Almost 8 Months After Receiving the Blistering Onley Report, Both Premier Doug Ford and His Accessibility Minister Write the AODA Alliance But Offer Nothing New to Strengthen the Implementation and Enforcement of Ontario’s Beleaguered Disabilities Act


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

August 26, 2019

SUMMARY

Two more letters have come in to the AODA Alliance from the Doug Ford Government. They were sent in response to an open letter which the Government received from us on July 10, 2019. The Government’s new letters offer Ontarians with disabilities simply more of the same foot-dragging on accessibility for people with disabilities. There is no indication of any new plan for a strengthened Government approach to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

In substance these letters just repeat things the Government has already been doing on accessibility. These are measures that are proven to be insufficient to overcome the serious problems that the Onley Report documented in detail.

It is regrettably typical for governments in such a situation to simply regurgitate what it has been doing, instead of offering needed new actions. It is noteworthy that in listing its actions of which it is proud, the Government did not in these letters point to its deeply troubling plan to divert 1.3 million public dollars to the problem-ridden private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation. That Government plan has come under heavy criticism over the past months.

You can read both of the Government’s new letters below. You can read the July 10, 2019 open letter to the Doug Ford Government by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/in-a-compelling-open-letter-21-disability-organizations-unite-to-call-on-the-doug-ford-government-to-announce-a-plan-to-implement-the-report-on-ontarios-disabilities-act-submitted-by-former-lieuten/

Meanwhile, an inexcusable 208 days have now passed since the Doug Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Yet Doug Ford’s Government has still announced no plan for implementing its key recommendations that would strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

The July 10, 2019 open letter was originally co-signed by an impressive 21 community organizations and groups. The expanded list of signatories, set out later in this Update, has since grown to 27 organizations. If any organizations want to sign on, send us an email at [email protected]

Do you find this frustrating? There’s something you can do to help us! Join in our Dial Doug campaign. Call or email Premier Doug Ford. Ask him where is his plan to get Ontario to become accessible to over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025?

Doug Ford’s office number is +1 (416) 325-1941. His email address is [email protected]

We are delighted to hear from those who have already taken part in the Dial Doug campaign. Action tips on how to take part are available for you at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/

We also invite and encourage you to download, print up and give out our 1-page leaflet on the Dial Doug campaign. Spread the word about it. Email it to friends. Post it on your Facebook page. Our 1-page Dial Doug leaflet is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/dial-doug-leaflet.docx https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/dial-doug-leaflet.docx

MORE DETAILS

A Closer Look — The Doug Ford Government’s Response to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter Just Offers Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities More of the Same, Not Strong New Action

The July 10, 2019 open letter called on the Ford Government to announce a plan to implement the final report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s accessibility law, the AODA. The Onley Report found that the AODA’s required goal of becoming a fully accessible province for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities is nowhere in sight. It concluded that Ontario remains replete with “soul-crushing” barriers against people with disabilities. That report recommended a series of important new measures needed to get Ontario back on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025.

The AODA Alliance led the preparation of this July 10, 2019 open letter. We did so after the Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 to defeat a non-partisan motion by NDP MPP Joel Harden. That motion called on the Doug Ford Government to develop a plan to implement the Onley Report. Several MPPs from the Ford Government, including Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, disparaged taking the action recommended in that proposed motion as “red tape”.

On that day, the Ford Government gave prepared speeches that sound like they reject the Onley Report’s recommendations as “red tape.” That is an extremely inaccurate and unfair description of the Onley Report. The Doug Ford Government has not retracted those statements in the three months since it made them.

The Ford Government’s two written responses to the July 10, 2019 open letter are deeply disappointing. They embody no plan of effective action, nor any pledge to establish one.

We heard once again in the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter that the Government is still studying the Onley Report. That report is only 81 pages. This is a top responsibility for the Accessibility Minister. David Onley’s key recommendations are ones which we have been presenting to all parties in the Legislature for years. This is not rocket science.

The Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho had earlier studied this report sufficiently after having it for a little over two months that he publicly declared in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley had done a marvelous job.” As we have noted in the past, the Doug Ford Government has shown itself willing to act quickly, decisively, and vigorously in areas that it considers important. In those areas, it has not taken almost eight months to keep studying a report. This delay of almost eight months is hardly consistent with the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter where the Government says it is taking the Onley Report “very seriously.”

In the Minister’s detailed letter, the Government did not say it would ever bring forward such a plan. We respectfully but profoundly disagree with the Ford Government’s claim in the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter that the Government is now on the right track on accessibility. Its protracted failure to bring forward a plan to implement the Onley Report is proof positive that it is on the wrong track. The Minister wrote:

“We are on the right track to creating an Ontario where communities offer opportunities instead of barriers.

A place where everyone can be independent, work, and contribute to the economy wherever they live.”

Both the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter and the Premier’s July 24, 2019 letter raise a serious concern that the Doug Ford Government is not even trying to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities, the goal which the AODA requires by 2025. Those letters speak instead about merely trying to “improve accessibility” and about “making Ontario more accessible and preventing barriers for people with disabilities.”

It is not good enough for the Government to merely aim to improve accessibility. Just one new ramp, installed somewhere in Ontario, or just one newly-retrofitted website, would fulfil that feeble goal.

In his August 19, 2019 letter, the Minister pointed in support to his Government’s having agreed to resume the work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter states:

“Right after tabling the report, we announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. As the Minister, I was proud to immediately begin working with the chairs to re-start work on these valuable committees.”

Yet it was the Ford Government itself that left those important Standards Development Committees frozen since the Government took power in June 2019. Moreover, even though the Ford Government announced on March 7, 2019 that it was lifting its freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees, over five months have passed since then. Those committees have not held a meeting, as far as we can tell. As an initial step, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee is expected to hold its first re-engagement telephone conference call some time on September 10, 2019. That is a small glimmer of progress, that will take place over six months after the Ford Government lifted this freeze, and over 14 months after this freeze was first imposed.

The rest of the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter basically rehashes what we had been hearing for years from the Wynne Government. The Onley Report adds up to a stinging indictment of that strategy as far too little and far too slow. For example, the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter summarizes what the Government says it is now doing on accessibility as follows:

Weve also taken action through a number of key initiatives, including working across government to take a whole-of-government approach to accessibility, supporting businesses to better understand accessibility and its benefits, and engaging with employers through our Employers Partnership Table.”

It is true that the Onley Report recommends that the Ontario Government take a “whole of Government approach” to accessibility. However, all the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter does is to repeat this phrase without specifying any concrete changes, much less any substantial improvements. The previous Government similarly claimed to be taking a whole of Government approach to accessibility, without demonstrating concrete improvements.

The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter refers to its strategy within the Government which is very similar to, if not identical to, the internal Government strategy of the Wynne Government (2013-2018, the McGuinty Government before that (2003-2013, and the Mike Harris Government before those two (1995-2003), as follows:

“As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to make accessibility a responsibility of all ministries and inform a whole-of-government approach to advancing accessibility.

As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services and identifying areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontarios 2.6 million people with disabilities.”

The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter focuses predominantly if not entirely on efforts to educate organizations on accessibility, and efforts to get organizations to voluntarily do more. The letter refers to two specific initiatives which the former Wynne Government had been using for years, the Enabling Change Fund and the Government’s Partnership Council on Employment for People with disabilities. As a core Government strategy on accessibility, that is a formula for more progress at a snail’s pace. The Onley Report’s recommendations call for the Government to do much, much more.

The only tiny glimmer of progress in these letters came where the Minister stated:

“For example, with our ministry partners, we have begun discussions with the Ontario Building Officials Association and the Retail Council of Canada and have been meeting with other stakeholders such as the Ontario Association of Architects.”

To “begin discussions” is very preliminary. We ask the Government to speed up this effort and to now bring us to the table with those organizations and with an ambitious plan for action, so we can work together throughout on progress.

We also again urge the Ford Government to now fulfil its duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, and to mandate that committee to make recommendations for a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It’s time the Ontario Government obeyed the AODA. Both the Doug Ford Government and the previous Wynne Government stand together as having violated the requirement to appoint that mandatory review of the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. To take these action we seek is consistent with the Onley Report’s recommendations.

Premier Doug ford’s July 24, 2019 letter to us is no more encouraging than is the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter. As he has in all his prior letters to us since taking power, Premier Ford simply punted all our issues back to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho. There are two powerful reasons why this is insufficient for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities:

First, the Onley Report itself called for new Government leadership on accessibility, pointing to the premier’s office. The report included the damning heading “Restoring Government Leadership.” The Onley Report found:

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

Second, key areas where we need action are ones which the Premier himself must take. The Accessibility Minister, acting alone, cannot do so. We listed examples of priority actions in the AODA Alliance’s July 19, 2018 letter to Premier Ford. Premier Ford’s response to that letter was to punt it entirely to Accessibility Minister Cho.

Text of the August 19, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Minister

College Park, 5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto ON M7A 1S5

Ministre des Services aux aînés et de lAccessibilitée Ministre

College Park, 5ème étage
rue 777 Bay
Toronto ON M7A 1S5

August 20, 2019

Mr. David Lepofsky

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

I would like to respond to your Open Letter to the Premier of Ontario, dated July 10, 2019.

Thank you for sharing your concerns and for continuing to raise this very important issue.
We are taking Mr. Onleys report on the Third Legislative Review very seriously as we continue to work towards making Ontario more accessible.

In an effort to be open and transparent, we tabled Mr. Onleys report and made it public as soon as possible, just over a month after receiving it.

Right after tabling the report, we announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. As the Minister, I was proud to immediately begin working with the chairs to re-start work on these valuable committees.

Weve also taken action through a number of key initiatives, including working across government to take a whole-of-government approach to accessibility, supporting businesses to better understand accessibility and its benefits, and engaging with employers through our Employers Partnership Table.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to make accessibility a responsibility of all ministries and inform a whole-of-government approach to advancing accessibility.

As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services and identifying areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontarios 2.6 million people with disabilities.

For example, with our ministry partners, we have begun discussions with the Ontario Building Officials Association and the Retail Council of Canada and have been meeting with other stakeholders such as the Ontario Association of Architects. We will continue to work collaboratively with other ministries to promote accessibility and explore opportunities to develop resources and make it easier to understand how to build using universal design principles.

We continue our outreach with people with disabilities and disability organizations, and consult with businesses, non-profits and industry groups to get their perspectives on how to improve accessibility in Ontario.

On employment, we are working through our Employers Partnership Table, which was brought together to support the creation of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The Table is comprised of 17 members representing a range of small, medium and large businesses, industry associations, non-profit and public organizations, and post-secondary education institutions from across Ontario. It is currently developing business cases to demonstrate that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line because productivity goes up.

The table will share their work and experiences with other businesses in Ontario to help them realize the benefits of employing people with disabilities. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table and other forums.

Government alone cannot create a barrier free Ontario.

That is why while all the work on the Onley report is ongoing, I have been hard at work every day meeting with Ontarians and engaging with disability and business stakeholders to make accessibility into a reality in this province.

We work closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

We partnered with OCAD Universitys Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop “Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations” which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of Worlds Religions Conference. The guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called Enabling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include:
* A resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible including addressing barriers in the built environment such as entrances and exits, space layout and design.
* A partnership with the Conference Board of Canada to develop: Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities, attract customers and improve services.
* AccessForward.ca which is a free online training portal with modules and videos that businesses can use to train staff on Ontarios accessibility laws

We will continue to work with businesses and communities to help them better understand the benefits of accessibility. To address the recommendation in the Third Legislative Review on creating a comprehensive website for accessibility resources, we have taken steps to begin re-designing our ministry website to make it a comprehensive one stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses. In order to make it easier for businesses to access resources on accessibility, we have created a new webpage dedicated to supporting businesses with practical guides and resources to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

A business that commits to accessibility sends a strong message that people with disabilities are welcome. For this reason, it is much more likely to attract people with disabilities and their families. This goes for any and all businesses in Ontario that are providing goods and services to the public.

