Help Us Make Information and Communication Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities — Please Tell the Ford Government If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on that Committee’s Draft Recommendations to Improve the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard


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

Help Us Make Information and Communication Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities — Please Tell the Ford Government If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on that Committee’s Draft Recommendations to Improve the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

November 26, 2019

          SUMMARY

It’s finished and delivered! The AODA Alliance has submitted its final brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. In that brief we give that Committee our feedback on its July 24, 2019 draft recommendations for improving Ontario’s 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that was enacted under the (AODA).

Our detailed brief, which we set out below, includes all the content that was in our draft brief that we circulated for public comment on November 5, 2019. There has been minor editing and a small amount of additional material, thanks to the helpful feedback we received on that draft. Thanks to all who read our draft and offered their feedback.

Let’s build support for our cause. Help in a snap, by notifying the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief. We encourage individuals and disability organizations to do so. Even though the deadline for submitting feedback to the Committee has passed, nothing stops you from sending a short email stating your support. Write the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee at [email protected]

You could simply say: “I support the November 25, 2019 brief on the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.”

Here is a short summary of what we say in this brief. This is the summary that is also included in the brief itself.

  1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.
  1. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  1. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committee s draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them “as is” or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.
  1. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committee’s draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.
  1. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.
  1. Some of the Committee’s specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

If you want more background on this issue, you can explore the time line of our efforts to get a strong Information and Communication Accessibility Standard enacted in Ontario by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/infoandcom/

Now 299 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Onley Report found that the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA has been too weak. The Ford Government has announced no plan to implement that report.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Brief to the Ontario Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Its Draft Recommendations for Revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

November 25, 2019

Via email to: [email protected]

A. Introduction

1. Overview

This is the AODA Alliance’s brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on its draft recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. The Government must enact and effectively enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved. An accessibility standard is a provincial regulation that spells out what an obligated organization must do to prevent and remove accessibility barriers and that sets timelines for action.

In 2011, the Ontario Government passed the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. Among other things, that regulation includes a series of provisions on the accessibility of information and communication. That is usually referred to in this brief as the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. At other points, this brief at times refers to the IASR, of which that Standard is a part.

In 2016, the Ontario Government appointed the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to review the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA, and to recommend any revisions needed so that this accessibility standard would best achieve the AODA’s purposes.

The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has developed draft recommendations on how to strengthen the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. On July 24, 2019, the Ontario Government posted those draft recommendations online and invited public input on them. The Ontario Government was required to do this under the AODA. The feedback which the Government receives is to be submitted to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. That committee is then required to consider that feedback, as it finalizes its recommendations to the Government.

This brief provides the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee with our feedback on the Committee’s draft recommendations. Our 49 recommendations throughout this brief are also gathered together in one place in Appendix 1. We hope that this feedback will assist the Committee as it finalizes its recommendations to the Government.

This brief embodies the accumulated input that we have received over the years from a broad and diverse spectrum of sources across the disability community. That includes feedback both disability organizations and individuals with disabilities. Over the years, we have found that many from within the disability community have come to rely on the AODA Alliance’s work formulating briefs such as this.

^The AODA Alliance welcomes this opportunity to offer our input. We ask that the Accessibility Ministry ensure that all members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee receive this brief as a whole, and not just a summary of it that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario prepares. We have received informal word that in the past, at least some Standards Development Committees only receive a summary of feedback from such mandatory public consultations. That summary was evidently prepared by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. To fulfil the spirit and purposes of the AODA’s public consultation provisions, it is important for all Standards Development Committee members to hear directly from the public, including the AODA Alliance, without having their input filtered by the Ontario Government.

We have offered to make an in-person presentation directly to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on our feedback. We thank the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for accepting this offer, and look forward to presenting to the Committee on January 22, 2020. Given the extensive detail in this brief, we would appreciate it if the Committee was able to give us more than 15 minutes to present. The Transportation Standards Development Committee and Employment Standards Development Committee each gave us 30 minutes to present. We realize that the Committee’s time is limited, and welcome whatever time can be provided. We would also welcome guidance from the Committee on which topics, covered in this brief, would be most helpful for us to concentrate on during our presentation.

When it comes time for the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to vote on the recommendations that it will present to the Ontario Government, we ask the Committee to vote separately on each of the recommendations that we present in this brief.

We thank the members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for their commendable efforts to strengthen the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We also acknowledge with thanks the feedback and input that we regularly receive from our supporters that enable us to provide informed feedback to the Government and the public in areas such as this. For example, we publicly circulated a draft of this brief on November 5, 2019 for comment. We have incorporated the feedback received into this finalized brief.

2. Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Our mission is:

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

To learn about us, visit: https://www.aodaalliance.org.

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

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, parties that made election commitments on accessibility did so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in MPPs’ speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that desired legislation.

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

The AODA Alliance has played a leading and highly-visible role in Ontario in raising a wide range of accessibility issues, including in the information and communication context. We have connections across Canada and internationally with, and are regularly consulted by accessibility advocates and governments as they grapple with how to tackle these kinds of issues.

As but one example, the AODA Alliance played a leading role in campaigning to enable the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to get back to work in 2018 after the work of all Standards Development Committees was frozen in the wake of the 2018 Ontario election. We were happy and relieved when the Ontario Government lifted that freeze on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee in the fall of 2018 and allowed it to go back to work.

3. Summary of this Brief

The AODA Alliance has solicited input from its supporters through its website, its mass email list, and on Twitter. Drawing on that feedback and on our extensive involvement in advocacy on accessibility issues in Ontario, this brief provides our feedback on those draft recommendations.

Our feedback set out in this brief is summarized as follows:

  1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, this would not ensure that information and communication would be accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.
  1. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all the known recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. There are too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  1. We agree with many, if not most or all of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most of the Committee’s draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we agree with them “as is” or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.
  1. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committee’s draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication. We aim to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the Standard’s excessively broad exemptions.
  1. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We strongly oppose any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it. This is because we do not want to risk the Legislature weakening the AODA.
  1. Some of the Committee’s suggestions in its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

4. Preliminary Thoughts Before Proceeding to Our Specific Recommendations

Here are three important themes which we ask the Committee to bear in mind as it reviews our recommendations.

a) A Commendable Start

First, we strongly commend and congratulate the Committee for its efforts and for the draft recommendations. As will become evident, we agree with many if not most of the Committee’s Phase 1 draft recommendations. We urge adjustments to several of those recommendations to further strengthen them. These are in a number of cases minor adjustments or refinements to the Committee’s work. We also point out several additional improvements to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, to supplement those which the Committee suggested.

Based on its work so far, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has done by far the best job of any Standards Development Committee that has been appointed to review an existing AODA accessibility standard. It prepared far stronger draft recommendations for reform than did the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) when it reviewed the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard or the Transportation Standards Development Committee when it reviewed the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

b) Committee’s Job Not Merely to Assess if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Has Been Working “As Intended”

Second, it appears that several Standards Development Committees that reviewed an existing AODA accessibility standard got substantially erroneous advice from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. The Transportation Standards Development Committee, Employment Standards Development Committee and the current Information and Communication Standards Development Committee, each stated that its job, when reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard, is to determine if the standard is working “as intended”. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations state in the introduction:

“The Act requires that each of Ontario’s accessibility standards be reviewed within five years of becoming law, to determine whether they are working as intended and to allow for changes to be made if they are required.”

Substantially the same erroneous language was included in the initial draft recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development Committee that were circulated in 2017 for public comment and the draft recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee which were circulated earlier this year for public comment.

For a Standards Development Committee to merely look to see if the standard is working “as intended” seriously and substantially understates the goal of this mandatory review of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. The AODA does not limit a Standards Development Committee to inquiring on such a review to see if the standard is working “as intended”.

Rather, this mandatory review’s purpose is to ascertain whether the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working sufficiently to ensure that information and communication will become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s goal. This Review should recommend any improvements needed to ensure that the Standard will achieve that goal.

It is not sufficient for the Standards Development Committee to just ask if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working “as intended.” By that lesser and palpably weak approach, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard would be fine, and would need no improvements, if it led obligated organizations to merely do whatever the original 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard spelled out. That would leave information and communication in Ontario full of disability barriers long after 2025.

As this brief documents, the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, was not capable of ensuring that information and communication will become fully accessible by 2025, or ever. We have publicly shared our strong disagreement with the Accessibility Directorate’s substantial dilution of the aim of these five year reviews of AODA accessibility standards. We have alerted the Directorate about our concerns. Despite this, and with no explanation or justification, that Directorate appears to have persisted in pressing Standards Development Committees to adopt this incorrect and unduly restrictive understanding of their mandate. We identified this concern in our briefs to the Transportation and Employment Standards Development Committees. We also identified it in Chapter 5 of our January 15, 2019 brief to the Third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. It appears under the heading: “Inappropriate Government Attempts to Unduly Restrict the Work of Standards Development Committees”.

Even though the Information and Communication Standards Development refers to this erroneous “working as intended” approach to its review, it is clear from the draft recommendations that the Committee did not allow itself to be improperly hog-tied by the Directorate’s erroneous advice or direction. We congratulate the Committee for this.

c) Committee Should Use the Findings in the Moran and Onley Reports As Its Starting Point

Third, we agree with the Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations’ general assessment of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as summarized in this paragraph:

“The Committee’s discussions reflected a consensus that the current standards are not keeping pace with technology. There was mention that the standards are not always strong enough and are often too difficult to apply. The Committee also discussed the fact that the standards are confusing and prevent innovation in accessible technology. Overall, Committee members agreed that the standards need to be modernized and crafted to ensure they remain relevant in the future, as technology changes at an increasingly rapid pace.”

However, it is vital for the Committee to proceed from the starting point that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is substantially more deficient than that, even though it is the strongest of the accessibility standards enacted to date. The Committee should work from the starting point established by the second AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran and the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. The key findings in the reports of those reviews appear to come directly from the detailed briefs that the AODA Alliance submitted to those reviews.

In 2014, the second mandatory Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found that there are very serious deficiencies in the accessibility standards enacted to date. These included the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Nothing in that accessibility Standard has been changed since that report to address those concerns. Appendix 1 to this brief sets out key excerpts from the Moran Report.

The third Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by David Onley, reinforced and supplemented the Moran Report’s overall findings. It did not disagree with the Moran Report’s findings regarding the IASR’s deficiencies. In 2019, the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley accepted the earlier Moran Report as a correct starting point. It did not contradict any of the Moran Report’s findings about the problems with the accessibility standards enacted to date. It did not find that in the intervening four years, the Ontario Government had done anything to reduce those serious deficiencies.

To the contrary, the Onley Report made even more pointed and blistering findings about the AODA’s overall implementation. It did not exempt the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard from those blistering findings.

Based on public feedback, Onley’s report found that the pace of change regarding accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With then under six years left before 2025, the report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” He concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

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

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

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. It in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership. The Onley Report recommended:

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

Since the Onley Report was received some ten months ago, the Ontario Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement it, nor has it publicly said that it will do so in the future. Ontario keeps slipping further behind the goal of full accessibility, while the 2025 deadline looms closer.

d) The Bottom Line for This Committee

As such, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s job is pivotal. It should recommend fixes to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that will rectify the substantial deficiencies in the AODA’s implementation in so far as they pertain to the accessibility of information and communication. This brief aims to help the Committee with that task.

If the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is to be strengthened in order to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved by 2025 in relation to information and communication, this must happen now. The next mandatory review of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not have to be appointed until the eve of the 2025 deadline. By then, if Ontario is not back on schedule for the 2025 deadline in connection with the accessibility of information and communication, it will be too late to meet that deadline.

Substantial progress on accessibility is easier to achieve in the area of information and communication than in many other areas like the built environment. Information technology is rapidly evolving and replacing earlier products. The inaccessible technology, websites or mobile apps of last year will often be superceded in the next months or years.

In the following discussion, our recommendations track the sequence of the Committee’s draft recommendations. We insert additional topics where they best fit, following the structure of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard itself.

B. Our Specific Feedback on the Draft Recommendations’ Phase 1 Proposals

1. Accessibility Standard’s Long Term Objective

We commend the Committee for reviewing the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s long term objective, and for trying to simplify it. We believe that all that needs to be added to the Committee’s proposed simplified language is the AODA’s 2025 deadline.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The Standard’s long term objective should be:

“By no later than 2025 and thereafter, people with disabilities will be able to participate fully and equally in the creation and use of information and communications.”

2. Section 2 – Definitions

The term “accessible formats” should be clarified so that organizations know that digital formats are an option, but only if they are in a format that is screen-reader-friendly.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. The Committee’s recommendations should recommend that the definition of “accessible formats” in s. 2 of the Standard should be expanded to add “digital accessible formats that are readily readable on computers and portable technologies such as smart phones, using adaptive technology, but does not include documents in PDF format unless also accompanied by other accessible digital formats.”

3. Definition of Electronic Self-Serve Kiosks

The IASR’s definition of an electronic self-serve kiosk is far too narrow.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section, “kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

4. Committee’s Recommendation 1 Consolidating the Regulation’s Feedback Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s Recommendation 1 that it would be good to immediately consolidate in one place in the IASR all feedback requirements, in language that makes them clear and consistent as long as this makes it clear that this that does not reduce any existing obligations.

5. Section 9 – Definitions and Exceptions

The Standard’s definition of “conversion-ready” information is too loose. Section 9 provides:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that facilitates conversion into an accessible format;”

That definition does not ensure that the material is capable of ready conversion into an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#4. The Committee should recommend that section 9(1) of the Standard should be amended to define “conversion-ready” as follows:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that ensures ready conversion into an accessible format that effectively retains the information content that can be read on a computer using widely available adaptive technology, and on hand-held or portable digital technology such as smart phones;”

Section 9(4) of the IASR defines unconvertible information in a manner that is far too broad. It weakens the rights of people with disabilities. Section 9(4) provides:

“For the purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

(a) it is not technically feasible to convert the information or communications; or

(b) the technology to convert the information or communications is not readily

available.”

That provision dramatically reduces obligations of organizations below what they are required to do under the Human Rights Code, and, where applicable, the Charter of Rights. Our proposal for amending s. 9(2) makes s. 9(4) unnecessary.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The Committee should recommend that either:

(a) Section 9(4) should be deleted, or

(b) Section 9(4) should be amended to provide as follows:

“(4) For purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

  1. a) It is not possible to convert the information or communications without undue hardship; or
  2. b) The technology to convert the information or communications is not available without undue hardship.”

6. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 2 PDF Documents

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations where they conclude that PDF documents are often inaccessible and that the required expertise to make them accessible is seldom present in obligated organizations.

The Committee’s draft recommendations indicate that they do not propose banning PDF formats. We have never proposed banning anyone from creating a PDF document. It has always been our position, which we urge here, that if an obligated organization creates a pdf document in connection with activities to which this accessibility standard would apply, an accessible alternate format document, such as an MS Word, txt or HTML document should also be posted and made available at the same time.

The Committee’s draft recommendations state that the Committee considered non-regulatory measures such as education for Government employees, but did not vote on this. We do not believe that such non-regulatory measures are sufficient. They would not solve this persistent but easily-remedied problem.

As an example, we have been struggling for well over a decade to get the Ontario Government to change its own practices with PDFs, so that it will always simultaneously post an accessible format for a document whenever it publicly posts a PDF. This has too often been a frustrating and futile effort, even after we repeatedly raised this at the highest levels within the Ontario Public Service. We still continue to face serious problems.

The Ontario Government has repeatedly claimed to be leading Ontario by its example on accessibility. Yet its poor example in this context is not one by which we would want Ontario to be led. For example, the Ontario Government even released in inaccessible PDF documents such important things as the 2014 final report of Mayo Moran’s Independent Review of the AODA, and the previous Government‘s long-awaited anti-poverty strategy. Years after being told that PDFs present an accessibility problem, the Ministry of Education continues to make important publicly-facing documents regarding Ontario’s education system available via PDF documents.

A simple, clear enforceable rule in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is the only effective measure that will have a hope of success, not only for the Ontario Government, but for other obligated organizations as well.

Some may think that a PDF can be made fully accessible. With such a view, we strongly and respectfully disagree, based on years of ample experience. However, this is a moot point.

First, as the Committee correctly recognizes, obligated organizations mostly do not have the expertise to make a PDF accessible, even if it is assumed that this goal can be accomplished. Second, when a person receives a PDF, there is no way to know from the file name whether anyone has even attempted to incorporate accessibility features in it, and if so, how many such features. Third, it makes no sense to ask obligated organizations to divert their resources into trying in vain to remediate a new PDF, when they could instead quickly, easily and at no cost simply post the document in an accessible format like MS Word, whenever they post a PDF.

It would take enormous resources to try to persuade obligated organizations to voluntarily change their practices. It is far more effective to set a simple rule which obligated organizations can readily understand and which is easy to enforce.

Documents are not written in PDF. They are written in another application like MS Word. Typically, they are accessible when initially created. After they are written, accessibility is stripped from that document when it is converted to a PDF.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The Committee should recommend the addition to the standard of a requirement that if an obligated organization posts a PDF online, it should also simultaneously post the same document in an accessible format such as MS Word, txt or html.

7. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 4: Products and Product Labels

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 4 that the loophole in the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard must be closed which exempts products and product labels from information and communication accessibility. Section 9(2) of the Standard states:

“(2) The information and communications standards do not apply to the following:

  1. Products and product labels, except as specifically provided by this Part.”

We commend the Committee for attempting to address this. However the draft recommendations do not go far enough to address this. The Committee’s draft recommendations call on the Ontario Government to try to work out a shared regulatory solution with the Federal Government and/or in the interim, that the Ontario Government explore non-regulatory solutions with obligated organizations.

Here again, an enforceable mandatory and specific standard is needed to change practices on the ground. Almost 15 years into the AODA, Ontarians with disabilities do not have time to hope that non-regulatory voluntary measures will change practices that have not substantially changed. In this context, we re-emphasize the finding in the Onley Report that progress on accessibility has been far too slow, and that Ontario remains a province full of “soul-crushing barriers.”

To hold off any regulatory action on this pending Ontario working out a coordinated action by the Federal Government would, we regret, indefinitely delay any regulatory action. Getting agreement with the Federal Government will predictably take years. The Federal Government will no doubt want to try to work out a common approach for all the provinces. While that might at first seem appealing, it will take even longer. It will risk the standard being diluted down to the lowest common denominator among the provinces. Ontario should lead with the strongest standard, and not follow others to the weakest standard.

In the recent federal election, most of the federal parties were not prepared to make any commitments at all on new measures they would take to promote accessibility for people with disabilities. Only one party was prepared to make commitments with any detail or that embodied real change for disability accessibility. After the election, there is little reason to expect that they will become more eager to make accessibility a priority.

There is no compelling reason to await federal regulatory action in this sphere, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose. The Committee is worried about the possible overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. Yet in any area of public regulation of economic activity, there are innumerable situations where there may be an overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. Ontario nevertheless regularly takes action, without waiting for the Federal Government. We have a federal labour board and a provincial labour board. We have a national building code and the Ontario Building Code. The list goes on.

Our constitution fully accommodates this without a province having to withhold regulatory action. In 2011, it is commendable that the Ontario Government did not withhold enacting regulatory standards for the accessibility of websites. For the same reason, it can and should act now in the area of the accessibility of product labels. If the Federal Government later decides to take action in this area, Ontario can then of course discuss ways to harmonize their requirements. However this should not reduce Ontario’s accessibility protections.

While it would be helpful for the Ontario Government to work with industries to come up with creative new solutions in this area as the Committee proposes, that too is no reason to withhold the enactment now of a regulatory requirement. Indeed, the presence of a mandatory Ontario regulatory accessibility requirement would help motivate industries to develop creative new solutions, including harnessing new technologies.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 4 should be revised to recommend that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended now to set enforceable accessibility standards for products and product labels. This should not await Ontario working out a joint approach to this with the Federal Government, or the Ontario Government working with the private sector on developing non-regulatory innovations in this area. Section 9(2) (should be amended to provide an exemption only for:

“Products and product labels, where compliance with the information and communication requirements would impose an undue hardship on the organization.”

8. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 5 Alternative Formats and Communication Supports

We agree with the Committee’s concern with s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. It requires an obligated organization to consult with a person with a disability on a needed accessible document format. It leaves the ultimate decision to the obligated organization in unilateral terms. The Committee’s draft recommendation commendably found:

“The Committee noted that this is resulting in the provision of formats that do not meet the needs of people with disabilities.”

We agree with the Committee that this provision needs to be strengthened. We also agree with the Committee’s proposal that the obligated organization should endeavour to get the agreement of the person requesting the alternative format. However, we are concerned that this does not go far enough.

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that obligated organizations have a duty to investigate alternative solutions in “duty to accommodate” cases. (See D. Lepofsky “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” to be published in 2020 40.1 National Journal of Constitutional Law) We anticipate that many obligated organizations do not know of their existing procedural duty to accommodate that includes investigating alternative solutions up to the point of undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 5 should be expanded to propose that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard be amended to state that where an obligated organization does not agree to provide the accessible format which the person with a disability requested, the obligated organization must investigate alternative ways to meet this need, up to the point of undue hardship.

9. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 6 and 7

We agree with the Committee where it states that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is unduly vague, where it requires that an alternative format document must be provided in a timely manner. We also agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 6 that the obligated organization and the requesting individual should endeavour to reach an agreement on the time frame for this.

However we do not agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 5 through 7 where these propose to refer to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) the task of developing an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for addressing situations where the obligated organization and requesting individual cannot reach an agreement. We commend the Committee here for trying to be creative. Yet we fear that it might take years to develop that new mechanism.

Moreover, it is not clear to us that ASAC even now exists. At the time of writing, the Government’s website only lists one person as a member of ASAC. We do not know if ASAC has been meeting since the 2018 Ontario election, much less that it has been meeting with sufficient frequency to do this work in a timely way. ASAC’s membership has, in the past, not been selected based on its expertise in designing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

The creation of the required legal machinery to which the Committee’s draft recommendations refer might require a legislative amendment, if there is to be an enforceable requirement and monetary penalties for non-compliance. We have not had a chance to investigate that complex question. As further addressed later in this brief, we do not want the Government to re-open the AODA’s provisions in the Legislature.

The development of recommendations for the content of an element of an accessibility standard should not be sub-delegated to ASAC. The AODA requires that the development of such ideas and recommendations for accessibility standards be developed initially through a Standards Development Committee which is subject to the AODA’s procedural safeguards and openness requirements (including requirements for public input). ASAC is not bound by any of those safeguards, for which we fought so hard. For example, its meeting minutes are not required to be made public. In contrast, the minutes of meetings of a Standards Development Committee must be made public, according to the AODA.

To strengthen requirements in this area to address the shortcomings which the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee commendably identified, it would be helpful for the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to be amended to set clear timelines, or presumptive timelines for an organization to respond to a request. This could vary depending on the organization’s size and the importance of the requested information. For example, if the information is to come from a hospital and relates to a patient’s medical condition, then the required response time should be very short. Given the readily-available availability of technology to produce alternative formats for documents, and the low cost for doing so, there is no reason for such timelines to ever be lengthy. If the Ontario Government were to post online helpful information on how to convert documents to accessible formats, and a list of venders who can be retained to do this, then an obligated organization should easily be able to act quickly when a request is received.

We therefore recommend that:

#9. Section 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended to set specific fixed or presumptive timelines for an obligated organization to provide an accessible alternative format for a document when requested. If the timeline is to be a presumptive one, rather than a categorical one, it should only be subject to an undue hardship defence for non-compliance. The Committee should recommend timelines that are short e.g. 48-72 hours, where the obligated organization is a large one, and/or where the requested information relates to important matters such as health, safety, or other vital services. Otherwise, nothing longer than a 7-day timeline should apply.

10. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 8

We agree with the aim of the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 8. It calls for the IASR’s requirements to provide accessible formats and communication supports to be brought together in one place in the IASR, as long as nothing is done to weaken them. We would want to screen the proposed wording of any regulatory changes to be sure that they do not reduce any rights of people with disabilities.

 11. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 9: On-Demand Conversion Ready Formats

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 9. It would require the Ontario Government and the Legislature to immediately ensure that all publicly-facing documents are available in an accessible format. If this is required for new documents, this is not a major burden for the Ontario Government. As noted earlier, documents are typically first created in an accessible format like MS Word, and then are counterproductively rendered inaccessible by converting them to formats such as PDF.

12. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10: On-Demand ASL and LSQ Translations

The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10 commendably aims to find a creative way to address the need for on-demand Government information in ASL and LSQ. We share the intent of that proposal. We believe it should be strengthened.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

  1. a) propose an amendment to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to require the Committee’s proposed measures regarding the Ontario Government translating certain information into the Sign Languages ASL and LSQ on demand, and
  1. b) expand that requirement to include captioning for any such video content, for the benefit of people with hearing loss who need captioning and not Sign Language.

13. Other Deficiencies with Section 12 that the Committee’s Draft Recommendations Do Not Fix

Section 12(1)(a) of the Standard sets the obligation too low. It states:

“12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a) in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs due to disability; and

(b) at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

It is not sufficient for an obligated organization to take “into account” the needs of people with disabilities. The requirement should be to provide supports that meet the needs of people with disabilities unless to do so is shown to cause the organization undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The Committee should recommend that section 12(1) of the Standard be amended to provide:

“12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a)   in a timely manner that meets the person’s accessibility needs due to disability, except where doing so would cause an undue hardship to the organization; and

(b)   at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

It is commendable that section 12(3) requires organizations to notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports. However the provision is too vague. It requires more detail to make it effective. Section 12(3) provides:

“(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.”

We therefore recommend that:

#12. Section 12(3) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

“(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public in an accessible format about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall post such notification in an accessible format on the organization’s website, if it has one.”

Unlike the clear language used in a number of other parts of the IASR, section 12(4) is unintelligible. An organization needs a lawyer to figure it out. It states:

“(4) Every obligated organization that is required to provide accessible formats or accessible formats and communication supports by section 3, 4, 11, 13, 19, 26, 28, 34, 37, 44 or 64 shall meet the requirements of subsections (1) and (2) but shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in the referenced section and shall do so only to the extent that the requirements in subsections (1) and (2) are applicable to the requirements set out in the referenced section.”

We do not know what this provision means. We fear others will also not know what it means. Whatever it means to say, it should be said in much clearer language – language that lets an organization and persons with disabilities understand it without needing to pay a lawyer to decipher it.

We therefore recommend that:

#13. Section 12(4) of the Standard should be re-written in plain language to make it intelligible.

We commend and endorse the concerns and advice that Communication Disabilities Access Canada CDAC provided to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho in its January 19, 2019 letter to the minister. CDAC is an amazing and well-respected expert in its field. It has cutting-edge knowledge and good ideas on how to make progress.

We quote from the key part of that letter here:

“Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) is a national and provincial, non-profit organization that addresses accessibility for people who have speech, language and communication disabilities. Over 165,000 Ontarians have disabilities that affect their communication, that are not caused primarily by deafness or significant hearing loss. Diverse disabilities such as physical, neurological, cognitive, learning, hearing, vision, and linguistic disabilities can affect one or more areas of a person’s speech, comprehension, reading and writing.

Communication access to goods and services is as important as physical access for people who have little or no speech and who use picture, symbol, letter boards and devices to convey their messages.

The current integrated standards do not provide sufficient directives for businesses and organizations on ways to make their services accessible for people with speech, language and communication disabilities. For example, most people with speech and language disabilities experience significant barriers to services in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and forums and written communication. These contexts are not adequately or comprehensively addressed in any of the standards. They are either oversimplified or omitted.

At this time, the Information and Communications Standard primarily focuses on making written information (print and digital) accessible. Examples of accessible formats cited on the Accessibility Directorate’s website, include human assistance, large print, text transcripts of audio or visual information, handwritten notes instead of speech, plain language and electronic documents.

Many of these accessibility accommodations are extremely useful and appropriate for people who have speech and language disabilities. However, the accessibility needs of people with speech and language disabilities go beyond access to written information and occur in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and written communication. Many of these contexts are critical communication situations, such as police, legal and justice services, where communication barriers can have serious consequences.

To address this significant gap in the standards, we propose that the Information and Communications (IC) Standard expand its mandate to include regulations that address two-way, interactive communication for people who have disabilities that affect their communication.

We are recommending:

  • The IC Standards Development Committee should include people who have a thorough knowledge and proven track record to represent the communication access needs of people with diverse speech and language disabilities.
  • The mandate of this committee should go beyond “processes that businesses and organizations must follow to create, provide, and receive information and communications that are accessible to people with disabilities” to include “processes, and resources to ensure effective two-way communication in face-to-face, telephone and group interactions and written communication.
  • Development of regulations, guidelines and resources for: Face-to-face, telephone and group interactions. Standards and guidelines are required for all service providers who interact with the public within these contexts, so that they have the knowledge, skills and resources to interact with people who communicate in ways other than speech. They need to know how-to make telephone services accessible and how to make meetings and public forums inclusive for people who have communication disabilities.
  • Communication supports: Service providers need information about how and when to provide and work with communication assistants, communication intermediaries, Sign Language interpreters and other formal communication support services. Formal communication assistance services are essential in critical communication contexts such as health care, police, legal and justice services. In these situations, appropriate communication support services must be mandatory.
  • Communication accommodations: Service providers need information about simple, non-technical communication tools that they may provide when a person has no effective means to communicate. They need clarification on the use of communication devices that people may use.
  • Writing: Regulations are required to address writing activities for people who cannot physically write or who cannot write due to learning or linguistic disabilities. Writing includes accessible forms, procedures for note taking and signatures.
  • Environmental accommodations: Services need guidelines on creating and designing accessible signage and wayfaring, counter spaces, and elevators with a communication access lens.
  • Policies are required for communication procedures in emergency evacuation situations, as well as authentic assistance in critical contexts, including medical assistance in dying, police, legal and justice settings.

We believe that many of these accessibility features could be included in the IC Standard to provide a foundation upon which sector-specific communication standards could be developed, such as transportation, healthcare, education and employment. An example of a generic baseline communication standard would-be mandatory training for all service providers on how to communicate with a person who has unclear speech or who uses a communication device. An example of a sector-specific communication standard would be that health care providers must ensure that a communication assistant is authorized by a patient when supporting them in the provision of informed consent to treatment.

Existing resources:

CDAC has developed a range of free guidelines and resources on ways to make services communication accessible. These resources are available for the Accessibility Directorate to promote and use across the province, resources include:

  1. A database of qualified Communication Intermediaries to assist people with speech and language disabilities communicating in police, legal and justice situations

http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/.

We have information about making justice services accessible at

http://www.access-to-justice.org/

  1. A database of communication assistants who are available to support people with speech and language disabilities communicating at meetings, forums and on committees at http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/
  1. A webinar on making services accessible at

Making your services accessible for people with communication disabilities

  1. Written guidelines on communication access at

http://www.communication-access.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Guidelines-for-Communication-Access-1.pdf”

We therefore recommend that:

#14. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee should seek direct input including a face-to-face meeting with Communications Disabilities Access Canada and address its concerns regarding the Standard.

14. Part 3: Section 13 Emergency Plans Generally

We share the Committee’s commendable call for greater action to ensure the accessibility of information regarding emergency plans and procedures.

15. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 11: Emergency Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 11 that all the IASR’s various provisions regarding emergency plans and procedures should be consolidated in one part of the regulation. We add that nothing should be done to weaken these provisions.

16. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 12: Unacceptable Emergency Outcomes and Preparedness

The Committee concluded that “the preparedness of all levels of Government for emergencies involving people with disabilities is unacceptable.” We share this concern.

The Committee commendably recommended that the Government should review overall emergency preparedness measures from a disability perspective. However, it did not recommend anything to strengthen s. 13 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We turn attention to that here.

Section 13 does not spell out a most obvious and important aspect of emergency procedures in this area. It does not explicitly require an organization to incorporate in any emergency procedure, a process for ensuring that it makes emergency announcements in an accessible format or manner during an emergency or crisis. Even if it is implicitly covered by earlier provisions in the IASR, it is very important to have a specific, clear and strong requirement here.

We therefore recommend that:

#15. Section 13 of the Standard should be expanded to impose a requirement that an organization include in any emergency procedures plan, specific measures to ensure that emergency announcements (such as fire alarms) are provided in an accessible means (e.g. flashing lights for the benefit of persons with hearing loss).

17. Part 4: Section 14 Website and Web Content Accessibility Generally

We share the Committee’s view that the Standard’s website accessibility provisions need to be strengthened.

18. Committee’s Recommendation 15: Differentiating Organizations/High Impact Organizations

We strongly and heartily endorse the Committee’s proposal that an organization’s number of employees should not be the sole determinant of an organization’s accessibility obligations. We have been urging that view upon the Ontario Government for over a decade without success.

The Committee’s idea of defining high impact organizations for purposes of defining their accessibility obligations has merit. We would add a few refinements.

First, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as now constituted, has an erroneous upside-down approach to organizations’ duties and timelines. As in all other areas of the IASR, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard starts from a mechanistic approach whereby the bigger the organization, the more it must do, and the sooner it must do it.

That is inappropriate here. In the case of small organizations, such as smaller businesses, website and mobile app accessibility should be attainable more quickly than by larger organizations, especially where the measures are required on a go-forward basis. A small company with a small website can ensure the accessibility of its entire web footprint much more quickly than the Ontario Government. Yet the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard erroneously places the least obligations on that small company and gives it the longest timelines. It places the greatest obligations on the Ontario Government and gives it the shortest timelines. This makes no sense.

The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised where needed to correct this incorrect approach. It is irrelevant for those timelines that have already expired.

Second, the measure of what constitutes a high impact organization should include more than does the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 15.

We therefore recommend that:

#16. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 15, to create a category of high-impact private organizations, should be refined to:

  1. a) Create criteria that will be easily measured and enforced, where possible.
  1. b) measure the number of an organization’s users, customers or interactions inside or outside Ontario. If for example, the organization has a huge customer base around the world, the fact that a smaller number of users in Ontario should not militate against it being categorized as a high-impact organization.
  1. c) Make the threshold revenue as $1 million not $10 million as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose.
  1. d) Recommend the revision of s. 14 (website accessibility) to make website requirements extend further within the private sector, beyond the proposed new category of high impact organizations.

19. Extending the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to Require WCAG 2.1, Not the Current 2.0

At present, the specific standard for website accessibility that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard sets is Web Content Accessibility Group (WCAG) 2.0. That was established by the W3C consortium at least a decade ago. Since then, we understand that it has been updated much more recently to WCAG 2.1. As we read it, the Committee’s recommendations merely refer to the old WCAG 2.0. They do not recommend updating the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to require WCAG 2.1. The Committee’s draft recommendations do not explain this. It is critically important.

We therefore recommend that:

#17. Section 14 of the Standard should be revised to require websites to comply with the new international standard of WCAG 2.1, not the old WCAG 2.0 which the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard now requires.

As well, it is entirely unjustifiable in late 2019 for the standard to lead any organization to think that it is sufficient in the interim to only meet WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not, as a bare minimum, Level AA. Yet s. 14(3) still provides as follows, with an end date of 2021:

“(2) Designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall make their internet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA, and shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in this section.”

No organization should now waste its efforts at merely meeting Level A as an interim goal, when it makes more sense to set Level AA as its goal from the outset.

We therefore recommend that:

#18. As an alternative, section 14(2) should be amended to eliminate WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not Level AA, as a bare minimum for any organization, in the event that WCAG 2.1 is not set as the new standard to meet.

20. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 13: Mobile Applications & New Technologies

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 13. It would extend the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements to mobile applications. However we do not agree that all small organizations should be exempted from this requirement, just as we do not believe that all small organizations should be categorically exempted from the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements.

If anything, a well-resourced small organization could at least in some cases find it easier to make its website and mobile apps accessible than can a larger organization. The IASR arbitrarily defines the size of an organization solely by its number of employees, regardless of the organization’s resources or its impact on the market. If for example a small organization has a broadly-selling app, there is no reason why it should not meet accessibility requirements. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not grant any such exemption for small organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#19. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 13 should recommend that section 14 of the Standard should be amended to set full accessibility requirements to mobile applications, and to the websites, web applications and mobile applications of small organizations where compliance would not pose an undue hardship.

21. Committee’s Recommendation 16: Significant Refresh

The Committee’s draft recommendations correctly identify another serious deficiency with s. 15 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, namely that key requirements are only triggered by an obligated organization creating a new website or undertaking a significant refresh of an existing site. We agree with the Committee that this vague threshold provides obligated organizations with an easy, undeserved and unacceptable end-run around the provision.

We also agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 16 to fix this, and the stated intent underlying it, namely:

“•    Any content that is new or which an obligated organization changes, updates or adds to a web site must meet the accessibility requirements of Section 14

  • Furthermore, when content is added, changed or updated, it is recommended that organizations take the opportunity to make all content accessible
  • The Committee recommends that content should include all functions, interactions and ‘branding’ (look and feel) for a site. It is recommended that Section 14 include examples for the sake of clarity
  • Timeline: Regulation to be changed immediately, to be effective six months after the new regulation comes into force.”

22. Committee’s Recommendation 17: Practicability

We agree with the Committee’s concern that s. 14(5) includes too broad an exemption to its website accessibility requirements, by only requiring obligated organizations to take the required action to make websites accessible “where practicable”. We agree with the Committee that

“…this term is too vague and might allow some organizations to avoid doing something they are actually able to do.”

We encourage the Committee to fortify and further reinforce this serious concern. The sweeping “where practicable” exemption is far broader than the relevant Human Rights Code exemption from the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, which is only available where it is impossible to provide more accessibility without undue hardship. “Undue hardship” is a much more exacting requirement than mere practicability. Moreover the Standard’s failure to use the stronger undue hardship terminology sends a harmful and erroneous signal to obligated organizations that they need not meet this higher undue hardship test. It misleads obligated organizations. This is a disservice to obligated organizations and people with disabilities.

To define the existing term “practicable” in s. 14(5) to mean the same as undue hardship, as the Committee is contemplating, risks confusing obligated organizations or suggesting to them that undue hardship means the same as merely not practicable. It is neater and cleaner, and less risk-prone, to simply replace the term “not practicable” in the Standard with the correct “undue hardship”.

We would prefer if no “exception” clause was included. Compliance with well-established international standards for new web postings simply does not create an undue hardship. At the very least, if there is to be an exemption clause, the exemption should be no broader than that provided under the Human Rights Code.

We therefore recommend that:

#20. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 17 should be replaced with a recommendation that the Standard’s not practicable exception from website accessibility is removed from section 14. As a weaker and less desirable alternative, if there is to remain some sort of exemption in s. 14(5), it should provide that an obligated organization need not meet these accessibility requirements only if it can show that it would be impossible to meet such requirements without causing that organization undue hardship, and that the obligated organization has the duty to never less take all accessibility action that is possible up to the point of undue hardship.

It is important for the Standard to make it clear that all organizations covered by this provision have a clear duty to promptly provide people with disabilities, on request, in an accessible format, with any information on their website that is inaccessible. This would include, for example, any information that need not yet be made accessible because of the timelines in the regulation, or any archival material that need never be made accessible on the website.

We therefore recommend that:

#21. Section 14 of the Standard should be amended to require any organization to promptly make available, on the request of a person with a disability, and in an accessible format that meets his or her needs, any information on the organization’s website that is not accessible to that person because of his or her disability.

23. Part 4, Subpart 1: Section 14 Exemptions Generally

We agree that the Standards’ exemptions are too broad and need to be narrowed.

24. Committee’s Recommendation 19: Extranet Exemption

We agree with the intent and content of the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 19 that the exemption for public-facing websites with a log-in should be removed and that these types of websites should be required to comply with the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We however believe that the proposed 2023 deadline for all publicly-facing websites, other than new ones, is too long a timeline, especially where meeting it would not provably pose an undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#22. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 19 should be revised to set the deadline for all publicly-facing websites to meet accessibility requirements as 2022, not 2023.

25. Committee’s Recommendation 20: Intranet Exemption

We agree with the Committee’s important finding that “technology has advanced to the point where all organizations should be able to make their websites accessible under Section 14.” We therefore agree with extending this requirement to the broader public sector and large organizations, including employee-facing websites. As such, we agree with the Committee that “all definitions related to a type of website be removed and that Section 14 simply apply to all websites, internet or intranet for all obligated organizations”. Indeed this is a critical reform to strengthen the current weak Employment Accessibility Standard. As indicated earlier, we would go further and urge that it be extended to at least some small organizations, even if they do not fit within the proposed definition of a high impact organization.

26. Committee’s Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 Exemption

We agree with the Committee’s view that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s exemption for pre-2012 web content is overbroad and should be narrowed. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 21 seems on first examination to be sensible. We would add that where historic, archived content is available on the web, and where a customer or employee needs it in an accessible format for purposes of seeking or using an obligated organization’s goods, services or facilities, or for purposes of their employment, the obligated organization should be required to make that content available on request in an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#23. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 21 should be expanded to require an obligated organization to provide an item of pre-2012 inaccessible online content or document in an accessible format on request if needed for purposes of seeking or using that organization’s goods, services or facilities or for purposes of employment.

27. Committee’s Recommendation 22: Live Captioning and Audio Description

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 22 that sets out requirements so that by 2025, the Standard’s live captioning and audio description exemptions will be eliminated. We would add that by 2021, this exemption should be lifted for the city of Toronto, a public sector organization which is larger and more resourced than a number of entire provinces in Canada.

We therefore recommend that:

#24. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 22 should be revised to provide that the current exemption for live captioning and audio description should be lifted by 2021 for the City of Toronto.

28. Committee’s Recommendation 23: Web Hosting Location

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 23 which would clarify that s. 14 obligations apply to a website whether or not it is hosted in Ontario. This is a loophole that should not be permitted to remain.

29. Chief Information Officer

A number of larger organizations in the public and private sector now have a senior executive position often called the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO). This is a critical position that could be decisive in enhancing the accessibility of information, especially digital information.

At present, there is nothing in place in the Standard to help ensure that a CIO or CTO has sufficient knowledge and training on digital accessibility, or that requires them to have lead responsibility for digital accessibility or that ensures that they know that they have that lead responsibility. There is similarly nothing in place to require that a CIO or CTO is held accountable within the organization for the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital accessibility.

We therefore recommend that:

#25. a) Where a large organization, a high impact organization or a public sector organization has a Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer position or their equivalent:

  1. a) The CIO is responsible and accountable for leading the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital information accessibility in the organization’s internal and external digital communications.
  1. b) If the organization has a performance contract or performance review process for its officers, it shall be a condition of the CIO’s or CTO’s performance contract that the CIO or CTO is responsible and accountable for ensuring digital information accessibility and for ensuring that Accessibility is an integrated component of Performance and Security design requirements.
  1. c) In any performance review, performance-based pay review or promotion processes, the CIO’s or CTO’s performance on digital information accessibility shall be considered as a relevant factor.
  1. d) In considering whom to hire as CIO or CTO, a hiring factor or criterion should be a candidate’s knowledge and experience with respect to digital information accessibility and assistive technology.

30. Teleconference Platforms Used by Public Sector Organizations

Increasingly, organizations use web-based teleconferencing and meeting platforms for internal meetings of their employees or officials, and for public-facing meetings, such as electronic town hall meetings. Some of these platforms are more accessible than others. It is critical that organizations only use the most accessible ones. A requirement to this effect in the Standard would help pressure all such platforms to become accessible.

We therefore recommend that:

#26. The Standard should be amended to require that when any public sector organization, large organization or high impact private sector organization uses a web-based teleconferencing platform, it should only use a platform that is accessible. If no such platforms are fully accessible, then such organizations should be required to use the most accessible platforms of those which are available. The Standard should provide key criteria for assessing the accessibility of such platforms.

31. Digital Information Accessibility Statement

The Standard does not require any obligated organization to prepare and make public a comprehensive statement of the status of the accessibility of its website or related mobile apps. This might be covered to some extent in an accessibility plan or progress report on accessibility that the organization must prepare under the IASR. However, there is no assurance that the needed information will be included and will be comprehensive.

Excellent research provided to the AODA Alliance by Emily Prosser, an Osgoode Hall Law School, which she prepared at the ARCH Disability Law Centre, includes the following:

“The United Kingdom Statutory Instrument 2018 No.952, entitled The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the “Regulation”) is comparable to certain provisions within the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. There is also a Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (the “Directive”) which is relevant.

 

Both the Regulation and the Directive require public organizations to create an “Accessibility Statement”.[1]

That research also stated:

“An Accessibility Statement as defined by the Regulation and Directive is: “a detailed, comprehensive and clear statement produced by a public sector body on the compliance of its website or mobile application with these Regulations”.[2] The Accessibility Statement is a useful tool especially where an organization determines it is unable to meet accessibility standards. The Regulation requires a public sector body to explain in its Accessibility Statement any instances where it cannot comply with the accessibility requirement and provide accessible alternatives where appropriate.[3]

Under the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, obligated organizations are required to provide a requesting party with an explanation when it determines that it is unable to convert information and communications to an accessible format.[4] This requirement is similar to the Accessibility Statement required under the Regulation and Directive. However, Accessibility Statements are more robust. Accessibility Statements outline both an organization’s compliance and lack thereof meaning they go beyond simply addressing instances where an organization cannot comply with standards. Additionally, Accessibility Statements are required whether or not there is a ‘requesting party’ who has been denied accessible/convertible information. Further, the term ‘explanation’ is undefined in the Information and Communication Standard and so it lacks the formal requirements of an Accessibility Statement. As a result, there is no guarantee as to the quality of an explanation given to a requesting party under the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.”

