ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

Sign Up for AODA Alliance Updates by writing: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Learn more at: www.aodaalliance.org

Comparison of the Major Parties' 2011 Election Commitments on Disability Accessibility

September 2, 2011

SUMMARY

This is a list of the commitments we sought from Ontario's major parties on disability accessibility, and their actual commitments, on an issue-by-issue basis.

Our July 15, 2011 letter to the parties, seeking their commitments, can be found at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07192011.asp

A comparison of the major parties' commitments to us on disability accessibility in the 2007 election, can be found at:  http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10012007.asp

             

In offering this comparison we reiterate that we are non-partisan and do not endorse any party or candidate.

A.        Generally Strengthen Implementation of the AODA 2005 and ODA 2001

We asked the parties to commit to:

1. strengthen the implementation of the AODA 2005 and the companion Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any policies, practices, strategies or initiatives of or within the Ontario Government that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives.

The Liberals committed:

 

           "We will ensure that we maintain and/or strengthen the current provisions and protections in the AODA or any regulations enacted under the legislation."

The NDP committed:

           "New Democrats are committed to fully implementing the AODA and related initiatives."

           "Losing rights and protections for persons with disabilities goes against the goal of full accessibility. Therefore, New Democrats do not support any measure that would weaken accessibility protections in Ontario."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "The Green Party of Ontario is fully committed to government that encourages citizens to actively participate in their community and have a say in decisions that affect them. We support strong implementation of the AODA 2005 and ODA 2001 and will not weaken or repeal any legislation that has already been passed."

B.        Develop Needed New Accessibility Standards

We asked the parties to commit to:

2. enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard as a regulation under the AODA, and to the extent feasible, include the same content as an amendment to the Ontario Building Code, no later than the end of 2012, to address built environment barriers inside and outside buildings.

3. develop AODA accessibility standards in the next term of the Government, in the areas of health care and education/training (including schools, universities, colleges and other educational institutions), and of access to housing/residential accommodation, with work on these standards to begin by April, 2012.

4. consult with the disability community, including the AODA Alliance, on other areas for developing accessibility standards.

The Liberals committed:

           "It is a priority for us to enact the Accessible Built Environment standard promptly and responsibly. Having the first five accessibility standards under the AODA enacted will set a firm foundation for further progress on accessibility, and we look forward to working with Ontario’s accessibility communities and partners to identify the next standards that will move accessibility forward in our province."

The NDP committed:

           "In addition to the full implementation of the AODA, New Democrats also support the timely enactment of the Built Environment Accessibility Standard and the accompanying amendments to the Ontario Building Code. We are committed to working with the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders to develop additional accessibility standards in the next session of the Legislature."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "In consultation with stakeholders, we would support developing an accessibility standard and reviewing building codes to ensure all Ontarians should be able to access public buildings. Health care and education reform are important to us, and we would support the inclusion of accessibility standards in our review of legislation and service delivery."

C.        Implement Key Recommendations of the Charles Beer AODA Independent Review

We asked the parties to commit to:

5. not implement the Beer Report recommendations addressing the ODA's repeal and the timing of the next AODA Independent Review.

6. implement all other Beer Report recommendations to the extent feasible, without amending the AODA.

7. not repeal the ODA 2001 unless all of its provisions are fully replicated in legislation that includes at least the same rights and as much protection for persons with disabilities as those provisions being repealed.

The Liberals committed:

           "Consistent with the recommendations made in the Charles Beer AODA Independent Review, we are committed to repealing the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) once the current five accessibility standards under the AODA are enacted and we will ensure that all needed provisions in the ODA are incorporated into the AODA."

The NDP committed:

           "Charles Beer’s 2010 Report on the AODA included recommendations that, if acted on, would ensure Ontario is able to achieve full accessibility by 2025. New Democrats support the implementation of Beer’s report, especially the recommendations that do not require legislative amendments."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "We are committed to citizen engagement and an open, transparent and accountable government. We will consult with community stakeholders in all aspects of planning, including the development of accessibility standards.

The Green Party will ensure that the ODA’s tools, meant to work toward removing and preventing barriers against persons with disabilities, are met in an improved piece of legislation. We will not repeal the ODA until it is guaranteed that these tools are not weakened.

We will implement other recommendations of the Beer Report to the extent of their feasibility, within the context of our existing policy commitments to fiscal responsibility and with continued citizen engagement on this issue.

The Green Party believes it is the responsibility of government to address disability and accessibility issues. We will work to ensure that this happens without creating additional government bureaucracy."

D.        Improve How the Ontario Public Service Addresses Accessibility

We asked the parties to commit to:

8. designate a minister with lead responsibility for all disability accessibility issues, including the AODA's implementation and fulfillment of these election commitments.

