ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

AODA Alliance Writes the Ontario Minister of Education, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (who is also the Minister of Research and Innovation) and the Minister of Health to Identify Key Disability Accessibility Priorities for Their Ministries

September 22, 2014

Summary

With a battery of new cabinet ministers getting up to speed on their new jobs after the 2014 Ontario election, we have written all key Ontario Government ministries to identify important steps they must take to keep the Government's promises on disability accessibility. This is part of our effort to help ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible to persons with disabilities on or before 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

Our letters to these cabinet ministers are all based on the Government's promises to us on disability accessibility, and on our detailed roadmap on how to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. That roadmap is set out in our 368 page June 30, 2014 brief to the Independent Review which the Government appointed Mayo Moran to conduct. You can find our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302014-Final-Brief-Mayo-Moran-AODA.doc
 
Three more of these letters are set out below. They are addressed to Liz Sandals, the Minister of Education, to Reza Moridi, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and of Research and Innovation, and to Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Health.

We urge the Minister of Education to:

  1. Support our Call for the Government to Enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
  2. Ensure All Ontario School Children Receive Education on Disability Accessibility

We asked the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and of Research and Innovation to:

  1. Support our Call for the Government to Enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
  2. Advocate to Self-Governing Professions to Include Disability Accessibility Training for their Members
  3. Ensure Disability Accessibility is a Key Focus of Research and Innovation Programs and Projects that the Government Operates or Finances

We urge the President of Treasury Board to:

  1. Implement Strong, Monitored Measures for Ensuring That All Ontario Government Programs are Used Effectively to Ensure that Ontario Becomes Fully Accessible by 2025.
  2. Ensure that No Public Money is Ever Used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers against Persons with Disabilities.

Here is how to check out our other letters to the Government that we earlier made public:

To read the AODA Alliance's August 14, 2014 letter to Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid.

To read the AODA Alliance's August 28, 2014 letter to the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games Minister Michael Coteau.

To read the AODA Alliance's September 12, letter to the Government and Consumer Services Minister David Orazietti.

To read the AODA Alliance's September 16, 2014 letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Ted McMeekin.

To read the AODA Alliance's September 16, 2014 letter to International Trade Minister Michael Chan.

To read the AODA Alliance's September 16, 2014 letter to Ontario Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur.

To read the AODA Alliance's September 16, 2014 letter to Treasury Board President Deb Matthews.

So what does the accessibility clock report today? A worrisome 308 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. Two hundred and fourteen days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan "in short order."

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement.

To read the Government's February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in "short order" its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act.

As well, 390 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 291 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!

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MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance's September 16, 2014 Letter to the Minister of Education

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

September 16, 2014

Via email: Liz.Sandals@ontario.ca

Hon. Liz Sandals
Minister of Education
22nd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2

Dear Minister:

Re: Important Measures for which your Ministry is Responsible for Ensuring Ontario Becomes Fully Accessible to People with Disabilities

I write on behalf of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. We are a non-partisan, volunteer coalition which united to advocate for a fully-accessible Ontario for all people with disabilities. Your Government set out election commitments on disability accessibility in letters to our coalition, including in the most recent Ontario election.

Please accept our congratulations on your re-appointment as Minister of Education. In this capacity, you have lead responsibility for an area pivotal to support your government's agenda of achieving a fully-accessible Ontario by 2025. We wish to work closely with you, to assist in achieving that goal.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which your Government was proud to enact in 2005, requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible for all persons with disabilities no later than 2025. Ontario is now clearly behind schedule. It needs renewed Government leadership to speed up action on accessibility. To see how and why Ontario is so clearly behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and what can be done across the Ontario Government to fix this, we invite you to examine our 368-page brief to the Independent Review of the AODA which your Government appointed University of Toronto's Dean Mayo Moran to conduct. You can find our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302014-Final-Brief-Mayo-Moran-AODA.doc
 
In this letter we outline several key priority areas requiring your immediate leadership and action.

1. Support our Call for the Government to Enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We ask you to support our call for the development of an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Help us remove the bureaucratic roadblocks that to date have prevented us from getting the development of such an accessibility standard underway.

