ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Final Report of Mayo Moran’s Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Just Made Public – Report Reveals Serious Problems – Ontarians with Disabilities See Too Little Progress on Accessibility, While Business and Municipalities Find Accessibility Regulations Too Vague
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Wynne Government Announces It Will Develop an Accessibility Regulation to Tackle Disability Barriers in Health Care Services, but Says Nothing about Doing So to Address Barriers in Education or Residential Housing
February 13, 2015
Here is major news on the accessibility front in Ontario. The Wynne Government today made public the final report of the Independent Review of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act which it appointed Mayo Moran to conduct, and which Moran submitted to the Government last November. You can read the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in PDF format.
The AODA Alliance has posted an accessible MS Word version of the Moran Report.
The Mayo Moran report showed that after fully ten years of implementing the AODA, Ontarians with disabilities continue to face too many barriers. They have not seen much change in their daily lives. She found that the Ontario Government, despite taking some action, has not effectively made accessibility a priority in its own operations. She concluded that the Government as a whole, starting with Premier Wynne herself, must show strong, bold new leadership on accessibility. She made it clear that we don’t have time to wait for new action on this front.
This report is in many ways a huge vindication of the tireless efforts of the AODA Alliance, and of people with disabilities and their supporters around Ontario. We have been confronting the Ontario Liberal Government with the same message for years, to no avail. We are delighted with the findings in this report.
We call on the Government to immediately accept the report’s important findings on speeding up action on accessibility. It has not yet done so. The Government recently showed such prompt and decisive leadership, when it swiftly accepted the report of an Independent Review of the Toronto District School Board. It can do so here as well, especially since it has had three months to study the report. Moreover, much of what Mayo Moran had to say echoes things we have been telling the Government for years.
When the Government released the Moran Report today, it also issued a short public statement with an accompanying backgrounder. Most of this was taken up with the Government re-announcing insufficient measures it had announced before – measures that fall miles short of what the Moran Report recommends. The only real significant news is that the Government has finally announced that it will develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard. We have wanted this for years, and are at least happy to see the Government finally take this preliminary step.
However, the Government has not committed to the two other accessibility standards we have been seeking for some four years or more –namely, accessibility standards to address barriers in education and residential housing. The Moran Report recognizes that all three areas are immediate and important, health, education and residential housing.
As a news release we issued today explains, it is a cruel irony that the Government again claims that it is a world leader on accessibility. That is surely not what emerges from the pages of the Moran Report, or the daily experience of people with disabilities in Ontario.
Making this all the more unwarranted, the Government did not even take the basic step of ensuring that the Moran Report was available in an accessible format when it made it public this morning. We had to press the Government to provide it in an accessible format. So much for Ontario being a world leader on accessibility, and keeping its word to lead by example on accessibility.
Below we set out:
- The AODA Alliance’s February 13, 2015 news release on the Final Report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. Please send this to your local media, and urge them to cover this breaking story;
- A list of some key quotes from the Mayo Moran Report. We will have a full analysis of this Report available in the future;
- The Wynne Government’s announcement and backgrounder made public today, along with the release of the Final Report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. The Government’s announcement of its decision to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard is buried in the Backgrounder;
- A time line of key events leading to the Final Report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review; and
- A summary of the conclusions and recommendations that we presented to the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, in the AODA Alliance’s June 30, 2014 brief to that Independent Review.
In the upcoming days we will have more to say about the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. We will give you recommendations on how you can use it in your community to help get more action on disability accessibility. We will also have lots more to say in the coming days about how you can help us, as we take part in the development of the new Health Care Accessibility Standard which the Government has today finally agreed to develop.
On the day that the Government released the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, the Government has only nine years and 323 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities, as the AODA requires.
A breathtaking 451 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised detailed plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. The Government’s November 7, 2014 web posting on AODA enforcement includes little new. It does not constitute the promised detailed AODA enforcement plan.
Three hundred and fifty-seven days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan "in short order." Two hundred and seventy-two days have passed since Premier Wynne promised to establish a toll-free line for members of the public to alert the Government to accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in the community. None has been announced.
To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement.
As well, 533 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 148 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!
