its accessibility paper trail.

3. Recommendations on the AODA’s Enforcement

We therefore recommend that:

#2-1. AODA enforcement should be substantially strengthen, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers, enforcing all AODA accessibility requirements, and enforcing the AODA in connection with all classes of organizations that must obey the AODA. The Government should not just enforce the requirement of certain obligated organizations to file an accessibility self-report. The Government should effectively enforce AODA requirements vis à vis both the public and private sectors, and vis à vis all classes of organizations within each sector.

#2-2. AODA enforcement should be transferred outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and be assigned to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement.

#2-3. The number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers should be significantly increased.

#2-4. Among other things, Ontario Government and local municipal inspectors and investigators under other legislation should be given a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation or by-laws.

A core feature of AODA enforcement should be the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities, not a mere audit of their paper records on accessibility documentation.

#2-5. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and any successor body assigned responsibility for AODA enforcement should 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, as too often is the case at present, 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.

#2-6. Obligated organizations should be required to report to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario or any successor AODA enforcement agency on accessibility complaints received via their required AODA feedback mechanisms, and on how they were resolved, while protecting individual privacy.

#2-7. New ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement should be created, such as the Government beginning to post 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 accessibility policy and its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one.

#2-8. To reverse the public perception that the Government is not and will not be effectively enforcing the AODA, the Government should immediately and widely publicize its enforcement plans and its intention to substantially increase its efforts at AODA enforcement. This should not be limited to postings on Government website.

#2-9. The Government should develop an effective strategy for ensuring that municipalities effectively enforce the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements as well as any built environment accessibility requirements in AODA accessibility standards, including

a) providing effective training tools on the Ontario Building Code accessibility requirements that can be used by municipal enforcement officials;

b) monitoring levels of enforcement and compliance at the municipal level across Ontario regarding the Ontario Building Code accessibility requirements.

Chapter 3 Current AODA Accessibility Standards Don’t Ensure Ontario Will Become Accessible to People with Disabilities by 2025

1. Introduction

The accessibility standards which the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA over the past 13.5 years have been helpful, but only to a limited extent. They do not ensure that Ontario will become fully accessible ever, much less by 2025. Moreover, work on developing accessibility standards over the past six years has been much slower than it was during the AODA’s first five years.

No new accessibility standard has been enacted since the end of 2012, some six years ago. only one accessibility standard has been revised in the past six years, the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. Those revisions instituted improvements that were marginal at best, and counterproductive in part, as this chapter explains.

The 2014 Mayo Moran Report identified serious problems with the current accessibility standards. The former Ontario Government did not fix those problems. They persist to this day.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:

* The current AODA accessibility standards will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, even in the specific areas they regulate, e.g. customer service, employment, transportation, or information and communication.

The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review correctly identified significant deficiencies with these accessibility standards. In the intervening years, the former Ontario Government did not rectify those deficiencies.

* The Government’s mandatory 5-year review of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard did not rectify most of the significant deficiencies with that accessibility standard. In one way, it made that weak accessibility standard even weaker.

* The Government’s mandatory 5year- review of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard resulted in weak recommendations to the Government from the Transportation Standards Development committee. Even if those recommendations were all implemented, these would not materially or substantially improve that accessibility standard.

* Similarly, the 2018 draft recommendations from the Employment Standards Development Committee on how to improve the very limited Employment Accessibility Standard would not significantly improve that accessibility standard.

3. Recommendations Regarding Deficiencies in Current AODA Accessibility Standards

We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:

#3-1. The Ontario Government should substantially strengthen all the existing accessibility standards.

#3-2. Any accessibility standards enacted under the AODA should, at least, measure up to the accessibility standards and accommodation and undue hardship requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Where any existing standard falls below that standard, or provides defences to obligated organizations that are broader than those under the Human Rights Code, the AODA accessibility standard should be amended as part of any review of that accessibility standard, to bring it in line with the Human Rights Code.

#3-3. The Ontario Government should direct each Standards Development Committee that is now developing recommendations for a new accessibility standard or that is reviewing an existing standard, or that is appointed in the future, to make recommendations on accessibility that live up to the Ontario Human Rights Code. To assist with this, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario should give each Standards Development Committee up-to-date information on relevant rulings by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and courts, and should centrally involve the Ontario Human Rights Code in each Standards Development Committee on an ongoing basis, including appointing a representative of the Ontario Human Rights Commission as an ex officio non-voting member of each Standards Development Committee.

#3-4. When any Standards Development Committee is conducting a review of an existing AODA accessibility standard, that Committee should be advised that its mandate is not simply to decide if the existing accessibility standard is working “as intended”. Rather, it should investigate whether the accessibility standard will ensure that accessibility in the area that the standard addresses will be achieved by 2025. If it does not, then the Committee should recommend measures needed to ensure that accessibility in that area will be achieved by 2025.

#3-5. The Ontario Government should appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the general provisions in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, since no Standards Development Committee appears to be reviewing them.

#3-6. The Ontario Government should now launch the next review of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, since that standard remains so weak, and since the last review of that accessibility standard failed to significantly improve it. As part of that review, that accessibility standard should be revised to remove the barrier it impermissibly creates. That review should be mandated to consider, among other things, the low-cost revisions that the AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Law Centre recommended to the Ontario Government in their joint March 15, 2016 brief.

#3-7. The Ontario Government should now convene a summit with leaders from the disability community and the transportation sector to identify substantially stronger reforms to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard than those which the Transportation Standards Development committee had recommended.

#3-8. The Ontario Government should ask the Employment Standards Development Committee to expand its efforts, and to develop recommendations on measures to remove and prevent specific workplace disability barriers.

Note: See also the recommendations in Chapter 4.

Chapter 4 The Need for New Accessibility Standards, Including a Strong and Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard

1. Introduction

Chapter 3 of this brief shows that the accessibility standards enacted to date under the AODA, while helpful to a degree, are not sufficient to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. It recommends needed actions in so far as those specific accessibility standards are concerned. This chapter addresses the need for the Ontario Government to enact new accessibility standards, to address issues and barriers that are beyond the areas that the existing accessibility standards address.

Part 4 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran shows that since 2012, the Ontario Government’s work on developing new accessibility standards under the AODA had slowed to a virtual crawl. That Part of our 2014 brief reached this conclusion:

“This Part of this brief shows that the Government has in recent years taken an unjustified and inordinate amount of time just to decide which accessibility standards to next develop under the AODA. It seems as if the Government has been stuck in neutral. With the 2025 deadline growing ever nearer, this was time that Ontario could not afford to squander.”

That slow pace of progress has persisted to the present time. Since June 2014, no new accessibility standards have been enacted. The former Ontario Government only completed the mandatory review of one of the existing accessibility standards, the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The mandatory 5-year reviews of the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard are still underway. The mandatory 5-year review of the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard has not even begun. As shown later in this chapter, the Ontario Government has violated the AODA by not starting that mandatory review by the end of 2017.

Chapter 3 of this brief shows that the mandatory 5-year review of the weak 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard did not lead to that standard being substantially strengthened. In one respect, it led it to be weakened even more.

Throughout the past decade, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in trying to get the Ontario Government to create new accessibility standards. During that period, the Ontario Government did not undertake a comprehensive effort to ascertain all the new accessibility standards that are needed. At most the former Ontario Government only focused on two of the new subject areas which we had emphasized, namely education and health care. In those two areas, the former Ontario Government took an unconscionably long time to eventually decide whether to create accessibility standards in education and health care.

As an illustration of another much-needed new accessibility standard, we have been calling for the Ontario Government to create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard for over half a decade. In July 2009, the former Ontario Government promised to address residential housing through the standards development process, once the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard was enacted. It never kept that promise. The former Ontario Government never gave a reason for failing to address accessibility barriers in residential housing. It has never denied to us that there is a protracted and critical shortage of accessible housing in Ontario a shortage which will get worse as our population continues to age.

In this chapter, we first document the exceedingly long delays for the Ontario Government to decide to take action under the AODA on education and health care barriers. We then address the unmet need for a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Finally, we turn to the need for other accessibility standards to be created under the AODA.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:

* Ontario has a pressing need for an Education Accessibility Standard and a Health Care Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. students with disabilities face too many barriers in Ontario schools, colleges, universities and other education programs. Patients with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

* After the AODA has been part of Ontario law for 13 and a half years, the built environment in Ontario remains replete with far too many disability accessibility barriers. The AODA has not had a significant effect on removing existing barriers or preventing new ones in the built environment. A new building can be built in full compliance with the AODA and the Ontario Building Code and yet have serious accessibility problems. The Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements, like the few built environment requirements in AODA accessibility standards, are entirely inadequate to meet the known modern needs of people with disabilities.

* Ontario also has a pressing need for a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. The former Ontario Government’s decision to carve the built environment largely out of AODA accessibility standards and to only address it in the Ontario Building Code was wrong. It set Ontario back.

* The former Ontario Government’s failure to keep its August 19, 2011 election promise to enact the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard promptly set Ontario back.

* The former Ontario Government’s failure to act effectively on the 2014 Mayo Moran recommendations to address retrofits in existing buildings further set Ontario further back.

* Ontario has a pressing need for a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard. There is a serious shortage of accessible housing in Ontario for people with disabilities. It is getting worse because the demand for r accessible housing increases as Ontario’s population ages. There is no effective strategy in place in Ontario to ensure a sufficient increase in the supply of accessible housing in Ontario.

* Ontario needs a Goods and Products Accessibility Standard to be created under the AODA.

* The former Ontario Government never undertook a comprehensive consultation or other effort to determine what additional accessibility standards need to be created in order for the AODA to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

3. Recommendations Regarding Next Accessibility Standards to be Developed

#4-1. The Government should consult with the public, including with people with disabilities, over the next three months, on all the sectors that other accessibility standards need to address, to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, with a decision to be announced on the economic sectors to be addressed in those standards within three months after that consultation.

#4-2. The Government should not delay a decision on whether to have a new accessibility standard developed, while the Ontario Public Service decides what barriers it might include.

#4-3. Immediately after the Government decides what remaining accessibility standards need to be created, it should promptly create Standards Development Committees to develop recommendations for each of those new accessibility standards.

#4-4. The Government should now publicly recognize that there is a problem with the inaccessibility of the built environment in Ontario. It should launch a concerted and comprehensive strategy that will address new construction, major renovations, and the retrofit of existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations, using feedback from the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal complaints and findings, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policies and advice.

#4-5. The Government should develop and enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, ensuring that it effectively addresses accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations (not limited to those covered in the DOPS accessibility standard). Among other things, the new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include additional accessibility requirements for elevators that are not currently addressed by the requirements in the Ontario Building Code and other provincial laws. To this end, the Ontario Government should appoint a new Built Environment Standards Development Committee, both to review the 2011 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard and to develop recommendations for a far more comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

#4-6. The Government should create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and should promptly appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include, or assign this to the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to in the preceding recommendation.

#4-7. The Government should direct each AODA Standards Development Committee now in operation to make recommendations on standards for the built environment as it relates to the area that that Standards Development Committee is studying. For example, the Education Standards Development Committee should be directed to make recommendations for accessibility in schools, colleges or universities. The Health Care Standards Development Committee should be directed to recommend requirements for the accessibility of the built environment in the health care system.

#4-8. The Government should announce a comprehensive strategy on accessible housing to address the current and growing crisis in accessible housing in Ontario, in addition to creating an AODA accessibility standard on point).

#4-9. The Government should strengthen enforcement of accessibility in the built environment. For example, it should require that before a building permit or site plan approval can be obtained for a project, the approving authority, municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in all AODA accessibility standards.

#4-10. The Government should require professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects, interior designers, landscape architects, and other design professionals, to require detailed training on accessible design, to qualify for a license, and continuing professional development for existing professionals. The Government should also require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains these key professions, that their program curriculum must include sufficient training on accessibility and universal design. This should be designed to ensure that no new graduates in these fields will make the same mistakes as too often is the case for those now in practice.

#4-11. The Government should substantially reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario. This should include

a) A requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, during master planning, feasibility studies, and functional programming, with any accessibility advice that is received being made public. This input should also be obtained through consultations with people with disabilities.

b) A requirement to track any decisions to reject any accessibility advice, identifying who made that decision and the reasons why. That information should promptly be publicly reported.

c) To require the Government to promptly make public the accessibility requirements under consideration as a requirement for a contract for any infrastructure, with enough time before the start of the bidding competition to allow for feedback and adjustments. It is too late to make this public only after the bidding competition.

d) A requirement for post-project accessibility commissioning inspections which would include compliance with the project specific output specification accessibility requirements as well as the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards.

e) A requirement in all contracts that any accessibility deficiencies found must be the financial responsibility of the Project Company who built the project to fix them.

#4-12. The Government should require that when public money is used to create new public housing, 100% of that housing should include universal design and visit-ability as mandatory design features.

#4-13. The Government should agree to create a Goods and Products Accessibility Standard.

#4-14. Accessibility standards should include, where appropriate, not only end-dates for achieving results, but also interim benchmarks for major milestones towards full accessibility.

Chapter 5 The Need to Substantially Reform the Standards Development Process Under the AODA

1. Introduction

This brief has already shown that an absolutely central part of the AODA is the creation of effective accessibility standards that will ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. This brief has also already shown that the accessibility standards enacted to date, while helpful, are woefully insufficient to ensure that Ontario reaches accessibility at any time, much less by 2025.

Much more needs to be done to develop sufficient accessibility standards in Ontario. At the same time, there is a pressing need to reform the standards development process under the AODA. the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review report recommended this. Our 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review demonstrated this. Events since our 2014 brief to Mayo Moran further demonstrate this.

Part 5 of our June 30, 2014 brief to Mayo Moran showed that the reforms to the standards development process which the former Ontario Government implemented in response to the 2010 Beer report did not work. Events since 2014 further show this.

The former Ontario Government eventually abandoned those reforms over the past two to three years, without announcing that it was doing so. We supported the Government’s abandoning those reforms. This is because they had accomplished nothing positive, and, if anything, set back our progress.

Since we submitted our brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in June 2014, further problems with the standards development process have come to light. Last spring, we called upon the former Ontario Government’s minister responsible for the AODA, Tracy MacCharles, to implement a series of changes to the standards development process. These were well within her authority as minister. There was no need for new legislation or regulations to be enacted. Nevertheless, she did not make these changes.

The need for reforms to Ontario’s standards development process that we recommend are reinforced by the current activities surrounding Parliament’s consideration of Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That bill incorporates helpful improvements on Ontario’s standards development process, though that federal bill too, requires strengthening, as our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 demonstrates.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* There is a pressing need to reform the standards development process under the AODA. The problems with the standards development process that the 2010 final report of the Charles Beer AODA Independent Review identified remain present to this day. the former Ontario Government’s attempt to address these by temporarily assigning the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council with responsibility for developing recommendations for all accessibility standards was a failure and was properly abandoned by the former Ontario Government by 2016.

* The Government has been and remains in violation of the AODA, because it has thrice failed to appoint Standards Development Committees on time to conduct mandatory 5-year reviews of existing AODA accessibility standards by the AODA’s deadline. This includes the former Ontario Government’s failure to appoint the mandatory review of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard until sometime in 2013, and its current failure to appoint the mandatory review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017 and the review of Part I of the2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation by 2016.

* Once the former Ontario Government had decided to develop new accessibility standards in the area of education and health care, it took far too long to take the simple first step of appointing Standards Development Committees to start working on recommendations on what those accessibility standards should include. It took some two years to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee and over one year to appoint the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees. It took the Government longer to set up any of these Standards Development Committees than it had taken the Government to develop the entire AODA legislation and introduce it for First Reading in the Legislature back in 2003-2004.

* The new Ford Government has unjustifiably created further delays in reaching accessibility in Ontario, by its excessively-long freeze of the work of existing Standards Development Committees that were already appointed and working on their mandates before the June 7, 2018 Ontario election.

* The former Ontario Government inappropriately tried to restrict or narrow the work of some of the AODA Standards Development Committees it had appointed.

* There has been too much secrecy maintained around the work of the AODA Standards Development Committees, particularly in recent years.

* The mandatory minutes that each Standards Development Committee must keep and publicly post, regarding their meetings, are too often insufficiently detailed and informative to enable the public to know what they are doing, and have confidence in their work.

* The former Ontario Government was wrong to require Standards Development Committees to have a 75% vote in support before a recommendation for an accessibility standard could be submitted to the Government, or for any other decision by a Standards Development Committee, e.g. a decision to approve an amendment to its minutes.

* It put the cart before the horse for the former Ontario Government to require a Standards Development Committee in its first six months to set priorities for its work, before it had fully assessed which barriers exist in the area that the committee was assigned to study.

* The former Government did not give the public sufficient advance notice of when it would be consulting on a proposed accessibility standard.

* The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has been overstepping its role, when supporting the work of Standards Development Committees, by attempting to inappropriately micromanage and influence the direction of their work and recommendations.

* Standards Development Committees have not been effectively fulfilling their role under the AODA to propose an accessibility standard for the Government to consider enacting. For example, in 2018 the Transportation Standards Development committee submitted recommendations that are in significant part made up of items that are not a proposal for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

* The recommendations from Standards Development Committees for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, and the draft recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard, are all very weak, and dramatically less than people with disabilities need.

* The standards development process requires much more extensive involvement by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

* Standards Development Committees have at times insufficiently consulted with the disability community, especially when formulating their draft recommendations.

* Since 2013, the former Ontario Government has broken its 2007 election promise to provide dedicated staff support to disability sector representatives on Standards Development Committees.

* In and after May 2018, the Government has inappropriately failed to consult the public on final recommendations it received for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard from the Transportation Standards Development committee.

* The Government’s has repeatedly failed to comply with the statutory deadline for deciding on making an accessibility standard after a Standards Development Committee recommends one.

* The former Government took the extraordinary and highly problematic step in June 2016 of purporting to amend parts of the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation without first appointing a Standards Development Committee to review the relevant parts of that standard, a mandatory precondition under the AODA.

3. Recommendations on Improving the Process for Developing New Accessibility Standards and Revising Existing Standards

We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:

#5-1. There is a strong need for the standards development process under the AODA to be substantially strengthened so that it produces stronger accessibility standards that will fulfil the AODA’s purposes.

#5-2. The Government should lead by example, by always ensuring that it meets all of its own deadlines set by the AODA, such as the deadlines for appointing Standards Development Committees 5-year mandatory reviews of existing AODA accessibility standards.

#5-3. The Government should immediately lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

#5-4. The Government should modify the Mandate Letter for the Health Care Standards Development Committee so that it ensures that that Standards Development Committee makes recommendations on barriers throughout the health care system, and not merely or primarily regarding barriers in hospitals.

#5-5. The Government should Ensure that the Standards Development Committees, appointed under the AODA to make recommendations on what an accessibility standard should include, can operate in a more open and accountable manner and are fully independent of Government. These should not be shrouded in secrecy and non-disclosure requirements. An independent Ontario Access Board should be created to oversee this work, that is independent of and arms-length from the Ontario Government.

#5-6. The Ontario Government should not try to get members of Standards Development Committees to sign non-disclosure agreements when inviting them to serve on an AODA Standards Development Committee.

#5-7. The Accessibility Directorate should provide effective dedicated staff support to the disability sector representatives on each Standards Development Committee.

#5-8. The Government should amend the Terms of Reference for Standards Development Committees, to allow them to make a recommendation on what an accessibility standard should include as long as that recommendation is supported by a simple majority of 50% of the voting members, at least half of which comprise representatives on the Committee from the disability sector

#5-9. The Accessibility Directorate should not to direct Standards Development Committees that when they vote on other matters such as approving or amending Committee meetings’ minutes, they require a 75% super-majority. A simple majority should be all that is required.

#5-10. Minutes kept by Standards Development Committees should be more detailed and informative. They should include minutes of any sub-committee and should have appended to them, as part of any public posting, any documents which are tabled with the Standards Development Committee to review. Minutes of meetings of an Standards Development Committee should accurately and comprehensively record the detailed issue-by-issue deliberations of that Council on accessibility standard proposals, and should be written in a fashion to make them fully understandable by members of the public who did not attend those meetings.

#5-11. Standards Development Committees should not be directed to decide, within their first six months of work, on priorities for their work.

#5-12. The Government should widely publicize the opportunity for community groups to request a chance to present to Standards Development Committees , when it is developing proposals for an accessibility standard.

#5-13. Because several different public consultations will be coming up over the next months, please make public a schedule of all the forthcoming public consultations that will come up over the next 24 months under the AODA, and ensure they are not overlapping, so that the public can adequately prepare to participate in them all.

#5-14. The Government should now launch the process to recruit members of a new Standards Development Committee to review disability barriers in the built environment, including those addressed in the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

#5-15. The Government should now appoint a Standards Development Committee to conduct the overdue mandatory 5-year review of Part I of the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.

#5-16. When it is developing proposals for the contents of an accessibility standard, the Government should strongly encourage Standards Development Committees to extensively and publicly consult the public, including the disability community. As part of this, Standards Development Committees should be encouraged to invite stakeholders from the disability community and regulated sectors to meet together with ASAC to informally discuss issues that the Standards Development Committee have found challenging to resolve.

#5-17. When a Standards Development Committee submits an initial proposal to the Government for the contents of a new accessibility standard, or for revisions to an existing accessibility standard, the Government should convene face-to-face stakeholder meetings as one avenue for gathering input and should not restrict input to written submissions from the public.

#5-18. When a Standards Development Committee submits to the Government a final proposal for the contents of a new accessibility standard, the Government should obey s. 9(7) of the AODA by the minister, responsible for the AODA, deciding within 90 days what to enact from that proposal. The Government should immediately make that decision public.

#5-19. When a Standards Development Committee is developing an accessibility standard, the Accessibility Directorate should provide to it, and post on the internet for public input, a review of measures adopted in other jurisdictions to advance the goal of accessibility for persons with disabilities in the area that the new accessibility standard or the existing accessibility standard under review is to address.

#5-20. The Human Rights Commission should be far more extensively involved in the formal and informal work of each Standards Development Committee, including during review of public input and discussion and votes on clauses of proposed accessibility standards. This could include having a representative of the Ontario Human Rights Commission sit on each Standards Development Committee, as they work on proposals for the contents of accessibility standards.

#5-21. The Government should encourage each Standards Development Committee, when developing proposals for the contents of an accessibility standard, to identify where changes are needed to provincial or municipal legislation, regulations or bylaws, to advance the goal of a fully accessible Ontario.

#5-22. Standards Development Committees should fulfil their mandates under the AODA by each recommending a proposed accessibility standard, or revisions to an existing accessibility standard. The accessibility standard or revisions to a standard that they recommend should be designed to meet the AODA’s goal of achieving accessibility in Ontario by 2025. If they are to recommend any other measures at all, such as non-legislative measures, this should be secondary to their core mandate, and not the core of their recommendations.

#5-23. The Government should now conduct a robust consultation with the public on the Transportation Standards Development committee’s final recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, because those recommendations are so weak.

#5-24. The Government should never attempt or purport to amend an AODA accessibility standard without first fulfilling the mandatory requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to consider revisions to that accessibility standard.

Chapter 6 Public Education on Accessibility Remains Insufficient

1. Introduction

Since the organized disability accessibility movement began in Ontario in 1994, every Government and every minister responsible for this issue has proclaimed the importance of and their passionate dedication to educating the public on the need for and benefits of accessibility for people with disabilities. Yet these rhetorical flourishes and the promises that accompanied them too often did not translate into sufficient effective action.

