AODA Alliance Finalizes and Makes Public Its Proposed Framework for the Promised Education Accessibility Standard


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

October 10, 2019

SUMMARY

Its done, and its public! Below we set out our finished product, the AODA Alliances Proposed Framework for the Promised AODA Education Accessibility Standard. We are now submitting it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member.

We are encouraging that Standards Development Committee to use this Framework to help with its work, as it prepares recommendations to the Ontario Government on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include. In the next few months, that Standards Development Committee will make public the draft recommendations that it is now preparing. That Committee is finally back at work after the Ford Government left it frozen for well over a year. The AODA Alliance led the campaign to get that committee and all Standards Development Committees unfrozen and back to work.

We and the public will be able to give our input on them. We hope that by offering this proposed Framework now, we can help the Standards Development Committee with its important work.

We thank all of those who took the time to give us their helpful and thoughtful feedback and suggestions after they took the time to read our draft of this proposed Framework. This finished product includes all the ideas that were in the draft. A number of great new ideas were added, thanks to the excellent and extremely helpful feedback that we received.

We were so gratified to receive such warm and supportive feedback for the draft that we circulated for public comment. This finished product reflects feedback we have received and research we have conducted over quite a stretch of time.

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

Today, as we make this important proposed Framework, we are sadly reminded that there have now been 253 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the independent review of the AODAs implementation prepared by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. We are still awaiting a plan from the Government on how it will implement that report.

MORE DETAILS

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

Proposed Framework for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard

October 10, 2019
Prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Introduction — What is This Proposed Framework?

In Ontario, over a third of a million students with disabilities face too many barriers at all levels of Ontario’s education system. For years, the AODA Alliance led a campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In 2018, two committees were appointed by the Ontario Government to make recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include: The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee is responsible for making recommendations on what that accessibility standard should include to address barriers in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations for what that accessibility standard should include to address barriers in Ontario’s post-secondary education institutions, e.g. colleges and universities.

Under the AODA, an accessibility standard is supposed to spell out the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what must be done to remove or prevent them, and the time lines required for these actions.

In this Framework, the AODA Alliance outlines the key ingredients and aims for the promised Education Accessibility Standard. Where we state that “A school board should” or similar wording, we mean by this that the Education Accessibility Standard should include a provision that requires the school board to take the step that we describe.

We hope that this Framework will assist the two Standards Development Committees. It predominantly focuses on the K-12 school context. However, its contents are readily transferrable to the post-secondary education context.

It is essential that the promised Education Accessibility Standard include the key ingredients that the AODA requires. It must identify the barriers to be removed and the actions required to remove them. It must set out deadlines for an obligated organization to take the steps set out in it.

To do this, it must do much more than to require organizations to have a policy on accessibility and to train its employees on that policy.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the promised Education Accessibility Standard will achieve a change in the culture regarding accessibility within education organizations, including a shift from a more traditional special education mentality to one of inclusion and accessibility. To achieve such a change within an organization, it is first necessary to change its practices on accessibility. From those changes in the organizations actions on accessibility will flow a change in its culture regarding accessibility. Therefore, the Education Accessibility Standard should be directed to change actions on accessibility.

The job of a Standards Development Committee is to recommend the contents of an AODA accessibility standard. If a Standards Development Committee chooses to also recommend some non-regulatory measures, that is beyond the Committees core mandate and should not detract from fulfilling that core mandate. For example, the 2018 final recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development Committee largely focused on recommendations of other measures, outside the revision of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard that that Committee was assigned to review. Recommended practices that are not enshrined in an accessibility standard as a regulation, are not binding on school boards and cannot be enforced as an AODA standard.

1. What Should the Long-Term Objectives of the Education Accessibility Standard Be?

#1 The purpose of the Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that Ontario’s education system becomes fully accessible to all students with all kinds of disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline, by requiring the removal and prevention of the accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. It should aim to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in, fully benefit from and be fully included in all aspects of Ontario’s education system on a footing of equality in the least restrictive environment consistent with a student’s and their parents’ wishes. It should provide a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek individual placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations tailored to the individual needs of each student with disabilities. It should aim to eliminate the need for students with disabilities and their families to have to fight against education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for educational organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one school board, college, university or educational program at a time.

2. A Vision of An Accessible Education System

The Education Accessibility Standard should begin by setting out a vision of what an accessible education system should include. An accessible education system at the K-12 level should include the following:

#2.1 It would be designed and operated from top to bottom for all of its students, including students with all kinds of disabilities, as protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code and/or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would not in any way restrict its programs, services, supports, accommodations or other opportunities only to those students whose disability falls within the outdated and narrow definition of “exceptionality” in Ontario’s Education Act and regulations. Students with low-incidence disabilities would not be relegated to a second-class status within the administration of Ontarios education system as compared to those with high-incidence disabilities.

#2.2 The education system would no longer be designed and operated from the starting point of aiming to serve the fictional “average” student. It would not treat or label students with disabilities as “exceptions” or “exceptional”. It would not call their needs “special” or their disabilities exceptionalities. Their services, supports and needs would not be conflated with or funded from the same budget pot as the services and needs of gifted students who have no disability.

#2.3 The built environment in the education system, such as schools themselves, their yards, playgrounds etc., and the equipment on those premises (such as gym and playground equipment) would all be fully accessible to people with disabilities and would be designed based on the principle of universal design. Where school programs or trips take place outside the school, these will be held at locations that are disability-accessible.

#2.4 Courses taught to students, including the curriculum and lesson plans, as well as informal learning activities, would fully incorporate principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL), and where needed, differential instruction, so that they are inclusive for students with disabilities.

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

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

#2.7 Inclusion and Universal Design in Learning would extend beyond formal classroom learning to other activities connected with education or the school more generally, such as the playground at recess, social and recreational activities, field trips, extra-curricular activities, and experiential learning opportunities.

#2.8 Students with disabilities would have prompt access to the up-to-date adaptive technology and specialized supports they need, and training on how to use it, to best enable them to fully take part in and benefit from education and other school-related programming. Students with disabilities would be able to bring to school and take home the accessibility technology and supports from which they benefit. For example, they would have the right to bring a qualified service animal to school with them.

#2.9 Teachers and other educational staff would be fully trained to serve all students, and not just students who have no disabilities. They would be fully trained in such things as Universal Design in Learning and differential instruction. “Special Education” teachers and departments would not serve as a silo for those who would teach students with disabilities.

#2.10 Options for placement and programming at school would be sufficiently diverse and flexible to accommodate a wide spectrum of learning needs and styles, rather than tending to be one-size-fits-all for students with specified kinds of disabilities.

#2.11 Tests and other forms of evaluation in school education would be designed based on principles of universal design and Universal Design in Learning, so that they will be barrier-free for students with disabilities and will provide a fair and accurate assessment of their progress.

#2.12 Classroom teachers and other front-line teaching staff would be provided sufficient staff support, and, where needed, additional specialized training, to enable them to effectively serve students with disabilities in their classes.

#2.13 Students with disabilities would be assured the opportunity to receive an equal education in the least restrictive environment, consistent with the student’s/parents’ wishes.

#2.14 Students with disabilities would encounter a welcoming environment at school and in class to facilitate their full participation, and a welcoming environment in which they can seek and receive accommodations for their disabilities. Students without disabilities, teaching staff and other school staff, as well as other parents in the school context, would be welcoming and inclusive towards students with disabilities. To achieve this, among other things, all students will receive positive curriculum content on the importance of inclusion and accessibility for students with disabilities. Bullying, teasing, stereotyping, patronization and the soft bigotry of low expectations will be eliminated from the school environment.

#2.15 Admission criteria, admission tests or other admission screening to get into any specialized education programming would be barrier-free for students with disabilities.

#2.16 Students with disabilities and their parents/guardians would have prompt, effective and easy access to user-friendly information in multiple languages about the educational options, programs, services, supports and accommodations available for them and their disability, and about the process for them to seek these. Students with disabilities and their parents would be given a timely opportunity to observe options for placement, programming and other educational services and supports, when considering which would be most suitable for that student, and before they need to make any decisions about this.

#2.17 Students with disabilities and their families would be kept regularly informed about the effectiveness of the placement, program, services, supports and accommodations that the student is receiving.

#2.18 The school boards process for deciding on the placement, programming, services, supports and accommodations for students with disabilities would be fair, open, transparent and collaborative, in which the student and their family can fully participate. For example, before an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is written, the student and parents/guardians would be able and invited to take part in an Individual Education Plan meeting with school officials, at which the Individual Education Plan would be jointly written. At each stage of the process, the student and parents would be given clear user-friendly “rights advice” on how the process works, and on their rights in the process.

#2.19 Once a student has an established Individual Education Plan at one school, that plan would be portable, and would carry forward should that student move to another school at the same or a different school board.

#2.20 A decision about a student’s placement would not be made until assessments and decisions are reached about the needs and most appropriate program, services, supports and accommodations for that student with disabilities.

#2.21 Where a student with a disability or their family believes that the school or school board is not effectively meeting the student’s disability-related needs, (e.g. by not including a desired item in the Individual Education Plan), or if the student or family believes that the school board is not providing an educational program, service, support or accommodation which it had agreed to provide, the student and family would have access to a prompt, fair, open and arms-length review process, including an offer of a voluntary Alternative Resolution Process if needed. It would be conducted by someone with expertise in the education of students with disabilities who was not involved in the original decision or activity, and who does not oversee the work of those involved in the student’s direct education.

#2.22 The mandatory minimum qualifications and required training for specialized support educators (such as teachers of the visually impaired) would be modernized and upgraded where needed to ensure that they are qualified to meet the specialized needs of their students and of the other teachers whom they support.

#2.23 There would be no bureaucratic, procedural or policy barriers that would impede the effective placement and accommodation of individual students with disabilities at all levels of Ontario’s education system.

#2.24 Students with disabilities would have a right to attend school for the entire school day, and the right to not be excluded from school by their school or school board for all or part of a school day, directly or indirectly because of their disability. Schools would not systemically or disproportionately exclude students with disabilities from school for either all or part of the school day (e.g. because a special needs assistant is away from school).

#2.25 Major new Government strategies in Ontario’s education system would be proactively designed from the start to fully include the needs of students with disabilities. For example, if the Ontario Government were to announce a new math strategy for Ontario’s schools, it would, among other things, include an effective strategy to address disability barriers that students with disabilities face in math education.

#2.26 Those responsible at the provincial and local school board levels for leading, overseeing and operating Ontario’s education system would have strong and specific requirements to address disability accessibility and inclusion in their mandates and would be accountable for their work on this. This responsibility will not be relegated to and segregated in special education bureaucratic silos.

#2.27 The education system would provide disability-related funding to a school board based on the actual number of students with disabilities at that board, and not on a provincial formula that merely tries to estimate how many should be at that school board.

3. General Provisions that the Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

#3.1 This proposed accessibility standard should cover and apply to all education programs and opportunities for students at any school board that receives public funding in Ontario.

#3.2 Where this accessibility standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . It should not be limited to the much more restricted definition of an “exceptional pupil” or a student with an “exceptionality” in the Education Act and regulations and policy related to them, or who is therefore treated under Ontario’s Education Act, regulations, or policy as a student with special education needs.

#3.3 Each school board should be required to establish a permanent committee of its trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. Other members should include the school board’s chair or vice chair. The chair and vice chair of the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee should sit as ex officio members of this committee, whether or not they are trustees of the school board. The school board’s Accessibility Committee should have responsibility for overseeing the school board’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in so far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the school board provides.

#3.4 Each school board should be required to establish in each school or related cluster of adjacent schools, a School Accessibility Committee. It should include representatives from the schools teachers, management, staff, students and parents/guardians, including representation where possible of people with disabilities from these groups. Its mandate should be to identify barriers in the school and its programs and to make recommendations for accessibility improvements to be shared with the school board administration and with the trustees Accessibility Committee.

#3.5 Each school board should be required to establish or designate the position of Chief Accessibility/Inclusion Officer, reporting to the Director of Education, with a mandate and responsibility to ensure proper leadership on the school board’s accessibility and inclusion obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, including the requirements set by this accessibility standard. This responsibility may be assigned to an existing senior management official.

#3.6 Each school board should set up and maintain a network of teachers and other staff with disabilities, and a network of students with disabilities, to get input on accessibility issues at the school board.

#3.7 Beyond the specific measures on removing and preventing barriers set out in this accessibility standard and in other AODA accessibility standards, each school board should be required to systematically review its educational programming, services, facilities and equipment to identify recurring accessibility barriers within that school board that can impede the effective participation and inclusion of students with disabilities. A comprehensive plan for removing and preventing these accessibility barriers should be developed, implemented and made public with clear time lines, clear assignment of responsibilities for action, monitoring for progress, and reporting to the school board’s trustees , the school board’s accessibility committee, and to the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee. It should include actions on barriers identified by the local School Accessibility Committees established under this standard. This plan should aim at all accessibility barriers that can impede students with disabilities from full inclusion in the education and other programs and activities at that school board, whether or not they are specifically identified in the Education Accessibility Standard or in any other specific accessibility standards enacted under the AODA.

#3.8 Each school board should be required to develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive new Inclusion Strategy for students with disabilities, whether or not their disability is identified as an “exceptionality” under Ontario’s special education laws. Under this strategy, where a school board proposes to refuse to provide a placement for a student with a disability in a regular class setting with needed accommodations, supports or services, over the objections of the student or of their family, on the grounds that the school board believes that it cannot serve that student in a regular classroom setting, the principal should be required to give written notice of this to the family, with reasons, and to tell the family that it has the right to promptly receive the principal’s reasons in writing. But this should not be reason to stop or withdraw any services or support from the student until a meeting has been held to discuss this issue.

#3.9 Each school board should have an explicit duty to create a welcoming environment for students with disabilities and their families, including other family members with disabilities, to seek accommodations for their disabilities.

4. The Right of Parents, Guardians and Students with Disabilities to Know About Disability-Related Programs, Services, and Supports, and How to Access Them

Barrier: Parents, including parents with disabilities, too often find it difficult to get easily accessed and accessible information from their school board and from the Ontario Government on education options, services and supports available for students with disabilities and how to access them.

#4.1 Each school board should provide parents of students with disabilities, and where applicable, students with disabilities themselves, with timely and effective information, in accessible formats, on the available services, programs and supports for students with disabilities (whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and regulations). Each school board should ensure that parents, guardians, and where practicable, students are informed, as early as possible, in a readily-accessible and understandable way, about important information such as:

a) What special education is and who is entitled to receive it.

b) That the school board has a duty to ensure that a student with a disability has the right to full participation in and full inclusion in all the school board’s education and other programming, and to be accommodated in connection with those programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, whether or not the student is classified as a student with special education needs under Ontario’s Education Act and regulations.

c) The menu of options, placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations available at the school board for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and regulations.

d) What persons and what office to approach at the school board to get this information, to request placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the students education needs.

e) The processes and procedures at the school board for a parent, guardian or student to request or change placements, programs, services, supports or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs. This includes formal legislated processes like the Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) and the development and implementation of the students Individual Education Plan (IEP). It also includes other informal processes like requests for programs, services, supports and accommodations that are not covered in an IPRC or IEP.

#4.2 Without restricting the important information that must be made readily available, each school board should ensure, among other things, that:

a) Parents and guardians of students with disabilities can easily find out and, where necessary, visit different placement, program, service and support options for a student with a disability, whether or not they are classified as a student with special education needs, before the parent, guardian or, where practicable, the student must take a position on what placement, program or services should be provided to that student.

b) Parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and, where practicable, students with disabilities themselves, should be given clear, understandable explanations of their rights in the school system, including but not limited to the special education process. For example, when a school board presents parents or guardians with a proposed IEP, the school board should explain to them that they need not agree to and sign the proposed IEP, that the school board is open to consider the family’s suggestions for changes to the proposed IEP, and the avenues by which parents or guardians can seek to get the school board to make changes to the proposed IEP.

#4.3 Each school board should develop, implement and make public an action plan to substantially improve its provision of the important information, described above, to all parents and guardians of that school board’s students, and to all students where practicable, and especially to parents and guardians of students with disabilities:

a) This plans objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational and other opportunities available at the school board.

b) A school board should not simply leave it to each principal or teacher to make sure that this important information is effectively provided. Each school board should instead have an effective system in place to ensure that this information actually reaches all parents and guardians, and where applicable, students.

c) Each school board should ensure that all of this important information is fully and readily accessible in a prompt and timely way to all parents, guardians and students, in accessible formats and in jargon-free plain language, in a diverse range of languages. It should be easy to find this information. Among other things, this information should be posted on the school boards website, in a prominent place that is easy to find, with a link on the school boards home page. A school board should not simply rely on its website to share this information since this will not serve those families that do not have internet access.

d) Among other things, each school board should send home an information package to all families at the start of each school year, and not merely to families of those students who are already being identified or served as having special education needs or disabilities. This package should include, among other things, a Question and Answer format to help families see how this information could relate to the student in their family.

e) Each school board should also create a user-friendly package of information to be provided to families who first approach a school board about the possibility of enrolling a child at that school board, e.g. when they register for kindergarten. This should help enable a family to know whether they should be trying to access disability-related services and supports.

f) Each school board should periodically host events at local schools to help families learn how to navigate disability-related school board processes like the Individual Education Plan and the Identification and Placement Review Committee processes. Where possible these should be streamed online and archived online as a resource for families to watch online.

5. Ensuring that Parents, Guardians and Students Have a Fair and Effective Process for Raising Concerns About a School Board’s Accommodation of the Education Needs of Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Lack of sufficient, easily-accessed and fair processes at each school board to enable students with disabilities and families to have effective input into the placement and accommodation of the student, and for raising disability-related concerns.

The procedures required by the Education Act and regulations for identifying and accommodating the needs of students with disabilities are out-of-date. They are insufficient to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are effectively met.

#5.1 Each school board should establish and maintain an effective process for parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, the student themselves, to effectively take part in the development and implementation of a students plans for meeting and accommodating their disability-related needs, including (but not limited to) their Individual Education Plan (IEP).

#5.2 As part of this process, parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where practicable, the student, should be invited to take part in a joint school team student accommodation/IEP development meeting, where accommodation plans will be made and where the IEP will be written. The school board should bring to the table all key professionals who can contribute to this. The family should be invited to bring to the table any supports and professionals that can assist the family. Parents should have the right to bring with them anyone who can assist them in advocating for their child. Parents/families should be given a wide range of options for participating e.g. in person or by phone. They should be told in advance who will attend from the school board. Any proposal for accommodations including a draft IEP should include a summary of key points to assist families in understanding them.

#5.3 If a school board refuses to provide an accommodation, service, or support for a childs disability that a parent, guardian, or where appropriate, the student requests, or if the school board does not provide an accommodation or support that it has agreed to provide, the school board should, on request, promptly provide written reasons for that refusal. It should let the family and student know that they can request written reasons.

#5.4 If parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, the student, disagree with any aspect of the proposed supports, services or accommodations including (but not limited to) the proposed IEP, or if the student or their family believe that the school board has not provided a service, accommodation or support that the school board has agreed to provide, the school board should make available a respectful, non-adversarial internal review process for hearing and deciding on the familys concerns. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should set out the specifics of this review process. This school board review process should include the following:

a) It should be very prompt. Arrangements for a student’s accommodations, including an IEP, should be finalized as quickly as possible, so that the students needs are promptly met.

b) No proposed services, supports or accommodations that the school board is prepared to offer should be withheld from a student pending a review. The family should not feel pressured not to seek this review, lest the child be placed in a position of educational disadvantage during the review process. In other words, a family should not fear that if they launch a review, the student will suffer because the school board will not provide an accommodation or service that the school board has offered, while the review is pending.

c) The review process should be fair. The school board should let the family know all of its issues or concerns with a familys proposal regarding the student’s accommodations, including the contents of the IEP. The family should be given a fair chance to express its concerns and recommendations regarding the student’s accommodations’, including in the IEP.

d) The review should be by a person or persons who are independent and impartial. They should have expertise in the education of students with disabilities. They should not have taken part in any of the earlier discussions or decisions at that school board regarding the services, supports or accommodations or IEP for that child.

e) At the review, every effort should be made to mediate and resolve any disagreements between the family and the school board. If the matter cannot be resolved by agreement, there should be an option for the school board or the Ministry of Education to appoint a person or persons who are outside the school board to consider the review, along prompt time lines.

f) At the review, written reasons should be given for the decision, especially if any of the familys requests or concerns are not accepted.

g) If, after receiving the review’s decision and reasons, the family wishes to present any new information, they should be able to ask for the review to be reconsidered. This should be along short time lines.

H) After the review is decided, if the family is not satisfied, they should be able to bring their concerns regarding the proposed accommodations including any IEP to a designated senior official at the school board with authority to approve the requested accommodations, for a further review.

#5.5 Each school board should notify parents and guardians who themselves have a disability that they have a right to have their disability-related needs accommodated in these processes, so that they can fully participate in them. For example, they should be notified that they have a right to receive any information or documents to be used in any such meeting or process in an accessible format.

#5.6 Where a student with a disability is being accommodated in a school covered by this accessibility standard, and the student transfers to another school in that school board or to another school board, that student should have a right to have the same accommodations maintained at the new school or school board. If the school board of the school to which the student transfers proposes to reduce those accommodations or supports, they should be maintained until and unless, through the procedures set out in this accessibility standard, the school board has justified a reduction of those accommodations.

6. Expediting the Early Identification and Assessment of Students with Disabilities’ Needs

Barrier: Students with disabilities can face delays and bureaucratic impediments to early and timely professional assessment, where needed, of their disability-related needs.

#6.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require measures to tear down administrative, bureaucratic and other barriers to reduce delays for getting psychological and other educational assessments for the identification of disability related needs.

7. Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Schools

Barrier: Too often, the built environment where education programming is offered have physical barriers that partially or totally impede some students with disabilities from being able to enter or independently move around.

The Ontario Building Code and existing accessibility standards do not set out modern and sufficient accessibility requirements for the built environment in Ontario. Moreover, the Ontario Building Code is largely if not entirely designed to address the needs of adults, not children. The Ontario Government has no accessibility standard for the built environment in schools, whether old or new schools. The Ontario Government has not agreed to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard or to substantially strengthen the accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code.

It is thus left to each school board to come up with its own designs to address accessibility in the built environment in schools and other school board locations. This is highly inefficient and wasteful. It allows public money to be used to create new barriers against people with disabilities and to perpetuate existing barriers.

#7.1 The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific requirements for accessibility in the built environment in schools and other locations where education programs are to be offered. These should meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. They should meet the needs of all disabilities, and not only mobility disabilities. These should include:

a) Specific requirements to be included in a new school to be built.

b) Requirements to be included in a renovation of or addition to an existing school, and

c) Retrofit requirements for an existing school that is not slated for a major renovation or addition.

#7.2 Each school board should develop a plan for ensuring that the built environment of its schools and other educational facilities becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities as soon as reasonably possible, and in any event, no later than 2025. As part of this:

a) As a first step, each school board should develop a plan for making as many of its schools disability-accessible within its current financial context. Accessibility does not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. It includes the needs of people with all disabilities, for example people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, or mental health disabilities.

b) Each school board should identify which of its existing schools can be more easily made accessible, and which schools would require substantially more extensive action to be made physically accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing schools that would require less money to be made physically accessible, taking into account the need to also consider geographic equity of access across the school board.

c) When designing a new school or managing an existing school, wherever possible, a quiet room should be assigned in a school facility to assist with learning by those students with disabilities who require such an environment. For example, when a school board is deciding what to do with excess building capacity, it should allocate unused or under-used rooms as quiet rooms whenever possible.