Accessibility is a journey and we are eager to continue to work with all our partners in the disability community, not-for-profit, public and private sector to make change that will have a positive impact on the daily lives of people with disabilities and seniors.

We are on the right track to creating an Ontario where communities offer opportunities instead of barriers.

A place where everyone can be independent, work, and contribute to the economy wherever they live.

Thank you again for writing and please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

(Original signed by)

Raymond Cho
Minister

c: The Honourable Doug Ford

Text of the July 24, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance From Premier Doug Ford

Dear Mr. Lepofsky and Colleagues:
Thanks very much for writing to me about the Honourable David C. Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your views and concerns.
My team is here for all the people. We are working to make our province a great place for all the people of Ontario today, and every day. Our government remains committed to making Ontario more accessible and preventing barriers for people with disabilities.
I note that you have sent a copy of your email to the Honourable Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. As the issue you raised falls in his area of responsibility, I have asked that he respond to you as soon as possible. Thanks again for contacting me.

Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario
C: The Honourable Raymond Cho

Please note that this email account is not monitored. For further inquiries, kindly direct your online message through https://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx.

Updated List of Signatories to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter to the Ontario Government As of August 26, 2019

As of August 23, 2019, the following 27 organizations and groups are signatories to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter to the Ford Government on the need to promptly implement the Onley Report:

1. AODA Alliance
2. CNIB
3. March of Dimes Canada
4. Older Women’s’ Network
5. Ontario Autism Coalition
6. Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
7. StopGap Foundation
8. BALANCE for Blind Adults
9. Community Living Ontario
10. DeafBlind Ontario Services)
11. Ontario Disability Coalition
12. Guide Dog Users of Canada
13. Views for the Visually Impaired
14. Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA) 15. ARCH Disability Law Centre
16. Easter Seals Ontario
17. Inclusive Design Research Centre, Ontario College of Art and Design University 18. Centre for Independent Living in Toronto CILT
19. Canadian Disability Policy Alliance
20. Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
21. Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario
22. Autism Ontario
23. Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) 24. Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre
25. Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
26. Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
27. Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities [CPD]




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Almost 8 Months After Receiving the Blistering Onley Report, Both Premier Doug Ford and His Accessibility Minister Write the AODA Alliance But Offer Nothing New to Strengthen the Implementation and Enforcement of Ontario’s Beleaguered Disabilities Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Almost 8 Months After Receiving the Blistering Onley Report, Both Premier Doug Ford and His Accessibility Minister Write the AODA Alliance But Offer Nothing New to Strengthen the Implementation and Enforcement of Ontario’s Beleaguered Disabilities Act

August 26, 2019

          SUMMARY

Two more letters have come in to the AODA Alliance from the Doug Ford Government. They were sent in response to an open letter which the Government received from us on July 10, 2019. The Government’s new letters offer Ontarians with disabilities simply more of the same foot-dragging on accessibility for people with disabilities. There is no indication of any new plan for a strengthened Government approach to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

In substance these letters just repeat things the Government has already been doing on accessibility. These are measures that are proven to be insufficient to overcome the serious problems that the Onley Report documented in detail.

It is regrettably typical for governments in such a situation to simply regurgitate what it has been doing, instead of offering needed new actions. It is noteworthy that in listing its actions of which it is proud, the Government did not in these letters point to its deeply troubling plan to divert 1.3 million public dollars to the problem-ridden private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation. That Government plan has come under heavy criticism over the past months.

You can read both of the Government’s new letters below. You can read the July 10, 2019 open letter to the Doug Ford Government by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/in-a-compelling-open-letter-21-disability-organizations-unite-to-call-on-the-doug-ford-government-to-announce-a-plan-to-implement-the-report-on-ontarios-disabilities-act-submitted-by-former-lieuten/

Meanwhile, an inexcusable 208 days have now passed since the Doug Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Yet Doug Ford’s Government has still announced no plan for implementing its key recommendations that would strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

The July 10, 2019 open letter was originally co-signed by an impressive 21 community organizations and groups. The expanded list of signatories, set out later in this Update, has since grown to 27 organizations. If any organizations want to sign on, send us an email at [email protected]

Do you find this frustrating? There’s something you can do to help us! Join in our Dial Doug campaign. Call or email Premier Doug Ford. Ask him where is his plan to get Ontario to become accessible to over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025?

Doug Ford’s office number is +1 (416) 325-1941. His email address is [email protected]

We are delighted to hear from those who have already taken part in the Dial Doug campaign. Action tips on how to take part are available for you at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/

We also invite and encourage you to download, print up and give out our 1-page leaflet on the Dial Doug campaign. Spread the word about it. Email it to friends. Post it on your Facebook page. Our 1-page Dial Doug leaflet is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/dial-doug-leaflet.docx

https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/dial-doug-leaflet.docx

          MORE DETAILS

A Closer Look — The Doug Ford Government’s Response to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter Just Offers Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities More of the Same, Not Strong New Action

The July 10, 2019 open letter called on the Ford Government to announce a plan to implement the final report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s accessibility law, the AODA. The Onley Report found that the AODA’s required goal of becoming a fully accessible province for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities is nowhere in sight. It concluded that Ontario remains replete with “soul-crushing” barriers against people with disabilities. That report recommended a series of important new measures needed to get Ontario back on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025.

The AODA Alliance led the preparation of this July 10, 2019 open letter. We did so after the Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 to defeat a non-partisan motion by NDP MPP Joel Harden. That motion called on the Doug Ford Government to develop a plan to implement the Onley Report. Several MPPs from the Ford Government, including Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, disparaged taking the action recommended in that proposed motion as “red tape”.

On that day, the Ford Government gave prepared speeches that sound like they reject the Onley Report’s recommendations as “red tape.” That is an extremely inaccurate and unfair description of the Onley Report. The Doug Ford Government has not retracted those statements in the three months since it made them.

The Ford Government’s two written responses to the July 10, 2019 open letter are deeply disappointing. They embody no plan of effective action, nor any pledge to establish one.

We heard once again in the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter that the Government is still studying the Onley Report. That report is only 81 pages. This is a top responsibility for the Accessibility Minister. David Onley’s key recommendations are ones which we have been presenting to all parties in the Legislature for years. This is not rocket science.

The Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho had earlier studied this report sufficiently after having it for a little over two months that he publicly declared in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley had done a “marvelous job.” As we have noted in the past, the Doug Ford Government has shown itself willing to act quickly, decisively, and vigorously in areas that it considers important. In those areas, it has not taken almost eight months to keep studying a report. This delay of almost eight months is hardly consistent with the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter where the Government says it is taking the Onley Report “very seriously.”

In the Minister’s detailed letter, the Government did not say it would ever bring forward such a plan. We respectfully but profoundly disagree with the Ford Government’s claim in the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter that the Government is now on the right track on accessibility. Its protracted failure to bring forward a plan to implement the Onley Report is proof positive that it is on the wrong track. The Minister wrote:

“We are on the right track to creating an Ontario where communities offer opportunities instead of barriers.

A place where everyone can be independent, work, and contribute to the economy – wherever they live.”

Both the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter and the Premier’s July 24, 2019 letter raise a serious concern that the Doug Ford Government is not even trying to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities, the goal which the AODA requires by 2025. Those letters speak instead about merely trying to “improve accessibility” and about “making Ontario more accessible and preventing barriers for people with disabilities.”

It is not good enough for the Government to merely aim to “improve accessibility.” Just one new ramp, installed somewhere in Ontario, or just one newly-retrofitted website, would fulfil that feeble goal.

In his August 19, 2019 letter, the Minister pointed in support to his Government’s having agreed to resume the work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter states:

“Right after tabling the report, we announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. As the Minister, I was proud to immediately begin working with the chairs to re-start work on these valuable committees.”

Yet it was the Ford Government itself that left those important Standards Development Committees frozen since the Government took power in June 2019. Moreover, even though the Ford Government announced on March 7, 2019 that it was lifting its freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees, over five months have passed since then. Those committees have not held a meeting, as far as we can tell. As an initial step, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee is expected to hold its first re-engagement telephone conference call some time on September 10, 2019. That is a small glimmer of progress, that will take place over six months after the Ford Government lifted this freeze, and over 14 months after this freeze was first imposed.

The rest of the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter basically rehashes what we had been hearing for years from the Wynne Government. The Onley Report adds up to a stinging indictment of that strategy as far too little and far too slow. For example, the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter summarizes what the Government says it is now doing on accessibility as follows:

“We’ve also taken action through a number of key initiatives, including working across government to take a whole-of-government approach to accessibility, supporting businesses to better understand accessibility and its benefits, and engaging with employers through our Employers’ Partnership Table.”

It is true that the Onley Report recommends that the Ontario Government take a “whole of Government approach” to accessibility. However, all the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter does is to repeat this phrase without specifying any concrete changes, much less any substantial improvements. The previous Government similarly claimed to be taking a whole of Government approach to accessibility, without demonstrating concrete improvements.

The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter refers to its strategy within the Government which is very similar to, if not identical to, the internal Government strategy of the Wynne Government (2013-2018, the McGuinty Government before that (2003-2013, and the Mike Harris Government before those two (1995-2003), as follows:

“As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to make accessibility a responsibility of all ministries and inform a whole-of-government approach to advancing accessibility.

As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services and identifying areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontario’s 2.6 million people with disabilities.”

The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter focuses predominantly if not entirely on efforts to educate organizations on accessibility, and efforts to get organizations to voluntarily do more. The letter refers to two specific initiatives which the former Wynne Government had been using for years, the Enabling Change Fund and the Government’s Partnership Council on Employment for People with disabilities. As a core Government strategy on accessibility, that is a formula for more progress at a snail’s pace. The Onley Report‘s recommendations call for the Government to do much, much more.

The only tiny glimmer of progress in these letters came where the Minister stated:

“For example, with our ministry partners, we have begun discussions with the Ontario Building Officials Association and the Retail Council of Canada and have been meeting with other stakeholders such as the Ontario Association of Architects.”

To “begin discussions” is very preliminary. We ask the Government to speed up this effort and to now bring us to the table with those organizations and with an ambitious plan for action, so we can work together throughout on progress.

We also again urge the Ford Government to now fulfil its duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, and to mandate that committee to make recommendations for a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It’s time the Ontario Government obeyed the AODA. Both the Doug Ford Government and the previous Wynne Government stand together as having violated the requirement to appoint that mandatory review of the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. To take these action we seek is consistent with the Onley Report’s recommendations.

Premier Doug ford’s July 24, 2019 letter to us is no more encouraging than is the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter. As he has in all his prior letters to us since taking power, Premier Ford simply punted all our issues back to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho. There are two powerful reasons why this is insufficient for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities:

First, the Onley Report itself called for new Government leadership on accessibility, pointing to the premier’s office. The report included the damning heading “Restoring Government Leadership.” The Onley Report found:

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

Second, key areas where we need action are ones which the Premier himself must take. The Accessibility Minister, acting alone, cannot do so. We listed examples of priority actions in the AODA Alliance’s July 19, 2018 letter to Premier Ford. Premier Ford’s response to that letter was to punt it entirely to Accessibility Minister Cho.

Text of the August 19, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

 

Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Minister

College Park, 5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto ON M7A 1S5

Ministre des Services aux aînés et de l’Accessibilitée Ministre

College Park, 5ème étage
rue 777 Bay
Toronto ON M7A 1S5

August 20, 2019

Mr. David Lepofsky

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

I would like to respond to your Open Letter to the Premier of Ontario, dated July 10, 2019.

Thank you for sharing your concerns and for continuing to raise this very important issue.

We are taking Mr. Onley’s report on the Third Legislative Review very seriously as we continue to work towards making Ontario more accessible.

In an effort to be open and transparent, we tabled Mr. Onley’s report and made it public as soon as possible, just over a month after receiving it.