9. restore the full time position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Accessibility, established in 2009, and downgraded to a part-time position in 2010 -- a position the Beer Independent Review called "vital." See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12022010.asp

10. re-engineer how the Ontario Public Service discharges its responsibilities to achieve accessibility, so that they do not continue in isolated silos.

11. make all deputy ministers accountable for their ministries' performance on accessibility.

12. not weaken or abolish the Employment Accommodation Fund for Ontario Government employees with disabilities.

The Liberals committed:

           "We will create a full-time Assistant Deputy Minister position in the Ministry of Government Services responsible for accessibility, and we will continue to consider options and advice on how to modernize our government structure to promote accessibility. The ADM will pay particular attention to breaking down the barriers and silos experienced across government when implementing accessibility initiatives."

The NDP committed:

           "Coordination and clear expectations for the whole of government and the Public Service are necessary for achieving the goals of the AODA. The McGuinty government has ignored recommendations to designate a lead Minister and Ministry and this has come at a cost (i.e. the proposed elimination of the Employment Accommodation Fund). As noted above, the Ontario NDP supports the recommendations of the Beer report and understands the importance of a coordinated approach to fulfilling the requirements of the AODA. Ontario’s New Democrats will oppose any weakening of protections for persons with disabilities and this includes accommodation programs."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "We support the streamlining of government to improve efficiency and support a holistic approach to Ontario Public Services. We hope to end any isolation and lack of communication across all departments, including accessibility. We will work to implement the best possible solutions for addressing disability and accessibility issues, including identifying a lead person responsible for accessibility issues.

One of our platform priorities is open and transparent government, and we will strive for effective government that meets accessibility needs.

We will not repeal the ODA until its provisions are met in other legislation, and will therefore not abolish the Employment Accommodation Fund."

E.        Fully Implement Compliance and Enforcement of the AODA

We asked the parties to commit to:

13. fully implement and provide proper funding for all AODA enforcement/compliance provisions by April 2012.

14. also mandate Ontario Government inspectors under other legislation to include enforcement of the AODA in their other activities, where feasible, to make enforcement more cost-effective.

The Liberals committed:

           "We remain committed to ensuring effective enforcement of the AODA.

           "We will also continue to make progress on all previous commitments."

The NDP committed:

           "New Democrats are committed to the full enforcement of the AODA. The AODA Alliance’s recommendation to allow existing government inspectors to enforce the AODA is a sensible proposal that is supported by the Ontario NDP."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "The Green Party of Ontario supports funding AODA enforcement/compliance provisions within our framework of fiscal responsibility and our deficit reduction strategy.

We fully support making AODA enforcement more cost-effective, and will support asking Ontario Government inspectors to include this in their activities, where feasible. If this has an impact on other areas of enforcement, we will work with stakeholders to figure out a cost-effective way of enforcing the AODA.

We believe that responsible stewardship of our natural and financial resources requires us to live within our means. Our fiscal plan is to balance the budget by 2015 so that more of our hard-earned tax dollars are spent on essential public services, not interest payments."

F.         Ensure Taxpayers' Money is Never Used to Create or Buttress Disability Barriers

We asked the parties to commit to:

15. maintain and strengthen the Ten-Year Infrastructure Plan's accessibility requirements, by:

 a) ensuring it applies to all forms of provincially-funded infrastructure, such as information technology infrastructure and electronic kiosks, and not just the built environment e.g. buildings.

 b) extending those accessibility principles to the Government's use of public funds to procure goods, services and facilities for use by the Government or the public.

 c) establishing detailed guidelines for infrastructure accessibility, beyond those set out in the current AODA accessibility standards. These should, e.g.

            (i) ensure that to be accessible, they must meet the Human Rights Code's accessibility requirements, and not just the more limited AODA accessibility standards.

            (ii) ensure that "where feasible" in this policy will be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Human Rights Code's undue hardship standard.

            (iii) establish Ontario Public Service implementation procedures for monitoring and enforcing this requirement, so it is not simply left to each ministry to decide whether or how much it will implement this commitment, in deciding among competing applicants for Government grants and contracts.

 d) widely and prominently broadcasting as soon as possible to any organization that seeks Ontario infrastructure or procurement funds, that they must prove in their applications that they will ensure that public money isn't used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities.

The Liberals committed:

           "We are integrating accessibility as a fundamental principle when it comes to making vital decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians. For instance, as part of our 10-year infrastructure plan, we are requiring all entities seeking provincial infrastructure funding for new buildings or major expansions or renovations to demonstrate how the funding will prevent or remove barriers and improve the level of accessibility where feasible. We will also extend this to include information technology infrastructure and electronic kiosks."