#7.3 When a school board seeks to retain or hire design professionals, such as architects, interior designers or landscape architects, for the design of a new school or a existing school’s retrofit or renovation, or for any other school board construction or other infrastructure project, the school board should include in any Request for Proposal (RFP) a mandatory requirement that the design professional must have sufficient demonstrated expertise in accessibility design, and not simply knowledge about compliance with the Ontario Building Code or the AODA. This includes the accessibility needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with mobility impairments. It includes the accessibility needs of students and not just of adults.

#7.4 When a school board is planning a new school, or expanding or renovating an existing school or other infrastructure, a qualified accessibility consultant should be retained by the school board (and not by a private architecture firm) to advise on the project from the outset, with their advice being transmitted directly to the school board and not only to the private design professionals who are retained to design the project. Completing the 8-day training course on accessibility offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation should not be treated as either necessary or sufficient for this purpose, as that course is substantially inadequate and has significant problems.

#7.5 A committee of the school board’s trustees and the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee should be required to review design decisions on new construction or renovations to ensure that accessibility of the built environment is effectively addressed. A schools School Accessibility Committee should also be involved in this review.

#7.6 Where possible, a school board should not renovate an existing school that lacks disability accessibility, unless the school board has a plan to also make that school accessible. For example, a school board should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a school which lacks accessibility to the second storey, if the school board does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.

#7.7 When a school board decides which schools to close due to reduced enrollment, a priority should be placed on keeping open schools with more physical accessibility, while a priority should be given to closing schools that are the most lacking in accessibility, or for which retrofitting is the most costly.

#7.8 Each school board should only hold off-site educational events at venues whose built environment is accessible.

8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

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

#8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Ensuring Universal Design in Learning Is Used in All Teaching Activities, Both Online and in Classroom Learning

Barrier: Too often, the curricula and lesson plans used in Ontario schools were not designed based on principles of accessibility and Universal Design in Learning.

#9.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that the Ministry of Education and each school board, when setting requirements for or designing school curriculum, shall ensure that it incorporates universal design in learning to make it accessible to students with disabilities.

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

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

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

#9.3 Each school board should ensure that all teachers and teaching staff understand, and effectively and consistently use, principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL), and differentiated instruction, when preparing and implementing lesson plans and other educational programming, to effectively address the spectrum of different learning needs and styles. For example:

a) This plans objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational opportunities available at the school board.

b) Each school board should develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive plan to train its teachers, other teaching staff, teaching coaches and principals on using UDL and differentiated instruction principles when preparing lesson plans and teaching, in order to effectively meet the spectrum of different learning needs and styles. The Ontario Government should be required to provide a model program for this training which each school board can use.

c) Each school board should include knowledge of UDL and differentiated instruction principles as an important criterion when recruiting or promoting teachers, other teaching staff and principals.

d) Each school board should ensure that teachers are provided with appropriate resources and support to successfully implement the UDL training. Each school board should monitor how effectively UDL and differentiated instruction are incorporated into lesson plans and other teaching activities on the front lines.

e) Each school board should review any curriculum, textbooks and other instructional materials and learning resources used in its schools to ensure that they incorporate principles of UDL.

f) Each school board should create and implement a plan to ensure that teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineer and math (STEM) have resources and expertise to ensure the accessibility of STEM courses and learning resources.

g) Each school board should provide teaching coaches with expertise in UDL to support teachers and other teaching staff.

h) Similarly, specialized training should be included for those who teach sex education to ensure that it includes disability-related sex education.

i) The Ministry of Education should create templates or models for the foregoing training so that each school board does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.

#9.4 Concentrated requirements to require the removal and prevention of workplace barriers at school boards impeding teachers and other school staff with disabilities would have the side-benefit of removing and preventing barriers that impede students with disabilities, such as specific measures to ensure that accessible student placements are provided in Ontario schools for teachers and other teaching staff with disabilities during their training in teachers college and other post-secondary programs.

10. Ensuring Sufficient Training and Expertise for Education Professionals Who Support Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Lack of sufficient training requirements for some education professionals who specialize in supporting the education needs of students with disabilities.

Ontario does not currently ensure that all professionals who are employed to support the education of students with disabilities will have sufficient qualifications to do so. For example, Ontario’s leading organization of parents of children with vision loss, Views for the Visually Impaired, has pointed out to the Ontario Government and the Ontario College of Teachers that the requirements to qualify to serve as a “teacher of the visually impaired” (TVI) in Ontario are substantially inadequate. They are much lower than in some other places in Canada and elsewhere. A teacher employed to teach braille to a blind child in Ontario need have no prior hands-on experience ever training a blind child to read braille. They need not ever previously even have observed another TVI teaching braille to a blind child.

#10.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require sufficient training for professionals who support the education of students with disabilities.

11. Removing Attitudinal Barriers Against Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Stereotypes, lack of knowledge and other attitudes among some teachers, principals, other school staff, other students and some families, that do not recognize the right and benefits of students with disabilities to get a full and equal education.

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

a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.

b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.

c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.

d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.

#11.2 Each school board should develop and implement human resources policies targeted at full accessibility and inclusion, such as:

a) Making knowledge and experience on implementing inclusion an important hiring and promotions criterion especially for principals, vice-principals and teaching staff.

b) Emphasizing accessibility and inclusion knowledge and performance in any performance management and performance reviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Ensuring Accessibility of Gym, Playground and Like Equipment and Activities

Barrier: Schools or school boards that have gym, playground or other equipment that is not designed based on principles of universal design, and that some students with disabilities therefore cannot use, as well as gym, sports and other activities in which students with disabilities can fully participate.

Section 80.18 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, as amended in 2012, requires accessibility features to be considered when new outdoor play spaces are being established or existing ones are redeveloped. However, those provisions do not set the spectrum of detailed requirements that should be included. They do not require any action if an existing play space is not being redeveloped. They ultimately leave it to each school board or each school to re-invent the accessibility wheel each time they build or redevelop an outdoor play space. They do not require anything of indoor play spaces or gyms.

#13.1 To ensure that gym equipment, playground equipment and other like equipment and facilities are accessible for students with disabilities, the Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific technical accessibility requirements for new or existing outdoor or indoor play spaces, gym and other like equipment, drawing on accessibility standards and best practices in other jurisdictions, if sufficient, so that each school board does not have to re-invent the accessibility wheel.

#13.2 Each school board should:

a) Take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor play spaces and gym and playground equipment, and make this public, including posting it online.

b) Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of new gym or playground equipment, in consultation with the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and Accessibility Committee, and widely with families of students with disabilities.

c) Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing playground is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the school board.

#13.3 Where playground or other school equipment or facilities to be deployed on school property for use by students is funded and/or purchased by anyone other than the school board, the school board should remain responsible for approving the purchases and ensuring that only accessible equipment and facilities are placed on school property for use by students or the public. Decisions over whether accessibility features will be included, or which will be included, should not be left to community groups which may fund-raise for such equipment or facilities.

Barrier: Gym and other physical activity programming at schools may not be designed or operated in a way that allows students with disabilities to fully participate.

#13.4 Each school board should be required to ensure that its gym and other physical activity teachers and coaches have training and access to support information on how to include students with disabilities in these programs.

#13.5 The Ministry of Education should be required to make available to school boards resources and training material on effectively including students with disabilities in gym and other physical activity programming.

14. Ensuring Student Testing/Assessment is Free of Disability Barriers

Barrier: Tests or other performance assessments of students that are not designed in a way that ensures that students with disabilities are fairly and accurately assessed.

Throughout the education system, students take tests and other assessments of their academic performance, whether in specific courses or via system-wide standardized tests. There have been no mandatory provincial requirements of which we are aware to ensure that the ways students’ performance is tested or assessed are barrier-free for students with disabilities, and to ensure a fair and accurate assessment of their performance.

#14.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set requirements for proper approaches to ensuring tests provide a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment of students with disabilities, and on when and how to provide an alternative evaluation method.

#14.2 To ensure that a school board fairly and accurately assesses the performance of students with disabilities, each school board should:

a) Have a policy that commits to ensure that testing and other assessments of students’ performance and learning are designed to be barrier-free for students with disabilities.

b) Give its teachers and principals training resources on how to ensure a test is a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment for students with disabilities in their class, and where needed, how to provide an alternative evaluation method.

c) Monitor implementation of these guidelines.

#14.3 The Ministry of Education should ensure that any provincial standardized testing is fully accessible to and barrier-free for students with disabilities and will provide a fair and accurate assessment of their knowledge and abilities.

15. Ensuring Students with Disabilities Have the Technology and Other Supports They Need at School

Barrier: Policy and bureaucratic impediments to students with disabilities getting the adaptive technology and other supports they need for school.

There are inconsistent practices around Ontario for making available to students with disabilities the adaptive technology and support services they need, and the training required to be able to effectively use that equipment. For example, the Toronto District School Board does not at all support students with vision loss using Apple products such as the iPhone or iPad. Those products come with leading accessibility features and are widely used by people with vision loss around the world. There are also inconsistent practices on whether a student can take such equipment home for use there or can bring their own adaptive equipment from home for use at school.

#15.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that procedural, bureaucratic and other barriers to the acquisition, training and use of needed adaptive equipment and technology at school should be eliminated. It should require the establishment of a prompt, standardized and consistent provincial system for the procurement and deployment of accessible technology that ensures access to the most appropriate and up-to-date technology that is available on the market.

Barrier: Some school boards or schools do not let students with disabilities bring a sufficiently trained service animal to school as an accommodation to their disability, either because the school board or school does not allow for this or lacks a proper policy to allow for this.

Some students on the autism spectrum and their families in Ontario have reported having difficulties at some school boards with being allowed to bring a service animal to school and have even had to take action before the Human Rights Tribunal against a school board. Others have been able to succeed without barriers in bringing their service animal to school.

#15.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should provide that each school board should ensure that students with disabilities are able to bring a sufficiently trained service animal to school as a disability accommodation. Each school board should respect the student’s rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

#15.3 The Education Accessibility Standard should set specific requirements for school board practices in relation to a student bringing a service animal to school. The recent Ministry of Education policy directive to school boards on this topic did not include the important specifics that are needed. Here again, each school board should not have to reinvent the wheel.

#15.4 The Education Accessibility Standard should ensure that there should be no bureaucratic or policy barriers to students with disabilities bringing a sufficiently trained service animal to school. The fair process procedures described in this Framework should apply to such requests.

#15.5 If the school board does not accept at first the sincerity or legitimacy of the student’s request, or the training of the service animal, the school board should immediately notify the student and their family of any and all concerns. The school board should investigate the request, including the student’s benefits from the service animal outside school and in the home, or any other concerns, as well as the experience of other schools or school boards that have allowed students with disabilities to bring service animals to school, before acting on any potential board reluctance or unwillingness to grant the student’s request. If a school board is not prepared to accept a request to be able to bring a service animal to school at first, the school board should undertake a test period of allowing the service animal at school, unless the school board can demonstrate that it would be impossible to conduct such a test period without causing the school board undue hardship. A school board should not refuse a request to bring a service animal to school based on no test period and based on speculative assumptions or stereotypes.

#15.6 The question when dealing with such requests should not be whether the student is doing adequately at school without the service animal. The question should be whether the student could do better at reaching their potential at school if assisted by their service animal. Similarly, the question is not whether the service animal will assist the student in accessing the curriculum. Rather the relevant question is whether the service animal could assist the student with any aspect of student life in the school environment, such as social interaction, independence and self-regulation. In its May 2, 2019 letter to Ontario’s Education Minister, the Ontario Human Rights Commission stated: “We believe that limiting disability accommodation to only “learning needs” is not a proper interpretation of the Code.”

#15.7 Each school board should ensure that principals, teachers, school office staff and families of students with disabilities know about this policy and that no attitudinal barriers impede this accommodation.

#15.8 The preference of some other students or staff with no disability not to have a service animal in class is not a justification for refusing to allow this accommodation for a student with a disability. Such concerns of other students, or of staff should be addressed by making arrangements that allow the student with a disability to bring their service animal to school, while situating any objecting student or staff with no disability at an acceptable distance from them. Notwithstanding anything in such school board policies, nothing may restrict a person with vision loss, student, staff, and parent or otherwise, from being a qualified guide dog with whom they have trained to school.

16. Removing Barriers to Participation in Experiential Learning

Barrier: Experiential learning programs that do not ensure that accessible experiential and inclusive experiential learning placements are made available to students with disabilities, and insufficient supports to help organizations, providing experiential learning placements, to facilitate the placement of students with disabilities.

#16.1 To ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a school board’s experiential learning programs, each school board should:

a) Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers.

b) Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that there will be a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate.

c) Ensure that its partner organizations that accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.

d) Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements.

e) Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation.

f) Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

#16.2 The Ministry of Education should provide templates for these policies and measures. It should also prepare and make available training videos for school boards and organizations offering experiential learning programs to guide them on accommodating students with disabilities in experiential learning placements.

17. Ensuring French Immersion and Other Specialized Programs Are Barrier-Free for Students with Disabilities

Barrier: A potential combination of different barriers reviewed in this Framework.

#17.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set a province-wide standard for ensuring that French immersion programs and other specialized programs are accessible to and effectively accommodate students with disabilities. These programs should be offered in accessible locations. Their instructional materials should be available in accessible formats. Their admission criteria should be screened for any disability barriers.

#17.2 Each school board should develop, implement and monitor a strategy to ensure that French Immersion and other specialized programs are open and accessible to and barrier-free for students with disabilities, including:

a) Identifying what percentage of the students in these programs are students with disabilities, to document any patterns of under-participation.

b) Reviewing the admission process for gaining entry to these programs, to identify possible accessibility barriers.

c) Reviewing the choice of the buildings and classrooms where these programs are to be delivered to ensure that students with disabilities will be able to physically attend these programs.

d) Identifying what efforts the school board now makes to ensure that students with disabilities are included in and accommodated in these programs, and the extent to which UDL and differentiated instruction principles are used in the teaching in these programs.

e) Developing an action plan to address any accessibility and inclusion shortfalls.

f) Actively publicizing to students with disabilities and their families about the opportunities to take part in these programs, and the school board’s readiness to ensure that their accommodation needs will be met.

g) Monitoring the effectiveness of efforts to ensure inclusion and accessibility of these programs for students with disabilities, and report publicly on this, including to school board trustees, to the trustees’ accessibility committee and to the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, on an annual basis.

18. Substantially Reducing the Shuffling of Students with Special Education Needs From School to School over Their school Years

Barrier: The school boards choice of in which schools to locate special education classes or programs for students with disabilities can force too many of these students to have to change the school they attend over their years at school much more than do other students, causing disruption and hardships for the students and their families. This can also make it harder for flexible placements that straddle more than one of these programs or classes.

#18.1 Each school board should be required to develop and implement a strategy to substantially reduce the shuffling of students with disabilities from one school to another over their school years. For example:

a) If a student, attending a school other than their home school, for a special education program or class, is prepared to shift to inclusion in a fulltime regular classroom, then consistent with parental agreement, the student should have the option of remaining at the same school as the special education class, and treating it as their home school.

b) Where possible, the school board should locate in the same school a combination of two special education classes that involve different levels of support. This would enable a student to gradually progress through different levels of special education classes towards a regular class setting in that school, without having to switch schools in order to switch to a different level of special education class. It would also enable a student, where appropriate, to spend part of a school day in one program and another part of the school day in another program, to best and most flexibly meet the student’s needs.

c) Where feasible, if a student with a disability is required to attend a different school than his or her home school in order to take part in special education programming, the family should have the option of having that students’ siblings also attend that school, especially where this will help the student with a disability. Whenever possible, siblings, including those with disabilities, should be able to attend the same school.

19. Transportation for Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Barriers to accessibility of the education programming offered at a student’s local school that necessitates the provision of bus transportation to more distant schools, combined with the failure to ensure that students with disabilities are consistently, reliably and safely bussed to and from school.

The provisions on bus transportation for students with disabilities in s. 75 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011 (IASR) have not been sufficient to effectively remove transportation barriers facing students with disabilities. Stronger provisions are required. The 2018 recommendations for revisions to the transportation provisions in the IASR do not address or meet this need.

#19.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should provide that where a school board provides bussing or other transportation to students with disabilities in order to enable them to attend school, the school board shall ensure, and shall monitor to ensure that:

a) The school board has individually consulted with each family to identify the accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation, and the bus company and driver have been properly trained to accommodate that need.

b) Where the school board or its bussing contractor changes the driver assigned to transport the student, the replacement driver is given the same information and training prior to driving the student, or, in the case of an emergency replacement, as soon as possible.

c) The school board and, where applicable, any contractor it hires, shall retain records of the training provided, including when it was provided and shall make this information public.

d) The school board should have a readily available and reachable official, especially during periods when a student is being transported, to receive and address phone calls, emails and text messages from a family about problems regarding the student’s transportation.

e) The school board should document all complaints reported on transportation services, and the company to which it applies. A summary of these should be provided to all members of the school board including its Special Education Advisory Committee and its Accessibility Committee on a quarterly basis and shall make this public on the school board’s website.

f) The Education Accessibility Standard should make it clear that the fact that the school board has contracted for a private company to provide the student transportation does not remove or reduce the school board’s duties under this accessibility standard or otherwise under the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that the student has been provided with barrier-free participation in the school board’s educational programs and opportunities. In any contract for bussing, the school board should be required to monitor the bus company for compliance with all obligations regarding bussing, such as the duty to properly train each bus driver on the specific disability-related needs of each passenger with a disability, and to document this training. Each school board should periodically audit the bus companies with whom they contract for compliance, and publicly report on the audits results. A bus companys failure to consistently and reliably meet its obligations should trigger substantial monetary penalties and termination of the contract.

Barrier: Some school boards do not ensure that pick-up/drop locations for student bussing are accessible for parents with disabilities.

#19.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that the school board and, where applicable, a bus company with which it contracts, will ensure that pick-up and drop-off locations for a student’s bussing are accessible when needed to accommodate the parents or guardians of students with disabilities.

20. Protecting Students with Disabilities from Being Unfairly Denied the Right to Attend School for All or Part of the School Day

Barrier: The arbitrary power of school principals to exclude students from school, outside the disciplinary suspension and expulsion power, that disproportionately impacts on students with disabilities.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified as a human rights issue the sweeping and arbitrary power of any school principal to exclude a student from school. Section 265(1) (m) of Ontario’s Education Act provides:

“265. (1) It is the duty of a principal of a school, in addition to the principals duties as a teacher

(m) subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principals judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils; ”

This power can be and is misused, especially to keep some students with disabilities away from school. This is made worse by the school boards power under Ontario regulations to shorten the length of the school day for students with disabilities, even over a parents objection. This Framework addresses together the school boards power to exclude a student from school for an entire day as well as the school boards power to reduce the length of the school day, whether or not they emanate from the same provisions under Ontario’s Education Act.

#20.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set specific comprehensive, mandatory requirements on when a school board can exercise any power to refuse to admit a student to school for all or part of a school day. It should have no loopholes that would let a principal or teacher exclude a student informally without complying with these requirements.

a) This should include any time a school board formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion

b) This should include a school board request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.

c) This does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but the school board is willing to let the student attend school.

#20.2 The school board should be required to ensure that a student, excluded from attending school, is provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program while away from school. The school board should keep records of and publicly account for its doing so.

#20.3 A refusal to admit should only be imposed when it is demonstrably necessary to protect the health and safety of students at school, and only after all relevant accommodations for the student up to the point of undue hardship have been explored or attempted.

#20.4 A refusal to admit should go no further and last no longer than is necessary. A principal should only resort to a refusal to admit if the principal can demonstrate that the student presents an imminent risk to health or safety which cannot be addressed by lesser measures, such as suspension.

#20.5 If a refusal to admit is to take place, the first resort should be to exclude the student from a specific class, accommodating that student in another class. Only if that can’t be sufficient, should a principal consider excluding the student from that school, accommodating the student at another school. A school board should only refuse to admit a student from any and all schools if it is impossible to accommodate them at any other school at that school board.

#20.6 The Education Accessibility Standard and policy directives from the Ministry of Education should give clear examples of the circumstances when a refusal to admit is permitted, and when it is not permitted.

#20.7 A refusal to admit should not be allowed to last more than five consecutive school days, unless extended by the school board in accordance with this accessibility standard.

#20.8 The burden should be on the school board to justify the refusal to admit. It should not be for the student or the students family to justify why the student should be allowed to attend school.

#20.9 When school board staff decide whether to refuse to admit a student, they should take into account all mitigating considerations that are considered when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.

#20.10 A school board should not refuse to admit a student with a disability on the ground that school board staff believe they cannot accommodate the student’s needs, e.g. because staff is absent.

#20.11 If, when a refusal to admit is to expire, the school board wants to extend it, the school board must justify it. The student’s family need not prove why the student should be allowed to return to school.

#20.12 An extension of a refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that entire school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools at that school board.

#20.13 An extension of the refusal to admit should not be permitted if the school board has not put in place an effective alternative option for the student to receive their education while excluded from school.

#20.14 The Education Accessibility Standard should establish a mandatory fair procedure that the school board must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of the school board and its employees, including:

a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when a school board is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.

b) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required, before a refusal to admit is imposed. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.

c) The superintendent should independently assess whether the school board has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit the student, and has met all the requirements of the school board’s refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).

d) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that the school board has taken or will be taking to expedite a students return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.

e) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps the school board is taking to expedite the students return to school and time lines for those steps, the school board’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks. These procedures should again be mandatory any time the school board extends a refusal to admit a student to school.

f) A refusal to admit a student to school should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of an executive superintendent of the school board.

g) No refusal to admit a student to school should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education.

#20.15 A fair and prompt appeal process should be provided to the parents/guardian and, where appropriate, the student who was refused admission to school, which includes:

a) The appeal should be to school board officials who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit that student to school or any extensions of it.

b) The school board should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal.

c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family.

d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.

e) On the appeal, the school board should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered.

f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.

#20.16 The Ministry of Education or the school board should set a unique code for marking attendance for a student who is absent from school for all or part of a day due to a refusal to admit.

#20.17 Each principal should be required to immediately report to their superiors in writing whenever a student is excluded from school, including the student’s name, whether the student has a disability, the reason for the exclusion, the intended duration of the exclusion, and the substitute educational programming that will be provided to the student while excluded from school The school board should centrally collect these reports and should make public quarterly aggregated data (without any names or identifying information) on the number of refusals to admit, reasons for them, percentage that involve any kind of disability, the number of days missed from school, and measures to provide alternative education during refusals to admit.

#20.18 To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a
student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, each school board should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.




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AODA Alliance Finalizes and Makes Public Its Proposed Framework for the Promised Education Accessibility Standard – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance Finalizes and Makes Public Its Proposed Framework for the Promised Education Accessibility Standard

October 10, 2019

          SUMMARY

It’s done, and it’s public! Below we set out our finished product, the AODA Alliance’s Proposed Framework for the Promised AODA Education Accessibility Standard. We are now submitting it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member.