Right after tabling the report, we announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. As the Minister, I was proud to immediately begin working with the chairs to re-start work on these valuable committees.

We’ve also taken action through a number of key initiatives, including working across government to take a whole-of-government approach to accessibility, supporting businesses to better understand accessibility and its benefits, and engaging with employers through our Employers’ Partnership Table.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to make accessibility a responsibility of all ministries and inform a whole-of-government approach to advancing accessibility.

As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services and identifying areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontario’s 2.6 million people with disabilities.

For example, with our ministry partners, we have begun discussions with the Ontario Building Officials Association and the Retail Council of Canada and have been meeting with other stakeholders such as the Ontario Association of Architects. We will continue to work collaboratively with other ministries to promote accessibility and explore opportunities to develop resources and make it easier to understand how to build using universal design principles.

We continue our outreach with people with disabilities and disability organizations, and consult with businesses, non-profits and industry groups to get their perspectives on how to improve accessibility in Ontario.

On employment, we are working through our Employers’ Partnership Table, which was brought together to support the creation of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The Table is comprised of 17 members representing a range of small, medium and large businesses, industry associations, non-profit and public organizations, and post-secondary education institutions from across Ontario. It is currently developing business cases to demonstrate that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line because productivity goes up.

The table will share their work and experiences with other businesses in Ontario to help them realize the benefits of employing people with disabilities. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table and other forums.

Government alone cannot create a barrier free Ontario.

That is why while all the work on the Onley report is ongoing, I have been hard at work every day meeting with Ontarians and engaging with disability and business stakeholders to make accessibility into a reality in this province.

We work closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

We partnered with OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop “Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations” which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of World’s Religions Conference. The guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called Enabling Change.

Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include:

  • A resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible including addressing barriers in the built environment such as entrances and exits, space layout and design.
  • A partnership with the Conference Board of Canada to develop: Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities, attract customers and improve services.
  • ca which is a free online training portal with modules and videos that businesses can use to train staff on Ontario’s accessibility laws

We will continue to work with businesses and communities to help them better understand the benefits of accessibility. To address the recommendation in the Third Legislative Review on creating a comprehensive website for accessibility resources, we have taken steps to begin re-designing our ministry website to make it a comprehensive one stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses. In order to make it easier for businesses to access resources on accessibility, we have created a new webpage dedicated to supporting businesses with practical guides and resources to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

A business that commits to accessibility sends a strong message that people with disabilities are welcome. For this reason, it is much more likely to attract people with disabilities and their families. This goes for any and all businesses in Ontario that are providing goods and services to the public.

Accessibility is a journey and we are eager to continue to work with all our partners in the disability community, not-for-profit, public and private sector to make change that will have a positive impact on the daily lives of people with disabilities and seniors.

We are on the right track to creating an Ontario where communities offer opportunities instead of barriers.

A place where everyone can be independent, work, and contribute to the economy – wherever they live.

Thank you again for writing and please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

(Original signed by)

Raymond Cho

Minister

c: The Honourable Doug Ford

Text of the July 24, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance From Premier Doug Ford

Dear Mr. Lepofsky and Colleagues:

Thanks very much for writing to me about the Honourable David C. Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your views and concerns.

My team is here for all the people. We are working to make our province a great place for all the people of Ontario today, and every day. Our government remains committed to making Ontario more accessible and preventing barriers for people with disabilities.

I note that you have sent a copy of your email to the Honourable Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. As the issue you raised falls in his area of responsibility, I have asked that he respond to you as soon as possible.

Thanks again for contacting me.

Doug Ford

Premier of Ontario

C: The Honourable Raymond Cho

Please note that this email account is not monitored. For further inquiries, kindly direct your online message through https://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx.

Updated List of Signatories to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter to the Ontario Government As of August 26, 2019

As of August 23, 2019, the following 27 organizations and groups  are signatories to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter to the Ford Government on the need to promptly implement the Onley Report:

  1. AODA Alliance
  2. CNIB
  3. March of Dimes Canada
  4. Older Women’s’ Network
  5. Ontario Autism Coalition
  6. Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
  7. StopGap Foundation
  8. BALANCE for Blind Adults
  9. Community Living Ontario
  10. DeafBlind Ontario Services)
  11. Ontario Disability Coalition
  12. Guide Dog Users of Canada
  13. Views for the Visually Impaired
  14. Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)
  15. ARCH Disability Law Centre
  16. Easter Seals Ontario
  17. Inclusive Design Research Centre, Ontario College of Art and Design University
  18. Centre for Independent Living in Toronto CILT
  19. Canadian Disability Policy Alliance
  20. Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
  21. Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario
  22. Autism Ontario
  23. Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)
  24. Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre
  25. Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
  26. Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
  27. Peterborough Council for Person’s with Disabilities [CPD]



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Despite No Announced Plans to Implement the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report, the Ford Government Gives 1.3 Million Dollars to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Program — A Use of Public Money We Don’t Support


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

May 17, 2019

SUMMARY

Why has the Ford Government dragged its feet for months on taking new action to effectively implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)? Why instead, amidst a flurry of its controversial budget cuts across the Ontario Government, has the Government decided to invest 1.3 million new public dollars over two years in the private accessibility certification process now operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF)?

This is not an appropriate use of public money. Instead, the Ford Government needs to now announce a bold and comprehensive plan of action to implement the key recommendations of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Any new public money in this area should be allocated to that effort.

The Ford Government has in effect done nothing new to strengthen the AODA’s implementation in its first 11 months in office, apart from this new announcement. It has been 106 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and Enforcement. The Government has announced no plans to implement that Report’s spectrum of recommendations. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility minister Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in that report and that Ontario has only progressed 30% towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities.

The Onley Report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025 as the AODA requires. It concluded that progress on accessibility in Ontario has proceeded at a glacial pace, and that Ontario remains a province full of disability barriers.

Instead of announcing any new measures that the Onley Report recommended, in this spring’s Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it is giving the RHF some 1.3 million dollars over two years for its private accessibility certification process. We have serious concerns with this.

We have been on the public record for over four years expressing our strong opposition to any public money going into any private accessibility certification process, no matter who runs it. This Update tells you why. In summary:

a) A private accessibility certification in reality certifies nothing. It provides no defence to enforcement proceedings under the AODA, the Ontario Building Code, a municipal bylaw, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

b) A private accessibility certification process lacks an assurance of public accountability.

c) A private certification of accessibility can be misleading to the public, including to people with disabilities.

d) The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another.

e) Spending public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money.

f) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take, but it did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.

MORE DETAILS

1. Why We Oppose Public Money Being Spent to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Process, No Matter Who Operates It A Closer Look

1. Overview

The RHF has for some time been offering a private accessibility certification process for buildings. From what we understand, an organization can choose to pay the RHF to have someone visit that building and give it an accessibility rating based on whatever standard of accessibility that the RHF has decided to use. They call this an accessibility “certification.” You can learn more about the RHF program by visiting its website at: https://www.rickhansen.com/become-accessible

We have several serious concerns about investing any public money in this. It is not a responsible use of public money. We voice these concerns no matter what organization were to be publicly funded to conduct this private accessibility certification process. We voiced these concerns before the RHF began offering its certification services. We recognize the RHF’s good work in other areas.

Whether a private organization wants to offer its accessibility certification services, and whether any organizations wish to pay for those services, is up to those organizations. The issue we address here is whether the taxpayer’s money should be used to help subsidize this.

We have publicly stated over the past four years that the Ontario Government should not invest any public money in a private accessibility certification process. The former Ontario Government flirted with the idea of investing public money in a private accessibility certification process four years ago. It evidently invested a great deal of public money in a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to create a public report exploring this idea. We took part in that consultation and voiced our strong and principled opposition to this whole idea as a place to put any public money.

Fortunately, the former Government eventually saw the light, and dropped the idea. It is deeply troubling that the new Ford Government is going further down the wrong road that the former Government had explored.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief to Deloitt on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process, visit https://www.aoda.ca/aoda-alliance-sends-the-deloitte-company-its-submission-on-the-first-phase-of-the-deloitte-companys-public-consultation-on-the-wynne-governments-problem-ridden-proposal-to-fund-a-new-private-ac/

2. A Private Accessibility Certification in Reality Certifies Nothing

The very idea of a private organization certifying another organization or its building as accessible is fraught with problems. Organizations that seek this certification of their building will eventually realize that a so-called accessibility certification through a private accessibility certification process is not what it may appear to be.

Such a certification does not mean that the organization is in fact accessible. All that is certified is a building. The services delivered inside the building may have serious accessibility barriers.

Moreover, the certification does not even mean that the built environment in the building is in fact accessible and free of disability barriers.

Such a certification cannot give that organization a defence if there is an objection that the building does not comply with accessibility requirements in the AODA, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaws. An accessibility certification similarly does not provide a defence if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, or in the case of a public-sector organization, a disability equality rights claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. An organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaw, or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law and was accessible.

In addition, a private accessibility certification can have a very limited shelf-life. If anything changes in that building, such as a garbage can blocking an accessibility ramp, the assertion of certified accessibility becomes disconnected with the actual experience of people with disabilities.

When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as is under development in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

An accessibility certification from a private accessibility certification process ultimately means nothing authoritative. At most, it is an expression of opinion by a private self-appointed certifying organization that it thinks the building in question meets whatever standard for accessibility that the private certifying organization chooses to use. That standard may itself be deficient. Its inspection may be faulty or incomplete.

It is therefore an over-statement to call this an accessibility certification. What it boils down to in real terms is something along the lines of the advice an organization might seek from one of many accessibility consultants.

Several such consultants now operate in Ontario, on a fee-for-service basis. They are available to audit an organization’s building or its plans for a new building. They can give advice on barriers in the building. They can recommend accessibility improvements to an existing building or plans for a new building. What they give is advice, not certification.

As well, there is no assurance that the people who do the actual certifying have as much expertise on accessibility as do other accessibility consultants.

3. A Private Accessibility Certification Process Lacks an Assurance of Public Accountability

There is no assurance of public accountability in a private accessibility certification process. For example, the public has no way to know or assure itself that the private certifier is making accurate assessments.

4. A Private Certification of Accessibility Can Be Misleading to the Public, Including to People with Disabilities

If an organization receives a top-level accessibility certification, that organization may be led to think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be led to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This may turn out not to be the case if the certifier uses an insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if things change in the building after the certification is granted.

5. The Government Should Not Be Subsidizing One Accessibility Consultant over Another

In a field where there are a number of accessibility consultants providing advisory services, there is no good reason why the Ontario Government should choose to subsidize one of them. If it were to do so, it should presumably first hold an open competitive bid process. It should not be limited to an organization that calls its accessibility advice a “certification” for the reasons set out above.

Moreover, we see no reason why there should be any public subsidy here. Such an accessibility certification should simply operate on a fee-for-service basis, as do all other accessibility consultants and advisors, whether or not they call their advice accessibility certification.”

6. Spending Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process Is Not a Priority for Efforts on Accessibility in Ontario or a Responsible use of Public Money

Due to its concern over the public debt and deficit, the Ford Government is now implementing major and controversial budget cuts in a large number of areas across the Government. At least some of those cuts have real and troubling implications for people with disabilities.

If the Ontario Government was looking for somewhere to inject a new spending of 1.3 million public dollars to serve the needs of people with disabilities, including in the accessibility context, public spending on a private accessibility certification process would certainly not be a priority. It is not an appropriate public expenditure.

For example, as we covered in our May 13, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Ford Government appears to be cutting its expenditures on existing Standards Development Committees that are doing work in the health care and education areas. This new 1.3 million dollars could better be spent in part to ensure that there is no cut to the number of days that those Standards Development Committees can work.

As well, there is a pressing need for the Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend an appropriate accessibility standard to deal with barriers in the built environment. These public funds could also be far better used to beef up the flagging and weak enforcement of the AODA.