The NDP committed:

           "The Ontario NDP is committed to working with all stakeholders to find opportunities to strengthen accessibility requirements in Ontario. Including these requirements in Ontario’s Ten-Year Infrastructure Plan was a step forward. New Democrats would maintain and look for opportunities to strengthen these standards by partnering with the AODA Alliance and other relevant stakeholders."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "The Green Party will not use taxpayers’ money to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities. To this end, we will ensure that our plans meet the accessibility standards set out in the Human Rights Code and make sure that independent contractors are aware of these standards."

G.        Ensure Accessibility of Provincial and Municipal Elections

We asked the parties to commit to:

16. introduce in the Legislature, within two years of taking office, with a view to enacting it, a bill that effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections.

17. ensure that the bill will, at a minimum include the substance of the amendments that the opposition parties proposed to Bill 231, with comparable provisions for municipal elections. For example, it will ensure in any provincial general election, by-election, or municipal election in or after 2013, an option for secure telephone or internet voting for voters.

18. ask the Chief Electoral Officer to complete his study of alternate voting technologies by June 30, 2012 (not June 30, 2013 as the amended Elections Act now requires), and to ensure that his report fully addresses telephone and internet voting.

19. for election barriers not effectively addressed in the amended provincial or municipal elections legislation bring forward an accessible elections action plan by the end of 2012, to make municipal and provincial elections fully accessible to persons with disabilities, after consulting persons with disabilities.

20. consult with persons with disabilities, including the AODA Alliance, on whether stronger measures are needed to ensure that polling stations are always located in accessible venues.

21. explore with municipalities and the federal government the sharing of accessible voting equipment, to spread or reduce their cost.

The Liberals committed:

           "We recognize that there is more to do, and we will continue to build on our progress when it comes to making municipal and provincial elections more accessible."

The NDP committed:

           "The Ontario NDP worked closely with the AODA Alliance to bring forward numerous amendments to Bill 231 that would have strengthened its accessibility provisions. We remain committed to these issues and ensuring full accessibility in elections for both voters and candidates. The NDP would be supportive of introducing legislation that implements the substantive issues addressed in our amendments to Bill 231."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "The Green Party strongly supports citizen engagement and the democratic process and will work with stakeholders to address accessibility needs for voters in provincial and municipal elections. We would support provisions for electronic (telephone and internet) voting and citizen engagement. We will work with stakeholders to address accessibility needs in provincial and municipal elections.

Our ongoing commitment to accountable government and citizen engagement will provide channels for stakeholders to provide feedback and input into government decisions. We will be happy to consult with all stakeholders on the siting of/access to polling stations and would support efficiencies such as equipment-sharing with the federal and municipal governments.

We are committed to removing all barriers that prevent citizens from being heard, and accessibility barriers are no exception."

H.        Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

We asked the parties to commit to:

22. complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by 2013, and all regulations by 2014.

23. introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, a first omnibus bill to amend any legislation as a result of this review, by June 30, 2013.

24. amend any regulations that the government deems necessary as a result of the review by June 30, 2014.

25. designate a minister with lead responsibility for conducting this review.

The Liberals committed:

           "We are committed to completing our review of all legislation for accessibility barriers and, through the work of a central team, we will ask ministries to report on their progress as part of their annual performance plans. We will also pursue strategies to address defined barriers in an efficient and suitable manner."

The NDP committed:

           "A comprehensive review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers is long overdue. The Ontario NDP remains committed to this important undertaking, including the introduction of an omnibus Bill, and would accelerate the current review process."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "We would support a thorough review of legislation and regulations as quickly as possible. The Green Party supports ensuring there is a lead person with clear responsibility for addressing disability and accessibility issues. We will work to ensure that this happens without creating additional government bureaucracy."

I.          Launch Better Public Education on Accessibility

We asked the parties to commit to:

26. promptly develop, make available and widely publicize resources, training materials and guides for organizations to comply with accessibility standards enacted under the AODA, including a free web-authoring tool for creating accessible web pages.

27. launch an effective public education campaign, including but not limited to speeches by members of the Legislature, to the public, on the benefits and importance or removing and preventing barriers against persons with disabilities.

28. consult with persons with disabilities, including the AODA Alliance, on the content of these public education materials.

29. promptly mandate a permanent program to ensure that students in the school system and people training in key professions, such as architects, are educated in disability accessibility.

The Liberals committed:

           "We will also continue to make progress on all previous commitments."

Note: In Premier Mcguinty's September 14, 2007 election promise letter to us, he had pledged:

"Institute a new program to ensure that students in schools and professional organizations are trained on accessibility issues.