We are encouraging that Standards Development Committee to use this Framework to help with its work, as it prepares recommendations to the Ontario Government on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include. In the next few months, that Standards Development Committee will make public the draft recommendations that it is now preparing. That Committee is finally back at work after the Ford Government left it frozen for well over a year. The AODA Alliance led the campaign to get that committee and all Standards Development Committees unfrozen and back to work.

We and the public will be able to give our input on them. We hope that by offering this proposed Framework now, we can help the Standards Development Committee with its important work.

We thank all of those who took the time to give us their helpful and thoughtful feedback and suggestions after they took the time to read our draft of this proposed Framework. This finished product includes all the ideas that were in the draft. A number of great new ideas were added, thanks to the excellent and extremely helpful feedback that we received.

We were so gratified to receive such warm and supportive feedback for the draft that we circulated for public comment. This finished product reflects feedback we have received and research we have conducted over quite a stretch of time.

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

Today, as we make this important proposed Framework, we are sadly reminded that there have now been 253 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the independent review of the AODA’s implementation prepared by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. We are still awaiting a plan from the Government on how it will implement that report.

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Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Proposed Framework for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard

October 10, 2019

Prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Introduction — What is This Proposed Framework?

In Ontario, over a third of a million students with disabilities face too many barriers at all levels of Ontario’s education system. For years, the AODA Alliance led a campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In 2018, two committees were appointed by the Ontario Government to make recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include: The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee is responsible for making recommendations on what that accessibility standard should include to address barriers in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations for what that accessibility standard should include to address barriers in Ontario’s post-secondary education institutions, e.g. colleges and universities.

Under the AODA, an accessibility standard is supposed to spell out the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what must be done to remove or prevent them, and the time lines required for these actions.

In this Framework, the AODA Alliance outlines the key ingredients and aims for the promised Education Accessibility Standard. Where we state that “A school board should…” or similar wording, we mean by this that the Education Accessibility Standard should include a provision that requires the school board to take the step that we describe.

We hope that this Framework will assist the two Standards Development Committees. It predominantly focuses on the K-12 school context. However, its contents are readily transferrable to the post-secondary education context.

It is essential that the promised Education Accessibility Standard include the key ingredients that the AODA requires. It must identify the barriers to be removed and the actions required to remove them. It must set out deadlines for an obligated organization to take the steps set out in it.

To do this, it must do much more than to require organizations to have a policy on accessibility and to train its employees on that policy.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the promised Education Accessibility Standard will achieve a change in the culture regarding accessibility within education organizations, including a shift from a more traditional special education mentality to one of inclusion and accessibility. To achieve such a change within an organization, it is first necessary to change its practices on accessibility. From those changes in the organization’s actions on accessibility will flow a change in its culture regarding accessibility. Therefore, the Education Accessibility Standard should be directed to change actions on accessibility.

The job of a Standards Development Committee is to recommend the contents of an AODA accessibility standard. If a Standards Development Committee chooses to also recommend some non-regulatory measures, that is beyond the Committee’s core mandate and should not detract from fulfilling that core mandate. For example, the 2018 final recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development Committee largely focused on recommendations of other measures, outside the revision of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard that that Committee was assigned to review. Recommended practices that are not enshrined in an accessibility standard as a regulation, are not binding on school boards and cannot be enforced as an AODA standard.

1. What Should the Long-Term Objectives of the Education Accessibility Standard Be?

#1 The purpose of the Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that Ontario’s education system becomes fully accessible to all students with all kinds of disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline, by requiring the removal and prevention of the accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. It should aim to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in, fully benefit from and be fully included in all aspects of Ontario’s education system on a footing of equality in the least restrictive environment consistent with a student’s and their parents’ wishes. It should provide a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek individual placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations tailored to the individual needs of each student with disabilities. It should aim to eliminate the need for students with disabilities and their families to have to fight against education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for educational organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one school board, college, university or educational program at a time.

2. A Vision of An Accessible Education System

The Education Accessibility Standard should begin by setting out a vision of what an accessible education system should include. An accessible education system at the K-12 level should include the following:

#2.1 It would be designed and operated from top to bottom for all of its students, including students with all kinds of disabilities, as protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code and/or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would not in any way restrict its programs, services, supports, accommodations or other opportunities only to those students whose disability falls within the outdated and narrow definition of “exceptionality” in Ontario’s Education Act and regulations. Students with low-incidence disabilities would not be relegated to a second-class status within the administration of Ontario’s education system as compared to those with high-incidence disabilities.

#2.2 The education system would no longer be designed and operated from the starting point of aiming to serve the fictional “average” student. It would not treat or label students with disabilities as “exceptions” or “exceptional”. It would not call their needs “special” or their disabilities “exceptionalities.” Their services, supports and needs would not be conflated with or funded from the same budget pot as the services and needs of gifted students who have no disability.

#2.3 The built environment in the education system, such as schools themselves, their yards, playgrounds etc., and the equipment on those premises (such as gym and playground equipment) would all be fully accessible to people with disabilities and would be designed based on the principle of universal design. Where school programs or trips take place outside the school, these will be held at locations that are disability-accessible.

#2.4 Courses taught to students, including the curriculum and lesson plans, as well as informal learning activities, would fully incorporate principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL), and where needed, differential instruction, so that they are inclusive for students with disabilities.

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

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

#2.7 Inclusion and Universal Design in Learning would extend beyond formal classroom learning to other activities connected with education or the school more generally, such as the playground at recess, social and recreational activities, field trips, extra-curricular activities, and experiential learning opportunities.

#2.8 Students with disabilities would have prompt access to the up-to-date adaptive technology and specialized supports they need, and training on how to use it, to best enable them to fully take part in and benefit from education and other school-related programming. Students with disabilities would be able to bring to school and take home the accessibility technology and supports from which they benefit. For example, they would have the right to bring a qualified service animal to school with them.

#2.9 Teachers and other educational staff would be fully trained to serve all students, and not just students who have no disabilities. They would be fully trained in such things as Universal Design in Learning and differential instruction. “Special Education” teachers and departments would not serve as a silo for those who would teach students with disabilities.

#2.10 Options for placement and programming at school would be sufficiently diverse and flexible to accommodate a wide spectrum of learning needs and styles, rather than tending to be one-size-fits-all for students with specified kinds of disabilities.

#2.11 Tests and other forms of evaluation in school education would be designed based on principles of universal design and Universal Design in Learning, so that they will be barrier-free for students with disabilities and will provide a fair and accurate assessment of their progress.

#2.12 Classroom teachers and other front-line teaching staff would be provided sufficient staff support, and, where needed, additional specialized training, to enable them to effectively serve students with disabilities in their classes.

#2.13 Students with disabilities would be assured the opportunity to receive an equal education in the least restrictive environment, consistent with the student’s/parents’ wishes.

#2.14 Students with disabilities would encounter a welcoming environment at school and in class to facilitate their full participation, and a welcoming environment in which they can seek and receive accommodations for their disabilities. Students without disabilities, teaching staff and other school staff, as well as other parents in the school context, would be welcoming and inclusive towards students with disabilities. To achieve this, among other things, all students will receive positive curriculum content on the importance of inclusion and accessibility for students with disabilities. Bullying, teasing, stereotyping, patronization and the soft bigotry of low expectations will be eliminated from the school environment.

#2.15 Admission criteria, admission tests or other admission screening to get into any specialized education programming would be barrier-free for students with disabilities.

#2.16 Students with disabilities and their parents/guardians would have prompt, effective and easy access to user-friendly information in multiple languages about the educational options, programs, services, supports and accommodations available for them and their disability, and about the process for them to seek these. Students with disabilities and their parents would be given a timely opportunity to observe options for placement, programming and other educational services and supports, when considering which would be most suitable for that student, and before they need to make any decisions about this.

#2.17 Students with disabilities and their families would be kept regularly informed about the effectiveness of the placement, program, services, supports and accommodations that the student is receiving.

#2.18 The school board’s process for deciding on the placement, programming, services, supports and accommodations for students with disabilities would be fair, open, transparent and collaborative, in which the student and their family can fully participate. For example, before an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is written, the student and parents/guardians would be able and invited to take part in an Individual Education Plan meeting with school officials, at which the Individual Education Plan would be jointly written. At each stage of the process, the student and parents would be given clear user-friendly “rights advice” on how the process works, and on their rights in the process.

#2.19 Once a student has an established Individual Education Plan at one school, that plan would be portable, and would carry forward should that student move to another school at the same or a different school board.

#2.20 A decision about a student’s placement would not be made until assessments and decisions are reached about the needs and most appropriate program, services, supports and accommodations for that student with disabilities.

#2.21 Where a student with a disability or their family believes that the school or school board is not effectively meeting the student’s disability-related needs, (e.g. by not including a desired item in the Individual Education Plan), or if the student or family believes that the school board is not providing an educational program, service, support or accommodation which it had agreed to provide, the student and family would have access to a prompt, fair, open and arms-length review process, including an offer of a voluntary Alternative Resolution Process if needed. It would be conducted by someone with expertise in the education of students with disabilities who was not involved in the original decision or activity, and who does not oversee the work of those involved in the student’s direct education.

#2.22 The mandatory minimum qualifications and required training for specialized support educators (such as teachers of the visually impaired) would be modernized and upgraded where needed to ensure that they are qualified to meet the specialized needs of their students and of the other teachers whom they support.

#2.23 There would be no bureaucratic, procedural or policy barriers that would impede the effective placement and accommodation of individual students with disabilities at all levels of Ontario’s education system.

#2.24 Students with disabilities would have a right to attend school for the entire school day, and the right to not be excluded from school by their school or school board for all or part of a school day, directly or indirectly because of their disability. Schools would not systemically or disproportionately exclude students with disabilities from school for either all or part of the school day (e.g. because a special needs assistant is away from school).

#2.25 Major new Government strategies in Ontario’s education system would be proactively designed from the start to fully include the needs of students with disabilities. For example, if the Ontario Government were to announce a new math strategy for Ontario’s schools, it would, among other things, include an effective strategy to address disability barriers that students with disabilities face in math education.

#2.26 Those responsible at the provincial and local school board levels for leading, overseeing and operating Ontario’s education system would have strong and specific requirements to address disability accessibility and inclusion in their mandates and would be accountable for their work on this. This responsibility will not be relegated to and segregated in special education bureaucratic silos.

#2.27 The education system would provide disability-related funding to a school board based on the actual number of students with disabilities at that board, and not on a provincial formula that merely tries to estimate how many should be at that school board.

3. General Provisions that the Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

#3.1 This proposed accessibility standard should cover and apply to all education programs and opportunities for students at any school board that receives public funding in Ontario.

#3.2 Where this accessibility standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . It should not be limited to the much more restricted definition of an “exceptional pupil” or a student with an “exceptionality” in the Education Act and regulations and policy related to them, or who is therefore treated under Ontario’s Education Act, regulations, or policy as a “student with special education needs”.

#3.3 Each school board should be required to establish a permanent committee of its trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. Other members should include the school board’s chair or vice chair. The chair and vice chair of the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee should sit as ex officio members of this committee, whether or not they are trustees of the school board. The school board’s Accessibility Committee should have responsibility for overseeing the school board’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in so far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the school board provides.

#3.4 Each school board should be required to establish in each school or related cluster of adjacent schools, a School Accessibility Committee. It should include representatives from the school’s teachers, management, staff, students and parents/guardians, including representation where possible of people with disabilities from these groups. Its mandate should be to identify barriers in the school and its programs and to make recommendations for accessibility improvements to be shared with the school board administration and with the trustees’ Accessibility Committee.

#3.5 Each school board should be required to establish or designate the position of Chief Accessibility/Inclusion Officer, reporting to the Director of Education, with a mandate and responsibility to ensure proper leadership on the school board’s accessibility and inclusion obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, including the requirements set by this accessibility standard. This responsibility may be assigned to an existing senior management official.

#3.6 Each school board should set up and maintain a network of teachers and other staff with disabilities, and a network of students with disabilities, to get input on accessibility issues at the school board.

#3.7 Beyond the specific measures on removing and preventing barriers set out in this accessibility standard and in other AODA accessibility standards, each school board should be required to systematically review its educational programming, services, facilities and equipment to identify recurring accessibility barriers within that school board that can impede the effective participation and inclusion of students with disabilities. A comprehensive plan for removing and preventing these accessibility barriers should be developed, implemented and made public with clear time lines, clear assignment of responsibilities for action, monitoring for progress, and reporting to the school board’s trustees , the school board’s accessibility committee, and to the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee. It should include actions on barriers identified by the local School Accessibility Committees established under this standard. This plan should aim at all accessibility barriers that can impede students with disabilities from full inclusion in the education and other programs and activities at that school board, whether or not they are specifically identified in the Education Accessibility Standard or in any other specific accessibility standards enacted under the AODA.

#3.8 Each school board should be required to develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive new Inclusion Strategy for students with disabilities, whether or not their disability is identified as an “exceptionality” under Ontario’s special education laws. Under this strategy, where a school board proposes to refuse to provide a placement for a student with a disability in a regular class setting with needed accommodations, supports or services, over the objections of the student or of their family, on the grounds that the school board believes that it cannot serve that student in a regular classroom setting, the principal should be required to give written notice of this to the family, with reasons, and to tell the family that it has the right to promptly receive the principal’s reasons in writing. But this should not be reason to stop or withdraw any services or support from the student until a meeting has been held to discuss this issue.

#3.9 Each school board should have an explicit duty to create a welcoming environment for students with disabilities and their families, including other family members with disabilities, to seek accommodations for their disabilities.

4. The Right of Parents, Guardians and Students with Disabilities to Know About Disability-Related Programs, Services, and Supports, and How to Access Them

Barrier: Parents, including parents with disabilities, too often find it difficult to get easily accessed and accessible information from their school board and from the Ontario Government on education options, services and supports available for students with disabilities and how to access them.

#4.1 Each school board should provide parents of students with disabilities, and where applicable, students with disabilities themselves, with timely and effective information, in accessible formats, on the available services, programs and supports for students with disabilities (whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and regulations). Each school board should ensure that parents, guardians, and where practicable, students are informed, as early as possible, in a readily-accessible and understandable way, about important information such as:

  1. a) What “special education” is and who is entitled to receive it.
  1. b) That the school board has a duty to ensure that a student with a disability has the right to full participation in and full inclusion in all the school board’s education and other programming, and to be accommodated in connection with those programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, whether or not the student is classified as a student with special education needs under Ontario’s Education Act and regulations.
  1. c) The menu of options, placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations available at the school board for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and regulations.
  1. d) What persons and what office to approach at the school board to get this information, to request placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s education needs.
  1. e) The processes and procedures at the school board for a parent, guardian or student to request or change placements, programs, services, supports or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs. This includes formal legislated processes like the Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) and the development and implementation of the students Individual Education Plan (IEP). It also includes other informal processes like requests for programs, services, supports and accommodations that are not covered in an IPRC or IEP.

#4.2 Without restricting the important information that must be made readily available, each school board should ensure, among other things, that:

  1. a) Parents and guardians of students with disabilities can easily find out and, where necessary, visit different placement, program, service and support options for a student with a disability, whether or not they are classified as a student with special education needs, before the parent, guardian or, where practicable, the student must take a position on what placement, program or services should be provided to that student.
  1. b) Parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and, where practicable, students with disabilities themselves, should be given clear, understandable explanations of their rights in the school system, including but not limited to the special education process. For example, when a school board presents parents or guardians with a proposed IEP, the school board should explain to them that they need not agree to and sign the proposed IEP, that the school board is open to consider the family’s suggestions for changes to the proposed IEP, and the avenues by which parents or guardians can seek to get the school board to make changes to the proposed IEP.

#4.3 Each school board should develop, implement and make public an action plan to substantially improve its provision of the important information, described above, to all parents and guardians of that school board’s students, and to all students where practicable, and especially to parents and guardians of students with disabilities:

  1. a) This plan’s objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational and other opportunities available at the school board.
  1. b) A school board should not simply leave it to each principal or teacher to make sure that this important information is effectively provided. Each school board should instead have an effective system in place to ensure that this information actually reaches all parents and guardians, and where applicable, students.
  1. c) Each school board should ensure that all of this important information is fully and readily accessible in a prompt and timely way to all parents, guardians and students, in accessible formats and in jargon-free plain language, in a diverse range of languages. It should be easy to find this information. Among other things, this information should be posted on the school board’s website, in a prominent place that is easy to find, with a link on the school board’s home page. A school board should not simply rely on its website to share this information since this will not serve those families that do not have internet access.
  1. d) Among other things, each school board should send home an information package to all families at the start of each school year, and not merely to families of those students who are already being identified or served as having special education needs or disabilities. This package should include, among other things, a Question and Answer format to help families see how this information could relate to the student in their family.
  1. e) Each school board should also create a user-friendly package of information to be provided to families who first approach a school board about the possibility of enrolling a child at that school board, e.g. when they register for kindergarten. This should help enable a family to know whether they should be trying to access disability-related services and supports.
  1. f) Each school board should periodically host events at local schools to help families learn how to navigate disability-related school board processes like the Individual Education Plan and the Identification and Placement Review Committee processes. Where possible these should be streamed online and archived online as a resource for families to watch online.

5. Ensuring that Parents, Guardians and Students Have a Fair and Effective Process for Raising Concerns About a School Board’s Accommodation of the Education Needs of Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Lack of sufficient, easily-accessed and fair processes at each school board to enable students with disabilities and families to have effective input into the placement and accommodation of the student, and for raising disability-related concerns.

The procedures required by the Education Act and regulations for identifying and accommodating the needs of students with disabilities are out-of-date. They are insufficient to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are effectively met.

#5.1 Each school board should establish and maintain an effective process for parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, the student themselves, to effectively take part in the development and implementation of a student’s plans for meeting and accommodating their disability-related needs, including (but not limited to) their Individual Education Plan (IEP).

#5.2 As part of this process, parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where practicable, the student, should be invited to take part in a joint school team student accommodation/IEP development meeting, where accommodation plans will be made and where the IEP will be written. The school board should bring to the table all key professionals who can contribute to this. The family should be invited to bring to the table any supports and professionals that can assist the family. Parents should have the right to bring with them anyone who can assist them in advocating for their child. Parents/families should be given a wide range of options for participating e.g. in person or by phone. They should be told in advance who will attend from the school board. Any proposal for accommodations including a draft IEP should include a summary of key points to assist families in understanding them.

#5.3 If a school board refuses to provide an accommodation, service, or support for a child’s disability that a parent, guardian, or where appropriate, the student requests, or if the school board does not provide an accommodation or support that it has agreed to provide, the school board should, on request, promptly provide written reasons for that refusal. It should let the family and student know that they can request written reasons.

#5.4 If parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, the student, disagree with any aspect of the proposed supports, services or accommodations including (but not limited to) the proposed IEP, or if the student or their family believe that the school board has not provided a service, accommodation or support that the school board has agreed to provide, the school board should make available a respectful, non-adversarial internal review process for hearing and deciding on the family’s concerns. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should set out the specifics of this review process. This school board review process should include the following:

  1. a) It should be very prompt. Arrangements for a student’s accommodations, including an IEP, should be finalized as quickly as possible, so that the student’s needs are promptly met.
  1. b) No proposed services, supports or accommodations that the school board is prepared to offer should be withheld from a student pending a review. The family should not feel pressured not to seek this review, lest the child be placed in a position of educational disadvantage during the review process. In other words, a family should not fear that if they launch a review, the student will suffer because the school board will not provide an accommodation or service that the school board has offered, while the review is pending.
  1. c) The review process should be fair. The school board should let the family know all of its issues or concerns with a family’s proposal regarding the student’s accommodations, including the contents of the IEP. The family should be given a fair chance to express its concerns and recommendations regarding the student’s accommodations’, including in the IEP.
  1. d) The review should be by a person or persons who are independent and impartial. They should have expertise in the education of students with disabilities. They should not have taken part in any of the earlier discussions or decisions at that school board regarding the services, supports or accommodations or IEP for that child.
  1. e) At the review, every effort should be made to mediate and resolve any disagreements between the family and the school board. If the matter cannot be resolved by agreement, there should be an option for the school board or the Ministry of Education to appoint a person or persons who are outside the school board to consider the review, along prompt time lines.
  1. f) At the review, written reasons should be given for the decision, especially if any of the family’s requests or concerns are not accepted.
  1. g) If, after receiving the review’s decision and reasons, the family wishes to present any new information, they should be able to ask for the review to be reconsidered. This should be along short time lines.
  1. H) After the review is decided, if the family is not satisfied, they should be able to bring their concerns regarding the proposed accommodations including any IEP to a designated senior official at the school board with authority to approve the requested accommodations, for a further review.

#5.5 Each school board should notify parents and guardians who themselves have a disability that they have a right to have their disability-related needs accommodated in these processes, so that they can fully participate in them. For example, they should be notified that they have a right to receive any information or documents to be used in any such meeting or process in an accessible format.

#5.6 Where a student with a disability is being accommodated in a school covered by this accessibility standard, and the student transfers to another school in that school board or to another school board, that student should have a right to have the same accommodations maintained at the new school or school board. If the school board of the school to which the student transfers proposes to reduce those accommodations or supports, they should be maintained until and unless, through the procedures set out in this accessibility standard, the school board has justified a reduction of those accommodations.

6. Expediting the Early Identification and Assessment of Students with Disabilities’ Needs

Barrier: Students with disabilities can face delays and bureaucratic impediments to early and timely professional assessment, where needed, of their disability-related needs.

#6.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require measures to tear down administrative, bureaucratic and other barriers to reduce delays for getting psychological and other educational assessments for the identification of disability related needs.

7. Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Schools

Barrier: Too often, the built environment where education programming is offered have physical barriers that partially or totally impede some students with disabilities from being able to enter or independently move around.

The Ontario Building Code and existing accessibility standards do not set out modern and sufficient accessibility requirements for the built environment in Ontario. Moreover, the Ontario Building Code is largely if not entirely designed to address the needs of adults, not children. The Ontario Government has no accessibility standard for the built environment in schools, whether old or new schools. The Ontario Government has not agreed to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard or to substantially strengthen the accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code.

It is thus left to each school board to come up with its own designs to address accessibility in the built environment in schools and other school board locations. This is highly inefficient and wasteful. It allows public money to be used to create new barriers against people with disabilities and to perpetuate existing barriers.

#7.1 The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific requirements for accessibility in the built environment in schools and other locations where education programs are to be offered. These should meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. They should meet the needs of all disabilities, and not only mobility disabilities. These should include:

  1. a) Specific requirements to be included in a new school to be built.
  1. b) Requirements to be included in a renovation of or addition to an existing school, and
  1. c) Retrofit requirements for an existing school that is not slated for a major renovation or addition.

#7.2 Each school board should develop a plan for ensuring that the built environment of its schools and other educational facilities becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities as soon as reasonably possible, and in any event, no later than 2025. As part of this:

  1. a) As a first step, each school board should develop a plan for making as many of its schools disability-accessible within its current financial context. Accessibility does not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. It includes the needs of people with all disabilities, for example people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, or mental health disabilities.
  1. b) Each school board should identify which of its existing schools can be more easily made accessible, and which schools would require substantially more extensive action to be made physically accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing schools that would require less money to be made physically accessible, taking into account the need to also consider geographic equity of access across the school board.
  1. c) When designing a new school or managing an existing school, wherever possible, a quiet room should be assigned in a school facility to assist with learning by those students with disabilities who require such an environment. For example, when a school board is deciding what to do with excess building capacity, it should allocate unused or under-used rooms as quiet rooms whenever possible.