7. The Onley Report Recommended Important Measures to Address Disability Barriers in the Built Environment that the Ford Government has not yet Agreed to take, But it did not Recommend Spending Scarce Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process

It is striking that the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, which Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho called “marvelous,” did not recommend that public money be spent on a private accessibility certification process. This takes on special importance since the AODA Alliance had urged the Onley Report not to recommend any public investment in a private accessibility certification process. Below we set out an excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review.

It makes no sense for the Ford Government to announce only one new action on the accessibility front, and for it not to be any of the priority actions that that the Onley Report recommended. The Ford Government indicated last fall that it was awaiting the Onley Report before deciding on what to do in the area of accessibility for people with disabilities. In his December 20, 2018 letter to the chair of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, Accessibility Minister Cho wrote:

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

We commend the Onley Report for not recommending that public money be spent in that area. Mr. Onley clearly knew about this issue from our brief and from his prior activities in the accessibility field. He declared that the built environment should be a priority area for new action. Moreover, he offered other specific recommendations to address barriers in the built environment recommendations that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take.

More broadly, the Onley Report also made a number of important recommendations for new Government action on accessibility beyond the built environment. With one exception addressed below (that is not relevant here), the Government has not yet announced any action on any of them, even though it has had the Onley Report for some 106 days.

Moreover, last July, long before the Onley Report was submitted, we called on the Ford Government to take a number of the priority actions that the Onley Report was later to recommend. See the AODA Alliance’s July 17, 2018 letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho and our July 19, 2018 letter to premier Doug Ford. Publicly funding a private accessibility certification process is not a substitute for, or better than, Government action on any of those important priorities.

Over the past eleven months, the only new action which the Ford Government has announced on accessibility and that is recommended in the Onley Report has been to belatedly lift the Government’s unwarranted and harmful 9-month freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees that were previously developing recommendations for what to include in new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education. Yet it was the Ford Government that let that freeze run for nine months.

Investing public funds in implementing key recommendations in the Onley Report is far more important to progress on accessibility for people with disabilities than publicly subsidizing a private accessibility certification process.

2. Excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement, Entitled “The Need for New Accessibility Standards, Including a Strong and Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard”

d) The Ontario Government Should Not Invest Public Funds in or Support any Private Accessibility Certification Process in Ontario

Several years ago, the former Ontario Government toyed with the idea of supporting the establishment of a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. It evidently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to explore this. Eventually, after Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid was shuffled out of the AODA portfolio in June 2016, this idea was in effect dropped. We opposed the idea of a private accessibility certification process and opposed the Government investing any public money in it. We urge this AODA Independent Review not to re-open that topic, and not to recommend a private accessibility certification process.

The February 1, 2016 AODA Alliance Update set out this backgrounder on this issue, including a summary of the AODA Alliance’s submission to the Deloitt consulting firm. It said:

“Back on November 16, 2015, the Wynne Government launched a public consultation on its proposal that the Government create a private process for an as-yet-unnamed private organization to provide a private, voluntary accessibility certification of the obligated organization. The Government’s November 16, 2015 email, news release and web posting on this were thin on details.

The Government did not have its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation. Instead, at public expense, the Wynne Government hired the private Deloitte firm to consult the public.

Last fall, we moved as fast as possible to prepare and circulate a draft submission to Deloitte. It was emailed and posted on the web for public comment on November 25, 2015. We have repeatedly sent out invitations for input on it via Twitter and Facebook.

Last fall, we promptly shared our draft submission with Deloitte and with senior Government officials. On December 5, 2015, we wrote Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid to ask for important specifics on the Deloitte consultation. The Government has not answered that letter.

2. Summary of the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 Submission to the Deloitte Company

This submission’s feedback on the idea of the Ontario Government financing the creation of a private accessibility certification process is summarized as follows:

1. It is important to probe beyond any superficial attractiveness that some might think a private accessibility certification process has.

2. It is important for the Government to first decide whether it will adopt a private accessibility certification process, before public money and the public’s effort are invested in deciding on the details of how such a process would work. Several serious concerns set out in this submission are fatal to any such proposal, however its details are designed.

3. Instead of diverting limited public and private resources, effort and time into a problematic private accessibility certification process, the Government should instead increase efforts at creating all the AODA accessibility standards needed to ensure full accessibility by 2025 and keeping its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA. A private accessibility certification process is no substitute for needed accessibility standards that show obligated organizations what they need to do, and a full and comprehensive AODA audit or inspection, conducted by a director or inspector duly authorized under the AODA.

4. The Government cannot claim that it has deployed the AODA’s compliance/enforcement powers to the fullest and gotten from the AODA all it can in terms of increasing accessibility among obligated organizations. The Government has invested far too little in AODA enforcement.

5. The entire idea of a private organization certifying an obligated organization as “accessible” is fraught with inescapable problems. Obligated organizations will ultimately realize that a so-called “accessibility certification” through a private accessibility certification process is practically useless. It does not mean that their organization is in fact accessible. It cannot give that obligated organization any defence if an AODA inspection or audit reveals that the organization is not in compliance with an AODA accessibility standard, or if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. An obligated organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law.

6. A private accessibility certification could mislead people with disabilities into thinking an organization is fully accessible in a situation where that organization is not in fact fully accessible.

7. Obligated organizations that have spent their money on a private accessibility certification will understandably become angry or frustrated when they find that this certification does not excuse unlawful conduct. They will understandably share these feelings with their business associates. Ontarians with disabilities don’t need the Government launching a new process that will risk generating such backlash.

8. A private accessibility certification could have a very limited shelf-life. When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as it has promised to do in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

9. The Government’s idea that a private accessibility certification process would be self-financing creates additional serious problems.

10. Any private certification process raises serious concerns about public accountability. As such, the public will not be able to find out how it is operating, beyond any selective information that the Government or the private certifier decides to make public. Without full access to the activities and records of a private certifier, the public cannot effectively assess how this private accessibility certification process is working, and whether it is helping or hurting the accessibility cause”



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Despite No Announced Plans to Implement the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report, the Ford Government Gives 1.3 Million Dollars to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Program — A Use of Public Money We Don’t Support


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

Despite No Announced Plans to Implement the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report, the Ford Government Gives 1.3 Million Dollars to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Program — A Use of Public Money We Don’t Support

May 17, 2019

          SUMMARY

Why has the Ford Government dragged its feet for months on taking new action to effectively implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)? Why instead, amidst a flurry of its controversial budget cuts across the Ontario Government, has the Government decided to invest 1.3 million new public dollars over two years in the private accessibility certification process now operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF)?

This is not an appropriate use of public money. Instead, the Ford Government needs to now announce a bold and comprehensive plan of action to implement the key recommendations of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Any new public money in this area should be allocated to that effort.

The Ford Government has in effect done nothing new to strengthen the AODA’s implementation in its first 11 months in office, apart from this new announcement. It has been 106 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and Enforcement. The Government has announced no plans to implement that Report’s spectrum of recommendations. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility minister Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in that report and that Ontario has only progressed 30% towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities.

The Onley Report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025 as the AODA requires. It concluded that progress on accessibility in Ontario has proceeded at a glacial pace, and that Ontario remains a province full of disability barriers.

Instead of announcing any new measures that the Onley Report recommended, in this spring’s Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it is giving the RHF some 1.3 million dollars over two years for its private accessibility certification process. We have serious concerns with this.

We have been on the public record for over four years expressing our strong opposition to any public money going into any private accessibility certification process, no matter who runs it. This Update tells you why. In summary:

  1. a) A private accessibility certification in reality certifies nothing. It provides no defence to enforcement proceedings under the AODA, the Ontario Building Code, a municipal bylaw, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  1. b) A private accessibility certification process lacks an assurance of public accountability.
  1. c) A private certification of accessibility can be misleading to the public, including to people with disabilities.
  1. d) The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another.
  1. e) Spending public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money.
  1. f) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take, but it did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.

          MORE DETAILS

1. Why We Oppose Public Money Being Spent to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Process, No Matter Who Operates It – A Closer Look

1. Overview

The RHF has for some time been offering a private accessibility certification process for buildings. From what we understand, an organization can choose to pay the RHF to have someone visit that building and give it an accessibility rating based on whatever standard of accessibility that the RHF has decided to use. They call this an accessibility “certification.” You can learn more about the RHF program by visiting its website at: https://www.rickhansen.com/become-accessible

We have several serious concerns about investing any public money in this. It is not a responsible use of public money. We voice these concerns no matter what organization were to be publicly funded to conduct this private accessibility certification process. We voiced these concerns before the RHF began offering its certification services. We recognize the RHF’s good work in other areas.

Whether a private organization wants to offer its accessibility certification services, and whether any organizations wish to pay for those services, is up to those organizations. The issue we address here is whether the taxpayer’s money should be used to help subsidize this.

We have publicly stated over the past four years that the Ontario Government should not invest any public money in a private accessibility certification process. The former Ontario Government flirted with the idea of investing public money in a private accessibility certification process four years ago. It evidently invested a great deal of public money in a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to create a public report exploring this idea. We took part in that consultation and voiced our strong and principled opposition to this whole idea as a place to put any public money.

Fortunately, the former Government eventually saw the light, and dropped the idea. It is deeply troubling that the new Ford Government is going further down the wrong road that the former Government had explored.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief to Deloitt on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process, visit https://www.aoda.ca/aoda-alliance-sends-the-deloitte-company-its-submission-on-the-first-phase-of-the-deloitte-companys-public-consultation-on-the-wynne-governments-problem-ridden-proposal-to-fund-a-new-private-ac/

2. A Private Accessibility Certification in Reality Certifies Nothing

The very idea of a private organization certifying another organization or its building as accessible is fraught with problems. Organizations that seek this certification of their building will eventually realize that a so-called accessibility certification through a private accessibility certification process is not what it may appear to be.

Such a certification does not mean that the organization is in fact accessible. All that is certified is a building. The services delivered inside the building may have serious accessibility barriers.

Moreover, the certification does not even mean that the built environment in the building is in fact accessible and free of disability barriers.

Such a certification cannot give that organization a defence if there is an objection that the building does not comply with accessibility requirements in the AODA, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaws. An accessibility certification similarly does not provide a defence if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, or in the case of a public-sector organization, a disability equality rights claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. An organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaw, or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law and was accessible.

In addition, a private accessibility certification can have a very limited shelf-life. If anything changes in that building, such as a garbage can blocking an accessibility ramp, the assertion of certified accessibility becomes disconnected with the actual experience of people with disabilities.

When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as is under development in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

An accessibility certification from a private accessibility certification process ultimately means nothing authoritative. At most, it is an expression of opinion by a private self-appointed certifying organization that it thinks the building in question meets whatever standard for accessibility that the private certifying organization chooses to use. That standard may itself be deficient. Its inspection may be faulty or incomplete.

It is therefore an over-statement to call this an accessibility certification. What it boils down to in real terms is something along the lines of the advice an organization might seek from one of many accessibility consultants.

Several such consultants now operate in Ontario, on a fee-for-service basis. They are available to audit an organization’s building or its plans for a new building. They can give advice on barriers in the building. They can recommend accessibility improvements to an existing building or plans for a new building. What they give is advice, not certification.

As well, there is no assurance that the people who do the actual certifying have as much expertise on accessibility as do other accessibility consultants.

3. A Private Accessibility Certification Process Lacks an Assurance of Public Accountability

There is no assurance of public accountability in a private accessibility certification process. For example, the public has no way to know or assure itself that the private certifier is making accurate assessments.

4. A Private Certification of Accessibility Can Be Misleading to the Public, Including to People with Disabilities

If an organization receives a top-level accessibility certification, that organization may be led to think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be led to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This may turn out not to be the case if the certifier uses an insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if things change in the building after the certification is granted.

