ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
More and More Media Coverage of Our Accessibility Campaign During National Access Awareness Week -- and -- Further Reflections on the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan
June 6, 2015
What a National Access Awareness Week we’ve had!
1. A Barrage of Great Media Coverage of Disability Accessibility Issues We Could Not Have Expected!
Over this past week, we were covered in the media somewhere or other every day from last Saturday until today. In each instance, the media had first reached out to us. This included:
* Sunday, May 31, 2015: “Canada in Perspective on AMI-TV, addressing barriers to accessible transit, to be available online by around June 7, 2015.
* Monday, June 1, 2015: An interview on 570 News Radio in Kitchener on the national campaign for a Canadians with Disabilities Act.
* Tuesday, June 2, 2015: Repeat of Canada in Perspective on AMI-TV
* Wednesday, June 3, 2015: Canadian Press article published by CP24 (set out below), quoting our reaction to the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan.
* Thursday, June 4, 2015: An article in the Toronto Star online (set out below), quoting our reaction to the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan.
* Friday, June 5, 2015: an interview on AMI-TV, responding to the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan.
Saturday, June 6, 2015, looks to be a day off. It is quickly followed by interviews on Global TV’s Focus Ontario current affairs program at 11:30 a.m. on Global TV, later to be available online, and addressing the state of accessibility in Ontario ten years after the AODA was passed.
When the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan was unveiled, the media instantly turned to the AODA Alliance as the lead source for comment and feedback. We actually had to ask for time to read the Government’s announcement, before offering any comment!
This all shows two important things. First, we continue to be widely recognized as an authoritative and credible source for public comment from a disability perspective on accessibility issues. We continue to earn this recognition because so many individuals and community organizations support us and our non-partisan accessibility campaign, and because we reflect the input and feedback so many time and again continue to share with us.
Second, the mainstream media, boosted by social media, are more interested than ever in covering disability accessibility stories. This should encourage you to bring the barriers you face to your local media. Individual stories spark coverage of our broader disability accessibility campaign. That in turn ramps up pressure on the Ontario Government to act on this issue. Increasingly, such individual stories first catch fire on social media like Facebook and Twitter, and then spread to the mainstream media.
2. Broader Reflections on the Government’s June 3 Announcements on Disability Accessibility
With a little more time to reflect on the Government’s June 3, 2015 announcement of its accessibility action plan, we have prepared further reflections, set out below. In summary, the Government’s announcement is still a mixed bag -- some good, and some great opportunities that the Government again missed. These reflections supplement our initial response to the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan, available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06032015.asp
This week’s Government announcement on accessibility again shows that our tenacity can yield results. The Government’s decision, announced this week, to eventually boost AODA enforcement is clearly a result of our collective advocacy efforts over the past months, after we revealed the Government’s earlier harmful plans to cut back on its already week AODA enforcement.
We must and will keep up our advocacy efforts, to make sure that this announcement is not just a brief flash in the pan, to be followed by more Government inaction and lethargy on accessibility. We also must keep up the pressure on important accessibility issues that the Government has still not taken up. This includes, for example, the need for immediate action to increase the accessibility of stores, restaurants and other tourism/hospitality services in advance of this summer’s Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games, and the need for the Government to agree to develop new accessibility standards in areas like education.
In this Update, you will find:
* Our further reflections on the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan, including our commentary on the Government’s June 3, 2015 Backgrounder. It sets out the Government’s official response to the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.
* The June 3, 2015 Canadian Press article published by CP24.
* The Toronto Star’s June 4, 2015 article.
* The Economic Development Ministry’s Backgrounder on the Backgrounder, and
* Links to some helpful background materials.
The Ontario Government only has 9 years, 6 months and 24 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.
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1. Progress on Improved AODA Enforcement is an Interim Victory for Ontario’s Grassroots Accessibility Campaign
We can view as a real victory in our advocacy efforts, the Government’s announcement this week that it will ramp up its enforcement of the AODA, to audit 4,000 organizations, and that it will crack down on AODA violators.
