ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
SEND US FEEDBACK ON OUR DRAFT BRIEF ON THE GOVERNMENT’S SUMMARY OF PROPOSED INTEGRATED ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD
September 15, 2010
We are very eager for your feedback. The AODA Alliance has just prepared a draft brief to the Ontario Government. It offers our input on the Government’s September 2, 2010 summary of its proposed integrated accessibility standard.
We want to know what you think of our draft brief. Are there things we should add or change? The Government has given the public until October 16, 2010 to submit any responses to its summary of the proposed integrated accessibility standard. We therefore need your feedback by October 1, 2010 so we can do our best to prepare our final brief to the Government on schedule. You can download our draft brief as an MS Word file by clicking here:
Send your feedback on this draft brief to us at:
On September 2, 2010, the Government made public a summary of its proposed integrated accessibility standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This standard is intended to address barriers that persons with disabilities face when seeking to access transportation, information and communication, and employment. You can see the Government’s summary of the proposed integrated accessibility standard for a limited time on the Government’s website at:
You can also find it on our website at:
Our draft brief shows that the Government’s proposed integrated accessibility standard is very weak. Its accessibility requirements are inadequate. Its time lines are far too long. It falls well short of what the Ontario Human Rights requires for the removal and prevention of barriers against persons with disabilities. It is a real let-down. We need the proposed integrated accessibility standard substantially strengthened.
Our draft brief builds on the briefs we earlier submitted, based on your input, on the earlier proposals for accessibility standards to address barriers facing persons with disabilities in the areas of transportation, information and communication, and employment. Those earlier briefs are all on our website, and are extensively quoted in this new draft brief. Just as we have benefitted from your feedback in the past, we are eager for it now.
We set out below a summary of our draft brief’s findings and recommendations. In our draft brief itself, you can see a full discussion of each of the 65 proposed recommendations. Appendix 1 at the back of the brief lists all the recommendations in one place.
Please remember that what we have prepared is only a draft. It is not our final product. We are making it available for your discussion and feedback. It is not yet our final position.
To make our draft brief easier to read, we have put a lot of background information in endnotes, rather than in the text. That is why the brief itself is just over 50 pages long, with over 30 pages of endnotes.
In addition to what you find in our draft brief, we continue to urge organizations with specialized expertise in specific disabilities to themselves let the Government know about any more detail regarding their accessibility needs.
This is one of the most important phases in our campaign to date to get the AODA effectively implemented. Your feedback to us on this draft brief will help us make it as good as possible. We also encourage you to use our draft brief as you develop your own submissions to the Government in response to the proposed integrated accessibility standard.
General Themes in Our Draft Brief
Here are the general themes in our feedback on the Government's Summary of the proposed integrated accessibility standard:
- The proposed integrated accessibility standard includes some helpful ingredients. It speaks to a number of areas where persons with disabilities encounter barriers.
Nevertheless, it is a tremendous let-down. Many of its provisions are weak or will be very difficult to enforce. The time lines for compliance are far too lengthy and unjustifiable. It does not reflect the range of needs and concerns that the disability community raised over and over again during the standards development process.
- This proposed standard will not put Ontario in any position to claim that it is a world leader in advancing accessibility. The proposed integrated accessibility standard will not ensure full accessibility of transportation, or information and communication, or employment, by 2025, as the AODA requires. Indeed, it will not ever ensure the full accessibility which Ontarians with disabilities were promised by the McGuinty Government and which the AODA requires.
- The proposed integrated accessibility standard falls far short of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code, including in the context of specific barriers that the integrated accessibility standard addresses. For public sector organizations, it also falls short of requirements under the Charter of Rights. As such, if an organization fully complies with the weak and limited requirements in the proposed integrated accessibility standard, it will still be quite exposed to litigation, including successful claims, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and in the case of public sector organizations, the Charter of Rights. If obligated organizations do no more than the proposed integrated accessibility standard requires, and only follow the time lines in the integrated accessibility standard, they can expect human rights claims. The AODA was intended to reduce the need for persons with disabilities to resort to battling barriers one-at-a-time by human rights litigation.
- The proposed standard is in some respects weaker than the final proposals which were submitted to the Government in the areas of transportation, information and communication, and employment, by the three Standards Development Committees appointed for that purpose. The Government has not offered any public explanation why it has rejected the advice of those bodies which it hand-picked. This, regrettably, is in line with the Government’s rejecting key parts of the advice of Charles Beer’s Independent Review on the AODA earlier this year. This proposed integrated accessibility standard is so problematic that it further shows the need for the Government to make transformative changes to the way it implements the AODA, as the Charles Beer Independent Review recommended. To read about the Government-appointed Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA, visit:
- As this brief documents, the Government has rejected much if not most of the input it received from us on the final proposals for accessibility standards on transportation, information and communication and employment. It appears to have sided with obligated organizations rather than with persons with disabilities in connection with many if not most key issues. It appears at many points to be designed more to set out what obligated organizations are now doing, or Aare prepared to voluntarily do, rather than what persons with disabilities need them to do, and what they can do.
- In one of the three areas that this accessibility standard addresses, access to employment, the provisions for the most part do not even do what an accessibility standard is supposed to do under the AODA. An accessibility standard is supposed to identify barriers in the regulated area that are to be removed, and to set out measures to be taken, and time lines for taking them, to remove and prevent those barriers. The employment provisions in the integrated accessibility standard for the most part do not do this. Instead, they address the implementation of an employer’s duty to accommodate workers and job applicants with disabilities, as imposed by the Human Rights Code.