5. The Government Should Not Be Subsidizing One Accessibility Consultant over Another

In a field where there are a number of accessibility consultants providing advisory services, there is no good reason why the Ontario Government should choose to subsidize one of them. If it were to do so, it should presumably first hold an open competitive bid process. It should not be limited to an organization that calls its accessibility advice a “certification” for the reasons set out above.

Moreover, we see no reason why there should be any public subsidy here. Such an accessibility certification should simply operate on a fee-for-service basis, as do all other accessibility consultants and advisors, whether or not they call their advice “accessibility certification.”

6. Spending Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process Is Not a Priority for Efforts on Accessibility in Ontario or a Responsible use of Public Money

Due to its concern over the public debt and deficit, the Ford Government is now implementing major and controversial budget cuts in a large number of areas across the Government. At least some of those cuts have real and troubling implications for people with disabilities.

If the Ontario Government was looking for somewhere to inject a new spending of 1.3 million public dollars to serve the needs of people with disabilities, including in the accessibility context, public spending on a private accessibility certification process would certainly not be a priority. It is not an appropriate public expenditure.

For example, as we covered in our May 13, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Ford Government appears to be cutting its expenditures on existing Standards Development Committees that are doing work in the health care and education areas. This new 1.3 million dollars could better be spent in part to ensure that there is no cut to the number of days that those Standards Development Committees can work.

As well, there is a pressing need for the Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend an appropriate accessibility standard to deal with barriers in the built environment. These public funds could also be far better used to beef up the flagging and weak enforcement of the AODA.

7. The Onley Report Recommended Important Measures to Address Disability Barriers in the Built Environment that the Ford Government has not yet Agreed to take, But it did not Recommend Spending Scarce Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process

It is striking that the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, which Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho called “marvelous,” did not recommend that public money be spent on a private accessibility certification process. This takes on special importance since the AODA Alliance had urged the Onley Report not to recommend any public investment in a private accessibility certification process. Below we set out an excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review.

It makes no sense for the Ford Government to announce only one new action on the accessibility front, and for it not to be any of the priority actions that that the Onley Report recommended. The Ford Government indicated last fall that it was awaiting the Onley Report before deciding on what to do in the area of accessibility for people with disabilities. In his December 20, 2018 letter to the chair of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, Accessibility Minister Cho wrote:

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

We commend the Onley Report for not recommending that public money be spent in that area. Mr. Onley clearly knew about this issue from our brief and from his prior activities in the accessibility field. He declared that the built environment should be a priority area for new action. Moreover, he offered other specific recommendations to address barriers in the built environment – recommendations that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take.

More broadly, the Onley Report also made a number of important recommendations for new Government action on accessibility beyond the built environment. With one exception addressed below (that is not relevant here), the Government has not yet announced any action on any of them, even though it has had the Onley Report for some 106 days.

Moreover, last July, long before the Onley Report was submitted, we called on the Ford Government to take a number of the priority actions that the Onley Report was later to recommend. See the AODA Alliance’s July 17, 2018 letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho and our July 19, 2018 letter to premier Doug Ford. Publicly funding a private accessibility certification process is not a substitute for, or better than, Government action on any of those important priorities.

Over the past eleven months, the only new action which the Ford Government has announced on accessibility and that is recommended in the Onley Report has been to belatedly lift the Government’s unwarranted and harmful 9-month freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees that were previously developing recommendations for what to include in new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education. Yet it was the Ford Government that let that freeze run for nine months.

Investing public funds in implementing key recommendations in the Onley Report is far more important to progress on accessibility for people with disabilities than publicly subsidizing a private accessibility certification process.

2. Excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement, Entitled “The Need for New Accessibility Standards, Including a Strong and Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard”

d) The Ontario Government Should Not Invest Public Funds in or Support any Private Accessibility Certification Process in Ontario

Several years ago, the former Ontario Government toyed with the idea of supporting the establishment of a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. It evidently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to explore this. Eventually, after Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid was shuffled out of the AODA portfolio in June 2016, this idea was in effect dropped. We opposed the idea of a private accessibility certification process and opposed the Government investing any public money in it. We urge this AODA Independent Review not to re-open that topic, and not to recommend a private accessibility certification process.

The February 1, 2016 AODA Alliance Update set out this backgrounder on this issue, including a summary of the AODA Alliance’s submission to the Deloitt consulting firm. It said:

“Back on November 16, 2015, the Wynne Government launched a public consultation on its proposal that the Government create a private process for an as-yet-unnamed private organization to provide a private, voluntary accessibility certification of the obligated organization. The Government’s November 16, 2015 email, news release and web posting on this were thin on details.

The Government did not have its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation. Instead, at public expense, the Wynne Government hired the private Deloitte firm to consult the public.

Last fall, we moved as fast as possible to prepare and circulate a draft submission to Deloitte. It was emailed and posted on the web for public comment on November 25, 2015. We have repeatedly sent out invitations for input on it via Twitter and Facebook.

Last fall, we promptly shared our draft submission with Deloitte and with senior Government officials. On December 5, 2015, we wrote Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid to ask for important specifics on the Deloitte consultation. The Government has not answered that letter.

  1. Summary of the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 Submission to the Deloitte Company

This submission’s feedback on the idea of the Ontario Government financing the creation of a private accessibility certification process is summarized as follows:

  1. It is important to probe beyond any superficial attractiveness that some might think a private accessibility certification process has.
  1. It is important for the Government to first decide whether it will adopt a private accessibility certification process, before public money and the public’s effort are invested in deciding on the details of how such a process would work. Several serious concerns set out in this submission are fatal to any such proposal, however its details are designed.
  1. Instead of diverting limited public and private resources, effort and time into a problematic private accessibility certification process, the Government should instead increase efforts at creating all the AODA accessibility standards needed to ensure full accessibility by 2025 and keeping its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA. A private accessibility certification process is no substitute for needed accessibility standards that show obligated organizations what they need to do, and a full and comprehensive AODA audit or inspection, conducted by a director or inspector duly authorized under the AODA.
  1. The Government cannot claim that it has deployed the AODA’s compliance/enforcement powers to the fullest and gotten from the AODA all it can in terms of increasing accessibility among obligated organizations. The Government has invested far too little in AODA enforcement.
  1. The entire idea of a private organization certifying an obligated organization as “accessible” is fraught with inescapable problems. Obligated organizations will ultimately realize that a so-called “accessibility certification” through a private accessibility certification process is practically useless. It does not mean that their organization is in fact accessible. It cannot give that obligated organization any defence if an AODA inspection or audit reveals that the organization is not in compliance with an AODA accessibility standard, or if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. An obligated organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law.
  1. A private accessibility certification could mislead people with disabilities into thinking an organization is fully accessible in a situation where that organization is not in fact fully accessible.
  1. Obligated organizations that have spent their money on a private accessibility certification will understandably become angry or frustrated when they find that this certification does not excuse unlawful conduct. They will understandably share these feelings with their business associates. Ontarians with disabilities don’t need the Government launching a new process that will risk generating such backlash.
  1. A private accessibility certification could have a very limited shelf-life. When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as it has promised to do in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.
  1. The Government’s idea that a private accessibility certification process would be self-financing creates additional serious problems.
      1. Any private certification process raises serious concerns about public accountability. As such, the public will not be able to find out how it is operating, beyond any selective information that the Government or the private certifier decides to make public. Without full access to the activities and records of a private certifier, the public cannot effectively assess how this private accessibility certification process is working, and whether it is helping or hurting the accessibility cause…”



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Come to the April 10, 2019 Queen’s Park Accessibility Town Hall – and – Powerful Toronto Star Editorial Calls on Ford Government to Swiftly Implement the Onley Report


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

Come to the April 10, 2019 Queen’s Park Accessibility Town Hall – and – Powerful Toronto Star Editorial Calls on Ford Government to Swiftly Implement the Onley Report

March 13, 2019

          SUMMARY

1. Come to Queen’s park on April 10, 2019!

Here is a great chance to have your say and to show your support for action to achieve n accessible Ontario. We encourage one and all to come to Queen’s Park on April 10, 2019 to attend an Accessibility Town Hall that is being hosted by Ottawa Centre NDP MPP Joel Harden. Below we set out Mr. Harden’s announcement of this event. It includes a link for you to RSVP if you are going to attend.

We are honoured that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky will be speaking at this event. This is your chance to share information about the disability barriers you face and the actions that you need the Government to take.

The AODA Alliance is strictly non-partisan. We are open to take part in similar events, organized by any of the political parties. We encourage all the parties in the legislature to organize similar events.

2. A Powerful Toronto Star Editorial Calls for Swift Government Action to Implement the Onley Report on the Disabilities Act’s Implementation and Enforcement

Here’s another great development in the long road to a constitutional Ontario for people with disabilities. A strong editorial in the March 13, 2019 Toronto Star, set out below, endorses the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. This is the fourteenth time a newspaper editorial has backed our cause since our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, was formed in the late fall of 1994.

That editorial, the Onley report itself, and the AODA Alliance’s March 8, 2019 news release on the Onley report, together are a great starting point for the April 10, 2019 Queen’s Park Town Hall on accessibility in Ontario. We encourage you to widely circulate both that editorial and the announcement of the April 10, 2019 Town Hall that are included below in this Update.

In our March 11, 2019 letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, the AODA Alliance called on the Ford Government to act now on the Onley report’s findings and recommendations. We don’t want the Government to now drag its feet with months of study and pondering before it acts. It took the Ford Government fully nine months to lift its unnecessary freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees that are developing recommendations for new accessibility standards in the important areas of education and health care. We don’t want that kind of delay repeated here.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of MPP Joel Harden’s Announcement of the April 10, 2019 Queen’s Park Accessibility Town Hall

March 11, 2019

Friends,

I’ve had the pleasure to act as Critic for Accessibility & People with Disabilities; Seniors’ Affairs; Pensions in the Ontario Legislature, and in that time I’ve met with many folks in the disability rights community. I have had a lot to learn, and greatly benefited from conversations with passionate leaders.

Time and again, I’ve heard that we are not prepared to meet Ontario’s obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), most notably that Ontario be a fully accessible province by the year 2025. This message was powerfully reinforced recently by the Honourable David C. Onley’s Report on the Third Review of the AODA.

Ontario needs a plan of action on accessibility, and it’s time to open up the Ontario Legislature to hear from those directly impacted by failing to meet AODA targets.

And so, with that in mind, I write to invite you to an Accessibility Town Hall at the Ontario Legislature on April 10, 2019. Following Question Period, a lunch will be hosted in Room 351, followed by three hours of open presentations to listen to your perspectives.

I am pleased that David Lepofsky (Chair, AODA Alliance) and Sarah Jama (Disability Justice Network of Ontario) will be on hand to offer brief remarks prior to these open hearings. All necessary accommodations will be available to ensure you can participate.

Please join us! Ontario needs your ideas, expertise, and passion to ensure this province is accessible to all, where everyone can live their lives to the fullest.

RSVP here: http://www.joelharden.ca/accessibility_town_hall

My very best,

Joel Harden

MPP for Ottawa Centre

Official Opposition Critic for Accessibility & People with Disabilities; Seniors’ Affairs; Pensions

The Toronto Star March 13, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/03/12/ford-government-must-fulfill-ontarios-promise-to-people-with-disabilities.html

Editorial

Time to clear the way

Accessibility review

Fourteen years ago, Ontarians with disabilities might have been hopeful that the barriers that prevent them from fully participating in daily activities,

from getting to work to eating in a restaurant, would be dismantled.

After all, the government of the day was ahead of its time when it passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act with the goal of making

the province fully accessible by 2025. But last week their disappointments were given heartfelt voice in a scathing review that concludes the province

is nowhere near accomplishing its goal.

Indeed, Ontario’s former lieutenant governor David Onley found that for “most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless,

dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

This is clearly unacceptable. The Ford government must quickly implement Onley’s 15 sensible recommendations, starting with his request that Premier Doug

Ford make accessibility a government-wide priority.