Part 6 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrated that up to that date, the Ontario Government did a quite inadequate job of discharging its responsibility to undertake public education on disability accessibility and the AODA. As that brief showed, there were times that the former Ontario Government actually gave out harmful and inaccurate information, such as its website for years incorrectly claiming that accessible customer service does not include providing customers with ramps and automatic door openers.

The former Ontario Government made some limited and efforts on public education since June 2014. However that action was not close to sufficient to address the problems in this area which both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review identified. We here provide an addendum to Part 6 of the June 30, 2014, AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:

* With only six years left before we reach 2025, and with the AODA having been the law since 2005, the findings in the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review report and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review report remain valid Many if not most in the public are not aware of their AODA obligations. Of those who are aware of the AODA, too many, including too many within the Ontario Government itself, are not aware that the Ontario Human Rights Code and, where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms impose disability accessibility obligations that are as high as or higher than those now imposed by AODA accessibility standards.

* Government efforts on public education on the AODA since 2014 have not solved this problem. Moreover, the former Ontario Government’s ineffective enforcement of the AODA has undermined efforts at public education on the AODA, since the message has been widespread that failing to comply with the AODA likely brings no adverse consequences for an obligated organization.

* It works against the AODA’s goals for the Ontario Government to have publicly posted that accessible customer service does not include providing ramps or automatic door openers.

* There is a pressing need to include disability accessibility and inclusion in school curriculums. Moreover, professional training for a range of professions, such as design professionals, needs to include sufficient training on disability accessibility. The former Ontario Government never kept its promises to take action in these two important areas.

* This many years after the AODA was enacted, it would be wrong to contend that effective AODA enforcement must now await further efforts to educate the public and obligated organizations on their obligations under the AODA. It is incorrect and harmful to treat public awareness and education as some unending precondition to effective AODA enforcement.

* While it has made available some useful tools and resources, the Ontario Government has not provided obligated organizations all the tools that could help them comply with the AODA and has not effectively and sufficiently publicized the tools and resources it has provided.

* The public, including obligated organizations, will pay far more attention to public education and awareness efforts on accessibility when they know there is effective AODA enforcement.

* The aim and core focus now should be raising action, not raising awareness.

3. Recommendations on Public Education on the AODA

We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:

#6-1. The Government should widely advertise on the mass media, and not just on the internet, via email and on Twitter the availability of resources, training materials and guides it has already developed for organizations to comply with accessibility standards enacted under the AODA.

#6-2. Promptly after any new AODA accessibility standard is enacted or an existing accessibility standard is revised in the future, the Government should make available and widely publicize a free guide, policy guideline and other like resource materials for obligated organizations to comply with that accessibility standard’s accessibility requirements

#6-3. The Government should develop, make available and widely publicize a free web-authoring tool for creating accessible web pages, to comply with the IASR’s information and communication website accessibility requirements.

#6-4. The Government should promptly implement a permanent program to ensure that students in the school system are educated in disability accessibility. For example:

a) The Government should identify the Minister and public officials responsible for this program’s development and implementation.

b) School boards and teachers’ representatives should be consulted on its development and implementation.

c) The Government should develop a sample curriculum which school boards could adopt if they wish, in lieu of developing their own curriculum.

d) The Government should report to the public on this program’s implementation and effectiveness. Among other things, the Government should promptly implement a permanent program to advocate to self-governing professional bodies to educate people training in key professions, such as architects, on disability accessibility. The Government should identify the Minister and public officials responsible for this program’s development and implementation. The Government should report to the public on its implementation and effectiveness.

#6-5. The Government should promptly implement a program to advocate to the self-governing bodies for key professions (such as architects, interior designers, planners, other design professionals, lawyers, doctors and social workers) to adopt, implement and require education on disability accessibility to qualify for those professions, and to require continuing professional development on this topic for those already qualified in those professions. Among other things, as part of this effort:

a) The Government should advocate to key professions such as architects and planners that to qualify in future for a licence or other qualifications certificate as an architect or other designer of the built environment, a specified amount of training in barrier free design must be completed, that goes beyond the insufficient requirements of the Ontario Building Code.

b) A lead minister and public servants should be identified as responsible for this initiative.

c) The Government should make available to those self-governing body any readily-available resource materials to help those self-governing professional bodies develop needed disability accessibility curriculum on accessibility needs of persons with disabilities.

d) The Government should report to the public on this program’s implementation and effectiveness.

e) Funding to any post-secondary faculty or self-governing professional organization for any of these professionals should be made conditional on compliance with this provincial policy and goal.

#6-6. The Government should promptly consult with persons with disabilities, including the AODA Alliance, on the content of these public education materials. This should involve in-person discussions, and not merely an invitation to provide on-line feedback to the Government.

#6-7. The Government should not treat AODA public education or AODA awareness-raising as a substitute for or precondition for effective AODA enforcement. The Government’s aim and core focus now should be raising action, not raising awareness.

Chapter 7. The Government’s Failure to Effectively Ensure that Public Money Is Never Used to Create, Perpetuate or Exacerbate Disability Barriers

1. Introduction

One notion that meets with universal and instantaneous acceptance whenever it is discussed is that public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. This is a powerful lever for positive social change in the hands of the Government, if it is used effectively. Public money to which accessibility strings can and should always be attached includes, for example, infrastructure spending, spending on procurement of goods, services and facilities, and spending on grants or loans such as those given to businesses or local authorities, or the broader public sector.

Yet over 13 years after the AODA was enacted, the Ontario Government has not taken the full range of actions that it should to turn this proposition into a practical reality. Disability accessibility barriers continue to be created or perpetuated using public money, for no good reason. Some public officials and offices that should lead in this area too often fail to do so. Rhetoric too often fails to match reality. There is no discernable public accountability for a public official or office that continues to use public money to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.

Part 7 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran explains how the AODA Alliance has tried for many years to get the Ontario Government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. We had too little success on that front up to 2014, as our earlier brief shows.

We here show that from June 2014 to the present, the Ontario Government has continued to fail in this area. Strong new Government action is needed.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* Public money should never be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Public money to which accessibility strings can and should always be attached includes, for example, infrastructure spending, spending on procurement of goods, services and facilities, and spending on grants or loans such as those given to businesses or local authorities, or the broader public sector. It would be irresponsible for any public official or office to permit public money to be used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. It creates more future costs the cost of removing barriers that should never have been created in the first place.

* The Ontario Government does not have in place effective, monitored procedures for ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. There is no real accountability or consequences for a public official who permits or directs the use of public money in a way that creates or perpetuates disability barriers. The public has no way to find out who made the bad decisions that result in these barriers.

* The former Government did not take effective new action to address this concern after the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report identified it as a concern. As a result, the former Ontario Government broke Premier Wynne’s 2014 Ontario election pledge not to use public money to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

* Where the Government has put in place some policies regarding accessibility considerations when undertaking public procurement of goods, services or facilities, there are no publicly-disclosed regimes for monitoring or enforcing these. There are no known consequences for contravening these policies or procedures.

* As online videos produced by the AODA Alliance in 2016, 2017 and 2018 reveal regarding the new Centennial College the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, and new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, the former Ontario Government broke Premier Wynne’s pledge in the 2014 Ontario election that public money would not be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

* There was no discernable progress in ensuring accessibility of publicly-funded infrastructure from June 2014 to June 2016, when the Minister of Infrastructure was also the minister responsible for the AODA. The fact that both subjects were under one minister should have led to far better provincial efforts at ensuring that new infrastructure is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

* An effective use of the Government’s lever of power over the use of public money could have a very dramatic impact on the removal and prevention of disability accessibility barriers, at little or no cost to the Ontario Government.

3. Recommendations on Ensuring Public Money Is Not Used to Create, Perpetuate or Exacerbate Barriers

We urge the Independent Review to recommend that:

#7-1. The Ontario Government should adopt and broadly publicize a cross-government policy that public money may never be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

#7-2. The Government should set standards for, implement, widely publicize, monitor, enforce and publicly report on a comprehensive strategy 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. A senior public official within the Ontario Public Service should be designated with lead responsibility and authority for this effort.

#7-3. The Government should make it a condition of research grants that it funds or to which it contributes that people with disabilities should, where feasible and appropriate, be included in research study as subjects.

#7-4. In any Government strategy to ensure that public money is not used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers, it is not sufficient for the Government to make it a condition that a recipient of public money merely obey the AODA and AODA accessibility standards. It should require that recipients of public money comply with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and where applicable the Charter of Rights. It should require, among other things, that the recipient organization’s specific capital project or goods, services or facilities be fully disability accessible or require a commitment to remediate these to become fully accessible by time lines to be set out in the grant, loan or other terms of payment of public money.

#7-5. Any Government contract for infrastructure or for the procurement of goods, services or facilities should include a mandatory, enforceable term that requires the recipient of the public money to remediate any accessibility barriers that the recipient allows to be created or perpetuated at the recipient’s expense.

#7-6. The Government should make it a condition of transfer payments and capital or other infrastructure funding to municipalities, hospitals, school boards, public transit providers, colleges, universities, and transfer partners that these recipient organizations adopt comparable initiatives to ensure that their procurement and infrastructure spending, and any loans or grant programs, do not create, exacerbate or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. The Government should make public a resource guide to assist those transfer partners to know how to effectively implement this requirement.

#7-7. The Government should promptly establish a process for monitoring and enforcing the recommended comprehensive strategy to ensure that public money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate accessibility barriers. It should not be left to each ministry to do as little or as much as it wishes to implement Government policy and procedures on this topic.

#7-8. The Government should widely and prominently publicize as soon as possible to any organization that seeks Ontario infrastructure or procurement funds, or any Government funded or subsidies, loans or grants, that they must prove in their applications that they will ensure that public money isn’t used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities.

#7-9. The Government should establish and widely publicize an avenue for the public to report to the Government on situations where public money is used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability accessibility barriers.

#7-10. The Provincial Auditor should audit the Government to ensure compliance with recommendations on ensuring that public money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability accessibility barriers.

#7-11. It should be a mandatory Government policy that when an accessibility consultant is retained on an infrastructure project to which Ontario public funds are contributed, the accessibility consultant should report directly to the Ontario Government, with the consultant’s advice being made promptly public.

#7-12. When a public infrastructure project is undertaken involving any Ontario Government funds, the Project Specific Output Specifications (on disability accessibility PSOS) for the project should be made public before the competition process, and subject to public input.

#7-13. The Provincial Auditor should audit the accessibility practices at Infrastructure Ontario, and provide a report to the public, including on any recommended reforms to how that Government organization approaches the planning for accessibility in infrastructure projects.

#7-14. When a Government-funded infrastructure project is undertaken, successive plans for the project should be made public on a real time basis, for crowd-sourced input on accessibility.

#7-15. Where a public official or project team member, paid out of the public purse, vetoes or decides against an accessibility measure that an accessibility consultant recommends, the identity of that public official should be recorded and made public, when successive plans for the project are made public, with an explanation of what the accessibility feature is that was excluded from the project on the decision of that public official.

Chapter 8. Ensuring that All Ontario Laws Do Not Authorize or Require Disability Barriers

1. Introduction

The Ontario Government has a special obligation to ensure that the legislation that the Legislature passes and the regulations that the Cabinet passes are barrier-free for people with disabilities. They should not create or permit the creation of disability accessibility barriers. They should be written in a way that ensures that people with disabilities have their disability-related needs accommodated, so that they can enjoy the rights, opportunities and responsibilities that our laws afford to all.

To that end, it is necessary for the Ontario Government to review all Ontario legislation and regulations, to ensure that they are barrier-free. It also needs to put in place and effective system for ensuring that whenever new laws are passed or old laws are amended, these changes to the law are also barrier-free.

It is commendable that in the 2007 election, just two years after the AODA was enacted, Premier Dalton McGuinty gave an election pledge to review all Ontario laws for accessibility problems. It is entirely indefensible that 11 years later, that promise remains largely unkept. Only a small percentage of Ontario laws have been reviewed for accessibility. Only a fraction of the required changes to those laws were made. The Ontario Government has had in place no plans for the past four years to complete this project.

Part 8 of the June 30,2018 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrates that up to 2014, the former Ontario Government had done very little to review all Ontario laws, both statutes and regulations, to ensure that they neither create nor mandate any disability barriers. Part 8 of that brief began as follows:

“An important step for Ontario to reach full accessibility by 2025 is to ensure that all Ontario statutes and regulations are themselves barrier-free. The Government needs to ensure that all existing laws and any new laws neither require nor mandate the creation or perpetuation of barriers against persons with disabilities. Among other things, the Government must ensure that Ontario statutes and regulations incorporate active measures to ensure the full accessibility of the programs, policies, rights and opportunities that they address.

To achieve this, the Government must do more than simply creating, enacting and enforcing AODA accessibility standards. The Government must conduct a thorough review of all of its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers. Where any are found, these laws must be amended to ensure they are barrier-free. The Government must also implement new proactive measures to ensure that new statutes or regulations are carefully screened before they are enacted, to ensure that they are entirely barrier-free.”

This chapter is an addendum to that Part of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran. Since 2014, the former Ontario Government took some further action on this front, but far too little. The last time the former Ontario Government reviewed any legislation to look for accessibility barriers was before the end of 2014. As of now, the vast majority of Ontario statutes and regulations have never been reviewed for accessibility. The former Ontario Government had only reviewed a scant 50-55 of Ontario’s 750 statutes and none of its regulations, as far as we have been told. In the spring of 2016, the former Ontario Government made a number of relatively minor amendments to the 50-55 statues that had been reviewed. This left in place many if not most of the barriers in those statutes. As is the case with so many other issues addressed in this brief, the AODA Alliance has led the charge for more than a decade to get the Ontario Government to ensure that its legislation and regulations do not mandate or permit disability accessibility barriers.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
* The Ontario Government has a special obligation to ensure that Ontario legislation and regulations are barrier-free for people with disabilities. They should not create or permit the creation of disability accessibility barriers.

* The former Ontario Government promised to review all Ontario laws for accessibility issues in the 2007 election. It repeated that pledge in the 2011 and 2014 elections.

* The former Government delayed even starting this review until 2011. That effort was further delayed for another two years after that.

* Eleven years after the initial pledge, the former Ontario Government has only reviewed a mere 51 of Ontario’s 750 statutes and no Ontario regulations, for accessibility problems. Of the 51 statutes reviewed, the former Ontario Government only amended a mere 11 of them. The former Ontario Government rejected further NDP amendments. The former Ontario Government did not correct a number of barriers in the 51 statutes it reviewed.

* Within the former Government, this issue was shuffled from ministry to ministry over the past eleven years, and through a revolving door series of deputy ministers.

* After some amendments were made to 11 Ontario statutes in spring 2016, the former Ontario Government in effect did nothing further on this review for its last two years in power.

* It should not take 11 years to complete this review, much less a review of only 51 Ontario statutes. Between 1982 and 1985, the Ontario Government reviewed all laws for compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including its equality guarantee in section 15.

3. Recommendations on the Government’s Duty to Review Ontario Statutes and Regulations for Accessibility Barriers

We urge this Review to recommend that:

#8-1. The Government should announce, within four months of this Independent Review’s report, a detailed plan for completing a comprehensive review of all Ontario statutes and regulations for accessibility problems, 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.

#8-2. The Government should complete this review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2020, and of all regulations by the end of 2021. The Government should introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed a result of this review, along time lines that the Government would announce by the end of March 2019.

#8-3. Cabinet should amend any regulations that the government deems necessary as a result of the accessibility review, by the end of 2022.

#8-4. The Government should appoint the Attorney General of Ontario to lead this review of all Ontario laws for accessibility problems, in coordination with the Secretary of Cabinet.

#8-5. The Government should report to the public by the end of 2018, the end of 2019 and the end of 2020 on its progress toward meeting the deadlines for reviewing all legislation and regulations for accessibility barriers. These reports should give specifics on what the Government has done and plans to do, whether by legislative amendments or other actions, to address accessibility barriers it has discovered in this review.

#8-6. When the Government identifies a potential barrier in an Ontario law, it should consult with the public, including with people with disabilities, on options for addressing the barrier, before deciding on the contents of possible amendments to those laws.

Chapter 9 Making Ontario and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

1. Introduction

Many find it hard to believe that in 2018, voters with disabilities in Ontario still encounter disability barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Yet over 13 years since the AODA was passed, provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are still not fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities. There is no justification for this. The former Ontario Government did not act sufficiently to address this, and did not keep key election promises on this.

Part 9 of the June 30 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran documented the history of this problem in detail up to the middle of 2014. This chapter is an addendum to that Part of our 2014 brief to Mayo Moran.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
* In 2018, voters and candidates with disabilities in Ontario provincial and municipal elections continue to face too many disability barriers. This is unjustified and unacceptable.

* The same disability barriers can present themselves in provincial and municipal elections. It is inappropriate to have to reinvent the accessibility wheel in the election context at both the provincial and municipal levels, and then again, from one municipality to the next. This slows progress on accessibility while costing the taxpayer more.

* Elections Ontario has not solved this problem at the provincial level, even though it has been within its mandate for many years.

* A comprehensive new strategy is needed to ensure elections accessibility for voters and candidates with disabilities, which can be expected to require legislative reforms.

3. Recommendations on Ensuring Municipal and Provincial Elections are Barrier-free for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

We urge this Independent Review to make these recommendations:

#9-1. By October 2014, the Government should appoint an independent person to conduct a three month independent review of barriers facing voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections, including both the campaign process and the voting process. This Review, should, among other things, gather information on the use of telephone and internet voting in municipal elections in Ontario. This Review should hold an open, accessible and province-wide public consultation, and report to the public within six months of its appointment. Its report should be made public immediately on its being submitted to the Government.

#9-2. Within six months after the report of the Disability Elections Accessibility Independent Review, the Government should introduce into the Legislature omnibus elections accessibility reforms for both municipal and provincial elections, to remove and prevent barriers impeding voters and candidates with disabilities in the voting process, and in participating in election campaigns, to ensure that:

a) all voters with disabilities can independently mark their own ballot in private and verify their choice. This bill should, among other things, ensure telephone and internet voting in Ontario elections and by-elections.

b) get full physical accessibility to all polling stations and all public areas in polling stations,

c) including sharing at the provincial and municipal levels information on accessible polling station venues, so each does not have to reinvent the same accessibility wheel.

d) Ensure that election campaign information is immediately and readily available in accessible formats, and that campaign websites are designed to be fully accessible.

e) ensure that all-candidates debates are accessible.

Chapter 10 Ontario Government – Leading by Example, But by What Example is it Leading?

1. Introduction

Every party in power since Ontario’s grass roots accessibility campaign began in 1994 has said that the Government of Ontario would lead by example, when it comes to accessibility for people with disabilities. By what kind of example has the Ontario Government been leading? Too often, it has led by a poor example.

This chapter serves as an addendum to Part 10 of our June 30, 2014 brief to Mayo Moran, which begins as follows:

“For Ontario to reach full accessibility by 2025, it is important for the Ontario Government to lead on accessibility by example. The Ontario Public Service is by far Ontario’s largest employer and provider of services to the public.

Other obligated organizations will look to see how seriously the Government takes the AODA. If the Government does not take its AODA duties seriously, obligated organizations will be incentivized to think that they can and should do the same. Moreover, if the Government does not hold itself to full and strict compliance with the AODA, obligated organization won’t expect the Government to expect any more of them.”

Part 10 of our brief to Mayo Moran revealed however that far too often, the Ontario Government was leading by a poor example. This included:

* Failing to put in place an effective front-line internal system within the Government for embedding accessibility across the Ontario Public Service.

* Examples of the Ontario Government violating or attempting to violate its own disability accessibility laws.

* More recent Government initiatives before the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review to improve its implementation of the AODA did not make a significant difference.

* The Government’s failing to consistently provide a simple, cost-free accommodation – the case study of Government documents in PDF format.”

The 2014 Mayo Moran Report in substance agreed that improvement was needed. Sadly however, the former Ontario Government did little that was at all effective at changing this since June 2014. As such, strong action is needed now, more than ever.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* There is a pressing need to revitalize the AODA’s implementation, as both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review recommended. This revitalization never took place in response to those reports’ recommendations.

* The former Government did not keep Premier Wynne’s commitment to instruct all ministers on their accessibility commitments. This contributed to slower progress on accessibility.
* The fact that the new Ontario Government has not made its Mandate Letters public makes it impossible for the public, including people with disabilities, to know what the Premier has instructed his ministers to do on accessibility for people with disabilities.

* The transfer from 2013 to 2016 of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to the Ministry of Economic Development was well-intentioned and held great promise. However it turned out to be a failure.

* It is important for the Ontario Government to have a full-time Minister of Accessibility, to lead the AODA’s implementation. It was inappropriate for the former Ontario Government to assign to the same minister both the responsibility as Minister for Accessibility and the conflicting role of Minister of Government Services.

* There is a pressing need for the Ontario Government to re-engineered the way the Government delivers and oversees the delivery of accessibility within the Ontario Public Service, as an employer and service-provider.

* The Ontario Government’s efforts at becoming an accessible employer and service-provider were slowed and hampered by virtue of the fact that the Government has no Chief Accessibility Officer, at the level of a deputy minister or associate deputy minister, with lead responsibility and authority for ensuring that the Ontario Public Service becomes accessible as an employer and service-provider.

* The Ontario Government missed an extraordinary opportunity to achieve advances on accessibility in the tourism and hospitality sector, when Ontario hosted the 2015 Toronto Pan/Parapan American Games. Despite our repeated efforts over two years, the former Ontario Government did not undertake a strategy to use the Games to leverage an increase of accessibility in the tourism and hospitality sector, such as in hotels, restaurants and tourism sites.

* The Minister of International Trade did not incorporate disability accessibility as a prominent part of the International Trade Ministry’s strategy for economic development and innovation.

* The Minister of Research and Innovation did not ensure disability accessibility is a key focus of research and innovation programs and projects that the Government operates or finances.

3. Recommendations on the Ontario Government Leading By Example on Accessibility

#10-1. The Government should designate a single minister to be responsible for ensuring that the Ontario Public Service becomes a fully accessible employer and service provider, and to ensure that the Government keeps all its accessibility commitments and duties, other than those for which the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors is responsible.

#10-2. The Government should establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Chief Accessibility Officer.

#10-3. The Premier should include in the mandate letter that his office issues to each cabinet minister, specific directions to fulfil the Government’s commitments and duties on disability accessibility which fall in whole or in part in that ministry’s purview. The Premier’s instructions to cabinet ministers on accessibility should be made public.

#10-4. The Premier’s office should direct the Secretary of Cabinet to ensure that the Government’s disability accessibility commitments and duties are kept, and direct the Secretary to Cabinet to take all needed steps to implement them.

#10-5. The Government should announce and implement a plan to re-engineer how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are fully accessible.

#10-6. The Government should ensure that the Accessibility Lead position in each ministry is a full time position, which reports directly to the deputy minister of that minister, with an option for a dual report as well to the ministry’s Chief Administrative Officer.

#10-7. The Government should promptly implement and widely publicize within the Ontario Public Service a comprehensive permanent periodic program for auditing and monitoring its workplaces and public services and facilities for disability accessibility and barriers. This program should include, among other things, on-site audits and inspections, and not merely paper trail audits. The results of this monitoring should annually be made public.

#10-8. The Government should promptly implement a constructive program for ensuring accountability of public servants in the Ontario Public Service for efforts on disability accessibility. Among other things, the Ontario Public Service should require that every employee include in his or her annual performance review, performance goals on disability accessibility within the scope of their duties. Performance on this criterion should be assessed for performance, pay and promotion decisions.

