ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

AODA ALLIANCE RELEASES A REPORT CARD ON THE MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT RECORD AT KEEPING ITS TWELVE 2011 ELECTION PROMISES ON DISABILITY ACCESSIBILITY – TOO LITTLE PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE TO DATE

September 5, 2012

SUMMARY

On August 19, 2011, Premier McGuinty made 12 important election commitments on what his Government would do, if re-elected in the 2011 Ontario election, to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible to over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. Those commitments were set out in a letter to the AODA Alliance.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance here makes public its detailed Report Card on how well Premier McGuinty is doing in the year that has passed since he wrote us that letter.

The result is a mixed bag. In fully 6 of the 12 promises, we give a grade of "very poor" and "promise not kept." In the others, the Government's performance ranges from promising and helpful action to something less than that. Some of these promises date back to the 2007 election.

The Government has only completed the first year of its current term in office. We believe it should have gotten considerably more done by now.

We conclude by again endorsing the conclusions of the 2010 report of the Government-appointed Charles Beer Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The Government needs to revitalize its implementation of the AODA. It needs to show stronger leadership in this area. It needs to breathe new life into the implementation of this legislation. This requires transformative change within the Government, and not mere tinkering. Improvements must be directed from the highest levels of the Government.  

The Government's delay in keeping all its 2011 election promises to Ontarians with disabilities sets Ontario even further behind schedule in reaching the mandatory goal of full accessibility by 2025 that the AODA requires. In reaching these conclusions, we acknowledge throughout that various parts of the Government have certainly been making efforts at implementing the AODA. The Government has a number of commendable initiatives underway, several of which are identified in this Report Card. We applaud these and encourage the Government to carry on with them.

Despite this, much more needs to be done. It needs to be done now. Promptly keeping all the Premier's 2011 election promises to Ontarians with disabilities would be a good start.

The Report Card explains below why the fact that the McGuinty Government is only a minority government and faces a major budget deficit, doesn't justify the Government's delays that are documented here. We remain eager to help the McGuinty Government in its efforts to keep all its 2011 election promises to Ontarians with disabilities.

In summary, here is a list of the McGuinty Government's twelve 2011 election promises to us, and our bottom-line conclusions on how it is doing so far at keeping them.

1. PROMISE: To effectively enforce the AODA.

GRADE: Very poor. Promise not kept.

2. PROMISE: To maintain and/or strengthen and not to reduce any protections in the AODA or in regulations enacted under it.

GRADE: Very poor. Promise broken, if the Government proceeds with its plan to amend the Integrated Accessibility Regulation, as it has proposed in its August 15, 2012 web posting.

3. PROMISE: To work together with us and other stakeholders, to identify the next accessibility standards to be developed and enacted, to bring Ontario to the goal of full accessibility by 2025.

GRADE: Promise not kept. Very poor.

4. PROMISE: As a priority, to promptly enact the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

GRADE: Not yet kept. Poor, despite some progress by recently publicly posting a draft regulation to cover a limited part of the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

5. PROMISE: To extend the Government's 2011 Ten Year Infrastructure Plan, to include a requirement that information technology infrastructure and electronic kiosks, acquired with Ontario public money, are accessible to persons with disabilities.

Grade: Very poor, insofar as the Infrastructure Ministry is concerned. More hopeful insofar as the Ministry of Government Services is concerned.

6. PROMISE: To create a full-time Assistant Deputy Minister position in the Ministry of Government Services responsible for accessibility of the Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government.

GRADE: Very Poor. Promise not kept.

7. PROMISE: To complete the review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers, which the McGuinty Government initially promised in the 2007 election, through the work of a central team, to have ministries report on their progress as part of their annual performance plans, and to pursue strategies to address defined barriers in an efficient and suitable manner.

GRADE: Promise in the process of belatedly being kept. A potentially positive and hopeful situation. Long overdue, but signs of new progress.

8. PROMISE: To integrate accessibility as a fundamental principle when the Government is making vital decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians.

GRADE: Promising. Potential for real progress, if the "Accessibility at Source" strategy is actually deployed across Government, is monitored and is effectively enforced.

9. PROMISE: To continue to build on progress on making municipal and provincial elections more accessible to voters with disabilities.

GRADE: Promise not kept. Very poor.

10. PROMISE: To raise with self-governing professional organizations, (e.g. those which govern architects, lawyers, doctors, nurses or social workers) the need to include in their professional training mandatory education on meeting the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities.

GRADE: Promise not kept. Very poor.

11. PROMISE: To ensure that school children in Ontario receive education on disability accessibility, and that this is included in the Ontario Government's "Character Education" curriculum" for Ontario schools.

GRADE: Overdue helpful action has recently been taken on this 2007 election promise, but we do not know to what extent these promised curriculum materials are actually reaching children in classrooms across Ontario.

12. PROMISE: To continue making progress under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

GRADE: Poor, except regarding the anticipated new process for developing accessibility standards, which is promising, as well as efforts under the Enabling Change Program. Those two positive initiatives do not fully address the needs addressed here.

Below, we list each promise one at a time, show what action the Government has taken on each promise, offer a grade for each promise, and offer our comments. We provide links to key documents to support our conclusions. We set out important thoughts that you should consider when reviewing this Report Card. We offer important conclusions at the end of the Report Card.