 

We already include awareness of and respect for students with special needs: in every curriculum document there is a front piece on planning programs for students with special education needs. Disability awareness is an expectation in the Grade 12 Social Sciences and Humanities course. Our government also introduced character education.

 

Character education is about schools reinforcing values shared by the school community – values such as respect, honesty, responsibility and fairness. It is about nurturing universal values, upon which schools and communities can agree. We will ensure that this curriculum includes issues relating to persons with disabilities.

 

The Government of Ontario does not set the training curriculum for professional bodies such as architects, but we commit to raising this issue with the different professional bodies."

The NDP committed:

           "Designating a Minister responsible for accessibility issues in Ontario is a necessary first step in developing a coordinated education strategy. The public education campaign you described would require input and buy-in from multiple stakeholders. We will engage all relevant stakeholders in order to develop a comprehensive education strategy and meet the goals outlined in your letter."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "In consultation with key stakeholders, we support efforts that will enhance public education and the ability of organizations to comply with disability and accessibly legislation. We are happy to consult with stakeholders in every aspect of all our campaigns."

J.         Effectively Enforce the Ontario Human Rights Code

We asked the parties to commit to:

30. significantly increase the number of public interest cases the Ontario Human Rights Commission brings, and strengthen its mandate and activity in bringing public interest cases on recurring barriers facing discrimination victims such as persons with disabilities, including an open, fair, accountable process for the Commission to receive and consider the public's recommendations on public interest cases the Commission should bring;

31. restore the Statutory Powers Procedure Act to hearings of the Human Rights Tribunal.

32. amend the Human Rights Code to restore the right of a discrimination claimant to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and, where not frivolous, vexatious or brought in bad faith, to have the complaint publicly investigated, and where the evidence warrants, publicly prosecuted before the Human Rights Tribunal.

33. not take away from discrimination victims including persons with disabilities any rights they now enjoy in the human rights enforcement process.

34. not impose any power or requirement for human rights complainants/applicants to be the subject of orders at the Human Rights Tribunal to pay costs.

35. ensure that persons with disabilities, including the AODA Alliance, are consulted in an accessible and open process before changes to the Ontario Human Rights Code, including an opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with the minister responsible for this issue before any final decisions are made on the Government's direction.

36. ensure that this year's mandatory independent review of Bill 107 includes open, accessible public hearings, that are not invitation-only.

The Liberals committed:

           "We appreciate the issues you raised with regard to Ontario’s human rights system. We recently appointed Andrew Pinto to conduct a review of the implementation and effectiveness of changes to the Human Rights Code, which came into effect in 2008, and I look forward to your contribution to this process."

The NDP committed:

           "The Ontario NDP had very serious concerns with the Liberal government’s overhaul of the Human Rights System in Ontario. We will continue to work to improve access to legal services and other human rights protections for persons with disabilities."

The Conservatives made no specific commitments on these. They globally said they look forward to partnering, dialogue and working with us on the important issues we raised.

The Green Party committed:

           "The Green Party fully supports the Ontario Human Rights Code, and agrees that it should be open, transparent and accountable.

We encourage citizen engagement with the democratic process, and would seek input from all stakeholders before any changes to the Ontario Human Rights Code are made.

We are also committed to making any reviews of legislation through public hearings and/or consultations."

K.        Foster Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

We asked the parties to commit to:

37. as Premier, meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility such as the implementation of these commitments, including once within the first four months of taking office.

38. have your minister responsible for disability issues, and any other minister with responsibility bearing on our issues, meet with us where needed.

39. whether or not you form the next Government, maintain a comparable relationship over the next term, including candidly consulting with us and working with us on issues of concern to disability accessibility.

The Liberals committed:

           "We look forward to continuing to build and strengthen our relationship with the AODA Alliance. Mr. Lepofsky, your work on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities has been powerful and profound. And, as we have always done, we will continue to welcome opportunities to maintain an open dialogue and meet with you to continue to move accessibility issues forward."

The NDP committed:

           "The Ontario NDP is committed to fostering our relationship with the AODA Alliance. We would be pleased to meet with your group, as requested in your letter."

The Conservatives committed:

           "These are important issues, which we look forward to working with you on after October 6th."

           "If elected, we look forward to your partnership in addressing the issues of importance to your members and to all of the individuals and families you collectively serve."

           "We look forward to continuing the dialogue and working with you after October 6th."

The Green Party committed:

           "We are committed to open and transparent government and welcome free communication with your association, including meetings with our Green Party Leader, candidates and shadow cabinet. The Green Party looks forward to continued consultation on disability and accessibility issues with your organization, and improved access to government services for all Ontarians."