As it stands, 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities are receiving the message that “you don’t belong here,” says Onley, who himself uses a wheelchair.

That should be viewed as a violation of both human and civil rights.

In fact, it’s no different, Onley says, than “the signs of a bygone era in foreign countries telling people which water fountains they could or could not

use and which restaurants and buses they could or could not use.”

The bottom line, he says, is that investing in accessibility is both the right thing to do and also provides social and economic benefits for everyone,

including the province’s increasing numbers of seniors.

Among Onley’s common-sense recommendations:

Offer tax breaks and other financial incentives to improve accessibility in public and private buildings alike.

Ensure that architects are trained in inclusive design.

Redesign Ontario’s education curriculum to educate students about accessibility issues, starting in kindergarten.

Reform the way infrastructure projects are managed to ensure public money is never spent on actually creating barriers to accessibility.

Review accessibility standards in building code amendments for new construction projects and major renovations, as well as in provincial guidelines for

how public space is designed.

Onley’s review is not the first to point out the glacial pace of progress on accessibility reform in this province. It is the third. It’s time the government

listened and acted.



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AODA Alliance Writes Ontario’s Accessibility Minister to Urge Swift Action to Implement the Onley Report – and Media Coverage of the Onley Report and of Ongoing Public Transit Barriers


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance Writes Ontario’s Accessibility Minister to Urge Swift Action to Implement the Onley Report – and Media Coverage of the Onley Report and of Ongoing Public Transit Barriers

March 11, 2019

          SUMMARY

On March 11, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho a letter that calls for swift action to implement David Onley’s withering report on the many years of deficient implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We set out that letter below. In our letter, we identify a short list of immediate actions that the Ford Government should now take to begin its implementation of the Onley report. We will have more to say later on other measures needed to implement this report. While listing these immediate actions, we recognize that beyond them, much more than these priority items will need to be done to implement this report, and to get Ontario back on schedule to become accessible to 1.9 Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

Below we also set out two recent news articles that cover the Onley report:

* The excellent March 8, 2019 Canadian Press article by Michelle McQuigge, posted by CBC news. this article was also run by a number of other news outlets. The Saturday, March 9, 2018 print editions of the Toronto star and the Globe and Mail each ran it but did not include the quote of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, seen in the full article below.

* The great March 10, 2019 Toronto Star article on ongoing accessibility problems at the Toronto Transit Commission. It also refers to the Onley report, and also quotes AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

We are tweeting up a storm in the wake of the Onley report. We invite you to follow @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance on Twitter, to retweet our tweets, and add your own comments on the Onley report in your tweets as well. If you are a Facebook user but not a Twitter user, please like the AODA Alliance’s Facebook page, and share our posts. Our tweets on Twitter all come out as well as Facebook posts.

^       MORE DETAILS

^Text of the March 11, 2019 Letter from the AODA Alliance 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

March 11, 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: Implementing the Final Report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

Thank you for making public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We write to ask your Government to now take important steps to effectively implement this ground-breaking report.

The Onley report demonstrates in strong, clear and convincing language that the Ontario Government must now take strong new action to substantially improve the many years of flagging implementation and enforcement of the AODA. As our March 8, 2019 news release makes clear, the AODA Alliance applauds the Onley report and agrees with most of its recommendations. Those few recommendations with which we don’t agree (which we will address at a later date) are secondary, and do not take away from the core of the report.

We are gratified that the Onley report largely echoes and incorporates input that we provided to the Onley AODA Independent Review in the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief. It also echoes and reflects input we have given to your Government. Finally, it closely parallels and builds on the findings and recommendations in the two earlier mandatory AODA Independent Reviews, the 2010 AODA Independent Review conducted by Charles Beer and the 2015 AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran.

Your Government now has the benefit of powerful and substantial unanimity among these multiple sources of expert input. The time is now for your Government to take strong action on that advice.

To begin, we ask your Government to now clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. These findings should be the basis of the Government’s actions in the area of accessibility for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities who continue to face many serious disability barriers in this province.

We also ask you to act now to implement five of the Onley report’s key recommendations. These include actions that we have earlier identified for the Government as priorities, such as  when we wrote you on July 17, 2018 and/or when we wrote Premier Ford on July 19, 2018. Premier Ford referred our letter to him back to you, so we look to you to act on all of these priorities:

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

We will later have much more to say on the Onley report’s implementation. However, whatever else might come from the Onley report, these five top priorities cry out for immediate action.

We appreciate your Government announcing last week, in the wake of its release of the Onley report, that it has just lifted the nine-month freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. As you know, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in campaigning to get that freeze lifted. We were earlier in the lead in getting the former Ontario Government to agree to create accessibility standards in the important areas of health care and education.

We urge you to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible. The Onley report shows that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching accessibility by 2025. The loss of these many months in the work of those Standards Development Committees made a bad situation worse.

Fortunately, you are well-positioned to quickly get these committees back to work. They and you are not starting from scratch. The members of those Standards Development Committees were all appointed under the AODA well before your Government took power. They were properly constituted under the AODA. Speaking for myself, as a duly-appointed member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and get right back to the work in which we were immersed when last spring’s election halted our work.

We would welcome a chance to meet with you to discuss action on the balance of the Onley report, but don’t want anything to hold up progress on the items listed in this letter.

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]

CBC News Online March 8, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-nowhere-near-goal-of-full-accessibility-by-2025-review-finds-1.5049380

Ontario nowhere near goal of full accessibility by 2025, review finds

Report offers 15 recommendations to province’s Progressive Conservative government

Michelle McQuigge The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 08, 2019 4:08 PM ET | Last Updated:

Former lieutenant governor of Ontario, David Onley, says the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act continues to leave residents with disabilities facing daily, “soul-crushing” barriers.  (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

The accessibility law that took effect in Ontario 14 years ago and has served as a blueprint for similar legislation in other parts of Canada has fallen well short of its goals and continues to leave disabled residents facing daily, “soul-crushing” barriers, a former lieutenant governor has found.

David Onley, a wheelchair user tasked with reviewing the implementation of Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, delivered a withering indictment of nearly all aspects of the law in a report quietly tabled in the provincial legislature this week.

The scathing report said disabled residents are barred from full inclusion in the province at nearly every turn, likening some of the barriers they face to long-abolished Jim Crow laws that perpetuated racial discrimination in the United States.

He said Ontario is nowhere near realizing the goal at the heart of the act, which promises to make the province fully accessible by 2025. He said only urgent, wide-ranging action from the provincial government can put a stop to the ongoing cycle of human rights violations.

“This is a matter of civil rights, and people with disabilities are being discriminated against on a daily basis in multiple ways,” Onley said in a telephone interview. “We don’t like to use the word discrimination because it gets tossed around, but what other word describes the situation? It is discrimination.”

Onley said the most obvious manifestations of that discrimination can be found throughout Ontario’s public and private buildings, many of which have physical features that actively shut people out.

‘You don’t belong here’

Onley — Ontario’s first disabled lieutenant governor — said some personal examples include restaurants featuring automatic doors atop a flight of stairs or hotels with accessible washrooms but beds too high for him to climb into from his motorized scooter.

“For a person using a wheelchair, stairs are like a sign that says you can’t enter here. The same goes for a deaf student in a classroom without captioning or a blind woman trying to find her way in a building without accurate Braille signage,” he said in the opening chapter of his report. “The message is: you don’t belong here.”

Onley said design barriers are no different than “the signs of a bygone era in foreign countries, telling people which water fountains they could or could not use and which restaurants or buses they could or could not use.”

This is a matter of civil rights, and people with disabilities are being discriminated against on a daily basis in multiple ways.

While Onley identified built environment barriers as one of the most pressing concerns, he listed a host of other problems with the law he said the government has failed to properly address since it took effect in 2005.

Other issues included lack of enforcement, accessibility rules that are slow to be developed and even slower to be implemented, and information-technology standards that are already out of date although they haven’t been fully applied.

Some of the issues are even more fundamental, he said, citing the fact that the law does not currently define “accessibility” and leaves people across the province to come up with their own interpretations. Even the definition of “disability” is problematic, he said, saying AODA’s current language positions disability as a medical issue rather than one of social exclusion.

Clarifying those key terms is among the 15 broad recommendations Onley provided to the current Progressive Conservative government, who had frozen work by committees tasked with developing accessibility standards since taking power last June.

Others involve the government radically changing its approach. Onley urged Premier Doug Ford to lead the way in making accessibility a priority across all ministries, not just the one ostensibly handling the file.

He also urged the government to redesign the provincial education curriculum to make accessibility a focus starting as early as kindergarten and extending through the post-secondary years. He likened the efforts he wants to see with past campaigns that brought public smoking and environmental protection to greater public prominence.

Onley singled out architects as a particular target of educational efforts, noting trainees in the field learn next to nothing about inclusive design.

Other recommendations included offering tax breaks and other financial incentives to those improving accessibility in public buildings and private homes, significantly bolstering enforcement efforts, and lifting the freeze on developing new accessibility standards in areas like health care and education.

The government said it acted on the last recommendation already and will be meeting with committee heads to get work back underway.

No response to recommendations

Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho did not respond to Onley’s other recommendations, but thanked him for the report.

“We aim to modernize our approach to accessibility to make things easier for families, workers and businesses in today’s Ontario,” Cho said in a statement.

Accessibility advocates lauded Onley’s report, saying his “blistering” findings should be of particular concern to other Canadian jurisdictions.

David Lepofsky, chair of advocacy group AODA Alliance, said Manitoba and Nova Scotia both put legislation in place that’s weaker than Ontario’s in many respects. The federal government, he said, is poised to follow suit unless the senate makes amendments to strengthen the proposed Accessible Canada Act, the first national accessibility law in Canada’s history.

“The thing that we’ve learned, that the Onley report shows, is that just doing what Ontario did has helped, but nowhere near as much as what we need,” Lepofsky said. “(Other governments) need to learn from that and be better.”

^

Toronto Star March 10, 2019

News

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2019/03/10/a-look-at-ttc-accessibility-through-the-eyes-of-a-rider-who-uses-two-canes.html

UNEASY ACCESS

Navigating the TTC is a constant challenge for Jessica Geboers. Although provincial law requires transit stations to be fully accessible by 2025, currently only 45 of 75 TTC stations are. That is sparking worries that the deadline won’t be met

Francine Kopun Toronto Star

Jessica Geboers steps off a busy subway car at College station, a cane in each hand, and confronts her first obstacle: two flights of stairs, 10 stairs each.

The stairwell is narrow and passengers headed down the stairs stop to give her the room she needs to make her way up. On this day, at rush hour, a bottleneck forms in seconds.

Sometimes people stop to tell her that there’s an escalator – but Geboers can’t use it, because she can’t hang on to the moving handrails. She has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, affecting muscle control and coordination.

“They’re trying to be helpful and they mean well, but I’m pretty smart. I can see there is an escalator there, and I’m concentrating on not dying on these stairs,” says Geboers, 29.

Past the turnstiles she is confronted by two more flights of stairs: 14 steps and 21 steps respectively. This time the crowd bunches up behind her, infuriating a young man who bursts away from the pack and dashes around her to the top, muttering his complaint.

Making the TTC more accessible – which the transit service is legally bound to do by 2025 – can’t come soon enough for Geboers, who has a busy life that requires her to spend a lot of time on public transit. She works three days a week and attends physiotherapy appointments twice a week. She volunteers.

She rates the TTC’s accessibility as a six out of 10. “I see that they’re really trying and a good number of stations are accessible, but not as many as should be or could be,” she says.

Last week Mayor John Tory unveiled a newly installed elevator at St. Patrick station, calling it a milestone, but despite making significant progress, there are signs the TTC may be falling behind on its plan to ensure that all stations are accessible by 2025.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the province be fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, including transportation systems like the TTC.

The Act was passed in 2005, but, to date, only 45 of Toronto’s 75 subway stations are accessible.