We therefore recommend that:

#27. The Standard should be revised to require that public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall prepare an annual or biennial accessibility statement and make it public on its website which:

  1. a) Specifies in detail the extent to which the organization’s website and mobile apps are accessible and specifies where they are not and
  1. b) Gives reasons for any deficiencies in the accessibility of the website or mobile apps and indicates what the organization plans to do to rectify this, and by when.

32. Committee’s Recommendation 14: Procurement

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations that the IASR’s general provisions regarding procurement of accessible goods, services and facilities “…are not strong enough to result in accessible digital procurement.” We also agree with the general thrust of the ideas in the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 14 on the substantive requirements to add to the IASR regarding procurement of accessible information technology. We need the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to go further. It should spell out specifics of what kinds of accessibility features or functionality should be required. These should be expressed in terms of end-user-usability, and not the specific technology to include. This is so because technology in this area is so rapidly evolving. In other words, these amendments to the Standard should not only set process requirements, but also requirements for end results in terms of functional end-user experience. We anticipate that obligated organizations often know little or nothing about this and need as much regulatory direction as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

#28. Beyond the measures in the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 14, the IASR’s general procurement provisions should be strengthened to specify end-user functionality requirements that are sufficiently flexible to accommodate emerging technologies.

We agree with the Committee that beyond the specific context of procuring information technology, the IASR’s general provisions regarding procurement need to be strengthened. We do not agree with the Committee’s suggestion that this be referred to ASAC. As noted earlier, under the AODA, the review of any accessibility standard must be conducted at least every five years by a Standards Development Committee that is appointed for that purpose.

The members of the Standards Development Committee appointed to conduct that review should be chosen based on their expertise and experience in this specific area. No Standards Development Committee has been appointed since 2011 to review any of the IASR’s general provisions, such as its procurement provisions. It would be open to the Government to assign that review to an existing Standards Development Committee that was already appointed to review any other parts of the IASR or to recommend new accessibility standards.

The Government is in violation of the AODA for not having done so. That review was required to have been started in 2016. As noted earlier, the Standards Development Committee that conducts such a review should comply with all the procedural safeguards in the AODA that involve conducting a review of an accessibility standard.

We therefore recommend that:

#29. The Government should fulfil its overdue duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review all the general provisions in the IASR, sections 1 through 8.

We agree that the Government and public sector organizations need to be given some time to implement any changes in the area of procurement. However, we do not agree that this should extend out to 2021, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose. This is so for several reasons.

First, public sector organizations have had accessible procurement duties under the AODA for years. They are not starting from scratch.

Second, their duty not to create new barriers is enshrined in pre-existing human rights law. It is not a new creation of the AODA or the IASR.

Third, 2025 is not far away. We cannot afford any delays, especially on the part of public sector organizations that are supposed to be leading by example.

Fourth, any such delay inappropriately suggests to public sector organizations that it is okay for them to continue to use public money to create new disability barriers. Yet that harmful use of public money must stop.

This is especially so as it applies to the Ontario Government that is the very body that is creating this regulation. As noted earlier, the Ontario Government has claimed for years to be leading Ontario by example in the area of accessibility. The Ontario Government is hardly caught by surprise by new regulatory provisions in this area.

For the same reasons, we respectfully disagree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 14 where it proposes that an obligated organization should be exempt from any of this new requirement if it has entered into a contract regarding the matter before January 1, 2021. That would let an obligated organization disregard this new requirement even if it was amply aware that it was coming e.g. because it was earlier posted in a draft regulation.

We therefore recommend that:

#30. Any changes to the requirements for procurement of goods, services or facilities should go into effect within six months of the new regulation being enacted, and should apply to any procurement thereafter, or for which a contract was signed after the draft of this new regulation was publicly posted for comment, unless the obligated organization can show that to comply would cause it an undue hardship.

We propose further measures to strengthen the IASR procurement provisions, whether they apply to information technology or other goods, services or facilities.

Section 5 of the IASR falls well short of the duty to prevent the creation of new barriers that the Supreme Court of Canada recognized years ago in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. VIA Rail Canada Inc., [2007] 1 S.C.R. 650.

This section of the Standard unjustifiably exempts any organization from even having to ask for accessible goods, services or facilities when seeking to procure them, “where it is not practicable to do so.” We know of no situation where it is impracticable to even ask vendors for accessible goods, services or facilities, as part of procurement. Moreover, the “not practicable” standard erroneously falls substantially short of the “without undue hardship” standard in the Human Rights Code. It is counterproductive and harmful for the Standard to point obligated organizations to a test that is transparently lower than the Human Rights Code.

If there were to be any exemption clause in this part of the IASR at all, it should be considerably narrowed. We here draw on the Committee’s commendable recommendation, further addressed later in this brief, that the Standard should also be amended to create a class of “high impact” private sector organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#31. Section 5(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“5. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall

(a) Incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, for purposes of acquiring or procuring goods, services or facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities, and

(b) Acquire or procure goods, services and facilities for use in their organization, or for the benefit of the public, that are accessible to persons with disabilities, except where it is not possible to procure or acquire them without undue hardship.”

#32. Section 5(2) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it was not able to acquire or procure accessible goods, services or facilities without undue hardship in accordance with paragraph 5(1) (b), it shall provide, upon request, an explanation in writing.”

The duty to procure accessible goods, services and facilities should be extended to large or high impact private sector organizations. This is important for ensuring accessibility of goods, services, facilities and employment.

We therefore recommend that:

#33. Sections 5(1) and (2) should be amended to extend their requirements to large private sector organizations and high-impact private sector organizations.

Moreover, these procurement requirements should be extended to apply to any private sector organization when engaging in a project or contract for the Ontario Government. The Government should not be able to get around these procurement requirements by contracting out some of its work to the private sector.

We therefore recommend that:

#34. The IASR’s procurement requirements should be amended to apply to any private sector organization in connection with any work it is doing for or on behalf of the Ontario Government.

33. Section 6 – Self-Service Kiosks

Related to the issue of procurement, the IASR’s section regarding electronic kiosks, s.6, remains far too weak. Its requirements should be strengthened. Features of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard bear on such kiosks, just as they can apply to other customer-facing technology. These requirements should extend further in the private sector than at present.

We therefore recommend that:

#35. Section 6(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“6. (1) Without limiting the generality of section 5, the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility features when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any point-of-sale technology for use by the public, to ensure that they are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.”

It is also important for private sector organizations with less than 50 employees to take serious action on this front, especially where they offer technology for use by the public during point-of-sale transactions.

We therefore recommend that:

#36. Section 6(2) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“(2) Small organizations shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any other point-of-sale technology for use by the public, and in any event, shall use accessible point-of-sale equipment when acquiring new point-of-sale equipment for use by customers, or replacing existing point-of-sale equipment.”

#37. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section,

“kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

34. Committee’s Recommendation 18: Harmonization and Application across Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 18 that the IASR should be amended to make it clear that its website accessibility provisions in s. 14 apply to all websites that are referred to across the IASR. We go further. The IASR should be refined to make it clear that these website accessibility requirements apply to any website specified in any provincial legislation or regulations, such as any provincial law that requires anything to be posted on a website.

We therefore recommend that:

#38. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 18 should be amended to call for the website accessibility requirements in s. 14 to apply to any website to which provincial legislation or regulations apply, such as a provincial law that requires specified information to be posted on a website.

35. Part 5: Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18 Generally

It is inexcusable that in 2019, over 14 years after the AODA was enacted, students continue to face difficulties in getting timely access to needed educational materials in an accessible format that they can read.

The AODA Alliance has released a proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard and has submitted it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. We set out the relevant passages below. We do however urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to press forward with its recommendations in this area, as elaborated upon below. If the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee or the post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee opt to make further recommendations on point, that can only enrich the discussion. However, we ask the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee not to hold off proceedings on these recommendations due to the forthcoming work of the two Education Standards Development Committees.

In the key part of the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, a vision is offered of what an accessible education system would look like. This vision includes, among other things:

“2.5 Instructional materials used in Ontario’s education system would be available in formats that are fully accessible to students with disabilities who need to use them and would be available in accessible formats when needed.

2.6 All digital technology used in Ontario’s education system, such as hardware, software and online learning, used in class or from home, would be fully accessible and would fully embody the principle of universal design. Education staff working with students with disabilities would be properly trained to use the accessibility features of that hardware, software and online learning technology, and to effectively assist students with disabilities to use them.”

Among the recommendations in that proposed Framework for the contents of the Education Accessibility Standard is the following:

“8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

Barrier: School boards using classroom technology, such as hardware, software, online learning systems and internal or external websites that lack digital accessibility; school board policies that can be obstacles to using adaptive technology designed for people with disabilities; Insufficient staff training and familiarity with the use of accessibility features of mainstream technology, and with disability-specific adaptive technology.

8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

Educational equipment and technology, including hardware, software, and tablet/mobile apps deployed in educational settings should be designed based on universal design principles, to ensure that students with disabilities can use them.

  1. a) A school board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each school board should ensure that no teacher is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.
  1. b) Each school board’s internal and external websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.
  1. c) Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be simultaneously provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.
  1. d) Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.
  1. e) Textbooks and learning software should be procured only if they include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. Here again, PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

8.2 The Ministry of Education and each school board should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased either by a school board, or by the Ministry for use by school boards, unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included in all Requests for Proposal (RFP) or other tenders for sale of products and services to a school board or the Ministry.”

The proposed Framework also includes:

“12. Ensuring Accessibility of Instructional Materials that Students with Disabilities Use

Barrier: Instructional materials, such as textbooks and other instructional materials and teaching resources that are not provided at the same time in an accessible format for students with disabilities.

Section 15 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in June 2011, and in force for school boards since 2013 or 2015 (depending on their size) requires education organizations to provide instructional materials on request in an accessible format, and to make this part of their procurement of such resources. However, this provision has not been effective and sufficient to effectively ensure that students with disabilities face no barriers in this context. Therefore, stronger measures are needed.

12.1 To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each school board should:

  1. a) Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  1. b) Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.
  1. c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

12.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ministry of Education to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across school boards.”

We therefore recommend that:

#39. Sections 15 to 18 of the Standard should be amended to ensure the accessibility of instructional and other information in Ontario’s education system, in accordance with Recommendations 8.1, 8.2, 12.1 and 12.2 of the AODA Alliance’s October 10, 2019 proposed framework for the contents of the K-12Education Accessibility Standard.

36. Committee’s Recommendation 24: Purchase of Accessible Teaching/Training Materials

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 24 that “obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order textbooks or other printed curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as print copies.” This should apply to both print and electronic teaching materials.

We therefore recommend that:

#40. The Committee’s Recommendation 24 should be expanded to also require that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order electronic textbooks or other electronic curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as non-accessible versions.

37. Section 15 – Educational and Training Resources and Materials

Beyond this, s. 15, on providing accessible educational and training materials, while helpful, needs to be strengthened. It now provides:

“15. (1) Every obligated organization that is an educational or training institution shall do the following, if notification of need is given:

  1. Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that takes into account the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by,
  2. Procuring through purchase or obtaining by other means an accessible or conversion ready electronic format of educational or training resources or materials, where available, or
  3. Arranging for the provision of a comparable resource in an accessible or conversion ready electronic format, if educational or training resources or materials cannot be procured, obtained by other means or converted into an accessible format.
  4. Provide student records and information on program requirements, availability and descriptions in an accessible format to persons with disabilities.

(2) For the purposes of this section and sections 16, 17 and 18, an obligated organization is an educational or training institution if it falls into one of the following categories:

  1. It is governed by the Education Act or the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
  2. It offers all or part of a post-secondary program leading to a degree pursuant to a consent granted under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000.
  3. It is a designated public sector organization described in paragraph 3 or 4 of Schedule 1.
  4. It is a public or private organization that provides courses or programs or both that result in the acquisition by students of a diploma or certificate named by the Minister of Education under paragraph 1 of subsection 8 (1) of the Education Act.
  5. It is a private school within the meaning of the Education Act.”

We therefore recommend that:

#41. Section 15 of the Standard should be amended to:

(a) Amend the opening words of section 15(1) to provide:

“1.   Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that meet the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by…”

(b) Require each obligated organization that is an educational or training institution to notify their students, applicants for admission and faculty/teachers, via accessible means, of their commitment to provide accessible curriculum and teaching materials;

(c) Post on their website, if any, their commitment to provide accessible teaching and curriculum materials, and an indication of who within the organization is responsible for their provision;

(d) Add to ss. 15(1) and (2) a requirement that these teaching and curriculum materials are to be available at the same time as the same teaching or curriculum materials are provided to students in the same program or course, except in exceptional cases where it is impossible to do so, in which case alternative measures will be immediately taken to enable a person with a disability to fully participate in the course or program.

(e) Add to section 15 a requirement that where curriculum materials such as textbooks are to be ordered from other sources, the curriculum materials shall be in an accessible format or conversion-ready, except where it can be shown that these cannot be obtained without undue hardship.

(f) Add to section 15 a requirement that notwithstanding the timelines for accessible websites, any information posted to a website for use by students shall be in an accessible format and shall comply forthwith with WCAG 2.0 Level AA unless it can be shown that to do so is impossible without undue hardship, in which case accessible alternative format materials shall be provided immediately on request.

(g) No school, college or university shall provide books or other like materials via paperless technology such as on mobile apps on the iPad or Kindle unless that technology has become accessible for persons with disabilities.

38. Section 17 – Producers of Educational or Training Material

It is helpful that s. 17 requires publishers to make accessible educational textbooks and certain other printed instructional materials available on request, in an accessible format. It however needs to be expanded. It now only applies to textbooks. Section 17 provides:

“17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of educational or training textbooks for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (1).

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed materials available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (2).”

It should also apply to any other course materials produced in printed form, as well as course materials and books produced in electronic form. With the spread of e-books, this is increasingly important.

We therefore recommend that:

#42. Section 17(1) and (2) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

“17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of education or training textbooks or other teaching materials (whether in printed form or electronic form) for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks or other teaching materials available to the institutions.

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based or electronic educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed or electronic materials available to the institutions.”

39. Committee’s Recommendation 25: Definition of Educational and Training Institutions

We agree that the Standard’s requirements for educational organizations should extend to any organization that provides any education or training programs, whether or not they meet the Standard’s current definition of an education organization.

We therefore recommend that:

#43. The Committee’s Recommendation 25 should be expanded to define the scope of education programs to which its obligations should attach. This should be tied to the nature of the program and the extent to which ensuring accessibility would trigger an undue hardship

40. Section 18 – Libraries of Educational and Training Institutions

Section 18 is a helpful provision addressing accessibility at public libraries. However, it has an exception for “special collections” that, if not defined, could sweep away much-needed protections. Section 18 provides:

“18. (1) Subject to subsection (2) and where available, the libraries of educational or training institutions that are obligated organizations shall provide, procure or acquire by other means an accessible or conversion ready format of print, digital or multimedia resources or materials for a person with a disability, upon request.

(2) Special collections, archival materials, rare books and donations are exempt from the requirements of subsection (1).

(3) Obligated organizations to which this section applies shall meet the requirements under this section in accordance with the following schedule:

  1. In respect of print-based resources or materials, January 1, 2015.
  2. In respect of digital or multimedia resources or materials, January 1, 2020.”

A law school at a university might argue that its entire law library is a “special collection”, that is thus exempt from any accessibility requirements. We do not anticipate that this was what the Government meant to achieve here.

We therefore recommend that:

#44. Section 18(2) of the Standard should be amended to include a clear and narrow definition of “special collection”, or that exemption should be removed from this provision.

41. Committee’s Recommendation 26: Increasing Captionist Capacity

We share the Committee’s concern that there is a limited number of trained captionists in Ontario. We agree with the need for new efforts to increase their numbers. The Committee appears to make a non-regulatory recommendation.

We add that technology exists now to facilitate off-site captioning from distant locations. The captionist can be anywhere in the world. An audio hookup is set up via the web so the captionist can hear the spoken words to transcribe.

The Government can further facilitate this by either creating or funding a start-up that would crowdsource these services, so that captionists around Ontario, or indeed around the world, could get quick and easy access to customers in Ontario. This could be part of an economic development strategy. A well-run Ontario-based service could sell its services around the world, bringing in new revenues to Ontario.

We therefore recommend that:

#45. The Committee’s Recommendation 26 should be expanded to recommend that the Government create or fund the creation of an Ontario-based remote captioning service that could service clients in Ontario and around the world by remotely-located captionists, providing their services online.

42. Committee’s Recommendation 27: Accessibility in Education

We agree with the Committee’s advice that the disability accessibility curriculum should be included at all levels of Ontario’s education system.

We therefore recommend that:

#46. The Committee’s Recommendation 27 should be expanded to incorporate the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, which includes:

“11.1 To eliminate attitudinal barriers among students, school board employees and some families of students, each school board should:

  1. a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.
  1. b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  1. c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.
  1. d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.”

43. Committee’s Recommendation 28: Accessibility in Information and Communications Tools and Systems

We agree with the Committee that:

“There is often a lack of knowledge regarding the needs of people with disabilities on the part of the designers of information and communications tools and systems, and this leads to a lack of accessibility in these products.”

We also agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 28 where it proposes that “all obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems shall include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities…” We see value in this recommendation being further refined.

We therefore recommend that:

#47. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 28 (calling for obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems to include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities) should give some specific examples of the needed training, including differently affected disabilities, beyond its reference to Sign Language.

The Ontario Government’s economic development strategy has tried to promote the development of the information technology sector in Ontario, to serve both the Ontario market and markets around the world. However, as far as we can tell, the Ontario Government has never acted on our advice in this area, which we repeatedly gave over several years. We had recommended to the Ontario Government that it should attach strings to its funding in that sector that require that sector to develop expertise in accessible information technology design. That would promote the expansion of Ontario’s technology sector so that it has more accessible design expertise to offer organizations around the world.

We therefore recommend that:

#48. The Committee should recommend that the Ontario Government should now adopt a concerted strategy, as part of its economic development efforts, of promoting the expansion of Ontario’s technology development sector with expertise in accessible design.

44. Committee’s Recommendation 29: Accessibility in Provincially Regulated Professions

We endorse the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 29. It provides:

“Certification requirements of provincially regulated professions must include knowledge and application of accessibility (including accessible formats, language, communication and IT support) and the prevention of attitudinal barriers.”

The AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard points in a similar direction. It includes:

“Barrier: Too often, teachers and other school staff who work with students are not sufficiently trained on how to teach all students, including students with disabilities. Teacher’s colleges and other programs that are publicly funded to train professionals who will work with students in Ontario schools are therefore creating new generations of barriers that will impede students with disabilities.”

The solution requires both reforms to the required training of future new teachers while they are in teachers’ college, and measures to expand the training of those who are already graduates of teachers’ college and who are already working as teachers. This also applies to other school staff with teaching-related roles, such as principals and education assistants.

9.2 The Ontario Government should require that to be qualified to teach or serve as a principal in an Ontario-funded school, a teacher or principal must have specified training in the education of students with disabilities, covering the spectrum of different learning needs and learning styles. Any teacher’s college or like program that receives any provincial funding should require, as part of its degree programming, specified course contents on the education of students with disabilities for all teachers, and not only for special education teachers. Time lines for implementing this should be specified for the transition to this new approach. Each school board should be required to train school board staff, including teachers and other staff who work with students, on ensuring digital/information technology accessibility in the classroom, on the use of access technology (where needed) and on steps how to create accessible documents and web content.”

Section 16 of the Standard commendably requires training organizations to provide for their teachers, training on the needs of students with disabilities. However, it does not require any of their employees to ever take that training.

Regarding teacher training, we therefore recommend that:

#49. Section 16(1) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

“16. (1) In addition to the requirements under section 7, obligated organizations that are school boards or educational or training institutions shall provide educators with accessibility awareness training related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction, and their educators shall satisfactorily complete that training.”

It is essential that the Committee’s proposal take the form of a mandatory regulation, and not merely a policy or “best practice”. Too many professions need this reform to try to convince them voluntarily, one profession at a time.

Moreover, the AODA Alliance has been trying without success to secure voluntary action by the Ontario Government for over a decade. In the 2007 Ontario election, the AODA Alliance asked the parties to commit to ensure that relevant professions require their members to have sufficient accessibility training. In that election, the McGuinty Government promised to advocate to self-governing professions on this. In the ensuing 11 years that the Liberal Government was in power, we repeatedly asked it to keep this promise. We never saw or were shown any Government action to act on this promise.

45. Committee’s Recommendation 30: Education Standards

This recommendation only deals with where to locate certain requirements within the IASR. We take no issue with this as a pure housekeeping matter.

C. Our Feedback on The Committee’s Proposed Phase 2

In Phase 2 of the Committee’s draft recommendations, it proposes a major overhaul of how accessibility barriers should be regulated under the AODA. We commend the Committee for trying to take a broad and creative look at how progress is going under the AODA, and for trying to come up with innovative solutions, thinking beyond the regulatory status quo. Any effort in that regard should be encouraged.

Below we offer a few general responses to the Committee’s proposed reforms to the AODA’s overall design. These are only preliminary thoughts. A fuller response requires substantially more time and research than is currently available. The Committee’s Phase 2 proposal goes far beyond the scope of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

The Committee’s Phase 2 reforms call, among other things, for the creation of a new public authority. The Committee calls it the “Trusted Authority”. That new public agency would have a series of new powers, including powers which bear directly on the AODA’s interpretation, implementation and enforcement.

These reforms would require the Legislature to amend the AODA itself. These are not measures which can be enacted as accessibility standard regulations under the AODA, as it is now written.

As noted earlier, we are opposed to the Ontario Legislature re-opening the AODA and considering making any amendments to it at this time. We don’t want there to be any risk that the Government would try to weaken or reduce any provisions in the AODA. Re-opening the legislation would create such a risk. We would react very strenuously against any Government effort to re-open the AODA’s terms in any way.

Even if we had wanted the Government to re-open the legislation, the likelihood of it doing so now is extremely low. Throughout the first third of its mandate the current Government treated the AODA as a very low priority. It took months and months for the Government just to unfreeze the work of existing AODA Standards Development Committees, including the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. It took more months after that to get the Government to re-start the important work of the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. This was so even though while in opposition, the Conservatives criticized the former Ontario Government for dragging its feet on appointing an Education Standards Development Committee.

Over two thirds of a year has passed since the Government received the blistering report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review. Despite our pressure, the Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As such, we would not agree to the Government proceeding with the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal, in so far as it requires legislative amendments. There is a second important reason why the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal should not proceed at this time. The Committee’s Phase 2 proposal contemplates delegation of certain powers to the proposed Trusted Authority which itself raises a number of significant legal concerns, beyond any policy discussion over the proposal’s pros and cons. We have not had the time or opportunity to explore those issues in preparation for this brief. They would have to be resolved before a profitable discussion of the proposal’s pros and cons should be undertaken.

There are other important avenues and arenas for such proposals regarding reform of the AODA to be presented. For example, there have been three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018-19. Another AODA Independent Review will have to be appointed by March 7, 2022. Those are but one appropriate place to present such suggestions. We do not know if the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee or any of its members presented these ideas to any of the three AODA Independent Reviews for their consideration.

As a visible player on the provincial front regarding the AODA, the AODA Alliance would want to be a major player in any such discussions. For our part, we pointed out serious problems with the way the AODA has been operating, in our proposals to the Federal Government regarding the design of the new Accessible Canada Act. See for example our Discussion Paper on what Canada’s national accessibility law should include, published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law and available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

The same goes for our recent proposals to the BC Government on what the promised BC accessibility law should include, available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/the-british-columbia-government-commits-to-provincial-accessibility-legislation-and-seeks-public-input-on-a-proposed-framework-for-a-bc-disabilities-act-read-the-AODA-alliances-submission-to-the-b/

Despite the foregoing concerns, some parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal can be undertaken now, without needing any reforms to the AODA or to any accessibility standards. For example, the Committee raises concerns about the use of the term “obligated organization.” The term “obligated organization” can be changed, in the Government’s communications on the AODA. The term “obligated organization” does not itself appear in the AODA.

Similarly, the Government could do a far better job of outreach to and inclusion of people with disabilities in its ongoing AODA consultation and implementation efforts, including in its consultation on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations which are the focus of this brief. That too requires no amendment to the AODA.

The Government could now create far better resources to guide obligated organizations. At least two of the AODA Independent Reviews have called for that very action. We strongly support the need for that.

Finally, it is open to the Government to review the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard more frequently than every five years, in order to keep it up to date in connection with new developments, such as new developments in the world of information technology or the creation of new international standards for the accessibility of information technology.

We also want to alert the Committee that we respectfully disagree with some of the key points in its Phase 2 discussion. We agree that the AODA’s implementation has fallen far short of what we all expected, what we all need and what the AODA promised. Our 450-page January 15, 2019 brief to the David Onley Independent Review may be the most detailed documentation of this failure. It explores in detail the causes of this failure and offers constructive proposals to get the AODA back on track. The Onley Report echoes our analysis in key ways, as did the 2015 Moran AODA Independent Review Report that proceeded it and on which it built.

The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion seems in no small part to be constructed on the premise that the AODA has failed because it has been undertaken as an exercise of a regulator compelling compliance through enforcement, rather than by trying to get obligated organizations to understand that it is in their self-interest to ensure that their goods, services, facilities, and employment are accessible. For example, the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion states:

“In the current model, the primary participants are the participating organizations and the provincial government compliance authority. The relationship is one of obligation and policing. The primary questions from obligated organizations are about what is required of them, and whether there might be exemptions. Their primary motivation for complying is avoiding penalties and/or reputational damage.

It is hard to blame organizations for this approach, because accessibility and inclusive design have traditionally been framed primarily as something that organizations must be legally compelled to do, rather than something that is also in their best interests. The fact is however, that there is significant evidence showing that inclusive design is in the interests of business. Research has shown that an organization that attends to inclusive design and accessibility, for customers and employees with disabilities, will garner economic, social and innovation benefits. There are both micro and macro-economic gains to be made for the participating company and for Ontario society as a whole, but that case is not being made clearly or often enough.”

As our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review and our website amply documents, the opposite has in fact been the case. We have demonstrated over and over that the Ontario Government has throughout this decade taken an extremely weak and minimalist approach to AODA enforcement. For years, it would barely if ever even utter the word “enforcement” in public in connection with the AODA. It conducts “audits” of very few organizations each year.

These are only paper audits. We have only seen documentation of one on-site AODA audit or inspection from the day the AODA was passed up to at least 2017. That was a pre-announced inspection of one Government ministry by another Government ministry. In that case, the deputy minister of the inspecting ministry gave written prior notice to the deputy minister of the ministry to be inspected, that an inspection would be upcoming.

Despite knowing year after year about rampant AODA violations since 2013, the Government has only imposed a tiny number of monetary penalties. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s less than two monetary penalties for each of those years. That conveys the clear message to violators that their risk of a monetary penalty is extremely slim.

The Toronto Star has run editorials that support our concern in this regard. It has slammed the Ontario Government for its weak AODA enforcement. Contrary to the Committee’s characterization of events, Minister after Minister responsible for the AODA has publicly said that their primary focus is on doing exactly what the Committee proposed in the passage quoted above, i.e. showing businesses the business case for accessibility. A good example of this is the following passage from the February 26, 2015 interview on CBC Radio Toronto’s flagship Metro Morning program by the previous Liberal Government’s Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid (then responsible for AODA implementation and enforcement):

“[Matt Galloway] But her, her real, her real thrust in this, in the report, is that Ontario’s not moving quickly enough to reach the 2025 goal of full accessibility. I wanna read something to you that one of your predecessors put together, which was Marie Bountrogianni, who, uh, when the legislature passed the disabilities act said, “What was missing in the previous act was enforcement compliance.

When you leave it to the good will of the people, it doesn’t get done.” What’s changed since then?

[Brad Duguid] Well, there- there’s two things. Number one, you can’t enforce that if the businesses aren’t aware of what their responsibilities are. So, the first thing we need to do is make businesses more aware, and we’re doing that through a number of different initiatives. There’s the advertising campaign. We also have a partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce where we’re reaching out to businesses an- and educating them on what they need to do.

Secondly, and this is the key, and when you, and I, I just recently appointed David Onley as our special advisor, and this is something we’re working very, very closely on. We need to make sure that businesses are, are aware of why there’s a competitive advantage for them to become accessible.

We don’t want businesses just to reach a standard, we want them to go beyond the standard and there’s every- there’s a really good business case for businesses across this province to do this. In fact, the Martin Institute indicates that there’s 7.9 billion dollars in our economy if we can become more accessible.

So, that- what I’m saying there is, I don’t want to come in and, and take a really hard approach on businesses and turn them off. What I wanna do is get businesses to embrace what this will do to their bottom line. There’s a really good business case.”

No minister responsible for this legislation has publicly proclaimed a contrary approach to AODA enforcement. No minister coming after Mr. Duguid has ever disagreed with his view, criticized it, or proclaimed a different approach. Certainly, the new Ford Government has not repudiated it.

The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion addresses a criticism at the AODA itself, which should instead be directed at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Ontario Government. The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion includes:

“The current model also does not harness the significant energy, knowledge and support of many community stakeholders who are deeply committed to accessibility. These include:

  • Students, many of whom participate in projects such as “mapathons”, design challenges and curriculum-based assignments
  • Ontario’s world-leading cluster of researchers specializing in accessibility and inclusive design
  • Non-obligated organizations that recognize the importance of accessibility without being compelled to comply by law
  • Persons with disabilities and their families or support communities
  • Professional organizations
  • Community volunteers
  • Civil society”

Similarly the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion later states:

“Ontario is home to many innovators, many of whom have turned their ingenuity to addressing accessibility challenges. Unfortunately, there is currently no easy way for these innovators, including obligated organizations or other stakeholders, to propose new and better strategies for addressing barriers. The relationship is strictly one way, with the Act essentially telling organizations what to do. This removes an incentive to innovate in accessibility.”

The Committee has commendably identified a legitimate area for improvement, but is identifying the wrong culprit. Under the AODA as now written, it is open to the Government to do a far more inclusive job of consulting and including the diverse voices to which the Committee points, in its work on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. For example, Standards Development Committees could readily engage more such voices in their work developing standards. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario can and should do much more of this within the ample mandate that the AODA gives it. Nothing in the AODA prohibits the Ontario Government from doing so.

As well, the Committee presents a very good series of suggestions for reform in its Appendix B. No Trusted Authority or other amendments to the AODA or to its current overall structure are needed to implement them. The IASR can and should be amended, such as in ss. 5 and 6, to incorporate the very helpful requirements that the Committee formulated in its Appendix B. With such a revision to the IASR we would be in clear support.

Appendix 1 Excerpts from the Mayo Moran Second Independent Review of the AODA

The 2014 Moran Report included;

“However, the Review also heard considerable discussion about the content of the standards. In particular, members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far – even if complied with to the letter – will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever. They identified two problems. First, the current standards have serious gaps and deficiencies. And second, important aspects of everyday life fall entirely outside the scope of the current requirements. At the same time, obligated organizations also provided valuable feedback about the content of the current standards and some of the challenges that they pose. Below, I summarize the central themes of the feedback on these issues, including both suggestions about where there may be gaps in the existing standards as well as recommendations for additional standards.

Proposed Revisions to Current Standards

The Review heard many comments that suggested revisions to existing standards. Various disability groups advocated specific changes to the standards to better reflect the needs of their members and clients. More generally, many participants believed that timelines in the standards are too long, several requirements are weak, little is being done to remove existing barriers, and exemptions and exceptions are too broad. One disability stakeholder considered the deficiencies in the IASR so serious that the mandatory review of the Transportation, Employment and Information and Communications standards should begin in 2015 instead of 2016 as currently planned. Many obligated organizations in both the public and private sectors had other concerns, emphasizing that the overall AODA regime is too complex and should be simplified as much as possible.

Members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far – even if complied with to the letter – will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever.

IMPACT ON SPECIFIC DISABILITIES

The Review was told by some participants that they do not believe that the AODA has been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities, such as mental illness, autism, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and others. They suggested that more extensive training requirements to recognize and respond to the needs of people with these disabilities were essential.

The mental health community feels strongly that mental health and other non-visible disabilities should be better integrated into the content of standards. For example, it was suggested that the Employment standard should provide clear guidelines for accommodating employees with mental health disabilities.

Groups supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss pointed out that the vagueness about support persons leaves doubt about an organization’s responsibility to provide interpreters or other communication facilitators. Individuals with speech and language disabilities not caused by hearing loss believe standards should more fully outline requirements for communications assistance, especially in essential services.

People with environmental sensitivities and multi-chemical sensitivities want to see these conditions explicitly included in the definition of disability. Participants with episodic or fluctuating disabilities likewise urged a direct reference to their type of disability in the definition. Representatives of people with bowel disorders called for a network of open, accessible public toilets to be established through the Customer Service, Transportation and Design of Public Spaces standards.

The Review was told that the AODA has not been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities.

EXEMPTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS

The existing regulations set different requirements based on the size of the organization. Where the line should be drawn between small and large businesses was a major source of contention in the feedback received by this Review. In fact, some felt it was a mistake to create any exemptions on the basis of the number of employees, as very small organizations can have huge revenue streams.

At present, there are many exemptions under the IASR for organizations with under 50 employees. For example, they are exempt from requirements to prepare multi-year accessibility plans, make their websites accessible, develop a written process for employment accommodation, provide accessible exterior paths of travel, prepare written accessibility policies and file compliance reports, among other obligations. It was suggested that one reason the AODA has not lived up to its potential is the number of organizations that are exempt from such obligations.

The Customer Service standard currently sets the threshold for certain requirements at 20 employees rather than 50. Currently, organizations with under 20 employees are exempt from requirements to prepare documents on their accessibility policies – including policies on service animals and support persons and the handling of service disruptions – and to produce copies on request, as well as from obligations to document training policies, keep training records and file accessibility reports. In its review of the Customer Service standard – which coincided with this Review – ASAC proposed to raise that threshold to 50 employees instead of 20 to align with the IASR, and several disability groups voiced their concerns about this proposal to this Review.

In addition to the exemptions based on organizational size, the Review also received some feedback on several other provisions that were questioned including the following:

  • Exemption of owner-operated sole proprietorships from the entire IASR as they have no employees.
  • Exclusion of the entire private sector from the duty to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when acquiring goods, service and facilities.
  • Exclusion of products and product labels from the Information and Communications standard.
  • Exclusion of unconvertible information from accessible format requirements, which some described as a loophole that should be closed.
  • Exemptions for all organizations except the provincial Government from the website provisions on live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions.

As well, disability stakeholders took issue with various exceptions that are less exacting than undue hardship under the Human Rights Code. This issue will be addressed later in the section on the AODA’s Relationship with Other Legislation.

GAPS IN STANDARDS

Beyond exemptions and the impact on certain disability groups, participants highlighted a host of gaps in existing standards and put forward numerous suggestions to close them.

Information and Communications

One of the gaps identified that was among the most serious sources of concern was the exclusion of extranets from the website standards. An extranet is a controlled extension of an organization’s internal network that allows access to outside users over the internet. It was pointed out that the standards development committee expected everything behind the log-in to be covered. The fact that this was not done is seen as a step backward.

Unless Ontario keeps standards in line with evolving information technology, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

The importance of keeping the Information and Communications standards in line with evolving international standards was also stressed. Unless a mechanism is created to do this, the Review was told, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

Some participants raised concerns about the provision of accessible formats for various purposes “on request”. They proposed that all educational resources should be accessible, with no need for a request. On the other hand, some post-secondary stakeholders pointed out that this might not be a wise use of resources as there may turn out to be no demand for many of the materials.”

Appendix 2 List of the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations in this Brief

#1. The Standard’s long term objective should be:

“By no later than 2025 and thereafter, people with disabilities will be able to participate fully and equally in the creation and use of information and communications.”

#2. The Committee’s recommendations should recommend that the definition of “accessible formats” in s. 2 of the Standard should be expanded to add “digital accessible formats that are readily readable on computers and portable technologies such as smart phones, using adaptive technology, but does not include documents in PDF format unless also accompanied by other accessible digital formats.”

#3. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section, “kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

#4. The Committee should recommend that section 9(1) of the Standard should be amended to define “conversion-ready” as follows:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that ensures ready conversion into an accessible format that effectively retains the information content that can be read on a computer using widely available adaptive technology, and on hand-held or portable digital technology such as smart phones;”

(b) Section 9(4) should be amended to provide as follows:

“(4) For purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

  1. a) It is not possible to convert the information or communications without undue hardship; or
  2. b) The technology to convert the information or communications is not available without undue hardship.”

#6. The Committee should recommend the addition to the standard of a requirement that if an obligated organization posts a PDF online, it should also simultaneously post the same document in an accessible format such as MS Word, txt or html.

#7. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 4 should be revised to recommend that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended now to set enforceable accessibility standards for products and product labels. This should not await Ontario working out a joint approach to this with the Federal Government, or the Ontario Government working with the private sector on developing non-regulatory innovations in this area. Section 9(2) (should be amended to provide an exemption only for:

“Products and product labels, where compliance with the information and communication requirements would impose an undue hardship on the organization.”

#8. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 5 should be expanded to propose that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard be amended to state that where an obligated organization does not agree to provide the accessible format which the person with a disability requested, the obligated organization must investigate alternative ways to meet this need, up to the point of undue hardship.

#9. Section 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended to set specific fixed or presumptive timelines for an obligated organization to provide an accessible alternative format for a document when requested. If the timeline is to be a presumptive one, rather than a categorical one, it should only be subject to an undue hardship defence for non compliance. The Committee should recommend timelines that are short e.g. 48-72 hours, where the obligated organization is a large one, and or where the requested information relates to important matters such as health or safety or other vital services. Otherwise nothing longer than a 7 day timeline should apply.

#10. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

  1. a) propose an amendment to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to require the Committee’s proposed measures regarding the Ontario Government translating certain information into the Sign Languages ASL and LSQ on demand, and
  1. b) expand that requirement to include captioning for any such video content, for the benefit of people with hearing loss who need captioning and not Sign Language.

#11. The Committee should recommend that section 12(1) of the Standard be amended to provide:

“12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a)   in a timely manner that meets the person’s accessibility needs due to disability, except where doing so would cause an undue hardship to the organization; and

(b)   at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

#12. Section 12(3) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

“(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public in an accessible format about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall post such notification in an accessible format on the organization’s website, if it has one.”

#13. Section 12(4) of the Standard should be re-written in plain language to make it intelligible.

#14. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee should seek direct input including a face-to-face meeting with Communications Disabilities Access Canada and address its concerns regarding the Standard.

#15. Section 13 of the Standard should be expanded to impose a requirement that an organization include in any emergency procedures plan, specific measures to ensure that emergency announcements (such as fire alarms) are provided in an accessible means (e.g. flashing lights for the benefit of persons with hearing loss).

#16. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 15, to create a category of high-impact private organizations, should be refined to:

  1. a) Create criteria that will be easily measured and enforced, where possible.
  1. b) measure the number of an organization’s users, customers or interactions inside or outside Ontario. If for example, the organization has a huge customer base around the world, the fact that a smaller number of users in Ontario should not militate against it being categorized as a high-impact organization.
  1. c) Make the threshold revenue as $1 million not $10 million as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose.
  1. d) Recommend the revision of s. 14 (website accessibility) to make website requirements extend further within the private sector, beyond the proposed new category of high impact organizations.

#17. Section 14 of the Standard should be revised to require websites to comply with the new international standard of WCAG 2.1, not the old WCAG 2.0 which the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard now requires.

#18. As an alternative, section 14(2) should be amended to eliminate WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not Level AA, as a bare minimum for any organization, in the event that WCAG 2.1 is not set as the new standard to meet.

#19. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 13 should recommend that section 14 of the Standard should be amended to set full accessibility requirements to mobile applications, and to the websites, web applications and mobile applications of small organizations where compliance would not pose an undue hardship.

#20. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 17 should be replaced with a recommendation that the Standard’s not practicable exception from website accessibility is removed from section 14. As a weaker and less desirable alternative, if there is to remain some sort of exemption in s. 14(5), it should provide that an obligated organization need not meet these accessibility requirements only if it can show that it would be impossible to meet such requirements without causing that organization undue hardship, and that the obligated organization has the duty to never less take all accessibility action that is possible up to the point of undue hardship.

#21. Section 14 of the Standard should be amended to require any organization to promptly make available, on the request of a person with a disability, and in an accessible format that meets his or her needs, any information on the organization’s website that is not accessible to that person because of his or her disability.

#22. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 19 should be revised to set the deadline for all publicly-facing websites to meet accessibility requirements as 2022, not 2023.

#23. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 21 should be expanded to require an obligated organization to provide an item of pre-2012 inaccessible online content or document in an accessible format on request if needed for purposes of seeking or using that organization’s goods, services or facilities or for purposes of employment.

#24. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 22 should be revised to provide that the current exemption for live captioning and audio description should be lifted by 2021 for the City of Toronto.

#25. a) Where a large organization, a high impact organization or a public sector organization has a Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer position or their equivalent:

  1. a) The CIO is responsible and accountable for leading the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital information accessibility in the organization’s internal and external digital communications.
  1. b) If the organization has a performance contract or performance review process for its officers, it shall be a condition of the CIO’s or CTO’s performance contract that the CIO or CTO is responsible and accountable for ensuring digital information accessibility and for ensuring that Accessibility is an integrated component of Performance and Security design requirements.
  1. c) In any performance review, performance-based pay review or promotion processes, the CIO’s or CTO’s performance on digital information accessibility shall be considered as a relevant factor.
  1. d) In considering whom to hire as CIO or CTO, a hiring factor or criterion should be a candidate’s knowledge and experience with respect to digital information accessibility and assistive technology.

#26. The Standard should be amended to require that when any public sector organization, large organization or high impact private sector organization uses a web-based teleconferencing platform, it should only use a platform which is accessible. If no such platforms are fully accessible, then such organizations should be required to use the most accessible platforms of those which are available. The Standard should provide key criteria for assessing the accessibility of such platforms.

#27. The Standard should be revised to require that public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall prepare an annual or biennial accessibility statement and make it public on its website which:

  1. a) Specifies in detail the extent to which the organization’s website and mobile apps are accessible and specifies where they are not and
  1. b) Gives reasons for any deficiencies in the accessibility of the website or mobile apps and indicates what the organization plans to do to rectify this, and by when.

#28. Beyond the measures in the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 14, the IASR’s general procurement provisions should be strengthened to specify end-user functionality requirements that are sufficiently flexible to accommodate emerging technologies.

#29. The Government should fulfil its overdue duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review all the general provisions in the IASR, sections 1 through 8.

#30. Any changes to the requirements for procurement of goods, services or facilities should go into effect within six months of the new regulation being enacted, and should apply to any procurement thereafter, or for which a contract was signed after the draft of this new regulation was publicly posted for comment, unless the obligated organization can show that to comply would cause it an undue hardship.

#31. Section 5(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“5. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall

(a) Incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, for purposes of acquiring or procuring goods, services or facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities, and

(b) Acquire or procure goods, services and facilities for use in their organization, or for the benefit of the public, that are accessible to persons with disabilities, except where it is not possible to procure or acquire them without undue hardship.”

#32. Section 5(2) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it was not able to acquire or procure accessible goods, services or facilities without undue hardship in accordance with paragraph 5(1) (b), it shall provide, upon request, an explanation in writing.”

#33. Sections 5(1) and (2) should be amended to extend their requirements to large private sector organizations and high-impact private sector organizations.

#34. The IASR’s procurement requirements should be amended to apply to any private sector organization in connection with any work it is doing for or on behalf of the Ontario Government.

#35. Section 6(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“6. (1) Without limiting the generality of section 5, the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility features when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any point-of-sale technology for use by the public, to ensure that they are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.”

#36. Section 6(2) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“(2) Small organizations shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any other point-of-sale technology for use by the public, and in any event, shall use accessible point-of-sale equipment when acquiring new point-of-sale equipment for use by customers, or replacing existing point-of-sale equipment.”

#37. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section,

“kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

#38. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 18 should be amended to call for the website accessibility requirements in s. 14 to apply to any website to which provincial legislation or regulations apply, such as a provincial law that requires specified information to be posted on a website.

#39. Sections 15 to 18 of the Standard should be amended to ensure the accessibility of instructional and other information in Ontario’s education system, in accordance with Recommendations 8.1, 8.2, 12.1 and 12.2 of the AODA Alliance’s October 10, 2019 proposed framework for the contents of the K-12Education Accessibility Standard.

#40. The Committee’s Recommendation 24 should be expanded to also require that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order electronic textbooks or other electronic curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as non-accessible versions.

#41. Section 15 of the Standard should be amended to:

(a) Amend the opening words of section 15(1) to provide:

“1.   Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that meet the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by…”

(b) Require each obligated organization that is an educational or training institution to notify their students, applicants for admission and faculty/teachers, via accessible means, of their commitment to provide accessible curriculum and teaching materials;

(c) Post on their website, if any, their commitment to provide accessible teaching and curriculum materials, and an indication of who within the organization is responsible for their provision;

(d) Add to ss. 15(1) and (2) a requirement that these teaching and curriculum materials are to be available at the same time as the same teaching or curriculum materials are provided to students in the same program or course, except in exceptional cases where it is impossible to do so, in which case alternative measures will be immediately taken to enable a person with a disability to fully participate in the course or program.