In each of 2013 and 2014, the Government had audited about 2,000 organizations. On February 19, 2015, Economic Development Minister Duguid wrote us, announcing a substantial cutback to only auditing 1,200 organizations this year. Earlier this year, Minister Duguid also made a series of public statements that strongly signaled that the Government was substantially downplaying the AODA’s enforcement, (which was already inadequate) claiming that its priority was educating businesses on their AODA obligations.
Over the past months, we led the fight to get the Government to keep its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA. Our efforts were given a major boost by a hard-hitting Toronto Star editorial on February 28, 2015. The Star slammed the Wynne Government for shirking its duty to effectively enforce this law.
The Government’s new about-face, and Minister Duguid’s commitment now to crack down on AODA violators, are especially welcome. This is because the Government has known for over two years that there are massive violations of the AODA among private sector organizations with at least 20 employees.
We will remain vigilant to ensure that this change is not a mere flash in the pan. We will stay on top of this, to ensure that the Government does what it now says it would do.
2. A Helpful Change in the Government’s Tone - Will This Last?
The troubling tenor of the Government’s June 3, 2015 news release and its Accessibility Action Plan was typically self-congratulatory. These documents dramatically overinflated the progress to date on accessibility in Ontario. Moreover, the Action Plan itself was described as a 10 year action plan, -- a roadmap for getting Ontario to full accessibility by 2025. Although it includes some helpful new actions, it falls far short of the measures needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.
In clear contrast, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid made refreshingly candid statements to the media this week which are more realistic. He conceded that this is not a 10 Year Plan, but more like a 12-month plan. He acknowledged that the Government’s actions on disability accessibility have been flagging in recent years. He said he is aiming to re-invigorate action on this front by the efforts the Government announced this week.
Minister Duguid’s more balanced remarks to this effect, unlike the Government’s June 3, 2015 news release and the Action Plan itself, are more in line with the Moran Report. That report found that the Government has lost momentum, and needs to revitalize the AODA’s implementation.
For example, these statements are found in an excellent Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, published by CP 24 on June 3, 2015 (set out below).
- “The Ontario government says its latest plan to address the needs of people with disabilities is meant to re-energize a movement that has lost momentum in recent years.
Brad Duguid, minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure, said Wednesday that the plan is aimed at bringing the province closer to compliance with the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which went into effect 10 years ago.”
- “I think that over the last couple of years, it's understandable, it's a 20-year program, we've seen a bit of a flag in momentum," Duguid said in a telephone interview.
"Well, as of today, I think we're successfully reinvigorating momentum with a number of new, ambitious programs."
- “This isn't a 10-year plan. This is really a 12-month plan that gets us going into the next decade with a lot of momentum behind us," he said.
Similarly, a June 4, 2015 article in the Online Toronto Star (set out below) included:
“In an interview Tuesday, Duguid acknowledged his government needs to “re-invigorate” its accessibility efforts. This week’s plan is just “one of many new initiatives” the government will be rolling out over the next few years, he added.”
3. How did the Government’s June 3 2015 Accessibility Action Plan Measure Up Against our 10 Point List of What that Plan Needed to Include?
Because the Government was planning events to mark the 10 year anniversary of the AODA’s enactment, we made public in advance a list of the 10 measures we called on the Government to initiate to honour this important date. We here assess the Government’s June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan against that list.
1. Substantially expand the Government’s enforcement of the AODA. For example, the Government should at the very least, reverse the Government’s 2015 cuts to the annual number of organizations to be audited under the AODA. In 2013 and 2014, this was around 2,000 per year. In 2015, the Government cut this to 1,200.
Our Comments: The Accessibility Action Plan does not do this. However Economic Development Minister’s announcements in the June 3, 2015 Toronto Star includes action on this front, as is discussed above.