In fact, the AODA has fallen well short of its goals and people with disabilities continue to face “soul-crushing” barriers, according to a report on the act tabled in the provincial legislature this week by former lieutenant-governor David Onley.

While advances have been made in the area of transportation, it remains the most important issue among people with disabilities, according to the report.

“The reason is perhaps obvious,” wrote Onley, who is disabled.

“If you can’t leave your home, there will be no job, recreation, shopping or other opportunities. Better transportation requires money and leadership.”

Among other challenges, the report points out that priority seating in some places is not working out as intended.

Seats intended for wheelchair access are being taken up by able-bodied people, baby strollers and people with grocery carts. Municipalities are urged in the report to bring in and enforce stronger rules around priority seating.

A total of 11 TTC subway stations will be under construction for accessibility by the end of 2019, but only Royal York station will be completed this year.

Only 26 of 41 objectives set out for the five-year period from 2014-18 were completed when the last status update was filed, in April. By the end of this year, 32 of 41 will be completed, according to the TTC.

The new five-year accessibility plan, covering 2019-2023, has not yet been filed.

“It’s clear that TTC needs to accelerate their work to improve accessibility of their infrastructure and service,” says Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13 Toronto Centre), while acknowledging that the TTC has been working hard to meet the 2025 deadline.

“The year 2025 for AODA compliance is literally around the corner when it comes to major infrastructure upgrades,” she says, adding that if it does fall behind, city council and other government partners need to provide additional funding to make up for lost time.

Mayor Tory, at the launch of the elevator at St. Patrick station, seemed to agree, saying: “If by any chance we fall off track, we’re going to get back on track.”

The TTC says it has made significant progress. All TTC buses are now accessible, with low floors, ramps and seats that flip up to accommodate wheelchairs. It says all subway trains are accessible, with level boarding. Over half of 204 new low-floor accessible streetcars are in service and the rest are expected to arrive by the end of 2019. All of the older inaccessible streetcars will be decommissioned. The plan is to have elevators at all stations by 2025.

After fighting against it in court and losing, the TTC now has a system that audibly announces upcoming stops on subway trains, streetcars and buses, to assist the vision impaired. There are visual signs for the hearing impaired.

Mazin Aribi, chair of the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT), which advises the TTC, says meeting the 2025 target is a delicate balance – too much construction, too fast, triggers complaints from riders.

He thinks that if the TTC continues on its accelerated plan to finish all the subway stations, the 2025 deadline will be met. But he is concerned that planned takeover of the TTC by the province could lead to delays, because the province seems to be focused on saving money and making subways accessible costs money.

“The bottom line is, we do need inclusion,” Aribi says. “It’s public transit. Every person in Toronto is entitled to use and have access.”

The cost for making a station accessible varies, according to the TTC. Sometimes as many as three elevators are required to make a station accessible. The amount of excavation work required varies. Construction costs for St. Patrick were approximately $7.5 million for one elevator. Construction began in December 2016 and the elevator went into service in September.

A second elevator was built by Amexon Development Corp. as part of a Section 37 community benefit, providing access to street level, within the footprint of a property it owns at 480 University Ave., at a cost of $3.9 million to the company. (Section 37 of Ontario’s Planning Act allows developers to exceed height and density zoning regulations in exchange for contributions to neighbourhood projects.)

Several major projects, worth $615.3 million, have been budgeted in the 2018-2027 TTC capital budget, representing more than 9 per cent of the TTC’s overall capital requirements in the next 10 years.

The TTC says it is committed to finishing on time. “Not only is that deadline our commitment, it’s our obligation,” according to a statement from TTC chair Jaye Robinson’s office. Access advocate David Lepofsky, a lawyer who is blind and who fought the TTC in court to force the transit system to announce upcoming stops in streetcars and buses and subway trains, said that without dramatic reforms, the TTC will not meet the 2025 deadline.

While the focus seems to be on elevators, he says the TTC still makes design mistakes at new stations that hinder accessibility.

And the TTC already missed an earlier deadline of 2020, says Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“Do I have concrete, specific evidence that they aren’t going to meet the plan? No I do not, and I’m not suggesting I do,” Lepofsky says. “Am I worried because of the fact that they’ve been a moving target in the past and could be again? Yes. I am basing the concern on their past conduct.”

The issue should be of concern to everyone, Lepofsky says. As people age, they are likely to suffer from impaired mobility of one form or another.

Since suffering a mild stroke two years ago, Sidonio Ferreira has become well acquainted with a flight of stairs that used to have no impact on his life, at Keele subway station.

“They took my licence away. I have to take the subway,” says Ferreira, 83, who has lived in the same neighbourhood for decades.

He and his wife, 74, struggle with the subway stairs and he says they’re not alone – many of their friends and neighbours do, too.

“So far, I can do it. But it’s very hard.”

Construction of an elevator at Keele is scheduled to begin this year, according to the TTC.



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AODA Alliance Writes Ontario’s Accessibility Minister to Urge Swift Action to Implement the Onley Report


and Media Coverage of the Onley Report and of Ongoing Public Transit Barriers

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

March 11, 2019

SUMMARY

On March 11, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho a letter that calls for swift action to implement David Onley’s withering report on the many years of deficient implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We set out that letter below. In our letter, we identify a short list of immediate actions that the Ford Government should now take to begin its implementation of the Onley report. We will have more to say later on other measures needed to implement this report. While listing these immediate actions, we recognize that beyond them, much more than these priority items will need to be done to implement this report, and to get Ontario back on schedule to become accessible to 1.9 Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

Below we also set out two recent news articles that cover the Onley report:

* The excellent March 8, 2019 Canadian Press article by Michelle McQuigge, posted by CBC news. this article was also run by a number of other news outlets. The Saturday, March 9, 2018 print editions of the Toronto star and the Globe and Mail each ran it but did not include the quote of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, seen in the full article below.

* The great March 10, 2019 Toronto Star article on ongoing accessibility problems at the Toronto Transit Commission. It also refers to the Onley report, and also quotes AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

We are tweeting up a storm in the wake of the Onley report. We invite you to follow @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance on Twitter, to retweet our tweets, and add your own comments on the Onley report in your tweets as well. If you are a Facebook user but not a Twitter user, please like the AODA Alliance’s Facebook page, and share our posts. Our tweets on Twitter all come out as well as Facebook posts.

^ MORE DETAILS

^Text of the March 11, 2019 Letter from the AODA Alliance 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

March 11, 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: Implementing the Final Report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

Thank you for making public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We write to ask your Government to now take important steps to effectively implement this ground-breaking report.

The Onley report demonstrates in strong, clear and convincing language that the Ontario Government must now take strong new action to substantially improve the many years of flagging implementation and enforcement of the AODA. As our March 8, 2019 news release makes clear, the AODA Alliance applauds the Onley report and agrees with most of its recommendations. Those few recommendations with which we don’t agree (which we will address at a later date) are secondary, and do not take away from the core of the report.

We are gratified that the Onley report largely echoes and incorporates input that we provided to the Onley AODA Independent Review in the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief. It also echoes and reflects input we have given to your Government. Finally, it closely parallels and builds on the findings and recommendations in the two earlier mandatory AODA Independent Reviews, the 2010 AODA Independent Review conducted by Charles Beer and the 2015 AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran.

Your Government now has the benefit of powerful and substantial unanimity among these multiple sources of expert input. The time is now for your Government to take strong action on that advice.

To begin, we ask your Government to now clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. These findings should be the basis of the Government’s actions in the area of accessibility for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities who continue to face many serious disability barriers in this province.

We also ask you to act now to implement five of the Onley report’s key recommendations. These include actions that we have earlier identified for the Government as priorities, such as when we wrote you on July 17, 2018 and/or when we wrote Premier Ford on July 19, 2018. Premier Ford referred our letter to him back to you, so we look to you to act on all of these priorities:

1. Please appoint a new Standards Development Committee under the AODA to address the removal and prevention of all kinds of disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley report identified this as a top priority. That Standards Development Committee should be free to address, among other things, requirements in the deficient Ontario Building Code. It should be able to address built environment in residential housing. It should also conduct the mandatory 5-year review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government remains in violation of the AODA, because it has not yet appointed a Standards Development Committee to conduct that mandatory review. It was obligatory to appoint that review by the end of 2017, when the former Ontario Government was still in power.

2. Please now launch a short, focused public consultation leading to your Governments identifying the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that the AODA leads Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

3. Please act now to substantially strengthen the Government’s enforcement of the AODA, which the Onley report showed to be substantially deficient and ineffective.

4. Please launch a major reform to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, whether as a result of public spending on infrastructure, procurement, business grants or loans, or research grants. As part of this, a major reform is desperately needed regarding how Infrastructure Ontario deals with disability accessibility needs in the projects in which it is involved. We would add to the Onley report the fact that a similar reform is desperately needed at Metrolinx when it spends billions of public dollars on public transit infrastructure.

5. Please now implement a program to ensure that students in Ontario schools receive curriculum on accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, and to ensure that key professional, like architects, get much-needed training on accessibility for people with disabilities.

We will later have much more to say on the Onley report’s implementation. However, whatever else might come from the Onley report, these five top priorities cry out for immediate action.

We appreciate your Government announcing last week, in the wake of its release of the Onley report, that it has just lifted the nine-month freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. As you know, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in campaigning to get that freeze lifted. We were earlier in the lead in getting the former Ontario Government to agree to create accessibility standards in the important areas of health care and education.

We urge you to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible. The Onley report shows that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching accessibility by 2025. The loss of these many months in the work of those Standards Development Committees made a bad situation worse.

Fortunately, you are well-positioned to quickly get these committees back to work. They and you are not starting from scratch. The members of those Standards Development Committees were all appointed under the AODA well before your Government took power. They were properly constituted under the AODA. Speaking for myself, as a duly-appointed member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and get right back to the work in which we were immersed when last spring’s election halted our work.

We would welcome a chance to meet with you to discuss action on the balance of the Onley report, but don’t want anything to hold up progress on the items listed in this letter.

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]

CBC News Online March 8, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-nowhere-near-goal-of-full-accessibility-by-2025-review-finds-1.5049380 Ontario nowhere near goal of full accessibility by 2025, review finds

Report offers 15 recommendations to province’s Progressive Conservative government

Michelle McQuigge The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 08, 2019 4:08 PM ET | Last Updated:

Former lieutenant governor of Ontario, David Onley, says the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act continues to leave residents with disabilities facing daily, “soul-crushing” barriers. (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

The accessibility law that took effect in Ontario 14 years ago and has served as a blueprint for similar legislation in other parts of Canada has fallen well short of its goals and continues to leave disabled residents facing daily, “soul-crushing” barriers, a former lieutenant governor has found.

David Onley, a wheelchair user tasked with reviewing the implementation of Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, delivered a withering indictment of nearly all aspects of the law in a report quietly tabled in the provincial legislature this week.

The scathing report said disabled residents are barred from full inclusion in the province at nearly every turn, likening some of the barriers they face to long-abolished Jim Crow laws that perpetuated racial discrimination in the United States.

He said Ontario is nowhere near realizing the goal at the heart of the act, which promises to make the province fully accessible by 2025. He said only urgent, wide-ranging action from the provincial government can put a stop to the ongoing cycle of human rights violations.

“This is a matter of civil rights, and people with disabilities are being discriminated against on a daily basis in multiple ways,” Onley said in a telephone interview. “We don’t like to use the word discrimination because it gets tossed around, but what other word describes the situation? It is discrimination.”

Onley said the most obvious manifestations of that discrimination can be found throughout Ontario’s public and private buildings, many of which have physical features that actively shut people out.

‘You don’t belong here’

Onley Ontario’s first disabled lieutenant governor said some personal examples include restaurants featuring automatic doors atop a flight of stairs or hotels with accessible washrooms but beds too high for him to climb into from his motorized scooter.