- There is a risk that this integrated accessibility standard, if enacted in the terms proposed by the Government, could in some ways set back the cause of accessibility. Regrettably, too many organizations do not realize they have to provide accessibility under the Human Rights Code. They assume that the only accessibility requirements that they need to obey are those enacted under the AODA. This can be so, even though the AODA and this proposed standard do not claim to override the Human Rights Code. If those organizations think they can wait to meet these requirements until the deadlines set out in it, the integrated accessibility standard will lead to delays in the provision of accessibility, contrary to the purpose of this legislation. Making this worse, the standard’s training requirements do not require any training on the Human Rights Code. As such, the training conducted under this standard will tend to reinforce the misconception of many that the Human Rights Code does not impose obligations here.
- The time lines in this standard fly in the face of the McGuinty Government’s 2003 election pledge to Ontarians with disabilities. In the 2003 election, Dalton McGuinty promised that the AODA would fulfil the 11 principles for this law that the Ontario Legislature unanimously adopted on October 29, 1998.
List of Major Problems with the Proposed Integrated Accessibility Standard Identified in this Draft Brief
These are the major focused concerns with the proposed integrated accessibility standard that this brief identifies:
- The standard does not apply to all organizations to whom it should apply.
- The class structure is not flexible enough.
- The requirement for each organization to have an accessibility policy is too vague and weak.
- The provision on public sector organizations’ procuring goods, services and facilities is too weak.
- Provisions on accessibility of electronic kiosks are far too weak.
- Accessibility plan requirements are too weak.
- Accessibility plans and policies need not be posted on an organization’s website.
- Training provisions need significant strengthening.
- The goal of the information and communication requirements is too weak.
- Information and communication requirements should fully apply to employment and the provision of facilities, not just goods and services.
- The standard incorrectly assumes all people with disabilities have access to the internet.
- It is insufficient to provide information “in a manner that takes into account a person’s disability.”
- Blanket exemption for commercial products and product labels, is overbroad.
- Requirements are insufficient for notifying public of availability of information in alternative format.
- Website accessibility requirements are too weak.
- Provisions on accessibility of educational/training materials need broadening.
- Provisions on accessible collections and on public libraries is far too narrow.
- The standard leaves out other key information and communication requirements we earlier proposed.
- The purpose for employment accessibility requirements is too narrow.
- Employment provisions must be expanded to require employers to pro-actively identify, remove and prevent workplace barriers.
- Provisions on general workplace accommodation need to be strengthened.
- Provisions on addressing workplace information and communication access are too narrow.
- The return to work provision requires strengthening.
- Provisions on performance management, career development and redeployment are very weak.
- There is no provision for government-sponsored disability job-seeking network.
- The purpose of transportation provisions is far too weak.
- The standard addresses some vehicle accessibility issues under another law, denying Ontarians with disabilities protections won in the AODA.
- Provisions on ensuring availability of accessible taxis are woefully inadequate.
- Provisions on access to para-transit services are very inadequate.
- The standard should ban any new public transit fare payment and route information technology unless it is fully accessible.
- The requirement for public transit authorities to consult people with disabilities on accessibility plans is too weak.
- Mass transit emergency response requirements are not sufficiently detailed.
- Provisions on availability of and maintenance of public transit accessibility equipment and features lack teeth.
- Accessible boarding/de-boarding requirements need more precision.
- Public transit vehicle signage and lighting requirements are inadequate.
- Provisions on light, intercity and commuter rail lines are too weak.
- Voluntary and faith-based transportation as well as emergency response vehicles are unjustifiably excluded from transportation accessibility requirements.
- Provisions on support persons on public transit are helpful but need more detail.
- The standard does not require existing transit stops or stations to be made accessible.
- There is no provision for public transit authorities to self-monitor their compliance with accessibility requirements.
- The Licensing appeal tribunal is the wrong choice for tribunal to hear AODA appeals.
- Maximum administrative penalties are too low.
- Enforcement provisions give no opportunities or rights to people with disabilities who encounter barriers.
Summary of Our Draft Brief’s 65 Recommendations
Our 65 recommendations in this brief are summarized as follows:
- The standard’s provisions on identifying, removing and preventing barriers in the areas of transportation, information and communication, and employment should all be significantly broadened, strengthened, and infused with more details and specifics.
- In the case of accessibility to employment, the standard should require public sector employers and larger private sector employers to take pro-active measures to survey their workplace for barriers, to remove existing ones and to prevent new barriers from being created.
- Provisions in the standard should be strengthened to ensure that electronic self-serve kiosks are fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and to ensure that governments do not use public money to create, exacerbate or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.
- Time lines for complying with the standard should be substantially reduced.
- The standard should establish a new tribunal, not the provincial Licensing Appeal Tribunal, to hear AODA appeals, that has expertise in disability accessibility, accommodation, and related human rights issues.
- The maximum administrative monetary penalties for violating accessibility standards should be raised.
- The standard should be amended to ensure that persons with disabilities who are the victims of a barrier have a clear avenue to lodge complaints, have their views heard, and be notified about the ongoing status of the case, including any final dispositions and appeals.