(e) Add to section 15 a requirement that where curriculum materials such as textbooks are to be ordered from other sources, the curriculum materials shall be in an accessible format or conversion-ready, except where it can be shown that these cannot be obtained without undue hardship.

(f) Add to section 15 a requirement that notwithstanding the timelines for accessible websites, any information posted to a website for use by students shall be in an accessible format and shall comply forthwith with WCAG 2.0 Level AA unless it can be shown that to do so is impossible without undue hardship, in which case accessible alternative format materials shall be provided immediately on request.

(g) No school, college or university shall provide books or other like materials via paperless technology such as on mobile apps on the iPad or Kindle unless that technology has become accessible for persons with disabilities.

#42. Section 17(1) and (2) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

“17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of education or training textbooks or other teaching materials (whether in printed form or electronic form) for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks or other teaching materials available to the institutions.

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based or electronic educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed or electronic materials available to the institutions.”

#43. The Committee’s Recommendation 25 should be expanded to define the scope of education programs to which its obligations should attach. This should be tied to the nature of the program and the extent to which ensuring accessibility would trigger an undue hardship

#44. Section 18(2) of the Standard should be amended to include a clear and narrow definition of “special collection”, or that exemption should be removed from this provision.

#45. The Committee’s Recommendation 26 should be expanded to recommend that the Government create or fund the creation of an Ontario-based remote captioning service that could service clients in Ontario and around the world by remotely-located captionists, providing their services online.

#46. The Committee’s Recommendation 27 should be expanded to incorporate the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, which includes:

“11.1 To eliminate attitudinal barriers among students, school board employees and some families of students, each school board should:

  1. a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.
  1. b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  1. c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.
  1. d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.”

#47. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 28 (calling for obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems to include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities) should give some specific examples of the needed training, including differently affected disabilities, beyond its reference to Sign language.

#48. The Committee should recommend that the Ontario Government should now adopt a concerted strategy, as part of its economic development efforts, of promoting the expansion of Ontario’s technology development sector with expertise in accessible design.

#49. Section 16(1) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

“16. (1) In addition to the requirements under section 7, obligated organizations that are school boards or educational or training institutions shall provide educators with accessibility awareness training related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction, and their educators shall satisfactorily complete that training.”

[1] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, S.8(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/952/made#f00004; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, S.7(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/eudr/2016/2102/contents

[2] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, s.3; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Article 7(1).

[3] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, section 4(a)(b).

[4] Integrated Accessibility Standards, s.9(3)(a).



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Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Needed Improvements to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard


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 5, 2019

SUMMARY

Today we are making public a draft of our proposed brief to Ontarios Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. We want your input. We set that brief out below. It is very detailed.

Back in 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It addresses barriers to accessibility in information and communication that face people with disabilities.

In 2016, the Ontario Government appointed a new Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to review that standard, and to make recommendations on where it needs to be strengthened.

On July 24, 2019, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee made public its draft recommendations. It invited feedback from the public on those draft recommendations. The AODA Alliance has been hard at work, preparing a brief to provide our feedback to the Standards Development Committee. We are here giving you a draft of our brief. We welcome your feedback before we finalize this brief.

Heres the problem! The Governments deadline for sending in public feedback to the Standards Development Committee was October 25, 2019. We are late! We have to get this brief finalized very fast. Therefore, rushed as it sounds, we need your feedback no later than November 11, 2019.

We apologize for this rush. Our volunteer efforts have been spread over so many important issues, like the recent federal election.

You can be relieved to know that this draft brief reflects a lot of research. It also incorporates lots of feedback that we have received over the years on the issue of barriers to information and communication.

Send your feedback to us by emailing us at [email protected]

We know that this draft brief is quite long and detailed. Some may not have the time to read it all. Here is a short summary of what we propose to say in this brief. This is the summary that is also included in the brief itself.

1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.

2. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

3. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committee s draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them as is or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.

4. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committees draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.

5. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committees Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.

6. Some of the Committees specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

There have now been 279 days since the Ford Government received the Onley Report. It called for strong new Government action to implement and enforce the AODA. The Ford Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to implement that report.

Draft Only
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Brief to the Ontario Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Its Draft Recommendations for Revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

November 5, 2019

Via email to: [email protected]

Note: This is only a draft and has not been finalized as the position of the AODA Alliance.

A. Introduction

1. Overview

This is the AODA Alliance’s brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on its draft recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. The Government must enact and effectively enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved. An accessibility standard is a provincial regulation that spells out what an obligated organization must do to prevent and remove accessibility barriers and that sets timelines for this action.

In 2011, the Ontario Government passed the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. Among other things, that regulation includes a series of provisions on the accessibility of information and communication. That is referred to in this brief as the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. At other points, this brief generally refers to the IASR, of which that standard is a part.

In 2016, the Ontario Government appointed the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to review the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA, and to recommend any revisions needed so that this , accessibility standard would best achieve the AODAs purposes.

The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has developed draft recommendations on how to strengthen the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. On July 24, 2019, the Ontario Government posted those draft recommendations online and invited public input on them, the Ontario Government was required to do this under the AODA. The feedback which the Government receives is to be submitted to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. That committee is then required to consider that feedback, as it finalizes its recommendations for the Government.

This brief provides the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee with our feedback on the committees draft recommendations. We hope that this feedback will assist the committee as it finalizes its recommendations for the Government.

The AODA Alliance welcomes this opportunity to offer our input. We ask that the Accessibility Ministry ensure that all members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee receive this brief as a whole, and not just a summary of it prepared by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. We have received informal word that in the past, at least some Standards Development Committees only receive a summary of feedback from such mandatory public consultations. That summary was evidently prepared by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. To fulfil the spirit and purposes of the AODAs public consultation provisions it is important for all Standards Development Committee members to hear directly from the public, without having their input filtered by the Ontario Government.

We also offer to make an in-person presentation directly to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on our feedback. The Transportation Standards Development committee and the Employment Standards Development Committee each took us up on that offer. We hope this Standards Development Committee will do the same.

When it comes time for the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to vote on the recommendations that it will present to the Ontario Government, we ask the committee to vote separately on each of the recommendations that we present in this brief.

We acknowledge with thanks the feedback and input that we regularly receive from our supporters that enable us to provide informed feedback to the Government and the public in areas such as this. We also thank the members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for their commendable efforts to strengthen the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

2. Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Our mission is:

“To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” To learn about us, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org.

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

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, any party that has made election commitments on accessibility has done so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that desired legislation.

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

The AODA Alliance has played a leading and highly-visible role in Ontario in raising a wide range of accessibility issues, including in the information and communication context. We have connections across Canada and internationally with, and are regularly consulted by accessibility advocates and governments as they grapple with how to tackle these issues.

As but one example, the AODA Alliance played a leading role in campaigning to enable the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to get back to work after the work of all Standards Development Committees was frozen in the wake of the 2018 Ontario election. We were happy and relieved when the Ontario Government lifted that freeze on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee in the fall of 2018 and allowed it to go back to work.

3. Summary of this Brief

The AODA Alliance has solicited input from its supporters through its website, its mass email list, and on Twitter. Drawing on that feedback and on our extensive involvement in advocacy on accessibility issues in Ontario, this brief provides our feedback on those draft recommendations.

Our feedback set out in this brief is summarized as follows:

1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.

2. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

3. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committees draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them as is or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.

4. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committees draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.

5. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committees Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.

6. Some of the Committees specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

4. Preliminary Thoughts Before Proceeding to Our Specific Recommendations

Here are three important themes which we ask the Committee to bear in mind as it reviews our recommendations.

a) A Commendable Start

First, we strongly commend the Committee for its efforts and for the draft recommendations. As will become evident, we agree with many if not most of the Committees Phase 1 recommendations. We urge adjustments to several of the Committees recommendations to further strengthen them. These are in a number of cases request from us for minor adjustments or refinements to the Committees work. We also point out several additional improvements to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, to supplement those which the Committee has prepared.

Based on its work so far, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has done by far the best job of any Standards Development Committee that has been appointed to review an existing AODA accessibility standard. It has prepared far stronger draft recommendations for reform than did ASAC when it reviewed the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard or the Transportation Standards Development Committee when it reviewed the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

b) Committees Job Not Merely to Assess if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Has Been Working As Intended

Second, it appears obvious that several of the Standards Development Committees that have been reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard has been working under substantially erroneous advice from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. Each such Standards Development Committee, including the current Information and Communication Standards Development Committee, has stated that it understood its job, when reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard, is to determine if the standard is working as intended. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committees draft recommendations state in the introduction:

The Act requires that each of Ontario’s accessibility standards be reviewed within five years of becoming law, to determine whether they are working as intended and to allow for changes to be made if they are required.

Substantially the same erroneous language was included in the initial draft recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development committee that were circulated in 2017 for public comment and the draft recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee which were circulated earlier this year for public comment.

To simply see if the standard is working as intended seriously and substantially understates the goal of this mandatory review of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. The AODA does not limit a Standards Development Committee to inquiring on such a review to see if the standard is working as intended.

Rather, this review’s purpose is to ascertain whether the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working sufficiently to ensure that information and communication become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s goal. This Review should recommend improvements to ensure that the Standard will achieve that goal.

It is not sufficient for the Standards Development Committee to just ask if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working “as intended.” By that lesser and palpably weak approach, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard would be fine, and would need no improvements, if it led obligated organizations to merely do whatever the original 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard spelled out. That would be sufficient, even if that left information and communication in Ontario full of disability barriers, now and even long after 2025. If the original intent of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard fell below what the AODA requires for information and communication accessibility by 2025, neither we nor the Standards Development Committee should be locked into or handcuffed by that insufficient goal.

As this brief documents, the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, was not capable of ensuring that information and communication will become fully accessible by 2025, or indeed, ever. We have publicly shared our strong disagreement with the Accessibility Directorates substantial dilution of the aim of these five year reviews of AODA accessibility standards, and have alerted the Directorate about our concerns. Despite this, and with no explanation or justification, that Directorate appears to have persisted in pressing Standards Development Committees to adopt this incorrect and unduly restrictive understanding of their mandate. We identified this concern in our briefs to the Transportation and Employment Standards Development Committees. We also identified it in Chapter 5 of our January 15, 2019 brief to the Third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. It was there explained under the heading: Inappropriate Government Attempts to Unduly Restrict the Work of Standards Development Committees.

Even though the Information and Communication Standards Development refers to this erroneous working as intended approach to its review, it is clear from its draft recommendations that the Committee did not allow itself to be improperly hog-tied by the Directorates erroneous advice or direction. We congratulate the Committee for doing so.

c) Committee Should Use the Findings in the Moran and Onley Reports As Its Starting Point

Third, we agree with the Standards Development Committees draft recommendations general assessment of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as summarized in this paragraph:

The Committee’s discussions reflected a consensus that the current standards are not keeping pace with technology. There was mention that the standards are not always strong enough and are often too difficult to apply. The Committee also discussed the fact that the standards are confusing and prevent innovation in accessible technology. Overall, Committee members agreed that the Standards need to be modernized and crafted to ensure they remain relevant in the future, as technology changes at an increasingly rapid pace.

However, it is vital for the Committee to proceed from the starting point that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is substantially more deficient than that, even though it is the strongest of the accessibility standards enacted to date. The Committee should work from the starting point established by the second AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran and the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. The key findings in the reports of those reviews appear to come directly from the detailed briefs that the AODA Alliance submitted to those reviews.

In 2014, the second mandatory Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found that there are very serious deficiencies in the accessibility standards enacted to date. These included the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Nothing in that accessibility standard has been changed since that report to address those concerns. Appendix 1 to this brief sets out key excerpts from the Moran Report.

The third Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by David Onley, reinforced and supplemented the Moran Reports overall findings. It did not disagree with the Moran Reports findings regarding the IASRs deficiencies. Because the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards provisions had remained unchanged over the five years between the Moran Report and the Onley Report, there was no basis to revise the earlier reports concerns.

In 2019, the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley accepted the Moran Report as a correct starting point. It did not contradict any of the Moran Reports findings about the problems with the accessibility standards enacted to date. It did not find that in the intervening four years, the Ontario Government had done anything to reduce those serious deficiencies.

To the contrary, the Onley Report made even more pointed and blistering findings about the AODAs overall implementation. It did not exempt the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard from those blistering findings.

Based on public feedback, Onley’s report found that the pace of change regarding accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With then under six years left before 2025, the report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” He concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

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

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

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. It in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership. He recommended:

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

Since the Onley Report was received over nine months ago, the Ontario Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement it, nor has it publicly said that it will do so in the future. As such, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind the goal of full accessibility, while the 2025 deadline looms closer and closer.

d) The Bottom Line for This Committee

As such, we urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to see its job as pivotal. It should recommend fixes to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that will rectify the substantial deficiencies in the AODAs implementation in so far as they pertain to the accessibility of information and communication. This brief aims to help the Committee with that task.

If the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is to be strengthened in order to ensure that the AODAs goal is achieved by 2025 in relation to information and communication, this must happen now. The next mandatory review of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not have to be appointed until the eve of the 2025 deadline. By then, if Ontario has not yet been put back on schedule for the 2025 deadline in connection with the accessibility of information and communication, it will be too late.

In the following discussion, our recommendations track the sequence of the Committees draft recommendations. We insert additional topics where they best fit, following the structure of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard itself.

B. Our Specific Feedback on the Draft Recommendations Phase 1 Proposals

1. Accessibility Standards Long Term Objective

We commend the Committee for reviewing the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards long term objective, and its effort to simplify it. We believe that all that needs to be added to the Committees proposed simplified language is the AODAs 2025 deadline.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The standards long term objective should be:

By no later than 2025 and thereafter, people with disabilities will be able to participate fully and equally in the creation and use of information and communications.

2. Section 2 – Definitions

The term “accessible formats” should be clarified so that organizations know that digital formats are an option, but only if they are in a format that is screen-reader-friendly.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. The Committees recommendations should be expanded to recommend that the definition of “accessible formats” in s. 2 of the standard should be expanded to add “digital accessible formats that are readily readable on computers and portable technologies such as smart phones, using adaptive technology, but does not include documents in PDF format unless also accompanied by other accessible digital formats.”

3. Definition of Electronic Self-Serve Kiosks

The IASRs definition of an electronic self-serve kiosk is far too narrow.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

(5) In this section, kiosk means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.

4. Committees Recommendation 1 Consolidating the Regulations Feedback Requirements

We agree with the committees Recommendation 1 to immediately consolidate in one place in the IASR all feedback requirements, in language that makes them clear and consistent as long as this makes it clear that this that does not reduce any existing obligations.

5. Section 9 – Definitions and Exceptions

The standards definition of “conversion-ready” information is too loose. Section 9 provides:

conversion ready means an electronic or digital format that facilitates conversion into an accessible format;

That definition does not ensure that the material is capable of ready conversion into an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#4. The Committee should expand its recommendations to recommend that section 9(1) of the standard should be amended to define “conversion-ready” as follows:

conversion ready means an electronic or digital format that ensures ready conversion into an accessible format that effectively retains the information content that can be read on a computer using widely available adaptive technology, and on hand-held or portable digital technology such as smart phones;”

Section 9(4) defines unconvertible information in a manner that is far too broad. This would weaken the rights of people with disabilities. Section 9(4) provides:

For the purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,
(a) it is not technically feasible to convert the information or communications; or
(b) the technology to convert the information or communications is not readily available.

That provision dramatically reduces obligations of organizations below what they are required to do under the Human Rights Code, and, where applicable, the Charter of Rights. Our proposal for amending s. 9(2) makes s. 9(4) unnecessary.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The committees recommendations should be expanded to recommend that either: (a) Section 9(4) should be deleted, or
(b) Section 9(4) should be amended to provide as follows:

“(4) For purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,
a) It is not possible to convert the information or communications without undue hardship; or
b) The technology to convert the information or communications is not available without undue hardship.”

6. Committees Draft Recommendation 2 PDF Documents

We agree with the Committees draft recommendations where they conclude that PDF documents are often inaccessible and that the required expertise to make them accessible is seldom present in obligated organizations.

The Committees draft recommendations indicate that they do not propose banning PDF formats. We have never proposed banning anyone from creating a PDF document. It has always been our position, which we urge here, that if an obligated organization creates a pdf document in connection with activities to which this accessibility standard would apply, an accessible alternate format document, such as an MS Word, txt or HTML document should also be posted and made available at the same time.

The Committees draft recommendations state that the Committee considered non-regulatory measures such as education for Government employees, but did not vote on this. We do not believe that such non-regulatory measures are sufficient. They would not solve this persistent but easily-remedied problem.

We have been struggling for well over a decade to get the Ontario Government to change its own practices with PDFs, so that it will always simultaneously post an accessible format for a document whenever it publicly posts a PDF. This has too often been a frustrating and futile effort, even after we repeatedly raised this at the highest levels within the Ontario Public Service. We still continue to face serious problems. The Ontario Government has repeatedly claimed to be leading Ontario by its example on accessibility. Yet its example in this context is not one by which we would want Ontario to be led. For example, the Ontario Government even released in inaccessible PDF documents such important things as the 2014 final report of Mayo Morans Independent Review of the AODA, and the previous Governments long-awaited anti-poverty strategy. Years after being told that PDFs present an accessibility problem, the Ministry of Education continues to make important publicly-facing documents regarding Ontarios education system available via PDF documents.

A simple, clear enforceable rule in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is the only effective measure that will have a hope of success, not only for the Ontario Government, but for other obligated organizations as well.

Some may think that a PDF can be made fully accessible. With such a view, we strongly and respectfully disagree, based on years of ample experience. However, this is a moot point.

First, as the committee correctly recognizes, obligated organizations mostly do not have the expertise to make a PDF accessible, even if it is assumed that this goal can be accomplished. Second, when a person receives a PDF, there is no way to know from the file name whether anyone has even attempted to incorporate accessibility features in it, and if so, how many such features. Third, it makes no sense to ask obligated organizations to divert their resources into trying in vain to remediate a new PDF, when they could instead quickly, easily and at no cost simply post the document in an accessible format like MS Word, whenever they post a pdf.

It would take enormous resources to try to persuade obligated organizations to voluntarily change their practices. It is far more effective to set a simple rule which obligated organizations can readily understand and which is easy to enforce.

Documents are not written in PDF. They are written in another application like MS Word. After they are written, accessibility is stripped from that document when it is converted to a PDF.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The draft recommendations should be revised to include a requirement that if an obligated organization posts a PDF online, it should also simultaneously post the same document in an accessible format such as MS Word, txt or html.

7. Committees Draft Recommendation 4: Products and Product Labels

We agree with the Committees draft recommendation 4 that the loophole in the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard must be closed which exempts products and product labels from information and communication accessibility. Section 9(2) of the standard states:

(2) The information and communications standards do not apply to the following:
1. Products and product labels, except as specifically provided by this Part.

We commend the Committee for attempting to address this. However the draft recommendations do not go far enough to address this. The Committees draft recommendations call on the Ontario Government to try to work out a shared regulatory solution with the Federal Government and/or in the interim, that the Ontario Government explore non-regulatory solutions with obligated organizations.

Here again, an enforceable mandatory and specific standard is needed to change practices on the ground. Almost 15 years into the AODA, Ontarians with disabilities do not have time to hope that non-regulatory voluntary measures will change practices that have not substantially changed. In this context, we re-emphasize the finding in the Onley Report that progress on accessibility has been far too slow, and that Ontario remains a province full of soul-crushing barriers.

To hold off any regulatory action on this pending Ontario working out a coordinated action by the Federal Government would, we regret, indefinitely delay any regulatory action. Getting agreement with the Federal Government will predictably take years. The Federal Government will no doubt want to try to work out a common approach for all the provinces. While that would be ideal, it will take even longer. It will also lead to Ontario risking its being driven down to the lowest common denominator among the provinces. Ontario should lead with the strongest standard, and not follow others to the weakest standard.

In the recent federal election, most of the federal parties were not prepared to make any commitments at all on new measures they would take to promote accessibility for people with disabilities. Only one party was prepared to make commitments with any detail or that embodied real change for disability accessibility. After the election, there is little reason to expect that they will become more eager to make this a priority.

There is no compelling reason to await federal regulatory action in this sphere, as the Committees draft recommendations propose what Ontario should do. The committee is worried about the possible overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. In any area of public regulation of economic activity, there are innumerable situations where there may be an overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. Ontario nevertheless takes action, without waiting for the Federal Government. We have a federal labour board and a provincial labour board. We have a national building code and the Ontario Building Code. The list goes on.

Our constitution fully accommodates this without a province having to simply withhold regulatory action. In 2011, it is commendable that the Ontario Government did not withhold enacting regulatory standards for the accessibility of websites. For the same reason, it can and should act now in the area of the accessibility of product labels. If the Federal Government later decides to take action in this area, Ontario can of course discuss ways to harmonize their requirements, should the Federal Government at last decide to act in this area. However this should only be done so long as this does not lead to any reduction in Ontarios accessibility protections.

While it would be helpful for the Ontario Government to work with industries to come up with creative new solutions in this area as the committee proposes, that too is no reason to withhold the enactment now of a regulatory requirement. Indeed, the presence of a mandatory Ontario regulatory accessibility requirement would help motivate industries to develop creative new solutions, including harnessing new technologies.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The Committees draft Recommendation 4 should be revised to recommend that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended now to set enforceable standards for products and product labels. This should not await Ontario working out a joint approach to this with the Federal Government, or the Ontario Government working with the private sector on developing non-regulatory innovations in this area. Section 9(2) (should be amended to provide an exemption only for:

Products and product labels, where compliance with the information and communication requirements would impose an undue hardship on the organization.

8. Committees Draft Recommendation 5 Alternative Formats and Communication Supports

We agree with the Committees concern with s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. It requires an obligated organization to consult with a person with a disability on a needed accessible document format. It leaves the ultimate decision to the obligated organization in unilateral terms. The Committees draft recommendation commendably found:

The Committee noted that this is resulting in the provision of formats that do not meet the needs of people with disabilities.

We agree with the Committee that this provision needs to be strengthened. We also agree with the Committees proposal that the obligated organization should endeavour to get the agreement of the person requesting the alternative format. However, we are concerned that this does not go far enough.

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that obligated organizations have a duty to investigate alternative solutions in duty to accommodate cases. (See D. Lepofsky Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic Scho ol Board An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School to be published in 2020 40.1 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

We anticipate that many obligated organizations do not know of their existing procedural duty to accommodate by investigating alternative solutions up to the point of undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The Committees draft Recommendation 5 should be expanded to propose that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard be amended to state that where an obligated organization does not agree to provide the accessible format which the person with a disability requested, the obligated organization must investigate alternative ways to meet this need, up to the point of undue hardship.

9. Committees Draft Recommendation 6 and 7

We agree with the Committee where it states that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is unduly vague, by providing that an alternative format document must be provided in a timely manner. We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 6 that the obligated organization and the requesting individual should endeavour to reach an agreement on the time frame for this.

However we do not agree with the Committees draft Recommendation 5 through 7 where they propose to refer to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) the task of developing some sort of alternative dispute resolution mechanism for addressing situations where the obligated organization and requesting individual cannot reach an agreement. We commend the Committee here for trying to be creative. Yet we fear that it might take years to develop that new mechanism. Moreover, ASACs membership was presumably not selected based on its expertise in designing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

The creation of the required legal machinery to which the committees draft recommendations refer might well require legislative amendment, if there is to be an enforceable requirement and monetary penalties for non-compliance. We have not had a chance to investigate that complex question. As further addressed later in this brief, we do not want the Government to re-open the AODAs provisions in the Legislature.

Moreover, the AODA requires that the development of such ideas for accessibility standards be done initially through a Standards Development Committee which is subject to the AODAs procedural safeguards and openness requirements (including requirements for public input). ASAC is not subject to any of those procedures and safeguards, for which we fought so hard. For example, its meeting minutes are not required to be made public. In contrast, the minutes of meetings of a Standards Development Committee must be made public according to the AODA. The development of recommendations for the content of an element of an accessibility standard should not be sub-delegated to ASAC.

Instead to strengthen requirements in this area to address the shortcoming which the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee commendably identified, it would be helpful for the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to be amended to set clear timelines, or presumptive timelines for an organization to respond to a request. This could vary depending on the organizations size and the importance of the requested information. If the information is to come from a hospital and relates to a patients medical condition, then the response time should be very short. Given the readily-available availability of technology to produce alternative formats for documents, and the low cost for doing so, there is no reason for such timelines to be lengthy. If the Ontario Government were to post online helpful information on how to convert documents to accessible formats, and a list of venders who can be retained to do this, then an obligated organization should be able to act quickly when a request is received.

We therefore recommend that:

#9. Section 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended to set specific fixed or presumptive time lines for an obligated organization to provide an accessible alternative format for a document when requested. If the timeline is to be a presumptive one, rather than a categorical one, it should only be subject to an undue hardship defence for non compliance. The Committee should recommend timelines that are short e.g. 48-72 hours, where the obligated organization is a large one, and or the requested information relates to important matters such as health or safety or other vital services. Otherwise nothing longer than a 7 day time line should apply.

10. Committees Draft Recommendation 8

We agree with the aim of the Committee’s draft Recommendation 8. It calls for the IASRs various requirements to provide accessible formats and communication supports to be brought together in one place in the IASR, as long as nothing is done to weaken these in any way. Our only concern will be to screen the proposed wording of any regulatory changes to be sure that they do not have the effect of reducing any rights of people with disabilities.

11. Committees Draft Recommendation 9: On-Demand Conversion Ready Formats

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 9. It would require the Ontario Government and the Legislature to immediately ensure that all publicly facing documents are available in an accessible format. If this is required for new documents, this is not a major burden for the Ontario Government. As noted earlier, documents are typically first created in an accessible format, and then counterproductively rendered inaccessible by converting them to formats such as PDF.

12. Committees Draft Recommendation 10: On-Demand ASL and LSQ Translations

The Committee’s draft Recommendation 10 commendably aims to find a creative way to address the need for on-demand Government information in ASL and LSQ. We share the intent of that proposal, but believe it should be strengthened.

We therefore recommend that:

*10. The Committees draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

a) propose an amendment to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to implement and require the Committees proposed measures regarding the Ontario Government translating certain information into the Sign Languages ASL and LSQ on demand, and

b) expand that requirement to include captioning for any such video content, for the benefit of people with hearing loss who need captioning and not Sign Language.

13. Other Deficiencies with Section 12 that the Committees Draft Recommendations Do Not Fix

Section 12(1)(a) sets the obligation here too low. It states:

12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,
(a) in a timely manner that takes into account the persons accessibility needs due to disability; and
(b) at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.

It is not sufficient for an obligated organization to take into account the needs of people with disabilities. The requirement should be to provide supports that meet the needs of people with disabilities unless to do so would cause the organization undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The Committee should recommend that section 12(1) of the standard be amended to provide:

12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,
(a) in a timely manner that meets the person’s accessibility needs due to disability, except where doing so would cause an undue hardship to the organization; and
(b) at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.

It is commendable that section 12(3) requires organizations to notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports. However the provision is too vague. It requires more detail to make it effective. Section 12:3) provides:

(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.

We therefore recommend that:

#12. Section 12(3) of the standard should be amended to provide:

“(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public in an accessible format about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall post such notification in an accessible format on the organization’s website, if it has one.”

Unlike the clear language used in a number of other parts of the IASR, section 12(4) is unintelligible. An organization will need a lawyer to figure it out. It states:

(4) Every obligated organization that is required to provide accessible formats or accessible formats and communication supports by section 3, 4, 11, 13, 19, 26, 28, 34, 37, 44 or 64 shall meet the requirements of subsections (1) and (2) but shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in the referenced section and shall do so only to the extent that the requirements in subsections (1) and (2) are applicable to the requirements set out in the referenced section.

We do not know what this provision means. We fear others will also not know what it means. Whatever it means to say, it should be said in much clearer language language that lets an organization and persons with disabilities understand it without needing to hire and pay a lawyer to decipher it.

We therefore recommend that:

#13. Section 12(4) should be re-written in plain language to make it intelligible.

As a general matter, we also commend and endorse the concerns and advice that Communication Disabilities Access Canada CDAC provided to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho in its January 19, 2019 letter to the minister. CDAC is an amazing and well-respected expert in its field. It has cutting-edge knowledge and good ideas on how to make progress.

We quote from the key part of that letter here:

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) is a national and provincial, non-profit organization that addresses accessibility for people who have speech, language and communication disabilities. Over 165,000 Ontarians have disabilities that affect their communication, that are not caused primarily by deafness or significant hearing loss. Diverse disabilities such as physical, neurological, cognitive, learning, hearing, vision, and linguistic disabilities can affect one or more areas of a persons speech, comprehension, reading and writing.

Communication access to goods and services is as important as physical access for people who have little or no speech and who use picture, symbol, letter boards and devices to convey their messages.

The current integrated standards do not provide sufficient directives for businesses and organizations on ways to make their services accessible for people with speech, language and communication disabilities. For example, most people with speech and language disabilities experience significant barriers to services in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and forums and written communication. These contexts are not adequately or comprehensively addressed in any of the Standards. They are either oversimplified or omitted.
At this time, the Information and Communications Standard primarily focuses on making written information (print and digital) accessible. Examples of accessible formats cited on the Accessibility Directorates website, include human assistance, large print, text transcripts of audio or visual information, handwritten notes instead of speech, plain language and electronic documents.

Many of these accessibility accommodations are extremely useful and appropriate for people who have speech and language disabilities. However, the accessibility needs of people with speech and language disabilities go beyond access to written information and occur in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and written communication. Many of these contexts are critical communication situations, such as police, legal and justice services, where communication barriers can have serious consequences.

To address this significant gap in the Standards, we propose that the Information and Communications (IC) Standard expand its mandate to include regulations that address two-way, interactive communication for people who have disabilities that affect their communication.

We are recommending:

* The IC Standards Development Committee should include people who have a thorough knowledge and proven track record to represent the communication access needs of people with diverse speech and language disabilities.

* The mandate of this committee should go beyond processes that businesses and organizations must follow to create, provide, and receive information and communications that are accessible to people with disabilities to include processes, and resources to ensure effective two-way communication in face-to-face, telephone and group interactions and written communication.

* Development of regulations, guidelines and resources for: Face-to-face, telephone and group interactions. Standards and guidelines are required for all service providers who interact with the public within these contexts, so that they have the knowledge, skills and resources to interact with people who communicate in ways other than speech. They need to know how-to make telephone services accessible and how to make meetings and public forums inclusive for people who have communication disabilities.

* Communication supports: Service providers need information about how and when to provide and work with communication assistants, communication intermediaries, sign language interpreters and other formal communication support services. Formal communication assistance services are essential in critical communication contexts such as health care, police, legal and justice services. In these situations, appropriate communication support services must be mandatory.

* Communication accommodations: Service providers need information about simple, non-technical communication tools that they may provide when a person has no effective means to communicate. They need clarification on the use of communication devices that people may use.

* Writing: Regulations are required to address writing activities for people who cannot physically write or who cannot write due to learning or linguistic disabilities. Writing includes accessible forms, procedures for note taking and signatures.

* Environmental accommodations: Services need guidelines on creating and designing accessible signage and wayfaring, counter spaces, and elevators with a communication access lens.

* Policies are required for communication procedures in emergency evacuation situations, as well as authentic assistance in critical contexts, including medical assistance in dying, police, legal and justice settings.

We believe that many of these accessibility features could be included in the IC Standard to provide a foundation upon which sector-specific communication standards could be developed, such as transportation, healthcare, education and employment. An example of a generic baseline communication standard would-be mandatory training for all service providers on how to communicate with a person who has unclear speech or who uses a communication device. An example of a sector-specific communication standard would be that health care providers must ensure that a communication assistant is authorized by a patient when supporting them in the provision of informed consent to treatment.

Existing resources:

CDAC has developed a range of free guidelines and resources on ways to make services communication accessible. These resources are available for the Accessibility Directorate to promote and use across the province, resources include:

1. A database of qualified Communication Intermediaries to assist people with speech and language disabilities communicating in police, legal and justice situations http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/.

We have information about making justice services accessible at http://www.access-to-justice.org/

2. A database of communication assistants who are available to support people with speech and language disabilities communicating at meetings, forums and on committees at http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/

3. A webinar on making services accessible at
http://courses.cdacanada.com/courses/making-your-services-accessible-for-people-with-communication-disabilities/

4. Written guidelines on communication access at
http://www.communication-access.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Guidelines-for-Communication-Access-1.pdf

We therefore recommend that:

#14. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee should seek direct input including a face-to-face meeting with Communications Disabilities Access Canada and address its concerns regarding the standard.

14. Part 3: Section 13 Emergency Plans Generally

We share the Committees commendable call for greater action to ensure the accessibility of information regarding emergency plans and procedures.

15. Committees Draft Recommendation 11: Emergency Requirements

We agree with the Committees draft recommendation 11 that all the IASRs various provisions regarding emergency plans and procedures should be consolidated in one part of the regulation. We add that nothing should be done to weaken these provisions.

16. Committees Draft Recommendation 12: Unacceptable Emergency Outcomes and Preparedness

The Committee concluded that the preparedness of all levels of Government for emergencies involving people with disabilities is unacceptable. We share this concern.

The Committee commendably recommended that the Government should review overall emergency preparedness measures from a disability perspective. However, it did not recommend anything to strengthen s. 13 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We turn attention to that need here.

Section 13 does not spell out the most obvious and important aspect of emergency procedures in this area. It does not explicitly require an organization to incorporate in any emergency procedure, a process for ensuring that it makes emergency announcements in an accessible format or manner during an emergency or crisis. Even if it is implicitly covered by earlier provisions in the IASR, it is very important to have a specific, clear and strong requirement here.

We therefore recommend that:

#15. Section 13 should be expanded to impose a requirement that an organization include in any emergency procedures plan, specific measures to ensure that emergency announcements (such as fire alarms) are available in an accessible means (e.g. flashing lights for the benefit of persons with hearing loss).

17. Part 4: Section 14 Website and Web Content Accessibility Generally

We share the Committees view that the standards website accessibility provisions need to be strengthened.

18. Committees Recommendation 15: Differentiating Organizations/High Impact Organizations

We strongly and heartily endorse the Committees proposal that an organizations number of employees should not be the sole determinant of an organizations accessibility obligations. We have been urging that view upon the Ontario Government for over a decade without success.

We agree as well that the Committees idea of defining high impact organizations for purposes of defining their accessibility obligations has merit. We would add, however, a few variations. First, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as now constituted, has had an upside-down approach to organizations duties and time lines. As in all other areas of the IASR, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard starts from a mechanistic approach whereby the bigger the organization, the more it must do, and the sooner it must do it. In the case of small organizations, such as smaller businesses, website and mobile app accessibility should be attainable more quickly than by larger organizations, especially where the measures are required on a go-forward basis. A small company with a small website can ensure that the accessibility of its entire web footprint much more quickly than can the Ontario Government. Yet the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard erroneously places the least obligations on that small company and gives it the longest time lines. It places the greatest obligations on the Ontario Government and gives it the shortest time lines. This makes no sense. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised where needed to correct this incorrect approach. It is of course irrelevant for those time lines that have already expired.

Second, the measure of what constitutes a high impact organization should include more than does the Committees Recommendation 15.

We therefore recommend that:

#16. The Committees draft Recommendation 15, to create a category of high-impact private organizations, should be refined to:

a) Create criteria that will be easily measured and enforced, where possible.

b) That will measure the number of an organizations users, customers or interactions inside or outside Ontario. If for example, the organization has a huge customer base around the world, the fact that a smaller number of users in Ontario should not militate against it being categorized as a high-impact organization.

c) Make the threshold revenue as $1 million not $10 million as the Committees draft recommendations propose.

d) Recommend the revision of s. 14 (website accessibility) to make website requirements extend further within the private sector, beyond the proposed new category of high impact organizations.

19. Extending the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to Require WCAG 2.1, Not the Current 2.0

At present, the specific standard for website accessibility that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard sets is Web Content Accessibility Group (WCAG) 2.0. That was established by the W3C consortium at least a decade ago. Since then, we understand that it has been updated much more recently to WCAG 2.1. As we read it, the Committees recommendations merely refer to the old WCAG 2.0. They and do not recommend updating the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to require WCAG 2.1. The Committees draft recommendations do not explain this. It is critically important.

We therefore recommend that:

#17. Section 14 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised to require websites to comply with the new international standard of WCAG 2.1, not the old WCAG 2.0 which the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard now requires.

As well, it is entirely unjustifiable in late 2019 for the standard to lead any organization to think that it is sufficient in the interim to only meet WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not, as a bare minimum, Level AA. Yet s. 14(3) still provides as follows, with an end date of 2021:

(2) Designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall make their internet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA, and shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in this section.

No organization should now waste its efforts at merely meeting Level A as an interim goal, when it makes more sense to set Level AA as its goal from the outset. We therefore recommend that:

#18. As an alternative, section 14(2) should be amended to eliminate WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not Level AA, as a bare minimum for any organization, in the event that WCAG 2.1 is not set as the new standard to meet.

20. Committees Draft Recommendation 13: Mobile Applications & New Technologies

We agree with the Committees draft Recommendation 13. It would extend the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards website accessibility requirements to mobile applications. However we do not agree that all small organizations should be exempted from this requirement, just as we do not believe that all small organizations should be categorically exempted from the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards website accessibility requirements. If anything, a well-resourced small organization could at least in some cases find it easier to make its website and mobile apps accessibility than can a larger organization. The IASR arbitrarily defines the size of an organization solely by its number of employees, regardless of the organizations resources or its impact on the market. If for example a small organization has a broadly-selling app, there is no reason why it should not meet accessibility requirements. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not grant any such exemption for small organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#19. The Committees draft Recommendation 13 should be expanded to recommend that section 14 should be amended to set full accessibility requirements to mobile applications, and to the websites, web applications and mobile applications of small organizations where compliance would not pose an undue hardship.

21. Committees Recommendation 16: Significant Refresh

The Committee’s draft recommendations correctly identify another serious deficiency with s. 15 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, namely that key requirements are only triggered by an obligated organization creating a new website or undertaking a significant refresh of an existing site. We agree with the Committee that this vague threshold provides obligated organizations with an easy and unacceptable end-run around the provision.
We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 16 to fix this, and the stated intent underlying it, namely:

Any content that is new or which an obligated organization changes, updates or adds to a web site must meet the accessibility requirements of Section 14
Furthermore, when content is added, changed or updated, it is recommended that organizations take the opportunity to make all content accessible
The Committee recommends that content should include all functions, interactions and branding (look and feel) for a site. It is recommended that Section 14 include examples for the sake of clarity
Timeline: Regulation to be changed immediately, to be effective six months after the new regulation comes into force.

22. Committees Recommendation 17: Practicability

We agree with the Committees concern that s. 14(5) includes too broad an exemption to its website accessibility requirements, by only requiring obligated organizations to take the required action to make websites accessible where practicable. We agree with the Committee that

this term is too vague and might allow some organizations to avoid doing something they are actually able to do.

We encourage the Committee to fortify and further reinforce this serious concern. The sweeping where practicable exemption is far broader than the relevant Human Rights Code exemption from the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, which is only available where it is impossible to provide more accessibility without undue hardship. Undue hardship is a much more exacting requirement than mere practicability. Moreover the failure to use the stronger undue hardship terminology sends a harmful and erroneous signal to obligated organizations that they need not meet this higher undue hardship test. It misleads obligated organizations. This is a disservice both to obligated organizations and to people with disabilities.

To define the existing term practicable in s. 14(5) to mean the same as undue hardship, as the Committee is contemplating, risks confusing obligated organizations or suggesting to them that undue hardship means the same as merely not practicable. It is neater and cleaner, and less risk-prone, to simply replace the term not practicable in the standard with the correct undue hardship.

We would prefer if no “exception” clause was included. Compliance with well-established international standards for new web postings simply does not create an undue hardship. At the very least, if there is to be an exemption clause, the exemption should be no broader than that provided under the Human Rights Code.

We therefore recommend that:

#20. The Committees draft Recommendation 17 should be replaced with a recommendation that the exception for not practicable is removed. As a weaker and less desirable alternative, if there is to remain some sort of exemption in s. 14(5), it should provide that an obligated organization need not meet these accessibility requirements only if it can show that it would be impossible to meet such requirements without causing that organization undue hardship, and that the obligated organization has the duty to never less take all accessibility action that is possible up to the point of undue hardship.

It is important for the regulation to make it clear that all organizations covered by this provision have a clear duty to promptly provide people with disabilities, on request, in an accessible format, with any information that is inaccessible on their website. This would include, for example, any information that need not yet be made accessible because of the time lines in the regulation, or any archival material that need never be made accessible on the website.

We therefore recommend that:

#49. Section 14 should be amended to require any organization to promptly make available, on the request of a person with a disability, and in an accessible format that meets his or her needs, any information on the organization’s website that is not accessible to that person because of his or her disability.

23. Part 4, Subpart 1: Section 14 Exemptions Generally

We agree that the standards exemptions are too broad and need to be narrowed.

24. Committees Recommendation 19: Extranet Exemption

We agree with the intent and content of the Committees Draft Recommendation 19 that the exemption for public-facing websites with a log-in should be removed and that these types of websites should be required to comply with the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We however believe that the proposed 2023 deadline for all publicly-facing websites, other than new ones, should be 2023. This is too long a time line, especially where meeting it would not provably pose an undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#21. The Committees draft Recommendation 19 should be revised to set the deadline for all publicly-facing websites to meet accessibility requirements as 2022, not 2023.

25. Committees Recommendation 20: Intranet Exemption

We agree with the Committees important finding that technology has advanced to the point where all organizations should be able to make their websites accessible under Section 14. We therefore agree with extending this requirement to the broader public sector and large organizations, including employee-facing websites. As such, we agree that all definitions related to a type of website be removed and that Section 14 simply apply to all websites, internet or intranet for all obligated organizations. Indeed this is a critical reform to strengthen the current weak Employment Accessibility Standard. As indicated earlier, we would go further, and urge that it be extended to at least some small organizations, even if they do not fit within the proposed definition of high impact organization.

26. Committees Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 Exemption

We agree with the Committees view that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards exemption for pre-2012 web content is overbroad and should be narrowed. The Committees draft Recommendation 21 seems on first examination to be sensible. We would add that where historic, archived content is available on the web, and where a customer or employee needs it in an accessible format for purposes of seeking or using an obligated organizations goods, services or facilities, or for purposes of their employment, the obligated organization should be required to make that content available on request in an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#22. The Committees Recommendation 21 should be expanded to require an obligated organization to provide an item of online content or document in an accessible format on request if needed for purposes of seeking or using that organizations goods, services or facilities or for purposes of employment.

27. Committees Recommendation 22: Live Captioning and Audio Description

We agree with the Committees draft Recommendation 22 that sets out requirements so that by 2025, the standards live captioning and audio description exemptions will be eliminated. We would add that by 2021, this exemption should be lifted for the city of Toronto, a public sector organization which is larger and more resourced than a number of entire provinces in Canada.

We therefore recommend that:

#23. The Committees Recommendation 22 should be revised to provide that the current exemption for live captioning and audio description should be lifted by 2021 for the City of Toronto.

28. Committees Recommendation 23: Web Hosting Location

We agree with the Committees draft Recommendation 23 which would clarify that s. 14 obligations apply to a website whether or not it is hosted in Ontario. This is a loophole that should not be permitted to remain.

29. Chief Information Officer

A number of larger organizations in the public and private sector now have a position often called the Chief Information Officer (CIO). This is a critical position which could be decisively in enhancing accessibility of information and especially digital information.

At present, there is nothing in place in the standard to help ensure that a CIO has sufficient knowledge and training on digital accessibility, or even knows that they have lead responsibility for the organizations digital accessibility. There is similarly nothing in place to require that a CIO is held accountable within the organization for the organizations efforts at ensuring digital accessibility.

We therefore recommend that:

#24. a) Where a large organization, a high impact organization or a public sector organization has a Chief Information Officer position or its equivalent:

a) The CIO is responsible and accountable for leading the organizations efforts at ensuring digital information accessibility.

b) If the organization has a performance contract or performance review process for its officers, it shall be a condition of the CIOs performance contract that the CIO is responsible and accountable for ensuring digital information accessibility.

c) In any performance review, performance-based pay review or promotion processes, the CIOs performance on digital information accessibility shall be considered as a relevant factor.

d) In considering whom to hire as CIO, a hiring factor or criterion should be a candidates knowledge and experience with respect to digital information accessibility.

30. Teleconference Platforms Used by Public Sector Organizations

Increasingly, organizations use web-based teleconferencing and meeting platforms for internal meetings of their employees or officials, and for public-facing meetings, such as electronic town hall meetings. Some of these platforms are more accessible than others. It is critical that organizations only use the most accessible ones. A requirement to this effect in the Standard would help get all such platforms to become accessible.

We therefore recommend that:

#25. The standard should be amended to require that when any public sector or large organization or high impact private sector organization uses a web-based teleconferencing platform, it should only use a platform which is accessible. If no such platforms are fully accessible, then such organizations should be required to use the most accessible platforms of those which are available. The standard should provide key criteria for assessing the, accessibility of such platforms.