As you know, we have pressed since at least 2011, if not earlier, for the next AODA accessibility standards to include, among others, one that would directly address barriers that impede people with disabilities in the important area of education. We would be delighted to work with you and your ministry on moving such an initiative forward, in conjunction with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

As you know, Ontario's education system has not been comprehensively examined from top to bottom for many years if not decades, for accessibility barriers. There has not been a comprehensive review, nor a comprehensive plan put in place, to ensure that all of Ontario's schools and school programs are designed and operated based on principles of universal design for persons with disabilities, and to ensure that students with disabilities have timely access to individualized accommodations they need, where appropriate. An effective Education Accessibility Standard could help save public funds, by eliminating the need for each school board to have to re-invent the same accessibility wheel in community after community.

You can spring into action right away on this. You need no briefings to bring you up to speed. You are well-informed on this issue, and are well-positioned to advocate for this within your Government.

Your Government has received letters of support calling for the development of an AODA Education Accessibility Standard, from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF- representing English public high school teachers), the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO -representing English public elementary school teachers), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA -representing English Catholic elementary and high school teachers) and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA -representing university professors and librarians across Ontario). This demonstrates overwhelming support for the need for an Education Accessibility Standard.

To read the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association’s endorsement of our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.

To read the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario’s endorsement of our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.

To read the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation's letter, endorsing our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.

To read the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association letter endorsing our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.

In her May 14, 2014 letter to us, setting out your Government's 2014 accessibility election pledges, Premier Wynne committed:

"The next accessibility standard we will develop will focus on education and/or health."

She also stated in that letter that the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, (which has lead responsibility for the AODA's implementation and enforcement) had already been actively working with the Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, among others, "to examine where changes and new standards are required to make our education and healthcare systems more accessible."

Premier Wynne's May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out your Government's 2014 accessibility election pledges, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp

Two weeks after the Premier wrote us during the election campaign, we received a stronger public election commitment from the Liberal Party. On May 31, 2014, we received two tweets from Ontario Liberal candidate, Cabinet minister, and former president of the Ontario Liberal Party, Yasir Naqvi. He said that a Liberal Government, if re-elected, would create a standard for both health care and education. His two May 31, 2014 tweets, separately sent to both the AODA Alliance and to its chair, David Lepofsky, stated:

"Yasir Naqvi: @DavidLepofsky Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education and health standards."

And

"Yasir Naqvi: @aodaalliance Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education & health standards."

We immediately made this Twitter exchange public. We announced this development on Twitter and in our May 31, 2014 AODA Alliance Update. We stated:

"Tweets are on the public record. We will hold the Liberal Party to this new, strengthened commitment. We know the parties track Twitter activity on the election, including ours."

We immediately and repeatedly tweeted back to confirm this commitment, both to Mr. Naqvi and to Premier Wynne. No one denied or tried to walk back this stronger commitment. We hold the Government to it.

Your Government is therefore on the record as agreeing to develop the next accessibility standards in both the areas of health care and education. People with disabilities should not have to face a cruel choice of whether they will achieve accessibility to education but not health care, or accessibility to health care, but not education. The Government has never put such a choice to Ontarians who have no disability.

Well over four years have passed since any Standards Development committee has met to develop proposals for the content of a new accessibility standard under the AODA. It has taken longer for the Government to decide which accessibility standards to develop next than it takes to actually develop an entire accessibility standard.

At the present rate, Ontario's education system will not become fully accessible by 2025. Ontarians, including Ontarians with disabilities, cannot afford to wait any longer for action to ensure that Ontario's education system becomes fully accessible no later than 2025.

Your Government has stated that accessibility for people with disabilities is a top priority. This is a great opportunity to put those words into action.

2. Ensuring All Ontario School Children Receive Education on Disability Accessibility

We would also welcome the opportunity to work with you on fulfilling your government's as-yet unkept 2007 election commitment (re-affirmed in the 2011 election) on ensuring that students in the school system receive curriculum on disability accessibility. In his September 14, 2007 letter to us, setting out your party's accessibility commitments in that election, Premier McGuinty wrote:

"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."