#10-9. The Government should not solely or predominantly rely on on-line programs to train the Ontario Public Service on accessibility. It should implement live, interactive programming where possible that involves face-to-face interaction with persons with disabilities.

#10-10. The Minister responsible for international Trade should incorporate disability accessibility as a prominent part of Ontario’s international trade strategy for economic development and innovation.

#10-11. The Minister who is responsible for research and innovation should ensure disability accessibility is a key focus of research and innovation programs and projects that the Government operates or finances.

Chapter 11 The Unmet Need for a Strong and Effective Ontario Strategy to Substantially increase the Employment of Ontarians with Disabilities

1. Introduction

To fulfil the AODA’s goal of accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025 in the context of employment, Ontario needs a strong and comprehensive strategy to promote expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities. It is widely recognized and undisputed that people with disabilities face excessive and unfair unemployment rates.

This chapter explores what the Ontario Government has done about this. In summary, the former Ontario Government commendably committed to act on this in February 2013. However, it took far too long and did far too little in this area.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* People with disabilities continue to face unfair and high rates of unemployment. This inflicts serious hardships on people with disabilities and on society. Society significantly benefits by increasing the employment of people with disabilities

* The Ontario Government is a significant cause of the disability unemployment problem

* Ontario does not now have in place sufficient measures to combat this. At the present rate, employment in Ontario will not be achieve full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. A stronger AODA Employment Accessibility Standard would help. However, companion Government strategies on increased employment for people with disabilities are also needed. Short term tax cuts or financial incentives are no long term solution

* Barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system contribute to the unemployment plight facing too many people with disabilities. A good education is needed to get a good job. As such* delays in creating a strong and effective AODA Education Accessibility Standard contributes to the ongoing unemployment plight facing people with disabilities. That includes the previous ‘Governments multi-year delay in deciding to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard, and the current Government’s freeze on the work of the K-12 and Post-Secondary Standards Development Committees.

* If Ontario had in place a combination of a stronger Employment Accessibility Standard, a strong Education Accessibility Standard, a stronger Transportation Accessibility Standard, a strong Built Environment Accessibility Standard, and a strong provincial disability employment strategy, the workplaces of 5 to 6 years from now can and should be fully accessible to people with disabilities.

* It was unjustifiable for the former Ontario Government to have taken over four years to develop a disability employment strategy. There have already been ample studies, reports and advisory councils on employment for people with disabilities. What is needed now is action, not more delay for extensive study and discussions.

* The former Government’s “Access Talent” disability employment strategy, announced in June 2017, has some helpful ingredients. However these were too often too high-level or preliminary. More concrete action is needed with prompt benefits for people with disabilities trying to enter or remain in the workforce.

3. Recommendations to Improve Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

#11-1. The Ontario Government should designate a specific minister and deputy minister with lead responsibility for ensuring that all the needed measures are taken to ensure substantially increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

#11-2. The Ontario Government should, within two months, make public a list of options for a strengthened disability employment strategy, drawn from the Government’s own past and present programs, and from the programs and ideas that others have accumulated, e.g. those readily discovered on the internet. The Government should promptly consult the public, including employers and people with disabilities on those options, and any additional options that the public bring forward. Within three months of releasing that list of options, the Government should announce a new and strengthened Ontario disability employment strategy, supplementing the existing Access Talent strategy, to substantially increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As part of this strategy:

a) The Government should not treat “raising awareness” among employers about the benefits of employment for people with disabilities as its core strategy for substantially increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

b) The Government should become a role model –
leading by example through employment of people with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) and the broader public sector and procuring services, providing grants or financing to organizations with a strong orientation toward supporting employment of people with disabilities

c) The Government should eliminate Government-created barriers to increased employment of people with disabilities

d) The Government should promptly implement a pro-active strategy to ensure that all students with disabilities in K-12 education secure an experiential learning opportunity, to work towards getting a good job reference to assist them in securing their first paid job.



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By December 3, 2018, Please Send Us Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

By December 3, 2018, Send Us Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

November 23, 2018

          SUMMARY

Today we make public a draft of the brief that the AODA Alliance is aiming to submit to the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ontario Government appointed the Honourable David Onley to conduct. We are eager for your feedback. Do you have any additional findings that we should suggest to Mr. Onley, or any additional recommendations that we should make?

What is this about? Under the AODA, every few years, along a timetable that the AODA sets, the Ontario Government must appoint an independent person to conduct an inquiry into the effectiveness of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. The AODA was enacted in 2005. The third AODA Independent Review is now underway.

As in the past, our main way to have our say is to submit a detailed brief to this AODA Independent Review. We have been hard at work preparing a brief for Mr. Onley. We make it public as a draft today and welcome any feedback you can give us. Send any feedback to us by December 3, 2018, at [email protected]

We will then take into account the feedback we receive as we finalize the brief. We will be submitting the brief to Mr. Onley by December 8, 2018.

You can download the entire brief in an accessible MS Word format by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Nov-23-2018-Draft-AODA-Alliance-Brief-to-David-Onley.docx

We realize that the brief is rather long – about 450 pages! Many won’t have the time to read it all.

To make it much easier for you, we set out below the brief’s appendix. It gives you, chapter by chapter, an introduction to each chapter’s subject, the findings we ask Mr. Onley to make, and the recommendations we are urging upon Mr. Onley.

If you cannot look at all of it, feel free to look at any of it! We regret that we cannot allow more time for feedback. We have been inviting and collecting your feedback over the past weeks and months. We have to get this brief finalized and submitted in time for Mr. Onley to be able to make full use of it.

As you can imagine, the preparation of this brief took quite a bit of work. We are indebted to all who have helped us along the way, resulting in this brief’s detailed analysis. We believe it is likely the most thorough and detailed exploration of what has been done, and what has not been done, to implement and enforce the AODA.

When sending us your feedback, please do not use track-changes. Just explain in the email anything you want to say, and mention which chapter of the brief you are commenting on, if you are able to do so.

          MORE DETAILS

Appendix to the November 23, 2018 Draft AODA Alliance Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

 Chapter 1 The Big Picture – How is Ontario Doing?

1. Introduction

Before this brief’s detailed discussion in the following chapters of each of the major facets of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), this chapter first takes a look at the “big picture.” It addresses some common themes that the later chapters’ discussions, proposed findings and recommendations address in greater detail.

This chapter considers first whether Ontario is on schedule for reaching accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. It concludes that we are not. That is not to say that nothing has been done, or that no progress has been made. Rather, our conclusion is that progress has continued to be far too slow, compared to what is readily achievable in Ontario with proper leadership from our Government.

This chapter then addresses the need for new Ontario Government leadership on this file, as both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review urged. It addresses the need for Ontario to develop and implement a comprehensive multi-year plan to lead Ontario to accessibility by 2025. The rest of this brief fills in details of what that plan should include.

This chapter then takes a look at the lead office within the Ontario Government, charged with leading the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. It addresses the need for significant reform there. Finally, this chapter explores the excessive confidentiality and secrecy that the Ontario Government has too often sought to achieve with the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards. This all sets the stage for the more specific topics considered in the following chapters.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make these findings:

* There has been progress on accessibility since the AODA’s enactment. However, this progress has been far too slow.

* Ontario is not now on schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. At the present rate of progress, Ontario will not even come close to reaching full accessibility by 2025. A dramatic improvement is needed now to the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

* Since the 2014 report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, the Ontario Government did not show the renewed leadership and revitalized approach to the AODA’s implementation that the Moran report recommended.

* The Ontario Government has never had and now has no comprehensive plan for leading Ontario to reaching accessibility by 2025. There is a clear and present need for such a plan.

* There is a clear need for substantial reform at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, the Government office that has lead responsibility for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, such as the development of AODA accessibility standards. This is so despite the fact that there are many hard-working, dedicated people working at various positions in the Accessibility Directorate.

* The Ontario Government has tried to shroud the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, with far too much secrecy. The public is entitled to expect the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, to be open, transparent and publicly accountable.

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

3 Recommendations Regarding the Big Picture

We therefore recommend that:

#1-1. The Ontario Government must act promptly to re-vitalize and breathe new life into the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This should start with strong new leadership from the top, including the Premier, the Cabinet and he senior leaders within the Ontario Public Service.

#1-2. The Ontario Government should act quickly to adopt, implement and make public a comprehensive multi-year plan for effectively leading Ontario to become accessible by 2025, which includes the issues regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that are addressed in this brief.

#1-3. There should be substantial reform at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario so that it better provides the leadership on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that Ontario needs.

#1-4. As is addressed in further detail elsewhere in this brief, the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, should be carried out in an open, public transparent and accountable way. The current pre-occupation with secrecy and confidentiality should be eliminated. For example, members of and presenters at Standards Development Committees should not be asked or required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

* * Chapter 2 the Ongoing Unmet Need for the AODA’s Effective Enforcement

1. Introduction

It has been widely recognized and repeatedly reported in the media that the AODA has not been effectively enforced, despite the former Ontario Government’s repeated promises to effectively enforce this legislation. Part 2 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrated the importance for the AODA to be effectively enforced. It also documented the former Ontario Government’s failure to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA, up to the spring of 2014.

In this chapter of this brief, we bring the situation up to the present. In short, the former Ontario Government continued to fail to effectively enforce the AODA for the past four years, even though it had unused funding on hand that could be used for enforcement, and even though the Government knew of rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The limited enforcement that the former Ontario Government did deploy was weak and limited in scope.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:

* For years, the AODA has not been effectively enforced, even though the former Ontario Government knew for years about unacceptably high levels of AODA non-compliance, particularly within the private sector. Enforcement efforts have been too weak.

* This ineffective AODA enforcement does a disservice to Ontarians with disabilities, to the broader public, and to all the obligated organizations who have opted to comply with the AODA.

* The former Ontario Government did not significantly improve AODA enforcement after the 2014 Mayo Moran Report called for strengthened enforcement. To the contrary, within a week of the former Ontario Government’s public release of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in February 2015, the former Ontario Government instituted a substantial cutback of the already-weak AODA enforcement. In June 2015, the former Ontario Government announced that it had a new plan for increased AODA enforcement, to begin in 2016. Subsequent Government records and the results of an AODA Alliance Freedom of Information application demonstrate that this never took place.

* The former Ontario Government failed to effectively publicize the Government’s promised toll-Free number for the public to report AODA violations, for purposes of AODA enforcement.

* It is important to make AODA enforcement independent of the Ontario Government. The Ontario Government should not enforce the AODA against itself. Moreover, independent enforcement of the AODA will better ensure effective enforcement of the AODA. AODA enforcement should not be subject to any political involvement.

* While enforcement is not the only way to get obligated organizations to comply with the AODA, it is one important way to do so. The failure to effectively enforce the AODA has contributed to low rates of AODA compliance.

* The failure to effectively enforce the AODA also works against the efforts of those who try to get obligated organizations to comply, such as accessibility consultants. Those consultants can point to strong enforcement powers in the AODA. However, the fact that only five monetary penalties were imposed in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, is ample proof that obligated organizations need not fear any real consequences if they don’t comply with the AODA.

* It is not sufficient for AODA enforcement to take the form of “paper audits”, where Government officials review an obligated organization’s documentary records on AODA compliance, such as records of an obligated organization’s accessibility policy and of its staff training on accessibility. Effective auditing or inspections need to include on-site examination of the actual accessibility of the obligated organizations, not just its accessibility paper trail.

3. Recommendations on the AODA’s Enforcement

We therefore recommend that:

#2-1. AODA enforcement should be substantially strengthen, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers, enforcing all AODA accessibility requirements, and enforcing the AODA in connection with all classes of organizations that must obey the AODA. The Government should not just enforce the requirement of certain obligated organizations to file an accessibility self-report. The Government should effectively enforce AODA requirements vis à vis both the public and private sectors, and vis à vis all classes of organizations within each sector.

#2-2. AODA enforcement should be transferred outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and be assigned to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement.

#2-3. The number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers should be significantly increased.

#2-4. Among other things, Ontario Government and local municipal inspectors and investigators under other legislation should be given a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation or by-laws.

A core feature of AODA enforcement should be the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities, not a mere audit of their paper records on accessibility documentation.

#2-5. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and any successor body assigned responsibility for AODA enforcement should 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, as too often is the case at present, 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.

#2-6. Obligated organizations should be required to report to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario or any successor AODA enforcement agency  on accessibility complaints received via their required AODA feedback mechanisms, and on how they were resolved, while protecting individual privacy.

#2-7. New ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement should be created, such as the Government beginning to post 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 accessibility policy and its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one.

#2-8. To reverse the public perception that the Government is not and will not be effectively enforcing the AODA, the Government should immediately and widely publicize its enforcement plans and its intention to substantially increase its efforts at AODA enforcement. This should not be limited to postings on Government website.

#2-9. The Government should develop an effective strategy for ensuring that municipalities effectively enforce the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements as well as any built environment accessibility requirements in AODA accessibility standards, including

  1. a) providing effective training tools on the Ontario Building Code accessibility requirements that can be used by municipal enforcement officials;
  1. b) monitoring levels of enforcement and compliance at the municipal level across Ontario

regarding the Ontario Building Code accessibility requirements.

 Chapter 3 Current AODA Accessibility Standards Don’t Ensure Ontario Will Become Accessible to People with Disabilities by 2025

1. Introduction

The accessibility standards which the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA over the past 13.5 years have been helpful, but only to a limited extent. They do not ensure that Ontario will become fully accessible ever, much less by 2025. Moreover, work on developing accessibility standards over the past six years has been much slower than it was during the AODA’s first five years.

No new accessibility standard has been enacted since the end of 2012, some six years ago. only one accessibility standard has been revised in the past six years, the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. Those revisions instituted improvements that were marginal at best, and counterproductive in part, as this chapter explains.

The 2014 Mayo Moran Report identified serious problems with the current accessibility standards. The former Ontario Government did not fix those problems. They persist to this day.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:

* The current AODA accessibility standards will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, even in the specific areas they regulate, e.g. customer service, employment, transportation, or information and communication.

The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review correctly identified significant deficiencies with these accessibility standards. In the intervening years, the former Ontario Government did not rectify those deficiencies.

* The Government’s mandatory 5-year review of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard did not rectify most of the significant deficiencies with that accessibility standard. In one way, it made that weak accessibility standard even weaker.

* The Government’s mandatory 5year- review of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard resulted in weak recommendations to the Government from the Transportation Standards Development committee. Even if those recommendations were all implemented, these would not materially or substantially improve that accessibility standard.

* Similarly, the 2018 draft recommendations from the Employment Standards Development Committee on how to improve the very limited Employment Accessibility Standard would not significantly improve that accessibility standard.

3. Recommendations Regarding Deficiencies in Current AODA Accessibility Standards

We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:

#3-1. The Ontario Government should substantially strengthen all the existing accessibility standards.

#3-2. Any accessibility standards enacted under the AODA should, at least, measure up to the accessibility standards and accommodation and undue hardship requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Where any existing standard falls below that standard, or provides defences to obligated organizations that are broader than those under the Human Rights Code, the AODA accessibility standard should be amended as part of any review of that accessibility standard, to bring it in line with the Human Rights Code.

#3-3. The Ontario Government should direct each Standards Development Committee that is now developing recommendations for a new accessibility standard or that is reviewing an existing standard, or that is appointed in the future, to make recommendations on accessibility that live up to the Ontario Human Rights Code. To assist with this, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario should give each Standards Development Committee up-to-date information on relevant rulings by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and courts, and should centrally involve the Ontario Human Rights Code in each Standards Development Committee on an ongoing basis, including appointing a representative of the Ontario Human Rights Commission as an ex officio non-voting member of each Standards Development Committee.

#3-4. When any Standards Development Committee is conducting a review of an existing AODA accessibility standard, that Committee should be advised that its mandate is not simply to decide if the existing accessibility standard is working “as intended”. Rather, it should investigate whether the accessibility standard will ensure that accessibility in the area that the standard addresses will be achieved by 2025. If it does not, then the Committee should recommend measures needed to ensure that accessibility in that area will be achieved by 2025.

#3-5. The Ontario Government should appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the general provisions in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, since no Standards Development Committee appears to be reviewing them.

#3-6. The Ontario Government should now launch the next review of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, since that standard remains so weak, and since the last review of that accessibility standard failed to significantly improve it. As part of that review, that accessibility standard should be revised to remove the barrier it impermissibly creates. That review should be mandated to consider, among other things, the low-cost revisions that the AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Law Centre recommended to the Ontario Government in their joint March 15, 2016 brief.

#3-7. The Ontario Government should now convene a summit with leaders from the disability community and the transportation sector to identify substantially stronger reforms to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard than those which the Transportation Standards Development committee had recommended.

#3-8. The Ontario Government should ask the Employment Standards Development Committee to expand its efforts, and to develop recommendations on measures to remove and prevent specific workplace disability barriers.

Note: See also the recommendations in Chapter 4.

 

 Chapter 4 The Need for New Accessibility Standards, Including a Strong and Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard

1. Introduction

Chapter 3 of this brief shows that the accessibility standards enacted to date under the AODA, while helpful to a degree, are not sufficient to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. It recommends needed actions in so far as those specific accessibility standards are concerned. This chapter addresses the need for the Ontario Government to enact new accessibility standards, to address issues and barriers that are beyond the areas that the existing accessibility standards address.

Part 4 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran shows that since 2012, the Ontario Government’s work on developing new accessibility standards under the AODA had slowed to a virtual crawl. That Part of our 2014 brief reached this conclusion:

“This Part of this brief shows that the Government has in recent years taken an unjustified and inordinate amount of time just to decide which accessibility standards to next develop under the AODA. It seems as if the Government has been stuck in neutral. With the 2025 deadline growing ever nearer, this was time that Ontario could not afford to squander.”

That slow pace of progress has persisted to the present time. Since June 2014, no new accessibility standards have been enacted. The former Ontario Government only completed the mandatory review of one of the existing accessibility standards, the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The mandatory 5-year reviews of the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard are still underway. The mandatory 5-year review of the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard has not even begun. As shown later in this chapter, the Ontario Government has violated the AODA by not starting that mandatory review by the end of 2017.

Chapter 3 of this brief shows that the mandatory 5-year review of the weak 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard did not lead to that standard being substantially strengthened. In one respect, it led it to be weakened even more.

Throughout the past decade, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in trying to get the Ontario Government to create new accessibility standards. During that period, the Ontario Government did not undertake a comprehensive effort to ascertain all the new accessibility standards that are needed. At most the former Ontario Government only focused on two of the new subject areas which we had emphasized, namely education and health care. In those two areas, the former Ontario Government took an unconscionably long time to eventually decide whether to create accessibility standards in education and health care.

As an illustration of another much-needed new accessibility standard, we have been calling for the Ontario Government to create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard for over half a decade. In July 2009, the former Ontario Government promised to address residential housing through the standards development process, once the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard was enacted. It never kept that promise. The former Ontario Government never gave a reason for failing to address accessibility barriers in residential housing. It has never denied to us that there is a protracted and critical shortage of accessible housing in Ontario – a shortage which will get worse as our population continues to age.

In this chapter, we first document the exceedingly long delays for the Ontario Government to decide to take action under the AODA on education and health care barriers. We then address the unmet need for a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Finally, we turn to the need for other accessibility standards to be created under the AODA.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:

* Ontario has a pressing need for an Education Accessibility Standard and a Health Care Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. students with disabilities face too many barriers in Ontario schools, colleges, universities and other education programs. Patients with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

* After the AODA has been part of Ontario law for 13 and a half years, the built environment in Ontario remains replete with far too many disability accessibility barriers. The AODA has not had a significant effect on removing existing barriers or preventing new ones in the built environment. A new building can be built in full compliance with the AODA and the Ontario Building Code and yet have serious accessibility problems. The Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements, like the few built environment requirements in AODA accessibility standards, are entirely inadequate to meet the known modern needs of people with disabilities.

* Ontario also has a pressing need for a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. The former Ontario Government’s decision to carve the built environment largely out of AODA accessibility standards and to only address it in the Ontario Building Code was wrong. It set Ontario back.

* The former Ontario Government’s failure to keep its August 19, 2011 election promise to enact the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard promptly set Ontario back.

* The former Ontario Government’s failure to act effectively on the 2014 Mayo Moran recommendations to address retrofits in existing buildings further set Ontario further back.

* Ontario has a pressing need for a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard. There is a serious shortage of accessible housing in Ontario for people with disabilities. It is getting worse because the demand for r accessible housing increases as Ontario’s population ages. There is no effective strategy in place in Ontario to ensure a sufficient increase in the supply of accessible housing in Ontario.

* Ontario needs a Goods and Products Accessibility Standard to be created under the AODA.

* The former Ontario Government never undertook a comprehensive consultation or other effort to determine what additional accessibility standards need to be created in order for the AODA to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

3. Recommendations Regarding Next Accessibility Standards to be Developed

#4-1. The Government should consult with the public, including with people with disabilities, over the next three months, on all the sectors that other accessibility standards need to address, to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, with a decision to be announced on the economic sectors to be addressed in those standards within three months after that consultation.

#4-2. The Government should not delay a decision on whether to have a new accessibility standard developed, while the Ontario Public Service decides what barriers it might include.

#4-3. Immediately after the Government decides what remaining accessibility standards need to be created, it should promptly create Standards Development Committees to develop recommendations for each of those new accessibility standards.

#4-4. The Government should now publicly recognize that there is a problem with the inaccessibility of the built environment in Ontario. It should launch a concerted and comprehensive strategy that will address new construction, major renovations, and the retrofit of existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations, using feedback from the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal complaints and findings, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policies and advice.

#4-5. The Government should develop and enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, ensuring that it effectively addresses accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations (not limited to those covered in the DOPS accessibility standard). Among other things, the new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include additional accessibility requirements for elevators that are not currently addressed by the requirements in the Ontario Building Code and other provincial laws. To this end, the Ontario Government should appoint a new Built Environment Standards Development Committee, both to review the 2011 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard and to develop recommendations for a far more comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

#4-6. The Government should create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and should promptly appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include, or assign this to the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to in the preceding recommendation.

#4-7. The Government should direct each AODA Standards Development Committee now in operation to make recommendations on standards for the built environment as it relates to the area that that Standards Development Committee is studying. For example, the Education Standards Development Committee should be directed to make recommendations for accessibility in schools, colleges or universities. The Health Care Standards Development Committee should be directed to recommend requirements for the accessibility of the built environment in the health care system.

#4-8. The Government should announce a comprehensive strategy on accessible housing to address the current and growing crisis in accessible housing in Ontario, in addition to creating an AODA accessibility standard on point).

#4-9. The Government should strengthen enforcement of accessibility in the built environment. For example, it should require that before a building permit or site plan approval can be obtained for a project, the approving authority, municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in all AODA accessibility standards.

#4-10. The Government should require professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects, interior designers, landscape architects, and other design professionals, to require detailed training on accessible design, to qualify for a license, and continuing professional development for existing professionals. The Government should also require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains these key professions, that their program curriculum must include sufficient training on accessibility and universal design. This should be designed to ensure that no new graduates in these fields will make the same mistakes as too often is the case for those now in practice.