31. Digital Information Accessibility Statement

The standard does not now require any obligated organization to prepare and make public a comprehensive statement of the status of the accessibility of its website or related mobile apps. This might be covered to some extent in an accessibility plan or progress report on accessibility that the organization must prepare under the existing IASR. However, there is no assurance that the needed information will be included and will be comprehensive.

Helpful research provided to the AODA Alliance by the ARCH Disability Law Centre includes the following:

The United Kingdom Statutory Instrument 2018 No.952, entitled The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the Regulation) is comparable to certain provisions within the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. There is also a Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (the Directive) which is relevant.

Both the Regulation and the Directive require public organizations to create an Accessibility Statement.1

That research also stated:

An Accessibility Statement as defined by the Regulation and Directive is: a detailed, comprehensive and clear statement produced by a public sector body on the compliance of its website or mobile application with these Regulations.2 The Accessibility Statement is a useful tool especially where an organization determines it is unable to meet accessibility standards. The Regulation requires a public sector body to explain in its Accessibility Statement any instances where it cannot comply with the accessibility requirement and provide accessible alternatives where appropriate.3

Under the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, obligated organizations are required to provide a requesting party with an explanation when it determines that it is unable to convert information and communications to an accessible format.4 This requirement is similar to the Accessibility Statement required under the Regulation and Directive. However, Accessibility Statements are more robust. Accessibility Statements outline both an organizations compliance and lack thereof meaning they go beyond simply addressing instances where an organization cannot comply with standards. Additionally, Accessibility Statements are required whether or not there is a requesting party who has been denied accessible/convertible information. Further, the term explanation is undefined in the Information and Communication Standard and so it lacks the formal requirements of an Accessibility Statement. As a result, there is no guarantee as to the quality of an explanation given to a requesting party under the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

We therefore recommend that:

#26. The Standard should be revised to require that public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall prepare an annual or biennial accessibility statement and make it public on its website which:

a) Specifies in detail the extent to which the organizations website and mobile apps are accessible and specifies where they are not and

b) Gives reasons for any deficiencies in the accessibility of the website or mobile apps and indicates what the organization plans to do to rectify this, and by when.

32. Committees Recommendation 14: Procurement

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations that the IASRs general provisions regarding procurement of accessible goods, services and facilities are not strong enough to result in accessible digital procurement. We also agree with the general thrust of the ideas in the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14 on the substantive requirements to add to the IASR in so far as accessible procurement of information technology is concerned. We would however like to see the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard go further. It should include specifics of what kinds of accessibility features or functionality should be required. These should be expressed in terms of end-user-usability, and not the specific technology to include. This is so because technology in this area is so rapidly evolving. In other words, these amendments to the standard should not only set process requirements, but also requirements for end results in terms of functional end-user experience. We anticipate that obligated organizations generally know little or nothing about this and need as much regulatory direction as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

#27. Beyond the measures in the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14, the IASRs general procurement provisions should be strengthened to specify end-user functionality requirements that are sufficiently flexible to accommodate emerging technologies.

We agree with the Committee that beyond the specific context of procuring information technology, the IASRs general provisions regarding procurement need to be strengthened. We however, do not agree with the Committees suggestion that this be referred to ASAC. As noted earlier, under the AODA, the review of any accessibility standard must be conducted at least every five years by a Standards Development Committee that is appointed for that purpose.

The members of the Standards Development Committee appointed to conduct that review should be chosen based on their expertise and experience in this specific area. No Standards Development Committee has been appointed since 2011 to review the IASRs general provisions, such as the procurement provisions. It would be open to the Government to assign that review to an existing Standards Development Committee that was already appointed to review any other parts of the IASR or to recommend new accessibility standards.

The Government is in violation of the AODA for not having done so. That review was required to have been started in 2016. As noted earlier, the Standards Development Committee that conduct such a review should comply with all the procedural safeguards in the AODA conducting a review of an accessibility standard.

We therefore recommend that:

#28. The Government should fulfil its overdue duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the general provisions in the IASR, sections 1 through 8.

We agree that the Government and public sector organizations need to be given some time to implement any changes in the area of procurement. However, we do not agree that this should extend out to 2021, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose. This is so for several reasons.

First, public sector organizations have had accessible procurement duties under the AODA for years. They are not starting from scratch. Second, their duty not to create new barriers is enshrined in pre-existing human rights law. It is not a new creation of the AODA or of the IASR.

Third, 2025 is not far away. We cannot afford any delays, especially on the part of public sector organizations that are supposed to be leading by example.

Fourth, any such delay inappropriately suggests to public sector organizations that it is okay for them to continue to use public money to create new disability barriers. Yet that harmful use of public money must stop.

Fifth, especially as it applies to the Ontario Government that is the very body that is creating this regulation. As noted earlier, the Ontario Government has claimed for years to be leading Ontario by example in the area of accessibility. The Ontario Government is hardly caught by surprise by new regulatory requirements in this area.

For the same reasons, we respectfully disagree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14 where it proposes that an obligated organization can be exempt from any of this new requirement if it has entered into a contract regarding the matter before January 1, 2021. That would let an obligated organization disregard this new requirement even if it was amply aware that it was coming e.g. because it was earlier posted in a draft regulation.

We therefore recommend that:

*29. Any changes to the requirements for procurement of goods, services or facilities should go into effect within six months of the new regulation being enacted, and should apply to any procurement thereafter, or for which a contract was signed after the draft of this new regulation was publicly posted for comment, unless the obligated organization can show that to comply would cause it an undue hardship.

We propose further measures to strengthen the IASR procurement provisions, whether they apply to information technology or other goods, services or facilities.

Section 5 of the IASR falls well short of the duty to prevent the creation of new barriers that the Supreme Court of Canada mandated years ago in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. VIA Rail Canada Inc., [2007] 1 S.C.R. 650.

This section unjustifiably exempts any organization from even having to ask for accessible goods, services or facilities when seeking to procure them, where it is not practicable to do so. We know of no situation where it is impracticable to even ask vendors for accessible goods, services or facilities, as part of a procurement endeavour. Moreover, the not practicable standard falls substantially short of the without undue hardship standard in the Human Rights Code. It is counterproductive and harmful to try to get organizations to meet standards that are transparently lower than the Human Rights Code. If there were to be any exemption clause in this part of the IASR at all, it should be considerably narrowed. We here draw on the Committees commendable recommendation, further addressed later in this brief, that the standard should also be amended to create a class of high impact private sector organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#30. Section 5(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

5. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall
(a) Incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, for purposes of acquiring or procuring goods, services or facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities, and
(b) Shall acquire or procure goods, services and facilities for use in their organization, or for the benefit of the public, that are accessible to persons with disabilities, except where it is not possible to procure or acquire them without undue hardship.

#31. Section 5(2) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it was not able to acquire or procure accessible goods, services or facilities without undue hardship in accordance with paragraph 5(1) (b), it shall provide, upon request, an explanation in writing.

The duty to procure accessible goods, services and facilities should be extended to large or high impact private sector organizations. This is important for ensuring accessibility of goods, services, facilities and employment.

We therefore recommend that:

#32. Sections 5(1) and (2) should be amended to extend their requirements to large private sector organizations and to high impact private sector organizations.

Moreover, these procurement requirements should be extended to any private sector organization when engaging in a project or contract for the Ontario Government. The Government should not be able to get around these procurement requirements by contracting out some of its work to the private sector.

We therefore recommend that:

#33. The IASRs procurement requirements should be amended to apply to any private sector organization in connection with any work it is doing for or on behalf of the Ontario Government.

33. Section 6 – Self-Service Kiosks

Related to the issue of procurement, the IASRs section regarding electronic kiosks, s.6, remains far too weak. Its requirements should be strengthened. Features of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard bear on such kiosks, just as they can apply to other customer-facing technology. These requirements should extend further in the private sector than at present.

We therefore recommend that:

#34. Section 6(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

6. (1) Without limiting the generality of section 5, the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility features when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any point-of-sale technology for use by the public, to ensure that they are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

It is also important for private sector organizations with less than 50 employees to take serious action on this front especially where they offer technology for use by the public during point-of-sale transactions.

We therefore recommend that:

#35. Section 6(2) should be amended to read:

(2) Small organizations shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any other point-of-sale technology for use by the public, and in any event, shall use accessible point-of-sale equipment when acquiring new point-of-sale equipment for use by customers, or replacing existing point-of-sale equipment.

#36. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

(5) In this section,

kiosk means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.

34. Committees Recommendation 18: Harmonization and Application across Requirements

We agree with the Committees draft Recommendation 18 that the IASR should be amended to make it clear that its website accessibility provisions in s.14 apply to all websites that are referred to across the IASR. We would go further. The IASR should be refined to make it clear that these website accessibility requirements apply to any website specified in any provincial legislation or regulations, such as any provincial law that requires anything to be posted on a website.

We therefore recommend that:

#37. The Committees draft Recommendation 18 should be amended to call for the website accessibility requirements in s. 14 to apply to any website to which provincial legislation or apply, such as a provincial law that requires specified information to be posted on a website.

35. Part 5: Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18 Generally

It is inexcusable in 2019, over 14 years after the AODA was enacted, that students continue to face difficulties in getting timely access to needed educational materials in an accessible format.

The AODA Alliance has released a proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard and has submitted it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. We set out the relevant passages below. We do however urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to press forward with its recommendations in this area, as elaborated upon below in our more specific submissions. If the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee or the post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee opt to make further recommendations on point, that can only enrich the discussion. However, we ask the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee not to hold off proceedings on these recommendations due to the forthcoming work of the two Education Standards Development Committees.
In the key part of the AODA Alliances proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, a vision is offered of what an accessible education system would look like. This vision includes, among other things:

2.5 Instructional materials used in Ontario’s education system would be available in formats that are fully accessible to students with disabilities who need to use them and would be available in accessible formats when needed.

2.6 All digital technology used in Ontario’s education system, such as hardware, software and online learning, used in class or from home, would be fully accessible and would fully embody the principle of universal design. Education staff working with students with disabilities would be properly trained to use the accessibility features of that hardware, software and online learning technology, and to effectively assist students with disabilities to use them.

Among the recommendations in that proposed Framework for the contents of the Education Accessibility Standard is the following:

8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

Barrier: School boards using classroom technology, such as hardware, software, online learning systems and internal or external websites that lack digital accessibility; school board policies that can be obstacles to using adaptive technology designed for people with disabilities; Insufficient staff training and familiarity with the use of accessibility features of mainstream technology, and with disability-specific adaptive technology.

8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

Educational equipment and technology, including hardware, software, and tablet/mobile apps deployed in educational settings should be designed based on universal design principles, to ensure that students with disabilities can use them.

a) A school board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each school board should ensure that no teacher is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.

b) Each school board’s internal and external websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.

c) Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be simultaneously provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.

d) Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.

e) Textbooks and learning software should be procured only if they include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. Here again, PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

8.2 The Ministry of Education and each school board should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased either by a school board, or by the Ministry for use by school boards, unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included in all Requests for Proposal (RFP) or other tenders for sale of products and services to a school board or the Ministry.

The proposed Framework also includes:

12. Ensuring Accessibility of Instructional Materials that Students with Disabilities Use

Barrier: Instructional materials, such as textbooks and other instructional materials and teaching resources that are not provided at the same time in an accessible format for students with disabilities.

Section 15 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in June 2011, and in force for school boards since 2013 or 2015 (depending on their size) requires education organizations to provide instructional materials on request in an accessible format, and to make this part of their procurement of such resources. However, this provision has not been effective and sufficient to effectively ensure that students with disabilities face no barriers in this context. Therefore, stronger measures are needed.

12.1 To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each school board should:

a) Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.

b) Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.

c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

12.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ministry of Education to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across school boards.

36. Committees Recommendation 24: Purchase of Accessible Teaching/Training Materials

We agree with the Committees draft Recommendation 24 that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order text books or other printed curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as print copies. This should apply to both print and electronic teaching materials.

We therefore recommend that:

#38. The Committees Recommendation 24 should be expanded to also require that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order electronic text books or other electronic curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as non-accessible versions.

37. Section 15 – Educational and Training Resources and Materials

Beyond this, s. 15, on providing accessible educational and training materials, while helpful, needs to be strengthened. It now provides:

15. (1) Every obligated organization that is an educational or training institution shall do the following, if notification of need is given:
1. Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that takes into account the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by,
i. Procuring through purchase or obtaining by other means an accessible or conversion ready electronic format of educational or training resources or materials, where available, or
ii. Arranging for the provision of a comparable resource in an accessible or conversion ready electronic format, if educational or training resources or materials cannot be procured, obtained by other means or converted into an accessible format.
2. Provide student records and information on program requirements, availability and descriptions in an accessible format to persons with disabilities.

(2) For the purposes of this section and sections 16, 17 and 18, an obligated organization is an educational or training institution if it falls into one of the following categories:
1. It is governed by the Education Act or the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
2. It offers all or part of a post-secondary program leading to a degree pursuant to a consent granted under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000.
3. It is a designated public sector organization described in paragraph 3 or 4 of Schedule 1.
4. It is a public or private organization that provides courses or programs or both that result in the acquisition by students of a diploma or certificate named by the Minister of Education under paragraph 1 of subsection 8 (1) of the Education Act. 5. It is a private school within the meaning of the Education Act.

We therefore recommend that:

#39. Section 15 be amended to:

(a) Amend the opening words of section 15(1) to provide:

“1. Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that meet the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by”

(b) Require each obligated organization that is an educational or training institution to notify their students, applicants for admission and faculty/teachers, via accessible means, of their commitment to provide accessible curriculum and teaching materials;

(c) Post on their website, if any, their commitment to provide accessible teaching and curriculum materials, and an indication of who within the organization is responsible for their provision;

(d) Add to ss. 15(1) and (2) a requirement that these teaching and curriculum materials are to be available at the same time as the same teaching or curriculum materials are provided to students in the same program or course, except in exceptional cases where it is impossible to do so, in which case alternative measures will be immediately taken to enable a person with a disability to fully participate in the course or program.

(e) Add to section 15 a requirement that where curriculum materials such as text books are to be ordered from other sources, the curriculum materials shall be in an accessible format or conversion-ready, except where it can be shown that these cannot be obtained without undue hardship.

(f) Add to section 15 a requirement that notwithstanding the time lines for accessible websites, any information posted to a website for use by students shall be in an accessible format and shall comply forthwith with WCAG 2.0 Level AA unless it can be shown that to do so is impossible without undue hardship, in which case accessible alternative format materials shall be provided immediately on request.

(g) No school, college or university shall provide books or other like materials via paperless technology such as on mobile apps on the iPad or Kindle unless that technology has become accessible for persons with disabilities.

38. Section 17 – Producers of Educational or Training Material

It is helpful that s. 17 requires publishers to make accessible educational textbooks and certain other printed instructional materials available on request, in an accessible format. It however needs to be expanded. It now only applies to textbooks. Section 17 provides:

17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of educational or training textbooks for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (1).
(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed materials available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (2).

It should also apply to any other course materials produced in printed form, as well as course materials and books produced in electronic form. With the spread of e-books, this is increasingly important.

We therefore recommend that:

#40. Section 17(1) and (2) should be amended to provide:

“17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of education or training textbooks or other teaching materials (whether in printed form or electronic form) for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks or other teaching materials available to the institutions.
(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based or electronic educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed or electronic materials available to the institutions.”

39. Committees Recommendation 25: Definition of Educational and Training Institutions

We agree that the standards requirements for educational organizations should extend to any organization that provides any education or training programs, whether or not they meet the standards current definition of education organization.

We therefore recommend that:

#41. The Committees Recommendation 25 should be expanded to define the scope of education programs to which its obligations should attach. This should be tied to the nature of the program and the extent to which ensuring accessibility would trigger an undue hardship

40. Section 18 – Libraries of Educational and Training Institutions

Section 18 is a helpful provision addressing accessibility at public libraries. However, it has an exception for “special collections” that, if not defined, could sweep away much-needed protections. Section 18 provides:

18. (1) Subject to subsection (2) and where available, the libraries of educational or training institutions that are obligated organizations shall provide, procure or acquire by other means an accessible or conversion ready format of print, digital or multimedia resources or materials for a person with a disability, upon request.

(2) Special collections, archival materials, rare books and donations are exempt from the requirements of subsection (1).

(3) Obligated organizations to which this section applies shall meet the requirements under this section in accordance with the following schedule:
1. In respect of print-based resources or materials, January 1, 2015.
2. In respect of digital or multimedia resources or materials, January 1, 2020.

A law school at a university might argue that its entire law library is a “special collection”, that is thus exempt from any accessibility requirements. We do not anticipate that this was what the Government meant to achieve here.

We therefore recommend that:

#42. Section 18(2) should be amended to include a clear and narrow definition of “special collection”, or that exemption should be removed from this provision.

41. Committees Recommendation 26: Increasing Captionist Capacity

We share the Committees concern that there is a limited number of trained captionists in Ontario. We agree with the need for new efforts to increase their numbers. The Committee appears to make a non-regulatory recommendation.

We add that technology exists now to facilitate off-site captioning from distant locations. The captionist can be anywhere in the world. An audio hookup is set up via the web so the captionist can hear the spoken words to transcribe.

The Government can further facilitate this by either creating or funding a start-up that would crowd source these services, so that captionists around Ontario, or indeed around the world, could get quick and easy access to customers in Ontario. This could be part of an economic development strategy. A well-run Ontario-based service could sell its services around the world, bringing in new revenues to Ontario.

We therefore recommend that:

#43. the Committees Recommendation 26 should be expanded to recommend that the Government create or fund the creation of an Ontario-based remote captioning service that could service clients in Ontario and around the world by remotely-located captionists, providing their services online.

42. Committees Recommendation 27: Accessibility in Education

We share the Committees advice that disability accessibility curriculum should be included at all levels of Ontario’s education system.

We therefore recommend that:

#44. The Committees Recommendation 27 should be expanded to incorporate the AODA Alliances proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, which includes:

11.1 To eliminate attitudinal barriers among students, school board employees and some families of students, each school board should:

a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.

b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.

c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.

d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.

43. Committees Recommendation 28: Accessibility in Information and Communications Tools and Systems

We agree with the Committee that:

There is often a lack of knowledge regarding the needs of people with disabilities on the part of the designers of information and communications tools and systems, and this leads to a lack of accessibility in these products.

We also agree with the Committees draft Recommendation 28 where it proposes that all obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems shall include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities We see value in this recommendation being further refined.

We therefore recommend that:

#45. The Committees draft Recommendation 28 (calling for obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems to include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities) should give some examples of the needed training, including differently affected disabilities, beyond its reference to Sign language.

The Ontario Governments economic development strategy has tried to promote the development of the information technology sector in Ontario, to serve both the Ontario market and markets around the world. However, as far as we can tell, the Ontario Government has never acted on our advice, which we gave over several years, that it should incorporate in that effort a strategy, including funding strings, to promote the expansion of Ontarios technology sector so that it has more accessibility design expertise to offer organizations around the world.

We therefore recommend that:

#46. The Committee should recommend that the Ontario Government should now adopt a concerted strategy, as part of its economic development program, of promoting the expansion of Ontarios technology development sector with expertise in accessible design.

44. Committees Recommendation 29: Accessibility in Provincially Regulated Professions

We endorse the Committees draft Recommendation 29. It provides:

Certification requirements of provincially regulated professions must include knowledge and application of accessibility (including accessible formats, language, communication and IT support) and the prevention of attitudinal barriers.

The AODA Alliances proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard points in a similar direction. It includes:

Barrier: Too often, teachers and other school staff who work with students are not sufficiently trained on how to teach all students, including students with disabilities. Teachers colleges and other programs that are publicly funded to train professionals who will work with students in Ontario schools are therefore creating new generations of barriers that will impede students with disabilities.

The solution requires both reforms to the required training of future new teachers while they are in teachers’ college, and measures to expand the training of those who are already graduates of teachers’ college and who are already working as teachers. This also applies to other school staff with teaching-related roles, such as principals and education assistants.

9.2 The Ontario Government should require that to be qualified to teach or serve as a principal in an Ontario-funded school, a teacher or principal must have specified training in the education of students with disabilities, covering the spectrum of different learning needs and learning styles. Any teacher’s college or like program that receives any provincial funding should require, as part of its degree programming, specified course contents on the education of students with disabilities for all teachers, and not only for special education teachers. Time lines for implementing this should be specified for the transition to this new approach. Each school board should be required to train school board staff, including teachers and other staff who work with students, on ensuring digital/information technology accessibility in the classroom, on the use of access technology (where needed) and on steps how to create accessible documents and web content.
Section 16 of the standard commendably requires training organizations to provide for their teachers, training on the needs of students with disabilities. However, it does not require any of their employees to ever take that training.

Regarding teacher training, we therefore recommend that:

#47. Section 16(1) should be amended to provide:

“16. (1) In addition to the requirements under section 7, obligated organizations that are school boards or educational or training institutions shall provide educators with accessibility awareness training related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction, and their educators shall satisfactorily complete that training.”

It is essential that the Committees proposal take the form of a mandatory regulation, and not merely a policy or best practice. Too many professions need this reform to try to convince them voluntarily, one profession at a time.

Moreover, the AODA Alliance has been trying without success to secure voluntary action by the Ontario Government for over a decade. In the 2007 Ontario election, the AODA Alliance asked the parties to commit to ensure that relevant professions require their members to have sufficient accessibility training. In that election, the McGuinty Government promised to advocate to self-governing professions on this. In the ensuing 11 years that the Liberal Government was in power, we repeatedly asked it to keep this promise. We never saw or were shown any Government action to act on this promise.

45. Committees Recommendation 30: Education Standards

This recommendation only deals with where to locate certain requirements within the IASR. We take no issue with this as a pure housekeeping matter.

C. Our Feedback on The Committees Proposed Phase 2

In Phase 2 of the Committees draft recommendations, it proposes a major overhaul of how accessibility barriers should be regulated under the AODA. We commend the Committee for trying to take a broad and creative look at how progress is going under the AODA, and for trying to come up with innovative solutions, thinking beyond the regulatory status quo. Any effort in that regard should be encouraged.

Below we offer a few general responses to the Committees proposed reforms to the AODAs overall design. These are only preliminary thoughts. A fuller response requires substantially more time and research than is currently available. The Committees Phase 2 proposal goes far beyond the scope of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

The Committees Phase 2 reforms call, among other things, for the creation of a new public authority. The Committee calls it the Trusted Authority. That new public agency would have a series of new powers, including powers which bear directly on the AODAs interpretation, implementation and enforcement.

These reforms would require the Legislature to amend the AODA itself. These are not measures which can be enacted as accessibility standard regulations under the AODA, as it is now written.

As noted earlier, we are opposed to the Ontario Legislature re-opening the AODA and considering making any amendments to it at this time. We dont want there to be any risk that The Government would try to weaken or reduce any provisions in the AODA. Re-opening the legislation would create such a risk. We would react very strenuously against any Government effort to re-open the AODAs terms in any way.

Even if we had wanted The Government to re-open the legislation, the likelihood of it doing so now is extremely low. Throughout the first third of its mandate the current Government treated the AODA as a very low priority. It took months and months for the Government just to unfreeze the work of existing AODA Standards Development Committees, including the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. It took more months after that to get the Government to re-start the important work of the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. This was so even though while in opposition, the Conservatives criticized the former Ontario Government for dragging its feet on appointing an Education Standards Development Committee.

Over two thirds of a year has passed since The Government received the blistering report of David Onleys AODA Independent Review. Despite our pressure, The Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As such, we would not agree to the Government proceeding with the Committees Phase 2 proposal, in so far as it requires legislative amendments. There is a second important reason why the Committees Phase 2 proposal should not proceed at this time. The Committees Phase 2 proposal contemplates delegation of certain powers to the proposed Trusted Authority which itself raises a number of significant legal concerns, beyond any policy discussion over the proposals pros and cons. We have not had the time or opportunity to explore those issues in preparation for this brief. They would have to be resolved before a profitable discussion of the proposals pros and cons should be undertaken.

There are other important avenues and arenas for such proposals regarding reform of the AODA to be presented. For example, there have been three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018-19. Another AODA Independent Review will have to be appointed by March 7, 2022. Those are but one appropriate place to present such suggestions. We do not know if the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee or any of its members presented these ideas to the any of the three AODA Independent Reviews for their consideration.

As a visible player on the provincial front regarding the AODA, the AODA Alliance would want to be a major player in any such discussions. For our part, we pointed out serious problems with the way the AODA has been operating, in our proposals to the Federal Government regarding the design of the new Accessible Canada Act. See for example our Discussion Paper on what Canadas national accessibility law should include, published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law and available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/ The same goes for our recent proposals to the BC Government on what the promised BC accessibility law should include, available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/the-british-columbia-government-commits-to-provincial-accessibility-legislation-and-seeks-public-input-on-a-proposed-framework-for-a-bc-disabilities-act-read-the-AODA-alliances-submission-to-the-b/

Despite the foregoing concerns, some parts of the Committees Phase 2 proposal can be undertaken now, without needing any reforms to the AODA or to any accessibility standards. For example, the Committee raises concerns about the use of the term obligated organization. The term obligated organization can be changed, in The Governments communications on the AODA. The term obligated organization does not itself appear in the AODA.

Similarly, The Government could do a far better job of outreach to and inclusion of people with disabilities in its ongoing AODA consultation and implementation efforts, including in its consultation on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees draft recommendations which are the focus of this brief. That too requires no amendment to the AODA.

The Government could now create far better resources to guide obligated organizations. At least two of the AODA Independent Reviews have called for that very action. We strongly support the need for that.

Finally, it is open to the Government to review the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard more frequently than every five years, in order to keep it up to date in connection with new developments, such as new developments in the world of information technology or the creation of new international standards for the accessibility of information technology.

We also want to alert the Committee that we respectfully disagree with some of the key points in its Phase 2 discussion. We agree that the AODAs implementation has fallen far short of what we all expected, what we all need and what the AODA promised. Our 450-page January 15, 2019 brief to the David Onley Independent Review is perhaps the most detailed documentation of this failure. It explores in detail the causes of this failure and offers constructive proposals to get the AODA back on track. The Onley Report echoes our analysis in key ways, as did the 2015 Moran AODA Independent Review Report that proceeded it and on which it built.

The Committees Phase 2 discussion seems in no small part to be constructed on the premise that the AODA has failed because it has been undertaken as an exercise of a regulator compelling compliance through enforcement, rather than by trying to get obligated organizations to understand that it is in their self-interest to ensure that their goods, services, facilities and employment are accessible. For example, the Committees Phase 2 discussion states:

In the current model, the primary participants are the participating organizations and the provincial government compliance authority. The relationship is one of obligation and policing. The primary questions from obligated organizations are about what is required of them, and whether there might be exemptions. Their primary motivation for complying is avoiding penalties and/or reputational damage.

It is hard to blame organizations for this approach, because accessibility and inclusive design have traditionally been framed primarily as something that organizations must be legally compelled to do, rather than something that is also in their best interests. The fact is however, that there is significant evidence showing that inclusive design is in the interests of business. Research has shown that an organization that attends to inclusive design and accessibility, for customers and employees with disabilities, will garner economic, social and innovation benefits. There are both micro and macro-economic gains to be made for the participating company and for Ontario society as a whole, but that case is not being made clearly or often enough.

As our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review and our website amply documents, the opposite has in fact been the case. We have demonstrated over and over that the Ontario Government has throughout this decade taken an extremely gentle and minimalist approach to AODA enforcement. For years, it would barely if ever even utter the word enforcement in public in connection with the AODA. It conducts audits of very few organizations each year.

These are only paper audits. We have only seen documentation of one on-site AODA audit or inspection from the day the AODA was passed up to at least 2017. That was a pre-announced inspection of one Government ministry by another Government ministry. In that case, the deputy minister of the inspecting ministry gave written prior notice to the deputy minister of the ministry to be inspected, that an inspection would be upcoming.

Despite knowing year after year about rampant AODA violations since 2013, the Government has imposed a tiny number of monetary penalties. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s less than two monetary penalties for each of those years. That conveys the clear message to violators that their risk of a monetary penalty is extremely slim.

The Toronto Star has run editorials that support our concern in this regard. It has slammed the Ontario Government for its weak AODA enforcement. Contrary to the Committees characterization of events, Minister after Minister responsible for the AODA has publicly said that their primary focus is on doing exactly what the Committee proposed in the passage quoted above, i.e. showing businesses the business case for accessibility. A good example of this is the following passage from the February 26, 2015 interview on CBC Radio Torontos flagship Metro Morning program by the previous Liberal Governments Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid (then responsible for AODA implementation and enforcement):

[Matt Galloway] But her, her real, her real thrust in this, in the report, is that Ontario’s not moving quickly enough to reach the 2025 goal of full accessibility. I wanna read something to you that one of your predecessors put together, which was Marie Bountrogianni, who, uh, when the legislature passed the disabilities act said, “What was missing in the previous act was enforcement compliance.

When you leave it to the good will of the people, it doesn’t get done.” What’s changed since then?

[Brad Duguid] Well, there- there’s two things. Number one, you can’t enforce that if the businesses aren’t aware of what their responsibilities are. So, the first thing we need to do is make businesses more aware, and we’re doing that through a number of different initiatives. There’s the advertising campaign. We also have a partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce where we’re reaching out to businesses an- and educating them on what they need to do.

Secondly, and this is the key, and when you, and I, I just recently appointed David Onley as our special advisor, and this is something we’re working very, very closely on. We need to make sure that businesses are, are aware of why there’s a competitive advantage for them to become accessible.

We don’t want businesses just to reach a standard, we want them to go beyond the standard and there’s every- there’s a really good business case for businesses across this province to do this. In fact, the Martin Institute indicates that there’s 7.9 billion dollars in our economy if we can become more accessible.

So, that- what I’m saying there is, I don’t want to come in and, and take a really hard approach on businesses and turn them off. What I wanna do is get businesses to embrace what this will do to their bottom line. There’s a really good business case.

No minister responsible for this legislation has publicly proclaimed a contrary view. No minister coming after Mr. Duguid has ever disagreed with his view, criticized it, or proclaimed a different approach. Certainly, the new Ford Government has not repudiated it.

The Committees Phase 2 discussion addresses a criticism at the AODA itself, which should instead be directed at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Ontario Government. The Committees Phase 2 discussion includes:

The current model also does not harness the significant energy, knowledge and support of many community stakeholders who are deeply committed to accessibility. These include:
Students, many of whom participate in projects such as mapathons, design challenges and curriculum-based assignments
Ontario’s world-leading cluster of researchers specializing in accessibility and inclusive design
Non-obligated organizations that recognize the importance of accessibility without being compelled to comply by law Persons with disabilities and their families or support communities Professional organizations
Community volunteers
Civil society

Similarly the Committees Phase 2 discussion later states:

Ontario is home to many innovators, many of whom have turned their ingenuity to addressing accessibility challenges. Unfortunately, there is currently no easy way for these innovators, including obligated organizations or other stakeholders, to propose new and better strategies for addressing barriers. The relationship is strictly one way, with the Act essentially telling organizations what to do. This removes an incentive to innovate in accessibility.

The Committee has commendably identified a legitimate area for improvement, but is identifying the wrong culprit. It is open to the Government to do a far more inclusive job of consulting and including the diverse voices to which the Committee points, in its work on the AODAs implementation and enforcement. For example, Standards Development Committees could readily engage more such voices in their work developing standards. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario can and should do much more of this within the ample mandate that the AODA gives it. Nothing in the AODA prohibits the Ontario Government from doing so.

As well, the Committee presents a very good series of suggestions for reform in its Appendix B. No Trusted Authority or other amendments to the AODA or to its current overall structure are needed to implement them. The IASR can and should be amended, such as in ss. 5 and 6, to incorporate the very helpful requirements that the Committee formulated in its Appendix B. With such a revision to the IASR we would be in clear support. Appendix 1 Excerpts from the Mayo Moran Second Independent Review of the AODA

The 2014 Moran Report included;

“However, the Review also heard considerable discussion about the content of the standards. In particular, members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far even if complied with to the letter will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever. They identified two problems. First, the current standards have serious gaps and deficiencies. And second, important aspects of everyday life fall entirely outside the scope of the current requirements. At the same time, obligated organizations also provided valuable feedback about the content of the current standards and some of the challenges that they pose. Below, I summarize the central themes of the feedback on these issues, including both suggestions about where there may be gaps in the existing standards as well as recommendations for additional standards.

Proposed Revisions to Current Standards

The Review heard many comments that suggested revisions to existing standards. Various disability groups advocated specific changes to the standards to better reflect the needs of their members and clients. More generally, many participants believed that timelines in the standards are too long, several requirements are weak, little is being done to remove existing barriers, and exemptions and exceptions are too broad. One disability stakeholder considered the deficiencies in the IASR so serious that the mandatory review of the Transportation, Employment and Information and Communications standards should begin in 2015 instead of 2016 as currently planned. Many obligated organizations in both the public and private sectors had other concerns, emphasizing that the overall AODA regime is too complex and should be simplified as much as possible.

Members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far even if complied with to the letter will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever.

IMPACT ON SPECIFIC DISABILITIES

The Review was told by some participants that they do not believe that the AODA has been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities, such as mental illness, autism, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and others. They suggested that more extensive training requirements to recognize and respond to the needs of people with these disabilities were essential.

The mental health community feels strongly that mental health and other non-visible disabilities should be better integrated into the content of standards. For example, it was suggested that the Employment standard should provide clear guidelines for accommodating employees with mental health disabilities.

Groups supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss pointed out that the vagueness about support persons leaves doubt about an organizations responsibility to provide interpreters or other communication facilitators. Individuals with speech and language disabilities not caused by hearing loss believe standards should more fully outline requirements for communications assistance, especially in essential services.

People with environmental sensitivities and multi-chemical sensitivities want to see these conditions explicitly included in the definition of disability. Participants with episodic or fluctuating disabilities likewise urged a direct reference to their type of disability in the definition. Representatives of people with bowel disorders called for a network of open, accessible public toilets to be established through the Customer Service, Transportation and Design of Public Spaces standards.

The Review was told that the AODA has not been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities.

EXEMPTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS

The existing regulations set different requirements based on the size of the organization. Where the line should be drawn between small and large businesses was a major source of contention in the feedback received by this Review. In fact, some felt it was a mistake to create any exemptions on the basis of the number of employees, as very small organizations can have huge revenue streams.
At present, there are many exemptions under the IASR for organizations with under 50 employees. For example, they are exempt from requirements to prepare multi-year accessibility plans, make their websites accessible, develop a written process for employment accommodation, provide accessible exterior paths of travel, prepare written accessibility policies and file compliance reports, among other obligations. It was suggested that one reason the AODA has not lived up to its potential is the number of organizations that are exempt from such obligations.

The Customer Service standard currently sets the threshold for certain requirements at 20 employees rather than 50. Currently, organizations with under 20 employees are exempt from requirements to prepare documents on their accessibility policies including policies on service animals and support persons and the handling of service disruptions and to produce copies on request, as well as from obligations to document training policies, keep training records and file accessibility reports. In its review of the Customer Service standard which coincided with this Review ASAC proposed to raise that threshold to 50 employees instead of 20 to align with the IASR, and several disability groups voiced their concerns about this proposal to this Review.

In addition to the exemptions based on organizational size, the Review also received some feedback on several other provisions that were questioned including the following:
Exemption of owner-operated sole proprietorships from the entire IASR as they have no employees.
Exclusion of the entire private sector from the duty to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when acquiring goods, service and facilities.
Exclusion of products and product labels from the Information and Communications standard.
Exclusion of unconvertible information from accessible format requirements, which some described as a loophole that should be closed.
Exemptions for all organizations except the provincial Government from the website provisions on live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions.

As well, disability stakeholders took issue with various exceptions that are less exacting than undue hardship under the Human Rights Code. This issue will be addressed later in the section on the AODAs Relationship with Other Legislation.

GAPS IN STANDARDS

Beyond exemptions and the impact on certain disability groups, participants highlighted a host of gaps in existing standards and put forward numerous suggestions to close them.

Information and Communications

One of the gaps identified that was among the most serious sources of concern was the exclusion of extranets from the website standards. An extranet is a controlled extension of an organizations internal network that allows access to outside users over the internet. It was pointed out that the standards development committee expected everything behind the log-in to be covered. The fact that this was not done is seen as a step backward.

Unless Ontario keeps standards in line with evolving information technology, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

The importance of keeping the Information and Communications standards in line with evolving international standards was also stressed. Unless a mechanism is created to do this, the Review was told, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

Some participants raised concerns about the provision of accessible formats for various purposes on request. They proposed that all educational resources should be accessible, with no need for a request. On the other hand, some post-secondary stakeholders pointed out that this might not be a wise use of resources as there may turn out to be no demand for many of the materials.

1 The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, S.8(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/952/made#f00004; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, S.7(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/eudr/2016/2102/contents
2 The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, s.3; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Article 7(1).
3 The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, section 4(a)(b). 4 Integrated Accessibility Standards, s.9(3)(a).




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Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Needed Improvements to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard


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

Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Needed Improvements to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

November 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

Today we are making public a draft of our proposed brief to Ontario’s Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. We want your input. We set that brief out below. It is very detailed.

Back in 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It addresses barriers to accessibility in information and communication that face people with disabilities.

In 2016, the Ontario Government appointed a new Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to review that standard, and to make recommendations on where it needs to be strengthened.

On July 24, 2019, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee made public its draft recommendations. It invited feedback from the public on those draft recommendations. The AODA Alliance has been hard at work, preparing a brief to provide our feedback to the Standards Development Committee. We are here giving you a draft of our brief. We welcome your feedback before we finalize this brief.

Here’s the problem! The Government’s deadline for sending in public feedback to the Standards Development Committee was October 25, 2019. We are late! We have to get this brief finalized very fast. Therefore, rushed as it sounds, we need your feedback no later than November 11, 2019.

We apologize for this rush. Our volunteer efforts have been spread over so many important issues, like the recent federal election.

You can be relieved to know that this draft brief reflects a lot of research. It also incorporates lots of feedback that we have received over the years on the issue of barriers to information and communication.

Send your feedback to us by emailing us at [email protected]

We know that this draft brief is quite long and detailed. Some may not have the time to read it all. Here is a short summary of what we propose to say in this brief. This is the summary that is also included in the brief itself.

  1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.
  1. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  1. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committee s draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them “as is” or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.
  1. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committee’s draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.
  1. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.
  1. Some of the Committee’s specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

There have now been 279 days since the Ford Government received the Onley Report. It called for strong new Government action to implement and enforce the AODA. The Ford Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to implement that report.

Draft Only

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Brief to the Ontario Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Its Draft Recommendations for Revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

November 5, 2019

Via email to: [email protected]

Note: This is only a draft and has not been finalized as the position of the AODA Alliance.

A. Introduction

1. Overview

This is the AODA Alliance’s brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on its draft recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. The Government must enact and effectively enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved. An accessibility standard is a provincial regulation that spells out what an obligated organization must do to prevent and remove accessibility barriers and that sets timelines for this action.

In 2011, the Ontario Government passed the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. Among other things, that regulation includes a series of provisions on the accessibility of information and communication. That is referred to in this brief as the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. At other points, this brief generally refers to the IASR, of which that standard is a part.

In 2016, the Ontario Government appointed the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to review the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA, and to recommend any revisions needed so that this , accessibility standard would best achieve the AODA’s purposes.

The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has developed draft recommendations on how to strengthen the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. On July 24, 2019, the Ontario Government posted those draft recommendations online and invited public input on them, the Ontario Government was required to do this under the AODA. The feedback which the Government receives is to be submitted to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. That committee is then required to consider that feedback, as it finalizes its recommendations for the Government.

This brief provides the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee with our feedback on the committee’s draft recommendations. We hope that this feedback will assist the committee as it finalizes its recommendations for the Government.

The AODA Alliance welcomes this opportunity to offer our input. We ask that the Accessibility Ministry ensure that all members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee receive this brief as a whole, and not just a summary of it prepared by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. We have received informal word that in the past, at least some Standards Development Committees only receive a summary of feedback from such mandatory public consultations. That summary was evidently prepared by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. To fulfil the spirit and purposes of the AODA’s public consultation provisions it is important for all Standards Development Committee members to hear directly from the public, without having their input filtered by the Ontario Government.

We also offer to make an in-person presentation directly to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on our feedback. The Transportation Standards Development committee and the Employment Standards Development Committee each took us up on that offer. We hope this Standards Development Committee will do the same.

When it comes time for the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to vote on the recommendations that it will present to the Ontario Government, we ask the committee to vote separately on each of the recommendations that we present in this brief.

We acknowledge with thanks the feedback and input that we regularly receive from our supporters that enable us to provide informed feedback to the Government and the public in areas such as this. We also thank the members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for their commendable efforts to strengthen the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

2. Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Our mission is:

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

To learn about us, visit: https://www.aodaalliance.org.

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

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, any party that has made election commitments on accessibility has done so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that desired legislation.

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

The AODA Alliance has played a leading and highly-visible role in Ontario in raising a wide range of accessibility issues, including in the information and communication context. We have connections across Canada and internationally with, and are regularly consulted by accessibility advocates and governments as they grapple with how to tackle these issues.

As but one example, the AODA Alliance played a leading role in campaigning to enable the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to get back to work after the work of all Standards Development Committees was frozen in the wake of the 2018 Ontario election. We were happy and relieved when the Ontario Government lifted that freeze on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee in the fall of 2018 and allowed it to go back to work.

3. Summary of this Brief

The AODA Alliance has solicited input from its supporters through its website, its mass email list, and on Twitter. Drawing on that feedback and on our extensive involvement in advocacy on accessibility issues in Ontario, this brief provides our feedback on those draft recommendations.

Our feedback set out in this brief is summarized as follows:

  1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.
  1. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  1. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the ‘Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committees draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them “as is” or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.
  1. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committee’s draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.
  1. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.
  1. Some of the Committee’s specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

4. Preliminary Thoughts Before Proceeding to Our Specific Recommendations

Here are three important themes which we ask the Committee to bear in mind as it reviews our recommendations.

a) A Commendable Start

First, we strongly commend the Committee for its efforts and for the draft recommendations. As will become evident, we agree with many if not most of the Committee’s Phase 1 recommendations. We urge adjustments to several of the Committee’s recommendations to further strengthen them. These are in a number of cases request from us for minor adjustments or refinements to the Committee’s work. We also point out several additional improvements to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, to supplement those which the Committee has prepared.

Based on its work so far, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has done by far the best job of any Standards Development Committee that has been appointed to review an existing AODA accessibility standard. It has prepared far stronger draft recommendations for reform than did ASAC when it reviewed the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard or the Transportation Standards Development Committee when it reviewed the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

b) Committee’s Job Not Merely to Assess if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Has Been Working “As Intended”

Second, it appears obvious that several of the Standards Development Committees that have been reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard has been working under substantially erroneous advice from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. Each such Standards Development Committee, including the current Information and Communication Standards Development Committee, has stated that it understood its job, when reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard, is to determine if the standard is working “as intended”. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations state in the introduction:

“The Act requires that each of Ontario’s accessibility standards be reviewed within five years of becoming law, to determine whether they are working as intended and to allow for changes to be made if they are required.”

Substantially the same erroneous language was included in the initial draft recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development committee that were circulated in 2017 for public comment and the draft recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee which were circulated earlier this year for public comment.

To simply see if the standard is working “as intended” seriously and substantially understates the goal of this mandatory review of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. The AODA does not limit a Standards Development Committee to inquiring on such a review to see if the standard is working “as intended”.

Rather, this review’s purpose is to ascertain whether the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working sufficiently to ensure that information and communication become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s goal. This Review should recommend improvements to ensure that the Standard will achieve that goal.

It is not sufficient for the Standards Development Committee to just ask if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working “as intended.” By that lesser and palpably weak approach, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard would be fine, and would need no improvements, if it led obligated organizations to merely do whatever the original 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard spelled out. That would be sufficient, even if that left information and communication in Ontario full of disability barriers, now and even long after 2025. If the original intent of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard fell below what the AODA requires for information and communication accessibility by 2025, neither we nor the Standards Development Committee should be locked into or handcuffed by that insufficient goal.

As this brief documents, the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, was not capable of ensuring that information and communication will become fully accessible by 2025, or indeed, ever. We have publicly shared our strong disagreement with the Accessibility Directorate‘s substantial dilution of the aim of these five year reviews of AODA accessibility standards, and have alerted the Directorate about our concerns. Despite this, and with no explanation or justification, that Directorate appears to have persisted in pressing Standards Development Committees to adopt this incorrect and unduly restrictive understanding of their mandate. We identified this concern in our briefs to the Transportation and Employment Standards Development Committees. We also identified it in Chapter 5 of our January 15, 2019 brief to the Third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. It was there explained under the heading: “Inappropriate Government Attempts to Unduly Restrict the Work of Standards Development Committees”.

Even though the Information and Communication Standards Development refers to this erroneous “working as intended” approach to its review, it is clear from its draft recommendations that the Committee did not allow itself to be improperly hog-tied by the Directorate’s erroneous advice or direction. We congratulate the Committee for doing so.

c) Committee Should Use the Findings in the Moran and Onley Reports As Its Starting Point

Third, we agree with the Standards Development Committee‘s draft recommendations’ general assessment of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as summarized in this paragraph:

“The Committee’s discussions reflected a consensus that the current standards are not keeping pace with technology. There was mention that the standards are not always strong enough and are often too difficult to apply. The Committee also discussed the fact that the standards are confusing and prevent innovation in accessible technology. Overall, Committee members agreed that the Standards need to be modernized and crafted to ensure they remain relevant in the future, as technology changes at an increasingly rapid pace.”