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A REPORT CARD ON THE MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT'S TWELVE 2011 ELECTION PROMISES ON DISABILITY ACCESSIBILITY - How is Ontario's McGuinty Government doing at keeping its twelve 2011 election promises to over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities, about making this province fully accessible to all persons with disabilities by 2025?

Over a year ago, on August 19, 2011, Premier Dalton McGuinty wrote the AODA Alliance to spell out his Government's twelve 2011 election promises on making Ontario fully accessible to all Ontarians with disabilities.  Premier McGuinty's August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, listing his party's disability accessibility 2011 election promises, is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

Here is our report card on how well the McGuinty Government has kept its 2011 election campaign promises on disability accessibility issues.

In reviewing these results, please keep several things in mind:

* The McGuinty Government has now completed one quarter of its full four-year term. It has three more years to fulfil all its promises, unless it calls an election sooner, or the opposition parties in this minority government situation force an earlier election.

* The fact that the McGuinty Government now only has a minority government since October 2011 doesn't excuse any delay in keeping Premier McGuinty's 2011 disability accessibility election promises. None of these promises require the Legislature to pass any legislation or hold any vote. These promises only require action by the Government itself, not by the Legislature.

In the 2011 election, Premier McGuinty didn't say he would keep all these promises only if he won a majority government. His August 19, 2011 letter to us promised the actions his Government would take "if re-elected." He and his party knew when they made these election promises that in the 2011 election, it was possible that they would only win a minority government.

* Neither opposition party has opposed the Government fulfilling any of these election commitments. Neither opposition party campaigned last year in opposition to these commitments. The NDP made a number of comparable election 2011 election commitments. In some areas, the NDP was prepared to go further than the McGuinty Government. To see  Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath's August 24, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her party's 2011 election promises on disability accessibility, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220112.asp

* The big provincial budget deficit does not justify the McGuinty Government delaying action to keep all these promises. The McGuinty Government intimately knew the Ontario budget situation on August 19, 2011, when it made its 2011 election promises to us. The McGuinty Liberals had been in power since 2003. They had full access to all of Ontario's financial information when they made these 2011 election promises. His Government cannot claim, as some new governments do, that when they took power, they were surprised to discover that the province's books were in worse condition than they anticipated while they were in opposition.

As well, an independent study by the Martin Prosperity Institute that the McGuinty Government commissioned, and which the McGuinty Government often itself cites with approval, shows convincingly that achieving accessibility produces net economic gains for Ontario. To read more about the 2010 independent assessment of the economic gains for Ontario of achieving accessibility for persons with disabilities, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06232010.asp

* The McGuinty Government was not made up of novices when it was sworn in after the 2011 election. It had been running the Government for eight years. Its cabinet members and their advisors were generally quite experienced in running the Government.

* The McGuinty Government has shown that it can act swiftly, boldly, and with determination on disability accessibility, when it wants to do so. After it first took office in October 2003, the McGuinty Government managed in less than a year to conduct a very extensive, open, accessible province-wide public consultation on what to include in its promised Disabilities Act. It held several public forums and stakeholder-roundtables. It made public the results of its consultations. It developed the proposed AODA. It got Government/Cabinet approval for it. It secured support from a number of stakeholders, like the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. It introduced the AODA into the Legislature for First Reading.

The McGuinty Government got this all done in under a year, even though its premier and most of its cabinet ministers (including the minister who developed the AODA, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni) had no prior experience running a Government. The history of the development of the AODA between 2003 and 2005 is available at: http://www.odacommittee.net

* The McGuinty Government has often reiterated its commitment to fulfil the AODA and its desire and claims to be a world leader in the area of achieving accessibility for persons with disabilities.

* As a non-partisan community coalition, we have tried to work constructively with the McGuinty Government to help it and encourage it to keep these election promises. These election promises were set out by the Premier in a letter to us, the AODA Alliance.

* We have done our best to be accurate in this report card, based on the public information the Government has given us. If the Government has done more on any of these issues than it has made public, we would be pleased to expand this report card accordingly.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT'S ACTION ON EACH OF ITS 2011 DISABILITY ACCESSIBILITY ELECTION PROMISES

1. PROMISE: To effectively enforce the AODA.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION: No action announced.

GRADE: Very poor. Promise not kept.

COMMENTS: The McGuinty Liberals have been promising effective enforcement of the Disabilities Act since they were in opposition before 2003. In the 2003 election, they promised to enact a Disabilities Act with effective enforcement. In 2005, they included a range of helpful enforcement tools in the AODA.

However, since the first accessibility standard went into operation over two and a half years ago, they have not fully, effectively and comprehensively implemented and deployed the enforcement tools they enacted in the AODA. They have made some use of these tools, but not on a scale, or with the needed measure of public accountability, to assure persons with disabilities that this legislation is being effectively enforced.

In the Integrated Accessibility Regulation, enacted in June 2011, before the 2011 election, the McGuinty Government included provisions on how to calculate/assess fines and penalties for those who violate an accessibility standard enacted under the AODA. However, the McGuinty Government has made no public statement on procedures for implementing these.