2. Commit to develop new accessibility standards to address barriers in education and in residential housing, with completion dates to be set, and institute time lines for selecting all other accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. This should include, among other things, action on needed retrofits in existing buildings.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan does not do this. It only repeated the Government’s announcement from earlier this year that it is doing preliminary research on a Health Care Accessibility Standard.
3. Commit to now bring together representatives from business, the public sector and the disability community to quickly give the Government a list of options to effectively strengthen the current Customer Service Accessibility Standard, in order to ensure that Customer Service becomes truly accessible.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan does not do this. It vaguely states that the Government will enact changes to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. It does not say when, or which changes. It has not consulted with the disability community and other stakeholders on what we needed added to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The proposals it received from the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council in the 2014 fall are woefully inadequate and, in some ways, are harmful.
4. Unveil a multi-year plan for substantially expanded effective public education on the AODA, including reaching the broader public, educating children in school, and key professionals and students training to become key professionals e.g. architects, planners, doctors, nurses, and lawyers.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan and media statements announce short term measures on public education especially regarding the Employment Accessibility Standard. They do not detail a multi-year plan. They do not announce anything regarding educating children in school, and key professionals and students training to become key professionals e.g. architects, planners, doctors, nurses, and lawyers.
5. Establish a comprehensive program to provide obligated organizations with information, practice directions, an advice hotline, and other resources so obligated organizations don’t each have to reinvent the wheel when trying to become accessible.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan and media statements address this but only in general terms.
6. Announce a comprehensive and effective plan of specific new actions to effectively incorporate accessibility into the Ontario Public Service as an employer and service-provider. This should include a comprehensive barrier-review of the Public service, the designation of a new full-time deputy minister to be called the Ontario Government Chief Accessibility Officer, a plan for the Government to periodically audit its own front-line accessibility, and assigning each Ministry’s “Accessibility Lead” position to be a full time post in the office of their Ministry’s deputy minister.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan includes nothing on this.
7. Announce timing for an Omnibus Bill to be introduced in the Legislature, to address accessibility barriers in the first 50-55 Ontario statutes that the Government has reviewed for barriers over the past several years. As well, announce specific plans for reviewing all other Ontario statues and regulations for accessibility barriers, to be completed in the next three years, to be followed by another omnibus bill.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan does not do this. It suggests that a bill will be brought forward, but does not set a date. The Government suggests that this will be limited to a very narrow range of barriers in the legislation reviewed to date. We call on the Government to substantially expand this.
8. Announce an immediate consultation on accessibility barriers in provincial and municipal elections facing voters with disabilities, and a target date for introducing a Bill into the Legislature to fix these. New elections accessibility legislation should go into effect before the next provincial and municipal elections.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan did not do this. According to media tweets on Twitter on June 4, 2015, Premier Wynne announced plans that day for an election reform bill. However these tweets suggest that Premier Wynne shot down any action on telephone and internet voting. We need telephone and internet voting to substantially improve the accessibility of provincial elections to voters with disabilities.
9. Announce a short term blitz for getting as many restaurants, stores, hotels, and other tourism/hospitality organizations as possible to improve their accessibility before the 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games begin.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan did not do this.
10. Announce a comprehensive government-wide program for ensuring that no public money is ever used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers, and to ensure that recipients of any Government grant or loan must make added accessibility commitments as a condition of receiving that grant or loan.
Our Comments: the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan did not do this.
As a result, we stand behind our assessment, released to the public on June 3, 2015, that the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan includes some helpful and commendable measures. However it falls far short of the measures needed to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. It does not implement key recommendation in the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.
4. Comments on the Government’s June 3, 2015 Backgrounder to the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan
At the same time as the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan was made public, the Government also posted a Backgrounder. Some may wonder if anyone other than organizations like us ever read these. They are typically a bland public relations document.
However, we consider this Backgrounder to be an important document. It appears to be the Government’s formal response to the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review which the Government received seven months ago.
* the Backgrounder does not acknowledge or accept or address the Moran Report’s conclusions that Ontario is not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and that it has not made a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities in Ontario.