However, it is vital for the Committee to proceed from the starting point that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is substantially more deficient than that, even though it is the strongest of the accessibility standards enacted to date. The Committee should work from the starting point established by the second AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran and the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. The key findings in the reports of those reviews appear to come directly from the detailed briefs that the AODA Alliance submitted to those reviews.

In 2014, the second mandatory Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found that there are very serious deficiencies in the accessibility standards enacted to date. These included the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Nothing in that accessibility standard has been changed since that report to address those concerns. Appendix 1 to this brief sets out key excerpts from the Moran Report.

The third Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by David Onley, reinforced and supplemented the Moran Report’s overall findings. It did not disagree with the Moran Report’s findings regarding the IASR’s deficiencies. Because the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s provisions had remained unchanged over the five years between the Moran Report and the Onley Report, there was no basis to revise the earlier report’s concerns.

In 2019, the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley accepted the Moran Report as a correct starting point. It did not contradict any of the Moran Report’s findings about the problems with the accessibility standards enacted to date. It did not find that in the intervening four years, the Ontario Government had done anything to reduce those serious deficiencies.

To the contrary, the Onley Report made even more pointed and blistering findings about the AODA’s overall implementation. It did not exempt the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard from those blistering findings.

Based on public feedback, Onley’s report found that the pace of change regarding accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With then under six years left before 2025, the report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” He concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

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

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

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. It in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership. He recommended:

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

Since the Onley Report was received over nine months ago, the Ontario Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement it, nor has it publicly said that it will do so in the future. As such, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind the goal of full accessibility, while the 2025 deadline looms closer and closer.

d) The Bottom Line for This Committee

As such, we urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to see its job as pivotal. It should recommend fixes to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that will rectify the substantial deficiencies in the AODA’s implementation in so far as they pertain to the accessibility of information and communication. This brief aims to help the Committee with that task.

If the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is to be strengthened in order to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved by 2025 in relation to information and communication, this must happen now. The next mandatory review of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not have to be appointed until the eve of the 2025 deadline. By then, if Ontario has not yet been put back on schedule for the 2025 deadline in connection with the accessibility of information and communication, it will be too late.

In the following discussion, our recommendations track the sequence of the Committee’s draft recommendations. We insert additional topics where they best fit, following the structure of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard itself.

B. Our Specific Feedback on the Draft Recommendations’ Phase 1 Proposals

1. Accessibility Standard’s Long Term Objective

We commend the Committee for reviewing the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s long term objective, and its effort to simplify it. We believe that all that needs to be added to the Committee’s proposed simplified language is the AODA’s 2025 deadline.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The standard’s long term objective should be:

“By no later than 2025 and thereafter, people with disabilities will be able to participate fully and equally in the creation and use of information and communications.”

2. Section 2 – Definitions

The term “accessible formats” should be clarified so that organizations know that digital formats are an option, but only if they are in a format that is screen-reader-friendly.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. The Committee’s recommendations should be expanded to recommend that the definition of “accessible formats” in s. 2 of the standard should be expanded to add “digital accessible formats that are readily readable on computers and portable technologies such as smart phones, using adaptive technology, but does not include documents in PDF format unless also accompanied by other accessible digital formats.”

3. Definition of Electronic Self-Serve Kiosks

The IASR’s definition of an electronic self-serve kiosk is far too narrow.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section, “kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

4. Committee’s Recommendation 1 Consolidating the Regulation’s Feedback Requirements

We agree with the committee’s Recommendation 1 to immediately consolidate in one place in the IASR all feedback requirements, in language that makes them clear and consistent as long as this makes it clear that this that does not reduce any existing obligations.

5. Section 9 – Definitions and Exceptions

The standard’s definition of “conversion-ready” information is too loose. Section 9 provides:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that facilitates conversion into an accessible format;”

That definition does not ensure that the material is capable of ready conversion into an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#4. The Committee should expand its recommendations to recommend that section 9(1) of the standard should be amended to define “conversion-ready” as follows:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that ensures ready conversion into an accessible format that effectively retains the information content that can be read on a computer using widely available adaptive technology, and on hand-held or portable digital technology such as smart phones;”

Section 9(4) defines unconvertible information in a manner that is far too broad. This would weaken the rights of people with disabilities. Section 9(4) provides:

“For the purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

(a)        it is not technically feasible to convert the information or communications; or

(b)       the technology to convert the information or communications is not readily available.”

That provision dramatically reduces obligations of organizations below what they are required to do under the Human Rights Code, and, where applicable, the Charter of Rights. Our proposal for amending s. 9(2) makes s. 9(4) unnecessary.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The committee’s recommendations should be expanded to recommend that either:

(a) Section 9(4) should be deleted, or

(b) Section 9(4) should be amended to provide as follows:

“(4) For purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

  1. a) It is not possible to convert the information or communications without undue hardship; or
  2. b) The technology to convert the information or communications is not available without undue hardship.”

6. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 2 PDF Documents

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations where they conclude that PDF documents are often inaccessible and that the required expertise to make them accessible is seldom present in obligated organizations.

The Committee’s draft recommendations indicate that they do not propose banning PDF formats. We have never proposed banning anyone from creating a PDF document. It has always been our position, which we urge here, that if an obligated organization creates a pdf document in connection with activities to which this accessibility standard would apply, an accessible alternate format document, such as an MS Word, txt or HTML document should also be posted and made available at the same time.

The Committee’s draft recommendations state that the Committee considered non-regulatory measures such as education for Government employees, but did not vote on this. We do not believe that such non-regulatory measures are sufficient. They would not solve this persistent but easily-remedied problem.

We have been struggling for well over a decade to get the Ontario Government to change its own practices with PDFs, so that it will always simultaneously post an accessible format for a document whenever it publicly posts a PDF. This has too often been a frustrating and futile effort, even after we repeatedly raised this at the highest levels within the Ontario Public Service. We still continue to face serious problems. The Ontario Government has repeatedly claimed to be leading Ontario by its example on accessibility. Yet its example in this context is not one by which we would want Ontario to be led. For example, the Ontario Government even released in inaccessible PDF documents such important things as the 2014 final report of Mayo Moran’s Independent Review of the AODA, and the previous Government‘s long-awaited anti-poverty strategy. Years after being told that PDFs present an accessibility problem, the Ministry of Education continues to make important publicly-facing documents regarding Ontario’s education system available via PDF documents.

A simple, clear enforceable rule in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is the only effective measure that will have a hope of success, not only for the Ontario Government, but for other obligated organizations as well.

Some may think that a PDF can be made fully accessible. With such a view, we strongly and respectfully disagree, based on years of ample experience. However, this is a moot point.

First, as the committee correctly recognizes, obligated organizations mostly do not have the expertise to make a PDF accessible, even if it is assumed that this goal can be accomplished. Second, when a person receives a PDF, there is no way to know from the file name whether anyone has even attempted to incorporate accessibility features in it, and if so, how many such features. Third, it makes no sense to ask obligated organizations to divert their resources into trying in vain to remediate a new PDF, when they could instead quickly, easily and at no cost simply post the document in an accessible format like MS Word, whenever they post a pdf.

It would take enormous resources to try to persuade obligated organizations to voluntarily change their practices. It is far more effective to set a simple rule which obligated organizations can readily understand and which is easy to enforce.

Documents are not written in PDF. They are written in another application like MS Word. After they are written, accessibility is stripped from that document when it is converted to a PDF.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The draft recommendations should be revised to include a requirement that if an obligated organization posts a PDF online, it should also simultaneously post the same document in an accessible format such as MS Word, txt or html.

7. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 4: Products and Product Labels

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendation 4 that the loophole in the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard must be closed which exempts products and product labels from information and communication accessibility. Section 9(2) of the standard states:

“      (2) The information and communications standards do not apply to the following:

  1. Products and product labels, except as specifically provided by this Part.”

We commend the Committee for attempting to address this. However the draft recommendations do not go far enough to address this. The Committee’s draft recommendations call on the Ontario Government to try to work out a shared regulatory solution with the Federal Government and/or in the interim, that the Ontario Government explore non-regulatory solutions with obligated organizations.

Here again, an enforceable mandatory and specific standard is needed to change practices on the ground. Almost 15 years into the AODA, Ontarians with disabilities do not have time to hope that non-regulatory voluntary measures will change practices that have not substantially changed. In this context, we re-emphasize the finding in the Onley Report that progress on accessibility has been far too slow, and that Ontario remains a province full of “soul-crushing barriers.”

To hold off any regulatory action on this pending Ontario working out a coordinated action by the Federal Government would, we regret, indefinitely delay any regulatory action. Getting agreement with the Federal Government will predictably take years. The Federal Government will no doubt want to try to work out a common approach for all the provinces. While that would be ideal, it will take even longer. It will also lead to Ontario risking its being driven down to the lowest common denominator among the provinces. Ontario should lead with the strongest standard, and not follow others to the weakest standard.

In the recent federal election, most of the federal parties were not prepared to make any commitments at all on new measures they would take to promote accessibility for people with disabilities. Only one party was prepared to make commitments with any detail or that embodied real change for disability accessibility. After the election, there is little reason to expect that they will become more eager to make this a priority.

There is no compelling reason to await federal regulatory action in this sphere, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose what Ontario should do. The committee is worried about the possible overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. In any area of public regulation of economic activity, there are innumerable situations where there may be an overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. Ontario nevertheless takes action, without waiting for the Federal Government. We have a federal labour board and a provincial labour board. We have a national building code and the Ontario Building Code. The list goes on.

Our constitution fully accommodates this without a province having to simply withhold regulatory action. In 2011, it is commendable that the Ontario Government did not withhold enacting regulatory standards for the accessibility of websites. For the same reason, it can and should act now in the area of the accessibility of product labels. If the Federal Government later decides to take action in this area, Ontario can of course discuss ways to harmonize their requirements, should the Federal Government at last decide to act in this area. However this should only be done so long as this does not lead to any reduction in Ontario’s accessibility protections.

While it would be helpful for the Ontario Government to work with industries to come up with creative new solutions in this area as the committee proposes, that too is no reason to withhold the enactment now of a regulatory requirement. Indeed, the presence of a mandatory Ontario regulatory accessibility requirement would help motivate industries to develop creative new solutions, including harnessing new technologies.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 4 should be revised to recommend that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended now to set enforceable standards for products and product labels. This should not await Ontario working out a joint approach to this with the Federal Government, or the Ontario Government working with the private sector on developing non-regulatory innovations in this area. Section 9(2) (should be amended to provide an exemption only for:

“Products and product labels, where compliance with the information and communication requirements would impose an undue hardship on the organization.”

8. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 5 Alternative Formats and Communication Supports

We agree with the Committee’s concern with s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. It requires an obligated organization to consult with a person with a disability on a needed accessible document format. It leaves the ultimate decision to the obligated organization in unilateral terms. The Committee’s draft recommendation commendably found:

“The Committee noted that this is resulting in the provision of formats that do not meet the needs of people with disabilities.”

We agree with the Committee that this provision needs to be strengthened. We also agree with the Committee’s proposal that the obligated organization should endeavour to get the agreement of the person requesting the alternative format. However, we are concerned that this does not go far enough.

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that obligated organizations have a duty to investigate alternative solutions in “duty to accommodate” cases. (See D. Lepofsky “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic Scho  ol Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” to be published in 2020 40.1 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

We anticipate that many obligated organizations do not know of their existing procedural duty to accommodate by investigating alternative solutions up to the point of undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 5 should be expanded to propose that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard be amended to state that where an obligated organization does not agree to provide the accessible format which the person with a disability requested, the obligated organization must investigate alternative ways to meet this need, up to the point of undue hardship.

9. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 6 and 7

We agree with the Committee where it states that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is unduly vague, by providing that an alternative format document must be provided in a timely manner. We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 6 that the obligated organization and the requesting individual should endeavour to reach an agreement on the time frame for this.

However we do not agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 5 through 7 where they propose to refer to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) the task of developing some sort of alternative dispute resolution mechanism for addressing situations where the obligated organization and requesting individual cannot reach an agreement. We commend the Committee here for trying to be creative. Yet we fear that it might take years to develop that new mechanism. Moreover, ASAC’s membership was presumably not selected based on its expertise in designing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

The creation of the required legal machinery to which the committee’s draft recommendations refer might well require legislative amendment, if there is to be an enforceable requirement and monetary penalties for non-compliance. We have not had a chance to investigate that complex question. As further addressed later in this brief, we do not want the Government to re-open the AODA’s provisions in the Legislature.

Moreover, the AODA requires that the development of such ideas for accessibility standards be done initially through a Standards Development Committee which is subject to the AODA’s procedural safeguards and openness requirements (including requirements for public input). ASAC is not subject to any of those procedures and safeguards, for which we fought so hard. For example, its meeting minutes are not required to be made public. In contrast, the minutes of meetings of a Standards Development Committee must be made public according to the AODA. The development of recommendations for the content of an element of an accessibility standard should not be sub-delegated to ASAC.

Instead to strengthen requirements in this area to address the shortcoming which the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee commendably identified, it would be helpful for the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to be amended to set clear timelines, or presumptive timelines for an organization to respond to a request. This could vary depending on the organizations size and the importance of the requested information. If the information is to come from a hospital and relates to a patient’s medical condition, then the response time should be very short. Given the readily-available availability of technology to produce alternative formats for documents, and the low cost for doing so, there is no reason for such timelines to be lengthy. If the Ontario Government were to post online helpful information on how to convert documents to accessible formats, and a list of venders who can be retained to do this, then an obligated organization should be able to act quickly when a request is received.

We therefore recommend that:

#9. Section 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended to set specific fixed or presumptive time lines for an obligated organization to provide an accessible alternative format for a document when requested. If the timeline is to be a presumptive one, rather than a categorical one, it should only be subject to an undue hardship defence for non compliance. The Committee should recommend timelines that are short e.g. 48-72 hours, where the obligated organization is a large one, and or the requested information relates to important matters such as health or safety or other vital services. Otherwise nothing longer than a 7 day time line should apply.

10. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 8

We agree with the aim of the Committee’s draft Recommendation 8. It calls for the IASR’s various requirements to provide accessible formats and communication supports to be brought together in one place in the IASR, as long as nothing is done to weaken these in any way. Our only concern will be to screen the proposed wording of any regulatory changes to be sure that they do not have the effect of reducing any rights of people with disabilities.

 11. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 9: On-Demand Conversion Ready Formats

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 9. It would require the Ontario Government and the Legislature to immediately ensure that all publicly facing documents are available in an accessible format. If this is required for new documents, this is not a major burden for the Ontario Government. As noted earlier, documents are typically first created in an accessible format, and then counterproductively rendered inaccessible by converting them to formats such as PDF.

12. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10: On-Demand ASL and LSQ Translations

The Committee’s draft Recommendation 10 commendably aims to find a creative way to address the need for on-demand Government information in ASL and LSQ. We share the intent of that proposal, but believe it should be strengthened.

We therefore recommend that:

*10. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

  1. a) propose an amendment to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to implement and require the Committee’s proposed measures regarding the Ontario Government translating certain information into the Sign Languages ASL and LSQ on demand, and
  1. b) expand that requirement to include captioning for any such video content, for the benefit of people with hearing loss who need captioning and not Sign Language.

13. Other Deficiencies with Section 12 that the Committee’s Draft Recommendations Do Not Fix

Section 12(1)(a) sets the obligation here too low. It states:

“      12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a)        in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs due to disability; and

(b)       at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

It is not sufficient for an obligated organization to take “into account” the needs of people with disabilities. The requirement should be to provide supports that meet the needs of people with disabilities unless to do so would cause the organization undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The Committee should recommend that section 12(1) of the standard be amended to provide:

“12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a)        in a timely manner that meets the person’s accessibility needs due to disability, except where doing so would cause an undue hardship to the organization; and

(b)       at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

It is commendable that section 12(3) requires organizations to notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports. However the provision is too vague. It requires more detail to make it effective. Section 12:3) provides:

“      (3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.”

We therefore recommend that:

#12. Section 12(3) of the standard should be amended to provide:

“(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public in an accessible format about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall post such notification in an accessible format on the organization’s website, if it has one.”

Unlike the clear language used in a number of other parts of the IASR, section 12(4) is unintelligible. An organization will need a lawyer to figure it out. It states:

“      (4) Every obligated organization that is required to provide accessible formats or accessible formats and communication supports by section 3, 4, 11, 13, 19, 26, 28, 34, 37, 44 or 64 shall meet the requirements of subsections (1) and (2) but shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in the referenced section and shall do so only to the extent that the requirements in subsections (1) and (2) are applicable to the requirements set out in the referenced section.”

We do not know what this provision means. We fear others will also not know what it means. Whatever it means to say, it should be said in much clearer language – language that lets an organization and persons with disabilities understand it without needing to hire and pay a lawyer to decipher it.

We therefore recommend that:

#13. Section 12(4) should be re-written in plain language to make it intelligible.

As a general matter, we also commend and endorse the concerns and advice that Communication Disabilities Access Canada CDAC provided to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho in its January 19, 2019 letter to the minister. CDAC is an amazing and well-respected expert in its field. It has cutting-edge knowledge and good ideas on how to make progress.

We quote from the key part of that letter here:

“Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) is a national and provincial, non-profit organization that addresses accessibility for people who have speech, language and communication disabilities. Over 165,000 Ontarians have disabilities that affect their communication, that are not caused primarily by deafness or significant hearing loss. Diverse disabilities such as physical, neurological, cognitive, learning, hearing, vision, and linguistic disabilities can affect one or more areas of a person’s speech, comprehension, reading and writing.

Communication access to goods and services is as important as physical access for people who have little or no speech and who use picture, symbol, letter boards and devices to convey their messages.

The current integrated standards do not provide sufficient directives for businesses and organizations on ways to make their services accessible for people with speech, language and communication disabilities. For example, most people with speech and language disabilities experience significant barriers to services in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and forums and written communication. These contexts are not adequately or comprehensively addressed in any of the Standards. They are either oversimplified or omitted.

At this time, the Information and Communications Standard primarily focuses on making written information (print and digital) accessible. Examples of accessible formats cited on the Accessibility Directorate’s website, include human assistance, large print, text transcripts of audio or visual information, handwritten notes instead of speech, plain language and electronic documents.

Many of these accessibility accommodations are extremely useful and appropriate for people who have speech and language disabilities. However, the accessibility needs of people with speech and language disabilities go beyond access to written information and occur in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and written communication. Many of these contexts are critical communication situations, such as police, legal and justice services, where communication barriers can have serious consequences.

To address this significant gap in the Standards, we propose that the Information and Communications (IC) Standard expand its mandate to include regulations that address two-way, interactive communication for people who have disabilities that affect their communication.

We are recommending:

  • The IC Standards Development Committee should include people who have a thorough knowledge and proven track record to represent the communication access needs of people with diverse speech and language disabilities.
  • The mandate of this committee should go beyond “processes that businesses and organizations must follow to create, provide, and receive information and communications that are accessible to people with disabilities” to include “processes, and resources to ensure effective two-way communication in face-to-face, telephone and group interactions and written communication.
  • Development of regulations, guidelines and resources for: Face-to-face, telephone and group interactions. Standards and guidelines are required for all service providers who interact with the public within these contexts, so that they have the knowledge, skills and resources to interact with people who communicate in ways other than speech. They need to know how-to make telephone services accessible and how to make meetings and public forums inclusive for people who have communication disabilities.
  • Communication supports: Service providers need information about how and when to provide and work with communication assistants, communication intermediaries, sign language interpreters and other formal communication support services. Formal communication assistance services are essential in critical communication contexts such as health care, police, legal and justice services. In these situations, appropriate communication support services must be mandatory.
  • Communication accommodations: Service providers need information about simple, non-technical communication tools that they may provide when a person has no effective means to communicate. They need clarification on the use of communication devices that people may use.
  • Writing: Regulations are required to address writing activities for people who cannot physically write or who cannot write due to learning or linguistic disabilities. Writing includes accessible forms, procedures for note taking and signatures.
  • Environmental accommodations: Services need guidelines on creating and designing accessible signage and wayfaring, counter spaces, and elevators with a communication access lens.
  • Policies are required for communication procedures in emergency evacuation situations, as well as authentic assistance in critical contexts, including medical assistance in dying, police, legal and justice settings.

We believe that many of these accessibility features could be included in the IC Standard to provide a foundation upon which sector-specific communication standards could be developed, such as transportation, healthcare, education and employment. An example of a generic baseline communication standard would-be mandatory training for all service providers on how to communicate with a person who has unclear speech or who uses a communication device. An example of a sector-specific communication standard would be that health care providers must ensure that a communication assistant is authorized by a patient when supporting them in the provision of informed consent to treatment.

Existing resources:

CDAC has developed a range of free guidelines and resources on ways to make services communication accessible. These resources are available for the Accessibility Directorate to promote and use across the province, resources include:

  1. A database of qualified Communication Intermediaries to assist people with speech and language disabilities communicating in police, legal and justice situations

http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/.

We have information about making justice services accessible at

http://www.access-to-justice.org/

  1. A database of communication assistants who are available to support people with speech and language disabilities communicating at meetings, forums and on committees at http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/
  1. A webinar on making services accessible at

Making your services accessible for people with communication disabilities

  1. Written guidelines on communication access at

http://www.communication-access.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Guidelines-for-Communication-Access-1.pdf”

We therefore recommend that:

#14. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee should seek direct input including a face-to-face meeting with Communications Disabilities Access Canada and address its concerns regarding the standard.

14. Part 3: Section 13 Emergency Plans Generally

We share the Committee’s commendable call for greater action to ensure the accessibility of information regarding emergency plans and procedures.

15. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 11: Emergency Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendation 11 that all the IASR’s various provisions regarding emergency plans and procedures should be consolidated in one part of the regulation. We add that nothing should be done to weaken these provisions.

16. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 12: Unacceptable Emergency Outcomes and Preparedness

The Committee concluded that “the preparedness of all levels of Government for emergencies involving people with disabilities is unacceptable.” We share this concern.

The Committee commendably recommended that the Government should review overall emergency preparedness measures from a disability perspective. However, it did not recommend anything to strengthen s. 13 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We turn attention to that need here.

Section 13 does not spell out the most obvious and important aspect of emergency procedures in this area. It does not explicitly require an organization to incorporate in any emergency procedure, a process for ensuring that it makes emergency announcements in an accessible format or manner during an emergency or crisis. Even if it is implicitly covered by earlier provisions in the IASR, it is very important to have a specific, clear and strong requirement here.

We therefore recommend that:

#15. Section 13 should be expanded to impose a requirement that an organization include in any emergency procedures plan, specific measures to ensure that emergency announcements (such as fire alarms) are available in an accessible means (e.g. flashing lights for the benefit of persons with hearing loss).

17. Part 4: Section 14 Website and Web Content Accessibility Generally

We share the Committee’s view that the standard’s website accessibility provisions need to be strengthened.

18. Committee’s Recommendation 15: Differentiating Organizations/High Impact Organizations

We strongly and heartily endorse the Committee’s proposal that an organization’s number of employees should not be the sole determinant of an organization’s accessibility obligations. We have been urging that view upon the Ontario Government for over a decade without success.

We agree as well that the Committee’s idea of defining high impact organizations for purposes of defining their accessibility obligations has merit. We would add, however, a few variations. First, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as now constituted, has had an upside-down approach to organizations ‘ duties and time lines. As in all other areas of the IASR, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard starts from a mechanistic approach whereby the bigger the organization, the more it must do, and the sooner it must do it. In the case of small organizations, such as smaller businesses, website and mobile app accessibility should be attainable more quickly than by larger organizations, especially where the measures are required on a go-forward basis. A small company with a small website can ensure that the accessibility of its entire web footprint much more quickly than can the Ontario Government. Yet the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard erroneously places the least obligations on that small company and gives it the longest time lines. It places the greatest obligations on the Ontario Government and gives it the shortest time lines. This makes no sense. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised where needed to correct this incorrect approach. It is of course irrelevant for those time lines that have already expired.

Second, the measure of what constitutes a high impact organization should include more than does the Committee’s Recommendation 15.

We therefore recommend that:

#16. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 15, to create a category of high-impact private organizations, should be refined to:

  1. a) Create criteria that will be easily measured and enforced, where possible.
  1. b) That will measure the number of an organization’s users, customers or interactions inside or outside Ontario. If for example, the organization has a huge customer base around the world, the fact that a smaller number of users in Ontario should not militate against it being categorized as a high-impact organization.
  1. c) Make the threshold revenue as $1 million not $10 million as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose.
  1. d) Recommend the revision of s. 14 (website accessibility) to make website requirements extend further within the private sector, beyond the proposed new category of high impact organizations.

19. Extending the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to Require WCAG 2.1, Not the Current 2.0

At present, the specific standard for website accessibility that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard sets is Web Content Accessibility Group (WCAG) 2.0. That was established by the W3C consortium at least a decade ago. Since then, we understand that it has been updated much more recently to WCAG 2.1. As we read it, the Committee’s recommendations merely refer to the old WCAG 2.0. They and do not recommend updating the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to require WCAG 2.1. The Committee’s draft recommendations do not explain this. It is critically important.

We therefore recommend that:

#17. Section 14 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised to require websites to comply with the new international standard of WCAG 2.1, not the old WCAG 2.0 which the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard now requires.

As well, it is entirely unjustifiable in late 2019 for the standard to lead any organization to think that it is sufficient in the interim to only meet WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not, as a bare minimum, Level AA. Yet s. 14(3) still provides as follows, with an end date of 2021:

“      (2) Designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall make their internet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA, and shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in this section.”

No organization should now waste its efforts at merely meeting Level A as an interim goal, when it makes more sense to set Level AA as its goal from the outset.

We therefore recommend that:

#18. As an alternative, section 14(2) should be amended to eliminate WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not Level AA, as a bare minimum for any organization, in the event that WCAG 2.1 is not set as the new standard to meet.

20. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 13: Mobile Applications & New Technologies

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 13. It would extend the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements to mobile applications. However we do not agree that all small organizations should be exempted from this requirement, just as we do not believe that all small organizations should be categorically exempted from the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements. If anything, a well-resourced small organization could at least in some cases find it easier to make its website and mobile apps accessibility than can a larger organization. The IASR arbitrarily defines the size of an organization solely by its number of employees, regardless of the organization’s resources or its impact on the market. If for example a small organization has a broadly-selling app, there is no reason why it should not meet accessibility requirements. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not grant any such exemption for small organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#19. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 13 should be expanded to recommend that section 14 should be amended to set full accessibility requirements to mobile applications, and to the websites, web applications and mobile applications of small organizations where compliance would not pose an undue hardship.

21. Committee’s Recommendation 16: Significant Refresh

The Committee’s draft recommendations correctly identify another serious deficiency with s. 15 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, namely that key requirements are only triggered by an obligated organization creating a new website or undertaking a significant refresh of an existing site. We agree with the Committee that this vague threshold provides obligated organizations with an easy and unacceptable end-run around the provision.

We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 16 to fix this, and the stated intent underlying it, namely:

“•    Any content that is new or which an obligated organization changes, updates or adds to a web site must meet the accessibility requirements of Section 14

  • Furthermore, when content is added, changed or updated, it is recommended that organizations take the opportunity to make all content accessible
  • The Committee recommends that content should include all functions, interactions and ‘branding’ (look and feel) for a site. It is recommended that Section 14 include examples for the sake of clarity
  • Timeline: Regulation to be changed immediately, to be effective six months after the new regulation comes into force.”

22. Committee’s Recommendation 17: Practicability

We agree with the Committee’s concern that s. 14(5) includes too broad an exemption to its website accessibility requirements, by only requiring obligated organizations to take the required action to make websites accessible “where practicable”. We agree with the Committee that

“…this term is too vague and might allow some organizations to avoid doing something they are actually able to do.”

We encourage the Committee to fortify and further reinforce this serious concern. The sweeping “where practicable” exemption is far broader than the relevant Human Rights Code exemption from the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, which is only available where it is impossible to provide more accessibility without undue hardship. “Undue hardship “is a much more exacting requirement than mere practicability. Moreover the failure to use the stronger undue hardship terminology sends a harmful and erroneous signal to obligated organizations that they need not meet this higher undue hardship test. It misleads obligated organizations. This is a disservice both to obligated organizations and to people with disabilities.

To define the existing term “practicable” in s. 14(5) to mean the same as undue hardship, as the Committee is contemplating, risks confusing obligated organizations or suggesting to them that undue hardship means the same as merely not practicable. It is neater and cleaner, and less risk-prone, to simply replace the term “not practicable” in the standard with the correct “undue hardship”.

We would prefer if no “exception” clause was included. Compliance with well-established international standards for new web postings simply does not create an undue hardship. At the very least, if there is to be an exemption clause, the exemption should be no broader than that provided under the Human Rights Code.

We therefore recommend that:

#20. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 17 should be replaced with a recommendation that the exception for not practicable is removed. As a weaker and less desirable alternative, if there is to remain some sort of exemption in s. 14(5), it should provide that an obligated organization need not meet these accessibility requirements only if it can show that it would be impossible to meet such requirements without causing that organization undue hardship, and that the obligated organization has the duty to never less take all accessibility action that is possible up to the point of undue hardship.

It is important for the regulation to make it clear that all organizations covered by this provision have a clear duty to promptly provide people with disabilities, on request, in an accessible format, with any information that is inaccessible on their website. This would include, for example, any information that need not yet be made accessible because of the time lines in the regulation, or any archival material that need never be made accessible on the website.

We therefore recommend that:

#49. Section 14 should be amended to require any organization to promptly make available, on the request of a person with a disability, and in an accessible format that meets his or her needs, any information on the organization’s website that is not accessible to that person because of his or her disability.

23. Part 4, Subpart 1: Section 14 Exemptions Generally

We agree that the standards’ exemptions are too broad and need to be narrowed.

24. Committee’s Recommendation 19: Extranet Exemption

We agree with the intent and content of the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 19 that the exemption for public-facing websites with a log-in should be removed and that these types of websites should be required to comply with the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We however believe that the proposed 2023 deadline for all publicly-facing websites, other than new ones, should be 2023. This is too long a time line, especially where meeting it would not provably pose an undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#21. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 19 should be revised to set the deadline for all publicly-facing websites to meet accessibility requirements as 2022, not 2023.

25. Committee’s Recommendation 20: Intranet Exemption

We agree with the Committee’s important finding that “technology has advanced to the point where all organizations should be able to make their websites accessible under Section 14.” We therefore agree with extending this requirement to the broader public sector and large organizations, including employee-facing websites. As such, we agree that “all definitions related to a type of website be removed and that Section 14 simply apply to all websites, internet or intranet for all obligated organizations”. Indeed this is a critical reform to strengthen the current weak Employment Accessibility Standard. As indicated earlier, we would go further, and urge that it be extended to at least some small organizations, even if they do not fit within the proposed definition of high impact organization.

26. Committee’s Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 Exemption

We agree with the Committee’s view that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s exemption for pre-2012 web content is overbroad and should be narrowed. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 21 seems on first examination to be sensible. We would add that where historic, archived content is available on the web, and where a customer or employee needs it in an accessible format for purposes of seeking or using an obligated organization’s goods, services or facilities, or for purposes of their employment, the obligated organization should be required to make that content available on request in an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#22. The Committee’s Recommendation 21 should be expanded to require an obligated organization to provide an item of online content or document in an accessible format on request if needed for purposes of seeking or using that organization’s goods, services or facilities or for purposes of employment.

27. Committee’s Recommendation 22: Live Captioning and Audio Description

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 22 that sets out requirements so that by 2025, the standard’s live captioning and audio description exemptions will be eliminated. We would add that by 2021, this exemption should be lifted for the city of Toronto, a public sector organization which is larger and more resourced than a number of entire provinces in Canada.

We therefore recommend that:

#23. The Committee’s Recommendation 22 should be revised to provide that the current exemption for live captioning and audio description should be lifted by 2021 for the City of Toronto.

28. Committee’s Recommendation 23: Web Hosting Location

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 23 which would clarify that s. 14 obligations apply to a website whether or not it is hosted in Ontario. This is a loophole that should not be permitted to remain.

29. Chief Information Officer

A number of larger organizations in the public and private sector now have a position often called the Chief Information Officer (CIO). This is a critical position which could be decisively in enhancing accessibility of information and especially digital information.

At present, there is nothing in place in the standard to help ensure that a CIO has sufficient knowledge and training on digital accessibility, or even knows that they have lead responsibility for the organization‘s digital accessibility. There is similarly nothing in place to require that a CIO is held accountable within the organization for the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital accessibility.

We therefore recommend that:

#24. a) Where a large organization, a high impact organization or a public sector organization has a Chief Information Officer position or its equivalent:

  1. a) The CIO is responsible and accountable for leading the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital information accessibility.
  1. b) If the organization has a performance contract or performance review process for its officers, it shall be a condition of the CIO’s performance contract that the CIO is responsible and accountable for ensuring digital information accessibility.
  1. c) In any performance review, performance-based pay review or promotion processes, the CIO’s performance on digital information accessibility shall be considered as a relevant factor.
  1. d) In considering whom to hire as CIO, a hiring factor or criterion should be a candidate’s knowledge and experience with respect to digital information accessibility.

30. Teleconference Platforms Used by Public Sector Organizations

Increasingly, organizations use web-based teleconferencing and meeting platforms for internal meetings of their employees or officials, and for public-facing meetings, such as electronic town hall meetings. Some of these platforms are more accessible than others. It is critical that organizations only use the most accessible ones. A requirement to this effect in the Standard would help get all such platforms to become accessible.

We therefore recommend that:

#25. The standard should be amended to require that when any public sector or large organization or high impact private sector organization uses a web-based teleconferencing platform, it should only use a platform which is accessible. If no such platforms are fully accessible, then such organizations should be required to use the most accessible platforms of those which are available. The standard should provide key criteria for assessing the, accessibility of such platforms.

31. Digital Information Accessibility Statement

The standard does not now require any obligated organization to prepare and make public a comprehensive statement of the status of the accessibility of its website or related mobile apps. This might be covered to some extent in an accessibility plan or progress report on accessibility that the organization must prepare under the existing IASR. However, there is no assurance that the needed information will be included and will be comprehensive.

Helpful research provided to the AODA Alliance by the ARCH Disability Law Centre includes the following:

“The United Kingdom Statutory Instrument 2018 No.952, entitled The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the “Regulation”) is comparable to certain provisions within the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. There is also a Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (the “Directive”) which is relevant.

 

Both the Regulation and the Directive require public organizations to create an “Accessibility Statement”.[1]

That research also stated:

“An Accessibility Statement as defined by the Regulation and Directive is: “a detailed, comprehensive and clear statement produced by a public sector body on the compliance of its website or mobile application with these Regulations”.[2] The Accessibility Statement is a useful tool especially where an organization determines it is unable to meet accessibility standards. The Regulation requires a public sector body to explain in its Accessibility Statement any instances where it cannot comply with the accessibility requirement and provide accessible alternatives where appropriate.[3]

Under the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, obligated organizations are required to provide a requesting party with an explanation when it determines that it is unable to convert information and communications to an accessible format.[4] This requirement is similar to the Accessibility Statement required under the Regulation and Directive. However, Accessibility Statements are more robust. Accessibility Statements outline both an organization’s compliance and lack thereof meaning they go beyond simply addressing instances where an organization cannot comply with standards. Additionally, Accessibility Statements are required whether or not there is a ‘requesting party’ who has been denied accessible/convertible information. Further, the term ‘explanation’ is undefined in the Information and Communication Standard and so it lacks the formal requirements of an Accessibility Statement. As a result, there is no guarantee as to the quality of an explanation given to a requesting party under the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.”

We therefore recommend that:

#26. The Standard should be revised to require that public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall prepare an annual or biennial accessibility statement and make it public on its website which:

  1. a) Specifies in detail the extent to which the organizations website and mobile apps are accessible and specifies where they are not and
  1. b) Gives reasons for any deficiencies in the accessibility of the website or mobile apps and indicates what the organization plans to do to rectify this, and by when.

32. Committee’s Recommendation 14: Procurement

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations that the IASR’s general provisions regarding procurement of accessible goods, services and facilities “…are not strong enough to result in accessible digital procurement.” We also agree with the general thrust of the ideas in the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14 on the substantive requirements to add to the IASR in so far as accessible procurement of information technology is concerned. We would however like to see the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard go further. It should include specifics of what kinds of accessibility features or functionality should be required. These should be expressed in terms of end-user-usability, and not the specific technology to include. This is so because technology in this area is so rapidly evolving. In other words, these amendments to the standard should not only set process requirements, but also requirements for end results in terms of functional end-user experience. We anticipate that obligated organizations generally know little or nothing about this and need as much regulatory direction as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

#27. Beyond the measures in the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14, the IASR’s general procurement provisions should be strengthened to specify end-user functionality requirements that are sufficiently flexible to accommodate emerging technologies.

We agree with the Committee that beyond the specific context of procuring information technology, the IASR’s general provisions regarding procurement need to be strengthened. We however, do not agree with the Committee’s suggestion that this be referred to ASAC. As noted earlier, under the AODA, the review of any accessibility standard must be conducted at least every five years by a Standards Development Committee that is appointed for that purpose.

The members of the Standards Development Committee appointed to conduct that review should be chosen based on their expertise and experience in this specific area. No Standards Development Committee has been appointed since 2011 to review the IASR’s general provisions, such as the procurement provisions. It would be open to the Government to assign that review to an existing Standards Development Committee that was already appointed to review any other parts of the IASR or to recommend new accessibility standards.

The Government is in violation of the AODA for not having done so. That review was required to have been started in 2016. As noted earlier, the Standards Development Committee that conduct such a review should comply with all the procedural safeguards in the AODA conducting a review of an accessibility standard.

We therefore recommend that:

#28. The Government should fulfil its overdue duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the general provisions in the IASR, sections 1 through 8.

We agree that the Government and public sector organizations need to be given some time to implement any changes in the area of procurement. However, we do not agree that this should extend out to 2021, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose. This is so for several reasons.

First, public sector organizations have had accessible procurement duties under the AODA for years. They are not starting from scratch. Second, their duty not to create new barriers is enshrined in pre-existing human rights law. It is not a new creation of the AODA or of the IASR.

Third, 2025 is not far away. We cannot afford any delays, especially on the part of public sector organizations that are supposed to be leading by example.

Fourth, any such delay inappropriately suggests to public sector organizations that it is okay for them to continue to use public money to create new disability barriers. Yet that harmful use of public money must stop.

Fifth, especially as it applies to the Ontario Government that is the very body that is creating this regulation. As noted earlier, the Ontario Government has claimed for years to be leading Ontario by example in the area of accessibility. The Ontario Government is hardly caught by surprise by new regulatory requirements in this area.

For the same reasons, we respectfully disagree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14 where it proposes that an obligated organization can be exempt from any of this new requirement if it has entered into a contract regarding the matter before January 1, 2021. That would let an obligated organization disregard this new requirement even if it was amply aware that it was coming e.g. because it was earlier posted in a draft regulation.

We therefore recommend that:

*29. Any changes to the requirements for procurement of goods, services or facilities should go into effect within six months of the new regulation being enacted, and should apply to any procurement thereafter, or for which a contract was signed after the draft of this new regulation was publicly posted for comment, unless the obligated organization can show that to comply would cause it an undue hardship.

We propose further measures to strengthen the IASR procurement provisions, whether they apply to information technology or other goods, services or facilities.

Section 5 of the IASR falls well short of the duty to prevent the creation of new barriers that the Supreme Court of Canada mandated years ago in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. VIA Rail Canada Inc., [2007] 1 S.C.R. 650.

This section unjustifiably exempts any organization from even having to ask for accessible goods, services or facilities when seeking to procure them, “where it is not practicable to do so.” We know of no situation where it is impracticable to even ask vendors for accessible goods, services or facilities, as part of a procurement endeavour. Moreover, the “not practicable” standard falls substantially short of the “without undue hardship” standard in the Human Rights Code. It is counterproductive and harmful to try to get organizations to meet standards that are transparently lower than the Human Rights Code. If there were to be any exemption clause in this part of the IASR at all, it should be considerably narrowed. We here draw on the Committee’s commendable recommendation, further addressed later in this brief, that the standard should also be amended to create a class of “high impact” private sector organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#30. Section 5(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“5. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall

(a) Incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, for purposes of acquiring or procuring goods, services or facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities, and

(b) Shall acquire or procure goods, services and facilities for use in their organization, or for the benefit of the public, that are accessible to persons with disabilities, except where it is not possible to procure or acquire them without undue hardship.”

#31. Section 5(2) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it was not able to acquire or procure accessible goods, services or facilities without undue hardship in accordance with paragraph 5(1) (b), it shall provide, upon request, an explanation in writing.”

The duty to procure accessible goods, services and facilities should be extended to large or high impact private sector organizations. This is important for ensuring accessibility of goods, services, facilities and employment.

We therefore recommend that:

#32. Sections 5(1) and (2) should be amended to extend their requirements to large private sector organizations and to high impact private sector organizations.

Moreover, these procurement requirements should be extended to any private sector organization when engaging in a project or contract for the Ontario Government. The Government should not be able to get around these procurement requirements by contracting out some of its work to the private sector.

We therefore recommend that:

#33. The IASR’s procurement requirements should be amended to apply to any private sector organization in connection with any work it is doing for or on behalf of the Ontario Government.

33. Section 6 – Self-Service Kiosks

Related to the issue of procurement, the IASR’s section regarding electronic kiosks, s.6, remains far too weak. Its requirements should be strengthened. Features of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard bear on such kiosks, just as they can apply to other customer-facing technology. These requirements should extend further in the private sector than at present.

We therefore recommend that:

#34. Section 6(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“6. (1) Without limiting the generality of section 5, the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility features when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any point-of-sale technology for use by the public, to ensure that they are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. “

It is also important for private sector organizations with less than 50 employees to take serious action on this front especially where they offer technology for use by the public during point-of-sale transactions.

We therefore recommend that:

#35. Section 6(2) should be amended to read:

“(2) Small organizations shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any other point-of-sale technology for use by the public, and in any event, shall use accessible point-of-sale equipment when acquiring new point-of-sale equipment for use by customers, or replacing existing point-of-sale equipment.”

#36. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section,

“kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

34. Committee’s Recommendation 18: Harmonization and Application across Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 18 that the IASR should be amended to make it clear that its website accessibility provisions in s.14 apply to all websites that are referred to across the IASR. We would go further. The IASR should be refined to make it clear that these website accessibility requirements apply to any website specified in any provincial legislation or regulations, such as any provincial law that requires anything to be posted on a website.

We therefore recommend that:

#37. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 18 should be amended to call for the website accessibility requirements in s. 14 to apply to any website to which provincial legislation or apply, such as a provincial law that requires specified information to be posted on a website.

35. Part 5: Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18 Generally

It is inexcusable in 2019, over 14 years after the AODA was enacted, that students continue to face difficulties in getting timely access to needed educational materials in an accessible format.

The AODA Alliance has released a proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard and has submitted it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. We set out the relevant passages below. We do however urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to press forward with its recommendations in this area, as elaborated upon below in our more specific submissions. If the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee or the post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee opt to make further recommendations on point, that can only enrich the discussion. However, we ask the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee not to hold off proceedings on these recommendations due to the forthcoming work of the two Education Standards Development Committees.

In the key part of the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, a vision is offered of what an accessible education system would look like. This vision includes, among other things:

“2.5 Instructional materials used in Ontario’s education system would be available in formats that are fully accessible to students with disabilities who need to use them and would be available in accessible formats when needed.

2.6 All digital technology used in Ontario’s education system, such as hardware, software and online learning, used in class or from home, would be fully accessible and would fully embody the principle of universal design. Education staff working with students with disabilities would be properly trained to use the accessibility features of that hardware, software and online learning technology, and to effectively assist students with disabilities to use them.”

Among the recommendations in that proposed Framework for the contents of the Education Accessibility Standard is the following:

“8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

Barrier: School boards using classroom technology, such as hardware, software, online learning systems and internal or external websites that lack digital accessibility; school board policies that can be obstacles to using adaptive technology designed for people with disabilities; Insufficient staff training and familiarity with the use of accessibility features of mainstream technology, and with disability-specific adaptive technology.

8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

Educational equipment and technology, including hardware, software, and tablet/mobile apps deployed in educational settings should be designed based on universal design principles, to ensure that students with disabilities can use them.

  1. a) A school board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each school board should ensure that no teacher is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.
  1. b) Each school board’s internal and external websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.
  1. c) Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be simultaneously provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.
  1. d) Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.
  1. e) Textbooks and learning software should be procured only if they include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. Here again, PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

8.2 The Ministry of Education and each school board should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased either by a school board, or by the Ministry for use by school boards, unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included in all Requests for Proposal (RFP) or other tenders for sale of products and services to a school board or the Ministry.”

The proposed Framework also includes:

“12. Ensuring Accessibility of Instructional Materials that Students with Disabilities Use

Barrier: Instructional materials, such as textbooks and other instructional materials and teaching resources that are not provided at the same time in an accessible format for students with disabilities.