#4-11. The Government should substantially reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario. This should include

  1. A requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, during master planning, feasibility studies, and functional programming, with any accessibility advice that is received being made public. This input should also be obtained through consultations with people with disabilities.
  1. A requirement to track any decisions to reject any accessibility advice, identifying who made that decision and the reasons why. That information should promptly be publicly reported.
  1. To require the Government to promptly make public the accessibility requirements under consideration as a requirement for a contract for any infrastructure, with enough time before the start of the bidding competition to allow for feedback and adjustments. It is too late to make this public only after the bidding competition.
  1. A requirement for post-project accessibility commissioning inspections which would include compliance with the project specific output specification accessibility requirements as well as the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards.
  1. A requirement in all contracts that any accessibility deficiencies found must be the financial responsibility of the Project Company who built the project to fix them.

#4-12. The Government should require that when public money is used to create new public housing, 100% of that housing should include universal design and visit-ability as mandatory design features.

#4-13. The Government should agree to create a Goods and Products Accessibility Standard.

#4-14. Accessibility standards should include, where appropriate, not only end-dates for achieving results, but also interim benchmarks for major milestones towards full accessibility.

 Chapter 5 The Need to Substantially Reform the Standards Development Process Under the AODA

1. Introduction

This brief has already shown that an absolutely central part of the AODA is the creation of effective accessibility standards that will ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. This brief has also already shown that the accessibility standards enacted to date, while helpful, are woefully insufficient to ensure that Ontario reaches accessibility at any time, much less by 2025.

Much more needs to be done to develop sufficient accessibility standards in Ontario. At the same time, there is a pressing need to reform the standards development process under the AODA. the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review report recommended this. Our 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review demonstrated this. Events since our 2014 brief to Mayo Moran further demonstrate this.

Part 5 of our June 30, 2014 brief to Mayo Moran showed that the reforms to the standards development process which the former Ontario Government implemented in response to the 2010 Beer report did not work. Events since 2014 further show this.

The former Ontario Government eventually abandoned those reforms over the past two to three years, without announcing that it was doing so. We supported the Government’s abandoning those reforms. This is because they had accomplished nothing positive, and, if anything, set back our progress.

Since we submitted our brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in June 2014, further problems with the standards development process have come to light. Last spring, we called upon the former Ontario Government’s minister responsible for the AODA, Tracy MacCharles, to implement a series of changes to the standards development process. These were well within her authority as minister. There was no need for new legislation or regulations to be enacted. Nevertheless, she did not make these changes.

The need for reforms to Ontario’s standards development process that we recommend are reinforced by the current activities surrounding Parliament’s consideration of Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That bill incorporates helpful improvements on Ontario’s standards development process, though that federal bill too, requires strengthening, as our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 demonstrates.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* There is a pressing need to reform the standards development process under the AODA. The problems with the standards development process that the 2010 final report of the Charles Beer AODA Independent Review identified remain present to this day. the former Ontario Government’s attempt to address these by temporarily assigning the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council with responsibility for developing recommendations for all accessibility standards was a failure and was properly abandoned by the former Ontario Government by 2016.

* The Government has been and remains in violation of the AODA, because it has thrice failed to appoint Standards Development Committees on time to conduct mandatory 5-year reviews of existing AODA accessibility standards by the AODA’s deadline. This includes the former Ontario Government’s failure to appoint the mandatory review of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard until sometime in 2013, and its current failure to appoint the mandatory review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017 and the review of Part I of the2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation by 2016.

* Once the former Ontario Government had decided to develop new accessibility standards in the area of education and health care, it took far too long to take the simple first step of appointing Standards Development Committees to start working on recommendations on what those accessibility standards should include. It took some two years to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee and over one year to appoint the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees. It took the Government longer to set up any of these Standards Development Committees than it had taken the Government to develop the entire AODA legislation and introduce it for First Reading in the Legislature back in 2003-2004.

* The new Ford Government has unjustifiably created further delays in reaching accessibility in Ontario, by its excessively-long freeze of the work of existing Standards Development Committees that were already appointed and working on their mandates before the June 7, 2018 Ontario election.

* The former Ontario Government inappropriately tried to restrict or narrow the work of some of the AODA Standards Development Committees it had appointed.

* There has been too much secrecy maintained around the work of the AODA Standards Development Committees, particularly in recent years.

* The mandatory minutes that each Standards Development Committee must keep and publicly post, regarding their meetings, are too often insufficiently detailed and informative to enable the public to know what they are doing, and have confidence in their work.

* The former Ontario Government was wrong to require Standards Development Committees  to have a 75% vote in support before a recommendation for an accessibility standard could be submitted to the Government, or for any other decision by a Standards Development Committee, e.g. a decision to approve an amendment to its minutes.

* It put the cart before the horse for the former Ontario Government to require a Standards Development Committee in its first six months to set priorities for its work, before it had fully assessed which barriers exist in the area that the committee was assigned to study.

* The former Government did not give the public sufficient advance notice of when it would be consulting on a proposed accessibility standard.

* The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has been overstepping its role, when supporting the work of Standards Development Committees, by attempting to inappropriately micromanage and influence the direction of their work and recommendations.

* Standards Development Committees have not been effectively fulfilling their role under the AODA to propose an accessibility standard for the Government to consider enacting. For example, in 2018 the Transportation Standards Development committee submitted recommendations that are in significant part made up of items that are not a proposal for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

* The recommendations from Standards Development Committees for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, and the draft recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard, are all very weak, and dramatically less than people with disabilities need.

* The standards development process requires much more extensive involvement by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

* Standards Development Committees have at times insufficiently consulted with the disability community, especially when formulating their draft recommendations.

* Since 2013, the former Ontario Government has broken its 2007 election promise to provide dedicated staff support to disability sector representatives on Standards Development Committees.

* In and after May 2018, the Government has inappropriately failed to consult the public on final recommendations it received for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard from the Transportation Standards Development committee.

* The Government’s has repeatedly failed to comply with the statutory deadline for deciding on making an accessibility standard after a Standards Development Committee recommends one.

* The former Government took the extraordinary and highly problematic step in June 2016 of purporting to amend parts of the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation without first appointing a Standards Development Committee to review the relevant parts of that standard, a mandatory precondition under the AODA.

3. Recommendations on Improving the Process for Developing New Accessibility Standards and Revising Existing Standards

We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:

#5-1. There is a strong need for the standards development process under the AODA to be substantially strengthened so that it produces stronger accessibility standards that will fulfil the AODA’s purposes.

#5-2. The Government should lead by example, by always ensuring that it meets all of its own deadlines set by the AODA, such as the deadlines for appointing Standards Development Committees 5-year mandatory reviews of existing AODA accessibility standards.

#5-3. The Government should immediately lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

#5-4. The Government should modify the Mandate Letter for the Health Care Standards Development Committee so that it ensures that that Standards Development Committee makes recommendations on barriers throughout the health care system, and not merely or primarily regarding barriers in hospitals.

#5-5. The Government should Ensure that the Standards Development Committees, appointed under the AODA to make recommendations on what an accessibility standard should include, can operate in a more open and accountable manner and are fully independent of Government. These should not be shrouded in secrecy and non-disclosure requirements. An independent Ontario Access Board should be created to oversee this work, that is independent of and arms-length from the Ontario Government.

#5-6. The Ontario Government should not try to get members of Standards Development Committees to sign non-disclosure agreements when inviting them to serve on an AODA Standards Development Committee.

#5-7. The Accessibility Directorate should provide effective dedicated staff support to the disability sector representatives on each Standards Development Committee.

#5-8. The Government should amend the Terms of Reference for Standards Development Committees, to allow them to make a recommendation on what an accessibility standard should include as long as that recommendation is supported by a simple majority of 50% of the voting members, at least half of which comprise representatives on the Committee from the disability sector

#5-9. The Accessibility Directorate should not to direct Standards Development Committees that when they vote on other matters such as approving or amending Committee meetings’ minutes, they require a 75% super-majority. A simple majority should be all that is required.

#5-10. Minutes kept by Standards Development Committees should be more detailed and informative. They should include minutes of any sub-committee and should have appended to them, as part of any public posting, any documents which are tabled with the Standards Development Committee to review. Minutes of meetings of an Standards Development Committee should accurately and comprehensively record the detailed issue-by-issue deliberations of that Council on accessibility standard proposals, and should be written in a fashion to make them fully understandable by members of the public who did not attend those meetings.

#5-11. Standards Development Committees should not be directed to decide, within their first six months of work, on priorities for their work.

#5-12. The Government should widely publicize the opportunity for community groups to request a chance to present to Standards Development Committees , when it is developing proposals for an accessibility standard.

#5-13. Because several different public consultations will be coming up over the next months, please make public a schedule of all the forthcoming public consultations that will come up over the next 24 months under the AODA, and ensure they are not overlapping, so that the public can adequately prepare to participate in them all.

#5-14. The Government should now launch the process to recruit members of a new Standards Development Committee to review disability barriers in the built environment, including those addressed in the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

#5-15. The Government should now appoint a Standards Development Committee to conduct the overdue mandatory 5-year review of Part I of the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.

#5-16. When it is developing proposals for the contents of an accessibility standard, the Government should strongly encourage Standards Development Committees to extensively and publicly consult the public, including the disability community. As part of this, Standards Development Committees should be encouraged to invite stakeholders from the disability community and regulated sectors to meet together with ASAC to informally discuss issues that the Standards Development Committee have found challenging to resolve.

#5-17. When a Standards Development Committee submits an initial proposal to the Government for the contents of a new accessibility standard, or for revisions to an existing accessibility standard, the Government should convene face-to-face stakeholder meetings as one avenue for gathering input and should not restrict input to written submissions from the public.

#5-18. When a Standards Development Committee submits to the Government a final proposal for the contents of a new accessibility standard, the Government should obey s. 9(7) of the AODA by the minister, responsible for the AODA, deciding within 90 days what to enact from that proposal. The Government should immediately make that decision public.

#5-19. When a Standards Development Committee is developing an accessibility standard, the Accessibility Directorate should provide to it, and post on the internet for public input, a review of measures adopted in other jurisdictions to advance the goal of accessibility for persons with disabilities in the area that the new accessibility standard or the existing accessibility standard under review is to address.

#5-20. The Human Rights Commission should be far more extensively involved in the formal and informal work of each Standards Development Committee, including during review of public input and discussion and votes on clauses of proposed accessibility standards. This could include having a representative of the Ontario Human Rights Commission sit on each Standards Development Committee, as they work on proposals for the contents of accessibility standards.

#5-21. The Government should encourage each Standards Development Committee, when developing proposals for the contents of an accessibility standard, to identify where changes are needed to provincial or municipal legislation, regulations or bylaws, to advance the goal of a fully accessible Ontario.

#5-22. Standards Development Committees should fulfil their mandates under the AODA by each recommending a proposed accessibility standard, or revisions to an existing accessibility standard. The accessibility standard or revisions to a standard that they recommend should be designed to meet the AODA’s goal of achieving accessibility in Ontario by 2025. If they are to recommend any other measures at all, such as non-legislative measures, this should be secondary to their core mandate, and not the core of their recommendations.

#5-23. The Government should now conduct a robust consultation with the public on the Transportation Standards Development committee’s final recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, because those recommendations are so weak.

#5-24. The Government should never attempt or purport to amend an AODA accessibility standard without first fulfilling the mandatory requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to consider revisions to that accessibility standard.

 Chapter 6 Public Education on Accessibility Remains Insufficient

1. Introduction

Since the organized disability accessibility movement began in Ontario in 1994, every Government and every minister responsible for this issue has proclaimed the importance of and their passionate dedication to educating the public on the need for and benefits of accessibility for people with disabilities. Yet these rhetorical flourishes and the promises that accompanied them too often did not translate into sufficient effective action.

Part 6 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrated that up to that date, the Ontario Government did a quite inadequate job of discharging its responsibility to undertake public education on disability accessibility and the AODA. As that brief showed, there were times that the former Ontario Government actually gave out harmful and inaccurate information, such as its website for years incorrectly claiming that accessible customer service does not include providing customers with ramps and automatic door openers.

The former Ontario Government made some limited and efforts on public education since June 2014. However that action was not close to sufficient to address the problems in this area which both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review identified. We here provide an addendum to Part 6 of the June 30, 2014, AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran.

2. Recommended Findings

We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:

* With only six years left before we reach 2025, and with the AODA having been the law since 2005, the findings in the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review report and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review report remain valid– Many if not most in the public are not aware of their AODA obligations. Of those who are aware of the AODA, too many, including too many within the Ontario Government itself, are not aware that the Ontario Human Rights Code and, where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms impose disability accessibility obligations that are as high as or higher than those now imposed by AODA accessibility standards.

* Government efforts on public education on the AODA since 2014 have not solved this problem. Moreover, the former Ontario Government’s ineffective enforcement of the AODA has undermined efforts at public education on the AODA, since the message has been widespread that failing to comply with the AODA likely brings no adverse consequences for an obligated organization.

* It works against the AODA’s goals for the Ontario Government to have publicly posted that accessible customer service does not include providing ramps or automatic door openers.

* There is a pressing need to include disability accessibility and inclusion in school curriculums. Moreover, professional training for a range of professions, such as design professionals, needs to include sufficient training on disability accessibility. The former Ontario Government never kept its promises to take action in these two important areas.

* This many years after the AODA was enacted, it would be wrong to contend that effective AODA enforcement must now await further efforts to educate the public and obligated organizations on their obligations under the AODA. It is incorrect and harmful to treat public awareness and education as some unending precondition to effective AODA enforcement.

* While it has made available some useful tools and resources, the Ontario Government has not provided obligated organizations all the tools that could help them comply with the AODA and has not effectively and sufficiently publicized the tools and resources it has provided.

* The public, including obligated organizations, will pay far more attention to public education and awareness efforts on accessibility when they know there is effective AODA enforcement.

*   The aim and core focus now should be raising action, not raising awareness.

3. Recommendations on Public Education on the AODA

We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:

#6-1. The Government should widely advertise on the mass media, and not just on the internet, via email and on Twitter the availability of resources, training materials and guides it has already developed for organizations to comply with accessibility standards enacted under the AODA.

#6-2. Promptly after any new AODA accessibility standard is enacted or an existing accessibility standard is revised in the future, the Government should make available and widely publicize a free guide, policy guideline and other like resource materials for obligated organizations to comply with that accessibility standard’s accessibility requirements

#6-3. The Government should develop, make available and widely publicize a free web-authoring tool for creating accessible web pages, to comply with the IASR’s information and communication website accessibility requirements.

#6-4. The Government should promptly implement a permanent program to ensure that students in the school system are educated in disability accessibility. For example:

  1. a) The Government should identify the Minister and public officials responsible for this program’s development and implementation.
  1. b) School boards and teachers’ representatives should be consulted on its development and implementation.
  1. c) The Government should develop a sample curriculum which school boards could adopt if they wish, in lieu of developing their own curriculum.
  1. d) The Government should report to the public on this program’s implementation and effectiveness. Among other things, the Government should promptly implement a permanent program to advocate to self-governing professional bodies to educate people training in key professions, such as architects, on disability accessibility. The Government should identify the Minister and public officials responsible for this program’s development and implementation. The Government should report to the public on its implementation and effectiveness.

#6-5. The Government should promptly implement a program to advocate to the self-governing bodies for key professions (such as architects, interior designers, planners, other design professionals, lawyers, doctors and social workers) to adopt, implement and require education on disability accessibility to qualify for those professions, and to require continuing professional development on this topic for those already qualified in those professions. Among other things, as part of this effort:

  1. a) The Government should advocate to key professions such as architects and planners that to qualify in future for a licence or other qualifications certificate as an architect or other designer of the built environment, a specified amount of training in barrier free design must be completed, that goes beyond the insufficient requirements of the Ontario Building Code.
  1. b) A lead minister and public servants should be identified as responsible for this initiative.
  1. c) The Government should make available to those self-governing body any readily-available resource materials to help those self-governing professional bodies develop needed disability accessibility curriculum on accessibility needs of persons with disabilities.
  1. d) The Government should report to the public on this program’s implementation and effectiveness.
  1. e) Funding to any post-secondary faculty or self-governing professional organization for any of these professionals should be made conditional on compliance with this provincial policy and goal.

#6-6. The Government should promptly consult with persons with disabilities, including the AODA Alliance, on the content of these public education materials. This should involve in-person discussions, and not merely an invitation to provide on-line feedback to the Government.

#6-7. The Government should not treat AODA public education or AODA awareness-raising as a substitute for or precondition for effective AODA enforcement. The Government’s aim and core focus now should be raising action, not raising awareness.

Chapter 7. The Government’s Failure to Effectively Ensure that Public Money Is Never Used to Create, Perpetuate or Exacerbate Disability Barriers

1. Introduction

One notion that meets with universal and instantaneous acceptance whenever it is discussed is that public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. This is a powerful lever for positive social change in the hands of the Government, if it is used effectively. Public money to which accessibility strings can and should always be attached includes, for example,  infrastructure spending, spending on procurement of goods, services and facilities, and spending on grants or loans such as those given to businesses or local authorities, or the broader public sector.

Yet over 13 years after the AODA was enacted, the Ontario Government has not taken the full range of actions that it should to turn this proposition into a practical reality. Disability accessibility barriers continue to be created or perpetuated using public money, for no good reason. Some public officials and offices that should lead in this area too often fail to do so. Rhetoric too often fails to match reality. There is no discernable public accountability for a public official or office that continues to use public money to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.

Part 7 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran explains how the AODA Alliance has tried for many years to get the Ontario Government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. We had too little success on that front up to 2014, as our earlier brief shows.

We here show that from June 2014 to the present, the Ontario Government has continued to fail in this area. Strong new Government action is needed.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* Public money should never be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Public money to which accessibility strings can and should always be attached includes, for example,  infrastructure spending, spending on procurement of goods, services and facilities, and spending on grants or loans such as those given to businesses or local authorities, or the broader public sector. It would be irresponsible for any public official or office to permit public money to be used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. It creates more future costs – the cost of removing barriers that should never have been created in the first place.

* The Ontario Government does not have in place effective, monitored procedures for ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. There is no real accountability or consequences for a public official who permits or directs the use of public money in a way that creates or perpetuates disability barriers. The public has no way to find out who made the bad decisions that result in these barriers.

* The former Government did not take effective new action to address this concern after the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report identified it as a concern. As a result, the former Ontario Government broke Premier Wynne’s 2014 Ontario election pledge not to use public money to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

* Where the Government has put in place some policies regarding accessibility considerations when undertaking public procurement of goods, services or facilities, there are no publicly-disclosed regimes for monitoring or enforcing these. There are no known consequences for contravening these policies or procedures.

* As online videos produced by the AODA Alliance in 2016, 2017 and 2018 reveal regarding the new Centennial College the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, and new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, the former Ontario Government broke Premier Wynne’s pledge in the 2014 Ontario election that public money would not be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

* There was no discernable progress in ensuring accessibility of publicly-funded infrastructure from June 2014 to June 2016, when the Minister of Infrastructure was also the minister responsible for the AODA. The fact that both subjects were under one minister should have led to far better provincial efforts at ensuring that new infrastructure is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

* An effective use of the Government’s lever of power over the use of public money could have a very dramatic impact on the removal and prevention of disability accessibility barriers, at little or no cost to the Ontario Government.

3. Recommendations on Ensuring Public Money Is Not Used to Create, Perpetuate or Exacerbate Barriers

We urge the Independent Review to recommend that:

#7-1. The Ontario Government should adopt and broadly publicize a cross-government policy that public money may never be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

#7-2. The Government should set standards for, implement, widely publicize, monitor, enforce and publicly report on a comprehensive strategy 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. A senior public official within the Ontario Public Service should be designated with lead responsibility and authority for this effort.

#7-3. The Government should make it a condition of research grants that it funds or to which it contributes that people with disabilities should, where feasible and appropriate, be included in research study as subjects.

#7-4. In any Government strategy to ensure that public money is not used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers, it is not sufficient for the Government to make it a condition that a recipient of public money merely obey the AODA and AODA accessibility standards. It should require that recipients of public money comply with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and where applicable the Charter of Rights. It should require, among other things, that the recipient organization’s specific capital project or goods, services or facilities be fully disability accessible or require a commitment to remediate these to become fully accessible by time lines to be set out in the grant, loan or other terms of payment of public money.

#7-5. Any Government contract for infrastructure or for the procurement of goods, services or facilities should include a mandatory, enforceable term that requires the recipient of the public money to remediate any accessibility barriers that the recipient allows to be created or perpetuated at the recipient’s expense.

#7-6. The Government should make it a condition of transfer payments and capital or other infrastructure funding to municipalities, hospitals, school boards, public transit providers, colleges, universities, and transfer partners that these recipient organizations adopt comparable initiatives to ensure that their procurement and infrastructure spending, and any loans or grant programs, do not create, exacerbate or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. The Government should make public a resource guide to assist those transfer partners to know how to effectively implement this requirement.

#7-7. The Government should promptly establish a process for monitoring and enforcing the recommended comprehensive strategy to ensure that public money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate accessibility barriers. It should not be left to each ministry to do as little or as much as it wishes to implement Government policy and procedures on this topic.

#7-8. The Government should widely and prominently publicize as soon as possible to any organization that seeks Ontario infrastructure or procurement funds, or any Government funded or subsidies, loans or grants, that they must prove in their applications that they will ensure that public money isn’t used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities.

#7-9. The Government should establish and widely publicize an avenue for the public to report to the Government on situations where public money is used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability accessibility barriers.

#7-10. The Provincial Auditor should audit the Government to ensure compliance with recommendations on ensuring that public money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability accessibility barriers.

#7-11. It should be a mandatory Government policy that when an accessibility consultant is retained on an infrastructure project to which Ontario public funds are contributed, the accessibility consultant should report directly to the Ontario Government, with the consultant’s advice being made promptly public.

#7-12. When a public infrastructure project is undertaken involving any Ontario Government funds, the Project Specific Output Specifications (on disability accessibility PSOS) for the project should be made public before the competition process, and subject to public input.

#7-13. The Provincial Auditor should audit the accessibility practices at Infrastructure  Ontario, and provide a report to the public, including on any recommended reforms to how that Government organization approaches the planning for accessibility in infrastructure projects.

#7-14. When a Government-funded infrastructure project is undertaken, successive plans for the project should be made public on a real time basis, for crowd-sourced input on accessibility.

#7-15. Where a public official or project team member, paid out of the public purse, vetoes or decides against an accessibility measure that an accessibility consultant recommends, the identity of that public official should be recorded and made public, when successive plans for the project are made public, with an explanation of what the accessibility feature is that was excluded from the project on the decision of that public official.

 Chapter 8. Ensuring that All Ontario Laws Do Not Authorize or Require Disability Barriers

1. Introduction

The Ontario Government has a special obligation to ensure that the legislation that the Legislature passes and the regulations that the Cabinet passes are barrier-free for people with disabilities. They should not create or permit the creation of disability accessibility barriers. They should be written in a way that ensures that people with disabilities have their disability-related needs accommodated, so that they can enjoy the rights, opportunities and responsibilities that our laws afford to all.

To that end, it is necessary for the Ontario Government to review all Ontario legislation and regulations, to ensure that they are barrier-free. It also needs to put in place and effective system for ensuring that whenever new laws are passed or old laws are amended, these changes to the law are also barrier-free.

It is commendable that in the 2007 election, just two years after the AODA was enacted, Premier Dalton McGuinty gave an election pledge to review all Ontario laws for accessibility problems. It is entirely indefensible that 11 years later, that promise remains largely unkept. Only a small percentage of Ontario laws have been reviewed for accessibility. Only a fraction of the required changes to those laws were made. The Ontario Government has had in place no plans for the past four years to complete this project.