#7.3 When a school board seeks to retain or hire design professionals, such as architects, interior designers or landscape architects, for the design of a new school or a existing school’s retrofit or renovation, or for any other school board construction or other infrastructure project, the school board should include in any Request for Proposal (RFP) a mandatory requirement that the design professional must have sufficient demonstrated expertise in accessibility design, and not simply knowledge about compliance with the Ontario Building Code or the AODA. This includes the accessibility needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with mobility impairments. It includes the accessibility needs of students and not just of adults.

#7.4 When a school board is planning a new school, or expanding or renovating an existing school or other infrastructure, a qualified accessibility consultant should be retained by the school board (and not by a private architecture firm) to advise on the project from the outset, with their advice being transmitted directly to the school board and not only to the private design professionals who are retained to design the project. Completing the 8-day training course on accessibility offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation should not be treated as either necessary or sufficient for this purpose, as that course is substantially inadequate and has significant problems.

#7.5 A committee of the school board’s trustees and the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee should be required to review design decisions on new construction or renovations to ensure that accessibility of the built environment is effectively addressed. A schools School Accessibility Committee should also be involved in this review.

#7.6 Where possible, a school board should not renovate an existing school that lacks disability accessibility, unless the school board has a plan to also make that school accessible. For example, a school board should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a school which lacks accessibility to the second storey, if the school board does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.

#7.7 When a school board decides which schools to close due to reduced enrollment, a priority should be placed on keeping open schools with more physical accessibility, while a priority should be given to closing schools that are the most lacking in accessibility, or for which retrofitting is the most costly.

#7.8 Each school board should only hold off-site educational events at venues whose built environment is accessible.

8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

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

#8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

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

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

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

9. Ensuring Universal Design in Learning Is Used in All Teaching Activities, Both Online and in Classroom Learning

Barrier: Too often, the curricula and lesson plans used in Ontario schools were not designed based on principles of accessibility and Universal Design in Learning.

#9.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that the Ministry of Education and each school board, when setting requirements for or designing school curriculum, shall ensure that it incorporates universal design in learning to make it accessible to students with disabilities.

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

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

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

#9.3 Each school board should ensure that all teachers and teaching staff understand, and effectively and consistently use, principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL), and differentiated instruction, when preparing and implementing lesson plans and other educational programming, to effectively address the spectrum of different learning needs and styles. For example:

  1. a) This plan’s objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational opportunities available at the school board.
  1. b) Each school board should develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive plan to train its teachers, other teaching staff, teaching coaches and principals on using UDL and differentiated instruction principles when preparing lesson plans and teaching, in order to effectively meet the spectrum of different learning needs and styles. The Ontario Government should be required to provide a model program for this training which each school board can use.
  1. c) Each school board should include knowledge of UDL and differentiated instruction principles as an important criterion when recruiting or promoting teachers, other teaching staff and principals.
  1. d) Each school board should ensure that teachers are provided with appropriate resources and support to successfully implement the UDL training. Each school board should monitor how effectively UDL and differentiated instruction are incorporated into lesson plans and other teaching activities on the front lines.
  1. e) Each school board should review any curriculum, textbooks and other instructional materials and learning resources used in its schools to ensure that they incorporate principles of UDL.
  1. f) Each school board should create and implement a plan to ensure that teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineer and math (STEM) have resources and expertise to ensure the accessibility of STEM courses and learning resources.
  1. g) Each school board should provide teaching coaches with expertise in UDL to support teachers and other teaching staff.
  1. h) Similarly, specialized training should be included for those who teach sex education to ensure that it includes disability-related sex education.
  1. i) The Ministry of Education should create templates or models for the foregoing training so that each school board does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.

#9.4 Concentrated requirements to require the removal and prevention of workplace barriers at school boards impeding teachers and other school staff with disabilities would have the side-benefit of removing and preventing barriers that impede students with disabilities, such as specific measures to ensure that accessible student placements are provided in Ontario schools for teachers and other teaching staff with disabilities during their training in teacher’s college and other post-secondary programs.

10. Ensuring Sufficient Training and Expertise for Education Professionals Who Support Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Lack of sufficient training requirements for some education professionals who specialize in supporting the education needs of students with disabilities.

Ontario does not currently ensure that all professionals who are employed to support the education of students with disabilities will have sufficient qualifications to do so. For example, Ontario’s leading organization of parents of children with vision loss, Views for the Visually Impaired, has pointed out to the Ontario Government and the Ontario College of Teachers that the requirements to qualify to serve as a “teacher of the visually impaired” (TVI) in Ontario are substantially inadequate. They are much lower than in some other places in Canada and elsewhere. A teacher employed to teach braille to a blind child in Ontario need have no prior hands-on experience ever training a blind child to read braille. They need not ever previously even have observed another TVI teaching braille to a blind child.

#10.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require sufficient training for professionals who support the education of students with disabilities.

11. Removing Attitudinal Barriers Against Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Stereotypes, lack of knowledge and other attitudes among some teachers, principals, other school staff, other students and some families, that do not recognize the right and benefits of students with disabilities to get a full and equal education.

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

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

#11.2 Each school board should develop and implement human resources policies targeted at full accessibility and inclusion, such as:

  1. a) Making knowledge and experience on implementing inclusion an important hiring and promotions criterion especially for principals, vice-principals and teaching staff.
  1. b) Emphasizing accessibility and inclusion knowledge and performance in any performance management and performance reviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Ensuring Accessibility of Gym, Playground and Like Equipment and Activities

Barrier: Schools or school boards that have gym, playground or other equipment that is not designed based on principles of universal design, and that some students with disabilities therefore cannot use, as well as gym, sports and other activities in which students with disabilities can fully participate.

Section 80.18 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, as amended in 2012, requires accessibility features to be considered when new outdoor play spaces are being established or existing ones are redeveloped. However, those provisions do not set the spectrum of detailed requirements that should be included. They do not require any action if an existing play space is not being redeveloped. They ultimately leave it to each school board or each school to re-invent the accessibility wheel each time they build or redevelop an outdoor play space. They do not require anything of indoor play spaces or gyms.

#13.1 To ensure that gym equipment, playground equipment and other like equipment and facilities are accessible for students with disabilities, the Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific technical accessibility requirements for new or existing outdoor or indoor play spaces, gym and other like equipment, drawing on accessibility standards and best practices in other jurisdictions, if sufficient, so that each school board does not have to re-invent the accessibility wheel.

#13.2 Each school board should:

  1. a) Take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor play spaces and gym and playground equipment, and make this public, including posting it online.
  1. b) Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of new gym or playground equipment, in consultation with the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and Accessibility Committee, and widely with families of students with disabilities.
  1. c) Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing playground is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the school board.

#13.3 Where playground or other school equipment or facilities to be deployed on school property for use by students is funded and/or purchased by anyone other than the school board, the school board should remain responsible for approving the purchases and ensuring that only accessible equipment and facilities are placed on school property for use by students or the public. Decisions over whether accessibility features will be included, or which will be included, should not be left to community groups which may fund-raise for such equipment or facilities.

Barrier: Gym and other physical activity programming at schools may not be designed or operated in a way that allows students with disabilities to fully participate.

#13.4 Each school board should be required to ensure that its gym and other physical activity teachers and coaches have training and access to support information on how to include students with disabilities in these programs.

#13.5 The Ministry of Education should be required to make available to school boards resources and training material on effectively including students with disabilities in gym and other physical activity programming.

14. Ensuring Student Testing/Assessment is Free of Disability Barriers

Barrier: Tests or other performance assessments of students that are not designed in a way that ensures that students with disabilities are fairly and accurately assessed.

Throughout the education system, students take tests and other assessments of their academic performance, whether in specific courses or via system-wide standardized tests. There have been no mandatory provincial requirements of which we are aware to ensure that the ways students’ performance is tested or assessed are barrier-free for students with disabilities, and to ensure a fair and accurate assessment of their performance.

#14.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set requirements for proper approaches to ensuring tests provide a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment of students with disabilities, and on when and how to provide an alternative evaluation method.

#14.2 To ensure that a school board fairly and accurately assesses the performance of students with disabilities, each school board should:

  1. a) Have a policy that commits to ensure that testing and other assessments of students’ performance and learning are designed to be barrier-free for students with disabilities.
  1. b) Give its teachers and principals training resources on how to ensure a test is a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment for students with disabilities in their class, and where needed, how to provide an alternative evaluation method.
  1. c) Monitor implementation of these guidelines.

#14.3 The Ministry of Education should ensure that any provincial standardized testing is fully accessible to and barrier-free for students with disabilities and will provide a fair and accurate assessment of their knowledge and abilities.

15. Ensuring Students with Disabilities Have the Technology and Other Supports They Need at School

Barrier: Policy and bureaucratic impediments to students with disabilities getting the adaptive technology and other supports they need for school.

There are inconsistent practices around Ontario for making available to students with disabilities the adaptive technology and support services they need, and the training required to be able to effectively use that equipment. For example, the Toronto District School Board does not at all support students with vision loss using Apple products such as the iPhone or iPad. Those products come with leading accessibility features and are widely used by people with vision loss around the world. There are also inconsistent practices on whether a student can take such equipment home for use there or can bring their own adaptive equipment from home for use at school.

#15.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that procedural, bureaucratic and other barriers to the acquisition, training and use of needed adaptive equipment and technology at school should be eliminated. It should require the establishment of a prompt, standardized and consistent provincial system for the procurement and deployment of accessible technology that ensures access to the most appropriate and up-to-date technology that is available on the market.

Barrier: Some school boards or schools do not let students with disabilities bring a sufficiently trained service animal to school as an accommodation to their disability, either because the school board or school does not allow for this or lacks a proper policy to allow for this.

Some students on the autism spectrum and their families in Ontario have reported having difficulties at some school boards with being allowed to bring a service animal to school and have even had to take action before the Human Rights Tribunal against a school board. Others have been able to succeed without barriers in bringing their service animal to school.

#15.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should provide that each school board should ensure that students with disabilities are able to bring a sufficiently trained service animal to school as a disability accommodation. Each school board should respect the student’s rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

#15.3 The Education Accessibility Standard should set specific requirements for school board practices in relation to a student bringing a service animal to school. The recent Ministry of Education policy directive to school boards on this topic did not include the important specifics that are needed. Here again, each school board should not have to reinvent the wheel.

#15.4 The Education Accessibility Standard should ensure that there should be no bureaucratic or policy barriers to students with disabilities bringing a sufficiently trained service animal to school. The fair process procedures described in this Framework should apply to such requests.

#15.5 If the school board does not accept at first the sincerity or legitimacy of the student’s request, or the training of the service animal, the school board should immediately notify the student and their family of any and all concerns. The school board should investigate the request, including the student’s benefits from the service animal outside school and in the home, or any other concerns, as well as the experience of other schools or school boards that have allowed students with disabilities to bring service animals to school, before acting on any potential board reluctance or unwillingness to grant the student’s request. If a school board is not prepared to accept a request to be able to bring a service animal to school at first, the school board should undertake a test period of allowing the service animal at school, unless the school board can demonstrate that it would be impossible to conduct such a test period without causing the school board undue hardship. A school board should not refuse a request to bring a service animal to school based on no test period and based on speculative assumptions or stereotypes.

#15.6 The question when dealing with such requests should not be whether the student is doing adequately at school without the service animal. The question should be whether the student could do better at reaching their potential at school if assisted by their service animal. Similarly, the question is not whether the service animal will assist the student in accessing the curriculum. Rather the relevant question is whether the service animal could assist the student with any aspect of student life in the school environment, such as social interaction, independence and self-regulation. In its May 2, 2019 letter to Ontario’s Education Minister, the Ontario Human Rights Commission stated: “We believe that limiting disability accommodation to only “learning needs” is not a proper interpretation of the Code.”

#15.7 Each school board should ensure that principals, teachers, school office staff and families of students with disabilities know about this policy and that no attitudinal barriers impede this accommodation.

#15.8 The preference of some other students or staff with no disability not to have a service animal in class is not a justification for refusing to allow this accommodation for a student with a disability. Such concerns of other students, or of staff should be addressed by making arrangements that allow the student with a disability to bring their service animal to school, while situating any objecting student or staff with no disability at an acceptable distance from them. Notwithstanding anything in such school board policies, nothing may restrict a person with vision loss, student, staff, and parent or otherwise, from being a qualified guide dog with whom they have trained to school.

16. Removing Barriers to Participation in Experiential Learning

Barrier: Experiential learning programs that do not ensure that accessible experiential and inclusive experiential learning placements are made available to students with disabilities, and insufficient supports to help organizations, providing experiential learning placements, to facilitate the placement of students with disabilities.

#16.1 To ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a school board’s experiential learning programs, each school board should:

  1. a) Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers.
  1. b) Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that there will be a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate.
  1. c) Ensure that its partner organizations that accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.
  1. d) Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements.
  1. e) Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation.
  1. f) Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

#16.2 The Ministry of Education should provide templates for these policies and measures. It should also prepare and make available training videos for school boards and organizations offering experiential learning programs to guide them on accommodating students with disabilities in experiential learning placements.

17. Ensuring French Immersion and Other Specialized Programs Are Barrier-Free for Students with Disabilities

Barrier: A potential combination of different barriers reviewed in this Framework.

#17.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set a province-wide standard for ensuring that French immersion programs and other specialized programs are accessible to and effectively accommodate students with disabilities. These programs should be offered in accessible locations. Their instructional materials should be available in accessible formats. Their admission criteria should be screened for any disability barriers.

#17.2 Each school board should develop, implement and monitor a strategy to ensure that French Immersion and other specialized programs are open and accessible to and barrier-free for students with disabilities, including:

  1. a) Identifying what percentage of the students in these programs are students with disabilities, to document any patterns of under-participation.
  1. b) Reviewing the admission process for gaining entry to these programs, to identify possible accessibility barriers.
  1. c) Reviewing the choice of the buildings and classrooms where these programs are to be delivered to ensure that students with disabilities will be able to physically attend these programs.
  1. d) Identifying what efforts the school board now makes to ensure that students with disabilities are included in and accommodated in these programs, and the extent to which UDL and differentiated instruction principles are used in the teaching in these programs.
  1. e) Developing an action plan to address any accessibility and inclusion shortfalls.
  1. f) Actively publicizing to students with disabilities and their families about the opportunities to take part in these programs, and the school board’s readiness to ensure that their accommodation needs will be met.
  1. g) Monitoring the effectiveness of efforts to ensure inclusion and accessibility of these programs for students with disabilities, and report publicly on this, including to school board trustees, to the trustees’ accessibility committee and to the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, on an annual basis.

18. Substantially Reducing the Shuffling of Students with Special Education Needs From School to School over Their school Years

Barrier: The school board’s choice of in which schools to locate special education classes or programs for students with disabilities can force too many of these students to have to change the school they attend over their years at school much more than do other students, causing disruption and hardships for the students and their families. This can also make it harder for flexible placements that straddle more than one of these programs or classes.

#18.1 Each school board should be required to develop and implement a strategy to substantially reduce the shuffling of students with disabilities from one school to another over their school years. For example:

  1. a) If a student, attending a school other than their home school, for a special education program or class, is prepared to shift to inclusion in a fulltime regular classroom, then consistent with parental agreement, the student should have the option of remaining at the same school as the special education class, and treating it as their home school.
  1. b) Where possible, the school board should locate in the same school a combination of two special education classes that involve different levels of support. This would enable a student to gradually progress through different levels of special education classes towards a regular class setting in that school, without having to switch schools in order to switch to a different level of special education class. It would also enable a student, where appropriate, to spend part of a school day in one program and another part of the school day in another program, to best and most flexibly meet the student’s needs.
  1. c) Where feasible, if a student with a disability is required to attend a different school than his or her home school in order to take part in special education programming, the family should have the option of having that students’ siblings also attend that school, especially where this will help the student with a disability. Whenever possible, siblings, including those with disabilities, should be able to attend the same school.

19. Transportation for Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Barriers to accessibility of the education programming offered at a student’s local school that necessitates the provision of bus transportation to more distant schools, combined with the failure to ensure that students with disabilities are consistently, reliably and safely bussed to and from school.

The provisions on bus transportation for students with disabilities in s. 75 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011 (IASR) have not been sufficient to effectively remove transportation barriers facing students with disabilities. Stronger provisions are required. The 2018 recommendations for revisions to the transportation provisions in the IASR do not address or meet this need.

#19.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should provide that where a school board provides bussing or other transportation to students with disabilities in order to enable them to attend school, the school board shall ensure, and shall monitor to ensure that:

  1. a) The school board has individually consulted with each family to identify the accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation, and the bus company and driver have been properly trained to accommodate that need.
  1. b) Where the school board or its bussing contractor changes the driver assigned to transport the student, the replacement driver is given the same information and training prior to driving the student, or, in the case of an emergency replacement, as soon as possible.
  1. c) The school board and, where applicable, any contractor it hires, shall retain records of the training provided, including when it was provided and shall make this information public.
  1. d) The school board should have a readily available and reachable official, especially during periods when a student is being transported, to receive and address phone calls, emails and text messages from a family about problems regarding the student’s transportation.
  1. e) The school board should document all complaints reported on transportation services, and the company to which it applies. A summary of these should be provided to all members of the school board including its Special Education Advisory Committee and its Accessibility Committee on a quarterly basis and shall make this public on the school board’s website.
  1. f) The Education Accessibility Standard should make it clear that the fact that the school board has contracted for a private company to provide the student transportation does not remove or reduce the school board’s duties under this accessibility standard or otherwise under the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that the student has been provided with barrier-free participation in the school board’s educational programs and opportunities. In any contract for bussing, the school board should be required to monitor the bus company for compliance with all obligations regarding bussing, such as the duty to properly train each bus driver on the specific disability-related needs of each passenger with a disability, and to document this training. Each school board should periodically audit the bus companies with whom they contract for compliance, and publicly report on the audit’s results. A bus company’s failure to consistently and reliably meet its obligations should trigger substantial monetary penalties and termination of the contract.

Barrier: Some school boards do not ensure that pick-up/drop locations for student bussing are accessible for parents with disabilities.

#19.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that the school board and, where applicable, a bus company with which it contracts, will ensure that pick-up and drop-off locations for a student’s bussing are accessible when needed to accommodate the parents or guardians of students with disabilities.

20. Protecting Students with Disabilities from Being Unfairly Denied the Right to Attend School for All or Part of the School Day

Barrier: The arbitrary power of school principals to exclude students from school, outside the disciplinary suspension and expulsion power, that disproportionately impacts on students with disabilities.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified as a human rights issue the sweeping and arbitrary power of any school principal to exclude a student from school. Section 265(1) (m) of Ontario’s Education Act provides:

“265. (1) It is the duty of a principal of a school, in addition to the principal’s duties as a teacher…

… (m) subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils; …”

This power can be and is misused, especially to keep some students with disabilities away from school. This is made worse by the school board’s power under Ontario regulations to shorten the length of the school day for students with disabilities, even over a parent’s objection. This Framework addresses together the school board’s power to exclude a student from school for an entire day as well as the school board’s power to reduce the length of the school day, whether or not they emanate from the same provisions under Ontario’s Education Act.

#20.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set specific comprehensive, mandatory requirements on when a school board can exercise any power to refuse to admit a student to school for all or part of a school day. It should have no loopholes that would let a principal or teacher exclude a student informally without complying with these requirements.

  1. a) This should include any time a school board formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion
  1. b) This should include a school board request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.
  1. c) This does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but the school board is willing to let the student attend school.

#20.2 The school board should be required to ensure that a student, excluded from attending school, is provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program while away from school. The school board should keep records of and publicly account for its doing so.

#20.3 A refusal to admit should only be imposed when it is demonstrably necessary to protect the health and safety of students at school, and only after all relevant accommodations for the student up to the point of undue hardship have been explored or attempted.

#20.4 A refusal to admit should go no further and last no longer than is necessary. A principal should only resort to a refusal to admit if the principal can demonstrate that the student presents an imminent risk to health or safety which cannot be addressed by lesser measures, such as suspension.

#20.5 If a refusal to admit is to take place, the first resort should be to exclude the student from a specific class, accommodating that student in another class. Only if that can’t be sufficient, should a principal consider excluding the student from that school, accommodating the student at another school. A school board should only refuse to admit a student from any and all schools if it is impossible to accommodate them at any other school at that school board.

#20.6 The Education Accessibility Standard and policy directives from the Ministry of Education should give clear examples of the circumstances when a refusal to admit is permitted, and when it is not permitted.

#20.7 A refusal to admit should not be allowed to last more than five consecutive school days, unless extended by the school board in accordance with this accessibility standard.

#20.8 The burden should be on the school board to justify the refusal to admit. It should not be for the student or the student’s family to justify why the student should be allowed to attend school.

#20.9 When school board staff decide whether to refuse to admit a student, they should take into account all mitigating considerations that are considered when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.

#20.10 A school board should not refuse to admit a student with a disability on the ground that school board staff believe they cannot accommodate the student’s needs, e.g. because staff is absent.

#20.11 If, when a refusal to admit is to expire, the school board wants to extend it, the school board must justify it. The student’s family need not prove why the student should be allowed to return to school.

#20.12 An extension of a refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that entire school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools at that school board.

#20.13 An extension of the refusal to admit should not be permitted if the school board has not put in place an effective alternative option for the student to receive their education while excluded from school.

#20.14 The Education Accessibility Standard should establish a mandatory fair procedure that the school board must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of the school board and its employees, including:

  1. a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when a school board is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
  1. b) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required, before a refusal to admit is imposed. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
  1. c) The superintendent should independently assess whether the school board has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit the student, and has met all the requirements of the school board’s refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
  1. d) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that the school board has taken or will be taking to expedite a student’s return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
  1. e) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps the school board is taking to expedite the student’s return to school and time lines for those steps, the school board’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks. These procedures should again be mandatory any time the school board extends a refusal to admit a student to school.
  1. f) A refusal to admit a student to school should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of an executive superintendent of the school board.
  1. g) No refusal to admit a student to school should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education.

#20.15 A fair and prompt appeal process should be provided to the parents/guardian and, where appropriate, the student who was refused admission to school, which includes:

  1. a) The appeal should be to school board officials who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit that student to school or any extensions of it.
  1. b) The school board should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal.
  1. c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family.
  1. d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.
  1. e) On the appeal, the school board should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered.
  1. f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.

#20.16 The Ministry of Education or the school board should set a unique code for marking attendance for a student who is absent from school for all or part of a day due to a refusal to admit.

#20.17 Each principal should be required to immediately report to their superiors in writing whenever a student is excluded from school, including the student’s name, whether the student has a disability, the reason for the exclusion, the intended duration of the exclusion, and the substitute educational programming that will be provided to the student while excluded from school The school board should centrally collect these reports and should make public quarterly aggregated data (without any names or identifying information) on the number of refusals to admit, reasons for them, percentage that involve any kind of disability, the number of days missed from school, and measures to provide alternative education during refusals to admit.

#20.18 To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a

student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, each school board should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.