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AODA Alliance’s February 13, 2015 News Release
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Government-Commissioned Independent Report Shows Serious Problems with Ontario Government’s Implementation of Disabilities Accessibility Law – Report Calls for Premier Wynne to Now Directly Take Charge and Show Strong New Leadership to Ensure 1.8 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Reach Full Accessibility By 2025
February 13, 2015 Toronto: Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Government must take bold new action now, to lead the province to become fully accessible to over 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities, if Ontario is to become fully accessible by 2025, according to the detailed analysis in a ground-breaking independent report that the Wynne Government made public today. This report heard over and over that after ten years on the books, and some progress, Ontarians with disabilities haven’t seen much improved accessibility to jobs, or goods or services in the public or private sector.
In 2005, the Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act AODA. It requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities within 20 years (by 2025). Barriers that block people with disabilities from jobs, public transit, schools, universities, eating in restaurants and shopping in stores must be torn down.
From 1994 to 2005, people with disabilities waged a tenacious, ten-year grassroots campaign across Ontario to get this law enacted. With 10 of the 20 years already up, the upshot of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, released today, is that progress has been much too slow. The inevitable conclusion from its findings and recommendations is that Ontario is not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.
The report’s extensive recommendations call on the Wynne Government to immediately pick up the ball, starting with Premier Wynne herself, and show new strong leadership on this issue.
The Moran Report shows that even 10 years after the AODA was passed, more than 1.8 million Ontarians with physical, mental or sensory disabilities still routinely face many physical barriers, such as steps to enter a restaurant or store; technological barriers, such as websites that lack simple features to make them compatible with adapted computers for blind and dyslexic people; and bureaucratic barriers. The Moran Report recited that the Government’s regulations on accessibility that the Government has passed are too weak for people with disabilities and too confusing for businesses and municipalities.
Former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley referred to the massive unemployment rate still facing people with disabilities as a “national shame” at a November 28, 2014 event at Queen’s Park. The Moran Report shows that much more needs to be done by the Government to lead Ontario. The Moran Report concludes that removing disability barriers helps everyone. Everyone gets a disability, if they live long enough.
“We heartily endorse Mayo Moran’s findings about the slow progress on accessibility and the need for immediate, strong new Government action,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which spearheads the grassroots campaign to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities. “We call on the Wynne Government to immediately announce that it accepts all the Moran Report’s findings, and to make public in the next four weeks a detailed plan on how the Government will implement this report (except for any recommendations that would weaken gains we’ve made, which we opposed and which the Government promised it would not do).”
“With less than 10 of the 20 years for reaching full accessibility already gone, its time for the Wynne Government to now end its marathon of dithering,” said Lepofsky. “As a first step, Premier Wynne should immediately keep her promises to instruct all cabinet ministers and other senior Government officials to implement all their accessibility duties and pledges, and to establish a toll-free number for the public to report AODA violations to the Government.”
It is a cruel slap in the face of Ontarians with disabilities that the Government’s announcement, issued at the same time as it released the Moran Report, made the palpably inaccurate claim that Ontario is a world leader on accessibility. While making this wildly inaccurate claim, the Government, to its own embarrassment, did not even take the basic step of making the Moran Report available in an accessible format for people who cannot read print, due to blindness or dyslexia.
Today, after studying the Moran Report for three months, the Government re-re-announced several past ineffective actions. The Government did not even say it accepted the Report’s important findings.
In its only new announcement, the Government said it would next make a new accessibility standard to address barriers in health care. We have fought for this for at least four years. Yet the Government still hasn’t committed to take similar action to address barriers that so many children and youth with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system – action the Moran Report recognized as important.
On September 10, 2013, the Wynne Government announced that it appointed Mayo Moran, then University of Toronto’s Law Dean, to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. The AODA requires this Independent Review to find out if Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and to recommend needed action if we are not.
The AODA Alliance has posted an accessible MS Word version of the Moran Report.
Some Key Quotes from the Moran Report
(Note: There is so much in this report. These are just a sampling of key points that the Moran Report makes.)
* At the same time, given the timing of this Review halfway through the implementation period for the AODA, the slow and challenging implementation to date, the imminent Pan Am/Parapan Am Games and new government leadership, this is an extremely key opportunity for Ontario to show a strong commitment to accessibility.