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

In the 2011 election, Premier McGuinty re-affirmed his commitment to all previous pledges made to us. In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, setting out your party's 2011 election commitments on disability accessibility, Premier McGuinty wrote:

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

Premier McGuinty's August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

This promise remains alive. When she was running for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne pledged to us in writing on December 3, 2012 that she would keep all of your Party's prior commitments on disability accessibility. Kathleen Wynne's December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp

Over seven years have passed since this promise was initially made. As far as we have been able to ascertain, this promise remains unkept. We need you to act now to keep it.

Over five years ago, on July 20, 2009, we wrote previous Education Minister, Kathleen Wynne. We sought an update on what your government had been doing to keep that election commitment, and asked about its future plans on this pledge. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07212009.asp link.

Regrettably, the reply we received from Minister Wynne dated September 15, 2009 was entirely unresponsive to this inquiry. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11102009.asp

Over a year later, on November 12, 2010, we wrote previous Minister of Community and Social Services (then responsible for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act), Madeleine Meilleur. We sought, among other things, an update on your government's actions to date and future plans on this 2007 election commitment. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11242010.asp

Minister Meilleur never wrote to us in response to that letter.

On December 2, 2011, we wrote then-Minister of Education Laurel Broten to yet again ask what is being done to keep this promise. In her March 2, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance in response, Minister Broten said this about this topic:

"The letter mentions ensuring that students in the school system receive curriculum on disability accessibility. This ministry continues to work on accessibility issues in the education setting.

I am pleased to inform you that 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."

We have no indication from the Government that any of this ever led any students in Ontario to actually receive any educational instruction on disability accessibility.

In the same vein, we have been trying without success to get the Ontario Government to establish a comprehensive plan for a strong, effective disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Among other things, we have urged the Government to do what it can to expand inclusive and accessible activities in Ontario school physical education programs, and to use the 2015 Toronto Games to educate school children across Ontario on the capacity of persons with disabilities to fully participate in sports and physical education. To date, all that the Government has reported to us, is the following, which falls far short of what we need, according to the April 15, 2014 email to the AODA Alliance from then Deputy Minister for the 2015 Games, Steven Davidson:

"Pan Am/Parapan Am Kids

Launched December 2013, the Pan Am/Parapan Am Kids program has now reached over 15,000 kids at over 350 after school programs. The initiative is designed to get kids of all abilities active, expose them to the cultures of the Pan Americas and create opportunities for community celebration. The program supports increased awareness and access to parasport, including instruction and participation in sitting volleyball, goalball, and boccia. Program resources are reflective of all students, and include adaptations to meet the needs of youth with disabilities. The initiative will continue post-Games."

3. Next Steps

We would be delighted to work with you and your ministry in any way we can, to assist you in promoting this agenda. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

We have often written Ontario cabinet ministers, to make constructive proposals for specific actions on accessibility. To often our letters have simply been routed to a communications branch official for a "public relations" response. We too often end up receiving a letter, authored by communications officials, that thanks us for writing, praises our advocacy on accessibility, and voices support for making Ontario accessible. Such letters then simply repeat lists of things the Government has already done or promised. Too often these responses do not actually answer our inquiries or proposals.

Please don't let that happen here. We are eager to know what you are open to doing from among the proposals we here set out. We would be happy to discuss our ideas with you. Your Ministry officials have been brief over and over on these issues, so they should be able to bring you and your office up to speed in very short order.

We would welcome the chance to work together with you on taking bold new action on accessibility.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont,
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

c:          Premier Kathleen Wynne
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email brad.duguid@ontario.ca
George Zegarac, Deputy Minister of Education email george.zegarac@ontario.ca
Giles Gherson, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email giles.gerson@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario email ann.hoy@ontario.ca

Text of the AODA Alliance's September 16, 2014 Letter to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and of Research and Innovation

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com <mailto:aodafeedback@gmail.com>
Visit: www.aodalliance.org <http://www.aodalliance.org

September 16, 2014

Via email - reza.moridi@ontario.ca

Hon. Reza Moridi
Minister of Training, Colleges & Universities
Minister of Research and Innovation
12th Floor, Ferguson Block
77 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1N3

Dear Minister:

Re: Important Measures for which your Ministry is Responsible for Ensuring Ontario Becomes Fully Accessible to People with Disabilities

I write on behalf of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. We are a non-partisan, volunteer coalition which united to advocate for a fully-accessible Ontario for all people with disabilities. Your Government set out election commitments on disability accessibility in letters to our coalition, including in the most recent Ontario election.