* The backgrounder states that “(s) significant progress” has been made since the 2010 report of the first Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Independent Review, conducted by Charles Beer.
Our Comments: This is incorrect. If anything, the Government action on accessibility slowed to a crawl within a year of the Government’s receipt of that 2010 report, in sharp contrast to much more action before that date.
* The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review found that there is a need to renew Government leadership on accessibility. The Backgrounder lists a number of actions which the Government is taking.
Our Comments: This is a whitewash. All of the measures which the Backgrounder lists were underway before the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review was submitted to the Government. The Moran Review was well aware of these measures. The Moran Report concluded that much more needs to be done for the Ontario Government and the Ontario Public Service to make needed progress on accessibility.
The Backgrounder announces none of the measures that the Moran Report recommends. No minister is given lead responsibility on accessibility. No deputy or associate deputy minister is tasked with full time responsibility for accessibility. No action is taken to tear down the silos within which the Ontario Public Service so inadequately deals with accessibility. The measures listed in the Backgrounder have not achieved the needed progress on this.
As such, the Backgrounder reads as implicitly rejecting the Moran Report’s key findings and recommendations in this vital area. That is a real disservice to Ontarians including those with disabilities.
This feels like déjà vu. In the 2010 final report of the first AODA Independent Review, Charles Beer called for strong new Government leadership on accessibility. Rather than accepting and acting on that recommendation, the Government said in its formal response to the Beer Report that it had been showing substantial leadership on accessibility. In its August 11, 2010 response to the Beer Report, the Minister responsible for the AODA at that time stated: “I believe, as the Minister responsible for accessibility, that this government has shown substantial leadership when it comes to improving accessibility.” To read the Ontario Government’s August 11, 2010 official response to the final report of the Charles Beer AODA Independent Review, and the AODA Alliance’s analysis of it.
The Government’s failure to act on that Beer Report recommendation is a key reason why Ontario is now behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025.
* The Backgrounder suggests that it is acting on the Moran Report’s call for the Government to use the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games as an opportunity to make progress on accessibility.
Our Comments: The measures which the Backgrounder lists regarding the Toronto 2015 Games were all in place, and well-known, before the Moran Report was prepared. The Moran Report called for more action. The Backgrounder announces nothing new on this.
* On the issue of support for obligated organizations that have to comply with the AODA, the Backgrounder lists actions that it says the Government is taking as a result of the Moran Report.
Our Comments: The list of actions that the Backgrounder says the Government is taking as a result of the Moran Report are in fact ones that were in place before the Moran Report was submitted.
The Backgrounder refers to other new positive initiatives that are underdevelopment, and that can be helpful. The Government implicitly appears to accept the Moran Report’s recommendation that more is needed in this context.
* On the AODA’s enforcement, the Backgrounder says “Making sure organizations comply with the law is a priority for our government.” It refers to actions taken to date, and talks about future plans in far less detail than it told the Toronto Star leading to that newspaper’s June 3, 2015 report.
Our Comments: We comment on the AODA enforcement improvements above. It would be helpful if AODA enforcement becomes a priority for the Government. It has not been such in the past. The Moran Report shows why that was a disservice to all Ontarians, including those with disabilities.
The Backgrounder says: “Last year, the government released a compliance action plan outlining compliance and enforcement activities with the private, public and non-profit sectors across Ontario.”
We have demonstrated that the short, vague document released on November 14, 2014 said little if anything new, on enforcement. It was not for practical purposes, an enforcement action plan. For the AODA Alliance’s detailed analysis of the Government’s November 14, 2014 posting on AODA enforcement.
* The Backgrounder talked about ways the Government includes the Ontario Human Rights Commission in AODA implementation activities, and steps the Government is taking to act on the Moran Report’s recommendations regarding clarifying the AODA’s relationship with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Our Comments: The Government’s measures described in the Backgrounder largely predated the Moran Report.