* We are now at the half-way mark to 2025. Considerable progress has been achieved under the AODA, and much has been learned and refined along the way. Despite good intentions, however, for various reasons the AODA has not lived up to that early promise. Fortunately, it is not too late for it to do so. Indeed, this is a very good time for the Province to show the kind of leadership that will breathe new life into the AODA. This is important, not only because it will enable us to keep our 2025 commitment, but also because accessibility affects a large and growing segment of the population. An inclusive society of the kind that the AODA aims at will be healthier and more robust along many dimensions.
* However, for various reasons the AODA has not lived up to that early promise. Fortunately, it is not too late for it to do so. Indeed, this is a very good time for the Province to show the kind of leadership that will breathe new life into the AODA.
* The commitment of the Premier and through her the Government of Ontario can make a critical difference at this time.
* Ontario has the potential to be a leader in this regard but, in order to do so, it must firmly establish accessibility as a government-wide priority.
* …the Premier should explicitly and prominently direct all ministries to treat accessibility as a key government-wide priority. With strong government leadership by example and a renewed commitment to progress, Ontario can lead the way in creating an inclusive society.
* In the private sector, however, statistics released by the Government in November 2013, in response to a Freedom of Information request, showed that only about 30 per cent of organizations with 20 or more employees that were required to file compliance reports as of December 2012, had done so. The number of filed reports increased from 15,293 as of November 2013 to 17,904 as of October 2014, according to information the ADO provided to the Review.
* Because of the uncertainty that has existed concerning the enforcement of the AODA, it is especially important for the Government to develop and make public an enforcement plan in a timely way. If the enforcement plan has not been released by the time this Report is published, I urge the Government to release it immediately. I emphasize that the credibility of the AODA regime at this juncture depends to a significant extent on confidence in the enforcement plan.
* Given that enforcement was a top issue raised during the consultations for this Review, I recommend that the ADO release information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. This information should be posted promptly, and should reflect quarterly results as well as year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as:
- Number of notices of proposed order issued
- Total amount of proposed penalties
- Number of orders issued and total amount of penalties imposed
- Number of appeals from orders and the outcome
- Total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal
- Orders categorized by subject matter.
* It is clear from the consultations, and from a review of best practices, that ensuring meaningful and well-publicized feedback mechanisms will be important to the enforcement plan. Premier Wynne’s recent commitment to establish an accessible toll-free phone number to report AODA violations would undoubtedly be a great step forward in accomplishing this and I support rapid implementation of this commitment. Moreover, I would suggest broadening this tool to enable online as well as mail-in reporting, to provide the public with a choice of feedback options.
* The Review was told that frequently it is very hard to know what needs to be done in order to comply, and the ADO has not felt empowered to take on a more directive role in guiding compliance efforts. Particularly as enforcement efforts step up, it is vital that the ADO become more proactive. This includes developing materials such as interpretive bulletins to guide planning, especially in the areas where the standards are proving difficult to implement, as well as active solicitation and sharing of best practices and models as is common under the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States. As well, a resource centre to provide quick answers to questions about compliance could be extremely helpful, especially for small business, as some stakeholders pointed out.
* One of the strongest messages that the Review heard concerned the troubling lack of awareness of the AODA nearly 10 years after its enactment. There was a widespread consensus that it will be impossible to achieve the objectives of the AODA without increased awareness on the part of both the public and the obligated sectors.
* The clearest areas to consider for the development of new standards are health care and education.
* I agree that health care and education are priority areas.
* It is therefore time for the Government to undertake a serious process to determine the best method to ensure accessibility advances as fast as possible in health care and education. I recommend that, with ASAC oversight, the responsible ministries take the lead and work with people with disabilities and stakeholders in the sectors to identify accessibility barriers and solutions. It is critical that any new obligations should be grounded in the conditions and circumstances of the respective sectors, to avoid the generalities and vagueness that have made compliance with the existing standards difficult for many. This new leadership role for the ministries would serve as an important part of a renewed government-wide commitment to accessibility.
* The Review repeatedly heard that in the absence of an obligation to ensure that the built environment eventually incorporates at least some accessibility features, it will be very difficult to celebrate the Ontario of 2025 as a leader in accessibility.
* Ontario could begin to address this issue by considering standards resembling the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations which require private facilities that provide goods or services to remove existing architectural barriers where this is “readily achievable, i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”
* The recommendations proposed in this Report will not alone directly deliver an accessible Ontario by 2025. But I do hope that they will be part of a larger effort to foster and promote the necessary shift in our collective mindset.