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The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act


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

October 1, 2019

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
Submission of the AODA Alliance to the Government of British Columbia on the BC Framework for New Provincial Accessibility Legislation

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Are We?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

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

“1. To support Canada’s ratification of the UNCRPD by promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and by promoting respect for their inherent dignity.
2. To identify, remove, and prevent barriers encountered by people with disabilities in their daily lives through the development, implementation, and enforcement of accessibility standards.
3. To allow persons with disabilities and other impacted stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work collaboratively towards the timely development of accessibility standards.
4. To ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to track progress on accessibility.
5. To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

A central and fundamentally important part of the BC accessibility legislation would be the Government enacting new accessibility regulations. These would specify in detail what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. The BC Framework states:
“Accessibility standards would provide guidance about best practices for accessibility including desired accessibility outcomes.”

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

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

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including: Service Delivery
Employment
Built Environment
Information and Communication
Transportation”

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

a) Specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.

b) Impose specific duties and implementation time lines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.

c) Require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.

d) Enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.

e) Require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.

f) Require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.

g) Require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.

h) Include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.

i) Require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

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

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

a) spending on procuring goods, services and facilities, for use by the BC Public Service and the public.

b) BC spending on capital and infrastructure projects, including projects built by the BC Government, municipalities or others.

c) BC spending on business development grants and loans, and on research grants for universities and other organizations.

d) BC transfer payments to transfer agencies for programs, like health care.

e) Any other BC Government contract.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appendix List of Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#11. The BC accessibility law should

a) specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.

b) impose specific duties and implementation timelines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.

c) require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.

d) enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.

e) require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.

f) require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.

g) require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.

h) include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.

i) require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

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




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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

October 1, 2019

          SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

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

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Are We?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

 Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

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

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

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

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

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including:

Service Delivery

Employment

Built Environment

Information and Communication

Transportation”

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Appendix – List of Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#11. The BC accessibility law should

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

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



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The Ford Government Admits It Planned a “Compromise of Road Safety” and the Opportunity for Businesses to Expand When It designed Its Controversial Proposed 5-Year Pilot to Allow Motorized Electric Scooters on Ontario Roads, According to a Media Report


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

September 3, 2019

SUMMARY

According to a troubling CityTV report, the Doug Ford Government admitted it had compromised between protecting public safety on the one hand, and advancing business opportunities and consumer choice on the other, when it designed its controversial proposal to permit electric scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot. The Ford Government tried to hold a meager 2-day public consultation on this proposal last week, on the eve of the Labour Day weekend when it is well-known that many are away on holidays. After the AODA Alliance and others in the disability community publicly objected and the media took interest in the story, the Ford Government backed down, and extended this consultation by a short two additional weeks.

The August 30, 2019 City TV television news story that aired in Toronto in the evening news revealed this troubling new information, and included a comment by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on it:

“We reached out to the Ministry of Transportation, who told City News in a statement: the proposed pilot project is another example of how the province is helping businesses expand and give consumers more choice. When asked why the project is set to last a long five years, it said: ‘This proposed time line creates a compromise between road safety and access for businesses and consumers. If approved, the five year pilot will take a measured approach that will promote road safety, foster business innovation and open the Ontario market to this new and growing sector.’”

But Lepofsky fears the Government is prioritizing business over safety.

(Quotation from David Lepofsky in the news story) “the Government’s obligation is to protect public safety, not to decide, well, we’ll do some compromise between making sure people don’t get hurt and making sure other people can make some more money.”

We add the following to that news report’s disturbing revelation:

“We’ve called on the Ford Government to put the brakes on this proposal and to ensure that there is no risk to public safety, before even contemplating any pilot project with electric scooters,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “The Government must never compromise on the safety of the public, such as vulnerable people with disabilities, especially when it does so in the interests of some businesses wishing to expand into Ontario. Public Safety must always come first, and its protection should be unremitting and uncompromising.”

Now that it has been revealed that the Government’s ill-conceived pilot project was based on an unacceptable compromise on public safety, the proposed pilot project should be withdrawn. The Government should go right back to the drawing board.

This pilot project raises safety concerns for the entire public, but Ontarians with disabilities are especially vulnerable to this safety risk. E-scooters are motor vehicles, pure and simple. At a bare minimum, e-scooters, like other motor vehicles, should have to be licensed. Their drivers should also have to be licensed, only after they have completed needed and specific training. Both the driver and the motor vehicle should have to carry sufficient insurance. Their other risks should be subject to strict safety regulations.

The Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters has secured important media coverage. For example, the article by the Canadian Press, set out below, appeared in the August 31, 2019 Toronto Star as well as a number of other publications.

The AODA Alliance is hurrying to prepare a submission to the Ford Government’s rushed public consultation, and is gathering feedback from the disability community. Feedback can be sent to the AODA Alliance by email at [email protected] or tweeted on Twitter to @aodaalliance

The Ford Government’s rush to deal with its proposal to allow e-scooters stands in troubling contrast to its long delay in addressing the serious barriers that over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities still face. There have been 216 days, or over seven months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Doug Ford Government has announced no plan of action to implement the Onley report.

The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of “soul-crushing” barriers against Ontarians with disabilities, and that Government action to redress these has been far too inadequate. The AODA Alliance is deeply concerned that the Government’s e-scooter proposal risks creating even more barriers impeding people with disabilities, such as the blight of e-scooters being left to block public sidewalks that has reportedly been a problem in other places where they are permitted. That would present a serious barrier, for example, to blind people and people using wheelchairs on public sidewalks.

The AODA Alliance is spearheading a “Dial Doug” campaign. It is urging members of the public to call or email Premier Doug Ford, and to ask him where is his plan to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government repeatedly says it is focusing on the things that matter the most to Ontarians. We urge the public to call the Premier to remind him that uncompromising protection of public safety matters the most to Ontarians!

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

Action tips on how to take part in the #DialDoug blitz are available 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/

MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star August 31, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/08/30/disability-advocates-raise-concerns-over-ontario-plan-to-let-e-scooters-on-roads.html News

E-scooters concern disability advocates
Experts say trial program poses significant risks and requires more study

Shawn Jeffords The Canadian Press

A proposed five-year pilot program that would see e-scooters allowed onto Ontario’s roads poses significant safety risks that need more in-depth consideration than the government is allowing, advocates for disabled residents said Friday.

The Ministry of Transportation floated the idea this week of legalizing e-scooters and allowing them to be driven anywhere a bicycle can operate. The two-wheeled
motorized vehicles are currently illegal to operate anywhere other than private property.

The government’s proposal states that the scooters currently fall short of existing federal and safety regulations.

The government initially offered the public 48 hours in which to weigh in on the proposal, but later extended the deadline to Sept. 12. Accessibility advocates
said the extension still doesn’t allow enough time for meaningful feedback on a plan that poses risks to the disabled and non-disabled alike.

“These scooters are motor vehicles driven in a public space by someone who is not licensed, they don’t have a licence plate and are not insured,” said
David Lepofsky, a longtime advocate and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “This presents a safety issue for the entire public.”

The government sets out a series of rules for the proposed pilot but does not provide a potential start date.

Prospective rules for drivers include a minimum age of 16 and a ban on carrying passengers. The e-scooters cannot exceed a maximum operating speed of 32
km/h, the proposal said. They must also have a horn or bell, front and back lights, and cannot weigh more than 45 kilograms.

Lui Greco, a spokesperson for the CNIB Foundation, which advocates for the blind or people living with vision loss, said that organization was relieved when Mulroney announced the extended consultation period.

The rules spelled out in the government’s proposal don’t take into account the potential for the vehicles to be improperly driven on sidewalks, he said,
calling such misuse inevitable and noting it poses particular risks for the blind.

“If you’re a person with poor or no sight and something comes at you at 32 km/h on the sidewalk, how quickly are you going to be able to react?” he said.

Greco said some North American cities have legalized e-scooter sharing services and urged the province to consult with those municipalities before proceeding any further.

Figure:

Currently illegal on Ontario streets, the province is considering allowing e-scooters to be driven anywhere a bicycle can operate. ROBYN BECKAFP/GETTY




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The Ford Government Admits It Planned a “Compromise of Road Safety” and the Opportunity for Businesses to Expand When It designed Its Controversial Proposed 5-Year Pilot to Allow Motorized Electric Scooters on Ontario Roads, According to a Media Report – Yet The Government Should Never Compromise On Public Safety


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The Ford Government Admits It Planned a “Compromise of Road Safety” and the Opportunity for Businesses to Expand When It designed Its Controversial Proposed 5-Year Pilot to Allow Motorized Electric Scooters on Ontario Roads, According to a Media Report – Yet The Government Should Never Compromise On Public Safety

September 3, 2019

          SUMMARY

According to a troubling CityTV report, the Doug Ford Government admitted it had compromised between protecting public safety on the one hand, and advancing business opportunities and consumer choice on the other, when it designed its controversial proposal to permit electric scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot. The Ford Government tried to hold a meager 2-day public consultation on this proposal last week, on the eve of the Labour Day weekend when it is well-known that many are away on holidays. After the AODA Alliance and others in the disability community publicly objected and the media took interest in the story, the Ford Government backed down, and extended this consultation by a short two additional weeks.

The August 30, 2019 City TV television news story that aired in Toronto in the evening news revealed this troubling new information, and included a comment by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on it:

“We reached out to the Ministry of Transportation, who told City News in a statement: the proposed pilot project is another example of how the province is helping businesses expand and give consumers more choice. When asked why the project is set to last a long five years, it said: ‘This proposed time line creates a compromise between road safety and access for businesses and consumers. If approved, the five year pilot will take a measured approach that will promote road safety, foster business innovation and open the Ontario market to this new and growing sector.’”

But Lepofsky fears the Government is prioritizing business over safety.

(Quotation from David Lepofsky in the news story) “the Government’s obligation is to protect public safety, not to decide, well, we’ll do some compromise between making sure people don’t get hurt and making sure other people can make some more money.”

We add the following to that news report’s disturbing revelation:

“We’ve called on the Ford Government to put the brakes on this proposal and to ensure that there is no risk to public safety, before even contemplating any pilot project with electric scooters,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “The Government must never compromise on the safety of the public, such as vulnerable people with disabilities, especially when it does so in the interests of some businesses wishing to expand into Ontario. Public Safety must always come first, and its protection should be unremitting and uncompromising.”

Now that it has been revealed that the Government’s ill-conceived pilot project was based on an unacceptable compromise on public safety, the proposed pilot project should be withdrawn. The Government should go right back to the drawing board.

This pilot project raises safety concerns for the entire public, but Ontarians with disabilities are especially vulnerable to this safety risk. E-scooters are motor vehicles, pure and simple. At a bare minimum, e-scooters, like other motor vehicles, should have to be licensed. Their drivers should also have to be licensed, only after they have completed needed and specific training. Both the driver and the motor vehicle should have to carry sufficient insurance. Their other risks should be subject to strict safety regulations.

The Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters has secured important media coverage. For example, the article by the Canadian Press, set out below, appeared in the August 31, 2019 Toronto Star as well as a number of other publications.

The AODA Alliance is hurrying to prepare a submission to the Ford Government’s rushed public consultation, and is gathering feedback from the disability community. Feedback can be sent to the AODA Alliance by email at [email protected] or tweeted on Twitter to @aodaalliance

The Ford Government’s rush to deal with its proposal to allow e-scooters stands in troubling contrast to its long delay in addressing the serious barriers that over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities still face. There have been 216 days, or over seven months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Doug Ford Government has announced no plan of action to implement the Onley report.

The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of “soul-crushing” barriers against Ontarians with disabilities, and that Government action to redress these has been far too inadequate. The AODA Alliance is deeply concerned that the Government’s e-scooter proposal risks creating even more barriers impeding people with disabilities, such as the blight of e-scooters being left to block public sidewalks that has reportedly been a problem in other places where they are permitted. That would present a serious barrier, for example, to blind people and people using wheelchairs on public sidewalks.

The AODA Alliance is spearheading a “Dial Doug” campaign. It is urging members of the public to call or email Premier Doug Ford, and to ask him where is his plan to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government repeatedly says it is focusing on the things that matter the most to Ontarians. We urge the public to call the Premier to remind him that uncompromising protection of public safety matters the most to Ontarians!

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

Action tips on how to take part in the #DialDoug blitz are available 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/

          MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star August 31, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/08/30/disability-advocates-raise-concerns-over-ontario-plan-to-let-e-scooters-on-roads.html

News

E-scooters concern disability advocates

Experts say trial program poses significant risks and requires more study

Shawn Jeffords The Canadian Press

A proposed five-year pilot program that would see e-scooters allowed onto Ontario’s roads poses significant safety risks that need more in-depth consideration

than the government is allowing, advocates for disabled residents said Friday.

The Ministry of Transportation floated the idea this week of legalizing e-scooters and allowing them to be driven anywhere a bicycle can operate. The two-wheeled

motorized vehicles are currently illegal to operate anywhere other than private property.

The government’s proposal states that the scooters currently fall short of existing federal and safety regulations.

The government initially offered the public 48 hours in which to weigh in on the proposal, but later extended the deadline to Sept. 12. Accessibility advocates

said the extension still doesn’t allow enough time for meaningful feedback on a plan that poses risks to the disabled and non-disabled alike.

“These scooters are motor vehicles driven in a public space by someone who is not licensed, they don’t have a licence plate and are not insured,” said

David Lepofsky, a longtime advocate and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “This presents a safety issue for the

entire public.”

The government sets out a series of rules for the proposed pilot but does not provide a potential start date.

Prospective rules for drivers include a minimum age of 16 and a ban on carrying passengers. The e-scooters cannot exceed a maximum operating speed of 32

km/h, the proposal said. They must also have a horn or bell, front and back lights, and cannot weigh more than 45 kilograms.

Lui Greco, a spokesperson for the CNIB Foundation, which advocates for the blind or people living with vision loss, said that organization was relieved

when Mulroney announced the extended consultation period.

The rules spelled out in the government’s proposal don’t take into account the potential for the vehicles to be improperly driven on sidewalks, he said,

calling such misuse inevitable and noting it poses particular risks for the blind.

“If you’re a person with poor or no sight and something comes at you at 32 km/h on the sidewalk, how quickly are you going to be able to react?” he said.

Greco said some North American cities have legalized e-scooter sharing services and urged the province to consult with those municipalities before proceeding

any further.

Figure:

Currently illegal on Ontario streets, the province is considering allowing e-scooters to be driven anywhere a bicycle can operate. ROBYN BECKAFP/GETTY



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The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act


The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”

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

June 11, 2019

SUMMARY

On May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority to defeat a resolution in the Ontario Legislature about Ontario’s Disabilities Act, that was proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. Worded in measured terms that tracked Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility, that resolution called on the Government to create a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The Ford Government’s defeat of this resolution is a troubling setback for Ontarians with disabilities, as we explain in this Update. There have now been 132 days since former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted his final report on the need to substantially improve the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. to the Ford Government. Yet the Government has not announced a plan of action to implement that report. As a result, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind schedule for becoming accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline.

We will have more to say about this over the next days and weeks. We welcome your feedback and your suggestions of non-partisan actions we might take in response to it. Write us at [email protected]

The Harden Resolution and the Onley Report’s Findings and Recommendations

Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution read as follows:

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

The June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update showed that there were ample strong reasons for the Ford Government to support the resolution. Yet instead, the Ford Government voted against it. The opposition NDP, Liberals and Green Party all voted for the resolution. It is especially troubling that this resolution was defeated right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

Conservative Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho told the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Onley report found that Ontario is “mostly inaccessible” to people with disabilities and that the pace of change in Ontario on accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” The report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” It concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue.

The Onley report recommended major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. Among other things, he called for new accessibility standards to be enacted, and for existing ones to be strengthened. He urged strengthened AODA enforcement, and stronger Government leadership on accessibility. Among the measures he recommended are the four specific measures listed in Joel Harden’s proposed resolution.

Why Did the Ford Government Oppose the Harden Resolution?

The Ford Government opposed MPP Harden’s resolution in its entirety. The Government did not publicly propose any wording changes that would make the resolution acceptable to the Government.

The reasons which the Government gave in the Legislature for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution are deeply troubling. They reflect a serious misunderstanding of the needs of 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, of the AODA’s mandatory legal requirements and of the Onley Report’s findings and recommendations.

The Tories’ speeches repeatedly invoked harmful and false stereotypes about the actions we need to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities and about accessibility legislation that thankfully have not been voiced at Queen’s Park for some sixteen years. As explained further below, the PC MPPs’ speeches give rise to a serious concern that the Government does not plan to fulfil its election commitments on accessibility, or its duties under the AODA. Doug Ford did not voice this disparaging attitude towards the AODA during the 2018 election campaign.

The PC MPPs’ speeches read as if they were meant to make business owners, and especially small business owners, fear that the AODA is a terrible, unfair and massive burden on them, and that the PCs will defend them from this ogre. For example:

1. The Ford Government repeatedly claimed that the measures proposed in this resolution are merely wasteful, duplicative red tape that threaten to seriously harm businesses and impose high costs on them, with a particular emphasis on small business. This false claim revives old harmful stereotypes, akin to those which the former Conservative Government of Mike Harris propagated two decades ago. Ontario’s PC Party had moved well past this in 2005, when it unanimously voted in support of passing the AODA, and brought motions to try to further strengthen it.

Achieving accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by effectively implementing the AODA is not red tape!

2. The Ford Government’s response to this proposed resolution looks like an All-out attack on the AODA itself, and its core requirement to create and enforce accessibility standards to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. the Government in effect took the position that no AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard should ever be enacted under the AODA, because it might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code and confusing. Yet a new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while at the same time the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

3. The Ford Government wrongly claimed that implementing the David Onley Report, through such measures as creating a Built Environment Accessibility Standard and more effectively enforcing the AODA, would not help people with disabilities and would just create barriers for new economic opportunities. The Onley Report and our lived experience prove the Government wrong on this score.

4. The Government wrongly claimed that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution advocates for the Government to fine small businesses so as to drive them out of business. No one, not the Onley report, nor Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, is talking about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

5. The Ford Government appeared to reject outright any improvement in the AODA’s enforcement, which the Onley report found to be deficient and in need of strengthening, because there already is enforcement of the Ontario Building Code. Yet Building Code enforcement does not address barriers in customer service, employment, transportation, information and communication, or in existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations. Moreover the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements are substantially deficient. Enforcing them does not ensure the accessibility of buildings.

6. The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its diverting 1.3 million public dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into such a private accessibility certification process.

7. To justify its opposition to this proposed resolution, the Government pointed to a number of non-legislated strategies on accessibility which were in whole or in large part launched by the previous Liberal Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne. Simply relying on the insufficient strategies of the previous Liberal Government will not yield any better and faster progress on accessibility than the previous Government’s poor record on AODA implementation and enforcementa record which the Onley Report thoroughly documented and which the Ford Government itself has blasted.

8. At least some of the Ford Government’s reasons for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution fly in the face of Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges to Ontarians with disabilities on accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. Those pledges are spelled out below and in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.

9. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the proposed resolution’s call for a plan to stop public money from again being used to create new disability barriers. To allow public money to be used to create new accessibility barriers is to mismanage public money. The Ford Government’s “brand” has been to claim that it is far superior at managing public money than previous governments.

10. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the creation of a plan to ensure that design professionals (like architects) receive better accessibility training. Yet, Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance recognized

” We need Ontarios design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Below we set out:

* Our comments on key statements which Progressive Conservative MPPs made in the Legislature in opposition to Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution.

* MPP Harden’s May 30, 2019 news release, issued after the Government defeated his proposed resolution.

* The full text of the debate in the Legislature over MPP Harden’s proposed resolution on May, 30, 2019, as well as the list of how each MPP voted on this resolution.

* The Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations.

MORE DETAILS

Our Detailed Comments on the Reasons Why the Ford Government Voted to Defeat NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 30, 2019 Resolution

Here are a series of the key statements in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019 by PC MPPs in opposition to Joel Harden’s AODA resolution. they are each followed by our comment on that statement.

1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Im looking forward to discussing this motion because theres lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onleys report talked about these barriers. He called them soul-crushing barriers, and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onleys words, Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.”

Our comment:
It is helpful that the minister and Government recognize that much more needs to be done. Thus the attention must focus on whether what the Government is doing about the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

2 Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

” We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.”

Our comment:
This deeply troubling statement appears to summarize the Ford Government’s overall strategy for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. It is replete with seriously incorrect claims. It is not the position on accessibility that the PC’s communicated to us and the public during the 2018 Ontario election.

It is incorrect for the Ford Government to claim that to create a plan to implement the Onley report would ” lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that public money is never again used to create new disability barriers does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that design professionals like architects get proper training on accessibility does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Creating effective accessibility standards to ensure the accessibility standards of the built environment does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business”.

For the Government to effectively implement the AODA would help businesses make more money. Accessibility gets them access to a larger customer base and a larger pool of prospective competitive employees.

The Government’s claim, particularly in the context of the built environment, flies in the face of Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance , where he set out the PC Party’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility. In that letter, he said, among other things:

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

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

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

Ontario’s Accessibility Minister is responsible to lead the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He or she is supposed to be a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the Cabinet table. For Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Cho to condemn these core recommendations in the Onley Report as “red tape and high costs for business” is to venture into some of the most harmful and false stereotypes about the implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation such as the AODA that we have faced in many years.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party voted unanimously to pass the AODA in 2005. That law requires the Ontario Government to enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The AODA explicitly includes “buildings” among the things that must become accessible. The minister’s statement here and during the rest of this debate, as well as those of other PC MPPs, read like a virtual repudiation of the AODA as “red tape”.

3. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isnt it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?”

Our Comment:
Again, the minister voiced inaccurate and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and accessibility for people with disabilities. No one, not the Onley report, not Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, ever talks about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

From disclosures we have extracted from the Ontario Government over the past several years, we know that a very small number of the obligated organizations have been subject to any AODA audits. The vast majority of obligated organizations are not audited at all.

Any audits have been quite minimal. The AODA “audits” have only been paper audits, with only one exception that we know of. In a paper audit, the Government only inspects the records or files that the obligated organization has kept on its AODA compliance. In those cases, the Government did not go to the organization’s premises to inspect it or find out if the claims about AODA compliance in the organization’s paper records are factual.

In the 14 years that the AODA has been on the books, a miniscule number of monetary penalties have been imposed. The previous Government knew of rampant AODA violations for over five years. Yet, the AODA Alliance revealed last year that in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s an average of less than two monetary penalties in each of those years.

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that any of those penalties were imposed on small businesses. There is no evidence that any of those penalties were so large that they threatened to drive any small business out of business. Indeed, under the AODA regulations that the former Wynne and McGuinty Governments passed on AODA enforcement, the formula for calculating the monetary penalty of a first violator tends to be small e.g. in the hundreds of dollars. There is no public evidence from any of the many Government records that we have unearthed, typically relying on Freedom of Information applications, that the Ontario Government ever imposed any monetary penalties that were larger than that.

4. Accessibility Minister Cho stated:

“Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, its my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.”

Our comment:
By the time of this debate in the Legislature, the Government had four months to consult on the Onley report. Moreover, the Onley report was itself the product of a province-wide consultation process. As such, there can be no excuse for the further Government delay that the minister here signalled, based on yet more consultations.

The minister said that the Government acted “quickly” on the Onley report’s recommendation to resume the work of the AODA Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. These had been frozen for nine months after the Ford Government was elected. We had been pressing the Government throughout those nine months to end that unjustified freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

Making matters worse, some four months after the Government received Mr. Onley’s report (recommending that that freeze be lifted) and well over two months after the Government said it would lift that freeze, the Government has still not scheduled meetings of those AODA Standards Development Committees to resume their work. That is not moving “quickly.”

5. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.”

Our Comment:
This is a second PC MPP who levelled the false and unfair accusation that any effort to improve Ontario’s accessibility standards should be rejected as “more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

This MPP did not give a fair and accurate account of what the David Onley report said about the need for more and better accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. He made it sound like the Onley report somehow supported the PCs’ claim that improving accessibility standards would amount to ” more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

The Onley Report said or implied no such thing. To the contrary, Mr. Onley explicitly recognized the need for more accessibility standards. For example, he echoed our call for the Government to resume the development of new accessibility standards in the areas of education and health care. He called for new and stronger regulatory measures to address disability barriers in the built environment. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution explicitly referred to the latter.

The Onley Report fully recognized the need for improved and sufficient AODA accessibility standards, and for having them effectively enforced. He added that they alone are not sufficient and that more is needed. With that, we also agree.

In the sentence from the Onley report which the MPP quoted out of context, Mr. Onley stated in effect that some accessibility standards may be inadequately written. He stated:

“Another fact of life is that the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right. Examples were cited in the consultations, as noted earlier from even the best building codes that leave much to interpretation, to power door buttons that some people using wheelchairs cannot push.”

6. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work were doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.”

Our Comment:
The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its spending 1.3 million public dollars over the next two years in the Rick Hansen private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into a private accessibility certification process, such as the one operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Toronto Star’s May 27, 2019 editorial echoes some of the concerns we’ve raised.

The Ford Government knew that we are deeply opposed to investing public funds in a private accessibility certification process before it chose to divert public money into that process. It is no substitute for modernizing and effectively enforcing Ontario’s deficient and outdated laws governing the accessibility of buildings. Leaving it to an unaccountable and unelected private accessibility certification process to decide what our standard should be for the accessibility of buildings is no solution.

7. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“To remove barriers on employment, our Employers Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. Theyre now working on developing sector-specific business casesto hire people with disabilitiesthat will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table.”

Our Comment:
There appears to be nothing new here. The Ford Government’s stated solution to the serious problem of chronic unemployment facing people with disabilities in Ontario is the same strategy that the previous Wynne Liberal Government had been proclaiming for years. This included claiming to bring to employers the positive business case for hiring people with disabilities, and operating a Partnership Council of employers. The previous Wynne Government had been operating two successive Partnership Councils of employers since 2014. Indeed, The Ford Government’s statement here sounds very similar to what the Liberal minister responsible for the AODA, Brad Duguid, was saying four years ago on this topic.

Chronic high unemployment facing people with disabilities continues to persist. The previous Government’s approach has proven itself to be entirely insufficient. The Onley report documented the serious barriers that still face people with disabilities in Ontario, including in employment.

Minister Cho has elsewhere rightly blasted the former Liberal Government for doing a poor job on accessibility. Yet the Ford Government is just carrying on in the employment context with the previous Government ‘s same approach.

The Ford Government here and elsewhere during this debate seemed to focus much of its talk and intended effort on “raising awareness on accessibility. We and others, and the Onley Report itself, have shown time and again that this alone is no solution for the problem of recurring disability barriers in our society, which the Onley Report described as “soul-crushing”.

Indeed, during Mr. Onley’s May 1, 2019 presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee that held hearings on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, he convincingly explained how he used to feel that this kind of strategy was sufficient. However, after hearing from people with disabilities during his public hearings in preparation for his report to the Ontario Government, he came to realize that it is not sufficient.

Moreover, the strategy of “raising awareness” was one which the Previous Conservative Ontario Government of Premier Mike Harris proclaimed as its core strategy on accessibility for people with disabilities from 1995 to 2003. That strategy was a failure. That is why Ontario needed the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. In 2005, the Conservative caucus, then in opposition, unanimously supported that legislation.

We therefore need the AODA to be effectively implemented and enforced. That requires much more than “raising awareness.”

8. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

Our Comment:
This is the third PC speaker who opposed Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution by repeating the false claim that it calls for “more duplication” and “more red tape”. This is made worse by this MPP’s further false claim that the resolution is calling for creating “confusion around the built environment.”

Right now, there is serious confusion around the built environment. Too many architects, other design professionals, businesses and government officials wrongly think that if they comply with the current highly-deficient accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code, they have therefore created a building that is accessible to people with disabilities. Yet we have shown the public, including the Ford Government, that complying with the Ontario Building Code and weak AODA standards does not assure accessibility at all.

For example, our three widely-viewed online videos on accessibility problems in new buildings prove that we need to enact new, stronger laws on the accessibility of the built environment and to improve the training of design professionals. These are two core actions that the Onley report recommended and that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution addressed. Check out:

1. The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 online video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/ 2. The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/

3. The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/ 9. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“David Onleys report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesnt make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Our Comment:
Speaking for the Government, this PC MPP in effect took the position that no Built Environment Accessibility Standard can ever be enacted under the AODA, no matter what it might contain. This is because a Built Environment Accessibility Standard might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code.

This is wrong. A Built Environment Accessibility Standard can be designed that is complementary to the Ontario Building Code and that creates no such problems for those who are building or renovating buildings.

Moreover, this flies in the face of the position of the Ontario Conservative Party itself. As we noted earlier, in 2005, the Ontario PC Party unanimously voted for the AODA. Its stated purpose is to achieve accessibility in Ontario by 2025, including accessibility in “buildings”. It does so through the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards. Yet this MPP seems to entirely repudiate that role for the AODA in the context of buildings.

A properly-designed Built Environment Accessibility Standard would not create “red tape and confusion.” A new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

This MPP has never spoken to the AODA Alliance about this, before deciding to publicly reject and disparage the entire idea of an AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard. That flies in the face of Doug Ford’s written election pledge in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance as follows:

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

10. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.”

Our Comment:
This PC MPP seems in effect to claim that there is no need for improved AODA enforcement. Yet the Onley Report called for strengthened AODA enforcement, as has the AODA Alliance.

This PC MPP spoke as if the only accessibility enforcement needed is for the built environment. This disregards three important facts:

First, as we mentioned earlier, the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions are woefully inadequate. To enforce those is to permit new buildings to be built that are replete with accessibility problems.

Second, the enforcement process for the Ontario Building Code, which the MPP points to as our total solution, does not enforce any of the built environment accessibility requirements that any AODA accessibility standards impose.

Third, AODA accessibility standards that require better enforcement relate to many other kinds of accessibility barriers, and not just requirements for the accessibility of the built environment. The Ontario Building Code enforcement does not enforce any requirements for accessibility in customer service, employment, transportation and information and communication. With great respect, it appears that this MPP knows very little about the AODA, or how it is now working, or about the Onley report.

11. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“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 the Worlds Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.”

Our Comment:
Once again, the Ford Government seems to be relying on, if not claiming credit for initiatives that were largely if not entirely started under the previous Liberal Government. For example, the “enabling Change” program to which this MPP refers has been around for many years. This is not the new action for which the Onley report called.

May 30, 2019 News Release by NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden

May 30th, 2019
Defeating accessibility motion is an insult to people with disabilities: NDP Accessibility Critic

QUEEN’S Park – NDP MPP Joel Harden, the Official Opposition critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, released the following statement in response to the Ford government defeating his motion to take action on accessibility:

“Im deeply disappointed that Doug Fords MPPs voted down our motion calling on the government to release an accessibility action plan, and implement key recommendations from David C. Onleys third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The message this sends to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is that their human rights are not a priority for this government. Eliminating barriers is not red tape as the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility and other PC MPPs shamefully said, its about ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities as able bodied citizens. People with disabilities deserve so much better than this. Ontario’s New Democrats will keep fighting for a fully accessible Ontario where no one is excluded.”

Ontario Hansard May 30, 2019

Private Members Public Business

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: Id like to move the following motion before the House, motion 68, that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onleys review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

Interruption.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Im going to ask our visitors to refrain from clapping or making any comment or any noise. Were delighted to have you here, but we need to allow the members to debate.

Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Once again, I recognize the member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Joel Harden: I want to thank my friends in the accessibility gallery and I want to thank my friends in the members gallery and the folks in the public gallery who have come here today.

There are a few people I want to acknowledge, Speaker, off the top, because I wouldnt be doing my job as a critic if our office didnt take the time over the last number of months to meet with people with lived experience, and people helping folks in the field. I want to acknowledge Anne Mason, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Carol-Ann Schafer, Richard Aubrey, Peter Vambe, Gerry Boily, Michele Gardner, Farrah Sattaur, Ryan Hooey, Rahima Mulla, Sinead Zalitach, Kirsten Doyle, Lark Barker, David Zivot and their son Sandino Campos. If Ive missed anybodyEmily, we acknowledged you and your power earlier. Thank you for coming again. Thank you all for being here; thank you indeed.

Interjections.

Mr. Joel Harden: We get to clap for you this time.

Speaker, with your indulgence, Id like to begin with a gesture of unanimous consent. One of the first things that happened to me was that the great David Lepofsky and Thea Kurdi gave me a t-shirt. I know the rules of the House are such that for a t-shirt with lettering on it, we need to ask for unanimous consent to wear it. It reads, Disability justice is love. Id like to wear this as I make my remarks.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa Centre is seeking unanimous consent of the House to wear a t-shirt while he makes his presentation. Agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Joel Harden: I wore an extra t-shirt just in case. Thank you, Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. Thank you, David, and thank you, Thea, for the t-shirt.

I begin wanting to wear this shirt because one of the people who got me started in politics was Jack Layton. Some of his closing words to Canadians before Jack died were: Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And well change the world. I think thats a fitting note on which to begin, Speaker, captured, I think, by the shirt David and Thea gave to me, because, as I think about whats before us, given David Onleys reportaccording to Mr. Onley, were about 30% of the way there to having a truly accessible province with a lot of row to hoe and a lot of barriers that remain.

Minister Cho has mentioned this quotation in the House, and Ill mention it again too. I think its a powerful one from Mr. Onleys report. Mr. Onley wrote, Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residentsits able-bodied residents…. For most disabled persons, however, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers. That captures succinctly what Ive heard from friends who have lived experience and what, quite frankly, people with disabilities are looking to this Legislature to do, and thats to act with some urgency.

The Onley report is a call to action like recent climate change reports, quite frankly, are a call to action. What we know is that right now, 1.9 million people in the province of Ontario have a disability of one kind or another, and attached to them are families, loved ones and friends. So I would like to say, as the critic for people with disabilities in this building, that this isnt just an issue for anyone; this is an issue for all of us. So far as we maintain services, building infrastructure, anything in this province which discriminates against anyone, its a human rights matter.

As one person who deputed to a town hall we hosted earlier in April said, Each and every one of us is one incident away from disability or trauma that requires physical or mental health supports. We also, Speaker, live in an aging society. In an aging society, we need now to be foreseeing the challenges that we have to have met in order to accommodate that aging society.

I want to talk, for the remainder of my time, about what Ive heard directly from folks with disabilities who have been so gracious as to inform me, our office and our party about what they believe needs to be done. I want to talk about Blaine Cameron, from back homehi, Blaine. Blaine is in the chapter of Ottawa ACORN. ACORN is an organization that fights for poor people in this province, in this country and indeed around the world. One of my favourite experiences with Blaine was street canvassing and farmers market canvassing. Blaine lives in a scooterlives in a powered wheelchair. What I found increasingly evident to me, every time I went out with Blainebecause he is easily, and Im sorry for picking favourites, friends in Ottawa, the most charismatic canvasser we have back homeis that he is unable to go door to door because of the built infrastructure of our city in Ottawa. But he kills at farmers markets, Mr. Speaker. The man cannot keep leaflets in his hands. The man gets donations in person constantly because of how powerfully he describes the need for social and economic justice. And what the people of Ottawa are missing, Speaker, given our built infrastructure, is the chance to see Blaine at the door doing what he does best: talking justice and talking fairness. Were missing out on that because of the way in which Ottawa is designed and the way in which our province is designed.

I want to talk about Rahima Mulla, whom I met in the hall yesterday and whom weve interacted with before. I know that members in the government caucus have met with Rahima. She doesnt get to come here very often to Queens Park, Speaker, because there are not always appropriate accessible parking spaces for her. She findsas Ive talked to some of my friends up in the accessibility gallerythe narrow runway up there to be very tricky to negotiate. Thats work we have to do, quite frankly, in this building.

I want to talk about Neil, whom I met a number of days ago, earlier this week, a lovely gentleman who came in with a walker. Neil asked me to walk him into the members gallery over there and confided to me as we were walking up the aisle that he really didnt feel it was appropriate that there were stairs in front of the members gallery on the floor. He looked forward to a day when people with accessibility needs could be seated on the floor, like when the great Steven Fletcher, a member of the federal Conservative caucus, took his place in the House of Commons, as a person who lives in a wheelchair, on the floor. I look forward to the way in which we can make this building more open so that can happen.

I also want to talk about what weve learned in the last number of months from people who have episodic disabilities, Speaker, or what some might call hidden disabilities. I want to talk about Shanthiya Baheerathan, who shared a podium with me earlier this week as she talked about, as a student, what it was like for her to seek accommodation at Ryerson University for her learning disabilities and how difficult it was to self-advocate in an institution whichmy experience with Ryerson as an able-bodied person has been quite good, when Ive been faculty and visiting and running programs there. But the daily struggle to prove her disability because of the nature in which it fluctuates was extremely difficult for her.

Odelia Bay, who is a scholar at Osgoode Hall Law School who has also been here and has testified before the town hall we held earlier in April, has said the same thing: that we need to have an expanded concept of what disabilities are.

Other folks Ive met in the time that Ive had hereand its thanks to MPP Andrea Khanjin from BarrieInnisfil, who hosted a reception for people from sickle cell Ontario. Sickle cell disease is something that not enough of us are aware of, Speaker. It is, to sight, an invisible disease. But what Ive been very saddened to learn, particularly for members of Black and Brown racialized communities, is that when they admit themselves to emergency rooms in great trauma, suffering incredible pain, which is hard for most people to understand, as it has been explained to me, sometimes theyre treated with suspicion upon admission.

Im not impugning the motives of any of our health care professionals. I love them. Im married to one. I love the work they do. But the reality of people living with sickle cell disease is such that the University Health researchers in this great city of Toronto have begun to do epidemiological studies to figure out why it is that people are treated differently when they contact their primary health care system when they have black or brown skin. In the most sad of cases, weve had people suffer fatalities or serious injuries because they havent been able to get the health care they need.

Speaker, I look forward to the debate on this motion. I think its an opportunity for us as a Legislature to say, yes, were ready. Were ready to act on Mr. Onleys report. I salute the fact that the minister has spoken with urgency on the need of work to be done in this place, and Im here to support you in that work, but what I like about the motion that I proposed for our consideration today is that it tells us: Actually, lets set some timelines. Lets set some goals. Lets require of people who are being trained to design our public infrastructure in our buildings that they should never again do that in a way that discriminates against people with disabilities.

Thank you, Thea, and thank you, David Lepofsky, and thank you, folks who are here with us today, for all of your advice in that regard. And never let any child feel in this province ever again that their learning doesnt matter to us. Yes, Im looking at Lark Barker over there, who advocates for dyslexia, people who have stood by children who have felt humiliated as they tried to advance in the public education system, and youve been there for them.

As a province, we need to generalize that right across the board. We need to be there for brain-injured people. We need to be there for everybody who deserves what, quite frankly, socialism means for me: an equal-opportunity society where everybody has the chance to develop themselves to their utmost ability and contribute to this wonderful society in which we live. Thats the just society that I first saw embodied in heroes of mine like Jack Layton, Libby Davies, Olivia Chow and others.

When it comes to advocating for people with disabilities, that is something we are perfectly poised to do.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The member from York Centre will come to order.

Mr. Joel Harden: On a closing note, because I know the member who was just heckling is a Raptors fan just like myself, on a note of levity, I would invite the government to consider a potential revenue source for you to fund a serious accessibility reserve. We know tonight is game one of the NBA finals. We know, unfortunately, that at the moment, businesses can deduct 50% of the cost of tickets against their business income. Ive got a PhD in political economy, so I ran some numbers, given what people are assessing the cost of tickets to be. What that leads me to believe, Speaker, is that tonight, as we celebrate Canadas team, about $45 million is being taken out of provincial coffers in write-offs.

Heres what I would propose to the minister or to the government. I will happily put on a tie, look respectable and go with you to any employer in this province and ask them, Do you need that business write-off, or do we need that money to make sure that we can make every building in this province accessible, for our health care, our education, our transportation services, and so that this place is open and accessible for people with disabilities? That is a revenue source we could tap, and Im here to help you make it happen.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Madam Speaker, I would also like to warmly welcome all the visitors in the Speakers lounge. Welcome to Queens Park.

Im looking forward to discussing this motion because theres lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onleys report talked about these barriers. He called them soul-crushing barriers, and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onleys words, Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have. He also points out that while rules and regulations are crucial, what is also required to eliminate barriers is a change of heart.

We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.

Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isnt it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?

Madam Speaker, Mr. Onley delivered a thorough and thoughtful report about the barriers many Ontarians face. Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, its my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Chris Glover: Its an honour to rise today. Id like to begin my remarks by introducing almost 20 people from SpadinaFort York and from the city of Toronto who have joined us to be part of this debate. I want to especially thank the MPP for Ottawa Centre, Joel Harden, for bringing forward this motion. Ill introduce the people who are here. Weve got Paula Boutis, Heather Vickers-Wong, Madora Rana, Robert Boileau, Alicia Boileau, Mitchell Feinman, Erica Howard, Deborah Fletcher, Dante Wellington, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Ipek Kabatas, Varla Anne Abrams, Tracy Schmittwho is also known as Unstoppable TracyKati Israel, Michau van Speyk.

Id like to thank them all for joining us today. Could we give a round of applause to the people whove joined us for this debate?

Applause.

Mr. Chris Glover: When I became a school board trustee in 2010, I organized a group that was called the Special Education Forum, and for eight years we advocated for changes to the school system to make it more accessible. I want to thank the people who came to those meetingsand many of them are here in this roombecause they taught me about what its like, or gave some glimpse of what its like, to be a person with disabilities. Some of the most important lessons I learned from some students. There were two students in particular, Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama from Martingrove Collegiate, which is the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. They came one day and they talked about their day in that school.

Terrence pointed out something. He said that the nice thing about that school is that the corners in the corridors are cut at 45 degrees, which, when youre using an electric wheelchair, makes it much easier to see people coming from another direction so you avoid collisions. The other thing that he pointed outand I had been a trustee for a few years at this time and I had never noticed it: The front door to that school was not accessible. There was a hot dog stand, and that hot dog vendor is legendary at Martingrove Collegiate. He said that sometimes he had to take his wheelchair down the grassy slope to get to the hot dog vendor, and it was hazardous. I went to the school the next day and I met him. He was sitting in his chair at the top of the steps, and there were snowbanks on either side, so he actually could not get down to the hot dog vendor, and so he had to get one of his friends to go down. This was the front entrance to the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. So we started advocating.

The other thing that I learned through that group and from the disability advocates Id been working with is the amount of persistence it takes to make change. It took us four years to finally get an accessible ramp on the front entrance of that school, but finally it was done.

The other person who taught me a lot was Sarah Jama. Shes the founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. She taught me about something called universal design. Every Ontario should know this term, universal design. Universal design means that when youre designing a building, you design it so that everybody can use it.

Just imagine, for example, if you built a building that only had womens washrooms and what that would mean for men who wanted to be employed, potentially, in that building. Where would they go? How would they possibly get employment in that building? So youve got to think. If youre building a building, youve got to make it for everybody, for anybody. Whether youre using a walker or wheelchair, or whether youre walking in, or whether you have a visual impairment or an auditory impairment, youve got to build a building that makes it possible for everybody to be there.

A big part of the problem that comes from not making our buildings with universal design is the unemployment rate. The employment rate among people with disabilities is only 55%, and its shameful in this province that we have allowed this to go on. Part of the reason for that, a big part of the reasonand we had a discussion in the committee last week where we were talking about transitis that our buildings are not accessible and our transit systems are not fully accessible. Thats why its so hard for people to get to work if you have disability.

So when we talk about constructing things, when were building our subway infrastructure, our buses, weve got to make sure that people with disabilities are going to be able to get to work so that they can have employment and get all the benefits that come with employment, including a life thats not lived in poverty, the social network, all the things you need work for.

The other group that weve been working with over the years, the big issue that weve been focusing on at this disability advocacy group is employment. I mentioned that its only 55% of people with disabilities; that drops to 26% of people with intellectual disabilities. And that is a real shame.

In Washington state, 87% of people with intellectual disabilities have paid employment versus 26% here in Ontario, which means that 60% of people with intellectual disabilities have the potential to work but we have not designed our society in order to invite them and to make our workplaces welcoming to them. So thats something we really need to focus on, because thats an incredible amount of potential that is being lost, and its lives that are being disrupted and not being lived to their fullest extent, because of the way that we have designed our society.

Lets see. When the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility was talking about soul-crushing barriers, making inaccessible spaces, making inaccessible transit systems, making inaccessible buildingsthese are some of those soul-crushing barriers. We may not think of it because we may not be affected by the design of the buildings that were looking at, but I would invite all of the members in this House to please listen to people with disabilities. Ive learned so much from listening to people like Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama to understand what it means to have a universally designed society where everybody can reach their full potential.

Im so thankful to the member from Ottawa Centre for bringing forward this motion. Im absolutely going to support it and I hope the members opposite will support it as well.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Im proud to rise here today to speak to the motion of accessibility. As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.

I know that the minister is doing a great job working with stakeholders to chart the best path forward to improve accessibility in Ontario. As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work were doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.

To remove barriers on employment, our Employers Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. Theyre now working on developing sector-specific business casesto hire people with disabilitiesthat will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table.

Our goal is to make Ontario open for business for everyone. This is meaningful work that is already under way to improve the lives of people with disabilities. To help businesses better understand the benefits of accessibility, the ministry has taken steps to begin to redesign their website, to make it a more comprehensive one-stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses, as recommended by Mr. Onley in his report.

In addition to providing resources on accessibility requirements and regulations, we have posted accessibility resources for businesses, to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

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

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It is truly always an honour to rise in this Legislature on behalf of my constituents of LondonFanshawe. It brings me great pleasure today to speak in support of my colleagues bill, the member from Ottawa Centres motion taking action on accessibility with regard to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act review by the Honourable David Onley, Ontarios 28th Lieutenant Governor. I had the honour of being in the Legislature when the Honourable David Onley was serving as Lieutenant Governor.

Back in 2005and that was before I was hereall parties at the time in the Legislature unanimously supported the AODA Act. They actually said, This is not a partisan issue. Its a non-partisan issue, and were all on board. We all agree unanimously that this needs to happen, and it needs to happen by 2025.

Every three years, they appoint an independent reviewer of the progress of what has been going on, on this act. In 2017, Lieutenant Governor David Onley was appointed to review the act and report back on what was happening.

He did his homework. He went out and toured the province, and he spoke to people. Then he obviously came up with a conclusion on what was reported.

Thats what we need to do. As many people said, we need to listen to the people who have lived experience with disabilities that are physical but also episodic or non-visual, and not only listen but actually take action. Really, 2025 is coming very quickly.