If a member of the public sees an organization violate the AODA or an accessibility standard under it, the Government has not publicized an avenue for that person to seek enforcement of the law, and an avenue to track what enforcement steps the Government takes as a result.

As one example, earlier this year, we made public a media report that states that London's municipal public transit agency was openly violating the requirement that it already have in place a system of priority or courtesy seating on its buses for passengers with disabilities. That article reported that London's public transit authority was not in compliance. It explained London's stated reasons for this, and indicated when that transit authority thought it would be in compliance.

We are aware of no public action by the Ontario Government to take proceedings against London's public transit authority for so openly violating the Integrated Accessibility Regulation enacted last year, if the media report is accurate. London's public transit authority was actively involved in the development of that accessibility standard. It could not have been caught by surprise by the requirement to provide courtesy seating for passengers with disabilities.

 To read the news report on London's public transit authority's delay in meeting the mandatory requirement for courtesy seating for passengers with disabilities, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04052012.asp

2. PROMISE: To maintain and/or strengthen and not to reduce any protections in the AODA or in regulations enacted under it.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

On August 15, 2012, the McGuinty Government posted for public comment a draft regulation that would, among other things, cut back on a protection which we won in the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Regulation. Specifically, it would reduce protections for persons with disabilities who need an educational institution to maintain accessible materials in its library collection.

Moreover, the McGuinty government proposes to amend the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Regulation, without complying with the guarantees we won in the AODA in 2005. Section 9 of the AODA requires a Standards Development Committee to review any amendments to an existing accessibility standard regulation, before they are passed. Here, the McGuinty Government proposed doing an end-run around that procedure.  For details on how the McGuinty Government's August 15, 2012 draft amendments to the Integrated Accessibility Regulation would cut back on gains that Ontarians with disabilities earlier won, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08292012.asp

GRADE: Very poor. Promise broken if the Government proceeds with its plan to amend the Integrated Accessibility Regulation, as it has proposed in its August 15, 2012 web posting.

COMMENTS: We hope that the McGuinty Government would want to set an example of strictly complying with the AODA on how to amend an existing accessibility standard. It is also quite troubling that the McGuinty Government would propose an amendment to the Integrated Accessibility Regulation to the public as "minor" and "technical" when in fact, it cuts back on protections Ontarians with disabilities won just last year.

3. PROMISE: To work together with us and other stakeholders to identify the next accessibility standards to be developed and enacted to bring Ontario to the goal of full accessibility by 2025.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

No action announced. No public consultation launched on which new accessibility standards should be developed next. No public response to our call for the Government to develop accessibility standards in the areas of access to education, to health care, and to residential housing.

GRADE: Promise not kept. Very poor.

COMMENTS: We have repeatedly pressed the Government to take action on this pledge. We have explained that the promised public consultation could be conducted quite quickly. ##We have generally seen a consensus within the disability community in support of the three new accessibility standards that we have proposed. We have seen  no major opposition to our proposals. It cannot possibly take the Government over a year to even start so simple a public consultation, much less to complete it.

The Government is well able to start work on developing new accessibility standards now, while it is still finalizing the promised and overdue Built Environment Accessibility Standard (addressed further below). In its last two terms in office, the McGuinty Government was able to work simultaneously on developing accessibility standards in the separate areas of transportation, employment, information and communication, and the built environment. The AODA requires the Government to be active on several accessibility fronts at the same time.

This unexplained and unjustified delay makes Ontario lag even further behind in reaching the mandatory goal of full accessibility by 2025.

4. PROMISE: As a priority, to promptly enact the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

The Government divided its proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard into two parts. The first deals with public spaces, such as outside buildings, that the Building Code does not address. The second deals with the inside of buildings, that the Building Code addresses.

On August 15, 2012, almost exactly one year after Premier McGuinty made this promise, the McGuinty Government posted for public comment a draft regulation under the AODA that would address built environment barriers in public spaces. It has not posted its proposed regulation that would address areas in buildings that the Building Code covers. It has not provided a specific answer when we have asked when this latter part of the Built Environment Accessibility Standard (which is its most substantial part) will be posted as a draft regulation for public comment.

To learn more about the Government's August 15, 2012 posting for public comment of a draft regulation to provide for accessibility of public spaces in the built environment, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08172012.asp

GRADE: Promise not yet kept. Poor, despite some progress by recently publicly posting a draft regulation to cover a limited part of the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

COMMENTS: It is of course helpful that the Community and Social Services Ministry has recently posted part of the draft Built Environment Accessibility Standard regulation for public comment. However, this is only a part of the entire package. Even then, it was posted a year after the Government promised to enact this entire standard "promptly" as a "priority."

This protracted delay is unjustified. The Built Environment Accessibility Standard has been under development for some four years. The Built Environment Standards Development Committee submitted its final proposal to the Government for a Built Environment Accessibility Standard over two years ago.

The Municipal Affairs and Housing Ministry has lead responsibility for the "Building Code" portion of this project. It should have developed expertise in this area, since it has had responsibility for barrier-free building design for many, many years. It also was involved as the Built Environment Standards Development Committee was developing its recommendations for the Government.

