ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Ontario's English Catholic Teachers Union Presses the Ontario Government to Enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
January 29, 2014
Here is yet more momentum in support of our call for the Ontario Government to develop and enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) wrote the Ontario Government on January 7, 2014 to support our call for the Government to create this new accessibility standard. OECTA represents elementary and high school teachers in Ontario's English Catholic schools. We set out that letter below. We express our deep gratitude to OECTA and all others who support our effort. We invite you to help us press for action.
The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to all persons with disabilities no later than 2025. To do this, the Government must develop, enact and effectively enforce all accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches that goal on time.
The five accessibility standards that the Government has enacted to date will not achieve that goal, even if they are fully obeyed and enforced. Making matters worse, last fall we revealed Government records that show that the Government has not kept its promise to effectively enforce the AODA despite ample public funds available for enforcement. Those records also showed that the Government knew last year of massive violations of the first of those standards, the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, among private sector organizations with at least 20 employees. To learn more about the Ontario Government's failure to effectively enforce the AODA despite available funds and its knowing of massive violations.
For over two and a half years, the AODA Alliance has unsuccessfully pressed the Ontario Government to start developing more accessibility standards. We have asked that the next three accessibility standards to be developed should address barriers in education, health care, and residential housing.
Over one year ago, the Government announced that the revamped Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) would be mandated to develop new accessibility standards. However, despite our efforts and unexplained governmental delay, the Government has not given ASAC any new accessibility standards to develop.
As a cruel irony, the Government is taking longer to decide which accessibility standards it will develop next than it takes to actually develop an accessibility standard. This is just one reason why Ontario continues to languish behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025.
The three new accessibility standards we seek are all critically important for Ontarians with disabilities. Focusing for the moment on one of our three proposals, Ontario needs an Education Accessibility Standard to ensure that our education system at all levels becomes fully accessible for persons with disabilities. While there has been some progress in recent years, without an Education Accessibility Standard, Ontario will not ensure that its education system will become fully accessible by 2025, or ever. To learn more about why Ontario needs and would benefit from an Education Accessibility Standard.
We were delighted last summer when our proposal for an Education Accessibility Standard was publicly endorsed by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF). With the new support of OECTA, we now have Ontario's university professors, as well as Ontario's English public and Catholic school teachers collectively supporting our call for an Education Accessibility Standard. This reflects the collective experience of so many who deliver education on the front lines of Ontario's publicly funded education system. We are aware of no organization that has publicly opposed our proposal for the three new accessibility standards we seek.
In the campaign leading up to the five August 1, 2013 Ontario by-elections, we asked all major Ontario political parties to endorse our call for new accessibility standards to now be developed to address barriers facing persons with disabilities in education, health care and residential housing. Last summer, the New Democratic Party gave this commitment. Ontario's Liberal Party and Progressive Conservative Party did not. It's not too late for them! To see the commitments on disability accessibility that the major Ontario parties made in the August 1, 2013 by-election campaign.
We are seeking similar commitments in the campaign for the two upcoming Ontario by-elections to be held on February 13, 2014. As always, our non-partisan coalition does not endorse, support, or oppose any party or candidate.
We encourage you to:
* Press for commitments from Ontario's Liberal Party and Progressive Conservative Party to support the development and enactment of accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, and residential housing.
* Raise this and other accessibility issues in the current Ontario February 13, 2014 by-election campaign. For tips on how to raise disability accessibility issues in the February 13, 2014 Ontario by-elections.
* Help us get other organizations to endorse our call for the three new accessibility standards we seek.
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Text of OECTA’s January 7, 2014 letter to Ontario Economic Development Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins
Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association
January 7, 2014
The Honourable Eric Hoskins, MPP
Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment
Hearst Block, 8th Floor
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario, M7A 2E1
Re: Education Accessibility Standard
On behalf of the 45,000 members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), I am writing to urge you to help teachers and students succeed as workers and learners in Ontario's publicly funded education system through the establishment of an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission released a consultation report in 2003, The Opportunity to Succeed, which revealed Ontario's education system does great work to meet the needs of a diverse population. However the report also described a number of barriers within the system faced by teachers as well as students. The Province of Ontario passed the AODA in 2005 with the unanimous support of all political parties. The act requires a barrier-free Ontario by 2025.
While the Government of Ontario recently appointed a Council to develop new accessibility standards under the AODA, this Association is concerned that the 2025 deadline for full accessibility will not be met.
It is vital that the Council be directed to develop the new accessibility standards for education at this time and that these standards be made enforceable in order to meet the 2025 deadline. An accessibility standard for education will open doors to those teachers who currently cannot obtain employment in publicly funded schools due to their personal disabilities. A well-founded accessibility standard in education will also ensure opportunities to learn for all students.
OECTA looks forward to your government moving forward expeditiously on this important issue.
James Ryan, President