* The bottom line is that the achievement of the 2025 goal depends on a cultural shift – a change of minds and hearts – by public and private sector organizations and indeed on the part of everyone.
Public Statement Released On-Line February 13, 2015 by the Ontario Government
Originally posted at: http://news.ontario.ca/medt/en/2015/02/statement-by-brad-duguid-on-provost-morans-review-of-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabiliti.html
Statement by Brad Duguid on Provost Moran's Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
February 13, 2015
Today, Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, released the following statement on Provost Mayo Moran's review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act:
"I would like to thank Mayo Moran for her comprehensive review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This year marks the 10th anniversary of the AODA, which provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and renew our commitment to building an accessible Ontario by 2025.
Ontario is proud to be a global leader in accessibility. We were the first jurisdiction in the world to move to a modern regulatory regime that mandates accessibility and requires staff to be accessibility trained, as well as the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce legislation that sets out clear goals and timeframes for accessibility standards.
I recognize that there is always more work to do, and we are already moving forward on a number of Provost Moran's recommendations. Over the coming months, I look forward to making further announcements in response to this review and to continuing our discussions with experts, persons with disabilities and the business community. We will also continue to build on the advice and expertise of our Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and David Onley, Special Advisor on Accessibility.
The Ontario government is committed to strengthening our efforts to promote the employment of persons with disabilities in the public and private sector, improving compliance with the AODA through new, creative approaches, and continuing to make Ontario more inclusive and accessible."
* Ontario Committed to Accessibility http://news.ontario.ca/medt/en/2015/02/ontario-committed-to-accessibility.html
* Read "Second Legislative Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005" https://www.ontario.ca/document/legislative-review-accessibility-ontarians-disabilities-act
Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
Text of Ontario Government Backgrounder Posted on Line on February 13, 2015
Originally posted at: http://news.ontario.ca/medt/en/2015/02/ontario-committed-to-accessibility.html
Ontario Committed to Accessibility
February 13, 2015 8:30 A.M.
Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
Mayo Moran's comprehensive review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) provides valuable advice and important feedback that will serve as a guide to making Ontario accessible by 2025.
As part of the review, Provost Moran consulted with:
- accessibility stakeholders
- people with disabilities
- non-profit organizations
- the broader public sector
- members of the public.
She found overwhelming support for accessibility across all sectors. Provost Moran also identified areas where improvements can be made -- including helping businesses understand their accessibility requirements and finding ways to help them comply.
The province has already taken action on a number of items highlighted in the report. Over the coming months, these recommendations will also inform the development of a comprehensive plan for accessibility in Ontario.
Ontario's Accessibility Accomplishments to Date
Increasing Awareness about Accessibility
A public awareness campaign targeting small- and medium-sized businesses launched by the province last fall demonstrated the importance of educating businesses about accessibility and compliance with the AODA. That campaign helped increase end-of-year reporting rates from 16 per cent in December 2012 to 38 per cent in December 2014.
Exploring New Accessibility Standards
The government is also exploring how to remove barriers in individual sectors -- starting with the health sector -- by examining how current standards are being implemented and investigating gaps that may currently exist. This analysis will illuminate barriers that will be overcome through education, outreach and new standards.
Exploring Opportunities for People with Disabilities in the Workplace
The province has taken three important steps in championing the hiring of people with disabilities:
- The Honourable David C. Onley will work closely with Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid to expand the government's partnerships with employers and other organizations and to help develop more innovative approaches to addressing common barriers to employment.
- The Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, which includes representatives from business, advocacy groups, non-profits and the disability community, will provide strategic advice on enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
- The province is launching a new pilot program with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to promote accessibility in the workplace.
Recognizing People who Promote Accessibility
In 2014 the government launched the annual David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility which will recognize four individuals and organizations who demonstrate leadership in accessibility and disability issues. The inaugural awards will be presented in June 2015 during National Access Awareness Week.
Working with the Ontario Human Rights Commission
The government works closely with and consults regularly with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to help private, non-profit and broader public sector organizations understand how the law and the human rights code work together to promote inclusion and accessibility in Ontario.
Accessibility at the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games
The 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games this summer will provide a significant opportunity for Ontario to showcase to the world our leadership in accessibility.