Part 8 of the June 30,2018 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrates that up to 2014, the former Ontario Government had done very little to review all Ontario laws, both statutes and regulations, to ensure that they neither create nor mandate any disability barriers. Part 8 of that brief began as follows:

“An important step for Ontario to reach full accessibility by 2025 is to ensure that all Ontario statutes and regulations are themselves barrier-free. The Government needs to ensure that all existing laws and any new laws neither require nor mandate the creation or perpetuation of barriers against persons with disabilities. Among other things, the Government must ensure that Ontario statutes and regulations incorporate active measures to ensure the full accessibility of the programs, policies, rights and opportunities that they address.

To achieve this, the Government must do more than simply creating, enacting and enforcing AODA accessibility standards. The Government must conduct a thorough review of all of its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers. Where any are found, these laws must be amended to ensure they are barrier-free. The Government must also implement new proactive measures to ensure that new statutes or regulations are carefully screened before they are enacted, to ensure that they are entirely barrier-free.”

This chapter is an addendum to that Part of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran. Since 2014, the former Ontario Government took some further action on this front, but far too little. The last time the former Ontario Government reviewed any legislation to look for accessibility barriers was before the end of 2014. As of now, the vast majority of Ontario statutes and regulations have never been reviewed for accessibility. The former Ontario Government had only reviewed a scant 50-55 of Ontario’s 750 statutes and none of its regulations, as far as we have been told. In the spring of 2016, the former Ontario Government made a number of relatively minor amendments to the 50-55 statues that had been reviewed. This left in place many if not most of the barriers in those statutes. As is the case with so many other issues addressed in this brief, the AODA Alliance has led the charge for more than a decade to get the Ontario Government to ensure that its legislation and regulations do not mandate or permit disability accessibility barriers.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* The Ontario Government has a special obligation to ensure that Ontario legislation and regulations are barrier-free for people with disabilities. They should not create or permit the creation of disability accessibility barriers.

* The former Ontario Government promised to review all Ontario laws for accessibility issues in the 2007 election. It repeated that pledge in the 2011 and 2014 elections.

* The former Government delayed even starting this review until 2011. That effort was further delayed for another two years after that.

* Eleven years after the initial pledge, the former Ontario Government has only reviewed a mere 51 of Ontario’s 750 statutes and no Ontario regulations, for accessibility problems. Of the 51 statutes reviewed, the former Ontario Government only amended a mere 11 of them. The former Ontario Government rejected further NDP amendments. The former Ontario Government did not correct a number of barriers in the 51 statutes it reviewed.

* Within the former Government, this issue was shuffled from ministry to ministry over the past eleven years, and through a revolving door series of deputy ministers.

* After some amendments were made to 11 Ontario statutes in spring 2016, the former Ontario Government in effect did nothing further on this review for its last two years in power.

* It should not take 11 years to complete this review, much less a review of only 51 Ontario statutes. Between 1982 and 1985, the Ontario Government reviewed all laws for compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including its equality guarantee in section 15.

3. Recommendations on the Government’s Duty to Review Ontario Statutes and Regulations for Accessibility Barriers

We urge this Review to recommend that:

#8-1. The Government should announce, within four months of this Independent Review’s report,  a detailed plan for completing a comprehensive review of all Ontario statutes and regulations for accessibility problems, 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.

#8-2. The Government should complete this review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2020, and of all regulations by the end of 2021. The Government should introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed a result of this review, along time lines that the Government would announce by the end of March 2019.

#8-3. Cabinet should amend any regulations that the government deems necessary as a result of the accessibility review, by the end of 2022.

#8-4. The Government should appoint the Attorney General of Ontario to lead this review of all Ontario laws for accessibility problems, in coordination with the Secretary of Cabinet.

#8-5. The Government should report to the public by the end of 2018, the end of 2019 and the end of 2020 on its progress toward meeting the deadlines for reviewing all legislation and regulations for accessibility barriers. These reports should give specifics on what the Government has done and plans to do, whether by legislative amendments or other actions, to address accessibility barriers it has discovered in this review.

#8-6. When the Government identifies a potential barrier in an Ontario law, it should consult with the public, including with people with disabilities, on options for addressing the barrier, before deciding on the contents of possible amendments to those laws.

 Chapter 9 Making Ontario and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

1. Introduction

Many find it hard to believe that in 2018, voters with disabilities in Ontario still encounter disability barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Yet over 13 years since the AODA was passed, provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are still not fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities. There is no justification for this. The former Ontario Government did not act sufficiently to address this, and did not keep key election promises on this.

Part 9 of the June 30 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran documented the history of this problem in detail up to the middle of 2014. This chapter is an addendum to that Part of our 2014 brief to Mayo Moran.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* In 2018, voters and candidates with disabilities in Ontario provincial and municipal elections continue to face too many disability barriers. This is unjustified and unacceptable.

* The same disability barriers can present themselves in provincial and municipal elections. It is inappropriate to have to reinvent the accessibility wheel in the election context at both the provincial and municipal levels, and then again, from one municipality to the next. This slows progress on accessibility while costing the taxpayer more.

* Elections Ontario has not solved this problem at the provincial level, even though it has been within its mandate for many years.

* A comprehensive new strategy is needed to ensure elections accessibility for voters and candidates with disabilities, which can be expected to require legislative reforms.

3. Recommendations on Ensuring Municipal and Provincial Elections are Barrier-free for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

We urge this Independent Review to make these recommendations:

#9-1. By October 2014, the Government should appoint an independent person to conduct a three month independent review of barriers facing voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections, including both the campaign process and the voting process. This Review, should, among other things, gather information on the use of telephone and internet voting in municipal elections in Ontario. This Review should hold an open, accessible and province-wide public consultation, and report to the public within six months of its appointment. Its report should be made public immediately on its being submitted to the Government.

#9-2. Within six months after the report of the Disability Elections Accessibility Independent Review, the Government should introduce into the Legislature omnibus elections accessibility reforms for both municipal and provincial elections, to remove and prevent barriers impeding voters and candidates with disabilities in the voting process, and in participating in election campaigns, to ensure that:

  1. a) all voters with disabilities can independently mark their own ballot in private and verify their choice. This bill should, among other things, ensure telephone and internet voting in Ontario elections and by-elections.
  1. b) get full physical accessibility to all polling stations and all public areas in polling stations,
  1. c) including sharing at the provincial and municipal levels information on accessible polling station venues, so each does not have to reinvent the same accessibility wheel.
  1. d) Ensure that election campaign information is immediately and readily available in accessible formats, and that campaign websites are designed to be fully accessible.
  1. e) ensure that all-candidates debates are accessible.

 Chapter 10 Ontario Government – Leading by Example, But by What Example is it Leading?

1. Introduction

Every party in power since Ontario’s grass roots accessibility campaign began in 1994 has said that the Government of Ontario would lead by example, when it comes to accessibility for people with disabilities. By what kind of example has the Ontario Government been leading? Too often, it has led by a poor example.

This chapter serves as an addendum to Part 10 of our June 30, 2014 brief to Mayo Moran, which begins as follows:

“For Ontario to reach full accessibility by 2025, it is important for the Ontario Government to lead on accessibility by example. The Ontario Public Service is by far Ontario’s largest employer and provider of services to the public.

Other obligated organizations will look to see how seriously the Government takes the AODA. If the Government does not take its AODA duties seriously, obligated organizations will be incentivized to think that they can and should do the same. Moreover, if the Government does not hold itself to full and strict compliance with the AODA, obligated organization won’t expect the Government to expect any more of them.”

Part 10 of our brief to Mayo Moran revealed however that far too often, the Ontario Government was leading by a poor example. This included:

* Failing to put in place an effective front-line internal system within the Government for embedding accessibility across the Ontario Public Service.

* Examples of the Ontario Government violating or attempting to violate its own disability accessibility laws.

* More recent Government initiatives before the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review to improve its implementation of the AODA did not make a significant difference.

* The Government’s failing to consistently provide a simple, cost-free accommodation – the case study of Government documents in PDF format.”

The 2014 Mayo Moran Report in substance agreed that improvement was needed. Sadly however, the former Ontario Government did little that was at all effective at changing this since June 2014. As such, strong action is needed now, more than ever.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* There is a pressing need to revitalize the AODA’s implementation, as both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review recommended. This revitalization never took place in response to those reports’ recommendations.

* The former Government did not keep Premier Wynne’s commitment to instruct all ministers on their accessibility commitments. This contributed to slower progress on accessibility.

* The fact that the new Ontario Government has not made its Mandate Letters public makes it impossible for the public, including people with disabilities, to know what the Premier has instructed his ministers to do on accessibility for people with disabilities.

* The transfer from 2013 to 2016 of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to the Ministry of Economic Development was well-intentioned and held great promise. However it turned out to be a failure.

* It is important for the Ontario Government to have a full-time Minister of Accessibility, to lead the AODA’s implementation. It was inappropriate for the former Ontario Government to assign to the same minister both the responsibility as Minister for Accessibility and the conflicting role of Minister of Government Services.

* There is a pressing need for the Ontario Government to re-engineered the way the Government delivers and oversees the delivery of accessibility within the Ontario Public Service, as an employer and service-provider.

* The Ontario Government’s efforts at becoming an accessible employer and service-provider were slowed and hampered by virtue of the fact that the Government has no Chief Accessibility Officer, at the level of a deputy minister or associate deputy minister, with lead responsibility and authority for ensuring that the Ontario Public Service becomes accessible as an employer and service-provider.

* The Ontario Government missed an extraordinary opportunity to achieve advances on accessibility in the tourism and hospitality sector, when Ontario hosted the 2015 Toronto Pan/Parapan American Games. Despite our repeated efforts over two years, the former Ontario Government did not undertake a strategy to use the Games to leverage an increase of accessibility in the tourism and hospitality sector, such as in hotels, restaurants and tourism sites.

* The Minister of International Trade did not incorporate disability accessibility as a prominent part of the International Trade Ministry’s strategy for economic development and innovation.

* The Minister of Research and Innovation did not ensure disability accessibility is a key focus of research and innovation programs and projects that the Government operates or finances.

3. Recommendations on the Ontario Government Leading By Example on Accessibility

#10-1. The Government should designate a single minister to be responsible for ensuring that the Ontario Public Service becomes a fully accessible employer and service provider, and to ensure that the Government keeps all its accessibility commitments and duties, other than those for which the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors is responsible.

#10-2. The Government should establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Chief Accessibility Officer.

#10-3. The Premier should include in the mandate letter that his office issues to each cabinet minister, specific directions to fulfil the Government’s commitments and duties on disability accessibility which fall in whole or in part in that ministry’s purview. The Premier’s instructions to cabinet ministers on accessibility should be made public.

#10-4. The Premier’s office should direct the Secretary of Cabinet to ensure that the Government’s disability accessibility commitments and duties are kept, and direct the Secretary to Cabinet to take all needed steps to implement them.

#10-5. The Government should announce and implement a plan to re-engineer how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are fully accessible.

#10-6. The Government should ensure that the Accessibility Lead position in each ministry is a full time position, which reports directly to the deputy minister of that minister, with an option for a dual report as well to the ministry’s Chief Administrative Officer.

#10-7. The Government should promptly implement and widely publicize within the Ontario Public Service a comprehensive permanent periodic program for auditing and monitoring its workplaces and public services and facilities for disability accessibility and barriers. This program should include, among other things, on-site audits and inspections, and not merely paper trail audits. The results of this monitoring should annually be made public.

#10-8. The Government should promptly implement a constructive program for ensuring accountability of public servants in the Ontario Public Service for efforts on disability accessibility. Among other things, the Ontario Public Service should require that every employee include in his or her annual performance review, performance goals on disability accessibility within the scope of their duties. Performance on this criterion should be assessed for performance, pay and promotion decisions.

#10-9. The Government should not solely or predominantly rely on on-line programs to train the Ontario Public Service on accessibility. It should implement live, interactive programming where possible that involves face-to-face interaction with persons with disabilities.

#10-10. The Minister responsible for international Trade should incorporate disability accessibility as a prominent part of Ontario’s international trade strategy for economic development and innovation.

#10-11. The Minister who is responsible for research and innovation should ensure disability accessibility is a key focus of research and innovation programs and projects that the Government operates or finances.

 Chapter 11 The Unmet Need for a Strong and Effective Ontario Strategy to Substantially increase the Employment of Ontarians with Disabilities

1. Introduction

To fulfil the AODA’s goal of accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025 in the context of employment, Ontario needs a strong and comprehensive strategy to promote expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities. It is widely recognized and undisputed that people with disabilities face excessive and unfair unemployment rates.

This chapter explores what the Ontario Government has done about this. In summary, the former Ontario Government commendably committed to act on this in February 2013. However, it took far too long and did far too little in this area.

2. Recommended Findings

We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:

* People with disabilities continue to face unfair and high rates of unemployment. This inflicts serious hardships on people with disabilities and on society. Society significantly benefits by increasing the employment of people with disabilities

* The Ontario Government is a significant cause of the disability unemployment problem

* Ontario does not now have in place sufficient measures to combat this. At the present rate, employment in Ontario will not be achieve full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. A stronger AODA Employment Accessibility Standard would help. However, companion Government strategies on increased employment for people with disabilities are also needed. Short term tax cuts or financial incentives are no long term solution

* Barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system contribute to the unemployment plight facing too many people with disabilities. A good education is needed to get a good job. As such* delays in creating a strong and effective AODA Education Accessibility Standard contributes to the ongoing unemployment plight facing people with disabilities. That includes the previous ‘Governments multi-year delay in deciding to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard, and the current Government’s freeze on the work of the K-12 and Post-Secondary Standards Development Committees.

* If Ontario had in place a combination of a stronger Employment Accessibility Standard, a strong Education Accessibility Standard, a stronger Transportation Accessibility Standard, a strong Built Environment Accessibility Standard, and a strong provincial disability employment strategy, the workplaces of 5 to 6 years from now can and should be fully accessible to people with disabilities.

* It was unjustifiable for the former Ontario Government to have taken over four years to develop a disability employment strategy. There have already been ample studies, reports and advisory councils on employment for people with disabilities. What is needed now is action, not more delay for extensive study and discussions.

* The former Government’s “Access Talent” disability employment strategy, announced in June 2017, has some helpful ingredients. However these were too often too high-level or preliminary. More concrete action is needed with prompt benefits for people with disabilities trying to enter or remain in the workforce.

3. Recommendations to Improve Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

#11-1. The Ontario Government should designate a specific minister and deputy minister with lead responsibility for ensuring that all the needed measures are taken to ensure substantially increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

#11-2. The Ontario Government should, within two months, make public a list of options for a strengthened disability employment strategy, drawn from the Government’s own past and present programs, and from the programs and ideas that others have accumulated, e.g. those readily discovered on the internet. The Government should promptly  consult the public, including employers and people with disabilities on those options, and any additional options that the public bring forward. Within three months of releasing that list of options,   the Government should announce a new and strengthened Ontario disability employment strategy, supplementing the existing Access Talent strategy, to substantially increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As part of this strategy:

  1. a) The Government should not treat “raising awareness” among employers about the benefits of employment for people with disabilities as its core strategy for substantially increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
  1. b) The Government should become a role model – leading by example through employment of people with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) and the broader public sector and procuring services, providing grants or financing to organizations with a strong orientation toward supporting employment of people with disabilities
  1. c) The Government should eliminate Government-created barriers to increased employment of people with disabilities
  1. d) The Government should promptly implement a pro-active strategy to ensure that all students with disabilities in K-12 education secure an experiential learning opportunity, to work towards getting a good job reference to assist them in securing their first paid job.



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What Do Canada’s National Political Parties Have to Say About Proposed New Federal Legislation on Disability Accessibility? Check Out the AODA Alliance’s Analysis of Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

What Do Canada’s National Political Parties Have to Say About Proposed New Federal Legislation on Disability Accessibility? Check Out the AODA Alliance’s Analysis of Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

October 9, 2018

          SUMMARY

What do Canada’s major national political parties have to say about Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act? Here’s our best chance so far to find out.

Canada’s House of Commons held Second Reading debates on Bill C-81 on September 19, 24 and 26, 2018. After those debates, on a voice vote, the House of Commons unanimously voted for the bill to proceed to public hearings and clause-by-clause debate at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Below we set out our detailed analysis of what the parties had to say on the bill during Second Reading debates. In it, we set out the most important and relevant passages from the many speeches of the Members of Parliament (MPs). Where appropriate, we provide the AODA Alliance’s comments on what the MP said after each quotation. Wherever possible, we have tried to stick to quotations from MPs about the bill itself, and to avoid the usual partisan banter in Parliament.

Here is a quick summary of the highlights:

* All parties that spoke about the bill support the aim of achieving a barrier-free society for people with disabilities, and the importance of removing and preventing disability barriers.

* All parties agreed that Canada must do more to address this issue than has been done in the past. All parties talked about the plight of systemic disadvantage, unemployment and exclusion that people with disabilities too often face in Canada. Many MPs talked about their own experience with disabilities, either their own disability, or a disability of their parent, child, sibling or spouse. This pointedly shows how disability eventually touches everyone’s lives.

* All parties supported the idea that this bill should go to public hearings before a Standing Committee of the House of Commons, to receive input, and especially input from the disability community. MPs from all parties that addressed the bill supported the idea that the Standing Committee should hear what people with disabilities have to say about the bill, and seriously consider possible amendments to strengthen and improve the bill. No one took a “take it or leave it” approach to the bill, as it is now written.

* All parties made positive statements about the AODA Alliance and its position on Bill C-81. The New Democratic Party, the Conservative Party and the Green Party all raised a number of the concerns about Bill C-81 that we have raised. In a number of cases, we and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky were identified as a source of that critique of the bill. The AODA Alliance can be proud that it was the most frequently quoted or referenced disability organization during discussions of the bill and the need to strengthen it. Of course, the points raised have also been pressed by many others in the disability community!

The AODA Alliance’s September 27,2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/please-tell-the-federal-government-if-you-support-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-that-requests-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act/

A four-page summary of our top 7 recommendations to strengthen Bill C-81 are available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-aoda-alliance-is-invited-to-present-to-the-house-of-commons-standing-committee-on-human-resources-skills-and-social-development-and-the-status-of-persons-with-disabilities-on-october-25-2018-to/

* The opposition NDP, Greens and Conservatives all pointed out that the bill is now too vague. It lacks needed specifics. The bill needs to be amended to add time lines for action to implement the bill, and mandatory duties (not just grants to the Federal Government of new powers). The NDP and greens also criticized the bill for splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement among multiple federal agencies, including the new Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency CTA, the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunication Commission CRTC, and the federal tribunal that hears federal public service employment cases. They also criticized the bill for giving the Federal Government sweeping power to grant exemptions to obligated organizations from some of their duties under the bill. These are all problems with the bill that we and others in the disability community have raised.

* At some points, Liberal MPs, speaking in support of the bill which their Government has tabled, have made broad statements about what the bill will do, and which exceed what the bill now requires. Our proposed amendments would ensure that the bill lives up to those broad statements by the Federal Government.

* The NDP and Green Party are consistent in their message that this bill needs to be made stronger. In contrast, Conservative MPs took a range of different positions that seem to show divisions within the Conservative Party over the bill.

Some Conservative MPs praised the Federal Government for bringing this bill forward. Others were very critical of the Government’s intentions. Some denounced the bill as just creating more bureaucracy and red tape. Some seemed to oppose the creation of new federal officials like the Accessibility Commissioner and the Canada Accessibility Standards Organization, to implement this bill. Others did not criticize the bill on that basis.

* One Liberal MP offered poor justifications for the bill granting to the Government a sweeping and controversial power to exempt obligated organizations from some of their accessibility duties under the bill. She said, among other things, that some obligated organizations may already be meeting accessibility duties under provincial accessibility standards in Ontario, Manitoba or Nova Scotia.

Yet Nova Scotia appears to have enacted no accessibility standards. Manitoba only has one. Ontario has more. However, they are all far too weak. Federal accessibility standards should be stronger if this bill’s goals are to be met. The Federal Government should not have accessibility obligations sink to the lowest common denominator. Moreover, Ontario has had a practice of not even trying to apply its accessibility standards to any organizations that are otherwise federally regulated.

If you are in the Ottawa area, please plan to attend the October 25, 2018 meeting at the Parliament Buildings of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities from 8:45 to 10:45 a.m., when AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky will be one of the presenters.

Also, as soon as possible, please write Parliament to support the AODA Alliance’s September 27, 2018 brief, calling for amendments to Bill C-81. We welcome support from organizations and from individuals. We are very delighted that a growing list of individuals have written Parliament to support our brief. As well, it has already been supported by CNIB, the March of Dimes, the Ontario Autism Coalition, Communication Disabilities Access Canada, Balance for Blind Adults,  DeafBlind Ontario Service and Barrier-Free Manitoba. Let’s get more organizations on that list!

Email to the Standing Committee of the House of Commons:

[email protected]

Please also email the minister who is championing this bill, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister for People with Disabilities, at:

[email protected]

Please copy the AODA Alliance on your email. Email us at:

[email protected]

In your email, you might say the following, either as an individual, or on behalf of an organization that you can speak for:

“I’m writing to support the brief which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance has submitted on September 27, 2018 to the Parliament of Canada that recommends improvements to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.”

Of course, if you want, you should also add any additional information about Bill C-81 you might wish to share, including anything we did not say in our brief.

MORE DETAILS

AODA Alliance Detailed Analysis of Second Reading Debate on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act

First Day of Second Reading Debate, September 19, 2018

Originally posted at: http://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-321/hansard#Int-10245487

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

The history of how we have treated Canadians with disabilities is not a proud one. It is a history of institutionalization, of sterilization, of social isolation. We addressed our fears of what we did not understand and of difference by creating systems that, by design, took children away from their families, that took power away from our citizens, that perpetuated a medical model of disability that saw persons with disabilities as objects of charity and passive recipients of welfare. We treated our citizens as if they were broken, when in fact it was our systems and policies that were broken.

AODA Alliance Comment:

It is very helpful for the Federal Government to recognize the reality facing people with disabilities in Canada.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

Thankfully, Canada’s history is also replete with individuals, families and organizations who fought these systems. As we all know, Canada has a robust human rights system, with strong anti-discrimination laws. Disability is a protected ground under these laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Of course, Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, anti-discrimination laws, while important, are by design reactive. We have to wait until individuals are denied a service, a job, a program, and then the system kicks in to determine if that denial was discriminatory. We literally have to wait until people are discriminated against before we can help them. These laws place the burden of advancing human rights on individuals. The opportunity for system change can be limited and costly. It is incredible to think that currently close to 60% of the complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission are on the basis of disability. Again, thankfully we have these laws, for it is my belief that the most important advances in disability rights in our country have been achieved through individuals using these laws to demand equality. There has been change. However, it has been slow.

As our understanding of disability has evolved, the medical model is giving way to a human rights-based social model. We no longer see the individual’s disability or impairment as a barrier to inclusion; rather, it is the barriers created by society that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying their human rights on an equal basis with others. That is where Bill C-81 comes in. Today, I stand before members to support a bill that will significantly transform how Canada addresses discrimination and ensures a quality for all. As the first-ever minister responsible for accessibility, I take my responsibilities seriously. I want to set a standard worthy of Canadians and of Canada’s place in the world.

Bill C-81 is meant to promote broad organizational and cultural change across the nation. It will benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, by taking the steps to realize a truly accessible and inclusive Canada. It will proactively identify, remove and prevent barriers in a number of areas.

AODA Alliance Comment:

The Minister recognizes compelling reasons why Canada needs strong national accessibility legislation, and offers that the Government’s aims for that legislation are substantial in scope.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

Accessibility standards will be established by regulation in the areas of employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, procurement, program and service delivery, and transportation.