We have asked the Government to ensure that whatever provisions it includes in the Building Code to address accessibility of the built environment in this initiative, also be enacted as an accessibility standard under the AODA. The Government has not committed to do so. It has not yet answered this specific request.  Our most recent requests of the Government regarding the proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard are available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06042012.asp

If the government does not also replicate any changes to the Building Code's accessibility provisions as an accessibility standard under the AODA, then in the important area of accessibility of the built environment Ontarians with disabilities will be denied the important safeguards we fought for and won in the AODA. This includes, for example, a mandatory review of these requirements by a Standards Development Committee within five years. In effect, the government would have carved an important part of accessibility right out of the AODA.

5. PROMISE: To extend the Government's 2011 Ten-Year Infrastructure Plan to include a requirement that information technology infrastructure and electronic kiosks, acquired with Ontario public money, are accessible to persons with disabilities.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

The Ministry of Infrastructure, which has a lead role to play in this area, has not told us of any announcement or action taken since the 2011 election on this commitment. On December 2, 2011, we wrote Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli, to find out his plans for keeping this promise. The Infrastructure Minister's February 27, 2012 response did not say anything about what his Government plans to do to keep this election promise.

 You can see the AODA Alliance's December 2, 2011 letter to the Infrastructure Minister by visiting: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12052011.asp, The Infrastructure Minister's February 27, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05042012.asp

This election commitment overlaps two ministries. Therefore, we also wrote Minister of Government Services Harinder S. Takhar on December 2, 2011 to ask what plans his Ministry has to keep this promise, in the important area of Government procurement of goods and services. His Ministry has lead responsibility for the billions of public dollars that the Ontario Government annually spends to procure goods and services for use by the Ontario Public Service and by the public.

On January 18, 2012, the Government Services Minister responded in writing, stating: "…key procurement mechanisms, including vendor of record agreements, are incorporating accessibility requirements as they are renewed." This is helpful. However, it lacked much-needed detail. It didn't say what "accessibility requirements" are being incorporated, or whether they live up to the full accessibility obligations of the Ontario Human Rights Code. It fell short of our request in our December 2, 2011 letter to the minister for his ministry "to establish a strong, effective, monitored and enforced policy that ensures that the goods, services and facilities that the government procures are, to the extent possible, fully accessible to and fully usable by people with disabilities."

 The AODA Alliance's December 2, 2011 letter to the Government Services Minister is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12052011.asp The Government Services Minister's January 18, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05042012.asp

In a September 4, 2012 email to us, the Ministry of Government Services made public a series of steps it is taking, aiming at getting the Government to only procure accessible goods and services. That announcement is set out at the end of this Report Card. It also describes the Government's broader "Accessibility at Source" strategy that aims at ensuring that disability accessibility is taken into account in all major Government planning and decisions.

As far as we have been able to tell, the Government has not made any major Government announcement to the public (including to all potential suppliers of goods and services to the Government) that it only aims to purchase accessible products such as information technology and electronic kiosks. Such a much-needed series of announcements would help get prospective venders to organize themselves to meet these accessibility needs. This extremely low-cost action could make an important impact on motivating vendors to ensure that the goods and services they sell for all purchasers (not just for the Government), are fully accessible.

Grade: Very poor, insofar as the Infrastructure Ministry is concerned. More hopeful insofar as the Ministry of Government Services is concerned.

COMMENTS: We have been campaigning for years to ensure that no public money is ever used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities. The Government spends billions each year on infrastructure and on the procurement of goods and services.  To learn more about our frustrating multi-year uphill campaign to ensure that public money is never used in a way that sets back progress towards a fully accessible Ontario, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06202010.asp

The longer the Government delays comprehensive action on this front, the more new barriers persons with disabilities will have to face, that were inappropriately financed by the Ontario taxpayer.

Our concern about the risk of the Government spending public money to purchase or finance information technology and electronic kiosk technology without ensuring that it is fully accessible, is bearing out in practice. Here are two possible examples:

First, in 2010 we revealed to the public a substantial misuse of public money. The Government financed the creation of a new Presto Smart Card for passengers to use to pay public transit fares. The Presto Smart Card technology was designed under Government direction. The Ontario Government has been pressuring local public transit authorities to adopt the Presto Smart Card. It includes readily preventable barriers against persons with disabilities.

The McGuinty Government never acceded to our 2010 request that it halt deployment of the Presto Smart Card until barriers in that technology were removed. To date, we understand that under the impetus of the McGuinty Government, the deployment of the Presto Smart Card has been continuing and spreading. We continue to hear about complaints about its accessibility barriers.  To learn more about our campaign to stop the adoption of the Presto Smart Card until all its disability barriers are removed, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08122010.asp,  To learn more about how the McGuinty Government knew the Presto Smart Card included accessibility barriers before it launched this new publicly-funded technology, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08272010.asp

As a second example, we know the Government has invested enormous sums of public money into its new "E-Health" strategy. That project is aimed at creating a system for electronic medical and health records for Ontarians across Ontario. These can be accessed by health care providers and patients themselves. On December 2, 2011, we wrote Health Minister Deb Matthews to ask what plans the Government has to ensure that the E-Health electronic records system is fully accessible to persons with disabilities.