Ontario is working with public transit agencies, municipalities and TO2015 to make accessible transportation a priority for the games. The government is also working to ensure new buildings and renovated facilities used during the games meet the requirements of the AODA and Ontario's Building Code. TO2015 is providing accessibility training to more than 23,000 volunteers at the games so that people of all abilities can participate in, compete in and watch the games.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act
The province is committed to continuous improvement with respect to the implementation of the AODA. As recommended by the Honourable Charles Beer in his first review, as well as by Provost Moran, the government is carefully considering how best to proceed with repealing the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001.
Accessibility in the Ontario Public Service
The government is committed to leading by example when it comes to accessibility, including taking a stronger approach to the employment of persons with disabilities in the public and private sectors, and making the Ontario Public Service as inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible as possible.
Helping Organizations Comply with the Law
In 2014, a compliance action plan was released outlining the province's compliance and enforcement activities with private, non-profit and broader public sector organizations across Ontario. A subsequent report back on results earlier this month showed the need to improve compliance through creative approaches that help maintain Ontario's position as the global leader in accessibility.
The government would like to reiterate its thanks to Provost Moran for her dedication to an inclusive review process that reached a diverse group of stakeholders from across the province. This review was completed at a critical point in the province's journey toward an accessible Ontario by 2025. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the AODA, let us reflect on what we have accomplished so far -- and focus on all that we can achieve by building a more inclusive and fair province for all Ontarians.
Key Time Line
* May 10, 2005 Ontario Legislature unanimously passes AODA. Requires Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities within 20 years – by 2025.
* May 31, 2010 Ontario Government makes public final report of 1st mandatory Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Charles Beer. The Beer Report recommended that the Ontario Government must show strong new leadership on AODA and revitalize its implementation if Ontario is to reach full accessibility by 2025.
* May 31, 2013 Ontario Government required by law to appoint 2nd AODA Independent Review. Government violates AODA by failing to do so. No explanation given.
* September 10, 2013 Ontario Government appoints Mayo Moran to conduct 2nd mandatory AODA Independent Review 102 days after mandatory legal deadline for appointment of this Independent Review.
* Spring 2014 Mayo Moran holds provincewide public hearings on effectiveness of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA.
* November 2014 Mayo Moran submits final report to the Government. .
* February 13, 2015 Ontario Government makes public final report of the Moran Independent Review of the AODA.
What We Told the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review
Our June 30, 2014 brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review established the following:
- Ontario is not on schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025.
- The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead the public and private sectors, to become fully accessible by 2025. To achieve this, the Government has two major duties, and a third supportive role. First, it must develop and enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. Second, it must effectively enforce those standards, to ensure full compliance. Third, as a subsidiary duty to support the first two, the Government must deploy effective public education on the AODA to reinforce compliance. Despite a range of good efforts by the Government, the Government is now failing at all of these tasks.
- The Charles Beer 2010 AODA Independent Review found that, to ensure Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025, the Ontario Government must show new leadership on the AODA, to revitalize, institute transformative change and breathe new life into its implementation. Since then, the Government has done none of this, even though it implemented some of the Beer Report's recommendations.
- The Government is not effectively enforcing the AODA. Yet the Government promised to effectively enforce it, has ample enforcement powers, unused budget and an internal enforcement plan available. The Government failed to enforce the AODA even when it knew of rampant AODA violations among private sector organizations with at least 20 employees. The Government attempted for months to suppress this information from coming to public light.
- The Government has no good reason for failing to effectively enforce the AODA, and, after being driven to enforce it by adverse publicity, for having only used paltry efforts to only enforce one of many enforceable AODA duties, the duty of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees to file an accessibility self-report under the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
- The Government's failure to effectively enforce the AODA contributes to Ontario falling behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025. It undermines the efforts of those who try to persuade and motivate obligated organizations to comply with the AODA. It is unfair to obligated organizations who comply with the AODA, especially if their competitors do not. It creates a harmful disincentive against investing a person's or organization's limited time and scarce resources to take part in the development of accessibility standards, or other consultations vital to the AODA's effective implementation.