AODA Alliance Comment:

The Minister identifies important areas for developing national accessibility standards. However, these are not the only accessibility standards Canada needs. It is important for the Federal Government to plan for other accessibility standards as well, both ones we know of now, and ones in areas we might not now be able to identify. For example, accessibility standards are needed for all kinds of technology, not only information and communication technology. The Minister’s list of accessibility standards does not include creating an accessibility standard regulation in the area of goods that are under federal jurisdiction.

Moreover, the Minister states that regulations will be made in these areas. Yet the bill only permits the Federal Government to make those regulations. It does not require the Federal Government to ever enact any of them.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

From a substantive point of view, it requires the Government of Canada and entities within federal jurisdiction to address not only the barriers themselves but also the systems that perpetuate these barriers.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This ministerial statement also sets a strong set of expectations for this legislation, in areas where there is a pressing need.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

Bill C-81 sends a strong message: Canada is a leader in accessibility.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We commend the Federal Government for wanting to be a strong leader on accessibility. However, the mere enactment of this bill as is, without the amendments needed to make it a strong law, does not achieve that commendable goal.

* Alexander Nuttall (Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, CPC):

With the passage of this legislation, if it were to receive assent tomorrow, what tangible effect would it have other than the $290 million to be spent and the 5,000 new employees to be hired? What tangible effect on Canadians with disabilities would they feel on day one?

* Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Madam Speaker, immediately we will see a difference in the lives of Canadians, not only because of what we are telling them, that they are valued and contributing members of society, but we will begin work immediately to create the standards that we will then hold the Government of Canada and federally regulated private sector companies to…

AODA Alliance Comment:

For this bill to have the immediate impact on the lives of people with disabilities, it will require substantial strengthening to require prompt action under it. The second Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act learned that after ten years on the books, that provincial legislation had not had a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities in Ontario. The amendments that the AODA Alliance are proposing for Bill C-81 are designed to ensure that this proposed federal legislation does substantially better than did Ontario’s provincial accessibility legislation.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

Madam Speaker, these proceedings on Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, have the potential for tremendous historic significance. We are debating a bill that, if done properly, would create breakthrough legislation that would profoundly impact Canadian society for generations to come. I believe everyone in this chamber is cognizant of the importance of what we are doing here today. Therefore, I speak in support of this bill based on the premise the minister stated yesterday: to get it to committee as soon as possible so that we can make it as substantively great as we possibly can. I agree.

This bill is not all that it needs to be as it stands now. It will require substantial amendments. While we commend the government for tabling it, this bill will need to be altered dramatically in order to become good legislation. That is why New Democrats commit today to working with the government to provide good-faith amendments so that Bill C-81 can become the historic accessibility legislation that persons living with disabilities in Canada deserve.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This NDP MP’s position on Bill C-81 is very much in line with the AODA Alliance brief.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

However, there are sections of Bill C-81 that I believe miss the mark and that undermine the bill’s own stated goals. These are the provisions that I and my party will work in good faith with this government to fix, should our efforts be welcome.

Most obviously concerning is the bill’s lack of mandatory timelines for implementation. It allows but does not require the government to adopt accessibility standards, and yet does not impose a time frame within which implementation is to happen. Without these, the implementation process, even its start-up initializing process, could drag on for years. Curiously, neither does the bill require all federal government laws, policies and programs to be vetted through a disability lens. This seems a strange omission indeed. I respect the current accessibility minister’s commitment to this file and can only assume that this is an accidental oversight which she will correct immediately.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the position expressed above.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities has been a great resource for me as well. Another non-partisan resource I appreciate is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance for its analysis of this legislation. Its outstanding work allows government representatives, bureaucrats and members of Parliament to do our jobs better when it comes to developing policy and law that provides meaningful impact.

One issue of great concern regarding Bill C-81 is the way in which it would give various public bodies sweeping and unaccountable powers to exempt any or all obligated organizations from a number of important obligations under the bill. This is especially concerning because it has been my experience that where such exemptions exist, they will be used.

Section 46 of the bill, for example, empowers the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, to totally exempt any obligated organization it wishes within its mandate from any or all of the accessibility plan requirements. Worse still, the bill provides no means by which persons with disabilities can register their concerns before a decision is made to grant an exemption. This is deeply troubling.

Also problematic is that another section of Bill C-81 gives the federal cabinet the power to make regulations that can exempt any obligated organizations from a wide range of obligations under the act. The bill would allow cabinet to do this, and it need not provide any reasons when it does. Seriously, if cabinet is allowed to do this, why are we here today?

I also find it perplexing that while the bill requires obligated organizations to establish accessibility plans, it does not require these plans to be good plans. It does not require an obligated organization to implement its accessibility plan. This is curiouser and curiouser.

Potentially quite troubling is a situation created in section 172 whereby a regulation created by the Canadian Transportation Agency for example, without debate, could end up trumping obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It should be a basic principle of Bill C-81 that no provisions therein supersede any human rights. This is a perfect example of some of the technical issues that need to be addressed, and I want our stakeholders who understand the impact of this troublesome section to know that we will seek to have it removed.

The bill likewise separates enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over a tangle of different public enforcement agencies rather than providing people with disabilities with the simple one-stop enforcement they need. The CRTC will provide enforcement for its obligated organizations and so too will the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The bill does this, despite the reality that both the CRTC and the CTA have an unsatisfactory track record when it comes to enforcing accessibility over many years. As this is not a new problem, it boggles the imagination as to why the important bill does not address the core problem. It is absolutely vital that persons with disabilities and stakeholder groups be able to navigate our federal system in order to effectively realize their rights and also that the various agencies and institutions are able to respond to criticisms.

Moreover, this snarl of enforcement and administration will result in very similar regulations being enacted by the very different agencies involved rather than by one single agency. The duplication will not just risk inconsistencies, it will create them, causing even further delays. The predictable result is the real possibility that some sectors of the economy will have these regulations ready for them before some other sectors.

The bill should be looking to eliminate the interdepartmental patchwork system that is already in place rather than making it more complex. We simply must fix it. Many of us who follow these issues were seriously expecting that Bill C-81 would include provisions to simplify these processes.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We appreciate the NDP MP’s kind words about the AODA Alliance’s efforts on this bill, and its echoing concerns about the bill which we and others in the disability community have raised.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

The complaint process will also be unnecessarily confusing. The splintering of the implementation and enforcement mandate will substantially weaken the bill. The likelihood of this creating confusion among many, including public servants, obligated organizations, and people with disabilities and their advocates who come to the federal government seeking justice is all but certain.

Stakeholder groups and disability advocates know from brute experience that this confusion will force them to run from enforcement agency to enforcement agency with their complaints, going around in circles. “Sorry, no, wrong agency” they will be told, they have to go to transportation. Persons living with disabilities have had enough of this particular brand of bureaucratic confusion. We know this is a problem. Let us fix this too.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

In closing, I would also urge the committee to hold its meetings in different places across this country. As the most significant piece of disability legislation since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we owe it to Canadians living with disabilities and the people who care about them to demonstrate our intention for meaningful legislation that fully includes every Canadian in the participation of our society.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We too have called on the Federal Government to hold Parliamentary public hearings on Bill C-81 across Canada and not just in Ottawa. However, we understand that the hearings will only be held in Ottawa.

* Ms. Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia—Lambton, CPC):

Madam Speaker, my colleague mentioned the UN convention on disabilities, and I wonder, if she had the ability, what priority actions the NDP would want to have the government take on that.

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Madam Speaker, some of the easy ones, some of the low-lying fruit, which I did mention in my speech are things like when one is required to design an accessibility plan one is required to implement it. That is a no-brainer. I would reiterate the reflection that no one gets sweeping powers and exemptions. There are a few of these. I do not want to get too technical. I hesitate now because my brain goes into the technical and I know that is not very interesting to listeners.

If a decision is made, people need to have a place to appeal that decision. People need to know the reason. Right now those provisions are not consistent. There are exemptions and there are places people can go where human rights are trumped by the protocol that someone gets to make a decision and there is no appeal process for someone with a disability. Those, to me, touch on some of the core issues within the UN convention.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the concerns with the bill identified here.

Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I am so glad to hear that the hon. member is supportive of this legislation. I think she said, “Everyone wins when everyone can participate”, and that is so true. The hon. member also mentioned that this is a step in the right direction and the opposition will work with the government to fine-tune it. That is what we need to do as we move this bill through the committee process.

I want to clarify one point she mentioned in her speech. She talked about how bureaucracy can really be a problem for people with disabilities. No doubt it is and has been for many years. The one thing we are hoping this legislation would do is to actually mean there would be no closed door. If a person with a disability goes to a federal agency and wants to lodge a complaint but it is not the right agency, the person would not be told that he or she has to go somewhere else. It would be up to that agency to talk to the other agency and make sure the complaint is processed.

That is part of the legislation that is so important because we know that barriers have been put in place over the years. Our role and our job is to break down the barriers. Would the member agree that this is a step in the right direction?

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Madam Speaker, I do not want to give a blunt answer that the approach, as I said in my speech, is misguided. This gives me an opportunity to say this is why, as the minister mentioned, it is important to have the input of people with lived experience, because I have every confidence they will demonstrate for us that there is a better model, a better way for us to do this. This is where we need to make an amendment on paper that says we have more options and open doors. It is actually through speaking to people with lived experience today that we will find that maybe we have been misguided in that approach and there are ways that amendments can at least clean this up.

It is hard for the bureaucrats as well who have to work on the front lines. I am sure that all of you have had the opportunity to speak with those people.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

It is good that Liberal MP Kate Young accepted that the there is a benefit to fine-tuning this bill. The AODA Alliance has submitted recommendations for such fine-tuning, and looks forward to presenting to the Standing Committee to offer its ideas on how to do that.

However Liberal Kate Young is incorrect to suggest or imply that problems with this bill’s splintering its implementation and enforcement among several federal agencies are solved by the Federal Government declaring that there is no closed door. This serious problem with the bill is not just a problem with its front door. It is also the conflicting, confusing and ineffective different paths after people with disabilities enter a front door to a federal agency. Under the bill, people with disabilities can be tossed back and forth between federal agencies like a football.

It is also a serious problem that the bill splinters among different federal bodies of the power to enact accessibility standards as regulations. It is wrong as well that the bill gives the Canada Transportation Agency lead authority under the bill over transportation providers, and it gives the Canadian Radio, Television, and Telecommunication Commission CRTC the lead authority under the bill over broadcasters and telecommunication providers. Those agencies have a troubling track record on disability accessibility. Fixing their door won’t undo those problems.

* Ms. Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia—Lambton, CPC):

I want to say at the outset that I am pleased to see that the minister has brought forward this bill. I have absolutely no doubt about her sincerity in trying to improve the lives of people with disabilities. I too am aligned in that direction. I have listened carefully to the debate we have had so far talking about how to get people with disabilities the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens, how to make sure they are able to live independently and how to make sure they are free from violence. I am aligned in all those things. I think I have heard that all the parties in the House are aligned in how we improve the lives of people with disabilities, and what we can we do with this bill to make sure it is effective…

…        I did take the point that was made earlier that no disability lens was used for the legislation. When we do legislation, we do it with a gender-based lens. Therefore, it is very appropriate here to take that recommendation from the member and put a disability lens in place.

I also do not like the powers to exempt in the bill. I find that when we allow exemptions and have cabinet decide, we get into trouble. We saw this with the carbon tax. The government had the power to exempt and it decided to exempt the largest emitters up to 90% of their emissions. There is an example where having the power to exempt is really not what we want.

In summary, I absolutely want to see persons with disabilities have the independence they need and have the help they need. However, it has to happen faster. I call on the government today to start putting money into infrastructure for accessibility and do the solutions that we already know about, while we craft improvements to the bill.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the views of this Conservative MP expressed here.

* Ms. Marilyn Gladu:

Madam Speaker, I think what we should do is put in place two things, timelines and the specific scope. We do not need, for example, to consult more on what to do to make buildings accessible. Believe me, this has been exhausted to death. That is not what we need. If we are going to consult, let us be specific about what we are consulting to achieve. Are we consulting in order to allow people with disabilities to work independently, to live independently? Which parts of this are we going to do? Are we looking for solutions, like the member mentioned, for people who are looking for sign languages to be included in legislation? What is the scope of what the Liberals are going to do? Otherwise, the government will consult and consult, and it will be endless in scope and endless in topics. We need to be crisp on it or allow free rein but allow only a limited amount of time, consulting for a year, for example, on the myriad of things it might want to bring as solutions, and then implement a plan.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We applaud this Conservative MP’s call for time lines to be added to this bill.

However, we disagree with this MP’s claim that there is no need for further consultation. Consultation on the details to include on new accessibility standards is very much needed.

For example, we do not agree with this MP when she said:

“We do not need, for example, to consult more on what to do to make buildings accessible. Believe me, this has been exhausted to death.”

The accessibility requirements in building codes too often fall well short. As illustrations, we point to the widely-viewed AODA Alliance videos that reveal serious accessibility problems in new buildings, such as the Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, the Ryerson University Student Learning centre, and the new and recently-renovated public transit stations in Toronto.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Madam Speaker, we do have some obvious agreement on this and we are looking forward to moving this legislation forward. The hon. member did say that she does not like exemptions and I want to explain why some exemptions may be necessary.

The provisions are included in recognition of the fact that some organizations may have alternative methods of meeting the objectives of certain requirements, and some organizations may already have completed the requirements and are living up to existing accessibility standards in some of the provinces. Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia have standards and are moving forward on that.

Does the member not see why some exemptions may be necessary in a bill of this size?

Ms. Marilyn Gladu:

Madam Speaker, I do see that exemptions may be needed for the reasons the member has cited, but when it is left wide open and there is no oversight, cabinet can determine what those exemptions will be and it does not have to tell anyone why.

It is better to write them in and to tell people that they have to comply with this, or that they must have a minister approve the exemption. The protocol should be clear and transparent so that we know it is not just people letting their friends do what they want, and also not people weaseling out of their responsibilities.

Businesses have known for an extremely long time that they would have to become accessible and they have really dragged their feet. If we gave an exemption of any kind, a lot of people would drag their feet even longer, and that is not what we want.

Let us have clarity and transparency.

AODA Alliance Comment:

Liberal MP Kate Young gives seriously flawed reasons for the Federal Government’s including in the bill its sweeping power to grant exemptions to obligated organizations from some important accessibility requirements.

Ms. Young said:

”    The provisions are included in recognition of the fact that some organizations may have alternative methods of meeting the objectives of certain requirements, and some organizations may already have completed the requirements and are living up to existing accessibility standards in some of the provinces. Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia have standards and are moving forward on that.”

It would be wrong for the Federal Government to exempt a federally-regulated organization on the grounds that it complies with accessibility standards under existing provincial legislation. Ontario treats federally-regulated organizations as exempt from any of its provincial accessibility standards, as far as we have heard. We have criticized the Ontario Government for that, since they need not give such a blanket free pass.

Ontario accessibility standards are quite weak. Complying with them does not assure that accessibility standards will ever be achieved. Manitoba only has one accessibility standard, in the area of customer service. It is similarly insufficient in scope. As far as we have heard, Nova Scotia has not enacted any accessibility standards. None of the three provinces has shown themselves to be effectively enforcing any accessibility standards on the books.

If, as we hope, the Federal Government will create stronger federal accessibility standards regulations, it should not ever exempt any federally-regulated organization from complying with them just because they are meeting weaker provincial accessibility standards.

If an obligated organization is already meeting federal accessibility standards, they need no exemption from those standards. An exemption would only give an obligated organization an reason to be less vigilant, since it would be exempted from federal regulatory oversight.

Second Day of Second Reading Debate –September 24, 2018

Originally posted at:

http://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-324/hansard#Int-10254384

* Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP):

I know that people have raised with me that they are very concerned that the bill lacks timelines. There is some concern that we could be going on for quite a long time before we actually see some of the changes on the ground.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree. This has been a problem in the three provinces where accessibility legislation has been enacted.

* Ms. Pam Damoff:

I know the minister has made a commitment to see that this is legislation that will impact people’s lives and not years from now, but in the near term.

I look forward to the deliberations that happen at committee and to hearing from witnesses. If there are improvements to be made, the committee will benefit from the expertise that will be provided at the committee meetings.

AODA Alliance Comment:

The bill will need the substantial amendments that we have proposed in the ‘ AODA Alliance s September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament, to fulfil the Minister’s commendable commitment to its having an impact on the lives of people in the near term.

* Mr. Earl Dreeshen (Red Deer—Mountain View, CPC):

However, going through the summary of the bill, I know that there is a lot of talk about how there are going to be some changes and help as far as how individuals are concerned. The reality is all we are looking at is a bunch of bureaucracy. We are looking at an accessible Canada act and we are dealing with a Canadian accessibility standards development organization. We are looking at a commissioner associated with that, the chief accessibility officer. It seems as though what we are building, instead of continuing to talk to people who have done so much work in the past, is just another set of bureaucratic stumbling blocks that we will have to deal with.

It has been two and a half years or three years since this was first introduced. I am wondering how people can have assurances that there is actually going to be some action taken from all this bureaucratic information that we have in front of us.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the concern that there are no assurances under the bill, as now drafted, that there will be positive action under the new measures and new accessibility organizations and officials that the bill permits. However, we disagree with the suggestion that this bill is “all a bunch of bureaucracy” and “just another set of bureaucratic stumbling blocks that we will have to deal with.” If proper duties and time lines are established for these public agencies and officials, as we have proposed, they can make a positive difference.

* Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP):

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that legislation to address accessibility for people with disabilities in Canada is overdue, so I am glad to see this bill before us. However, it is missing some significant components, including a timeline to achieve full accessibility. I would just quote David Lepofsky, Canadian lawyer and disability advocate. He said:

“It’s a good starting point and certainly the most substantial piece of legislation introduced by any government in Canada. But it’s going to need substantial additions and improvements to be effective, including a deadline to reach full accessibility.”

Would the government be open to accepting amendments to this bill at committee stage so that we can truly work toward full accessibility with a timeline to meet the needs of Canadians in a non-partisan way?

* Mr. Arif Virani Lib:

It is important not only to have a strategy and objectives, but also a sense of when those objectives and strategy should be fulfilled. I heard from Mr. Lepofsky, as I mentioned, at my own town hall, I know him from legal circles prior to being elected to the House. He made the exact same important point to me. It is informed by his understanding of the Ontario act, which does have a timeline. That is an important facet to keep in mind.

As for the member’s question with respect to the committee process, as always we are hoping for a very vigorous and comprehensive study at the committee stage, and robust amendments that would fulfill the important areas of this legislation and flesh out areas that may not have been contemplated earlier can be proposed.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We appreciate and support the NDP MP’s endorsement of our concerns with the bill. We also appreciate the Liberal MP’s invitation for “robust amendments” to be considered at the Standing Committee that will study this bill and his tacit recognition of the need for time lines.

* Mr. Earl Dreeshen (Red Deer—Mountain View, CPC):

When I first heard that the government might have an interest in helping the disabled, I immediately thought it would be formalizing some of the great work done by advocacy groups for the disabled, perhaps looking at special initiatives to enhance the disability tax credit program or considering ways to help caregivers cope with their everyday stresses. Truly it was disappointing to hear that its initiative was instead centred around the creation of a government bureaucracy. When the creation of a regulatory body to facilitate consultations is the main focus of the proposed legislation, it makes one wonder what has been happening on this file since the initial mandate letter was presented back in 2015….

…        When this government looks at ensuring a barrier-free Canada, it is not just the management of a bureaucracy that needs to be considered. It is not about hiring thousands of people to ensure that government workers make sure government departments heed their directives. It is not about setting up an enforcement regime to ensure that all are following a government mandate. It should not be about just giving lip service to the real needs of the disabled. Rather than pushing for years and years of consultation, we should be looking at the many success stories that are part of Canada’s efforts of inclusion. We are a nation of champions and we know how to accommodate those who need help. We are a nation that respects all of its citizens. We always have and we always will.

How can we reduce barriers and help integrate those with disabilities? How can we do this quickly so that logical solutions are implemented as soon as possible? It takes vision and commitment.

AODA Alliance Comment:

As noted earlier, it is incorrect to call this simply the creation of more bureaucracy. Key ideas in this bill come from recommendations from the grass roots in Canada’s disability community; built upon extensive experience with the barriers we face every day, and different attempts to tackle these barriers. It is that experience that also fuels the recommendations for amendments that many, including the AODA Alliance, are calling for, to make this bill an effective law.

* Mr. Earl Dreeshen:

Madam Speaker, the point I was trying to make was that there are a lot of solutions that are already there. It is one thing for the government to say that it is going to try to bring them together, but nowhere in here do I see where it talks about real initiatives and engagement with those groups that are involved. No doubt the government has talked to them about it and there have been discussions. However, when we go through the summary and the various parts of the bill, all we see is how it is going to set up bureaucracy. Nowhere does it talk about, other than in the very short preamble, how the government would attempt to realize some of the goals that it has mentioned. I think this is the critical component. It is a big bill and there is a lot in there, but once we read the bill, we realize that it is all bureaucracy and red tape.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree that the bill lacks much-needed specifics to ensure it works. As explained earlier, we do not agree with labelling it bureaucracy and red tape.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Bill C-81 proposes to create the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. This innovative organization, the first of its kind in Canada, would have a mandate to develop model accessibility standards that would guide the requirements that organizations under federal jurisdiction must respect to identify and eliminate obstacles, and to prevent the creation of any new obstacles.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This statement is correct, but too restrictive. As we understand it, CASDO is also supposed to be able to create non-binding model accessibility standards that could apply to disability barriers, even if they are not within federal jurisdiction. We want CASDO to be able to do so. This would help any province that wants to adopt a model CASDO regulation as provincial law. It would also help guide organizations that want to know what to do on accessibility, where there are no such accessibility standards in their province.

We have called for an amendment to make it clear that this lies within CASDO’s mandate.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

In addition to Bill C-81, the Government of Canada will invest in a procurement accessibility resource centre. We will also adjust policies to ensure that the products and services purchased by the Government of Canada are accessible. We hope that our leadership will encourage organizations all across the country to join the movement and be proactive for accessibility.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

These are useful proposals for action by the Federal Government. We had not earlier been told about these plans. These should be mandated in this bill so that they are permanent and guaranteed by law.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

This bill represents a real transformation in the Government of Canada’s approach to accessibility. Up to this point, any action for accessibility was up to those affected. It was up to them to take the initiative and file complaints with authorities about systematically inaccessible processes, with the hope that it would lead to results. This is now changing with this bill. It will no longer be up to Canadians with disabilities to fix the system.

We want to ensure that barriers are eliminated before they become problems. We are doing this through new measures for compliance with an application of the bill. As a result, organizations under federal jurisdiction will now be responsible for the implementation and equality of accessible practices.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This statement reflects good intentions that we support. however it overstates the bill, as now written. Amendments to require the measures to which this MP spoke are needed.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Through the historic new investment in the investing in Canada plan, all federally-funded public-facing infrastructure will be required to meet the highest published applicable accessibility standards in our respective jurisdictions.

Also, the national housing strategy will ensure that a minimum of 20% of new construction and repaired units must meet accessibility standards and all projects must be designed barrier-free. This strategy also includes a commitment of 2,400 affordable housing units built for persons with developmental disabilities.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

These are also potentially very positive steps, ones which we had not learned about before this debate in Parliament. The bill should be amended to require these measures in law, rather than leaving them to the frailty of federal policy that can be wiped out at the stroke of a pen.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):

I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for using the word “must” just now when she said we must move forward. My question actually relates to that. The word “must” is all too infrequently in the legislation and the word “may” is there a lot more. I do not mind the word “may” for obvious reasons, but in legislative terms, I would rather see “must”.