The Backgrounder describes how the Government consults or includes the Ontario Human Rights Commission. However we have found that on key issues, where the Ontario Human Rights Commission has urged ways to strengthen AODA accessibility standards, the Government has failed to implement those recommendations.
Moreover, the Government must itself make sure that from top to bottom, the Ontario Public Service knows that the Human Rights Code’s accessibility requirements, which are often stronger than those in AODA accessibility standards, predominate and must be obeyed. We have found that the Government often does not take this approach.
* Regarding the Government’s duty to create new accessibility standards, the Backgrounder announced nothing new. The Backgrounder stated, regarding the Moran Report: “She also acknowledged current gaps in the system may be closed once all requirements under the AODA come into effect.”
Our Comments: The Backgrounder, like the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan, announces no new action on this fundamentally important subject.
Moreover, the Backgrounder incorrectly summarizes the Moran Report. Read as a whole, the Moran Report does not conclude that existing accessibility standards could lead Ontario to full accessibility by 2025. The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. Indeed, the Moran Report documents serious deficiencies in current accessibility standards.
* On the issue of retrofitting existing buildings for accessibility, when not otherwise undergoing renovations, the Backgrounder states:
“Moran also suggested that government consider establishing requirements for building retrofits to remove architectural barriers. On January 1, 2015, amendments to Ontario's Building Code came into force that will enhance accessibility in newly constructed buildings and existing buildings that are scheduled to undergo extensive renovations.”
Our Comments: This is a critical failure in the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan. The Backgrounder acknowledges what the Moran Report found. However, it offers no new action to address it. It only refers to recent Building Code amendments which do not address this issue, since they don’t apply to any existing buildings which are undergoing no major renovations.
* On the Moran Report’s recommendations of tax incentives to spawn more action on accessibility, the Backgrounder states: “Currently, the government is not pursuing the tax incentives for accessibility recommended by Provost Moran.” It says the Government instead is exploring a voluntary accessibility certification process.
Our Comments: We will address this issue more fully in the future. However, we don’t see this as an either/or situation. Ontario could implement both its planned voluntary certification process and a tax credit regime.
5. CP 24 June 3 2015
Ont. Liberals lay out plan to address needs of people with disabilities
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
TORONTO -- The Ontario government says its latest plan to address the needs of people with disabilities is meant to re-energize a movement that has lost momentum in recent years.
Brad Duguid, minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure, said Wednesday that the plan is aimed at bringing the province closer to compliance with the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which went into effect 10 years ago.
The latest batch of projects is being released at the half-way point between the act's implementation and the deadline to make the entire province accessible by 2025.
"I think that over the last couple of years, it's understandable, it's a 20-year program, we've seen a bit of a flag in momentum," Duguid said in a telephone interview.
"Well, as of today, I think we're successfully reinvigorating momentum with a number of new, ambitious programs."
Opposition critics, however, said describing recent years as a slowdown is an understatement.
"They haven't done a darn thing in the last 12 years," Conservative MP Jim Wilson said. "Businesses are still getting away with not having to be fully accessible, there's less policing than there was in the past, and I think the accessibility advocacy groups in this province must be terribly disappointed in this government."
Disappointment seemed too strong a term for David Lepofsky, head of the AODA Alliance that advocates for broader compliance. He commended the government for announcing new initiatives, but said there's still no movement on crucial issues like detailed accessible education plans or measures to improve access to older buildings.
"These steps, while good, will not ensure either that we get to full accessibility by 2025 or even that we get back on schedule," he said.
Many of the efforts detailed in the action plan are geared towards making businesses more accessible to both future customers and prospective employees.
The plan calls for the government to spend $9 million over the next two years on a program dubbed Valuing Ability, which will provide job training for disabled post-secondary graduates, offer resources to businesses that want to become more accessible and promote the need to make workplaces more inclusive.
The government also plans to launch a loan program to reward companies that both hire and retain disabled staff.