Section 15 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in June 2011, and in force for school boards since 2013 or 2015 (depending on their size) requires education organizations to provide instructional materials on request in an accessible format, and to make this part of their procurement of such resources. However, this provision has not been effective and sufficient to effectively ensure that students with disabilities face no barriers in this context. Therefore, stronger measures are needed.

12.1 To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each school board should:

  1. a) Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  1. b) Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.
  1. c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

12.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ministry of Education to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across school boards.”

36. Committee’s Recommendation 24: Purchase of Accessible Teaching/Training Materials

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 24 that “obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order text books or other printed curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as print copies.” This should apply to both print and electronic teaching materials.

We therefore recommend that:

#38. The Committee’s Recommendation 24 should be expanded to also require that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order electronic text books or other electronic curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as non-accessible versions.

37. Section 15 – Educational and Training Resources and Materials

Beyond this, s. 15, on providing accessible educational and training materials, while helpful, needs to be strengthened. It now provides:

“      15. (1) Every obligated organization that is an educational or training institution shall do the following, if notification of need is given:

  1. Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that takes into account the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by,
  2. Procuring through purchase or obtaining by other means an accessible or conversion ready electronic format of educational or training resources or materials, where available, or
  3. Arranging for the provision of a comparable resource in an accessible or conversion ready electronic format, if educational or training resources or materials cannot be procured, obtained by other means or converted into an accessible format.
  4. Provide student records and information on program requirements, availability and descriptions in an accessible format to persons with disabilities.

(2) For the purposes of this section and sections 16, 17 and 18, an obligated organization is an educational or training institution if it falls into one of the following categories:

  1. It is governed by the Education Act or the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
  2. It offers all or part of a post-secondary program leading to a degree pursuant to a consent granted under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000.
  3. It is a designated public sector organization described in paragraph 3 or 4 of Schedule 1.
  4. It is a public or private organization that provides courses or programs or both that result in the acquisition by students of a diploma or certificate named by the Minister of Education under paragraph 1 of subsection 8 (1) of the Education Act.
  5. It is a private school within the meaning of the Education Act.”

We therefore recommend that:

#39. Section 15 be amended to:

(a) Amend the opening words of section 15(1) to provide:

“1.       Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that meet the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by…”

(b) Require each obligated organization that is an educational or training institution to notify their students, applicants for admission and faculty/teachers, via accessible means, of their commitment to provide accessible curriculum and teaching materials;

(c) Post on their website, if any, their commitment to provide accessible teaching and curriculum materials, and an indication of who within the organization is responsible for their provision;

(d) Add to ss. 15(1) and (2) a requirement that these teaching and curriculum materials are to be available at the same time as the same teaching or curriculum materials are provided to students in the same program or course, except in exceptional cases where it is impossible to do so, in which case alternative measures will be immediately taken to enable a person with a disability to fully participate in the course or program.

(e) Add to section 15 a requirement that where curriculum materials such as text books are to be ordered from other sources, the curriculum materials shall be in an accessible format or conversion-ready, except where it can be shown that these cannot be obtained without undue hardship.

(f) Add to section 15 a requirement that notwithstanding the time lines for accessible websites, any information posted to a website for use by students shall be in an accessible format and shall comply forthwith with WCAG 2.0 Level AA unless it can be shown that to do so is impossible without undue hardship, in which case accessible alternative format materials shall be provided immediately on request.

(g) No school, college or university shall provide books or other like materials via paperless technology such as on mobile apps on the iPad or Kindle unless that technology has become accessible for persons with disabilities.

38. Section 17 – Producers of Educational or Training Material

It is helpful that s. 17 requires publishers to make accessible educational textbooks and certain other printed instructional materials available on request, in an accessible format. It however needs to be expanded. It now only applies to textbooks. Section 17 provides:

“      17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of educational or training textbooks for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (1).

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed materials available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (2).”

It should also apply to any other course materials produced in printed form, as well as course materials and books produced in electronic form. With the spread of e-books, this is increasingly important.

We therefore recommend that:

#40. Section 17(1) and (2) should be amended to provide:

“17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of education or training textbooks or other teaching materials (whether in printed form or electronic form) for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks or other teaching materials available to the institutions.

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based or electronic educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed or electronic materials available to the institutions.”

39. Committee’s Recommendation 25: Definition of Educational and Training Institutions

We agree that the standard’s requirements for educational organizations should extend to any organization that provides any education or training programs, whether or not they meet the standard’s current definition of education organization.

We therefore recommend that:

#41. The Committee’s Recommendation 25 should be expanded to define the scope of education programs to which its obligations should attach. This should be tied to the nature of the program and the extent to which ensuring accessibility would trigger an undue hardship

40. Section 18 – Libraries of Educational and Training Institutions

Section 18 is a helpful provision addressing accessibility at public libraries. However, it has an exception for “special collections” that, if not defined, could sweep away much-needed protections. Section 18 provides:

“      18. (1) Subject to subsection (2) and where available, the libraries of educational or training institutions that are obligated organizations shall provide, procure or acquire by other means an accessible or conversion ready format of print, digital or multimedia resources or materials for a person with a disability, upon request.

(2) Special collections, archival materials, rare books and donations are exempt from the requirements of subsection (1).

(3) Obligated organizations to which this section applies shall meet the requirements under this section in accordance with the following schedule:

  1. In respect of print-based resources or materials, January 1, 2015.
  2. In respect of digital or multimedia resources or materials, January 1, 2020.”

A law school at a university might argue that its entire law library is a “special collection”, that is thus exempt from any accessibility requirements. We do not anticipate that this was what the Government meant to achieve here.

We therefore recommend that:

#42. Section 18(2) should be amended to include a clear and narrow definition of “special collection”, or that exemption should be removed from this provision.

41. Committee’s Recommendation 26: Increasing Captionist Capacity

We share the Committee’s concern that there is a limited number of trained captionists in Ontario. We agree with the need for new efforts to increase their numbers. The Committee appears to make a non-regulatory recommendation.

We add that technology exists now to facilitate off-site captioning from distant locations. The captionist can be anywhere in the world. An audio hookup is set up via the web so the captionist can hear the spoken words to transcribe.

The Government can further facilitate this by either creating or funding a start-up that would crowd source these services, so that captionists around Ontario, or indeed around the world, could get quick and easy access to customers in Ontario. This could be part of an economic development strategy. A well-run Ontario-based service could sell its services around the world, bringing in new revenues to Ontario.

We therefore recommend that:

#43. the Committee’s Recommendation 26 should be expanded to recommend that the Government create or fund the creation of an Ontario-based remote captioning service that could service clients in Ontario and around the world by remotely-located captionists, providing their services online.

42. Committee’s Recommendation 27: Accessibility in Education

We share the Committee’s advice that disability accessibility curriculum should be included at all levels of Ontario’s education system.

We therefore recommend that:

#44. The Committee’s Recommendation 27 should be expanded to incorporate the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, which includes:

”11.1 To eliminate attitudinal barriers among students, school board employees and some families of students, each school board should:

  1. a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.
  1. b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  1. c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.
  1. d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.”

43. Committee’s Recommendation 28: Accessibility in Information and Communications Tools and Systems

We agree with the Committee that:

“There is often a lack of knowledge regarding the needs of people with disabilities on the part of the designers of information and communications tools and systems, and this leads to a lack of accessibility in these products.”

We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 28 where it proposes that “all obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems shall include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities…” We see value in this recommendation being further refined.

We therefore recommend that:

#45. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 28 (calling for obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems to include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities) should give some examples of the needed training, including differently affected disabilities, beyond its reference to Sign language.

The Ontario Government’s economic development strategy has tried to promote the development of the information technology sector in Ontario, to serve both the Ontario market and markets around the world. However, as far as we can tell, the Ontario Government has never acted on our advice, which we gave over several years, that it should incorporate in that effort a strategy, including funding strings, to promote the expansion of Ontario’s technology sector so that it has more accessibility design expertise to offer organizations around the world.

We therefore recommend that:

#46. The Committee should recommend that the Ontario Government should now adopt a concerted strategy, as part of its economic development program, of promoting the expansion of Ontario’s technology development sector with expertise in accessible design.

44. Committee’s Recommendation 29: Accessibility in Provincially Regulated Professions

We endorse the Committee’s draft Recommendation 29. It provides:

“Certification requirements of provincially regulated professions must include knowledge and application of accessibility (including accessible formats, language, communication and IT support) and the prevention of attitudinal barriers.”

The AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard points in a similar direction. It includes:

“Barrier: Too often, teachers and other school staff who work with students are not sufficiently trained on how to teach all students, including students with disabilities. Teacher’s colleges and other programs that are publicly funded to train professionals who will work with students in Ontario schools are therefore creating new generations of barriers that will impede students with disabilities.”

The solution requires both reforms to the required training of future new teachers while they are in teachers’ college, and measures to expand the training of those who are already graduates of teachers’ college and who are already working as teachers. This also applies to other school staff with teaching-related roles, such as principals and education assistants.

9.2 The Ontario Government should require that to be qualified to teach or serve as a principal in an Ontario-funded school, a teacher or principal must have specified training in the education of students with disabilities, covering the spectrum of different learning needs and learning styles. Any teacher’s college or like program that receives any provincial funding should require, as part of its degree programming, specified course contents on the education of students with disabilities for all teachers, and not only for special education teachers. Time lines for implementing this should be specified for the transition to this new approach. Each school board should be required to train school board staff, including teachers and other staff who work with students, on ensuring digital/information technology accessibility in the classroom, on the use of access technology (where needed) and on steps how to create accessible documents and web content.”

Section 16 of the standard commendably requires training organizations to provide for their teachers, training on the needs of students with disabilities. However, it does not require any of their employees to ever take that training.

Regarding teacher training, we therefore recommend that:

#47. Section 16(1) should be amended to provide:

“16. (1) In addition to the requirements under section 7, obligated organizations that are school boards or educational or training institutions shall provide educators with accessibility awareness training related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction, and their educators shall satisfactorily complete that training.”

It is essential that the Committee’s proposal take the form of a mandatory regulation, and not merely a policy or “best practice”. Too many professions need this reform to try to convince them voluntarily, one profession at a time.

Moreover, the AODA Alliance has been trying without success to secure voluntary action by the Ontario Government for over a decade. In the 2007 Ontario election, the AODA Alliance asked the parties to commit to ensure that relevant professions require their members to have sufficient accessibility training. In that election, the McGuinty Government promised to advocate to self-governing professions on this. In the ensuing 11 years that the Liberal Government was in power, we repeatedly asked it to keep this promise. We never saw or were shown any Government action to act on this promise.

45. Committee’s Recommendation 30: Education Standards

This recommendation only deals with where to locate certain requirements within the IASR. We take no issue with this as a pure housekeeping matter.

C. Our Feedback on The Committee’s Proposed Phase 2

In Phase 2 of the Committee’s draft recommendations, it proposes a major overhaul of how accessibility barriers should be regulated under the AODA. We commend the Committee for trying to take a broad and creative look at how progress is going under the AODA, and for trying to come up with innovative solutions, thinking beyond the regulatory status quo. Any effort in that regard should be encouraged.

Below we offer a few general responses to the Committee’s proposed reforms to the AODA’s overall design. These are only preliminary thoughts. A fuller response requires substantially more time and research than is currently available. The Committee’s Phase 2 proposal goes far beyond the scope of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

The Committee’s Phase 2 reforms call, among other things, for the creation of a new public authority. The Committee calls it the “Trusted Authority”. That new public agency would have a series of new powers, including powers which bear directly on the AODA’s interpretation, implementation and enforcement.

These reforms would require the Legislature to amend the AODA itself. These are not measures which can be enacted as accessibility standard regulations under the AODA, as it is now written.

As noted earlier, we are opposed to the Ontario Legislature re-opening the AODA and considering making any amendments to it at this time. We don’t want there to be any risk that The Government would try to weaken or reduce any provisions in the AODA. Re-opening the legislation would create such a risk. We would react very strenuously against any Government effort to re-open the AODA’s terms in any way.

Even if we had wanted The Government to re-open the legislation, the likelihood of it doing so now is extremely low. Throughout the first third of its mandate the current Government treated the AODA as a very low priority. It took months and months for the Government just to unfreeze the work of existing AODA Standards Development Committees, including the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. It took more months after that to get the Government to re-start the important work of the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. This was so even though while in opposition, the Conservatives criticized the former Ontario Government for dragging its feet on appointing an Education Standards Development Committee.

Over two thirds of a year has passed since The Government received the blistering report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review. Despite our pressure, The Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As such, we would not agree to the Government proceeding with the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal, in so far as it requires legislative amendments. There is a second important reason why the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal should not proceed at this time. The Committee’s Phase 2 proposal contemplates delegation of certain powers to the proposed Trusted Authority which itself raises a number of significant legal concerns, beyond any policy discussion over the proposal‘s pros and cons. We have not had the time or opportunity to explore those issues in preparation for this brief. They would have to be resolved before a profitable discussion of the proposal’s pros and cons should be undertaken.

There are other important avenues and arenas for such proposals regarding reform of the AODA to be presented. For example, there have been three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018-19. Another AODA Independent Review will have to be appointed by March 7, 2022. Those are but one appropriate place to present such suggestions. We do not know if the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee or any of its members presented these ideas to the any of the three AODA Independent Reviews for their consideration.

As a visible player on the provincial front regarding the AODA, the AODA Alliance would want to be a major player in any such discussions. For our part, we pointed out serious problems with the way the AODA has been operating, in our proposals to the Federal Government regarding the design of the new Accessible Canada Act. See for example our Discussion Paper on what Canada’s national accessibility law should include, published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law and available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

The same goes for our recent proposals to the BC Government on what the promised BC accessibility law should include, available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/the-british-columbia-government-commits-to-provincial-accessibility-legislation-and-seeks-public-input-on-a-proposed-framework-for-a-bc-disabilities-act-read-the-AODA-alliances-submission-to-the-b/

Despite the foregoing concerns, some parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal can be undertaken now, without needing any reforms to the AODA or to any accessibility standards. For example, the Committee raises concerns about the use of the term “obligated organization.” The term “obligated organization” can be changed, in The Government’s communications on the AODA. The term “obligated organization” does not itself appear in the AODA.

Similarly, The Government could do a far better job of outreach to and inclusion of people with disabilities in its ongoing AODA consultation and implementation efforts, including in its consultation on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations which are the focus of this brief. That too requires no amendment to the AODA.

The Government could now create far better resources to guide obligated organizations. At least two of the AODA Independent Reviews have called for that very action. We strongly support the need for that.

Finally, it is open to the Government to review the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard more frequently than every five years, in order to keep it up to date in connection with new developments, such as new developments in the world of information technology or the creation of new international standards for the accessibility of information technology.

We also want to alert the Committee that we respectfully disagree with some of the key points in its Phase 2 discussion. We agree that the AODA’s implementation has fallen far short of what we all expected, what we all need and what the AODA promised. Our 450-page January 15, 2019 brief to the David Onley Independent Review is perhaps the most detailed documentation of this failure. It explores in detail the causes of this failure and offers constructive proposals to get the AODA back on track. The Onley Report echoes our analysis in key ways, as did the 2015 Moran AODA Independent Review Report that proceeded it and on which it built.

The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion seems in no small part to be constructed on the premise that the AODA has failed because it has been undertaken as an exercise of a regulator compelling compliance through enforcement, rather than by trying to get obligated organizations to understand that it is in their self-interest to ensure that their goods, services, facilities and employment are accessible. For example, the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion states:

“In the current model, the primary participants are the participating organizations and the provincial government compliance authority. The relationship is one of obligation and policing. The primary questions from obligated organizations are about what is required of them, and whether there might be exemptions. Their primary motivation for complying is avoiding penalties and/or reputational damage.

It is hard to blame organizations for this approach, because accessibility and inclusive design have traditionally been framed primarily as something that organizations must be legally compelled to do, rather than something that is also in their best interests. The fact is however, that there is significant evidence showing that inclusive design is in the interests of business. Research has shown that an organization that attends to inclusive design and accessibility, for customers and employees with disabilities, will garner economic, social and innovation benefits. There are both micro and macro-economic gains to be made for the participating company and for Ontario society as a whole, but that case is not being made clearly or often enough.”

As our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review and our website amply documents, the opposite has in fact been the case. We have demonstrated over and over that the Ontario Government has throughout this decade taken an extremely gentle and minimalist approach to AODA enforcement. For years, it would barely if ever even utter the word “enforcement” in public in connection with the AODA. It conducts “audits” of very few organizations each year.

These are only paper audits. We have only seen documentation of one on-site AODA audit or inspection from the day the AODA was passed up to at least 2017. That was a pre-announced inspection of one Government ministry by another Government ministry. In that case, the deputy minister of the inspecting ministry gave written prior notice to the deputy minister of the ministry to be inspected, that an inspection would be upcoming.

Despite knowing year after year about rampant AODA violations since 2013, the Government has imposed a tiny number of monetary penalties. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s less than two monetary penalties for each of those years. That conveys the clear message to violators that their risk of a monetary penalty is extremely slim.

The Toronto Star has run editorials that support our concern in this regard. It has slammed the Ontario Government for its weak AODA enforcement. Contrary to the Committee’s characterization of events, Minister after Minister responsible for the AODA has publicly said that their primary focus is on doing exactly what the Committee proposed in the passage quoted above, i.e. showing businesses the business case for accessibility. A good example of this is the following passage from the February 26, 2015 interview on CBC Radio Toronto’s flagship Metro Morning program by the previous Liberal Government’s Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid (then responsible for AODA implementation and enforcement):

“[Matt Galloway] But her, her real, her real thrust in this, in the report, is that Ontario’s not moving quickly enough to reach the 2025 goal of full accessibility. I wanna read something to you that one of your predecessors put together, which was Marie Bountrogianni, who, uh, when the legislature passed the disabilities act said, “What was missing in the previous act was enforcement compliance.

When you leave it to the good will of the people, it doesn’t get done.” What’s changed since then?

[Brad Duguid] Well, there- there’s two things. Number one, you can’t enforce that if the businesses aren’t aware of what their responsibilities are. So, the first thing we need to do is make businesses more aware, and we’re doing that through a number of different initiatives. There’s the advertising campaign. We also have a partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce where we’re reaching out to businesses an- and educating them on what they need to do.

Secondly, and this is the key, and when you, and I, I just recently appointed David Onley as our special advisor, and this is something we’re working very, very closely on. We need to make sure that businesses are, are aware of why there’s a competitive advantage for them to become accessible.

We don’t want businesses just to reach a standard, we want them to go beyond the standard and there’s every- there’s a really good business case for businesses across this province to do this. In fact, the Martin Institute indicates that there’s 7.9 billion dollars in our economy if we can become more accessible.

So, that- what I’m saying there is, I don’t want to come in and, and take a really hard approach on businesses and turn them off. What I wanna do is get businesses to embrace what this will do to their bottom line. There’s a really good business case.”

No minister responsible for this legislation has publicly proclaimed a contrary view. No minister coming after Mr. Duguid has ever disagreed with his view, criticized it, or proclaimed a different approach. Certainly, the new Ford Government has not repudiated it.

The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion addresses a criticism at the AODA itself, which should instead be directed at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Ontario Government. The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion includes:

“The current model also does not harness the significant energy, knowledge and support of many community stakeholders who are deeply committed to accessibility. These include:

  • Students, many of whom participate in projects such as “mapathons”, design challenges and curriculum-based assignments
  • Ontario’s world-leading cluster of researchers specializing in accessibility and inclusive design
  • Non-obligated organizations that recognize the importance of accessibility without being compelled to comply by law
  • Persons with disabilities and their families or support communities
  • Professional organizations
  • Community volunteers
  • Civil society”

Similarly the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion later states:

“Ontario is home to many innovators, many of whom have turned their ingenuity to addressing accessibility challenges. Unfortunately, there is currently no easy way for these innovators, including obligated organizations or other stakeholders, to propose new and better strategies for addressing barriers. The relationship is strictly one way, with the Act essentially telling organizations what to do. This removes an incentive to innovate in accessibility.”

The Committee has commendably identified a legitimate area for improvement, but is identifying the wrong culprit. It is open to the Government to do a far more inclusive job of consulting and including the diverse voices to which the Committee points, in its work on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. For example, Standards Development Committees could readily engage more such voices in their work developing standards. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario can and should do much more of this within the ample mandate that the AODA gives it. Nothing in the AODA prohibits the Ontario Government from doing so.

As well, the Committee presents a very good series of suggestions for reform in its Appendix B. No Trusted Authority or other amendments to the AODA or to its current overall structure are needed to implement them. The IASR can and should be amended, such as in ss. 5 and 6, to incorporate the very helpful requirements that the Committee formulated in its Appendix B. With such a revision to the IASR we would be in clear support.

Appendix 1 Excerpts from the Mayo Moran Second Independent Review of the AODA

The 2014 Moran Report included;

“However, the Review also heard considerable discussion about the content of the standards. In particular, members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far – even if complied with to the letter – will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever. They identified two problems. First, the current standards have serious gaps and deficiencies. And second, important aspects of everyday life fall entirely outside the scope of the current requirements. At the same time, obligated organizations also provided valuable feedback about the content of the current standards and some of the challenges that they pose. Below, I summarize the central themes of the feedback on these issues, including both suggestions about where there may be gaps in the existing standards as well as recommendations for additional standards.

Proposed Revisions to Current Standards

The Review heard many comments that suggested revisions to existing standards. Various disability groups advocated specific changes to the standards to better reflect the needs of their members and clients. More generally, many participants believed that timelines in the standards are too long, several requirements are weak, little is being done to remove existing barriers, and exemptions and exceptions are too broad. One disability stakeholder considered the deficiencies in the IASR so serious that the mandatory review of the Transportation, Employment and Information and Communications standards should begin in 2015 instead of 2016 as currently planned. Many obligated organizations in both the public and private sectors had other concerns, emphasizing that the overall AODA regime is too complex and should be simplified as much as possible.

Members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far – even if complied with to the letter – will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever.

IMPACT ON SPECIFIC DISABILITIES

The Review was told by some participants that they do not believe that the AODA has been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities, such as mental illness, autism, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and others. They suggested that more extensive training requirements to recognize and respond to the needs of people with these disabilities were essential.

The mental health community feels strongly that mental health and other non-visible disabilities should be better integrated into the content of standards. For example, it was suggested that the Employment standard should provide clear guidelines for accommodating employees with mental health disabilities.

Groups supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss pointed out that the vagueness about support persons leaves doubt about an organization’s responsibility to provide interpreters or other communication facilitators. Individuals with speech and language disabilities not caused by hearing loss believe standards should more fully outline requirements for communications assistance, especially in essential services.

People with environmental sensitivities and multi-chemical sensitivities want to see these conditions explicitly included in the definition of disability. Participants with episodic or fluctuating disabilities likewise urged a direct reference to their type of disability in the definition. Representatives of people with bowel disorders called for a network of open, accessible public toilets to be established through the Customer Service, Transportation and Design of Public Spaces standards.

The Review was told that the AODA has not been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities.

EXEMPTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS

The existing regulations set different requirements based on the size of the organization. Where the line should be drawn between small and large businesses was a major source of contention in the feedback received by this Review. In fact, some felt it was a mistake to create any exemptions on the basis of the number of employees, as very small organizations can have huge revenue streams.

At present, there are many exemptions under the IASR for organizations with under 50 employees. For example, they are exempt from requirements to prepare multi-year accessibility plans, make their websites accessible, develop a written process for employment accommodation, provide accessible exterior paths of travel, prepare written accessibility policies and file compliance reports, among other obligations. It was suggested that one reason the AODA has not lived up to its potential is the number of organizations that are exempt from such obligations.

The Customer Service standard currently sets the threshold for certain requirements at 20 employees rather than 50. Currently, organizations with under 20 employees are exempt from requirements to prepare documents on their accessibility policies – including policies on service animals and support persons and the handling of service disruptions – and to produce copies on request, as well as from obligations to document training policies, keep training records and file accessibility reports. In its review of the Customer Service standard – which coincided with this Review – ASAC proposed to raise that threshold to 50 employees instead of 20 to align with the IASR, and several disability groups voiced their concerns about this proposal to this Review.

In addition to the exemptions based on organizational size, the Review also received some feedback on several other provisions that were questioned including the following:

  • Exemption of owner-operated sole proprietorships from the entire IASR as they have no employees.
  • Exclusion of the entire private sector from the duty to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when acquiring goods, service and facilities.
  • Exclusion of products and product labels from the Information and Communications standard.
  • Exclusion of unconvertible information from accessible format requirements, which some described as a loophole that should be closed.
  • Exemptions for all organizations except the provincial Government from the website provisions on live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions.

As well, disability stakeholders took issue with various exceptions that are less exacting than undue hardship under the Human Rights Code. This issue will be addressed later in the section on the AODA’s Relationship with Other Legislation.

GAPS IN STANDARDS

Beyond exemptions and the impact on certain disability groups, participants highlighted a host of gaps in existing standards and put forward numerous suggestions to close them.

Information and Communications

One of the gaps identified that was among the most serious sources of concern was the exclusion of extranets from the website standards. An extranet is a controlled extension of an organization’s internal network that allows access to outside users over the internet. It was pointed out that the standards development committee expected everything behind the log-in to be covered. The fact that this was not done is seen as a step backward.

Unless Ontario keeps standards in line with evolving information technology, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

The importance of keeping the Information and Communications standards in line with evolving international standards was also stressed. Unless a mechanism is created to do this, the Review was told, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

Some participants raised concerns about the provision of accessible formats for various purposes “on request”. They proposed that all educational resources should be accessible, with no need for a request. On the other hand, some post-secondary stakeholders pointed out that this might not be a wise use of resources as there may turn out to be no demand for many of the materials.”

[1] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, S.8(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/952/made#f00004; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, S.7(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/eudr/2016/2102/contents

[2] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, s.3; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Article 7(1).

[3] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, section 4(a)(b).

[4] Integrated Accessibility Standards, s.9(3)(a).



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Now that The Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review Report on the AODA, the AODA Alliance Has Called on Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to Immediately Lift the Government’s Freeze on the Work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees


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

Now that The Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review Report on the AODA, the AODA Alliance Has Called on Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to Immediately Lift the Government’s Freeze on the Work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees

February 7, 2019

SUMMARY

1. The Ford Government’s Stated Reason for Maintaining its Freeze on the Work of Ontario’s Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees has now Vanished –It’s Time for the Government to Lift that Freeze

On January 31, 2019, David Onley submitted the final report of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to The Ford Government. The Ford Government had said it was waiting for that report before it would make a decision on lifting the seven-month freeze it has maintained on the work of the Education and the Health Care Standards Development Committees. Those committees were appointed under the AODA to recommend which barriers in Ontario’s education system and health care system should be removed or prevented. The freeze on those committees has dragged on for 231 days.

On February 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. In that letter, set out below, we call on the Government to:

* Now let the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees get back to work.

* Immediately make public the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, in an accessible format, and

* Table the David Onley report with the Ontario Legislature immediately upon its resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019.

2. Let Us Know What Disability Barriers You Have Faced in Ontario’s Health Care System

In the hope that we will succeed in getting the Ford Government to lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, we are working, together with the ARCH Disability Law Centre, to prepare a joint brief to that Standards Development Committee. We plan to spell out in that brief what an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

We need your help. Let us know about disability barriers you have had to face in Ontario’s health care system. Give concrete examples. We don’t need the names of specific patients, doctors, or other health care providers. We won’t make public any names or identifying details.

We would also appreciate receiving your suggestions on what health care facilities can do to provide barrier-free health care to patients with any kind of disability. Good success stories can help with this effort.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected]

As you think about what to suggest to us, we recommend that you take a look at an earlier introductory brief on health care barriers that the AODA Alliance submitted to the Ontario Government on August 26, 2016.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance’s February 6, 2019 Letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

February 6, 2019

To: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister of Accessibility and Seniors

Via Email: [email protected]

Frost Building South

6th Floor

7 Queen’s Park Cres

Toronto, ON M7A 1Y7

Dear Minister,

Re: The Need to Now End Your Government’s Freeze on the Work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the Areas of Education and Health Care

We write to ask you to now end your Government’s 7-month freeze on the important work of the AODA Standards Development Committees that have been appointed to develop recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed and prevented in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system. On December 20, 2018, you wrote the chairs of the two Education Standards Development Committees and, we believe, the Health Care Standards Development Committee, to say that you were awaiting the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act before deciding on this issue.

We understand that on Thursday, January 31, 2019, your Government received the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review. As such, you are now in a position to know what Mr. Onley recommended in this regard. As such, we ask you to immediately lift your Government’s freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees. Let them get back to their important work.

You have had our request to end this freeze on your desk as Minister for Accessibility for over seven months. The media has reported on it. You have had briefings on it. Moreover, the topic is not new to your Party. When in opposition, the Ontario Conservative Party helped us by pressing the former Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Your party criticized The former Government for dragging its feet before appointing an Education Standards Development Committee to recommend what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

It is also very important for the public, including Ontarians with disabilities to know what David Onley has found and what he has recommended regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We therefore ask that you immediately make public the report that the David Onley AODA Independent Review has rendered to the Government. We also ask that pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, you file that report with the Legislature immediately upon the Legislature’s resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019. Nothing in the AODA restricts your Government from making Mr. Onley’s report public now, before the Legislature resumes sitting.  Section 41(4) of the AODA provides:

”      (4)   The Minister shall submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall cause the report to be laid before the Assembly if it is in session or, if not, at the next session.”

Please be sure that Mr. Onley’s report is made public in an accessible format. PDF format is insufficient for that purpose. Please make sure that when it is released, it is simultaneously available in an accessible format such as MS Word. When The former Government released the last AODA Independent Review report, prepared by Mayo Moran, it did so in PDF format. We had to intervene to get this accessibility barrier corrected. It was illustrative of the many preventable disability barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in Ontario.

We look forward to working with you on the implementation of Mr. Onley’s report.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]



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Now that The Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review Report on the AODA, the AODA Alliance Has Called on Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to Immediately Lift the Government’s Freeze on the Work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees


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

February 7, 2019

SUMMARY

1. The Ford Government’s Stated Reason for Maintaining its Freeze on the Work of Ontario’s Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees has now Vanished It’s Time for the Government to Lift that Freeze

On January 31, 2019, David Onley submitted the final report of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to The Ford Government. The Ford Government had said it was waiting for that report before it would make a decision on lifting the seven-month freeze it has maintained on the work of the Education and the Health Care Standards Development Committees. Those committees were appointed under the AODA to recommend which barriers in Ontario’s education system and health care system should be removed or prevented. The freeze on those committees has dragged on for 231 days.

On February 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. In that letter, set out below, we call on the Government to:

* Now let the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees get back to work.

* Immediately make public the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, in an accessible format, and

* Table the David Onley report with the Ontario Legislature immediately upon its resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019.

2. Let Us Know What Disability Barriers You Have Faced in Ontario’s Health Care System

In the hope that we will succeed in getting the Ford Government to lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, we are working, together with the ARCH Disability Law Centre, to prepare a joint brief to that Standards Development Committee. We plan to spell out in that brief what an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

We need your help. Let us know about disability barriers you have had to face in Ontario’s health care system. Give concrete examples. We don’t need the names of specific patients, doctors, or other health care providers. We won’t make public any names or identifying details.

We would also appreciate receiving your suggestions on what health care facilities can do to provide barrier-free health care to patients with any kind of disability. Good success stories can help with this effort.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected]

As you think about what to suggest to us, we recommend that you take a look at an earlier introductory brief on health care barriers that the AODA Alliance submitted to the Ontario Government on August 26, 2016.

MORE DETAILS
Text of the AODA Alliance’s February 6, 2019 Letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

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

February 6, 2019

To: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister of Accessibility and Seniors Via Email: [email protected]
Frost Building South
6th Floor
7 Queen’s Park Cres
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y7

Dear Minister,

Re: The Need to Now End Your Government’s Freeze on the Work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the Areas of Education and Health Care

We write to ask you to now end your Government’s 7-month freeze on the important work of the AODA Standards Development Committees that have been appointed to develop recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed and prevented in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system. On December 20, 2018, you wrote the chairs of the two Education Standards Development Committees and, we believe, the Health Care Standards Development Committee, to say that you were awaiting the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act before deciding on this issue.

We understand that on Thursday, January 31, 2019, your Government received the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review. As such, you are now in a position to know what Mr. Onley recommended in this regard. As such, we ask you to immediately lift your Government’s freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees. Let them get back to their important work.

You have had our request to end this freeze on your desk as Minister for Accessibility for over seven months. The media has reported on it. You have had briefings on it. Moreover, the topic is not new to your Party. When in opposition, the Ontario Conservative Party helped us by pressing the former Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Your party criticized The former Government for dragging its feet before appointing an Education Standards Development Committee to recommend what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

It is also very important for the public, including Ontarians with disabilities to know what David Onley has found and what he has recommended regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We therefore ask that you immediately make public the report that the David Onley AODA Independent Review has rendered to the Government. We also ask that pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, you file that report with the Legislature immediately upon the Legislature’s resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019. Nothing in the AODA restricts your Government from making Mr. Onley’s report public now, before the Legislature resumes sitting. Section 41(4) of the AODA provides:

” (4) The Minister shall submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall cause the report to be laid before the Assembly if it is in session or, if not, at the next session.”

Please be sure that Mr. Onley’s report is made public in an accessible format. PDF format is insufficient for that purpose. Please make sure that when it is released, it is simultaneously available in an accessible format such as MS Word. When The former Government released the last AODA Independent Review report, prepared by Mayo Moran, it did so in PDF format. We had to intervene to get this accessibility barrier corrected. It was illustrative of the many preventable disability barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in Ontario.

We look forward to working with you on the implementation of Mr. Onley’s report.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance cc: Premier Doug Ford [email protected]
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]



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In the Legislature Yesterday, the Ford Government Refused to Lift Its 168-Day Freeze on Standards Development Committees that Were Working on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care System


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

Yet Two Years Ago Tomorrow, It Was the Tory Party That Had Demanded in the Legislature that Ontario Create the Very Education Accessibility Regulation that the Ford Government Has Now Frozen Work on Developing

December 4, 2018

SUMMARY

In light of events yesterday in the Ontario Legislature, tomorrow, December 5, 2018, looks to be a troubling anniversary in our non-partisan campaign in Ontario for accessibility for people with disabilities. Here is why!

Two years ago tomorrow, back on December 5, 2016, we were delighted that Ontario’s Conservative Party, then the opposition in the Ontario Legislature, rose during Question Period on our behalf, to demand that the Wynne Government finally agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We need an Education Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA because over one third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario continue to face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges, universities and other education organizations, when they try to get an education. You cannot get a good job unless you first get a good education.

We were also delighted two years ago tomorrow, when Premier Wynne at last agreed, in the face of the Conservatives’ demands, to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Premier Wynne’s agreement in the face of questions from Conservative MPP Bill Walker two years ago, came after years of dithering by the former Ontario Government in this area. We document those years of dithering in Chapters 4 and 5 of our draft brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review. Below we set out the transcript of the historic exchange that took place in Ontario’s Legislature back on December 5, 2016.

Fast-Forward two years, to the present. We still do not have an Education Accessibility Standard. Why is this? After a year of further delay, the former Ontario Government finally appointed two Education Standards Development Committees under the AODA last winter. These independent committees are mandated under the AODA to develop recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. One Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed in Ontario schools. The other Standards Development Committee was appointed to develop recommendations on the barriers that need to be removed in Ontario’s colleges and universities. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was appointed as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

Those Standards Development Committees, as well as three others, were busy at work last spring, right up to the spring 2018 election. Then everything was called to a sudden and total halt. After the June 7, 2018 Ontario election, all the work of any Standards Development Committee under the AODA was frozen. We have been tenaciously campaigning to get this freeze lifted.

Over three months ago, on August 29, 2018, we wrote Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho a detailed letter. It spells out why The Ford Government should immediately lift its freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees. The Ford Government has not answered that letter.

This freeze has garnered media attention, including CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program on August 30, 2018, CBC Radio Ottawa’s All in A Day Program on August 30, 2018, and CBC TV and Radio news reports on November 13, 2018.

Last month, the Ford government finally lifted its freeze on the work of two AODA Standards Development Committees. One is addressing barriers in employment. The other is addressing barriers in information and communication.

However, three important Standards Development Committees are still frozen. They have remained frozen for 168 days, right up to this day. This freeze includes the work of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. This freeze also includes the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. This latter committee has been working for some two years on recommendations to the Ontario Government on what the Government should include in a Health Care Accessibility Standard. That accessibility standard would tear down disability barriers that hurt patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

So what happened yesterday? Yesterday, December 3, 2018, was the International Day for People with Disabilities. To mark that day, opposition NDP MPP Joel Harden, the NDP critic for disability issues, rose in the Ontario Legislature on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities to raise this important issue. In the exchange, set out in full below, MPP Harden called on the Ontario Government to lift the freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees.

Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho was not in the Legislature. Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones dodged the question, stating in part:

“There is no doubt that everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in our lives, in the everyday lives, and that includes recreation, that includes our work force, that includes our families, our schools and our justice system.

But we need to do it in a reasonable and measured way. That is what my colleague is doing, that is what he is working on. We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.”

So in sum, two years ago tomorrow, the Tories stood for people with disabilities, to demand that the Ontario Government create an Education Accessibility Standard. Yesterday, almost two years later, the Tories are in power and can do something about it. Yet instead of moving forward on this, they have frozen work on it, with no end in sight.

What reasons has the Ford government given over the past 168 days for this freeze? These include:

* The Government earlier said the Government needs time to brief the new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. He has now had 157 days since Ontario’s new Cabinet was sworn in. That is sufficient time to brief a minister. This is especially so, since, to the new Government’s credit, Ontario now has a full-time Minister for Accessibility and Seniors. This is a top priority in his portfolio.

* Yesterday, in the Legislature, the Ford Government said it needs to proceed “in a reasonable and measured way.” We respectfully suggest that this protracted delay is neither reasonable nor measured. It hurts hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities. It also hurts vulnerable patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

Yesterday, the Government also said:

“We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.”

Yet, the Education Standards Development Committee has the stakeholders directly involved in the process. Each Standards Development Committee is made up of disability c community representatives as well as representatives from the education or health care sectors. Each Standards Development Committee is required to consult the stakeholders as a core part of its work.

In answer to an earlier question from NDP MPP Joel Harden yesterday that called for the Government to create a plan to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, the Government said in part:

“It’s important that we work with all of our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we have the most open and accessible province, but we need to do it in a reasonable way that makes sure that no one gets hurt along the way. So we’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with the accessibility citizens and we’re making sure that we’re getting it right.”

This is the first time the Ford Government said it is concerned that “no one gets hurt along the way.” We do not know why or how anyone would “get hurt along the way” for the Education Standards Development Committees and the Health Care Standards Development Committee to get back to work.

During last spring’s Ontario election, Doug Ford wrote the AODA Alliance to set out his party’s election commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities. His May 15, 2018 letter included:

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

We encourage you to contact your member of the Ontario Legislature. Urge them to help us press The Ford Government to end its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees.

MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard December 3, 2018

Question Period

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Mr. Joel Harden: Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities and, as I pose this question, I want to acknowledge some of our friends from the disability rights community in the Speaker’s gallery. Thank you for being here. My question is to the Deputy Premier.

Today is a day that should be reminding us that our province is on a deadline. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has to be set in place with a legitimate plan by 2025, but every disability rights leader and organization I’ve met has told us that we’re way behind in meeting that objective.

Does the minister believe that we’re on track to have a fully accessible province by 2025?

Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: I’m really glad that you’ve asked this question, because my colleague, the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, has been working full out on these issues, and he’s actually away today doing a speech on this very issue.

It’s important that we work with all of our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we have the most open and accessible province, but we need to do it in a reasonable way that makes sure that no one gets hurt along the way. So we’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with the accessibility citizens and we’re making sure that we’re getting it right.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Joel Harden: Back to the Deputy Premier:

Achieving full accessibility, according to experts who I’ve talked to, requires two things: a commitment and a plan. But right now, three out of five AODA standards committees, which are actually doing the work about accessible and inclusive health care and education for people living with a disability, their work has been frozen since the election. It’s one thing to say we support accessibility, but it’s another thing to actually make it a priority by putting those AODA committees to work.

My question is very simple: Will the minister unfreeze the committees and will the minister work with people with disabilities to develop a multi-year accessibility plan so Ontario is fully accessible by 2025?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: There is no doubt that everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in our lives, in the everyday lives, and that includes recreation, that includes our work force, that includes our families, our schools and our justice system.

But we need to do it in a reasonable and measured way. That is what my colleague is doing, that is what he is working on. We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.

Ontario Legislature Question Period December 5, 2016

ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED

Mr. Bill Walker: My question is to the Premier. It has been 11 years since this Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Yet, today, over a third of a million students with disabilities continue to face far too many barriers when they try to go to school, college or university in Ontario.

Today’s Toronto Star reports that 22 respected community organizations wrote the Premier, urging her to finally say “yes” to creating an educational accessibility standard and tear down those unfair barriers.

Premier, on October 31, you told this House that you were considering this. Will you agree to do it today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: As the member has said, I have already indicated that I think that this is important. I had a meeting with David Lepofsky, who is, I know, mentioned in the article. The Minister of Education and the Minister responsible for accessibility have also met with David Lepofsky and many other groups.

We recognize that, as we have developed standards in other areas, as a health standard is being developed, that also there needs to be a standard developed in the education sector.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Bill Walker: Back to the Premier: You’ve had 10 years and you spent $8 billion on the eHealth registry. I hope that this isn’t going to be another fiasco like that.

This government’s continued inaction on this file is inexcusable. This government has no comprehensive plan to ensure that our education system will become fully accessible by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. The AODA Alliance has pressed you for over half a decade to agree to develop the standard under the AODA to tackle these barriers.

Can you tell a third of a million students with disabilities and their families what the holdup is, after the five years of this issue being before your government?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It’s interesting. Since we came into office in 2003and when we came into office, under the previous Premier, there was legislation that was in place that had no teeth and would have produced no results in terms of accessibility. We scrapped that and started again, and put in place legislation that has, over time, developed standards and has put in place acceptable standards across our society.

There’s a lot more to do, which is why we are working in the health sector right now. There are billions of dollars that are spent within the education system, whether it’s on special education or the $1.1 billion in additional funding that is going into building and renovating schoolsall of which goes toward building schools that are more accessible.

Because the reality is, when many of the schools were builtparticularly in the Toronto District School Board, where there are many old buildings that are still being used as schoolsthey were not up to standard. They were not accessible in any way.

We recognize that there’s more to be done, and there will be an education standard developed.



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In the Legislature Yesterday, the Ford Government Refused to Lift Its 168-Day Freeze on Standards Development Committees that Were Working on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care System – Yet Two Years Ago Tomorrow, It Was the Tory Party That Had Demanded in the Legislature that Ontario Create the Very Education Accessibility Regulation that the Ford Government Has Now Frozen Work on Developing


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

In the Legislature Yesterday, the Ford Government Refused to Lift Its 168-Day Freeze on Standards Development Committees that Were Working on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care System – Yet Two Years Ago Tomorrow, It Was the Tory Party That Had Demanded in the Legislature that Ontario Create the Very Education Accessibility Regulation that the Ford Government Has Now Frozen Work on Developing

December 4, 2018

         SUMMARY

In light of events yesterday in the Ontario Legislature, tomorrow, December 5, 2018, looks to be a troubling anniversary in our non-partisan campaign in Ontario for accessibility for people with disabilities. Here is why!

Two years ago tomorrow, back on December 5, 2016, we were delighted that Ontario’s Conservative Party, then the opposition in the Ontario Legislature, rose during Question Period on our behalf, to demand that the Wynne Government finally agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We need an Education Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA because over one third   of a million students with disabilities in Ontario continue to face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges, universities and other education organizations, when they try to get an education. You cannot get a good job unless you first get a good education.

We were also delighted two years ago tomorrow, when Premier Wynne at last agreed, in the face of the Conservatives’ demands, to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Premier Wynne’s agreement in the face of questions from Conservative MPP Bill Walker two years ago, came after years of dithering by the former Ontario Government in this area. We document those years of dithering in Chapters 4 and 5 of our draft brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review. Below we set out the transcript of the historic exchange that took place in Ontario’s  Legislature back on December 5, 2016.

Fast-Forward two years, to the present. We still do not have an Education Accessibility Standard. Why is this? After a year of further delay, the former Ontario Government finally appointed two Education Standards Development Committees under the AODA last winter. These independent committees are mandated under the AODA to develop recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. One Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed in Ontario schools. The other Standards Development Committee was appointed to develop recommendations on the barriers that need to be removed in Ontario’s colleges and universities. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was appointed as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

Those Standards Development Committees, as well as three others, were busy at work last spring, right up to the spring 2018 election. Then everything was called to a sudden and total halt. After the June 7, 2018 Ontario election, all the work of any Standards Development Committee under the AODA was frozen. We have been tenaciously campaigning to get this freeze lifted.

Over three months ago, on August 29, 2018, we wrote Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho a detailed letter. It spells out why The Ford Government should immediately lift its freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees. The Ford Government has not answered that letter.

This freeze has garnered media attention, including CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program on August 30, 2018, CBC Radio Ottawa’s All in A Day Program on August 30, 2018, and CBC TV and Radio news reports on November 13, 2018.