I will give the parliamentary secretary an example and hope for some encouragement. We need to amend the bill in committee. For instance, the all-important section states, “The Governor in Council may, by order, designate a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada”, otherwise known as the cabinet, “as the Minister for the purposes of this Act.” There is another section like it that says the accessibility commissioner “may” provide written reports to the minister, who of course may be appointed. It is pretty clear that we need a minister responsible and the intention and spirit of the act make it obvious.

Could the hon. parliamentary secretary reflect on why we would not make it mandatory that cabinet always appoint a minister responsible for purposes of this act?

* Ms. Kate Young:

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague’s underscoring how she likes to use the word may in some instances, but would like the word must to be used in this instance. This is one of those discussions that can be had at the committee level. These are discussions we as a government need to hear, of where there may be room for improvement with the legislation.

I know we have said, time and again, talking about this legislation, that we have to respect the disability community and that “it is nothing about us without us”. That is why we continue to hear that phrase. It is important that the people with disabilities get to appear before committee and express their concerns and what they would like to see in legislation, moving forward.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We commend the leader of the Green Party for raising her concerns regarding the bill’s weaknesses, which we share. We also appreciate the Liberal MP’s recognizing that there may be room for improvements to the bill, and pointing to the upcoming Standing Committee hearings as the place to learn from people with disabilities.

* Ms. Rachel Blaney (North Island—Powell River, NDP):

This bill is a positive step in the right direction, but I am concerned that there are some significant gaps. The majority of these gaps are around allowing these organizations to decide instead of enforce. Persons with disabilities are put in positions that often are uncomfortable. It is our job as Canadians, as it is the job of the government, to look at what those barriers are and make a difference.

Bill C-81 does not have any mandatory timelines for implementation, which concerns me, as action is required. The best way to measure action is through outcomes. The bill would not require all federal government laws, policies and programs to be studied through a disability law lens. I think that is important to do as we look into the future of this country. The bill would give several public agencies or officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of the bill. This is very concerning. Also, the bill would separate enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. Rather, it should be providing people with disabilities a single service location, a one-stop shop. They really require that to get the action they need.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We appreciate this NDP MP also raising some of the key concerns with Bill C-81 that we have also raised.

* Mr. John Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil, CPC):

Madam Speaker, there are several areas of concern with respect to this piece of legislation. On this side, we are hopeful that when it does get to committee, we are going to be able to work it out.

I know the member spoke about this, but a particular issue is that there are no mandatory timelines. There is $290 million being spent over six years, but within that six years, there is no measurement or time frame in which the action is to be taken.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree with concerns that this Conservative MP has raised, and which we too have raised, regarding this bill.

* Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP):

The government talks about how we must move forward, yet the bill itself does not require us to work with provincial or municipal governments or the communities to realize accessibility.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Ms. Rachel Blaney:

How can this bill be better? What do we need to do to get it right? Here I will turn to the work and words of those in the know, the individual advocates and groups working to ensure that the human rights of those living with disabilities are respected and protected.

I want to acknowledge the work of Debbie Windsor, Barrier Free Saskatchewan, the National Institute of Disability Management and Research, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance for their work and expertise, which has been extremely helpful in informing my comments today.

How do we make this bill better so that it can really be historic in its impact on the lives of people with disabilities? When Debbie mentioned accountability for change, or the lack of accountability, I looked to see if this bill would deliver. It would not. The lack of timelines in the bill is a concern. Without clear timelines, many are concerned that there is no way to hold the government to account for timely implementation.

Splitting enforcement and implementation and spreading those functions over four different agencies seems confusing and overly bureaucratic. I do not see how this would be a preferred way to serve people. I am curious as to how anyone would see this set-up as effective or efficient. It sounds like a system built to serve government, not people.

My colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, said it well in her speech when she described the enforcement and administration of the bill as a snarl, with the result of very similar regulations being enacted by the different agencies involved rather than by one single agency. The duplication would not just risk inconsistencies, it would create them, causing even further delays. The bill should be streamlining systems, not creating more barriers and bureaucracy.

Exemptions should be the exception, not the rule, but I am afraid that the bill would allow too much latitude for officials to exempt organizations, with little to no oversight or public accountability for why these exemptions were being allowed. This needs to change. If the bill would truly put people first, exemptions would need to be exceptional and reviewed independently.

Both the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, and the Canadian Transportation Agency remain in the frame around enforcement. To my earlier point, most agree that a one-stop enforcement agency is preferred by just about everyone who has commented on the bill. Putting that aside for a moment, neither of these agencies have proven effective in enforcing their current obligations on accessibility. Both of them have broad powers to exempt organizations from complying with the proposed legislation. Hopefully, committee members will carefully review and improve this aspect of the bill.

As the minister mentioned in her speech, the definitions of “barrier” and “disability” put forth in Bill C-81 draw from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They are broad and inclusive, supporting the greatest number of Canadians.

Since ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010, Canada has not proceeded with enabling legislation to bring our laws in line with this international obligation. It is good to see this legislation using definitions found in the convention. It is a good start, but we must not stop there. Bill C-81 does not fulfill all of Canada’s obligations under the treaty, so a reference in the legislation to a timeline for when Canada would fully meet its obligations would be an important addition to the bill. I encourage the committee to give this aspect of the bill its attention as well. …

…        David Lepofsky, a Canadian lawyer and disability advocate, in a recent interview, summed up very well where we find ourselves with the tabling of Bill C-81. He said:

It’s a good starting point and certainly the most substantial piece of legislation introduced by any government in Canada. But it’s going to need substantial additions and improvements to be effective, including a deadline to reach full accessibility.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with concerns expressed, and thank the MP for recognizing our contribution and that of others from the disability community.

* 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?

* Ms. Sheri Benson:

Madam Speaker, I think it was clear in my speech that I am concerned that there do not exist, as another member of the House mentioned, enough “musts” in this legislation so that those folks who have been advocating for legislation such as this would see something happen sooner rather than later.

The other big concern for me, which I have spoken about before and was a big part of my life when I was a social worker, is that I am a real advocate for the one-stop shop. I find the way compliance and enforcement are described in this legislation is very confusing and overly bureaucratic. It certainly does not speak to the issues that were brought to my attention, which is that it is very hard to hold a government to account when there are all these different agencies involved. One needs a road map to deal with them.

I am really hopeful that the government is sincere in what I have heard in the House about being open to amendments to make this legislation stronger and will speak to the many advocates who have said that the legislation is historic but needs help and amendments at committee.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree with concerns with the bill that both these Conservative and NDP MPs have raised in these statements, and appreciate the acknowledgement of our advocacy and representations on Bill C-81.

* Hon. Peter Van Loan (York—Simcoe, CPC):

Bill C-81 seeks to enhance accessibility in areas of federal jurisdiction. It is a worthy objective. Accessibility is an area where we have seen much change and progress in my lifetime. However, it is progress that has been largely driven not by politicians, but rather by Canadians who saw the need and pressed for changes to the rules.

The success of those changes has been largely due to an incremental approach that has not placed undue burdens on Canadians trying to make a living, allowing progress over time. It is an example of the importance of applying common sense when delivering change for the better. That goal, delivering change for the better, has been my purpose in my time here.

The rationale behind accessibility rules is to create opportunity for people to achieve their potential. The preamble to the bill focuses on that question of ensuring equal opportunity.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree that part of the improvements in society on accessibility have been due to the efforts of individuals, battling individual barriers. However, one key reason why we need a strong national accessibility law is so that individuals with disabilities don’t have to shoulder that undue burden.

* Hon. Kent Hehr (Calgary Centre, Lib.):

Over and over again, we heard from Canadians that this legislation would need strong measures, with teeth, to make sure that it gets the job done. We listened, and we have a plan to make sure that accessibility is a priority for all areas under federal jurisdiction.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree that the legislation needs strong measures with teeth. Our proposed amendments to the bill are needed to put those into this bill.

* Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos (Saint-Laurent, Lib.):

The government also engaged the federally regulated sector, which provided valuable advice on how the government could assist industry to meet its obligations under established standards. Industry representatives stated that standards under the new legislation should be clear and unambiguous. Industry partners also want the Government of Canada to strive to achieve as much as possible harmonization with similar models in effect across other Canadian jurisdictions such as Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, where members already operate and are familiar with existing requirements.

The federally regulated sector wants the government to provide supports to organizations during the implementation of the legislation. They are looking for the Government of Canada to support organizations through dedicated resources and developmental tools such as websites, background documentation, guidelines, tool kits and videos that can assist them with the implementation process.

Helping supporting organizations to meet their obligations would be one of the roles of the new Canadian accessibility standards development organization. Establishing clear and concise standards that apply to all obligated organizations equally would help them understand and comply with requirements and would ultimately be good for business, which could lead to economic benefits for those organizations….

…        During our extensive engagement with Canadians, they overwhelmingly expressed a desire for mandatory standards.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree with much of this statement. For example, both the obligated organizations and the needs of people with disabilities call for accessibility standards with clear requirements.

The measures that the Liberal MP outlines should be required in the bill, with one important suggestion. Federal accessibility standards should not have to be “harmonized” with provincial accessibility standards, if the provincial accessibility standards are weak or inadequate. It would work against the needs of all, including people with disabilities, for accessibility standards to sink to the lowest or weakest. Ontario by far has the most in the way of accessibility standards. Ontario’s are too weak. They largely deal with barrier-prevention and not barrier-removal. Federal accessibility standards need to be much better.

Moreover, as noted earlier, Ontario has earlier announced an unfortunate practice of declining to even try to apply provincial accessibility standards to any federally-regulated organization. As such, there is no need for such “harmonization.”

* Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos (Saint-Laurent, Lib.):

As a departmental corporation, the Canadian accessibility standards development organization would be considered part of the federal public service administration but would operate independently from the government department agencies and Crown corporations that eventually would be subject to these standards. This would allow the minister to provide general direction on priority areas and areas of concern for the development of accessibility standards while facilitating the organization’s independence in day-to-day operations.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

It is very good that this Liberal MP speaks strongly in support of the CASDO being independent of the Federal Government. However, as now written, Bill C-81 does not assure this. We have proposed amendments to make it, and other key accessibility agencies and officials, fully and operationally independent of the Federal Government. After all, the Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation.

* Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos (Saint-Laurent, Lib.):

The Canadian accessibility standards development organization would be established following the coming into force of Bill C-81, and would be operational within one year of the date. A transition team would be put in place immediately afterward to operationalize the organization, with some of the early activities to include the appointment of the board of directors, the establishment of a leadership team, including the chief executive officer, the development of bylaws and determining the location of the head office within Canada. Once the Canadian accessibility standards development organization has a developed set of standards, the minister responsible would bring forward enforceable regulations to guide regulated entities.

Regulated entities include the federal government departments, agencies, Crown corporations and other points of the federal public administration, such as the RCMP and Canadian Forces, as well as the federally regulated sector and parliamentary entities. Once the Canadian accessibility standards development organization was established, the first standards would take approximately two years to develop. The length of the development process would depend on the complexity of the standard and the level of consensus on requirements of the particular areas. The priority areas for the standards development would mirror those set out in Bill C-81, which include employment, the built environment, transportation, information and communication technologies and delivery of programs and services and the procurement of goods and services.

Although the main role of this organization would be the development and revision of standards, it would have a very broad mandate. Indeed, the organization would also be responsible for providing information, products and services in relation to the accessibility standards that it has developed or revised. It would also be responsible for the promotion, support and conduct of research into the identification and removal of barriers and the prevention of new barriers. Also, it would be responsible for the dissemination of information, including information about best practices in relation to the identification, removal and prevention of new barriers.

This organization would be required to submit annual reports to the minister responsible for accessibility, who would then table the report in Parliament. Along with ensuring transparency, the annual reporting would communicate organizational priorities to Canadians and the success in achieving them. The report would also lay out future priorities.

Such an arm’s-length organization dedicated to the creation of accessibility standards would be new in Canada. It would, however, function in a similar way to other standards development organizations, such as the Canadian Standards Association and the Canadian General Standards Board. As a matter of fact, it is anticipated that the Canadian accessibility standards development organization would seek accreditation from the Standards Council of Canada. The proposed organization would be somewhat similar to the United States Access Board, which is an independent federal agency that develops and maintains accessible design criteria for the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications equipment, medical diagnostic equipment and information technology.

Provinces and territories would have opportunities to work with the Canadian accessibility standards development organization and the new organization could be asked to assist with standards making at the provincial and territorial levels.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

This Liberal MP outlines what appears to be the Government’s implementation plan for this bill, which we hear learn for the first time. These helpful measures and time lines are, however, not assured in the bill itself.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):

Mr. Speaker, in looking at Bill C-81, it is very clear there is an expectation and certainly a desire on the part of many members in this place, and I suspect not just opposition members but government members as well, that the bill be improved at committee. I wonder if the member has any insight as to the openness of the government to accept amendments at committee.

* Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos:

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I am not on that committee. I am giving this speech because I am very pro accessibility and I approve of Bill C-81. I like the way that it is written. Of course, there is always room for improvement. Therefore, I am hoping that we can accept some input from other members as well. I am sure the government is open to hearing what improvements people seek to make.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

This statement reflects a growing and commendable bi-partisan support in the House of Commons for the Standing Committee to seriously consider strengthening the bill through amendments, based especially on the recommendations for amendments from the disability community.

* Hon. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC):

Here we are three years later and are getting a bill from a minister that is said to have been the result of extreme consultations across Canada. I have no doubt the minister and her staff did extensive consultations across the country on this matter. That is what they claim; it must be true. However, one would normally have expected something of deeper value and more tangible change to have been proposed as a result. Instead, all this piece of legislation does is propose the creation of yet another agency, at a cost of $290 million to taxpayers.

Here is the sad part. None of the money would actually be spent on helping Canadians who face accessibility issues on a day-to-day basis. Instead, it would go to hiring more bureaucrats and paying auditors to audit all government buildings and buildings that fall under federal jurisdiction, such as banks, and for more consultations on what the standard regulations for accessibility should be. In my humble opinion, this would be a waste of money. We do not need more consultations to develop regulations. We have those already. As a matter of fact, during our time in government, we spent many millions of dollars making hundreds of federal buildings more accessible. When we put that in the budget, the Liberals voted against it. We were able to do all of these updates and set regulations without the need for yet another multi-million dollar agency to develop another report.

The proposed legislation says that the regulations, after being developed over the next six years, would apply to the Parliament buildings, among other places.

I have a few questions for the minister. As members of Parliament, we all have at least two offices: one in Ottawa and one, although often more, in the riding. Would auditors be auditing our constituency offices to ensure that they comply with these new regulations? If our offices do not comply, who would be responsible for paying for the upgrades?

I know from my own experience that it was extremely difficult to find office space that was both accessible and affordable in many small towns. Our member office budgets would not cover the cost to make an office accessible because of the high dollar amount involved. Simply building a ramp and altering the front door of my office would have cost three years’ rent. The landlord could not reasonably be expected to pay for that, and house management would not pay for it.

In addition to our constituency offices, our Parliament buildings were not designed to be disability-friendly. While we as a government have made great strides in fixing that, these buildings were not designed with accessibility issues in mind.

With Centre Block shutting down in a few months for a much-needed 10-plus years’ renovation, has the minister made plans to ensure that when this building reopens it will be disability-friendly for not only Canadians when they visit the Parliament buildings, but also the MPs, senators and thousands of people who support this institution? For example, will rounded doorknobs be changed over to lever knobs? What about the bathroom sink faucets and the toilet flushers? What about the many ramps that need to be built? Will they be built to the appropriate 1-to-10 ratio? How about a distinguishable baseboard that would allow someone with a visual impairment to see where the wall and floor meet? Will there be visual and audible warnings for people in the event of emergencies? Right now in my Confederation Building office the fire alarm is an audio-only alarm. That works for me and my staff, but what if I have guests or what about cleaners who cannot hear? What is planned for wheelchair access to the hill? Perhaps more importantly, what plans exist for true emergency evacuation by wheelchair or walker?

I know that while I was the Minister of Public Works, I took all of these things into consideration and required that they be incorporated into the Parliament Hill renovation design plans. Are those features still included? I know that many of those plans have been changed.

Will the minister ensure that Centre Block and the other Parliament buildings will be accessibility-friendly after these once-in-a-century renovations?

As I mentioned earlier, I am also concerned about the jurisdiction under which this bill is being placed. As the bill currently stands, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities will be responsible for implementing this bill, yet much of the work will require execution by Public Services and Procurement. I am concerned that as a result of this, the minister will be unable to adequately assess and address the issues as they arise.

While I do support sending this legislation to committee and I do support its intended goal, I have some serious concerns about the need to create a new agency, the amount of funding requested, and how the division of responsibility, authority, and accountability for its implementation will be addressed. I am also concerned that all that this legislation does is essentially reiterate the minister’s mandate letter. She has already consulted with Canadians, so instead we should be discussing the regulations, not the creation of another agency.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We believe that the new agencies created under the bill are fundamentally important. We disagree with this Conservative MP’s suggestion that the Federal Government needs no further consultations on what to include in detailed federal accessibility standards. These are very technical requirements which take time and effort to properly develop.

*Hon. Diane Finley:

I talked about accountability. If we are going to have accountability, we have to establish what is going to be done, by whom and when. Those things are not in this bill. There is talk about consulting. That was supposed to have been done already.

We managed to go ahead and do a whole lot of things as a government that had tangible results. We upgraded several hundred buildings to make them more accessible. We did not sit around and gaze at our navels like the bill is proposing to do, spending six years to develop standards. Across Canada and around the world those standards already exist.

I would encourage the Liberal government, if it is serious about going ahead and helping people with disabilities, that it try to not reinvent the wheel, that it put some deadlines on this and name one person with the authority, responsibility and the accountability to deliver on this item and get on with it.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree with the need to add time lines, and identified measures and lines of responsibility to the bill.

* Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP):

What I have heard from people in my constituency is about the lack of timelines and the lack of accountability in the bill, advocating for some good amendments to the bill. They want something to happen sooner rather than later.

People have asked me about the need for more and that need to be able to go to one place to have that accountability. The fact that implementation and other things in the bill are sort of spread out over four different agencies seems confusing, overly bureaucratic and not effective or efficient. Would my hon. colleague like to comment on those points?

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree.

* Hon. Diane Finley:

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with the hon. member more. In fact, that is one of the biggest flaws with the bill. There is no one charged with delivering. The minister whose name is on the bill is not the minister who tabled it in the House. It is a third minister who would have to deliver with respect to physical changes to these buildings, as well as the office of the Speaker. The office of the Speaker does have a responsibility for some of the facilities in this building.

It is important to have what is known in the business world as a “locus of control”, someone who is responsible, who is accountable and who has the authority to make things happen. Otherwise, nothing happens and nobody is held accountable for it, especially when there are no timelines.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree. We have proposed specific amendments for this purpose. We have found in the Ontario Government that the lack of someone in charge within the Ontario Public Service significantly contributed to delays in progress.

* Mr. Mel Arnold (North Okanagan—Shuswap, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, a couple of things I have noticed in the debate today is that there is all kinds of talk about punishment or penalties for non-compliance.

About two weeks ago I met with a group in my riding, the Independent Living Vernon. It has been helping people with accessibility issues of all sorts, not just physical disabilities. However, what it is focused on is driving incentives within the community so there is an incentive for a business to be more physically accessible, or visually accessible or hearing accessible. It has worked with the city. For example, in Salmon Arm, our city council meetings are now streamed over blue tooth so people with blue tooth hearing aids can hear the meetings. Those are the types of incentives that really make a difference in a community.

Does the member for Haldimand—Norfolk feel that type of approach would be more suitable in the bill rather than heavy penalties for non-compliance?

*  Hon. Diane Finley:

Mr. Speaker, people with disabilities have so much to offer to businesses and to their communities. Some 750,000 Canadians could be at work but they are not. They are people with disabilities who want to work, but they cannot because of artificial barriers that are put in place, including prejudice.

The landmark study that was done a number of years ago to which I referred showed that the average company that adapted its workplace to someone with disabilities spent no more than $500. That is lot less than the average recruitment cost of $3,200 per employee. When people with disabilities joined the workforce, the company overall, not just the employee, saw improved absenteeism, improved morale, improved productivity, and therefore improved profitability.

Communities are the same way. When a municipality broadcasts its town hall meetings or its mayoral or town council meetings, the disability community is more engaged. Everybody benefits from that.

The positive side, the carrot in this case works much better than the stick. When those people get engaged, when they can participate, they can contribute and we can all benefit from that for sure.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

These statements are built on the incorrect premise that a law can either impose penalties, or incentives, but not both. It is important for this bill to provide both. Extensive experience with accessibility legislation in Canada and elsewhere around the world amply shows that without effective enforcement of mandatory accessibility requirements, progress is far too slow and spotty.

* Hon. Diane Finley:

Mr. Speaker, the bill has the potential only to be good legislation that would make a difference.

I invite my colleagues to join us at committee to make amendments that would make the bill relevant. That means establishing clear lines of accountability, of responsibility for its execution. It means not spending six years having consultations that the government has taken three years to do already. The government has consulted for three years to make a recommendation to consult for six more. That is not what four million Canadians with disabilities need. It is not what they want. Another six years of consultations is not going to help them. Then, who knows? There may be another recommendation for yet another study.

Canadians need access now. They need to be able to get to work and they need to be able to get around once they get to work. They need to be able to hear and see or use some tool or technology that will substitute for that, so they can contribute to Canadian society, so they can earn a living for themselves and get the dignity and self-worth that comes with having a job.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree that the bill needs clear lines of responsibility assigned for the bill’s implementation, and amendments to ensure early action and early progress under the bill. We do not believe that the Federal Government’s one year of consultation on how to design this legislation covered the technical specifics on which upcoming consultations are needed regarding the contents of detailed mandatory accessibility standard regulations. We also agree that there should be clear time lines for those future consultations, so that they do not drag on, as has been and now is the case in Ontario.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):

I think this bill is a good first step, but we should do more to make Canada a truly barrier-free nation…

…        However, there are criticisms and I want to go over them briefly.

We have heard a number of them through debate since Bill C-81 came to the House. I should make it clear that I will vote for the bill at this stage. I want it to get to committee where I hope we can make significant changes.

This is the first thing that needs to be said, and I raised this already in questions. As I went through the legislation, I was surprised at the language of the goal in the purpose of the act, section 5. It states:

The purpose of this Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the progressive realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers…

We find the same language in the mandate of the the Canadian accessibility standards organization, to contribute to the progressive realization of a Canada without barriers. We can go through and find the accessibility commissioners are also working toward progressive realization.

I was so interested in the language. As someone who studied legislative interpretation at law school, I have read every bill that has gone through this place since I became an MP seven years ago. I have never seen any bill where the goal is progressive realization of something. I double-checked by searching the legislative record, which we can now do much more easily than reading every bill. This is the first time any piece of legislation in Canada has set a goal of “progressive realization” of anything.

We usually, in legislation, set goals that are limited by timelines, within x number of years of the bill coming into force, that sort of thing. Progressive realization speaks to the underlying framework of this legislation, which is that it does not demand that Canada achieve a time without barriers by a specific time, even within the federal purview, and that is clearly a weakness.