In her February 14, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Health Minister said: "In building the EHR, (i.e. Electronic Health Records system) we'll ensure compliance with the AODA and associated regulations so the EHR is fully accessible for all users across the system, from health care providers to patients." The Minister indicated no specific plans. Moreover, she did not indicate whether the E-Health system will go beyond the requirements of the AODA standards and meet the more immediate and more exacting requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code. She did not specify whether her ministry will aim to act more promptly than the excessively long time lines for accessible information technology set out in the Integrated Accessibility Regulation to which she referred.

 

 The AODA Alliance's December 2, 2011 letter to Health Minister Matthews is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12052011.asp,  The Health Minister's February 14, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05042012.asp

6. PROMISE: To create a full-time Assistant Deputy Minister position in the Ministry of Government Services responsible for accessibility of the Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION: No action announced.

GRADE: Very Poor. Promise not kept.

COMMENTS: In 2009, the McGuinty Government commendably created the new full time position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services responsible for Accessibility. It existed as a full time position until the fall of 2010.

The Government-appointed Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA, submitted to the Ontario Government in early 2010, called that position "vital." To read the Charles Beer 2010 Independent Review of the Implementation of the AODA, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05312010.asp

 To see the AODA Alliance's analysis of the Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06032010.asp

In the fall of 2010, the person in that Assistant Deputy Minister position chose to move on to another position. In response, the McGuinty Government unwisely downgraded that vital Assistant Deputy Minister position into a part-time post, diluted with other duties. Back on November 24, 2010, we wrote the McGuinty Government, to protest that action and to call for the restoration of that full time position.  The AODA Alliance's November 24, 2009 letter to the Deputy Minister of Government Services is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12012010.asp

It has been over a year since the Premier promised to restore this vital fulltime position. It is rare that a party leader makes a specific election commitment to create or restore a specific full time position. It is a commitment that is easy to identify. It is easy to track whether the promise has been kept.

We wrote Government Services Minister Harinder S. Takhar on December 2, 2011 to ask for his plans to restore this vital full time position. The Minister's January 18, 2012 response to us did not acknowledge this election pledge, nor did it say anything about his Government's plans to keep that pledge.

The AODA Alliance's December 2, 2011 letter to the Government Services Minister is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12052011.asp

 The Government Services Minister's January 18, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05042012.asp

7. PROMISE: To complete the review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers, which the McGuinty Government initially promised in the 2007 election, through the work of a central team, to have ministries report on their progress as part of their annual performance plans, and to pursue strategies to address defined barriers in an efficient and suitable manner.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

Government Services Minister Takhar committed in writing to the AODA Alliance in his January 18, 2012 letter to us "…to ensuring that no Ontario law creates accessibility barriers to people with disabilities." In that letter he also committed that: "Timelines for this review will be established early in the new year, following joint meetings of my ministry and the Ministry of the Attorney General."

On September 4, 2012, the Ministry of Government Services provided us with the following further information, on an understanding that we will be making this information public:

"The Ministry of Government Services and the Ministry of the Attorney General have developed a coordinated approach to continue with the next phase in the legislative review of accessibility barriers across government legislation. Recognizing the importance of addressing barriers in laws that have a high impact on members of the public and persons with disabilities (e.g. health, education, seniors, social services), by the end of 2014, ministries will review high impact statutes that meet the following criteria:

a.         Statutes that affect persons with disabilities directly;

b.         Statutes that provide for the delivery of widely-applicable services or programs;

c.         Statutes that provide benefits or protections; or

d.         Statutes that affect a democratic or civic right or duty.

Ministries will report their progress in reviewing both these high impact statutes, and any other laws they review, through their annual accessibility plans."

GRADE: Promise in the process of belatedly being kept. A potentially positive and hopeful situation. Long overdue, but signs of new progress.

COMMENTS: In the 2007 election, Premier McGuinty promised to review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers. Indeed all three parties made that commitment in that election. Premier McGuinty's September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance promised:

"Review all Ontario laws to find any disability accessibility barriers that need to be removed.

The Ontario Liberal government believes this is the next step toward our goal of a fully accessible Ontario. Building on our work of the past four years, we will continue to be a leader in Canada on accessibility issues. For Ontario to be fully accessible, we must ensure no law directly or indirectly discriminates against those with disabilities. To make that happen, we commit to reviewing all Ontario laws to find any disability barriers that need to be removed."

Premier McGuinty's September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his 2007 election promises, is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09142007.asp

As of the 2011 election, the McGuinty Government was very far behind in keeping that commitment. At its April 4, 2011 training session for public servants who were to conduct this review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers, a senior Ministry of Government Services official announced that each ministry was requested to complete a review of its own legislation by 2015, and a review of all regulations by 2020. These excessive deadlines were 8 and 13 years respectively from the Premier's 2007 promise to conduct this review. In contrast, in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues. The Government's protracted delay in getting started on this initiative was entirely unjustified.