The next review thats going to happen is in 2020, and as far as Im concerned, we are behind. I hear the member from the Conservative Party talking about how this is going to be more red tape and its going to have barriers for more economic opportunities. In order to get to work, there has to be a pathway to get there, so therefore places have to be accessible. Im sure that people who are capable of working want to go out and do their part; they want to feel valuable and contribute to society. But if you cant get to work because there are stairs and theres no elevator, you cant say, You dont want to work. There has to be a logical process of how to get people to work, and first we need to make sure that places of work are all accessible. That makes sense.

I think that the member who spoke earlier has it reversed. This is not a red-tape bill. This is not making it harder for economic opportunities for Ontario. This is actually moving the bar forward to getting Ontario into a really positive economic opportunity for everyone. If we dont support this bill in the House today, I think were sending a message to people that its not a priority. Were saying, Youve got to get to work, and the government side has said that the best social program is a job. Thats what theyre saying, but then if you need that to happen, what do you logically believe you need to put in place, what metrics do you need in place, to bring out those outcomes? Thats what they forget. Usually what they say doesnt sound good to me. They think it sounds good, but they dont have real steps on how to get there.

Put your money where your mouth is and start making things accessible so then you can have those opportunities for people who have disabilities to explore those jobs that they are so capable of doing and they so want. I hope this government is going to stop thinking so narrow-mindedly when it comes to what they think is best and actually listen to what people are telling them, and then act on that. Youve done that in a few places when youve pulled back legislation. We know that you did that recently with land ambulance, public health and child care. This is your opportunity to do the right thing from the beginning, rather than backtracking. I hope they support this bill, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Natalia Kusendova: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this motion. The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

Weve taken real action through our $1.3-million partnership with the Rick Hansen building certification program, which will see us provide accessibility ratings of an estimated 250 buildings across Ontario. These ratings will not only certify buildings as being accessible, but it will provide a report with directions to buildings about how they can improve their accessibility. This is real action that we are taking now.

David Onleys report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesnt make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.

The Onley report highlights the importance of coordinating Ontarios accessibility efforts with those of the federal government. As announced in More Homes, More Choice: Ontarios Housing Supply Action Plan, the government will harmonize our building code with national codes to open new markets for manufacturers and to bring building costs down.

What we are really here to debate is creating a barrier-free Ontario, and a government cannot do this alone. This is why work on Mr. Onleys recommendations, along with other important initiatives, is ongoing. Our government is working closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

We partnered with OCAD 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 the Worlds Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to inform a whole-of-government approach advancing accessibility. As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services, and identify areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontarios 2.6 million people with disabilities. Speaker, this government is committed to accessibility and improving employment prospects for people with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. I return to the member for Ottawa Centre, who has two minutes to reply.

Mr. Joel Harden: Its hard to know what to say. I had hoped that there would be some goodwill here and I leave out hope that we may have some support for this motion, a declaration of intent, Speaker, written not by me but written by David Onley in this report, written by experts with lived experience and who know what its like to live in a province that is not accessible to themnot accessible to them.

When I hear words like red tape, the hair on the back of my neck stands up because I think about people who cant get into hospitals, cant get into schools. I think about children who are being forbidden the opportunity to learn because our services and systems are not accessible to them. And what makes me even angrier, to be honest, although I am trying to be hopeful and optimistic today, is that we are presiding over a province where people tonight will write off $45 million in Raptors game expenses, and we as a province are fine with that. Were fine with that. Last week we announced $1.3 million in a partnership for people with disabilities, which is less, Speaker, than we pay this governments Premiers private lawyer, Gavin Tighe, in salary.

So what people with disabilities are being told is that they matter less than the corporate folks going to the Raptors game tonight, they matter less than the salary we give the lawyer serving the Premier of this province, and that when they ask for better, they are told they are ruining the economy and that it amounts to red tape. That is a really shameful moment for me in this place.

This motion commits us to action. Im not allowed to ask for money from this government, but I am asking you, on behalf of my friends who are here today and all over this province, to get off the pot and act.

(Later that day in the Legislature after debate on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): We will deal first with ballot item number 73, standing in the name of Mr. Harden.

Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say aye.

All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

In my opinion, the nays have it. We will deal with this vote after we have finished the other business.

(After votes on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Im actually going to seek direction from the table. Is it a five-minute bell right now? Okay.

Call in all the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1531 to 1536.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes
Armstrong, Teresa J.
Begum, Doly
Bell, Jessica
Berns-McGown, Rima
Des Rosiers, Nathalie
Fife, Catherine
Fraser, John
Glover, Chris
Harden, Joel
Hassan, Faisal
Hatfield, Percy
Karpoche, Bhutila
Lindo, Laura Mae
Mamakwa, Sol
Mantha, Michael
Morrison, Suze
Natyshak, Taras
Rakocevic, Tom
Sattler, Peggy
Schreiner, Mike
Shaw, Sandy
Singh, Gurratan
Singh, Sara
Stiles, Marit
Tabuns, Peter
West, Jamie
Yarde, Kevin

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): All those opposed, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Nays
Anand, Deepak
Baber, Roman
Babikian, Aris
Bailey, Robert
Bethlenfalvy, Peter
Bouma, Will
Calandra, Paul
Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
Cho, Stan
Coe, Lorne
Crawford, Stephen
Cuzzetto, Rudy
Downey, Doug
Dunlop, Jill
Fedeli, Victor
Fee, Amy
Ghamari, Goldie
Gill, Parm
Harris, Mike
Hogarth, Christine
Jones, Sylvia
Kanapathi, Logan
Karahalios, Belinda C.
Ke, Vincent
Khanjin, Andrea
Kramp, Daryl
Kusendova, Natalia
Lecce, Stephen
Martin, Robin
Martow, Gila
McDonell, Jim
McKenna, Jane
Miller, Norman
Mulroney, Caroline
Oosterhoff, Sam
Pang, Billy
Parsa, Michael
Pettapiece, Randy
Phillips, Rod
Piccini, David
Rasheed, Kaleed
Roberts, Jeremy
Sabawy, Sheref
Sandhu, Amarjot
Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
Skelly, Donna
Smith, Dave
Thanigasalam, Vijay
Thompson, Lisa M.
Tibollo, Michael A.
Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.
Wai, Daisy

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 27; the nays are 52.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I declare the motion lost.

Motion negatived.

Summary of the Recommendations of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.
Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.
Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers. Lead by example.
Coordinate 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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The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act – The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act – The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”

June 11, 2019

          SUMMARY

On May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority to defeat a resolution in the Ontario Legislature about Ontario’s Disabilities Act, that was proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. Worded in measured terms that tracked Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility, that resolution called on the Government to create a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The Ford Government’s defeat of this resolution is a troubling setback for Ontarians with disabilities, as we explain in this Update. There have now been 132 days since former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted his final report on the need to substantially improve the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. to the Ford Government. Yet the Government has not announced a plan of action to implement that report. As a result, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind schedule for becoming accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline.

We will have more to say about this over the next days and weeks. We welcome your feedback and your suggestions of non-partisan actions we might take in response to it. Write us at [email protected]

The Harden Resolution and the Onley Report’s Findings and Recommendations

Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution read as follows:

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

The June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update showed that there were ample strong reasons for the Ford Government to support the resolution. Yet instead, the Ford Government voted against it. The opposition NDP, Liberals and Green Party all voted for the resolution. It is especially troubling that this resolution was defeated right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

Conservative Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho told the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Onley report found that Ontario is “mostly inaccessible” to people with disabilities and that the pace of change in Ontario on accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” The report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” It concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue.

The Onley report recommended major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. Among other things, he called for new accessibility standards to be enacted, and for existing ones to be strengthened. He urged strengthened AODA enforcement, and stronger Government leadership on accessibility. Among the measures he recommended are the four specific measures listed in Joel Harden’s proposed resolution.

Why Did the Ford Government Oppose the Harden Resolution?

The Ford Government opposed MPP Harden’s resolution in its entirety. The Government did not publicly propose any wording changes that would make the resolution acceptable to the Government.

The reasons which the Government gave in the Legislature for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution are deeply troubling. They reflect a serious misunderstanding of the needs of 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, of the AODA’s mandatory legal requirements and of the Onley Report’s findings and recommendations.

The Tories’ speeches repeatedly invoked harmful and false stereotypes about the actions we need to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities and about accessibility legislation that thankfully have not been voiced at Queen’s Park for some sixteen years. As explained further below, the PC MPPs’ speeches give rise to a serious concern that the Government does not plan to fulfil its election commitments on accessibility, or its duties under the AODA. Doug Ford did not voice this disparaging attitude towards the AODA during the 2018 election campaign.

The PC MPPs’ speeches read as if they were meant to make business owners, and especially small business owners, fear that the AODA is a terrible, unfair and massive burden on them, and that the PCs will defend them from this ogre. For example:

  1. The Ford Government repeatedly claimed that the measures proposed in this resolution are merely wasteful, duplicative red tape that threaten to seriously harm businesses and impose high costs on them, with a particular emphasis on small business. This false claim revives old harmful stereotypes, akin to those which the former Conservative Government of Mike Harris propagated two decades ago. Ontario’s PC Party had moved well past this in 2005, when it unanimously voted in support of passing the AODA, and brought motions to try to further strengthen it.

Achieving accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by effectively implementing the AODA is not red tape!

  1. The Ford Government’s response to this proposed resolution looks like an All-out attack on the AODA itself, and its core requirement to create and enforce accessibility standards to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. the Government in effect took the position that no AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard should ever be enacted under the AODA, because it might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code and confusing. Yet a new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while at the same time the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.
  1. The Ford Government wrongly claimed that implementing the David Onley Report, through such measures as creating a Built Environment Accessibility Standard and more effectively enforcing the AODA, would not help people with disabilities and would just create barriers for new economic opportunities. The Onley Report and our lived experience prove the Government wrong on this score.
  1. The Government wrongly claimed that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution advocates for the Government to fine small businesses so as to drive them out of business. No one, not the Onley report, nor Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, is talking about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.
  1. The Ford Government appeared to reject outright any improvement in the AODA’s enforcement, which the Onley report found to be deficient and in need of strengthening, because there already is enforcement of the Ontario Building Code. Yet Building Code enforcement does not address barriers in customer service, employment, transportation, information and communication, or in existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations. Moreover the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements are substantially deficient. Enforcing them does not ensure the accessibility of buildings.
  1. The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its diverting 1.3 million public dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into such a private accessibility certification process.
  1. To justify its opposition to this proposed resolution, the Government pointed to a number of non-legislated strategies on accessibility which were in whole or in large part launched by the previous Liberal Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne. Simply relying on the insufficient strategies of the previous Liberal Government will not yield any better and faster progress on accessibility than the previous Government’s poor record on AODA implementation and enforcement—a record which the Onley Report thoroughly documented and which the Ford Government itself has blasted.
  1. At least some of the Ford Government’s reasons for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution fly in the face of Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges to Ontarians with disabilities on accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. Those pledges are spelled out below and in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.
  1. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the proposed resolution’s call for a plan to stop public money from again being used to create new disability barriers. To allow public money to be used to create new accessibility barriers is to mismanage public money. The Ford Government’s “brand” has been to claim that it is far superior at managing public money than previous governments.
  1. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the creation of a plan to ensure that design professionals (like architects) receive better accessibility training. Yet, Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance recognized

” We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Below we set out:

* Our comments on key statements which Progressive Conservative MPPs made in the Legislature in opposition to Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution.

* MPP Harden’s May 30, 2019 news release, issued after the Government defeated his proposed resolution.

* The full text of the debate in the Legislature over MPP Harden’s proposed resolution on May, 30, 2019, as well as the list of how each MPP voted on this resolution.

* The Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations.

          MORE DETAILS

Our Detailed Comments on the Reasons Why the Ford Government Voted to Defeat NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 30, 2019 Resolution

Here are a series of the key statements in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019 by PC MPPs in opposition to Joel Harden’s AODA resolution. they are each followed by our comment on that statement.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“I’m looking forward to discussing this motion because there’s lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onley’s report talked about these barriers. He called them “soul-crushing barriers,” and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onley’s words, “Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.””

Our comment:

It is helpful that the minister and Government recognize that much more needs to be done. Thus the attention must focus on whether what the Government is doing about the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

2 Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

” We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.”

Our comment:

This deeply troubling statement appears to summarize the Ford Government’s overall strategy for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. It is replete with seriously incorrect claims. It is not the position on accessibility that the PC’s communicated to us and the public during the 2018 Ontario election.

It is incorrect for the Ford Government to claim that to create a plan to implement the Onley report would ” lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that public money is never again used to create new disability barriers does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that design professionals like architects get proper training on accessibility does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Creating effective accessibility standards to ensure the accessibility standards of the built environment does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business”.

For the Government to effectively implement the AODA would help businesses make more money. Accessibility gets them access to a larger customer base and a larger pool of prospective competitive employees.

The Government’s claim, particularly in the context of the built environment, flies in the face of Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance , where he set out the PC Party’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility. In that letter, he said, among other things:

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

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

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

Ontario’s Accessibility Minister is responsible to lead the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He or she is supposed to be a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the Cabinet table. For Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Cho to condemn these core recommendations in the Onley Report as “red tape and high costs for business” is to venture into some of the most harmful and false stereotypes about the implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation such as the AODA that we have faced in many years.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party voted unanimously to pass the AODA in 2005. That law requires the Ontario Government to enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The AODA explicitly includes “buildings” among the things that must become accessible. The minister’s statement here and during the rest of this debate, as well as those of other PC MPPs, read like a virtual repudiation of the AODA as “red tape”.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isn’t it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?”

Our Comment:

Again, the minister voiced inaccurate and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and accessibility for people with disabilities. No one, not the Onley report, not Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, ever talks about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

From disclosures we have extracted from the Ontario Government over the past several years, we know that a very small number of the obligated organizations have been subject to any AODA audits. The vast majority of obligated organizations are not audited at all.

Any audits have been quite minimal. The AODA “audits” have only been paper audits, with only one exception that we know of. In a paper audit, the Government only inspects the records or files that the obligated organization has kept on its AODA compliance. In those cases, the Government did not go to the organization’s premises to inspect it or find out if the claims about AODA compliance in the organization’s paper records are factual.

In the 14 years that the AODA has been on the books, a miniscule number of monetary penalties have been imposed. The previous Government knew of rampant AODA violations for over five years. Yet, the AODA Alliance revealed last year that in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s an average of less than two monetary penalties in each of those years.

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that any of those penalties were imposed on small businesses. There is no evidence that any of those penalties were so large that they threatened to drive any small business out of business. Indeed, under the AODA regulations that the former Wynne and McGuinty Governments passed on AODA enforcement, the formula for calculating the monetary penalty of a first violator tends to be small e.g. in the hundreds of dollars. There is no public evidence from any of the many Government records that we have unearthed, typically relying on Freedom of Information applications, that the Ontario Government ever imposed any monetary penalties that were larger than that.

  1. Accessibility Minister Cho stated:

“Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, it’s my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.”

Our comment:

By the time of this debate in the Legislature, the Government had four months to consult on the Onley report. Moreover, the Onley report was itself the product of a province-wide consultation process. As such, there can be no excuse for the further Government delay that the minister here signalled, based on yet more consultations.

The minister said that the Government acted “quickly” on the Onley report’s recommendation to resume the work of the AODA Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. These had been frozen for nine months after the Ford Government was elected. We had been pressing the Government throughout those nine months to end that unjustified freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

Making matters worse, some four months after the Government received Mr. Onley’s report (recommending that that freeze be lifted) and well over two months after the Government said it would lift that freeze, the Government has still not scheduled meetings of those AODA Standards Development Committees to resume their work. That is not moving “quickly.”

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, “the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.””

Our Comment:

This is a second PC MPP who levelled the false and unfair accusation that any effort to improve Ontario’s accessibility standards should be rejected as “more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

This MPP did not give a fair and accurate account of what the David Onley report said about the need for more and better accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. He made it sound like the Onley report somehow supported the PCs’ claim that improving accessibility standards would amount to ” more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

The Onley Report said or implied no such thing. To the contrary, Mr. Onley explicitly recognized the need for more accessibility standards. For example, he echoed our call for the Government to resume the development of new accessibility standards in the areas of education and health care. He called for new and stronger regulatory measures to address disability barriers in the built environment. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution explicitly referred to the latter.

The Onley Report fully recognized the need for improved and sufficient AODA accessibility standards, and for having them effectively enforced. He added that they alone are not sufficient and that more is needed. With that, we also agree.

In the sentence from the Onley report which the MPP quoted out of context, Mr. Onley stated in effect that some accessibility standards may be inadequately written. He stated:

“Another fact of life is that the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right. Examples were cited in the consultations, as noted earlier – from even the best building codes that leave much to interpretation, to power door buttons that some people using wheelchairs cannot push.”

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work we’re doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.”

Our Comment:

The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its spending 1.3 million public dollars over the next two years in the Rick Hansen private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into a private accessibility certification process, such as the one operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Toronto Star’s May 27, 2019 editorial echoes some of the concerns we’ve raised.

The Ford Government knew that we are deeply opposed to investing public funds in a private accessibility certification process before it chose to divert public money into that process. It is no substitute for modernizing and effectively enforcing Ontario’s deficient and outdated laws governing the accessibility of buildings. Leaving it to an unaccountable and unelected private accessibility certification process to decide what our standard should be for the accessibility of buildings is no solution.

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“To remove barriers on employment, our Employers’ Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. They’re now working on developing sector-specific business cases—to hire people with disabilities—that will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers’ Partnership Table.”

Our Comment:

There appears to be nothing new here. The Ford Government’s stated solution to the serious problem of chronic unemployment facing people with disabilities in Ontario is the same strategy that the previous Wynne Liberal Government had been proclaiming for years. This included claiming to bring to employers the positive business case for hiring people with disabilities, and operating a Partnership Council of employers. The previous Wynne Government had been operating two successive Partnership Councils of employers since 2014. Indeed, The Ford Government’s statement here sounds very similar to what the Liberal minister responsible for the AODA, Brad Duguid, was saying four years ago on this topic.

Chronic high unemployment facing people with disabilities continues to persist. The previous Government’s approach has proven itself to be entirely insufficient. The Onley report documented the serious barriers that still face people with disabilities in Ontario, including in employment.

Minister Cho has elsewhere rightly blasted the former Liberal Government for doing a poor job on accessibility. Yet the Ford Government is just carrying on in the employment context with the previous Government ‘s same approach.

The Ford Government here and elsewhere during this debate seemed to focus much of its talk and intended effort on “raising awareness on accessibility. We and others, and the Onley Report itself, have shown time and again that this alone is no solution for the problem of recurring disability barriers in our society, which the Onley Report described as “soul-crushing”.

Indeed, during Mr. Onley’s May 1, 2019 presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee that held hearings on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, he convincingly explained how he used to feel that this kind of strategy was sufficient. However, after hearing from people with disabilities during his public hearings in preparation for his report to the Ontario Government, he came to realize that it is not sufficient.

Moreover, the strategy of “raising awareness” was one which the Previous Conservative Ontario Government of Premier Mike Harris proclaimed as its core strategy on accessibility for people with disabilities from 1995 to 2003. That strategy was a failure. That is why Ontario needed the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. In 2005, the Conservative caucus, then in opposition, unanimously supported that legislation.

We therefore need the AODA to be effectively implemented and enforced. That requires much more than “raising awareness.”

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.”

Our Comment:

This is the third PC speaker who opposed Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution by repeating the false claim that it calls for “more duplication” and “more red tape”. This is made worse by this MPP’s further false claim that the resolution is calling for creating “confusion around the built environment.”

Right now, there is serious confusion around the built environment. Too many architects, other design professionals, businesses and government officials wrongly think that if they comply with the current highly-deficient accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code, they have therefore created a building that is accessible to people with disabilities. Yet we have shown the public, including the Ford Government, that complying with the Ontario Building Code and weak AODA standards does not assure accessibility at all.

For example, our three widely-viewed online videos on accessibility problems in new buildings prove that we need to enact new, stronger laws on the accessibility of the built environment and to improve the training of design professionals. These are two core actions that the Onley report recommended and that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution addressed. Check out:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 online video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“David Onley’s report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesn’t make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.”

Our Comment:

Speaking for the Government, this PC MPP in effect took the position that no Built Environment Accessibility Standard can ever be enacted under the AODA, no matter what it might contain. This is because a Built Environment Accessibility Standard might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code.

This is wrong. A Built Environment Accessibility Standard can be designed that is complementary to the Ontario Building Code and that creates no such problems for those who are building or renovating buildings.

Moreover, this flies in the face of the position of the Ontario Conservative Party itself. As we noted earlier, in 2005, the Ontario PC Party unanimously voted for the AODA. Its stated purpose is to achieve accessibility in Ontario by 2025, including accessibility in “buildings”. It does so through the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards. Yet this MPP seems to entirely repudiate that role for the AODA in the context of buildings.

A properly-designed Built Environment Accessibility Standard would not create “red tape and confusion.” A new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

This MPP has never spoken to the AODA Alliance about this, before deciding to publicly reject and disparage the entire idea of an AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard. That flies in the face of Doug Ford’s written election pledge in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance as follows:

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

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.”

Our Comment:

This PC MPP seems in effect to claim that there is no need for improved AODA enforcement. Yet the Onley Report called for strengthened AODA enforcement, as has the AODA Alliance.

This PC MPP spoke as if the only accessibility enforcement needed is for the built environment. This disregards three important facts:

First, as we mentioned earlier, the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions are woefully inadequate. To enforce those is to permit new buildings to be built that are replete with accessibility problems.

Second, the enforcement process for the Ontario Building Code, which the MPP points to as our total solution, does not enforce any of the built environment accessibility requirements that any AODA accessibility standards impose.

Third, AODA accessibility standards that require better enforcement relate to many other kinds of accessibility barriers, and not just requirements for the accessibility of the built environment. The Ontario Building Code enforcement does not enforce any requirements for accessibility in customer service, employment, transportation and information and communication. With great respect, it appears that this MPP knows very little about the AODA, or how it is now working, or about the Onley report.

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

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

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.”

Our Comment:

Once again, the Ford Government seems to be relying on, if not claiming credit for initiatives that were largely if not entirely started under the previous Liberal Government. For example, the “enabling Change” program to which this MPP refers has been around for many years. This is not the new action for which the Onley report called.

May 30, 2019 News Release by NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden

May 30th, 2019

Defeating accessibility motion is an insult to people with disabilities: NDP Accessibility Critic

 

QUEEN’S Park – NDP MPP Joel Harden, the Official Opposition critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, released the following statement in response to the Ford government defeating his motion to take action on accessibility:

“I’m deeply disappointed that Doug Ford’s MPPs voted down our motion calling on the government to release an accessibility action plan, and implement key recommendations from David C. Onley’s third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The message this sends to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is that their human rights are not a priority for this government. Eliminating barriers is not ‘red tape’ as the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility and other PC MPPs shamefully said, it’s about ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities as able bodied citizens. People with disabilities deserve so much better than this. Ontario’s New Democrats will keep fighting for a fully accessible Ontario where no one is excluded.”

Ontario Hansard May 30, 2019

Private Members’ Public Business

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: I’d like to move the following motion before the House, motion 68, that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

Interruption.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask our visitors to refrain from clapping or making any comment or any noise. We’re delighted to have you here, but we need to allow the members to debate.

Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Once again, I recognize the member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Joel Harden: I want to thank my friends in the accessibility gallery and I want to thank my friends in the members’ gallery and the folks in the public gallery who have come here today.

There are a few people I want to acknowledge, Speaker, off the top, because I wouldn’t be doing my job as a critic if our office didn’t take the time over the last number of months to meet with people with lived experience, and people helping folks in the field. I want to acknowledge Anne Mason, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Carol-Ann Schafer, Richard Aubrey, Peter Vambe, Gerry Boily, Michele Gardner, Farrah Sattaur, Ryan Hooey, Rahima Mulla, Sinead Zalitach, Kirsten Doyle, Lark Barker, David Zivot and their son Sandino Campos. If I’ve missed anybody—Emily, we acknowledged you and your power earlier. Thank you for coming again. Thank you all for being here; thank you indeed.

Interjections.

Mr. Joel Harden: We get to clap for you this time.

Speaker, with your indulgence, I’d like to begin with a gesture of unanimous consent. One of the first things that happened to me was that the great David Lepofsky and Thea Kurdi gave me a t-shirt. I know the rules of the House are such that for a t-shirt with lettering on it, we need to ask for unanimous consent to wear it. It reads, “Disability justice is love.” I’d like to wear this as I make my remarks.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa Centre is seeking unanimous consent of the House to wear a t-shirt while he makes his presentation. Agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Joel Harden: I wore an extra t-shirt just in case. Thank you, Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. Thank you, David, and thank you, Thea, for the t-shirt.

I begin wanting to wear this shirt because one of the people who got me started in politics was Jack Layton. Some of his closing words to Canadians before Jack died were: “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” I think that’s a fitting note on which to begin, Speaker, captured, I think, by the shirt David and Thea gave to me, because, as I think about what’s before us, given David Onley’s report—according to Mr. Onley, we’re about 30% of the way there to having a truly accessible province with a lot of row to hoe and a lot of barriers that remain.

Minister Cho has mentioned this quotation in the House, and I’ll mention it again too. I think it’s a powerful one from Mr. Onley’s report. Mr. Onley wrote, “Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents—its able-bodied residents…. For most disabled persons,” however, “Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.” That captures succinctly what I’ve heard from friends who have lived experience and what, quite frankly, people with disabilities are looking to this Legislature to do, and that’s to act with some urgency.

The Onley report is a call to action like recent climate change reports, quite frankly, are a call to action. What we know is that right now, 1.9 million people in the province of Ontario have a disability of one kind or another, and attached to them are families, loved ones and friends. So I would like to say, as the critic for people with disabilities in this building, that this isn’t just an issue for anyone; this is an issue for all of us. So far as we maintain services, building infrastructure, anything in this province which discriminates against anyone, it’s a human rights matter.

As one person who deputed to a town hall we hosted earlier in April said, “Each and every one of us is one incident away from disability or trauma that requires physical or mental health supports.” We also, Speaker, live in an aging society. In an aging society, we need now to be foreseeing the challenges that we have to have met in order to accommodate that aging society.

I want to talk, for the remainder of my time, about what I’ve heard directly from folks with disabilities who have been so gracious as to inform me, our office and our party about what they believe needs to be done. I want to talk about Blaine Cameron, from back home—hi, Blaine. Blaine is in the chapter of Ottawa ACORN. ACORN is an organization that fights for poor people in this province, in this country and indeed around the world. One of my favourite experiences with Blaine was street canvassing and farmers’ market canvassing. Blaine lives in a scooter—lives in a powered wheelchair. What I found increasingly evident to me, every time I went out with Blaine—because he is easily, and I’m sorry for picking favourites, friends in Ottawa, the most charismatic canvasser we have back home—is that he is unable to go door to door because of the built infrastructure of our city in Ottawa. But he kills at farmers’ markets, Mr. Speaker. The man cannot keep leaflets in his hands. The man gets donations in person constantly because of how powerfully he describes the need for social and economic justice. And what the people of Ottawa are missing, Speaker, given our built infrastructure, is the chance to see Blaine at the door doing what he does best: talking justice and talking fairness. We’re missing out on that because of the way in which Ottawa is designed and the way in which our province is designed.

I want to talk about Rahima Mulla, whom I met in the hall yesterday and whom we’ve interacted with before. I know that members in the government caucus have met with Rahima. She doesn’t get to come here very often to Queen’s Park, Speaker, because there are not always appropriate accessible parking spaces for her. She finds—as I’ve talked to some of my friends up in the accessibility gallery—the narrow runway up there to be very tricky to negotiate. That’s work we have to do, quite frankly, in this building.

I want to talk about Neil, whom I met a number of days ago, earlier this week, a lovely gentleman who came in with a walker. Neil asked me to walk him into the members’ gallery over there and confided to me as we were walking up the aisle that he really didn’t feel it was appropriate that there were stairs in front of the members’ gallery on the floor. He looked forward to a day when people with accessibility needs could be seated on the floor, like when the great Steven Fletcher, a member of the federal Conservative caucus, took his place in the House of Commons, as a person who lives in a wheelchair, on the floor. I look forward to the way in which we can make this building more open so that can happen.

I also want to talk about what we’ve learned in the last number of months from people who have episodic disabilities, Speaker, or what some might call hidden disabilities. I want to talk about Shanthiya Baheerathan, who shared a podium with me earlier this week as she talked about, as a student, what it was like for her to seek accommodation at Ryerson University for her learning disabilities and how difficult it was to self-advocate in an institution which—my experience with Ryerson as an able-bodied person has been quite good, when I’ve been faculty and visiting and running programs there. But the daily struggle to prove her disability because of the nature in which it fluctuates was extremely difficult for her.

Odelia Bay, who is a scholar at Osgoode Hall Law School who has also been here and has testified before the town hall we held earlier in April, has said the same thing: that we need to have an expanded concept of what disabilities are.

Other folks I’ve met in the time that I’ve had here—and it’s thanks to MPP Andrea Khanjin from Barrie–Innisfil, who hosted a reception for people from sickle cell Ontario. Sickle cell disease is something that not enough of us are aware of, Speaker. It is, to sight, an invisible disease. But what I’ve been very saddened to learn, particularly for members of Black and Brown racialized communities, is that when they admit themselves to emergency rooms in great trauma, suffering incredible pain, which is hard for most people to understand, as it has been explained to me, sometimes they’re treated with suspicion upon admission.

I’m not impugning the motives of any of our health care professionals. I love them. I’m married to one. I love the work they do. But the reality of people living with sickle cell disease is such that the University Health researchers in this great city of Toronto have begun to do epidemiological studies to figure out why it is that people are treated differently when they contact their primary health care system when they have black or brown skin. In the most sad of cases, we’ve had people suffer fatalities or serious injuries because they haven’t been able to get the health care they need.

Speaker, I look forward to the debate on this motion. I think it’s an opportunity for us as a Legislature to say, yes, we’re ready. We’re ready to act on Mr. Onley’s report. I salute the fact that the minister has spoken with urgency on the need of work to be done in this place, and I’m here to support you in that work, but what I like about the motion that I proposed for our consideration today is that it tells us: Actually, let’s set some timelines. Let’s set some goals. Let’s require of people who are being trained to design our public infrastructure in our buildings that they should never again do that in a way that discriminates against people with disabilities.

Thank you, Thea, and thank you, David Lepofsky, and thank you, folks who are here with us today, for all of your advice in that regard. And never let any child feel in this province ever again that their learning doesn’t matter to us. Yes, I’m looking at Lark Barker over there, who advocates for dyslexia, people who have stood by children who have felt humiliated as they tried to advance in the public education system, and you’ve been there for them.

As a province, we need to generalize that right across the board. We need to be there for brain-injured people. We need to be there for everybody who deserves what, quite frankly, socialism means for me: an equal-opportunity society where everybody has the chance to develop themselves to their utmost ability and contribute to this wonderful society in which we live. That’s the just society that I first saw embodied in heroes of mine like Jack Layton, Libby Davies, Olivia Chow and others.

When it comes to advocating for people with disabilities, that is something we are perfectly poised to do.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The member from York Centre will come to order.

Mr. Joel Harden: On a closing note, because I know the member who was just heckling is a Raptors fan just like myself, on a note of levity, I would invite the government to consider a potential revenue source for you to fund a serious accessibility reserve. We know tonight is game one of the NBA finals. We know, unfortunately, that at the moment, businesses can deduct 50% of the cost of tickets against their business income. I’ve got a PhD in political economy, so I ran some numbers, given what people are assessing the cost of tickets to be. What that leads me to believe, Speaker, is that tonight, as we celebrate Canada’s team, about $45 million is being taken out of provincial coffers in write-offs.

Here’s what I would propose to the minister or to the government. I will happily put on a tie, look respectable and go with you to any employer in this province and ask them, “Do you need that business write-off, or do we need that money to make sure that we can make every building in this province accessible, for our health care, our education, our transportation services, and so that this place is open and accessible for people with disabilities?” That is a revenue source we could tap, and I’m here to help you make it happen.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Madam Speaker, I would also like to warmly welcome all the visitors in the Speaker’s lounge. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

I’m looking forward to discussing this motion because there’s lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onley’s report talked about these barriers. He called them “soul-crushing barriers,” and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onley’s words, “Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.” He also points out that while rules and regulations are crucial, what is also required to eliminate barriers is a change of heart.

We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.

Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isn’t it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?

Madam Speaker, Mr. Onley delivered a thorough and thoughtful report about the barriers many Ontarians face. Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, it’s my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Chris Glover: It’s an honour to rise today. I’d like to begin my remarks by introducing almost 20 people from Spadina–Fort York and from the city of Toronto who have joined us to be part of this debate. I want to especially thank the MPP for Ottawa Centre, Joel Harden, for bringing forward this motion. I’ll introduce the people who are here. We’ve got Paula Boutis, Heather Vickers-Wong, Madora Rana, Robert Boileau, Alicia Boileau, Mitchell Feinman, Erica Howard, Deborah Fletcher, Dante Wellington, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Ipek Kabatas, Varla Anne Abrams, Tracy Schmitt—who is also known as “Unstoppable Tracy”—Kati Israel, Michau van Speyk.

I’d like to thank them all for joining us today. Could we give a round of applause to the people who’ve joined us for this debate?

Applause.

Mr. Chris Glover: When I became a school board trustee in 2010, I organized a group that was called the Special Education Forum, and for eight years we advocated for changes to the school system to make it more accessible. I want to thank the people who came to those meetings—and many of them are here in this room—because they taught me about what it’s like, or gave some glimpse of what it’s like, to be a person with disabilities. Some of the most important lessons I learned from some students. There were two students in particular, Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama from Martingrove Collegiate, which is the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. They came one day and they talked about their day in that school.

Terrence pointed out something. He said that the nice thing about that school is that the corners in the corridors are cut at 45 degrees, which, when you’re using an electric wheelchair, makes it much easier to see people coming from another direction so you avoid collisions. The other thing that he pointed out—and I had been a trustee for a few years at this time and I had never noticed it: The front door to that school was not accessible. There was a hot dog stand, and that hot dog vendor is legendary at Martingrove Collegiate. He said that sometimes he had to take his wheelchair down the grassy slope to get to the hot dog vendor, and it was hazardous. I went to the school the next day and I met him. He was sitting in his chair at the top of the steps, and there were snowbanks on either side, so he actually could not get down to the hot dog vendor, and so he had to get one of his friends to go down. This was the front entrance to the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. So we started advocating.

The other thing that I learned through that group and from the disability advocates I’d been working with is the amount of persistence it takes to make change. It took us four years to finally get an accessible ramp on the front entrance of that school, but finally it was done.

The other person who taught me a lot was Sarah Jama. She’s the founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. She taught me about something called universal design. Every Ontario should know this term, “universal design.” Universal design means that when you’re designing a building, you design it so that everybody can use it.

Just imagine, for example, if you built a building that only had women’s washrooms and what that would mean for men who wanted to be employed, potentially, in that building. Where would they go? How would they possibly get employment in that building? So you’ve got to think. If you’re building a building, you’ve got to make it for everybody, for anybody. Whether you’re using a walker or wheelchair, or whether you’re walking in, or whether you have a visual impairment or an auditory impairment, you’ve got to build a building that makes it possible for everybody to be there.

A big part of the problem that comes from not making our buildings with universal design is the unemployment rate. The employment rate among people with disabilities is only 55%, and it’s shameful in this province that we have allowed this to go on. Part of the reason for that, a big part of the reason—and we had a discussion in the committee last week where we were talking about transit—is that our buildings are not accessible and our transit systems are not fully accessible. That’s why it’s so hard for people to get to work if you have disability.

So when we talk about constructing things, when we’re building our subway infrastructure, our buses, we’ve got to make sure that people with disabilities are going to be able to get to work so that they can have employment and get all the benefits that come with employment, including a life that’s not lived in poverty, the social network, all the things you need work for.

The other group that we’ve been working with over the years, the big issue that we’ve been focusing on at this disability advocacy group is employment. I mentioned that it’s only 55% of people with disabilities; that drops to 26% of people with intellectual disabilities. And that is a real shame.

In Washington state, 87% of people with intellectual disabilities have paid employment versus 26% here in Ontario, which means that 60% of people with intellectual disabilities have the potential to work but we have not designed our society in order to invite them and to make our workplaces welcoming to them. So that’s something we really need to focus on, because that’s an incredible amount of potential that is being lost, and it’s lives that are being disrupted and not being lived to their fullest extent, because of the way that we have designed our society.

Let’s see. When the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility was talking about soul-crushing barriers, making inaccessible spaces, making inaccessible transit systems, making inaccessible buildings—these are some of those soul-crushing barriers. We may not think of it because we may not be affected by the design of the buildings that we’re looking at, but I would invite all of the members in this House to please listen to people with disabilities. I’ve learned so much from listening to people like Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama to understand what it means to have a universally designed society where everybody can reach their full potential.

I’m so thankful to the member from Ottawa Centre for bringing forward this motion. I’m absolutely going to support it and I hope the members opposite will support it as well.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I’m proud to rise here today to speak to the motion of accessibility. As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, “the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.”

I know that the minister is doing a great job working with stakeholders to chart the best path forward to improve accessibility in Ontario. As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work we’re doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.

To remove barriers on employment, our Employers’ Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. They’re now working on developing sector-specific business cases—to hire people with disabilities—that will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers’ Partnership Table.

Our goal is to make Ontario open for business for everyone. This is meaningful work that is already under way to improve the lives of people with disabilities. To help businesses better understand the benefits of accessibility, the ministry has taken steps to begin to redesign their website, to make it a more comprehensive one-stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses, as recommended by Mr. Onley in his report.

In addition to providing resources on accessibility requirements and regulations, we have posted accessibility resources for businesses, to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

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

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It is truly always an honour to rise in this Legislature on behalf of my constituents of London–Fanshawe. It brings me great pleasure today to speak in support of my colleague’s bill, the member from Ottawa Centre’s motion taking action on accessibility with regard to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act review by the Honourable David Onley, Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor. I had the honour of being in the Legislature when the Honourable David Onley was serving as Lieutenant Governor.

Back in 2005—and that was before I was here—all parties at the time in the Legislature unanimously supported the AODA Act. They actually said, “This is not a partisan issue. It’s a non-partisan issue, and we’re all on board. We all agree unanimously that this needs to happen, and it needs to happen by 2025.”

Every three years, they appoint an independent reviewer of the progress of what has been going on, on this act. In 2017, Lieutenant Governor David Onley was appointed to review the act and report back on what was happening.

He did his homework. He went out and toured the province, and he spoke to people. Then he obviously came up with a conclusion on what was reported.

That’s what we need to do. As many people said, we need to listen to the people who have lived experience with disabilities that are physical but also episodic or non-visual, and not only listen but actually take action. Really, 2025 is coming very quickly.

The next review that’s going to happen is in 2020, and as far as I’m concerned, we are behind. I hear the member from the Conservative Party talking about how this is going to be more red tape and it’s going to have barriers for more economic opportunities. In order to get to work, there has to be a pathway to get there, so therefore places have to be accessible. I’m sure that people who are capable of working want to go out and do their part; they want to feel valuable and contribute to society. But if you can’t get to work because there are stairs and there’s no elevator, you can’t say, “You don’t want to work.” There has to be a logical process of how to get people to work, and first we need to make sure that places of work are all accessible. That makes sense.

I think that the member who spoke earlier has it reversed. This is not a red-tape bill. This is not making it harder for economic opportunities for Ontario. This is actually moving the bar forward to getting Ontario into a really positive economic opportunity for everyone. If we don’t support this bill in the House today, I think we’re sending a message to people that it’s not a priority. We’re saying, “You’ve got to get to work, and the government side has said that the best social program is a job.” That’s what they’re saying, but then if you need that to happen, what do you logically believe you need to put in place, what metrics do you need in place, to bring out those outcomes? That’s what they forget. Usually what they say doesn’t sound good to me. They think it sounds good, but they don’t have real steps on how to get there.

Put your money where your mouth is and start making things accessible so then you can have those opportunities for people who have disabilities to explore those jobs that they are so capable of doing and they so want. I hope this government is going to stop thinking so narrow-mindedly when it comes to what they think is best and actually listen to what people are telling them, and then act on that. You’ve done that in a few places when you’ve pulled back legislation. We know that you did that recently with land ambulance, public health and child care. This is your opportunity to do the right thing from the beginning, rather than backtracking. I hope they support this bill, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Natalia Kusendova: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this motion. The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

We’ve taken real action through our $1.3-million partnership with the Rick Hansen building certification program, which will see us provide accessibility ratings of an estimated 250 buildings across Ontario. These ratings will not only certify buildings as being accessible, but it will provide a report with directions to buildings about how they can improve their accessibility. This is real action that we are taking now.

David Onley’s report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesn’t make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.

The Onley report highlights the importance of coordinating Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government. As announced in More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan, the government will harmonize our building code with national codes to open new markets for manufacturers and to bring building costs down.

What we are really here to debate is creating a barrier-free Ontario, and a government cannot do this alone. This is why work on Mr. Onley’s recommendations, along with other important initiatives, is ongoing. Our government is working closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

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

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to inform a whole-of-government approach advancing accessibility. As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services, and identify areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontario’s 2.6 million people with disabilities. Speaker, this government is committed to accessibility and improving employment prospects for people with disabilities—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. I return to the member for Ottawa Centre, who has two minutes to reply.

Mr. Joel Harden: It’s hard to know what to say. I had hoped that there would be some goodwill here and I leave out hope that we may have some support for this motion, a declaration of intent, Speaker, written not by me but written by David Onley in this report, written by experts with lived experience and who know what it’s like to live in a province that is not accessible to them—not accessible to them.

When I hear words like “red tape,” the hair on the back of my neck stands up because I think about people who can’t get into hospitals, can’t get into schools. I think about children who are being forbidden the opportunity to learn because our services and systems are not accessible to them. And what makes me even angrier, to be honest, although I am trying to be hopeful and optimistic today, is that we are presiding over a province where people tonight will write off $45 million in Raptors game expenses, and we as a province are fine with that. We’re fine with that. Last week we announced $1.3 million in a partnership for people with disabilities, which is less, Speaker, than we pay this government’s Premier’s private lawyer, Gavin Tighe, in salary.

So what people with disabilities are being told is that they matter less than the corporate folks going to the Raptors game tonight, they matter less than the salary we give the lawyer serving the Premier of this province, and that when they ask for better, they are told they are ruining the economy and that it amounts to red tape. That is a really shameful moment for me in this place.

This motion commits us to action. I’m not allowed to ask for money from this government, but I am asking you, on behalf of my friends who are here today and all over this province, to get off the pot and act.

(Later that day in the Legislature after debate on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): We will deal first with ballot item number 73, standing in the name of Mr. Harden.

Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”

All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

In my opinion, the nays have it. We will deal with this vote after we have finished the other business.

(After votes on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I’m actually going to seek direction from the table. Is it a five-minute bell right now? Okay.

Call in all the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1531 to 1536.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes

  • Armstrong, Teresa J.
  • Begum, Doly
  • Bell, Jessica
  • Berns-McGown, Rima
  • Des Rosiers, Nathalie
  • Fife, Catherine
  • Fraser, John
  • Glover, Chris
  • Harden, Joel
  • Hassan, Faisal
  • Hatfield, Percy
  • Karpoche, Bhutila
  • Lindo, Laura Mae
  • Mamakwa, Sol
  • Mantha, Michael
  • Morrison, Suze
  • Natyshak, Taras
  • Rakocevic, Tom
  • Sattler, Peggy
  • Schreiner, Mike
  • Shaw, Sandy
  • Singh, Gurratan
  • Singh, Sara
  • Stiles, Marit
  • Tabuns, Peter
  • West, Jamie
  • Yarde, Kevin

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): All those opposed, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Nays

  • Anand, Deepak
  • Baber, Roman
  • Babikian, Aris
  • Bailey, Robert
  • Bethlenfalvy, Peter
  • Bouma, Will
  • Calandra, Paul
  • Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
  • Cho, Stan
  • Coe, Lorne
  • Crawford, Stephen
  • Cuzzetto, Rudy
  • Downey, Doug
  • Dunlop, Jill
  • Fedeli, Victor
  • Fee, Amy
  • Ghamari, Goldie
  • Gill, Parm
  • Harris, Mike
  • Hogarth, Christine
  • Jones, Sylvia
  • Kanapathi, Logan
  • Karahalios, Belinda C.
  • Ke, Vincent
  • Khanjin, Andrea
  • Kramp, Daryl
  • Kusendova, Natalia
  • Lecce, Stephen
  • Martin, Robin
  • Martow, Gila
  • McDonell, Jim
  • McKenna, Jane
  • Miller, Norman
  • Mulroney, Caroline
  • Oosterhoff, Sam
  • Pang, Billy
  • Parsa, Michael
  • Pettapiece, Randy
  • Phillips, Rod
  • Piccini, David
  • Rasheed, Kaleed
  • Roberts, Jeremy
  • Sabawy, Sheref
  • Sandhu, Amarjot
  • Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
  • Skelly, Donna
  • Smith, Dave
  • Thanigasalam, Vijay
  • Thompson, Lisa M.
  • Tibollo, Michael A.
  • Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.
  • Wai, Daisy

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 27; the nays are 52.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I declare the motion lost.

Motion negatived.

Summary of the Recommendations of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

  1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.

Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.

Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers.

Lead by example.

Coordinate Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

  1. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA.

Define “accessibility”.

Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.

Update the definition of “disability”.

  1. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.

Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.

Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.

Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

  1. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.
  1. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
  1. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
  1. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.
  1. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:

Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations

Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards

Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

  1. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.
  1. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.

Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units.

Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

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

Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations.

Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

  1. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation.

Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.

Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.

Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

  1. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.
          1. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.



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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below we set out:

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

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

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

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

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

          MORE DETAILS

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

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

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

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

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

Joel Harden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Doug Ford

Leader, Ontario PC Party



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


There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution

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

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford recognized:

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

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

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

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

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

SoWhat Happened with Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?
So, what happened to Joel Harden’s proposed resolution? Was it passed or defeated during
debates in the Legislature on May 30, 2019? For the answer to this suspenseful question, watch for the next AODA Alliance Update. Same AODA Alliance time. Same AODA Alliance channel!

Below we set out:

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

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

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

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

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

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

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

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Doug Ford
Leader, Ontario PC Party



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