The project would target small and mid-sized businesses by offering commercial loans at interest rates that decrease with every disabled person added to the payroll and kept on staff for a certain period of time.
Details for the loan program and many of the other initiatives have not yet been finalized, but Duguid said the projects will get off the ground as soon as possible in order to fully implement the AODA's employment standards by 2017.
"This isn't a 10-year plan. This is really a 12-month plan that gets us going into the next decade with a lot of momentum behind us," he said.
The action plan also promises to introduce a third-party certification program to recognize accessible businesses. Duguid said the program will be modeled after the international LEED certifications for businesses that embrace environmentally friendly initiatives.
Other projects include an effort to make all government documents and appeals processes accessible and a partnership with an undetermined private sector company to at least triple accessibility compliance audits. The government slashed the number of 2015 audits to 1,200 from 2,000 last year.
6. The Toronto Star Online June 4, 2015
David Lepofsky, a blind lawyer and advocate for those with disabilities, says although the action plan says the government is developing accessibility guidelines for healthcare, he feels those efforst are moving too slowly.
BERNARD WEIL / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
David Lepofsky, a blind lawyer and advocate for those with disabilities, says although the action plan says the government is developing accessibility guidelines for healthcare, he feels those efforst are moving too slowly.
By: Laurie Monsebraaten Social justice reporter, Published on Wed Jun 03 2015
Advocates for Ontarians with disabilities are praising the government’s plan to crack down on businesses that flout provincial accessibility laws.
And they welcome new pilot projects to encourage businesses to hire people with disabilities, announced in a 10-year action plan Wednesday by Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid.
But they say the new enforcement measures — aimed at doubling the number of compliance audits to 4,000 annually within the next couple of years — must ramp up quickly to send the message that the government means business.
“There is no question there are some good things in this announcement,” said lawyer David Lepofsky of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “But so often we see big headlines and nothing happens.”
The accessibility act, passed unanimously in 2005, aims to ensure the province’s 1.8 million people with disabilities can live, work and play to their full potential by 2025.
Under the legislation, all businesses with 20 employees or more were supposed to have filed customer service plans with the government by the end of 2012. But only 40 per cent have submitted the necessary reports on how they accommodate customers with disabilities, train staff and receive customer feedback.
Although the action plan says the government is developing accessibility guidelines for healthcare, Lepofsky says those efforts are moving too slowly. And he is concerned the plan is silent on the need for an accessibility standard for education to address barriers facing thousands of Ontario students with special needs.
“You can’t get a job, if you can’t get an education,” he said.
The action plan also doesn’t address the need for accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, another recommendation of a recent legislative review, he said. (Under the building code, all new construction and renovations in the public and private-sector must meet accessibility standards.)
“This announcement offers no plan for ensuring that all Ontario legislation and regulations are free of accessibility barriers,” Lepofsky said. “This plan will not ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025, contrary to the government’s claims.”
In an interview Tuesday, Duguid acknowledged his government needs to “re-invigorate” its accessibility efforts. This week’s plan is just “one of many new initiatives” the government will be rolling out over the next few years, he added.
7. Economic Development Ministry’s June 3, 2015 Backgrounder on the Government's June 3, 2015 Accessibility Action Plan
June 3 2015 from website news.ontario.ca
Originally posted at: http://www.news.ontario.ca/medt/en/2015/06/ontario-responds-to-recommendations-from-mayo-morans-review-of-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with.html
Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
Ontario Responds to Recommendations from Mayo Moran's Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Ontario is responding to a comprehensive review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).
The review and report, by Provost Mayo Moran, Vice Chancellor and Provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto, is helping to chart the course to an accessible Ontario by 2025.
Regular reviews of the act are required to make sure the legislation is working as intended and to identify where improvements can be made. The first review was conducted by Charles Beer in 2010.
Significant progress has been made since this review, including streamlining the functions of the advisory councils that play a key role in reviewing and developing accessibility standards, as well as harmonizing accessibility standards under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation in order to make it easier for organizations to comply.