 

This newly-announced focused effort is a helpful step forward. The criteria which the Government is using to select the next laws to review appear to be good ones. The Government's committing to make public their progress in their annual accessibility plans (which they must make public) is also helpful. This could set the stage for the government to bring forward an omnibus bill by 2014 to amend any laws that have barriers in them, that have been discovered by that time during this review process. We have urged the Government to use an omnibus bill to remove any barriers in Ontario laws that they find. However, the Government has not yet specifically committed to use an omnibus bill for that purpose.

 

8. PROMISE: To integrate accessibility as a fundamental principle when the Government is making vital decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

The Ministry of Government Services advises that it has established a new "Accessibility at Source" initiative, to embed accessibility in all major government decisions and planning, early in the planning process. This was publicly announced at a May 24, 2012 international conference on information technology. The Government's May 24, 2012 announcement of its "Accessibility at Source" strategy is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06292012.asp

In a September 4, 2012 email to the AODA Alliance, the Ministry of Government Services made public further information about this strategy, set out at the end of this Report Card.

Earlier this year, this commendable strategy (which evidently was adopted later, in May 2012) had clearly not yet taken full effect. For example, on December 3, 2011, we wrote Economic Development and Innovation Minister Brad Duguid, asking him to commit to make disability accessibility a core part of the Government's Economic Development and Innovation Agenda. Minister Duguid's January 16, 2012 response to us did not answer or even mention this specific request. Rather, it talked in very general terms about the Government's commitment to comply with accessibility standards enacted under the AODA.

 The AODA alliance's December 2, 2011 letter to the Economic Development and Trade Minister is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12052011.asp

 The Economic Development and Trade Minister's January 16, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05042012.asp

GRADE: Promising. Potential for real progress, if the "Accessibility at Source" strategy is actually deployed across Government, is monitored and is effectively enforced.

COMMENTS: Depending on whether the Government's commendable "Accessibility at Source" initiative is effectively followed across the Government, this could be very helpful and could significantly change how the Ontario Government addresses accessibility in its own operations. This in turn will depend on whether, and to what extent the Ontario Government monitors, enforces and publicly reports on its own compliance with this strategy.

9. PROMISE: To continue to build on progress on making municipal and provincial elections more accessible to voters with disabilities.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

No action publicly announced.

Elections Ontario is the independent public agency that is responsible for administering Ontario elections. The Ontario Government doesn't control what it does, except by legislation or persuasion.

Important 2010 amendments to the Elections Act, for which we fought long and hard, gave Elections Ontario a mandate to test accessible voting technologies like telephone and internet voting, starting in 2012. Over a year ago, Elections Ontario committed in writing that it planned to be ready to test that technology in a 2012 by-election.

Yet since then, Elections Ontario has refused to test internet and telephone voting as an option to promote accessibility for voters with disabilities and all voters in the September 6, 2012 Vaughan and Kitchener-Waterloo by-elections. Earlier this year, Elections Ontario categorically refused to test telephone and internet voting in any 2012 by-election.  To learn more about our unsuccessful efforts to get Elections Ontario to ensure fully accessible voting in the September 6, 2012 Ontario by-elections, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08272012.asp

The McGuinty Government has announced no action or plans regarding its commitment to increase accessibility of provincial elections. On the need to ensure the accessibility of municipal elections, on December 2, 2011, we wrote Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne, to ask for her plans for action to make municipal elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities. In her January 17, 2012 letter to us, the Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister did not announce any specific plans to explain what her Ministry plans to do to keep the Premier's August 19, 2011 election commitment to work on improving accessibility of municipal elections. The Minister said: "At this time, this ministry continues to monitor comments received by the public and will take them into consideration." She indicated no specific plans whatsoever for any action on this issue, or time frame for action.

 

The minister referred to the fact that local governments are responsible for operating their own local elections. Yet the Ontario Government has ultimate oversight over the entire municipal election process. It can pass legislation to set and enforce stronger mandatory province-wide accessibility requirements.

 

 The AODA Alliance's December 2, 2011 letter to the Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12052011.asp

 

 The Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister's January 17, 2012 letter to the AODA alliance is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05042012.asp

GRADE: Promise not kept. Very poor.

COMMENTS: The 13-year campaign for fully accessible elections for voters with disabilities, started in 1999 by our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, has seen no progress since the 2011 election. Where we were expecting progress based on earlier commitments from Elections Ontario, we have seen a major disappointment.

10. PROMISE: To raise with self-governing professional organizations, (e.g. those which govern architects, lawyers, doctors, nurses or social workers) the need to include in their professional training mandatory education on meeting the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

No action has been specifically announced, as far as we can tell.

On December 2, 2011, we wrote Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray to ask what plans he has to keep this promise. In his February 15, 2012 letter to us, he announced no specific plans. In that letter, Minister Murray only referred to accessibility training requirements in the new Integrated Accessibility Regulation and said generally: "I can confirm that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is working with my ministry and a number of partners to further curriculum development, including encouraging the implementation of accessibility practices and education into curriculum, as well as into business practices."

 

We received no specifics from the Minister on whether this has involved any approaches to any self-governing professional bodies, such as those that govern lawyers, architects, doctors or social workers. The Minister gave no details on future plans in this area.

 The AODA Alliance's December 2, 2011 letter to the Training, Colleges and Universities Minister is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12052011.asp

The Training, Colleges and Universities Minister's February 15, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05042012.asp

GRADE: Promise not kept. Very poor.