Last month, the Ford government finally lifted its freeze on the work of two AODA Standards Development Committees. One is addressing barriers in employment. The other is addressing barriers in information and communication.

However, three important Standards Development Committees are still frozen. They have remained frozen for 168 days, right up to this day. This freeze includes the work of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. This freeze also includes the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. This latter committee has been working for some two years on recommendations to the Ontario Government on what the Government should include in a Health Care Accessibility Standard. That accessibility standard would tear down disability barriers that hurt patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

So what happened yesterday? Yesterday, December 3, 2018, was the International Day for People with Disabilities. To mark that day, opposition NDP MPP Joel Harden, the NDP critic for disability issues, rose in the Ontario Legislature on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities to raise this important issue. In the exchange, set out in full below, MPP Harden called on the Ontario Government to lift the freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees.

Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho was not in the Legislature. Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones dodged the question, stating in part:

“There is no doubt that everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in our lives, in the everyday lives, and that includes recreation, that includes our work force, that includes our families, our schools and our justice system.

But we need to do it in a reasonable and measured way. That is what my colleague is doing, that is what he is working on. We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.”

So in sum, two years ago tomorrow, the Tories stood for people with disabilities, to demand that the Ontario Government create an Education Accessibility Standard. Yesterday, almost two years later, the Tories are in power and can do something about it. Yet instead of moving forward on this, they have frozen work on it, with no end in sight.

What reasons has the Ford government given over the past 168 days for this freeze? These include:

* The Government earlier said the Government needs time to brief the new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. He has now had 157 days since Ontario’s new Cabinet was sworn in. That is sufficient time to brief a minister. This is especially so, since, to the new Government’s credit, Ontario now has a full-time Minister for Accessibility and Seniors. This is a top priority in his portfolio.

* Yesterday, in the Legislature, the Ford Government said it needs to proceed “in a reasonable and measured way.” We respectfully suggest that this protracted delay is neither reasonable nor measured. It hurts hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities. It also hurts vulnerable patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

Yesterday, the Government also said:

“We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.”

Yet, the Education Standards Development Committee has the stakeholders directly involved in the process. Each Standards Development Committee is made up of disability c community representatives as well as representatives from the education or health care sectors. Each Standards Development Committee is required to consult the stakeholders as a core part of its work.

In answer to an earlier question from NDP MPP Joel Harden yesterday that called for the Government to create a plan to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, the Government said in part:

“It’s important that we work with all of our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we have the most open and accessible province, but we need to do it in a reasonable way that makes sure that no one gets hurt along the way. So we’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with the accessibility citizens and we’re making sure that we’re getting it right.”

This is the first time the Ford Government said it is concerned that “no one gets hurt along the way.” We do not know why or how anyone would “get hurt along the way” for the Education Standards Development Committees and the Health Care Standards Development Committee to get back to work.

During last spring’s Ontario election, Doug Ford wrote the AODA Alliance to set out his party’s election commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities. His May 15, 2018 letter included:

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

We encourage you to contact your member of the Ontario Legislature. Urge them to help us press The Ford Government to end its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees.

         MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard December 3, 2018

Question Period

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Mr. Joel Harden: Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities and, as I pose this question, I want to acknowledge some of our friends from the disability rights community in the Speaker’s gallery. Thank you for being here.

My question is to the Deputy Premier.

Today is a day that should be reminding us that our province is on a deadline. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has to be set in place with a legitimate plan by 2025, but every disability rights leader and organization I’ve met has told us that we’re way behind in meeting that objective.

Does the minister believe that we’re on track to have a fully accessible province by 2025?

Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: I’m really glad that you’ve asked this question, because my colleague, the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, has been working full out on these issues, and he’s actually away today doing a speech on this very issue.

It’s important that we work with all of our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we have the most open and accessible province, but we need to do it in a reasonable way that makes sure that no one gets hurt along the way. So we’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with the accessibility citizens and we’re making sure that we’re getting it right.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Joel Harden: Back to the Deputy Premier:

Achieving full accessibility, according to experts who I’ve talked to, requires two things: a commitment and a plan. But right now, three out of five AODA standards committees, which are actually doing the work about accessible and inclusive health care and education for people living with a disability, their work has been frozen since the election. It’s one thing to say we support accessibility, but it’s another thing to actually make it a priority by putting those AODA committees to work.

My question is very simple: Will the minister unfreeze the committees and will the minister work with people with disabilities to develop a multi-year accessibility plan so Ontario is fully accessible by 2025?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: There is no doubt that everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in our lives, in the everyday lives, and that includes recreation, that includes our work force, that includes our families, our schools and our justice system.

But we need to do it in a reasonable and measured way. That is what my colleague is doing, that is what he is working on. We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.

Ontario Legislature Question Period December 5, 2016

ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED

Mr. Bill Walker: My question is to the Premier. It has been 11 years since this Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Yet, today, over a third of a million students with disabilities continue to face far too many barriers when they try to go to school, college or university in Ontario.

Today’s Toronto Star reports that 22 respected community organizations wrote the Premier, urging her to finally say “yes” to creating an educational accessibility standard and tear down those unfair barriers.

Premier, on October 31, you told this House that you were considering this. Will you agree to do it today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: As the member has said, I have already indicated that I think that this is important. I had a meeting with David Lepofsky, who is, I know, mentioned in the article. The Minister of Education and the Minister responsible for accessibility have also met with David Lepofsky and many other groups.

We recognize that, as we have developed standards in other areas, as a health standard is being developed, that also there needs to be a standard developed in the education sector.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Bill Walker: Back to the Premier: You’ve had 10 years and you spent $8 billion on the eHealth registry. I hope that this isn’t going to be another fiasco like that.

This government’s continued inaction on this file is inexcusable. This government has no comprehensive plan to ensure that our education system will become fully accessible by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. The AODA Alliance has pressed you for over half a decade to agree to develop the standard under the AODA to tackle these barriers.

Can you tell a third of a million students with disabilities and their families what the holdup is, after the five years of this issue being before your government?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It’s interesting. Since we came into office in 2003—and when we came into office, under the previous Premier, there was legislation that was in place that had no teeth and would have produced no results in terms of accessibility. We scrapped that and started again, and put in place legislation that has, over time, developed standards and has put in place acceptable standards across our society.

There’s a lot more to do, which is why we are working in the health sector right now. There are billions of dollars that are spent within the education system, whether it’s on special education or the $1.1 billion in additional funding that is going into building and renovating schools—all of which goes toward building schools that are more accessible.

Because the reality is, when many of the schools were built—particularly in the Toronto District School Board, where there are many old buildings that are still being used as schools—they were not up to standard. They were not accessible in any way.

We recognize that there’s more to be done, and there will be an education standard developed.



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Transcript of the November 8, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 2 of the Standing Committee’s Clause-by-Clause Consideration of Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Transcript of the November 8, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 2 of the Standing Committee’s Clause-by-Clause Consideration of Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Notice of meeting Amended

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 124

Thursday, November 8, 2018, 8:00 a.m.Amended

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

CLAUSE-BY-CLAUSE CONSIDERATION

Witnesses

Department of Employment and Social Development

  • James Van Raalte, Director General, Accessibility Secretariat
  • Benoît Gendron, Director, Accessibility Secretariat
  • Erik Lapalme, Senior Policy Analyst, Accessibility Secretariat

Clerk of the Committee

Stephanie Feldman (613-996-1542)

2018-11-06 11:07 a.m.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

EVIDENCE

Thursday, November 8, 2018

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

(0800)

[English]

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC)):

It’s good to see everyone again. I missed all of you. It’s been at least a minute since we saw each other.

Once again, I will go through the introductions for those who are new guests to our committee.

Today’s meeting is on C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The objective of today’s meeting is to resume the committee’s clause-by-clause consideration of this bill.

I would like to take a moment to remind those participating in the proceedings as well as those observing the proceedings in person or on video that the committee adopted a motion on September 18 that included instructions for the clerk to explore options to allow for the full participation of all witnesses and members of the public on this study. As a result, the committee has made arrangements to make all meetings in relation to the study of Bill C-81 as accessible as possible in a variety of ways. This includes providing sign language interpretation and near real-time closed captioning in this room.

Please note that both American sign language and Quebec sign language are being offered to our audience. For those who would like to watch the American sign language interpretation, please sit on the benches to my left. For those who would like to watch the Quebec sign language interpretation, please sit on the benches to my right.

In addition, please note that the first two rows of benches have been reserved for those who wish to avail themselves of these interpretation services. Screens displaying a near real-time closed captioning have also been set up, with the English text to my left and the French text to my right. The sign language interpreters in the room are also being video recorded for the eventual broadcast of this meeting on ParlVu through the committee’s website.

In light of these arrangements, the committee would like to ask, if you need to leave the room during the meeting, please do not walk in front of the sign language interpreters. Instead, please use the extremities of the room. In addition, we would ask that those in the room remain seated as much as possible during the meeting to ensure that everyone in the audience can clearly see the sign language interpretation. Finally, if a member of the audience requires assistance at any time, please notify a member of the staff or the committee clerk.

Once again, I would like to welcome our officials from the Department of Employment and Social Development, James Van Raalte, director general, accessibility secretariat; Benoît Gendron, director, accessibility secretariat; and Erik Lapalme, senior policy analyst, accessibility secretariat.

We will now continue with the clause-by-clause consideration.

I want to let everyone on the committee know that we’re going to try to get done by one or two o’clock, before question period. According to the clerk, our sign language interpreters will only be here until 6 p.m. today. That gives us a deadline there as well. I know we are going to try to finish earlier than that.

With that in mind, if you don’t feel you have to read out some clauses in the amendments, if it’s pretty straightforward, we’ll try to move through those as quickly as possible.

We will now pick up where we left off.

(On clause 21)

The Chair: We were on clause 21, PV-6.

(0805)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, Lib.):

Chair, just for confirmation, with the motion we passed that one o’clock was the deadline and after one o’clock we would just read and go through, is there a plan to stay until six o’clock?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

According to the motion, today is open. We have that motion on file.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Maybe I’m misunderstanding.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

If we can be done by one…but we’ve only gone through 20 clauses.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The debate on the amendments will go until one o’clock.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Right, but the votes could take until past two, depending on how far we get.

It’s not going to be open for debate or anything like that; it’s just that the voting could take us past two.

Moving on to amendment PV-6 on clause 21, is there any discussion?

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte (Edmonton Griesbach, CPC):

I was voting.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The legal counsel was just telling me that CPC-20 is pretty much identical to the previous amendment. Because we would be voting on Green Party amendment PV-6, CPC-20 would not be tabled. If you wanted to comment on CPC-20, I would do it now.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

Mr. Chair, it’s important for us to have as much independence as possible for the organizations that are going to be established under Bill C-81. Some independence from the minister is important, and that’s reflected in both of these amendments.

I just want to say, in regard to PV-6, that I know Ms. May would be here to speak to these motions herself, but she did have to get home for the Kristallnacht commemorations that are taking place.

It does reflect how important it is to all of the members here that we have some independence in the agencies that are going to be established for the work that they’re going to do.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you, Ms. Hardcastle.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 21 agreed to)

(On clause 22)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We now move to Green Party amendment PV-7.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again we see the importance of having timelines reflected and our expectations for the mandate of Bill C-81 being carried out in a reasonable fashion with this amendment.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 22 agreed to)

(On clause 23)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have CPC-21.

Ms. Falk.

(0810)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC):

Basically, clause 23 would be amended by:

(1.1) The Chair is to be appointed on a full-time basis and the other directors are to be appointed on a part-time basis.

This is just to make sure that this is a full-time position, and it should be a full-time position with the substantial work that is involved.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, Ms. Hardcastle, yours is identical.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes. I believe it is important for us to articulate in this bill that it is a full-time position due to the importance of that place.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We move to Green Party amendment PV-8.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Is this going to cancel out other ones?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, it will, amendment CPC-22.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay, based on that, may I speak to it, then?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Absolutely.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Basically, this would provide fixed-term appointments for CASDO directors, with removal based on behaviour or competence standard.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On CPC-22.1, Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Basically the amendment is as follows:

The directors are to be appointed no later than six months after the day on which this subsection comes into force.

Again, as we reiterated last night, our stakeholders who have flown from all over the country to come as witnesses expressed their concern and the importance for timelines. This would just be respecting the testimony that we heard.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any other discussion?

Seeing none, I’ll call the vote.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Could we have a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to CPC-23. If CPC-23 is moved, CPC-24 cannot be moved due to consistency.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I know from testimony we have heard there was a varying degree of recommendations from witnesses. Some organizations wanted to have full representation; others were okay with the 50.1. We are suggesting an amendment that two-thirds of all the directors of CASDO be persons with disabilities.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Are there any further comments on CPC-23?

Ms. Falk again.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Sorry, it’s really early. My nap was short.

Also, with regard to testimony that we heard, the fact that 40% of indigenous people have or will have a disability within their lifetime, it is also, we believe, important there be at least one indigenous person on the board representing indigenous people with disabilities.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Seeing no further comments, I’ll call the vote.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We’d like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings ])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll move to CPC-24.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The amendment states:

that at all times, as far as possible, one of the directors is an Indigenous person; and

Again, it’s that we have at a minimum one person on the CASDO board who is an indigenous person who has a disability.

(0815)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on CPC-24?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I think that this is so important. We heard in testimony that indigenous people weren’t even referenced in this bill. With all the consultation that was done and the nation-to-nation relationship this government has, I would think it’s imperative that there be support for this amendment.

Thank you.

We would like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to LIB-12.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, Lib.):

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good morning to everybody.

During our witnesses’ presenting, I asked a lot about having a diversity of disabilities represented on the board. We would like to add:

(c) the importance of having directors that are representative of the diversity of disabilities faced by Canadians.

It’s a separate lens, so we’d like it just as a paragraph (c), not added to paragraph (b).

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, this is more innocuous language added to innocuous language. We just defeated amendments that would have been more specific about the two-thirds and actually added indigenous peoples. The language that we actually need to enforce your intent here has been defeated and this is more innocuous language.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 23 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is everybody okay with applying the vote on clauses 24 and 25?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 24 and 25 agreed to)

(On clause 26)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have amendment PV-9.

Are there any comments on PV-9? I’m seeing none.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): No amendments were made to clause 26, so could I get unanimous consent for clauses 26, 27, 28 and 29 to be done together?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 26 to 29 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 30)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): That gets us to PV-10.

Are there any comments on PV-10?

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Did we do PV-9?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We just did it. It was defeated.

We’ll call the vote on PV-10.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’re on CPC-25.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Basically, CPC-25 amends this clause for a term of up to eight years. This would provide that the CASDO chief executive officer’s term, subject to renewal, is for up to eight years instead of five. To secure talented candidates, these candidates should be able to have an assurance of a longer term in office. Moreover, especially in the early years, the new CEO could acquire expertise that Canada won’t want to lose.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 30 agreed to)

(On clause 31)

(0820)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on CPC-26.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Is it clause 31 that we’re looking at?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That’s the clause.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Right. Basically, we feel that the bill should be amended to require the minister to designate an acting replacement for the CEO within 90 days of the CEO’s absence or incapacity, unless the CEO is known to be returning to the office within 90 days. We would ask for a wording change there. It’s pretty straightforward.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 31 agreed to)

(On clause 32)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on to CPC-27.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

The amendment proposes subclause 32(1.1).

We feel the bill should be amended to require the CASDO CEO to consult with the CASDO board when selecting membership of an advisory committee to assist CASDO with developing accessibility standards. Again, it’s pretty straightforward.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 32 agreed to)

(On clause 33)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on to CPC-28.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The amendment states:

Officers and employees must be provided with appropriate training in matters related to accessibility.

I think this is a recurring theme. Even when this committee studied Bill C-65, we saw the importance of training. It’s part of that education component. We should amend this clause so that all officers and employees receive training on accessibility. Even though it seems redundant, and a cliché, even, it’s important to make sure we don’t make any presumptions or assumptions that people have all the education they need. It’s about being able to provide that extra top-up.

(Amendment negatived)

(Clause 33 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now have amendment CPC-29.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We’re asking that Bill C-81 be amended by adding before line 18 on page 12 the following new clause:

33.1(1) In carrying out its mandate, the Standards Organization must, on a continuing basis,
(a) hold public consultations on the accessibility standard it should next develop and on any proposed accessibility standard; and
(b) make available to the public progress reports respecting the development of accessibility standards.
(2) The Standards Organization must make available to the public the minutes of meetings of the board of directors and of advisory or other committees.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), the minutes of meetings must include the text of all proposed accessibility standards considered at the meeting.

This is basically adding a level of transparency and accountability to the CASDO board.

(0825)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, Ms. Hardcastle, yours is very similar. Do you want to speak to this now?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes, Mr. Chair.

In order to increase or ensure the transparency, it’s not unreasonable to expect the standards organization to have public meetings, to make public their minutes, to make public their progress reports and to include the text of any standards that are being deliberated on at meetings. That’s very reasonable to expect. Unfortunately, unless it’s articulated, it may not happen and that transparency may not be achieved.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will now ask for unanimous consent for the vote to be applied for clauses 34 and 35 as is. Is everybody okay with that?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Agreed.

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk: Clause 34 was not amended?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It was not amended.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We’re running these two together?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, clauses 34 and 35 together.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

No.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

You want to do them separately?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Yes.

(Clause 34 agreed to)

(Clause 35 agreed to)

(On clause 36)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That brings us to clause 36 and NDP-7.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Here again, this amendment is a way for us to ensure transparency:

The Minister must publish the report on the departmental website within 10 days after the day on which the report is received by

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have clauses 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 that are as is. I’m going to ask for unanimous consent to apply the vote to all of those.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 36 to 41 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Look at what we can get done. There’s not as much fight in everybody in the morning.

(On clause 42)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We will go to LIB-13.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey (Egmont, Lib.):

Mr. Chair, these are consequential as a result of the amendments made and approved in LIB-5 and LIB-6.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have CPC-30.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

This clause would be amended to say:

The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

Basically, it’s adding a provision requiring accessibility plans to relate to the purpose of the act and to be prepared and implemented in accordance with the principles of the act. Plans should address how they will contribute to achieving a Canada without barriers by the date specified in the act. These changes would strengthen the effectiveness of the accessibility plans and help to ensure that barrier identification, prevention and removal address issues of intersectionality and poverty.

(Amendment negatived)

(0830)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-8.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, this amendment is just underscoring the need for the effectiveness of Bill C-81 moving forward, and the accessibility commissioner is the rightful office that should be notified, not the CRTC.

Basically the CRTC is enforcing and notifying itself where they need to be answerable to the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, Ms. Hardcastle.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, you get two in a row. We have NDP-9.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

There are several of these.

I do want to underscore that the way it’s articulated here, because it is federal jurisdictions, these will be people who work in the public sector and have a collective agreement so we need to be able to work that in just for the logistics of being able to carry out these specifics. For people who have collective agreements, these agreements also need to be included in the process.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on NDP-9?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Could we have a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 1 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to LIB-14.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, when we had witnesses before the committee, there was a concern expressed that regulated entities are not required to develop an effective accessibility plan. Even before regulations are in place, this amendment which I will read in a second will help ensure that accessibility plans developed under the act are effective and consistent with the principles that define our approach to accessibility.

I move that Bill C-81, in clause 42, be amended by adding after line 3 on page 17 the following:

(9) The regulated entity must take into account the principles set out in section 6 when it prepares an accessibility plan or an updated version of its accessibility plan.

(Amendment agreed to)

(Clause 42 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, we’re moving quite quickly. Is it okay if we have a three-minute suspension just so we can catch up?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sure. Is everybody okay with that?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll suspend for three minutes.

(0830)

(0840)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re back.

I’m sure everybody is refreshed after a few minutes’ break. Another handful of bacon will get everyone’s energy up for sure.

(On clause 43)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We now move to clause 43, on which we have NDP-10.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, any regulated entity that is expected to comply with this accessibility act and seeks an exemption or is going to fall short of the mark doesn’t report to the CRTC in this case but reports to the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg (South Surrey—White Rock, Lib.):

I’m in agreement with a number of the principles that have come forward, but the procedure or the placement of them becomes questionable, whether it’s legislation, regulation, or as we heard yesterday, with respect to accreditation and the other areas and responsibilities that they fall in.

As a principle, a number of things that have been said are positive. I just don’t believe they should be placed in the legislation. I believe they should be followed through another place. I just need to clarify that for my own sense of well-being—which, of course, goes with the bacon.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 43 agreed to)

(On clause 44)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-11.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, I do appreciate that we’re going to have nuanced and finessed regulations that are going to be constantly evolving. This is the foundation. This is historic legislation that needs to create the strong foundation of how this is going to take place.

Once again, it is extremely important that the accessibility commissioner be the one who is notified. That has to be in the legislation. That is foundational; that is not regulation.

(0845)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion?

Do you want to wait until they have more bacon and then we’ll see?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Good one.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

If not, I’ll call the vote.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Ms. Hardcastle, on NDP-12.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I saw that this was not recognized throughout. As we heard from testimony and specifically from PSAC, sometimes what’s happening with the public sector employees is that there are already collective agreements in place with a process. We need to include that in the legislation. It has to be recognized that there is a framework in place under collective agreements for most of these employees that creates a synergy.

When you include them, it does create that synergy. If you don’t include them, it becomes conflict and confusion, and we don’t need that when we have a new piece of legislation and new offices. It’s better to be clear and articulate that collective agreements are part of the process; they’re not separate.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 44 agreed to)

(On clause 45)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have LIB-15.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this change is for clarity. The amendment ensures the bill is consistent and clear in the language it uses, particularly in granting regulation-making authority, regarding publication of feedback processes to the different regulators under this act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

They shouldn’t be making any regulation. It should be the accessibility commissioner who does that. That’s why this has to be articulated in legislation.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to LIB-16.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Currently, there is no regulation-making authority set out in Bill C-81 regarding requirements for feedback processes. This amendment will ensure regulators are granted the authority to make regulations in relation to feedback processes.(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will move to LIB-16.1.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is about timelines. This amendment will address stakeholder concerns about the delayed regulations, by creating an obligation for all bodies with regulation-making authority under this act to have their first regulations under the act within two years of the act coming into force.

We think the amendment makes the bill stronger and gives—

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The CRTC—

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

—there’s going to be one for each.

We think this gives the bill a little more teeth for timely implementation.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 45 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 46)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will start with LIB-17.

(0850)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Excuse me, Mr. Chair.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I believe that clause 46 must be omitted from the bill. My understanding in the procedure is that I could not put that in the form of an amendment, so I have to make that statement now. I hope I’m correct in this process now.

Clause 46 must be omitted from the bill. This clause permits the minister, the CRTC, or the CTA to exempt organizations from complying with requirements to prepare and publish accessibility plans, create feedback processes and develop progress reports.

For all of the stakeholders who have testified and given us their input and from consultation across the country, that speaks for itself.

I’d like that exempt please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, you’ll have your opportunity to make that vote when we vote on that clause.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Now, if LIB-17 is adopted, it will make CPC-31 unable to be moved because of consistency.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We want to put a three-year limit on exemptions.

This amendment recognizes that accessibility solutions evolve over time. It also prevents entities from slipping through the cracks, thereby ensuring that everyone does their part to achieve an accessible Canada. Exemptions can’t be unlimited, so that’s why we want to move this one forward.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

From what I understand, if LIB-17 is passed it will cancel out—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

CPC-31.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay.

If the bill allows for regulated entities to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements and if exemptions are to be granted, the reasons should be made public and they should be time-limited.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes, we agree.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

LIB-17 and CPC-31 are quite similar. There’s a difference in the timelines. The difference between the two is that the exemption is either five years or three years.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I’d also like to clarify, Mr. Chair, there is nothing that says that the reasoning be made public.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That is correct.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Through you, Mr. Chair, to the member who made mention of stronger…. I was wondering if he could explain why their amendment is stronger.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We’re saying that you can’t have unlimited exemptions and that there’s an automatic trigger after three years. I think yours said five.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

There’s no mention of making anything public.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

We’ll address that in the next one.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

For Ms. Falk’s benefit, if one of the next two—LIB-17 or LIB-18—are adopted, CPC-31 will be inadmissible. If you want to try to make an amendment to LIB-17 or LIB-18, you would have to do that before.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We’re on LIB-17.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, but she can do it to LIB-18 as well. LIB-18 will be the same issue.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll move to LIB-18. If it is adopted, CPC-31 is inadmissible due to consistency.

(0855)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, as we were just discussing, there’s always a need for additional transparency. This seeks to require and make public why the exemptions are there. This ensures transparency. We heard that if there were going to be exemptions, they need to know why they’re there and the rationale behind them. The two together actually make it stronger. It speaks directly to it.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, we will be voting down clause 46 in Bill C-81. The bill allows for regulated entities to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements. There is no principled reason why some organizations should be exempted. Any exemptions will weaken the overall purpose of the act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

We don’t believe in exemptions in this. This section needs to be eliminated entirely.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion before I call the vote on clause 46?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I’d like a recorded vote.

(Clause 46 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 47)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The first amendment is LIB-19.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Mr. Chair, this is just a continuation of ensuring consistency with previous amendments.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on CPC-32.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, we feel the bill in clause 47 should be amended by adding after line 21 on page 19 the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to LIB-20.

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre, Lib.):

Mr. Chair, we prefer to withdraw this motion.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much.

Is there any further discussion on LIB-20?

Oh, you want to withdraw it. Sorry, I thought you said you want to move on with the motion.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

That’s fine.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, we’ll move to NDP-13.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Can we suspend for just a minute?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, we’ll suspend for a minute.

(0855)

(0900)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, we’ll reconvene.

Just so we’re clear, LIB-20 has been withdrawn.

We’re still on clause 47, but we move to NDP-13.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Has LIB-20 been withdrawn?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

LIB-20 has been withdrawn, yes.

On NDP-13, Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, the government claims to place importance on its relationship with labour. This is an example of having public service employees, from PSAC in particular, talk to us about this issue. In most cases, the people living with disabilities who are coming forward will be doing so through a bargaining agent, because they are part of a collective agreement. They are part of, for instance, the PSAC. Therefore, we need to acknowledge that collective agreements are a part of this.

The interface that will take place because of this legislation will include collective agreements, and it must be articulated.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is LIB-21.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is consequential to the amendments we made in LIB-14. I can read it, but it’s basically the same.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No. I appreciate that.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Chair, before we vote on clause 47, could I have consent to go back just to clarify on LIB-19, it was a subamendment? I’m not sure it that was clear when it was voted on. I can read in the exact text.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

There was a subamendment to LIB-19?

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

It was referenced as a subamendment.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We meant to do a subamendment, but we didn’t. So we’re looking for consent to—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

So you need unanimous consent to go back.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Yes.

An hon. member: No.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No, you don’t have it. Sorry.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Can we enter that as a separate amendment? No? Do we just leave it?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We leave it if it is too similar.

(0905)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We’ll withdraw it.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Good decision.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

You’re welcome.

Now we’ll have the vote to carry clause 47 as amended.

(Clause 47 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 48 agreed to)

(On clause 49)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have NDP-14.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, as I discussed earlier, we have an example where we have the opportunity for synergy without potential conflict. A regulated body in preparation of its progress report should be enlisting the collective agreement, should be enlisting the bargaining agent to prepare this report.

Otherwise, you’re going against a current. If we’re trying to move this legislation forward and have it be impactful and ensure that we are evolving, then we have to include a very important component of the employer-employee synergy, which is the bargaining agent, the collective agreement.

Under federal jurisdiction, the majority of the people we’re talking to in this legislation have such relationships. These employer-employee relationships include public sector employees who have collective agreements.

I urge you once again to please look at this and let common sense reign and include the collective agreements in these stipulations.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 49 agreed to)

(On clause 50)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have LIB-22.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this is consequential to LIB-17. It’s the same thing for three-year time limits.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is LIB-23.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Chair, this is the publication of rationales on exemptions, a consequential amendment to LIB-18.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 50 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 51)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is amendment LIB-24.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Again, this is consequential to the amendments made earlier.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is amendment CPC-33.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We’d like clause 51 amended by adding after line 2 on page 23, the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

(Amendment negatived)

(0910)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to NDP-15.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, what we’re trying to do is make the accessibility commissioner the one who is responsible for this. Right now it’s splintered. We have these different entities who have responsibility. It’s very problematic for a variety of reasons that I don’t need to go into because we heard a lot of testimony about it.

We have an opportunity here to make sure that we’re moving the position of the accessibility commissioner into the position it should be in, in overseeing all of these different entities—not different entities in charge of themselves. The CRTC or the CTA shouldn’t be notifying itself or enforcing itself, or entities within its jurisdiction. If it’s carrying out direction from the accessibility commissioner, that’s an entirely different matter. That is more in keeping with this legislation.

Right now, as it’s splintered, it is extremely problematic.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I will follow up on those comments.

I think it’s important, too, that within the accessibility commissioner there’s that level of accountability and transparency. I think that sends a statement to the people in the disability community that we’re taking this seriously.

We heard from witnesses, too, on the importance of having the one body being the accessibility commissioner. It was referenced over and over again.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to NDP-16.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Here’s another example of where we need to be embracing our relationship within the labour community which has very clearly told us that they do see opportunity for synergy. Right now they can be included. The collective agreement, the bargaining agents of employees, can certainly be included in a very meaningful way in the preparation of an accessibility plan.

That just makes for smooth sailing for everybody, so include them. You have to prepare an accessibility plan. Why wouldn’t you want your bargaining agent for your employees involved? It makes no sense to me to not include this.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The final amendment for clause 51 is LIB-25.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is consequential to amendments LIB-14 and LIB-21.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 51 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 52)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-17.

Ms. Hardcastle.

(0915)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again we have an issue where it is the accessibility commissioner who should be in charge here, not the CRTC. The issue of splintering the regulatory oversight is a misguided approach and we can correct course with an amendment like this and the others that were already defeated.

I sound like I’m taking a defeatist attitude. But it is important that the accessibility commissioner is the entity that is in charge—truly in charge.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 52 agreed to)

(On clause 53)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to NDP-18.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, this amendment reflects the importance of the accessibility commissioner and that we are not splintering enforcement and regulatory oversight.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to NDP-19.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, it’s important that this bill not undermine workers’ rights and that we do include collective agreements in partnership with realizing our barrier-free Canada.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 53 agreed to)

(On clause 54)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to amendment LIB-26.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this is consequential to amendment LIB-15. We want consistency in language.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On LIB-27, we have Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

The amendment, Mr. Chair, ensures the bill is consistent and clear in the language it uses, particularly in granting regulation-making authority to the different regulators under this bill. The amendment prevents any uncertainty as to the authority of regulators to make regulations in relation to feedback processes by specifically establishing this authority. Regulators must be able to define, adjust and adapt requirements for the feedback process, as necessary, to ensure that all Canadians, especially persons with disabilities, have an effective tool to communicate with regulated entities on accessibility.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Don’t we want the accessibility commissioner doing this job?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Through the chair, yes.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I am trying to get more rationale for this. Shouldn’t it be the accessibility commissioner?

Just going back to some of my arguments and my amendments, what is the accessibility commissioner going to do?

(0920)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just want to follow up with that, too, because in almost all of the testimony that we heard from stakeholders who either came to us by video or flew across the country to come to speak with us, they had said how their….

We consulted with the stakeholders, but the stakeholders consulted with their people, and they had all said that they wanted this to be a simpler process and the accessibility commissioner to just be in charge.

Through you, Mr. Chair, I am also confused with my colleague. What is the reasoning?

Through you, Mr. Chair, could the Liberals please give an explanation for this amendment as to why we wouldn’t have the accessibility commissioner in charge?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, we feel the sectoral approach is the best approach to move forward with this.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Through you, Mr. Chair, I feel that this actually goes against what stakeholder witnesses have testified to us.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you, Ms. Falk.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We now move to LIB-27.1.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, again, this is just a consequential amendment to LIB-16.

LIB-27.1 makes timelines for regulations.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 54 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 55)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll start with LIB-28. If LIB-28 is adopted, CPC-34 cannot be moved due to consistency with LIB-28 and LIB-29. I just want to give the CPC members of the committee a heads up on that.

On LIB-28, we have Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, it’s consequential to LIB-17 and LIB-22. It’s the same discussion.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On LIB-29, we have Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, again, it relates to the publication of the rationale for exemptions, consequential to amendments LIB-18 and LIB-23.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I’ll now call the vote on clause 55 as amended.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sorry, Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We believe that clause 55 in Bill C-81 should be voted down. This bill allows entities to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements, as Britain has regulated. There is no principled reason why some organizations should be exempted and not others. Any exemptions will weaken the overall purpose of the act, and we believe that there should be no exemptions in this bill.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, I concur with my colleague. Clause 55 must be omitted from the bill. This clause permits the minister, the CRTC or the CTA to exempt organizations from complying with requirements to prepare and publish accessibility plans, create feedback processes and develop progress reports.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

May I ask for a recorded vote, please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I figured you would.

(Clause 55 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 56)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): The first amendment to clause 56 is LIB-30.

Mr. Morrissey.

(0925)

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

This is simply adding communication.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, I’d like to propose a subamendment, please.

I want to ensure consistency with similar motions. May I read it?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Please amend LIB-30 to read:

ferred to in paragraphs 5(a), (b), (f) and (g) and in the area referred to in paragraph 5(c.1) as it relates to the areas referred to in those paragraphs; and

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is everybody clear on the subamendment to LIB-30?

Can you read it again, Mr. Long?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

It reads:

ferred to in paragraphs 5(a), (b), (f) and (g) and in the area referred to in paragraph 5(c.1) as it relates to the areas referred to in those paragraphs; and

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you, Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

That’s a subamendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I’m just wondering what that changes in this clause.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long, do you want to respond to that?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I think it just adds more clarity to the amendment.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Consistency with communication.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on the subamendment?

(Subamendment agreed to)

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Next is CPC-35.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We feel that clause 56 should be amended by adding, after line 21 on page 26, the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

To clarify, LIB-14, LIB-21 and LIB-25, which we’ve already passed, are actually more comprehensive than what’s being proposed right now. I just wanted to point that out.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you, Mr. Ruimy.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just want to make a statement through you, Mr. Chair.

That contradicts a bit of what we’ve heard, We’ve heard that we want simplicity in the legislation and comprehension in the regulations. That’s what we’ve been hearing from the government. I’m a little confused by that last statement.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is NDP-20.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, we have an opportunity where, if applicable, the bargaining agent of employees is included in the preparation of the accessibility plan.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to LIB-31.

Mr. Long.

(0930)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this one is consequential to amendments LIB-14, LIB-21 and LIB-25.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 56 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 57 agreed to)

(On clause 58)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The only amendment is NDP-21.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, as you’ve noted, there are many clauses of this bill that need to be amended to recognize that many affected people will be public workers with collective agreements. It is important that their rights not be undermined, and it is important that we work in synchronicity in this foundational legislation.

Once again, this amendment is an example of areas where the bargaining agents of employees are included in the preparation of a progress report.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 58 agreed to)

(On clause 59)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, we have three amendments proposed: LIB-32, LIB-33 and CPC-36. If LIB-32 and/or LIB-33 are adopted, CPC-36 cannot be moved due to consistency.

We will start with LIB-32 as put forward by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this is consequential to LIB-17, LIB-22 and LIB-28, previously discussed.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

On this side of the table, we have spoken several times about exemptions and how we feel. That’s all I’m going to say.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to LIB-33, submitted by Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Once again, this is regarding publication of rationales for exemptions and are amendments consequential to LIB-18, LIB-23 and LIB-29.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on LIB-33? Seeing none, I will call the vote.

Ms. Falk?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Go ahead.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will now ask if there are any discussion on clause 59 as amended.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, thank you for assuming what I was going to do.

We believe that clause 59 of Bill C-81 should be voted down. Again, this bill allows for regulated entities to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements. There is no principled reason why some organizations should be exempted. Any exemptions will weaken the overall purpose of this act.

Again, we do not agree with exemptions. There shouldn’t be any in this act.

I would also request a recorded vote, please.

(Clause 59 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 60)

(0935)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The first amendment is LIB-34, submitted by Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Mr. Chair, this amendment serves to bring this in line with amendments from the Liberal side: LIB-5, LIB-6, LIB-13, LIB-19, LIB-24 and LIB-30.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to CPC-37.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, we feel that clause 60 should be amended by adding after line 31 on page 29 the following:

The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I feel like a broken record, but again, just to reiterate, these changes would strengthen the effectiveness of accessibility plans, which I’m sure we all believe is important and would help ensure that proper barrier identification is done, which I’m sure we all agree with. Also, the prevention and removal address issues of intersectionality and poverty, which I would assume—but I don’t want to assume—we would all agree with.

Thank you.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-22.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, similar to our concerns about exemption with the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency should not be the one that is notified by a regulated entity in terms of the publication and update of its accessibility plan. It should be the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, I just want to be on record that we also agree. We heard from the stakeholders in testimony here and also the ones who have reached out to our offices that this is important. They want that accessibility commissioner to be there and to be accessible to them so the process isn’t confusing. So, again, on the record, I just want to say yes.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-23.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, the bargaining agents of employees must be part of this legislative process; otherwise, you are not using synergy. You are undermining people’s rights. You are splintering again, and you are not maximizing infrastructure and relationships that are already in place. You’re not leveraging those relationships for this new bill.

Once again, bargaining agents of employees must be included as partners in preparing an accessibility plan.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Our final amendment on clause 60 is LIB-35, submitted by Mr. Long.

(0940)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is repetitive, but consequential to LIB-14, LIB-21, LIB-25 and recently LIB-31.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 60 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 61)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

For clause 61 we have one amendment submitted, NDP-24.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, this is another example of a problematic area when we don’t have the accessibility commissioner being the authority that is notified. The regulated entity doesn’t notify their own organization, in this case, the Canadian Transportation Agency. They notify the accessibility commissioner. It’s pretty straightforward.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 61 agreed to)

(On clause 62)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have two amendments submitted, NDP-25 and NDP-26.

Ms. Hardcastle, let’s start with NDP-25.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, I will just underscore the point that we are establishing with Bill C-81 an accessibility commissioner who needs to be given all of the strength and focus in order to be able to implement effectively. That’s who should be notified when these organizations are going through the process to comply with Bill C-81. There’s no other agency that should be in charge of that kind of compliance with Bill C-81.

As you’ll see in further amendments, I keep underscoring this point of an accessibility commissioner. The importance of the accessibility commissioner needs to be bolstered. We have language here that does not substantiate the office and the mandate of the accessibility commissioner without these amendments.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is NDP-26.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Briefly again, Mr. Chair, we have to leverage our partnerships and the collective bargaining agent for many of the employees who are going to be affected by Bill C-81. A partner needs to be included.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 62 agreed to)

(On clause 63)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have three amendments proposed. We’ll begin with LIB-36 submitted by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is consequential to LIB-16. It provides more clarity.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On amendment LIB-37, Mr. Long.

(0945)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, it’s consequential to LIB-15.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On LIB-37.1, Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

It’s a timeline to making regulations, consequential to amendments LIB-16.1 and LIB-27.1

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just have a question. It’s to make at least one regulation—at least one regulation—within the period of two years.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

That’s the trigger point.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

One.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

At least one, yes.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

One.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

At least one.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just wanted clarity to make sure I wasn’t seeing wrong. It says to make at least one in two years.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

That’s the trigger point. It has to be able to—

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Sure. Yes, okay.

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

They can do more.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings] )

(Clause 63 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 64)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have three amendments proposed, which we have seen previously. Again, LIB-38 and/or LIB-39, if they are adopted, CPC-38 cannot be moved due to consistency.

We will begin with LIB-38 submitted by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this one is as previously discussed with Liberal amendments LIB-17, LIB-22, LIB-28, and recently, LIB-32.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy, you have LIB-39.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Once again, this is regarding publication of the rationale for exemptions, consequential to LIB-18, LIB-23, LIB-29 and LIB-33.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on clause 64 as amended?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, we believe that clause 64 in Bill C-81 should be voted down. We have heard from our witnesses over and over in the briefings that we have received that this bill as is allows for regulated entities to be exempted from complying—exempted from complying—with accessibility requirements. There is no principled reason—no principled reason—why some organizations should be exempted at all. Again, we don’t believe there should be any exemptions.

We would request a recorded vote, please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, I too want to specify that my stance was that clause 64 should be omitted from the bill. Just in the order of the process, where we express those exemptions comes after….

I’ve seen a pattern of what’s happening now in the meetings. I’m trying to keep myself engaged so that I don’t become cynical. In reality, I did vote for the amendments to clause 64 because my colleagues across the way did propose some time limits on exemptions, and publication in the Canada Gazette, which is important transparency that I do support. It’s the lesser of two evils.

I just want to clarify that for anybody else who actually is paying attention to how we are voting today. We actually have to move forward and make the best of this. I will continue trying to be engaged and put forth the amendments that I think will make this meaningful, but indeed clause 64 should be omitted entirely.

(0950)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ve had a request for a recorded vote.

(Clause 64 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 65)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have several amendments proposed to clause 65.

We will begin with LIB-40, submitted by Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

I move it as it is.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Perfect.

Oh, Mr. Long. We were so close.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I know.

Mr. Chair, I’d like to propose a subamendment, please. It’s to address a drafting error.

I’d like to strike out the number “20” in line two of subparagraph 65(1)(a)(ii).

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, so in “passenger 20 trains”, you want to take that “20” out.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes, please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

You have a good eye.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Next is CPC-39.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We’d like clause 65 to be amended by adding after line 25 on page 33 the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

Basically, the rationale is that part 4 should include an additional provision requiring accessibility plans to relate to the purpose of the act, and to be prepared and implemented in accordance with the principles of the act.

Plans should address how they will contribute to achieving a Canada without barriers by the date specified in the act. These changes would strengthen the effectiveness of accessibility plans and help ensure that barrier identification, prevention and removal address issues of intersectionality and poverty. That’s why we Conservatives believe that should be changed.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is NDP-27.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, the employees of the regulated entities of, in this case, the Canadian Transportation Agency, need to have the bargaining agents of those employees included in the preparation of its accessibility plan.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Now we’ll have the final amendment to clause 65, which is LIB-41, submitted by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, I’m being repetitive and I apologize for that. This is consequential to amendments LIB-14, LIB-21, LIB-25, LIB-31, and recently, LIB-35.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 65 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 66 agreed to)

(On clause 67)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have one amendment proposed, NDP-28.

Ms. Hardcastle.

(0955)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, in the preparation of a progress report, a regulated entity that has employees who have bargaining agents, those bargaining agents need to be included. It’s pretty straightforward.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 67 agreed to)

(On clause 68)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Clause 68 is similar to what we have addressed a few times. We have LIB-42 and LIB-43. If they are both adopted, CPC-40 cannot be moved due to consistency.

We will start with LIB-42.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this is consequential to LIB-17, LIB-22, LIB-28, LIB-32 and recently LIB-38.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll go to amendment LIB-43.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, again, this is for the publication of rationale for exemptions, and is consequential to LIB-18, 23, 29, 33 and 39.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on clause 68 as amended?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, I’m going to repeat myself, but that’s okay; I’m on record.

We believe that clause 68 in Bill C-81 should be voted down. We just don’t believe that exemptions should be granted. Again, there’s no principled reason why some organizations should be exempted, especially if accessibility is the goal, and we’re trying to shift the culture. I don’t think that any federally regulated organization should be exempted.

Could we have a recorded vote, please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll have a recorded vote.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, clause 68 is one that gives the power to exempt to the minister on any terms that the minister considers necessary. That must be omitted from the bill.

(Clause 68 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 69)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will finish this clause and then take a bit of a break at 10 o’clock.

We have three amendments proposed for clause 69, and we’ll begin with CPC-41.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, this is all about strengthening CRTC accessibility plans. We propose that clause 69 be amended by adding after line 29 on page 36 the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is NDP-29.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, in the preparation of an accessibility plan, the collective agreement bargaining agents for the employees need to be included.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(1000)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The final amendment on clause 69 is LIB-44.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is consequential of LIB-14, LIB-21, LIB-25, LIB-31, LIB-35 and recently LIB-41.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 69 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 70 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will suspend for about five minutes.

(1000)

(1015)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, everyone. We’ll get back to it.

I’ve been looking through the rest of the clauses. There are quite a few that don’t have amendments, so although it doesn’t look like it, we are getting a bit closer.

I think the plan will be that we’ll be pushing through until about 11:30 or 11:45, in there somewhere, and taking another five-minute break at that point. They are bringing lunch. Lunch will come and we’ll grab it and come back to the table. We’ll keep going through it and will not take a lunch break, if that’s okay with everyone. We will take another five- or 10-minute break closer to noon. It will be for five or 10 minutes and that’s all. We’ll try to get done by that one o’clock deadline.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

The goal should be 12:30.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The goal should be 12:30?

Mr. Gordie Hogg: Higher expectations.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Well, that depends on you guys.

(On clause 71)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): The only amendment we have to clause 71 is NDP-30.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, as you know, a lot of times in employer-employee relationships there are a lot of reasons why people are on two different sides of a fence, so to speak. This is a situation where we are removing barriers for people living with disabilities, and some of those people who are affected are indeed employees in these federal jurisdictions.