Provost Moran's review lays out eight themes for change with supporting recommendations.
The Ontario government was pleased to receive Provost Moran's findings and is already moving on a number of the recommendations. Her comprehensive examination of our legislative framework highlights and includes advice on what we can do on our path towards an accessible Ontario by 2025.
Accessibility is a journey we all share. The Government of Ontario would like to thank Mayo Moran for her comprehensive review. The recommendations contained in her report have been key to informing The Path to 2025: Ontario's Accessibility Action Plan. They will help us to strengthen the foundation Ontario has built since 2005 and continue our journey towards a dynamic economy and a strong inclusive society.
The following outlines Provost Moran's key themes and the steps the government has already taken, or will take, to implement them:
1. Renew Government Leadership
The Ontario Public Service (OPS) has taken important steps to strengthen its leadership on accessibility and is committed to leading by example on accessibility and inclusion.
The OPS is committed to building an inclusive, equitable and accessible organization and has developed:
- A Disability Support Strategy to promote a healthy, inclusive and engaged public service. This strategy has also made improvements to employment accommodation and return to work policies.
- Tools and resources to foster a more accessible organization including:
- The OPS Inclusion Lens -- a web-based tool to make inclusion a part of day-to-day work.
- Accessibility@Source -- a web-based tool that provides clear information on how to build accessibility into products and processes, including procurements, documents and employee accommodation.
We also undertook a government-wide review of 51 high-impact pieces of legislation related to health, education, seniors and social services to identify barriers to accessibility. The review identified strategies to address existing barriers, such as those found in appeals processes, timelines and forms.
Our efforts are being recognized. The OPS has been named one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers for eight years, and we will continue working hard to maintain this standing.
2. Public Awareness
In their reports, both Charles Beer and Mayo Moran highlighted the importance of public awareness campaigns to promote the value of accessibility to society.
Last fall, Ontario launched a campaign to increase awareness among small- and medium-sized businesses of the value of accessibility and the need to comply with the AODA. The campaign was a success. The number of reports filed by the 2014 reporting deadline increased by 150 per cent compared to 2012.
Our government is encouraged by these results and plans to launch additional awareness campaign this fall.
This summer, we have the unprecedented opportunity to welcome over 250,000 athletes, spectators and tourists of all abilities as Ontario hosts the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Live broadcast of selected events -- the biggest Parapan coverage ever -- will introduce millions of viewers to parasport and the abilities of people with disabilities.
We are also working with public transit agencies, municipalities and TO2015 to make accessible transportation a priority for the games. Visitors will have the chance to experience games venues that meet or exceed provincial accessibility standards. And, more than 23,000 volunteers will be trained in accessibility and focused on helping people of all abilities enjoy the games.
As Provost Moran suggests, the games are our opportunity to show the world Ontario at its best -- a dynamic economy, a vibrant and diverse culture and an accessible, inclusive province.
3. Compliance Support
Provost Moran's consultations confirmed that there is strong support for the AODA's vision of an inclusive Ontario. During her review, an overwhelming number of organizations expressed that they want to do the right thing and comply with this important law. As a result, Provost Moran has recommended better promotion of existing resources and simplifying standards.
As a result, the Government of Ontario has taken the following steps:
- A help desk to provide assistance with questions about accessibility requirements and to receive both positive and negative feedback. The information is tracked and may inform future policy decisions.
- Policy guidelines with practical examples.
- Web-based training videos.
- Online templates to help organizations understand and meet their accessibility requirements
- Extensive education and outreach activities across Ontario.
We are exploring the development of other resources, such as bulletins, to clarify requirements for specific sectors.
We are also making our website easier for users to navigate so they can find the information they are looking for.
And we will direct future Standards Development Committees to treat simplification and clarity as guiding principles when reviewing or developing accessibility standards.