COMMENTS: It is very troubling that this simple yet important promise continues to languish unkept, with no explanation from the McGuinty Government for its inaction.

 

Premier McGuinty originally made this election promise in the 2007 election. His Government never kept that promise before the 2011 election. In the 2011 election, Premier reaffirmed all earlier promises. Thus this promise remains a live one.

 

Premier McGuinty's September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his 2007 election promises, is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09142007.asp

 

To see our efforts three years ago to find out what had been done to keep these commitments regarding professional education on accessibility, visit:http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07212009.asp

 

 To see the Government's largely non-responsive 2009 reply on professional education on accessibility, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11102009.asp

 

On November 12, 2010, almost two years ago, we wrote then Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur, to ask what plans the Government had to fulfil this unkept 2007 election promise before the 2011 election. Neither that Minister nor any other minister wrote us back in response to that letter.

 

 The AODA Alliance's November 12, 2010 letter to the Community and Social Services Minister is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11242010.asp

 

11. PROMISE: To ensure that school children in Ontario receive education on disability accessibility, and that this is included in the Ontario Government's "Character Education Curriculum" for Ontario schools.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

On December 2, 2011, we wrote Education Minister Laurel Broten to ask what plans the Government has for keeping this 2007 election Commitment. The Education Minister wrote us on March 2, 2012. On this election promise, she stated:

a) "…further information has now been included in the introductory material of curriculum documents. For example, in the Grades 1-8, Health and Physical Education, Interim Edition (2010) document, there is a section entitled Planning the Use of Facilities and Equipment. Also, within this document you will see specific expectations, including teacher prompts that assist students in understanding accessibility. The document is available at www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health.html In addition, as we revise other documents, there is a greater focus within the curriculum expectations for teachers and students to discuss information and supports relating to disability accessibility."

b) "The Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) is implementing a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to build accessibility awareness among Ontario's children, youth and young adults. The strategy is being enacted through a series of partnership projects involving education sector organizations and targeted stakeholder outreach. Through its Enabling Change Partnership Program, MCSS has partnered with the Ontario Education Services Corporation to develop training resources that will support all school boards in their compliance with the IASR, and to create a curriculum promoting accessibility awareness among school children from Kindergarten to Grade 12."

GRADE: Overdue helpful action has recently been taken on this 2007 election promise, but we do not know to what extent these promised curriculum materials are actually reaching children in classrooms across Ontario.

COMMENTS: This is another election promise that dates back to the October 2007 election. His Government did not keep that promise before the 2011 election. In the 2011 election, Premier McGuinty reaffirmed all earlier promises.

To see our 2009 efforts to find out what had been done to keep the 2007 election promise regarding education in schools on accessibility, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07212009.asp

 

To see the Government's largely non-responsive 2009 reply to our efforts to learn about action on the 2007 election promise on accessibility education for school children, visit:http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11102009.asp

 

On November 12, 2010, almost two years ago, we wrote then Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur to ask what plans the Government had to fulfil this election promise before the 2011 election. Neither that Minister nor any other minister wrote us back in response to that letter. The AODA Alliance's November 12, 2010 letter to the Community and Social Services Minister is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11242010.asp

It is not evident whether the Ministry of Education has amended the provincial "Character Education Curriculum," as the Premier had pledged in his September 14, 2007 election platform letter to us. If the measures that Education Minister Broten reported to us actually reach all school children, then whether it is done via the Character Education Curriculum as promised, or through other teaching materials, may not be as important.

12. PROMISE: To continue making progress under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ACTION ANNOUNCED/IMPLEMENTED SINCE THE 2011 ELECTION:

On November 1, 2011, we wrote the new Community and Social Services Minister, John Milloy. He has lead responsibility for implementing the AODA. We listed priorities for meeting this and other election commitments that may fall within his Ministry. In addition to other actions listed earlier in this Report Card, we urged him in that letter to:

a) Implement the recommendations of the 2009 report of the Charles Beer Independent Review into the AODA.

b) Make publicly available, as soon as possible, tools and guides to help public and private sector organizations comply with the two existing accessibility standards enacted under the AODA, and especially the new Integrated Accessibility Regulation.

c) Launch an effective public education campaign, including supporting speeches by members of the Legislature, to the public, on the benefits and importance of removing and preventing barriers against persons with disabilities.

The AODA Alliance's November 1, 2011 letter to the new Community and Social Services Minister, John Milloy, is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11012011.asp

Action that the Government has publicly indicated that it has taken includes:

* In late July 2012, more than a full year after the Integrated Accessibility Regulation was enacted, the Community and Social Services Ministry posted on the internet a guide to assist public and private sector organizations to comply with the Integrated Accessibility Regulation, as well as an "AODA Wizard" for the same purpose. The Integrated Accessibility Regulation was enacted in June 2011, to address barriers impeding persons with disabilities in the areas of transportation, employment, and information and communication.

From what we can tell, the McGuinty Government has done very little if anything to publicize these materials, so that public and private sector organizations can learn about them and benefit from them. It has not, to our knowledge, even issued a news release to let the public know about them. In contrast, the AODA Alliance, an unfunded volunteer community coalition, appears to have taken upon itself to do more than has the McGuinty Government to publicize these overdue important, new Government resources.