It is discretionary at many other points. I mentioned earlier today in debate that the Governor in Council, which, for those watching who might not recognize the term, means cabinet, at section 4 of this act “may, by order, designate a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada as the Minister for the purposes of this Act.” I cannot imagine, having created an act that is discretionary and says we are going to have a timeline into the future where we are working in progressive realization of our goal, why on earth it is not required that cabinet appoint a minister to be in charge. Other speakers have already noted that the minister who tabled this legislation is not the minister who worked on the legislation, and so on. We really should, in committee, be able to address some of the discretionary elements and ensure that cabinet must appoint a minister from within the existing cabinet to have responsibility for carriage of this legislation. It is nonsensical to leave that part discretionary.

A number of the groups dealing with this issue of accessibility and looking at this legislation have made note of some other things, and certainly the discretionary nature and the lack of timelines has been repeated by many. In looking at the legislation, I thought as well that it is much better, in looking at a goal for all of government, that there be accountability with one agency. In this legislation, for instance, the rights of accessibility to transport are handled through the Canadian Transportation Agency, whereas the rights to access to telecommunications, radio and TV is left with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

I want to read a quote into the record by disability advocate and lawyer David Lepofsky. I certainly leaned on his advice and will be doing so as I am preparing amendments for Bill C-81. He said, “That kind of splintered approach”, by which I just referred to different agencies having responsibility, “to implementation and enforcement is a formula for confusion, delay, duplication and ineffectiveness. We would rather have it all under one roof.” So would I. It would be much more effective if it were all under one roof, with one agency being accountable.

There is another element that has come up for discussion since the bill was tabled, and that is access to languages, particularly sign languages, the right to recognize that sign languages are languages and, in the national context, must be protected as official languages. Recently, there was a demonstration in Ottawa about the concerns that sign language in English and French as well as indigenous sign languages, be recognized as languages, as part of a national language. This is a concern that was expressed by a nationwide rally that occurred not that long ago and it is one that I share. I want to go on the record as supporting that American sign language, langue des signes du Québec and indigenous sign languages be understood to be official languages. One cannot have full accessibility if one cannot read, find and hear the information due to physical limitations.

Our embracing of the United Nations declaration on the rights of people with disabilities must be at least as strong. Of course, there are other United Nations declarations, such as on the rights of indigenous persons, on which we have the same concern. We can endorse these United Nations declarations, but when it comes home to implementation in Canada, we must be serious about ensuring that our goals are not in the far distance. Therefore, progressive realization is not language I want to see in this legislation at royal assent. What I hope we will all see, and we can negotiate it, is that within four years, five years, six years of royal assent given to this legislation a barrier-free Canada must exist and all peoples of Canada must be able to access, as citizens, all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizenship.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We again appreciate the leader of the Green Party reiterating a number of the concerns that we have raised with Bill C-81, as well as concerns raised by others from the disability perspective. We again appreciate the explicit endorsement of our bottom-line concerns.

* Ms. Elizabeth May:

I clearly stated that I would vote in favour of sending the bill to committee, where I very much hope improvements can be made to the timelines and discretionary matters that need clarification.

At first reading, this bill seems rather anemic, but I know the government is trying, and I thank it for that.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree.

* Mr. John Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues we hear is that of the timeline on this piece of legislation. If there is nothing mandated, it effectively pushes the timeline down the road. There is no consistency. There is certainly no time frame within which many of the proposals in the legislation are to be implemented. The hope is that we can get this to committee and work among the committee to try to narrow that down. I wonder if that is a concern of the hon. member as well.

Ms. Elizabeth May:

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more. There has been a strong degree of non-partisan concern from all members of this place in the debates on Bill C-81, whether Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat or Green. There is a hope that we will see the legislation improved in committee, and it is with that spirit that I will vote for the legislation at second reading and hope that we can see more precision.

As I said, I know the language “progressive realization” is found in some United Nations language, but I submit to this House that progressive realization of a goal is not a terminology that belongs in Canadian law. If they are serious about doing something, they give it timelines, they state goals, and they create accountability. Otherwise, it becomes a legislative effort in empty promises and dreamy hope but without the kind of rigour that brings change through legislation.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

These statements show that some core concerns we have raised with Bill C-81 have some bi-partisan support, at least among opposition parties in Parliament.

* Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I have learned a lot today from members on all sides of the House. I want to concur with my hon. colleague’s statement that there appears to be a lot of consensus that this bill is important, but also a lot of consensus that this bill needs to be open to amendments at committee.

There is one thing I want to put forward for my colleague, just to hear her thoughts. I do not pretend to know all the ins and outs of the legislation, but could we not, inside Bill C-81, include some type of timeline for Canada to actually bring in line our laws and policies with the declaration for the rights of persons with disabilities that we signed so many years ago? It has come to my attention that this could be one thing we could put in the bill to work toward.

* Ms. Elizabeth May:

Mr. Speaker, clearly, timelines make sense in this legislation, and we do not have them now. To quote again the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, it pointed out that to meet this goal of progressive realization within the purview of matters coming under the legislative authority of Parliament, one new ramp per year somewhere in Canada would entirely fulfill that insufficient goal.

I do not think the government nor the minister who brought this legislation forward would be satisfied with such an insufficient outcome. I can almost imagine in the legislative drafting someone saying, “It will cost too much if we actually mean what we say; let’s make it really fuzzy”. I think the minister carrying the file does not want fuzzy hope. She wants to really deliver for people who have physical challenges, as she does. She is a remarkable tribute to overcoming physical limitations to do all that she has done.

The way to ensure the legislation delivers is to put in timelines, such as: all federal buildings must be fully accessible by day x, or as the member for Haldimand—Norfolk brought up, we should ensure that all riding offices of members of Parliament are fully accessible. We can put timelines on these things, and we can break them apart so that one agency does not feel that it is going to be bankrupted by the effort. Surely, we can do better than progressive realization of a goal that could recede into 2150 without breaking a single clause.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-81, or as I call it, another Liberal feel good bill that is short on details, does not note how it will actually help the disabled, and yet somehow manages to detail how it will grow the bureaucracy, but that is just a working title….

We will support this bill in order to get it to committee, where hopefully we will get the Liberals to actually work on concrete measures to help improve the lives of the disabled.

AODA Alliance Comment:

As indicated earlier, while the bill has shortcomings that need to be fixed, it is incorrect to describe this bill in terms of just growing the federal bureaucracy.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West, CPC):

We have a lot of questions on this legislation. We do support it like our colleagues in the NDP and other parties. We want it to get to committee so that we can get some teeth into the measures currently in it and help disabled people.

We do have some questions for the minister, though. When will the new regulations come into effect? The six-year time frame would suggest that the entire process is going to take six years to get done between now and the time help will be given to the disabled. How much is it going to cost federal workplaces and private businesses? What will the new standard be? Why will we be voting on legislation when we do not know the regulations that will come out of it? Is it going to be properly defined to avoid a flood of human rights complaints?

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree that the bill needs to have teeth added to it. We do not agree that the content of future accessibility standard regulations need to be delineated before the bill is enacted. Respectfully, that puts the cart before the horse. We need the bill passed to put in place a mandatory process to create those regulations.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West, CPC):

I note that in the 10-page slide deck or briefing document the government sent out, it provided more information on the bureaucracy going after people and penalizing them, etc., than it did on how the bill would help the average disabled person. We are worried about that.

Is the government going to build a bureaucracy that will create paperwork and go after people? It has not put anything in the bill specifying how it is going to physically and pragmatically help the disabled. What will the outcome be? We do not know. We do know that there will be a lot more bureaucrats going after people.

The $290 million will not even scratch the surface of what it is going to cost the federal government and the federally regulated private sectors to catch up to the new standards.

We have a lot of issues with this legislation, but we do support it.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

As noted earlier, for this legislation to be effective, it must have effective enforcement. How many would obey the rules of the road, like speed limits, if there was no law enforcement on the road?

* Ms. Linda Lapointe (Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Lib.):

I would like to ask my friend whether the Conservatives will be supporting Bill C-81.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley:

Mr. Speaker, I think I mentioned about eight times that we are going to support it. We want to help people with disabilities. We are going to support it and get it to committee.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

It is helpful that there is bi-partisan support for getting this legislation brought forward to a Standing Committee, and for that Committee to be tasked to improve it through recommendations.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley:

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made a lot of great points. We want to see people living with disabilities have full access to everything that Canadians enjoy, whether with respect to work, access to public buildings, or access to anything that regular Canadians enjoy. We very much want to see a plan that helps the disabled get to work.

…        However, Bill C-81 is so vague about what it is going to do that it has disappointed us. We want to get it to committee where we can study it and get some firm, outcome-based teeth to the legislation.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree that the bill is in some important ways too vague. It is good that there is such widespread bi-partisan support for ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to Canadian society.

* Mr. Larry Maguire (Brandon—Souris, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I was wondering about the complaints process in this bill. My colleague has talked about many of its shortfalls, and one of them is what looks like another form of a complaints process, which is the main thing in this bill. Could he elaborate on that? I know he has expounded on many of the areas of concern that are not in the bill, and a number of things that could be. One of the reasons he wants it to pass at second reading is so that we can see if the government will come forward with amendments, or if it will allow others. Could he elaborate on that?

* Mr. Kelly McCauley:

Mr. Speaker, that is a concern. As I mentioned, in the slide deck the government gave us introducing the legislation, there is one page on implementing accessibility requirements, one page on helping the disabled, but two full pages on how it is going to set up a bureaucratic regime to go after people. The way the government is going at it is backward. It needs to focus on actually helping the disabled rather than creating a new bureaucratic nightmare to go after people. We need to focus on pragmatic results and helping the disabled, and not spending money and resources on the bureaucracy. It needs to be spent on Canadians suffering with disabilities.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

Contrary to this statement, it is very good that this bill includes a complaint process. Our brief to Parliament offers detailed recommendations on how to improve that complaint process. Among other things, it is far too complicated for people with disabilities and others, because it is a splintered process, not a single unified process.

We disagree that the bill is “creating a new bureaucratic nightmare to go after people…”

* Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC):

This bill is, for lack of a better description, a horribly missed opportunity. I think all of us in the House would agree that any opportunity we have to enact legislation that would help Canadians with disabilities, or all Canadians, access employment opportunities so they could help their families and their communities would be a benefit and something we should all be focused on doing. Unfortunately, the Liberal bill, the accessible Canada act, does none of those things. It is very thin, it lacks any details, and it certainly lacks any tangible results or aspirational goals we are trying to meet. I think the four million Canadians who have disabilities would be extremely disappointed, because this is certainly not what they were promised by the Prime Minister in the 2015 campaign. …

…        Bill C-81 is extremely weak. It does not outline any regulations or details. It only calls for more consultation and another regulatory process to begin, but the price tag is $290 million. I cannot go back to my constituents and explain to them what the $290 million is going to be used for and what the results are going to be.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

As indicated earlier, we agree that the bill lacks important details. It would also be helpful for the Federal Government to explain in detail its 290 million budget that it is appropriating for this bill’s implementation over several years.

* Mr. John Barlow:

Mr. Speaker, what are the standards? We can have all these aspirational points as part of the bill, saying that we want to do this and achieve that, but there are no clear standards in there that say this is what is going to happen step by step, and with timelines. If we speak to those stakeholders and, with all honesty, say that we will have these standards, we do not know what they are, but they will be sometime in the next six years or so, is that really what those stakeholders have asked for? Is that really what they are supporting? I would question whether that was the bill of goods they were sold.

Again, I think all of us support the essence of Bill C-81. This is the direction we want to go. We want to ensure we are removing barriers for Canadians with disabilities, but we want a clear path and clear rules on how we get there.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

It is correct that the bill lacks needed step-by-step implementation deadlines. However, this should not be confused with accessibility standards, which will only be created and enforced once the bill’s implementation machinery is established, up and running.

* Mr. Robert Kitchen (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC):

Canadians living with disabilities deserve meaningful and effective action from their government to help them improve their quality of life where possible. There are good things about this bill. It would hopefully make it easier for some Canadians with disabilities to deal with the federal government. However it is unclear as to how this helps with the rest of their lives.

Something I also support in this legislation, the clearest and most repeated point, is that it spells out the complaints process. This, however, is just a tiny aspect of a much greater piece of legislation that should provide common-sense regulations and standards, which I believe is what disabled Canadians were hoping for.

…        I cannot comprehend why the government would put out this legislation unless it was simply to say it was doing something. It had two and a half years to consult and this is what it came up with. I believe it does a disservice to those involved. To put it casually, there is no meat in this meal.

Before I can support this bill, I and all Canadians need to know these facts. In my view, this bill is putting the cart before the horse. I think that every person sitting in the House today would say that they support initiatives that benefit Canadians living with disabilities, but this piece of legislation fails to have any meaningful impact and sets out to spend a lot of money to do nothing.

* Mr. Robert Kitchen:

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the member for Fredericton, for his question and all the good work that he has had to do in Fredericton over the past year. I know he has been hard at that.

I agree with a lot of what he said about working together. That is part of what this legislation should be doing. I had a conversation with the minister a couple of days ago on this issue. One of the things we discussed was maybe taking two Liberals, two Conservatives, two NDP, and putting them in a room to sit around and hash out all of the little details so that we could get all of the fine lines. It is important to do that, and I expect we will see a lot of that at committee. I hope to see that help us move forward, and to help those with disabilities so we can advance our country to the benefit he suggested.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We would support any such bi-partisan effort to address the proposed amendments that we and others have proposed to strengthen this bill and to ensure it fulfils the Federal Government’s commendable intentions that it has announced for this bill.

Third Day of Second Reading Debate on Bill C-81 September 26, 2018

Originally posted at:

http://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-326/hansard#Int-10263898

* Ms. Sheila Malcolmson (Nanaimo—Ladysmith, NDP):

Bill C-81 would empower the government to create accessibility standards or regulations, but it would not require the government to do that. We like the idea of an accessibility commissioner in charge of enforcement.

New Democrats are going to support this proposed legislation at first reading so we can get it to committee and make as many constructive amendments as we can to serve the people with disabilities who need this to work well, but we could not support it if it were to come back in this form.

The bill would not bring us into conformity with our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The text on civil rights legislation for persons with disabilities is really the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is dated 1990. We have a good model out there. Canadians should be at least meeting the standard set by the Americans.

My New Democrat fellow MP for New Westminster—Burnaby in 2007 tabled proposed legislation in the House. My fellow MP in this Parliament, the MP for Windsor—Tecumseh, has been very strong as our critic for the NDP on this bill, saying that any accessibility bill tabled has to be seen as enabling legislation for Canada’s commitments to the United Nations. Therefore, we will be pushing in committee for mandatory timelines for implementation. Without those, the implementation process, and even a start-up process, could drag on for years.

We will be pushing to require that all federal government laws, policies and programs be studied through a disability law lens. We will be asking that the bill not continue its error right now of giving several public agencies or officials much too much power to grant partial or blanket exemptions from important parts of the bill. The bill right now would separate enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. In committee the NDP will argue instead that Bill C-81 should provide people with disabilities with a single service location or one-stop shopping so that they can access the services with dignity and the support they need.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We share the concerns expressed here.

* Mr. Larry Maguire (Brandon—Souris, CPC):

I am encouraged that this legislation would establish proactive compliance measures. Making buildings and workplaces accessible should never be an afterthought; it should be at the forefront of any architect or engineer’s plans. It is important that we have common accessibility standards across the board.

While I note that this legislation only impacts federally regulated workplaces, it is my sincere hope that it will lead to a much broader conversation within provinces and territories. I believe there is willingness across the country to get this done. There is such opportunity for businesses and organizations to encourage as many people as possible to either be employed, to volunteer, or to shop. …

…        As with any new regulation or law, we must always be mindful about the costs to be borne by those who will be impacted. The other element we have to look at is what it will cost taxpayers to implement, enforce and measure. It costs money to hire people and to perform the day-to-day operations of a new federal entity.

I think all members would agree that we should measure the success or deficiencies of a particular program or organization.

The question at the end of the day is this: Does the federal government need to set up completely new bodies, or can we find ways to harness existing resources? While the fine details will be worked out at a later date, I urge the government to focus squarely on tangible outcomes and projects that will improve accessibility. It would be disappointing if all of the dollars allocated to this legislation just created new full-time equivalents rather than going to bricks and mortar projects. These are the sorts of questions that must be asked up front, because once a government entity is created, it is normally quite difficult to make the necessary changes down the road.

Because this legislation will only impact federally regulated workplaces, most small businesses and community-led organizations will not be directly impacted. That said, the federal government must work hand in hand with federally regulated workplaces and the disabled community. For this legislation to have the impact that we all want it to have, it cannot be drafted in a silo or entirely by the civil service. The regulations and standards must be written in easy-to-comprehend language. There must be crystal clear expectations, coupled with appropriate enforcement measures. I also encourage everyone involved to look for best practices not only in the various provinces, but also around the world, and we must make sure that we do not just create another bureaucratic institution.

Building a new institution that would just create mounds of paperwork and have limited buy-in from workplaces would not be in anyone’s best interest.

I know that when this legislation goes to committee, there will be great interest in it. It would be prudent for the government to provide the committee with as much information as possible so there is meaningful dialogue. It is imperative that the minister spend the necessary time to get this right. I will definitely be voting in favour of this legislation so that it gets the proper study and engagement it so rightfully deserves.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

There is much in the preceding statement with which we can agree. We note that there are, at times, a need to create new agencies, such as the Accessibility Commissioner. It would be a false economy to assign this bill’s implementation in part to the Canada Transportation Agency and the CRTC. In fact, that will yield poor results and higher implementation costs in the end.to create

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the implementation and administration of this accessibility legislation is going to take resources and investments. Where possible, I agree that we would build on our existing authorities and expertise. This only makes sense in efficiency and cost savings terms. I am certainly not thinking that the member opposite would suggest that we should not put money and resources to this very important issue.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

Neither the CTA nor CRTC have expertise in disability accessibility nor a proven substantially positive track record on disability accessibility to make it more efficient to leave them with lead responsibility under this bill for the sectors they traditionally regulate.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):

I found this legislation curious, in that it states that the Governor in Council may appoint a minister to be responsible for this area of responsibility. I think it is clearly the government’s intent that there will be such a minister because so much hangs on a minister acting.

Can the hon. member for Brandon—Souris suggest any reason why this would not be supported by all parties to make it a mandatory responsibility of cabinet to appoint a minister to have conduct of Bill C-81?

Mr. Larry Maguire:

Mr. Speaker, I cannot think of a good reason. However, not being the government and among the ones who put this bill forward, I guess we will have to leave that up to them.

My colleague is quite right about the wording of the bill. I wanted to make very clear as well that the government may have some reason for not using that and going forward with it, but we want to make sure. There may even be amendments that will still come forward in this bill as it goes to second reading.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

We agree with the amendment that the leader of the Green Party here proposes.

* Mr. David Yurdiga (Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, today I stand before you to support Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The bill is an excellent step in the right direction in reducing barriers for people living with disabilities…

…        The bill sets out to benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, through the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. Over $290 million has been committed to be spent over six years. This is an excellent first step, but people with disabilities deserve more. They deserve more funding, more research, more programs and more access.

Together, we can create better employment supports; improve income and disability support; increase access to treatment, comprehensive care and housing; and invest in fundamental research for all disabilities.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

Different members of the Conservative party take widely differing views of this bill, as the preceding statement exemplifies.

* Mr. Jamie Schmale (Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, CPC):

On this side of the House, we are going to support Bill C-81 at second reading. We thank the government for bringing it forward. This will allow all of us to have a robust debate in committee, and in the House, and talk about how we can make all our communities in Canada more accessible for everyone, not just those who do not have mobility issues.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

It is important to note that this bill is meant to address the needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, not just those whose disability affects their mobility.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):

Mr. Speaker, I join my colleague in voting for Bill C-81 at second reading to go to committee. I do so in the fervent hope that we will see many improvements made to it at committee.

I do not understand why at this stage, after years of consultation, we would bring forward legislation to achieve a barrier-free Canada that uses language like “progressive realization of”. I have checked and there is no legislation anywhere else in Canada on any topic that sets a goal of “progressive realization of”. Our legislation usually says that by so many years or months from royal assent, we will have achieved tangible goals.

The disability groups that have commented on the proposed legislation say that “progressive realization of” could mean one ramp a year built somewhere across Canada to remove a barrier. I do not think the government and the fine ministers who brought the bill forward actually intend a go-slow plan to remove barriers. This is why I hope that in committee the Conservatives, the New Democrats and the Liberal members of the committee will accept amendments to provide real progress, which is measurable toward a barrier-free Canada.

* Mr. Jamie Schmale:

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. There are items in the bill about which we on this side of the House have a few questions and concerns. It is an opportunity in committee to iron out the finer details.

All of us will carefully examine the legislation as it progresses through committee. Hopefully, witnesses are able to come to committee to provide testimony and their suggestions on how to improve the bill. All of us will have another opportunity to look at the final draft and then make a final decision on it.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Mr. Luc Berthold (Mégantic—L’Érable, CPC):

Opposition members often rise in the House to talk about good causes and the people who are important to them, the people in their ridings.

In this case, we are speaking on behalf of persons with reduced mobility, who have to overcome many barriers in their lives.

Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, is a step in the right direction. Every member in the House supports measures to reduce barriers for all Canadians in every aspect of their lives.

Canadians with disabilities deserve to have a government that always keeps mobility in mind to ensure that those with reduced mobility can live in a barrier-free society.

Unfortunately, even if it is a step in the right direction, Bill C-81 will not improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities in the short term. To this day, our society does not always bring forward measures that will make life easier for Canadians with disabilities.

We believe that we need to take action to help them, and we want to work with the government to find real solutions. However, this bill is proof that the Liberal government is somewhat out of touch and that it does not always understand the challenges that people with disabilities must face. With this bill, the government is going to use taxpayers’ money to write reports or action plans.

I am going to talk a bit about my experience as mayor and, in particular, as the former president of an association that works to improve the quality of life of the disabled on a daily basis.

People with reduced mobility need us to deal with their infrastructure, both their homes and their workplaces. We must do everything we can to make it possible for them to get to work and contribute to Canadian society.

We need to help more Canadians with mobility issues enter the workforce…

……    We must work hard to ensure that every single Canadian has access to the same society, regardless of their physical abilities…

……    The Liberal government wants to invest $290 million to develop accessibility plans and set objectives. I repeat, it wants to invest $290 million to develop accessibility plans and set objectives.

That seems like a lot of money to me. This money will be spent over a period of six years. Does that mean we will have to wait six years to see any changes? Will any other funding be announced in the meantime for putting these plans into action and achieving the objectives? Unfortunately, the bill before us has no answers to those questions, so it is hard for us to get a clear idea of what is actually going to come out of Bill C-81.

Canadians with disabilities cannot understand how a government can think it is totally normal to spend $290 million on plans and objectives. These people are living their lives right now, and now is when they want improved living conditions, accessible workplaces, and help to participate in this country’s economic development.

People with mobility issues do not need a government that will invest in bureaucracy. They need a government that will actually tackle problems by adapting infrastructure…

……    The bill seems pretty good at first blush. Will the government be working closely with people with reduced mobility? Why wait so long before taking action? How will that $290 million be spent? I sure hope the government will be consulting the people it is supposed to be helping and will invite them to play an active role in the organization.

As I was saying, there are far too many unknowns in this bill.

AODA Alliance Comment:

 

Here again, it is important that this bill aims at accessibility for people with all kinds of disabilities, not just physical or mobility disabilities.

* Mr. David Tilson (Dufferin—Caledon, CPC):

I do not really have a question for my colleague, but I would like to congratulate the government for bringing this bill forward.



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