Why wouldn’t we want to strengthen the relationship with labour? Why wouldn’t we want to include them in some of the requirements that are laid out in the bill, for instance, to prepare a progress report? This amendment includes the bargaining agents of the employees in the preparation of the progress report. I can’t see why that would be something that isn’t embraced.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 71 agreed to)

(On clause 72)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

There are two amendments proposed, and we will begin with LIB-45.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this has been discussed before. It is consequential to LIB-17, LIB-22, LIB-28, LIB-32, LIB-38 and recently, LIB-42.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now have LIB-46.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, this is referring back to the publication of rationales for exemptions and is consequential to amendments LIB-18, LIB-23, LIB-29, LIB-33, LIB-39 and LIB-43.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 72 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No amendments were proposed for clauses 73 and 74. Do I have unanimous consent to apply the vote? Is everybody okay with that?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 73 and 74 agreed to)

(On clause 75)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have amendment CPC-42.

Ms. Falk.

(1020)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

This would just change some language, so it would be “must” instead of “may”. This would ensure that the accessibility commissioner makes a compliance order every time there is reasonable grounds to believe that an organization is not complying.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, your amendment is identical.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Absolutely, Mr. Chair. Throughout the bill we have language such as “may” where we need to have the word “must”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

As we saw last night, and as we heard from our officials, it’s more that the language is consistent throughout.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, I would like to respond.

With something like this, even though it has always been, sometimes we need to evolve if we’re trying to shift a culture and make a statement and show we care about this. We have expectations and want to add accountability. I think the language we use is very important.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Since clause 75 was not amended, I will ask for unanimous consent that the vote be applied on clauses 75 to 92 inclusive.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

No.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will start with clause 75.

(Clause 75 agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We will try that again. Is there unanimous consent to apply the vote to clause 76 to clause 92 inclusive?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 76 to 92 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Great, thank you.

(On clause 93)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have amendment CPC-43.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I have the same argument as before. The language used in this bill is going to set the tone for compliance and for people with disabilities to know we are serious about having this whole process be transparent and about keeping the accessibility commissioner transparent and accountable.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We have all heard the expression, “words matter”. These words very much matter. “May” should be changed to “must” so we can have some teeth in this bill.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, yours is an identical amendment.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes, Mr. Chair. I want to reword for the sake of stakeholders who are listening to the debate between the words “must” and “may”. Right now we’re talking about the accessibility commissioner and enforcement, so the fact that the accessibility commissioner must make public certain notifications of violations and if a penalty were imposed on other information that’s already been specified, it is extremely reasonable to expect in any kind of legislation that they have to do it, which means we will be using the word “must”, not “may”.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 93 agreed to)

(On clause 94)

(1025)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have amendment CPC-44.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, I move that Bill C-81, in clause 94, be amended by replacing line 9 on page 51 to line 3 on page 52 with the following:

(2) For greater certainty, complaints in respect of a contravention of any provision of regulations made under subsection 117(1) may only be filed with the Accessibility Commissioner in accordance with subsection (1), and in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, the Public Service Employment Act or any other Acts of Parliament, the provisions of this Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

This amendment is to designate the accessibility commissioner as the one body to handle compliance with accessibility standards and adjudication of complaints. This bill as it stands does not designate one central agency to oversee compliance with accessibility requirements and adjudicate accessibility complaints. Instead, if this amendment is not passed, enforcement will be done by multiple agencies. These would include the accessibility commissioner, CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board.

As we’ve heard from stakeholders, they requested that the process be simplified and that we have just one body to which complaints would be directed. Stakeholders testified that it would be easiest and more accessible for them if this was achieved through the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Seeing no further discussion, I will call the vote on CPC-44.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Could we have a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

(Clause 94 agreed to)

(On clause 95)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have a few amendments.

Again, Ms. Hardcastle, amendments CPC-45 and NDP-32 are identical.

We’ll start with amendment CPC-45.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, again, it’s very similar. We Conservatives believe that in order to give this bill some teeth, the word “may” should be changed to “must” in clause 95. This change would ensure that the accessibility commissioner does investigate all complaints that fall within its purview. There is no justification for the accessibility commissioner to decline to investigate if all the criteria described in the bill are met, since there would be no other legal mechanism available for pursuing the complaint.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, I would like to reinforce that this language change to the more assertive use of the word “must” is under investigation under the section for investigation when there is no other recourse. We’re saying that the accessibility commissioner must investigate when someone has no other recourse under the provisions that are outlined in this section.

(1030)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We’d like a recorded vote on this as well.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to amendment CPC-46.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We Conservatives believe that clause 95 must be amended to make it clear that the one-year limitation period to file an accessibility complaint begins from the time the complainant became aware of the act or omission that caused them to suffer a loss.

This change will ensure that people are not prevented from filing an accessibility complaint because they were not aware of the organization’s failure to comply with that act that occurred more than one year ago.

(Amendment agreed to)

(Clause 95 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will now ask for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 96 to 102. No amendments were proposed.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 96 to 102 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 103)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We will now move to clause 103 and amendment CPC-47.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We propose:

    That Bill C-81, in Clause 103, be amended by adding after line 6 on page 56 the following:
     The review must be conducted by a different officer or employee than the one who made the decision under review.
     The complainant must be given the opportunity to make representations to the officer or employee conducting the review in a manner that is accessible to the complainant.

With this amendment we are asking to require that the person who reviews the decision not to investigate or to discontinue an investigation of a complaint is not the same person who had made the original decision. Part 6 must include a section that provides that complainants who request a review of the accessibility commissioner’s decisions will have an opportunity to make submissions in a manner and form that is accessible to them.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We’d like to propose a subamendment where we will remove the text in subclause (1.1) and replace it with the text currently in subclause (1.2), so subclause (1.2) becomes subclause (1.1).

(1035)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on the proposed subamendment to CPC-47?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Subclause (1.1), as it is, states:

(1.1) The review must be conducted by a different officer or employee than the one who made the decision under review.

That seems like common sense to me. That’s keeping impartiality. There is no conflict of interest in this. What is the reasoning for this amendment? I feel that this subamendment would actually weaken what is trying to be accomplished with this amendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We want the Human Rights Commission to keep its independence. It’s just a suggestion. If you would strike (1.1), we would support it.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Do you guys have a comment down at the other end? I thought yesterday that the Human Rights Commission already had that right. They’re above this. I don’t understand, because yesterday, I’m pretty sure, unless I dreamt it in my short nap last night, I understood that the Human Rights Commission would already have the final say.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I understood that the Human Rights Commission was already immune to having its independence eroded, so I don’t understand. I think it’s redundant then.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Because we have the interpretation, I’m asking you to go one at a time.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We don’t want to bind the Human Rights Commission’s hands, but again, we can certainly go back to your proposal if you want.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have the subamendment on the floor.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

That, to me, implies that there are aspects that could be potentially binding the Human Rights Commission’s hands, then. I thought the Human Rights Commission was untouchable. I need to clarify some of this, because we’re going to need another lens to look at this through, if it is true that we indeed can tie its hands.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I’ll defer to the department.

(1040)

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Mr. Van Raalte.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte (Director General, Accessibility Secretariat, Department of Employment and Social Development):

Mr. Chair, maybe I’ll just clarify the point.

The Human Rights Act will always prevail. This is an administrative procedure amendment. The Human Rights Commission has a great deal of independence in how it operates and how it sets its rules from an administrative justice perspective. The distinction, I believe, if I’m hearing things correctly, and I could be wrong…. This is about telling the Human Rights Commission how to conduct its business as opposed to how it applies human rights laws and its human rights lens to different decisions.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, Mr. Van Raalte.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 103 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 104)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): On clause 104, we have several amendments proposed, beginning with LIB-47.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal expressed concern that there might be insufficient detail set out in Bill C-81 in relation to appeals and that there was a risk there could be future legal challenges regarding what the tribunal can do and cannot do with an appeal.

It has also been raised by the Department of Justice that 30 days may not be a sufficient amount of time for persons with disabilities who are self-represented to file an appeal.

The effects of this motion would amend clause 104 to provide greater detail for the appeal power of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and provide the tribunal with the ability to extend an individual’s time to make an appeal if the circumstances warrant it.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on LIB-47?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Is this giving a suggestion to the Human Rights Tribunal? I thought we had heard discussion in the last one, in which we had the subamendment debate, from the department about telling CHRT what to do.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The CHRT, in consultations on all of this, are the ones who are actually recommending this to avoid future legal challenges regarding what the tribunal can or cannot do. It’s something they feel they need to have in there to protect their process.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Just to clarify, because I don’t feel my question was answered, in discussion of the subamendment to the previous clause, we somewhat were told that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal does not want to be told how to do its job, but this amendment here would suggest to it what to do. I’m just trying to understand, because I’m feeling there’s not a consistency.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

This actually comes from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. I will say it again. They are the ones who feel that, without this amendment, it could create problems down the line. This is just trying to speak to where they feel there may be court challenges. It gives them the ability to continue doing what they are doing.

(1045)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I find it quite interesting that there was reason before not to change something, or to change something, whatever it was. There’s this inconsistency. I don’t understand.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Van Raalte.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I hope I can make the distinction.

The previous amendment concerned the review process carried out by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Your first level of recourse is through a process within the commission. It was an amendment that would prescribe how the commission was to conduct its work. There are always concerns about the independence of the commission and telling the commission how to undertake its work.

This is an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which is the appeal body to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It is my understanding from the testimony and the submission that they have requested flexibility in their appeal powers.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay, thank you. That clarifies some things. It’s interesting that we’re taking some things we hear and we’re not taking other things we hear, for example, timelines. We’re cherry-picking what we want to take.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move LIB-48 submitted by Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

This is consistent with the discussion we’ve just had. It puts us in line with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and subclause 104(1.1) would read:

The appeal lies on any ground of appeal that involves a question of law or fact alone, or a question of mixed law and fact, including a principle of natural justice.

This is to go in alignment with the CHRT and their actions, so it’s to come into compliance and alignment with them.

(Amendment agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We are on LIB-49.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

We’re suggesting adding in:

the grounds of appeal and set out the evidence that supports those grounds.

It’s just keeping in line with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on LIB-49?

(Amendment agreed to)

(Clause 104 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 105 agreed to)

(On clause 106)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): I understand that there will be some changes to the amendments in clause 106. We’ll start with LIB-50.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

I would like to withdraw LIB-50 and replace it with a new amendment, reference 10151430. Copies have been distributed.

Clause 106 would be amended by replacing lines 9 and 10 on page 57 with the following:

may, by order, confirm, vary, give the decision that the Accessibility Commissioner should have given or rescind the decision or order to which the appeal relates or refer the complaint back to the Accessibility Commissioner for reconsideration in accordance with any direction the Human Rights Tribunal may give.

(1050)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will call the vote on the new reference 10151430.

(Amendment agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Now we move to LIB-51.

Mr. Hogg, that was submitted by you.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Despite the principles and brilliance of the original intent, it has been pointed out to me that it is not consistent with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

I would recommend that we withdraw and replace.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Does everybody have a copy of the replacement amendment, reference 10151332? No.

Mr. Hogg, I’ll get you to read your new amendment, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

It would be subclause 106(1.1):

An appeal shall be on the merits based on the record of the proceedings before the Accessibility Commissioner, but the member or panel of members of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal shall allow oral argument and, if he, she or it considers it necessary for the purpose of the appeal, shall hear evidence not previously available.

That is wording to put us in alignment with the CHRT.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

It says, “allow oral argument”. What about deaf persons?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

My belief is that sign language will be accepted within that, as part of that.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Van Raalte, I know it’s not your amendment.

Does that stipulate other options being used, or is it being very specific that only oral arguments—

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Or I would assume, written arguments.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Mr. Chairman, may I have a moment to confer?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, absolutely.

While they’re conferring, we’ll have Ms. Falk.

(1055)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I was just assuming that it would be written, and then say, “including oral”.

If this is coming from the tribunal, have they used an accessibility lens? Are they already using an accessibility lens? I don’t know if that makes sense, but it would be a shame to take something, and then if somebody comes who is deaf and has to sign….

It would be unfortunate if in the bureaucracy they’re not able to—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It seems that the focus of the amendment is new evidence not previously available. If that is the focus, maybe we can play with that oral part, that it’s being overly specific.

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Mr. Chair, the word here is, shall “hear”. It’s not just to hear with the ears. It’s the word used technically for the term, legally, to give them an opportunity to represent. It’s to give him, her or it an opportunity to represent.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I see what you’re saying, but the concern here is that it’s very specific with “oral” arguments and I don’t think that’s necessarily the goal from the discussions on the Liberal side.

Mr. Van Raalte, do you have any input?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Thank you for your patience, Mr. Chair.

From an inclusion perspective, I believe “oral” would be better, more inclusive, if it were “in person”, which can be by video conference or by telephone. The person doesn’t have to appear physically. The words “in person” would facilitate the accommodation necessary for anybody who was appearing in person.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, Mr. Van Raalte.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

When I hear “in person” that means a person with disabilities has to appear in person, so I think “or by video conference” should be spelled out. That’s very specific.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Can’t we just change “oral” to “appropriate format”? “Shall allow alternate”….

“Appropriate formatted arguments” sounds wordy. How do they word that? “Braille and alternate formats in oral and alternative formats”…. “Accessible”…. Yes, whatever is accessible to the person. Maybe we should change “shall allow”.

What happens if you take out the word “oral”? I think the chair mentioned that. “Shall allow argument”…. If “oral” limits us, in saying “argument”, does it then imply sufficiently in the context of accessibility legislation that all appropriate accessible formats are acceptable?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

There are technically two ways to express yourself in the courts or in the tribunals: written and oral. Written is a written presentation. Oral can be speaking directly to the court or presenting where you want to present to the court. I think “oral” is technically for every other thing except the written representation.

(1100)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is “oral” a legal term?

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

I said two terms only: “oral” and “written”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I appreciate that feedback. That concern with the disability accessibility act is where we—

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

“Oral” will include everything.

You can’t give one specific term for every…not even to listen, not even to speak and not even to see. Orally using other instruments…to express to the tribunal.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I don’t want to get too involved but because we’re dealing with a disability accessibility act, we don’t want to be very specific on “oral”. I think that’s where the confusion is coming from, even if it may be a legal term. That’s great input. I appreciate that.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I find that comment a little ironic because we had witnesses here who couldn’t speak and they signed. That was their language.

This is obviously a greater problem if our only two definitions are “oral” and “written”. This is much deeper and bigger than this act.

I’m really concerned about that, because, as I said yesterday, to have this pass and look 20 years down the road and have people not being able to access because we didn’t do our job here would do an injustice to people who need accessibility.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

If we were to replace “allow oral” with “accommodate or accept arguments” that would accommodate arguments that he or she considers necessary for the purpose of the appeal.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Maybe we could get some clarification from the legislative clerk regarding their opinion on whether “hear” suffices for “accept”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thus far they don’t believe that “oral” is sufficient to include everything. The feeling is that “oral” is specific.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

It does.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

They don’t want to give advice on that. It’s a legal question, not a procedural one, but we do have another suggestion on the table.

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

As Mr. Hogg says, it can be “oral, with accommodations, and written”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That’s not what I heard from Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Can we just take one minute?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sure, we’ll suspend for one minute.

(1100)

(1105)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have a couple of different suggestions. Mr. Hogg had put a bit of a change forward.

Do you have a new suggestion?

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

If we were to take out “oral” and just say “allow arguments”, make that plural, then I think that’s probably the simplest way of addressing it and allowing the intent that Ms. Falk put forward.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much. That was a roundabout way of getting to where we started.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

We’re not exactly where we started.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No, we added the plural.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

And we took “oral” out.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That’s right. That’s the most important part. It’s a huge leap.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Thank you for bringing that up.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will call the vote on reference 10151332.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Thank you, everyone. That was a good discussion.

We now move to amendment LIB-52. That was put forward by Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

This refers back to the appeals of the CHRT and is consequential to amendments LIB-47, LIB-49 and LIB-50.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I’m just wondering if it has to state “in accessible format”, because pending even the accessibility commissioner…, and if they are somebody who has disabilities, that’s just so that it would be in a format that’s accessible.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

So you’re adding that as a suggestion for subclause 106(3) and that’s after “and the parties to the appeal”? So it’s “A copy of the order…must be…in accessible format”.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Yes.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

It would be “A copy of the order made by the”—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

—“must be provided in accessible format” is what I think they are—

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

I think that’s implied.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

When we read the definitions at clause 2 of the bill, I think it’s totally described there who is in need of the benefits and how they are to be provided. If it is not, that has to be in the definitions. The rest, everything, will flow throughout the whole act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I think right now we’re looking at everything through an accessibility lens. But even, for example, with the prior amendment, we can’t assume that it’s implied, because it clearly wasn’t previously. I think that we just have to be extra cautious that we are looking through the lens and putting that accessibility hat on, and looking through every one of these clauses just so we don’t become complacent.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It hasn’t been put forward as a subamendment. I think it’s just a discussion right now.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

No, no. What we’re trying, number one, is to keep it consistent with the rest of the motions we have been putting through on the CHRT. This motion will facilitate by clearly setting out what the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal can and cannot do in dealing with an appeal, avoiding confusion and uncertainty in the process.

Perhaps James can help us here, because from my recollection of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, 60% of complaints came from disability.

We need to keep consistent throughout the whole bill with this. What can you tell us about that?

(1110)

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Apologies, Mr. Chair, I’m not clear on the question.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Yes, I’m not clear on the question either.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Does it have to be specific in the wording, James, that submissions to the commission or the tribunal have to be accessible documents that can be accessed by people with various disabilities?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

No it does not. Further, I would say the tribunal’s administrative structure that sits in behind it would be a regulated entity, and so it would be subject to the regulations and standards brought forward under the act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you.

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I guess this goes back to my question. If this is coming from other departments or the tribunal or whatever it is, I don’t see them looking at something with the disability or accessibility lens. Again, I just really hope that there is not going to be a hole in there, and 10 or 20 years down the road we find out that, oh look, they’re providing inaccessible documents, and the commissioner can’t even access them, maybe because of their disability or accessibility requirements.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Again, the big lens is this act. This act provides everything about barriers: how to be barrier-free, what a disability is, what a barrier is. Everything is explained in clause 2. Let’s leave everything for subclause 117(1) to form the regulations and bylaws under that. That’s where things will be regulated.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 106 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will ask for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 107 to 110.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 107 to 110 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 111)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): On clause 111, the first amendment is NDP-33.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Just for the record, this section deals with the appointment of the chief accessibility officer. It says, “the Governor in Council may appoint”. We propose to change the wording to “must appoint”.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move on to CPC-47.1.

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Bill C-81 must include timelines for when the chief accessibility officer is to be appointed. The amendment proposes to add:

The Chief Accessibility Officer is to be appointed no later than six months after the day on which this subsection comes into force.

I think that by agreeing to this amendment, it’s not only going to show our stakeholders that this is something the government cares about, but also that it’s something the government will take action on immediately after it receives royal assent.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I think it’s important to note that, throughout our amendments, we’ve been talking about the chief accessibility officer based on the premise that this officer exists. With the previous motion being defeated, we don’t have decisive language that says “must”.

I would hope that my honourable colleagues would at least consider a timeline. This chief accessibility officer isn’t going to exist without that language. We’re discussing based on the fact that the officer does exist. Let’s give it a timeline. The way it stands now, if the Governor in Council doesn’t have to appoint a chief accessibility officer…. They may, but there’s no timeline.

It’s too precarious for this legislation. This is foundational legislation

(1115)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll have a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

(Clause 111 agreed to)

(Clause 112 agreed to)

(On clause 113)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): For clause 113, we have LIB-53.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

In effect, this motion would create an amendment to the existing duty to the chief accessibility officer. It will provide the officer with the authority to give information and advice to the minister.

(Amendment agreed to)

(Clause 113 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on PV-11?

(Amendment negatived)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): I’m going to ask for unanimous consent to group the vote on clauses 114 to 116.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 114 to 116 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 117)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have several amendments on clause 117. I will begin with LIB-54, which was submitted by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

This is consequential to amendments already discussed: LIB-15, LIB-37.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to CPC-48.

Whatever the vote is on CPC-48 will also apply to CPC-53, which is on page 136 of your package. The vote is consequential and it deals with both clauses.

Ms. Hardcastle, on this one, your NDP-33.1 is identical.

(1120)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We are suggesting with CPC-48:

That Bill C-81, in Clause 117, be amended by deleting lines 3 to 15 on page 61.

These should be omitted from the bill. This section permits the government to exempt certain organizations or undertakings from producing and publishing accessibility plans, feedback processes and progress reports.

This is just another opportunity for transparency and accountability.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

As we heard again and again from our witnesses, there is simply no good reason why any parliament or obligated organization should be exempted from these requirements or any requirements imposed under the bill.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I’d like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to Liberal amendment 54.1, submitted by Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Again, this is just referencing back to the timeline to making regulations in the consequential amendments of LIB-16.1, LIB-27.1 and LIB-54.1.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, last night in our discussion I believe the timeline described to us was that it would be the summer of 2020. Is this the same timeline? No?

Okay. Never mind.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to CPC-49.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

With this proposal from the Conservatives, Parliament would see every regulation to be made under paragraph 117(1)(c) providing more oversight. We suggest amending clause 117 by adding, after line 28 on page 61, the following:

(5) The Minister must table in each House of Parliament every regulation that the Governor in Council proposes to make under paragraph 117(1)(c).
(6) Each House may refer the proposed regulation to any commitee that is appropriate under the rules of that House and, if the proposed regulation is so referred, the committee may review it and report its recommendations to the House.
(7) A regulation may not be made before the earliest of
(a) 30 sitting days after the proposed regulation is tabled in both Houses;
(b) 160 calendar days after the proposed regulation is tabled in both Houses; and
(c) the day after the committee reports its recommendations or, if the proposed regulation was referred to more than one committee, the day after the last report.
(8) For the purposes of subsection (7), sitting day means a day on which either House sits.
(9) The Minister must take into account any report of the committee of either House. If a regulation does not incorporate a recommendation of the committee of either House, the Minister must table before that House a statement of the reason for not incorporating it.
(10) A proposed regulation that has been tabled in Parliament need not be tabled again before the regulation is made, whether or not it has been altered.

(1125)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I believe I have a similar or the same amendment, so I would just like to concur with my colleague, who spoke before me on his amendment and underscore a few added points to that.

This amendment is under general regulations. That is part 8, for those people who are listening and following along today. Under general regulations, right now, it is the Governor in Council. This amendment creates transparency and some independence by providing stipulations that these documents be tabled in Parliament, independently of the Governor in Council. That way we do have some transparency as well, which is extremely important in building the indoctrinated support that we need in this legislation.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We’d like a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 4; yeas 3)

(Clause 117 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 118)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to clause 118. There is one amendment proposed, LIB-55.

Go ahead, Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

We need to ensure consistency with a subamendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I’d like to propose a subamendment, please, to ensure consistency with similar motions. Please amend LIB-55 to read: “paragraphs 5(a), (b), (f) and (g) and in the area referred to in paragraph 5(c.i) as it relates to the areas referred to in those paragraphs.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment agreed to as amended [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Clause 118, and incidentally clauses 118 to 121, of the bill should be removed along with any similar provisions in the bill, where they limit federal regulations under this act from reaching all aspects of all obligated organizations under this act. The bill should be amended to repose all power to make accessibility standard regulations in the federal cabinet and to remove the bill’s grant of the power to make some accessibility standard regulations to the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission.

Once again, I will repeat that clause 118 should be removed.

(1130)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Is it the communication part that you want removed?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No, she doesn’t want clause 118 in the legislation.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The communication part.

(Clause 118 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 119)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On clause 119, there is one amendment proposed, LIB-56.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Again, it’s to ensure consistency with similar motions, and it will be subamended.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I have a subamendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

For crying out loud.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Do you want me to read this or can we all mouth it together here? Please amend Liberal—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sorry, Mr. Long, just one second.

Are you going to have a few of these throughout as we go?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I have one more.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

One more? Okay, then we’ll just carry on.

I’m assuming it’s the same. Okay.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

“As it relates to”.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment agreed to as amended [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I just want to note that clause 119 is another one of these provisions in the bill that should be removed because it limits federal regulations under this act from reaching all aspects of all obligated organizations that are supposed to be under this act.

(Clause 119 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

(On clause 120)

We’re into clause 120. There are two amendments proposed.

The first is LIB-57, by Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Mr. Chair, these are consequential to amendments LIB-5, 6, 13, 19, 24, 30, 34, 40, 55 and 56.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now turn to LIB-58.

Mr. Morrissey again.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

This is to ensure consistency with similar motions related to the mobility of persons, with a subamendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long, the same subamendment?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

The same subamendment, yes.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Clause 120 of the bill should also be removed. It is another one of those provisions in the bill that limits federal regulations under this act. It limits them from reaching all aspects of all obligated organizations.

(Clause 120 as amended agreed to)

(1135)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

(On clause 121)

I’ll move to clause 121. Again, there are two amendments proposed, beginning with LIB-59.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Again, exemptions can’t be unlimited, so we propose what we proposed in 17, 22, 28, 32, 38, 42 and recently 45.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On LIB-60, Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Again, it’s just referring back to publication of rationale for exemptions, consequential amendments to LIB-18, 23, 29, 33, 39, 43 and 46.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Clause 121 of the bill should be removed, and any other similar provisions in the bill should be removed because they limit federal regulations under the act. They limit these regulations from reaching all aspects of all obligated organizations under this act.

(Clause 121 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have two amendments, PV-12 and PV-13.

I will begin with PV-12. PV-12 is identical to CPC-54, page 137. If the decision on PV-12 will impact CPC-54, it would not be admissible.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Do we have to make comments on that now?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It’s the same amendment. It’s being added to a different part of the bill, but because it’s the same amendment, the Green Party has put theirs ahead of the CPC. Therefore it’s dealt with first. So any decision on PV-12 will be reciprocated on CPC-54.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

So if it fails, does CPC-54 fail?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

If it fails, CPC-54 fails.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I’m going to speak in support of this amendment as put forth by the member from Saanich—Gulf Islands. I know that she wanted to be here today but can’t be, because she had an important event in her riding for Kristallnacht.

I do concur with my colleagues in their similar amendment. It is extremely important that we have accountability and transparency worked into this bill in a more substantial way and that we have timelines. This does help us do that, and it rolls in the independence aspect in answering to Parliament rather than to the Governor in Council. I think it’s a very significant amendment and an improvement that I welcome.

(1140)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, we Conservatives agree, for instance, that if no regulations are made under paragraph 117(1)(c) within 12 months after the day on which this clause comes into force, the minister must cause a report to be tabled before each House of Parliament, on any of the first 10 days on which that House is sitting after the expiry of that 12-month period.

Two, if no such regulations are made within 12 months after tabling the report referred to in subclause (1), the minister must cause a report to be tabled before each House of Parliament on any of the first 10 days on which the House is sitting after the expiry of the 12-month period, and at least once every subsequent 12-month period, as long as no regulations have been made.

Three, the reports must include an explanation for regulations not being made and must establish a schedule for the making of such regulations.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just want to add, too, that I don’t believe that this is partisan legislation. I think we should all have the best intentions for people who need accessibility. That being said, I want to somewhat repeat my colleague’s comments yesterday. We don’t know who the government is going to be in 10 or 20 years, and this ensures that accessibility is going to be a priority and that it’s not going to be something that is overlooked. It holds that level of accountability and transparency.

We request a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to PV-13.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): No amendments were made to clause 122, so I’m going to ask for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 122 to 130. Do I have unanimous consent to do so?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

No.

(Clause 122 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I’ll give it one more try and ask for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 123 to 130.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 123 to 130 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 131)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On clause 131, the first amendment is PV-14. Again, if this one is adopted, CPC-50 cannot be moved due to a conflict, as the Green Party amendment will change the same lines as CPC-50. That’s only if it’s adopted.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(1145)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will move on to CPC-50.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We are requesting an amendment stating, “Five years after the day on which this Act receives royal assent, or as soon as feasible after that day, a comprehensive review of its provisions and operation is to be commenced by a”.

What we’re saying is that clause 131 should be amended to require that the committee conduct its first review five years after the date on which the act is proclaimed into law. This change will prevent the review from being delayed if the regulations are not promptly passed.

We request a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 131 agreed to)

(On clause 132)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On clause 132, we’ll start with PV-15, which is identical to amendments put forward as CPC-51 and NDP-34, so whatever decision is made on PV-15 will be reciprocal on CPC-51 and NDP-34.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I think that what we heard from witnesses and testimony was that timelines were important. It is important to measure how well the government is doing with accessibility. It is important to make sure that there’s direction given that will prompt people to move forward and want to move forward.

This amendment would require the first independent review of the act to be held in 2025 and every four years thereafter. This will coincide with Canada’s reporting obligations under the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

We know that a timeline for independent review is an important component, not only to our stakeholders but to ready us for the day when we implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which we are signatories to, but this bill falls short of implementing.

It will position us so that we can evolve into that position. I think all of us here want to see this legislation be effectual. I would hope that we’re all prepared for a compromise here. If there is a compromise on a specific date that would provide for the passing of this amendment, then I think we should discuss that. I’m open to that.

I’ll like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will move to LIB-61 put forward by Mr. Ruimy.

(1150)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

This motion would provide an amendment to the independent review of the act to ensure that the person or persons conducting the independent review is required to consult all implicated parties.

With this amendment, we make sure that the minister responsible under this act is not limited in executing their responsibility to appoint a single independent reviewer.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 132 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 133 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We go to Green Party-16. The feeling is that it is inadmissible due to making specific declaration on the specifics of sign language that is beyond the scope of the bill. It introduces new concepts that were not included in other parts of the bill. That would include PV-16 and CPC-52 as inadmissible.

I’ll now be asking for unanimous consent to group the votes on clause 134 to clause 141.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

No. I have something to say about clause 138.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, do I have unanimous consent to group clauses 134 to 137?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 134 to 137 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 138)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We will now go to clause 138. Is there any discussion?

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Clause 138 of the bill should be removed because it gives the Speaker of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Commons the power to exempt a parliamentary entity from certain aspects of the bill’s requirements.

That’s not good.

(Clause 138 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I’m asking for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 139 to 141.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 139 to 141 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): That takes us to clause 142.

Because these two amendments were dealt with in previous proposals, can I get unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 142 to 146?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 142 to 146 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): New clause 146.1 has already been dealt with.

(Clause 147 agreed to)

(On clause 148)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll now move to clause 148. We have two amendments proposed. We’ll begin with CPC-54.1, on page 137.2.

Ms. Falk.

(1155)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Basically, this amendment is again on timelines:

The Accessibility Commissioner is to be appointed no later than six months after the day on which this subsection comes into force.

It’s pretty straightforward, just timelines, accountability.

Can we have a recorded vote?

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Now we’ll go to amendment CPC-55.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The amendment is:

Section 26 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (5):
(6) The Accessibility Commissioner must receive appropriate training in matters related to accessibility and discrimination.

I know I spoke to something such as this earlier. Knowledge is power. Sometimes it’s just even having a conversation or some type of additional training that makes people more aware of their words and actions.

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on CPC-55?

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The accessibility commissioner should receive anti-racism, anti-oppression and cultural competency training to ensure that a complaint process does not perpetuate systematic discrimination experienced by ethno-racial persons with disabilities, or even indigenous persons with disabilities.

It’s just becoming aware that different things have different meaning in different cultures. In some cultures, you don’t make eye contact with people—it’s actually disrespectful to do that. Unless people are educated and aware, they are causing more harm than good.

(Amendment negatived)

(Clause 148 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

As you can see, lunch is being set up now. We have a bunch we can carry here. If we can get through those really quickly in the next two minutes before noon, we’ll do that. Then we’ll break for 10 minutes to grab lunch.

(On clause 149)

On clause 149, we have CPC-56.

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Clause 149 should ensure that persons with disabilities participate meaningfully in the monitoring and implementation of the CRPD. Such participation is required under article 33(3) of the CRPD.

Clause 149 must be amended to require the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor in accordance with articles 33(2) and 33(3) of the CRPD.

Sufficient resources must be provided to the commission and disability communities to support them in their roles.

(Amendment negatived)

(1200)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Can I have unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 149 to 153?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

No.

(Clause 149 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I’m asking for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 150 to 153.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 150 to 153 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 154)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Mr. Ruimy, please present LIB-62.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

This is replacing the word “emotional” with the word “psychological”. The bill generally refers to psychological harm, except in two instances where it interchangeably refers to emotional harm. This amendment will ensure the bill consistently uses the term “psychological harm”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I understand consistency, but why can’t it be psychological and emotional harm?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

I know we had conversations. I’m just trying to think of what the witnesses were telling us.

Honestly, it’s because there are two instances of “emotional harm”. We’re making it more consistent throughout the entire act. Why would you have two sections referring to it as “emotional harm”, when we’re referring to it as “psychological harm”?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I see psychological and emotional as two different things.

Is the government proposing that we specifically remove “emotional harm”?

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Yes. We’re replacing “emotional” with “psychological” to make it consistent throughout.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

They’re two different things, I’m just wondering about this. Is psychological harm more important than emotional harm? I’m just trying to understand.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Can I ask Mr. Van Raalte to chime in here a bit?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Our apologies to the committee. It is a drafting error. The intent all the way through was to use “psychological”. It is a broader and more accepted term and it encompasses the emotional aspect.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

That’s how the department sees it.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much for your intervention.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 154 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 155)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll move to clause 155. If we get through this, you can go and have lunch, probably, by the looks of it.

We have LIB-63, with Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Again, this is referring back to replacing “emotional” with “psychological” as a consequential amendment to LIB-62.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, it’s just changing “emotional” to “psychological”.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 155 as amended agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Can I have unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 156 to 162?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 156 to 162 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll take a 10-minute recess to grab some food and take a break. We’re now suspended.

(1205)

(1220)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you. We’ll come back in session.

We will start back at clause 163. I appreciate everybody’s diligence in getting through this. I feel very good about our finishing this by one o’clock, so we’ll see how well we do.

We’re on LIB-64.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The bill incorrectly refers to the accessible Canada act in French as La loi sur l’accessibilité fédérale. The amendment will ensure that the bill is consistent and correct by referring to the correct title, which should be La loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité.

[Translation]

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you.

[English]

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

They gave it to me because of my French.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, I could tell.

[Translation]

Me too.

[English]

Are there any comments?

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 163 as amended agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Could I get unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 164 to 168?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 164 to 168 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 169)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll now move to clause 169. Two amendments are proposed. We’ll begin with LIB-65.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

LIB-65 is a consequential amendment in reference to LIB-1 and LIB-2, which have already been approved.

(Amendment agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on to LIB-66.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Many stakeholder groups have reacted positively to the definition of “disability” in Bill C-81, and some have stated that the definition advances beyond the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by recognizing that certain impairments may cause the experience of barriers to be episodic. This amendment recognizes that.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 169 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 170)

(1225)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to clause 170 with proposed amendment LIB-67.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

This is a consequential amendment resulting from amendments LIB-5, LIB-6, LIB-13, LIB-19, LIB-24, LIB-30, LIB-34, LIB-40, LIB-55, LIB-56, LIB-57 and LIB-58. They broaden the scope by including communication.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on to LIB-68.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Exemptions can’t be unlimited, and consequential to previous amendments, we’d like to change this part.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 170 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Can I get unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 171 to 206?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 171 to 206 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 207)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Is there any discussion on CPC-57?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

This amendment basically would make it so that “on the 90th day after the day on which this Act receives royal assent” it would come into force. It’s giving 90 days for this act to come into force.

The current coming into force provision does not require the government to act. Additionally, if this clause is left as is, according to the Statutes Repeal Act, this act would be automatically repealed within 10 years of receiving royal assent.

I would like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Can I move an amendment, if possible?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

It’s that Bill C-81, in clause 207, be amended by replacing lines 28 and 29 on page 301 with the following, “206, come into force on the 60th day after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.”

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sorry, I’ll just say, it’s the same amendment, different day.

(1230)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I would like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

May I move another amendment?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

It’s that Bill C-81, in clause 207, be amended by replacing lines 28 and 29 on page 301 with the following, “206, come into force on the 30th day after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.”

Again, the current coming into force provision does not require the government to act. Additionally, if the clause is left as is, according to the Statutes Repeal Act, this act would be automatically repealed within 10 years of receiving royal assent.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Can we ask Mr. Van Raalte what the practices normally are in these instances in terms of the dates coming into effect and whether there’s a rationale for this?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

There are a range of practices. Some pieces of legislation are left to the discretion of the Governor in Council. Some pieces of legislation have different coming into force dates for different sections, depending on the requirements.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

That will remain silent on it now?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

The Governor in Council will come forward with a coming into force date.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Make a determination, thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Further to that, is there a timeline when the Governor in Council does bring forward that timeline or that date? Do we have that, then?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No, as the bill sits now, my understanding is there is no timeline.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Right, that’s how I understand it too, but we just heard in an explanation that this was going to be provided later, a timeline.

Is that not what you just said, Mr. Van Raalte, that a timeline would be provided later?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

The Governor in Council will have to come forward, publish through the Canada Gazette, with the coming into force date.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

There is no requirement right now. Nothing changes. That explanation doesn’t change our situation at all. We still have nothing. We still don’t have any dates for anything required.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, as it sits now, the bill will sunset in 10 years if there are no steps taken or regulations or anything in force. However, from Mr. Van Raalte, that possibly could change.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay, that’s all. I wanted to make sure we heard.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We request a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We believe that clause 207 in Bill C-81 should be voted down. We have tried to improve it, through a few amendments here, and that didn’t work so we weren’t able to improve it. Again, the current coming into force provision does not require the government to act. Additionally, if the clause is left as is, according to the Statutes Repeal Act this act would be automatically repealed within 10 years of receiving royal assent.

(1235)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It will be a recorded vote.

(Clause 207 agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I’d like to ask my colleagues if we could get unanimous consent for a subamendment to LIB-19, which we missed earlier, just for consistency.

A voice: No.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will move on to the preamble. We had a couple of amendments proposed earlier in the process last night that were withdrawn, dealing specifically with the interpretation of indigenous peoples of Canada. That was LIB-3, so it was very early on in the process.

We have two proposed amendments as part of the preamble, LIB-69 and CPC-58, but they are deemed to be inadmissible because they deal with the preamble but there is no coordinating part of the bill itself. You can’t have something in the preamble that doesn’t have a coordinating portion or amendment within the bill itself.

Does anybody need any additional clarification on that?

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Mr. Chair, I think we need clarification. What about paragraphs (b) and (c) of amendment LIB-69?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That amendment is coming up next as CPC-59, which would be almost identical to what you’re proposing, but that CPC amendment would have precedence over yours because it was submitted prior. It would have to be a new amendment.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Can we just have a moment?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, we’ll suspend for one minute.

(1235)

(1240)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The Liberal amendment is inadmissible, as well as CPC-58.

You could not make an amendment to that one as CPC-59 is pretty much identical and would have precedence.

We now move to CPC-59.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

This is an amendment to the preamble to change “Canadians” to “persons in Canada”. The change is necessary to help ensure that everyone in Canada, regardless of their citizenship, status or identification with Canada, gets benefits from accessibility requirements under the act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, Ms. Hardcastle, this amendment is identical to yours right after. If you want to make a comment, I would suggest you do it now.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay. As it reads now, somebody could interpret that if they’re in Canada but are not a Canadian, the rules don’t apply to them either way. I think it’s pretty simple and straightforward.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

I would move a subamendment to strike “abilities or” in part (b) of CPC-59.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, so it would just be “regardless of their disabilities”.

Is there any discussion on the proposed subamendment?

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I had a similar amendment early on, and there was some debate. Didn’t we keep that in? We kept “abilities” in for some reason, or did that…?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We took it out.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

We did? Okay.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I believe that we were keeping “disabilities” throughout the bill to retain that consistency, so “abilities” was removed in favour of “disabilities”, if I recall correctly.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): I have to commend all of you on your diligence. We’re almost there. We just have the last few to go.

(Preamble as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the short title carry?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the title carry?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the bill as amended carry?

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

First of all, I am very disappointed that this bill does not have teeth. We heard very clearly from our stakeholders that they cared about timelines, about accountability, about transparency, about ease of accessibility, about having one body to oversee complaints, about enforcement—all of that. Two amendments were adopted that weren’t Liberal amendments, but I’m disappointed that this seemed to turn into a partisan issue and what the minister wanted—we heard that a couple of times, that “the minister wanted this”.

We serve Canadians. We serve our stakeholders. I’m terribly disappointed that we brought them in here. We heard them speak passionately. These are people who have lived with disabilities. They lack accessibility to the majority of everything. That they were being heard at the table was historical, in the sense of groundbreaking. I’m just so disappointed that we as a committee couldn’t add more teeth.

(1245)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I know intimately that in the disabilities community people are very pleased to be asked and to be engaged, and they are actually very easy to please. They’ve done without so much and they have so many struggles; they take what they can get.

They are watching closely today. They know some of the fundamental problems with this bill, one of them being that the government can exempt itself from many of these regulations; another being the splintering of implementation and enforcement, which is really insensitive to the actual, lived experience of people living with disabilities. The bill needed to be greatly simplified. However, I know that people are going to be ecstatic. They’re going to want to see us be diligent in moving forward on this.

I’m feeling very mixed emotions right now for people, just because we had expected that in earnest we were going to come here to debate these amendments. It was very clear that there was a preconceived notion of what should be happening and an agenda, which has been realized, that really didn’t take into account that testimony.

I know it sounds harsh, but I need to say this in a very clear and concise way, because we have stakeholders listening who are very frustrated and who want to have an acknowledgement that we know that they know that we know that they know that these amendments and the language in this bill do not meet their needs sufficiently.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Since we’re all having a say here, I first of all want to thank all the stakeholders in the disability community for the months of consultations that went on to get us to where we are today. We heard testimony and recommendations for amendments from multitudes of people, and we put forward 69 of our own amendments. Many of them were very similar to what the opposition had put forward, but which were improved upon.

While it’s easy to say right now that there’s disappointment, I think there’s excitement for what we have accomplished.

We heard from every witness who came through that while they wanted to see amendments, they were excited that we were moving forward. This is the end result. On our side we heard, we listened and we made adjustments to the legislation.

I want to thank everybody for all their hard work and for getting us to where we are today.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

It is a start, I would say, but it falls far below the bar. We could have done far better. I think we Conservatives fought very hard to try to get some real teeth, but this is really like a toothless guard dog.

I believe that the Liberals are failing Canadians with disabilities. I think the fact that there are no implementation timelines is a huge thing. It’s just unacceptable. We certainly heard some pretty strong language from the countless witnesses who came here. I was quite shocked at how strong their language was, but they’re the people we are trying to serve. We listened to them and I truly don’t think that, overall, they were heard.

It is not nearly as good as it could be, and I’m quite disappointed. The very fact that there are no timelines and there are exemptions where entities can get out of even having to deal with the bill is shameful, I think.

Of the amendments, how many were taken? Two or three, perhaps, were taken of the 60 amendments that I think would have improved the bill. It’s quite disappointing. As I say, it’s a start, but it falls far below the bar.

(1250)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

The timelines and extensions have been referenced a number of times, and I think there’s a lot more commonality than is being portrayed.

There are a number of principles that we talked about, and the principles can be implemented in a number of different fashions. Not everything should be in legislation. We’ve referred to the standards, the practices and to accreditation. All of those are important variables in the provision of any types of disabilities.

I was an active participant in the development of disabilities legislation in British Columbia, where we created Community Living B.C. We went through a very similar process and we relied heavily upon input from the people who were part of it. Any good public policy has to have the people who it impacts having not just an important say in it, but also a say in the process by which it becomes implemented.

I believe we have followed the majority of principles that have been put forward. I think there is pretty good agreement on both sides of the House, or all around the House, in terms of those principles. I think there’s a disagreement in terms of how they can best be implemented to respond most effectively to the needs of making our country most accessible.

We heard many people coming before us say that we are leading the world in terms of moving forward with this legislation. We’re really at the forefront and I think we should be relying on those people who have the ability and the skills within the framework of the legislation, and the practices and the accreditation that we have available to us. I think we have come to a very good balance in terms of being able to do that.

I’m very pleased, delighted and darned excited about what we’ve been able to achieve.

An hon. member: Hear, hear!

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Chair, thank you for your leadership over the last two days. It’s very much appreciated.

Certainly on behalf of my riding and on behalf of countless groups across New Brunswick, and in particular southern New Brunswick, we are absolutely thrilled to move forward with Bill C-81.

I’m proud to be part of a government that is moving forward with this legislation after what I would call the previous government’s 10 years of non-action—no action. I’m very proud of Bill C-81 and the movements we are taking to move this forward.

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion?

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

I’d like to add that you did a marvellous job as the chairperson. You handled that extremely well.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thanks very much.

Now we will continue on with the vote.

Shall the bill as amended carry?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the House at report stage?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Excellent.

Well done, everyone.

I appreciate everyone’s support to get us through what I have to say is probably a pleasant surprise to all of us, to get this done as expediently as we did.

Certainly, my final comments would be that our thoughts are with Bryan May and his family. I know he was watching last night. Apparently, he is a glutton for punishment.

But, again, just on the number of amendments that were brought through on Bill C-81, I think all of us saw that there was work to do on this bill to ensure it met the goals that were brought forward by our stakeholders. I think as parliamentarians, and as this committee, it now behooves us to ensure that we hold this government, and whatever the next government is, accountable to ensure that they follow through with what we heard from our stakeholders and certainly from the discussions we had here among us as a committee.

Thank you very much for everyone’s commitment to this.

Thank you very much to the staff, the clerk and our legislative clerks who guided me through this over the last two days.

I hope everybody has a great constituency week and spends some time with their family and friends.

The meeting is adjourned.



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