It took the McGuinty Government over a full year to develop and post these materials.

* On May 24, 2012, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Community and Social Services for the Accessibility Directorate Ellen Waxman announced at an international conference on accessible information technology at OCAD University in Toronto that the Government aims to establish a new structure for developing accessibility standards under the AODA in 2013. In 2010, the Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA recommended that instead of creating a separate Standards Development Committee for each new accessibility standard to be developed, the Government should appoint a single independent body to develop all new accessibility standards. We have endorsed that proposal, so long as there are no amendments to the AODA itself.  Assistant Deputy Community and Social Services Minister Ellen Waxman's speech at the May 24, 2012 OCAD University Conference on Accessible Information Technology is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06292012.asp

Most recently, the Government advised us on August 30, 2012 as follows:

"Our government is moving ahead with recommendations to harmonize and streamline the standards development process made by Mr. Charles Beer in his independent review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We are moving forward on establishing a single body to oversee the development and review of accessibility standards in Ontario."

* The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has been working on a range of projects to develop supports for implementing the AODA with private sector and public sector partners, under its "Enabling Change" program.  More information about the Ontario Government's Enabling Change Program is available from the Government at: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/partnerships/EnablingChange/index.aspx

* Since the 2011 election, we have not seen the Government launch any major new broad strategy for educating the public about accessibility and the AODA, as the Charles Beer Independent Review had recommended. The new Minister, John Milloy has given a series of media interviews about this. Some of his earlier interviews raised some concerns for us. His later interviews of which we are aware alleviated those concerns.

GRADE: Poor, except regarding the anticipated new process for developing accessibility standards, which is promising, as well as efforts under the Enabling Change Program. Those two positive initiatives do not fully address the needs addressed here.

COMMENTS: The Community and Social Services Ministers and Ministry's progress over the past year has been far too slow. This is contributing to Ontario falling further and further behind in meeting its mandatory goal of full accessibility by 2025.

CONCLUDING COMMENT

The best recommendations to address the performance of the McGuinty Government in its first year of this term in office are those which the Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA's Implementation offered the Government in early 2010. The Government has yet to act on several of those 2010 recommendations.

The Beer Independent Review Report identified specific, serious deficiencies with the Government’s implementation of the AODA to date. It found a troubling lack of knowledge within society about the obligation to provide accessibility, even so many years after the AODA was enacted.

The Beer Independent Review Report found some two and a half years ago that Ontario needs new, stronger leadership on the accessibility issue from the Ontario Government. It identified a need for the Government to “breathe new life into the AODA.” It concluded that the AODA’s implementation needed revitalization. It found that “transformative change (i.e. in how the Government implements the AODA) is necessary to achieve accessibility by 2025.” What was needed is clearly much more than mere tinkering with the way the Government had been implementing the AODA to up until then. The Beer Report's recommendations remain as current and pressing now as when they were delivered to the Government over two and a half years ago. This Report Card reinforces the Beer Report's conclusions and recommendation.

Under the AODA, the Government was required to appoint an independent person to conduct a inquiry into the question of how effectively the Government was implementing the AODA. The Government selected Charles Beer to conduct that review.  The final report of the Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05312010.asp

*****

ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE MINISTRY OF GOVERNMENT SERVICES ON ITS "ACCESSIBILITY AT SOURCE" CAMPAIGN

(NOTE: The term "OPS" here refers to the Ontario Public Service.)

"Ensuring the Ontario Government Only Procures Goods, Services and Facilities that are Accessible or that Will Be Made Accessible"

In May 2012, the OPS launched the Accessibility @ Source campaign. The campaign is designed to drive long-term sustainable culture change in the OPS by providing OPS managers and staff with the practical tools and resources needed to consider accessibility in everything they do.

Accessibility@Source will help staff answer the questions:

           Why is accessibility relevant to me?

           What are some of the barriers to accessibility?

           What can I do to make my work processes more accessible?

           How do I do it and where can I learn more?

The campaign began with a focus on “Considering Accessibility in Procurement” and will continue with a range of topics throughout the year including Accessible Documents; Accessible Employment; Communications Supports and Customer Service.

Ministries were provided with materials, presentation decks and posters to promote the campaign in their ministry. Deputy Ministers were encouraged to discuss accessibility in procurement in their respective blogs encouraging all staff to further their commitment to accessibility in procurement.

Accessibility@Source demonstrates the OPS’ leadership in the area of accessibility and will act as a model for other obligated organizations across Ontario.

How the OPS is “Ensuring that Accessibility is Taken into Account in All Major Government Decisions"

To ensure that all government decisions consider accessibility, the OPS Inclusion Lens has been embedded in the Cabinet Submission and Results-Based Planning Templates. Disability is one of the dimensions of the lens that helps ensure government policies do not contain barriers for persons with disabilities.

The OPS is also using a rigorous process for reporting compliance with the AODA. It requires each ministry to attest to the obligations under the regulations of the AODA. Annually, this process ensures that all ministries are aware of new requirements that are coming into force and are taking actions to meet compliance by the legislated deadlines.