- The need for the AODA's effective enforcement is amplified because in 2006, the Government privatized enforcement of human rights. This made it harder for persons with disabilities (and other discrimination victims) to challenge barriers, one at a time, by complaints filed under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
- It was good for the Government, in 2005-2006, to decide that the first AODA accessibility standards to be created would address barriers in customer service, transportation, employment, information and communication, and in the built environment. However, the accessibility standards enacted to date in these areas, while helpful, are grossly insufficient to effectively ensure that all recurring barriers in those fields are removed and prevented by 2025. Several requirements are too weak. They mostly if not totally deal with preventing new barriers, but not removing existing barriers. They don't address a number of important recurring barriers. Their time lines are often too long. They wrongly create exceptions, exemptions and defences that are broader than the undue hardship defence in the Human Rights Code. We and the Ontario Human Rights Commission unsuccessfully pressed the Government to ensure that AODA accessibility standards be at least as strong as the Human Rights Code's accessibility requirements. As a result, obligated organizations face the risk of multiple litigation over the same barrier.
- It was counterproductive for the Government to administratively carve out of the AODA the important area of the built environment. It did so by addressing built environment barriers inside buildings only via amendments to the Ontario Building Code. These are not also incorporated in an AODA accessibility standard. This broke the Government's repeated promises to enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
- Also dragging Ontario behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025, the Government took an unwarranted number of years to enact its modest regulations addressing some barriers in the built environment. The Government has not kept its 2009 promise to address the need for retrofitting of existing buildings which are not undergoing a major renovation, and barriers in residential housing, via an AODA accessibility standard. As such, Ontario's built environment is now not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, or ever.
- The Government's unexplained and unjustified multi-year dithering over which AODA accessibility standards to create next has squandered important time, as the 2025 deadline grows closer. The Government has taken longer to decide which accessibility standards to next make than it takes to develop an accessibility standard. This delay cannot be justified by the fact that Ontario had a minority government from October 2011 to June 2014. As the Government dithered, old barriers remained in place. New ones were created that could have been prevented.
- There are still residual problems with the process for developing AODA accessibility standards, despite the Government's reforms to date. The Government has consolidated responsibility for developing proposals for the content of all new accessibility standards in the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC), acting as a Standards Development committee, with the possibility of other members being added. This has not yet yielded any of the benefits that it was expected to deliver.
- The Government's efforts on AODA public education, while helpful, have been too limited and delayed. This too has held Ontario back behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025. The Government, as far as we can tell, has not kept its 2007 promise to promote public education on accessibility aimed at school children, and at key professionals such as architects. Despite producing some good educational materials on accessibility, there are also some very troubling instances of Government public statements that undermine efforts at accessibility.
- The Government's failure to provide effective accessibility to public education makes it likely that fewer organizations are complying with the AODA. In rare instances when the Government has of late started limited enforcement steps, too often there is push-back, because the obligated organizations say they hadn't known of their obligations, or appreciated why they are beneficial.
- Despite our many efforts and some progress, the Government still has in place no comprehensive, monitored policy to ensure that public money is never used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability barriers. A number of huge opportunities were lost. Even though we made some progress in the 2011 summer, the Government has in some instances continued to engage in conduct that can create new barriers against persons with disabilities, using public money.
- The Government has been very tardy in addressing its 2007 election promise to review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers. In 2007, the Government called this review "the next step toward our goal of a fully accessible Ontario." Almost seven years later, despite progress at the speed of a turtle, this promised review is still years away from completion, due to Government lethargy. The longer laws remain on the books that require or permit disability accessibility barriers, the longer it will take Ontario to reach full accessibility.
- Voters and candidates with disabilities continue to face preventable barriers when trying to exercise their fundamental legal and constitutional rights in municipal and provincial elections. These include barriers impeding them from attending an All Candidates' Debate, from getting into a polling station, and/or from being able to independently mark their own ballot in private and verify their choice. To become fully accessible, Ontario must ensure that municipal and provincial elections become fully accessible for voters and candidates with disabilities. Elections accessibility continues counterproductively to be addressed in isolated silos in the Ontario Government. The Government wastefully requires the same barriers to be separately tackled in the provincial and municipal levels, and separately in each municipality. Legislative reforms in 2009 and 2010 have not solved this problem. Ontario still does not have the accessible elections action plan we were promised in 2007, or the further progress towards accessible Ontario and municipal elections we were promised in 2011. Telephone and internet voting, as a solution, is thankfully spreading in municipal elections but is unjustifiably stalled at the provincial level.