Last year, the government released a compliance action plan outlining compliance and enforcement activities with the private, public and non-profit sectors across Ontario. Earlier this year, we reported on the results of these activities.
Making sure organizations comply with the law is a priority for our government. We plan to make our compliance and enforcement plan public and annually report on our progress. These annual updates will outline the previous year's results and publicize targets and the plan for the following year.
For example, in 2014, 2,000 audits were completed and over 300 Directors Orders with monetary penalties were issued.
Ontario is looking at ways to improve enforcement, such as partnering with the private sector to increase current audit targets, using tools such as audit blitzes.
Provost Moran recommended ways for the public to report on violations of the AODA. While individuals are encouraged to provide feedback directly to businesses, the public may also submit feedback about the AODA to the government through the mail, over the phone or by email.
We have also boosted our ability to track incoming complaints and feedback. Public feedback will be used to inform trends analysis, as well as legislative reviews, outreach, compliance and enforcement activities.
5. Ontario Human Rights Code
Provost Moran found that the relationship between the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA causes confusion for many obligated organizations and recommended the government take steps to provide clarification.
Ontario works closely with the Human Rights Commission to help private, public and non-profit sectors understand how the AODA and the code work together to promote inclusion and accessibility. An e-learning video has been developed to clarify how the code and the act complement each other. Additional ways to clarify the relationship between the two are being explored.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission regularly participates in public consultations held by the government to develop and review standards.
6. New Standards
Ontario plans to move forward to address barriers to accessibility in the health care sector.
Provost Moran recommended the government consult with stakeholders to identify accessibility gaps not already addressed by the existing standards and assess the need for additional standards.
She also acknowledged current gaps in the system may be closed once all requirements under the AODA come into effect.
Ontario will examine how current standards are being implemented and investigate gaps that may exist in the health sector. This analysis will illuminate barriers that can be overcome through education, outreach and new standards.
Moran also suggested that government consider establishing requirements for building retrofits to remove architectural barriers. On January 1, 2015, amendments to Ontario's Building Code came into force that will enhance accessibility in newly constructed buildings and existing buildings that are scheduled to undergo extensive renovations.
7. Accessibility Beyond the AODA
Provost Moran recommended Ontario boost its efforts to create inclusive environments by encouraging and supporting accessibility planning beyond the AODA.
Building on our accomplishments beyond the province's accessibility law is an important goal for our government.
Ontario is working to celebrate our accessibility leaders so that others may be inspired to take similar action. The province introduced an annual David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility in honour of our province's 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, who is a passionate advocate for accessibility.
The award recognizes individuals or organizations that have gone above and beyond in improving accessibility for people with disabilities. It also celebrates people who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment in supporting awareness of accessibility and disability issues.
Currently, the government is not pursuing the tax incentives for accessibility recommended by Provost Moran. We are undertaking work with the private sector and the disability community to explore a voluntary third-party certification program to give businesses an incentive to go beyond what is required under the AODA, and promote their accessibility achievements. The government feels that this approach better meets the needs of the disability community while encouraging more businesses to embrace the culture shift towards going beyond legislative requirements.
8. Improving AODA Processes
Provost Moran provided valuable insight on how to improve processes under the AODA and advance the goal of accessibility in Ontario.
Ontario is carefully considering how to repeal sections of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In response to Provost Moran's recommendation, our government will work with stakeholders on the steps the government could take regarding the timing of ongoing reviews of the act and accessibility standards. This would allow for collaboration with key stakeholders and the collection of critical implementation and compliance data to inform future reviews.
Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees (AACs) are an important part of making communities work. Municipalities have authority to seek advice from AACs on a range of accessibility priorities impacting their communities, including implementation of all accessibility standards. Ontario will work with municipalities to explore how current Accessibility Advisory Committees are supporting their needs.
Brigitte Marleau Communications Branch
Andrew Forgione Minister's Office
Disponible en Français
8. Links to Helpful Background Materials
To learn about the campaign from 1994 to 2005 to win enactment of the AODA.