“For a person using a wheelchair, stairs are like a sign that says you can’t enter here. The same goes for a deaf student in a classroom without captioning or a blind woman trying to find her way in a building without accurate Braille signage,” he said in the opening chapter of his report. “The message is: you don’t belong here.”

Onley said design barriers are no different than “the signs of a bygone era in foreign countries, telling people which water fountains they could or could not use and which restaurants or buses they could or could not use.”

This is a matter of civil rights, and people with disabilities are being discriminated against on a daily basis in multiple ways.

While Onley identified built environment barriers as one of the most pressing concerns, he listed a host of other problems with the law he said the government has failed to properly address since it took effect in 2005.

Other issues included lack of enforcement, accessibility rules that are slow to be developed and even slower to be implemented, and information-technology standards that are already out of date although they haven’t been fully applied.

Some of the issues are even more fundamental, he said, citing the fact that the law does not currently define “accessibility” and leaves people across the province to come up with their own interpretations. Even the definition of “disability” is problematic, he said, saying AODA’s current language positions disability as a medical issue rather than one of social exclusion.

Clarifying those key terms is among the 15 broad recommendations Onley provided to the current Progressive Conservative government, who had frozen work by committees tasked with developing accessibility standards since taking power last June.

Others involve the government radically changing its approach. Onley urged Premier Doug Ford to lead the way in making accessibility a priority across all ministries, not just the one ostensibly handling the file.

He also urged the government to redesign the provincial education curriculum to make accessibility a focus starting as early as kindergarten and extending through the post-secondary years. He likened the efforts he wants to see with past campaigns that brought public smoking and environmental protection to greater public prominence.

Onley singled out architects as a particular target of educational efforts, noting trainees in the field learn next to nothing about inclusive design.

Other recommendations included offering tax breaks and other financial incentives to those improving accessibility in public buildings and private homes, significantly bolstering enforcement efforts, and lifting the freeze on developing new accessibility standards in areas like health care and education.

The government said it acted on the last recommendation already and will be meeting with committee heads to get work back underway.

No response to recommendations

Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho did not respond to Onley’s other recommendations, but thanked him for the report.

“We aim to modernize our approach to accessibility to make things easier for families, workers and businesses in today’s Ontario,” Cho said in a statement.

Accessibility advocates lauded Onley’s report, saying his “blistering” findings should be of particular concern to other Canadian jurisdictions.

David Lepofsky, chair of advocacy group AODA Alliance, said Manitoba and Nova Scotia both put legislation in place that’s weaker than Ontario’s in many respects. The federal government, he said, is poised to follow suit unless the senate makes amendments to strengthen the proposed Accessible Canada Act, the first national accessibility law in Canada’s history.

“The thing that we’ve learned, that the Onley report shows, is that just doing what Ontario did has helped, but nowhere near as much as what we need,” Lepofsky said. “(Other governments) need to learn from that and be better.”

^
Toronto Star March 10, 2019

News

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2019/03/10/a-look-at-ttc-accessibility-through-the-eyes-of-a-rider-who-uses-two-canes.html UNEASY ACCESS
Navigating the TTC is a constant challenge for Jessica Geboers. Although provincial law requires transit stations to be fully accessible by 2025, currently only 45 of 75 TTC stations are. That is sparking worries that the deadline won’t be met

Francine Kopun Toronto Star

Jessica Geboers steps off a busy subway car at College station, a cane in each hand, and confronts her first obstacle: two flights of stairs, 10 stairs each.

The stairwell is narrow and passengers headed down the stairs stop to give her the room she needs to make her way up. On this day, at rush hour, a bottleneck forms in seconds.

Sometimes people stop to tell her that there’s an escalator – but Geboers can’t use it, because she can’t hang on to the moving handrails. She has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, affecting muscle control and coordination.

“They’re trying to be helpful and they mean well, but I’m pretty smart. I can see there is an escalator there, and I’m concentrating on not dying on these stairs,” says Geboers, 29.

Past the turnstiles she is confronted by two more flights of stairs: 14 steps and 21 steps respectively. This time the crowd bunches up behind her, infuriating a young man who bursts away from the pack and dashes around her to the top, muttering his complaint.

Making the TTC more accessible – which the transit service is legally bound to do by 2025 –
can’t come soon enough for Geboers, who has a busy life that requires her to spend a lot of time on public transit. She works three days a week and attends physiotherapy appointments twice a week. She volunteers.

She rates the TTC’s accessibility as a six out of 10. “I see that they’re really trying and a good number of stations are accessible, but not as many as should be or could be,” she says.

Last week Mayor John Tory unveiled a newly installed elevator at St. Patrick station, calling it a milestone, but despite making significant progress, there are signs the TTC may be falling behind on its plan to ensure that all stations are accessible by 2025.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the province be fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, including transportation systems like the TTC.

The Act was passed in 2005, but, to date, only 45 of Toronto’s 75 subway stations are accessible.

In fact, the AODA has fallen well short of its goals and people with disabilities continue to face “soul-crushing” barriers, according to a report on the act tabled in the provincial legislature this week by former lieutenant-governor David Onley.

While advances have been made in the area of transportation, it remains the most important issue among people with disabilities, according to the report.

“The reason is perhaps obvious,” wrote Onley, who is disabled.

“If you can’t leave your home, there will be no job, recreation, shopping or other opportunities. Better transportation requires money and leadership.”

Among other challenges, the report points out that priority seating in some places is not working out as intended.

Seats intended for wheelchair access are being taken up by able-bodied people, baby strollers and people with grocery carts. Municipalities are urged in the report to bring in and enforce stronger rules around priority seating.

A total of 11 TTC subway stations will be under construction for accessibility by the end of 2019, but only Royal York station will be completed this year.

Only 26 of 41 objectives set out for the five-year period from 2014-18 were completed when the last status update was filed, in April. By the end of this year, 32 of 41 will be completed, according to the TTC.

The new five-year accessibility plan, covering 2019-2023, has not yet been filed.

“It’s clear that TTC needs to accelerate their work to improve accessibility of their infrastructure and service,” says Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13 Toronto Centre), while acknowledging that the TTC has been working hard to meet the 2025 deadline.

“The year 2025 for AODA compliance is literally around the corner when it comes to major infrastructure upgrades,” she says, adding that if it does fall behind, city council and other government partners need to provide additional funding to make up for lost time.

Mayor Tory, at the launch of the elevator at St. Patrick station, seemed to agree, saying: “If by any chance we fall off track, we’re going to get back on track.”

The TTC says it has made significant progress. All TTC buses are now accessible, with low floors, ramps and seats that flip up to accommodate wheelchairs. It says all subway trains are accessible, with level boarding. Over half of 204 new low-floor accessible streetcars are in service and the rest are expected to arrive by the end of 2019. All of the older inaccessible streetcars will be decommissioned. The plan is to have elevators at all stations by 2025.

After fighting against it in court and losing, the TTC now has a system that audibly announces upcoming stops on subway trains, streetcars and buses, to assist the vision impaired. There are visual signs for the hearing impaired.

Mazin Aribi, chair of the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT), which advises the TTC, says meeting the 2025 target is a delicate balance – too much construction, too fast, triggers complaints from riders.

He thinks that if the TTC continues on its accelerated plan to finish all the subway stations, the 2025 deadline will be met. But he is concerned that planned takeover of the TTC by the province could lead to delays, because the province seems to be focused on saving money and making subways accessible costs money.

“The bottom line is, we do need inclusion,” Aribi says. “It’s public transit. Every person in Toronto is entitled to use and have access.”

The cost for making a station accessible varies, according to the TTC. Sometimes as many as three elevators are required to make a station accessible. The amount of excavation work required varies. Construction costs for St. Patrick were approximately $7.5 million for one elevator. Construction began in December 2016 and the elevator went into service in September.

A second elevator was built by Amexon Development Corp. as part of a Section 37 community benefit, providing access to street level, within the footprint of a property it owns at 480 University Ave., at a cost of $3.9 million to the company. (Section 37 of Ontario’s Planning Act allows developers to exceed height and density zoning regulations in exchange for contributions to neighbourhood projects.)

Several major projects, worth $615.3 million, have been budgeted in the 2018-2027 TTC capital budget, representing more than 9 per cent of the TTC’s overall capital requirements in the next 10 years.

The TTC says it is committed to finishing on time. “Not only is that deadline our commitment, it’s our obligation,” according to a statement from TTC chair Jaye Robinson’s office. Access advocate David Lepofsky, a lawyer who is blind and who fought the TTC in court to force the transit system to announce upcoming stops in streetcars and buses and subway trains, said that without dramatic reforms, the TTC will not meet the 2025 deadline.

While the focus seems to be on elevators, he says the TTC still makes design mistakes at new stations that hinder accessibility.

And the TTC already missed an earlier deadline of 2020, says Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“Do I have concrete, specific evidence that they aren’t going to meet the plan? No I do not, and I’m not suggesting I do,” Lepofsky says. “Am I worried because of the fact that they’ve been a moving target in the past and could be again? Yes. I am basing the concern on their past conduct.”

The issue should be of concern to everyone, Lepofsky says. As people age, they are likely to suffer from impaired mobility of one form or another.

Since suffering a mild stroke two years ago, Sidonio Ferreira has become well acquainted with a flight of stairs that used to have no impact on his life, at Keele subway station.

“They took my licence away. I have to take the subway,” says Ferreira, 83, who has lived in the same neighbourhood for decades.

He and his wife, 74, struggle with the subway stairs and he says they’re not alone – many of their friends and neighbours do, too.

“So far, I can do it. But it’s very hard.”

Construction of an elevator at Keele is scheduled to begin this year, according to the TTC.



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Ground-Breaking Report by Former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, Tabled in the Legislature Yesterday, Blasts Poor Provincial Government Implementation and Enforcement of Ontario’s 2005 Disabilities Act and Calls for Major Reforms to Tackle Persisting Barriers Impeding 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


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

March 8, 2019 Toronto: At least 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities need the Ontario Government to take strong new action now to tear down the many disability barriers they still face when trying to get a job or education, or use public transit or shop for goods or services, according to a blistering Government-appointed report by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley that the Ford Government made public yesterday. In 2005, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become disability-accessible by 2025 by enacting and enforcing regulations (called accessibility standards) that spell out what employers and the providers of goods and services must do to tear down and prevent disability barriers.

In February 2018, the Ontario Government appointed Mr. Onley to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement and to recommend any reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. Based on public feedback, Onley’s report finds that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With under six years left before 2025, the report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

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

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

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He 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 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.”

The Onley report makes concrete, practical top-to-bottom recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak, flagging AODA implementation and enforcement. Set out at the end of this news release is the Onley report’s summary of its recommendations. Many if not most of them echo the findings and recommendations that the AODA Alliance submitted in its detailed January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley Review. Among other things, Mr. Onley calls for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.

“The Onley report recommends desperately needed major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Disabilities Act. We strongly endorse the Onley report’s findings and almost all of his recommendations. Any with which we disagree are secondary and should not distract from the report’s core thrust,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which spearheads the campaign for accessibility in Ontario for people with disabilities. We call on the Ford Government to act now to implement this report. Premier Ford has the opportunity to do a much better job of implementing this law than did his predecessor.”

It is good but long overdue that when releasing the Onley report, the Ford Government also lifted its 258-day long freeze on the important work of two Government-appointed advisory committees. These committees were mandated under the AODA to recommend what regulations should be enacted to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s education system impeding students with disabilities, and in Ontario’s health care system obstructing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance led the fight for the past nine months to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

David Onley AODA Independent Review Report SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.
Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.
Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers. Lead by example.
Coordinate Ontarios accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

2. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA. Define accessibility.
Clarify the AODAs relationship with the Human Rights Code.
Update the definition of disability.

3. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.
Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.
Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.
Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

4. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.

5. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.

6. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.

7. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.

8. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:
Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards
Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

9. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.

10. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.
Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units. Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

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

12. Enforce the AODA.
Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations. Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

13. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation. Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.
Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.
Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

14. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.

15. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.



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