- The Ontario Government has taken some commendable steps to achieve accessibility within its own house. Yet there are a series of stunning examples of the Government leading by a very poor example, setting back progress towards a fully accessible Ontario. This has included, among other things, palpable violations of the AODA and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. The Government needs to take significant action to better ensure that the Ontario Public Service becomes a fully accessible employer and service provider.
- Commendable efforts by the Government in the past two years to improve the AODA's implementation have not made a positive difference. This includes its moving lead responsibility for implementing and enforcing the AODA from the Community and Social Services Ministry to the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ministry. There has been enough time for such measures to make a difference. We have not seen accessibility effectively incorporated into the work of the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ministry. Its promised strategy to increase private sector employment for persons with disabilities has been much talk and delayed action. We have seen no progress on getting Ontario businesses to produce accessible goods and services, for use by persons with disabilities here and abroad.
- The continued periodic elusiveness of one specific cost-free, easy-to-provide accommodation provides a good illustration of the roadblocks we too often encounter, and of the Government's failure to effectively lead by example. We have had a seemingly-endless battle in our unsuccessful effort to get Government to consistently ensure that whenever it posts a PDF document on its public websites or internal intranet, it also posts that document in an accessible format such as an accessible MS Word or HTML document.
- Accessibility has not been effectively entrenched within the Ontario Public Service on a day-to-day basis. It is too often seen as a superficial "add-on" that pops up infrequently and is someone else's responsibility. The Government's 2011 pledge to integrate accessibility as a fundamental principle when it comes to making vital decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians, has not become a reality in the Ontario Public Service for the most part.
- A serious deep-rooted problem with the AODA's implementation is demonstrated by the ordeals that Ontario's disability community has had to undergo for many years, for example:
- to get the Government to enforce the AODA, and to find out what the Government has done on its enforcement.
- to get the Government to keep its promise to enact the Built Environment Accessibility Standard, and to decide which accessibility standards it would next develop.
- to get the Government to implement an effective, monitored and enforced program to ensure that public money is never used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability barriers.
- to get the Government to undertake and complete its promised review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
- to get the Government to implement effective measures for ensuring that municipal and provincial elections in Ontario are fully accessible.
- The Government's recurring foot-dragging cannot be written off as simply the inevitable delay in government. This Government has shown itself to be capable of prompt and bold action on the disability accessibility front, when it wishes. From October 2003 to October 2004, as a new, inexperienced Government, it quickly and effectively conducted a broad, open and inclusive public consultation and developed Bill 118, the proposed AODA.
- Since the 2011 summer, the Government's progress on accessibility has ground to a virtual stand-still. Among the many causes for this has been a stunning lack of leadership on this issue within the Government, and the Government's failure to put in place effective measures to ensure that accessibility is taken seriously across the government, and that all its accessibility promises are kept. The result is that Ontario falls further behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025, while many Government accessibility promises languish, unkept.
- It is critical for Ontario to now develop, make public, and implement a comprehensive plan
for ensuring that our province gets back on schedule, and reaches full accessibility by 2025. Unless that plan is developed now, and unless the Government quickly gets to work on developing all the remaining accessibility standards needed to ensure full accessibility, the Government in the next four years will condemn Ontario to miss the 2025 goal of full accessibility.
Our brief set out a series of recommendations to:
- ensure that the AODA is effectively enforced.
- strengthen the accessibility standards that have been enacted to date under the AODA.
- get the Government to immediately get to work, developing new accessibility standards to address barriers in health care, education and residential housing.
- keep the Government's commitment to address retrofits of built environment barriers in existing buildings that are not undergoing any major renovation, through the standards development process.
- enact under the AODA an accessibility standard that incorporates the Ontario Building Code's accessibility requirements, as amended in 2013.
- ensure that the Government promptly identifies all the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, and gets to work developing them.
- further reform the process for developing new accessibility standards and for revising existing standards under the AODA.
- expand public education on accessibility, aimed at obligated organizations, at school children, at key professions such as architects, and at the general public.
- ensure that public money is never used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities.
- substantially speed up and complete the Government's review of all Ontario statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers that it promised in 2007.
- enact new, effective legislation and implement new strategies to ensure that municipal and provincial elections in Ontario are fully accessible to persons with disabilities, including the option of telephone and internet voting which at least 44 Ontario municipalities already use.
- ensure that the Ontario Government itself obeys Ontario's accessibility laws, and leads by a good example on accessibility.