Please accept our congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and of Research and Innovation. In this capacity, you have lead responsibility for several important areas needed to support your government's agenda of achieving a fully-accessible Ontario by 2025. We wish to outline these, and offer to work closely with you, to assist in their achievement.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which your Government was proud to enact in 2005, requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible for all persons with disabilities no later than 2025. Ontario is now clearly behind schedule. It needs renewed Government leadership to speed up action on accessibility. To see how and why Ontario is so clearly behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and what can be done across the Ontario Government to fix this, we invite you to examine our 368-page brief to the Independent Review of the AODA which your Government appointed University of Toronto's Dean Mayo Moran to conduct. You can find our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302014-Final-Brief-Mayo-Moran-AODA.doc
 
In this letter we outline several key priority areas requiring your immediate leadership and action.

1. Support our Call for the Government to Enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We ask you to now support our call for the development of an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Help us remove the bureaucratic roadblocks that to date have prevented us from getting the development of such an accessibility standard underway.

We have pressed since at least 2011, if not earlier, for the next AODA accessibility standards to include, among others, one that would directly address barriers that impede people with disabilities in the important area of education. This is needed to address not only the barriers that impede persons with disabilities in Ontario schools, but also in post-secondary educational institutions and job training programs. We would be delighted to work with you and your ministry on moving such an initiative forward, in conjunction with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Minister of Education.

Ontario's post-secondary education system has not been comprehensively examined from top to bottom for many years if not decades, for accessibility barriers. There has not been a comprehensive review, nor a comprehensive plan put in place, to ensure that Ontario's post-secondary educational institutions and their programs are designed and operated based on principles of universal design for persons with disabilities, and to ensure that students with disabilities have timely access to individualized accommodations they need, where appropriate. An effective Education Accessibility Standard could help save public funds, by eliminating the need for each college, university and other training organizations to have to re-invent the same education accessibility wheel in community after community.

You can spring into action right away on this. Your Ministry is very well-informed on this issue. You are therefore well-positioned to advocate for this within your Government.

Your Government has received letters of support, calling for the development of an AODA Education Accessibility Standard, from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF- representing English public high school teachers), the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO - representing English public elementary school teachers), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA - representing English Catholic elementary and high school teachers) and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA - representing university professors and librarians across Ontario). This demonstrates strong support for the need for an Education Accessibility Standard.

To read the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association’s endorsement of our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.

To read the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario’s endorsement of our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.

To read the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation's letter, endorsing our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.

To read the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association letter endorsing our call for an Education Accessibility Standard, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/01292014.asp

In her May 14, 2014 letter to us, setting out your Government's 2014 accessibility election pledges, Premier Wynne committed:

"The next accessibility standard we will develop will focus on education and/or health."

She also stated in that letter that the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, (which has lead responsibility for the AODA's implementation and enforcement) had already been actively working with the Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, among others, "to examine where changes and new standards are required to make our education and healthcare systems more accessible."

Premier Wynne's May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out your Government's 2014 accessibility election pledges, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp

Two weeks after the Premier wrote us during the election campaign, we received a stronger public election commitment from the Liberal Party. On May 31, 2014, we received two tweets from Ontario Liberal candidate, Cabinet minister, and former president of the Ontario Liberal Party, Yasir Naqvi. He said that a Liberal Government, if re-elected, would create a standard for both health care and education. His two May 31, 2014 tweets, separately sent to both the AODA Alliance and to its chair, David Lepofsky, stated:

"Yasir Naqvi: @DavidLepofsky Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education and health standards."

And

"Yasir Naqvi: @aodaalliance Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education & health standards."

We immediately made this Twitter exchange public. We announced this development on Twitter and in our May 31, 2014 AODA Alliance Update. We stated:

"Tweets are on the public record. We will hold the Liberal Party to this new, strengthened commitment. We know the parties track Twitter activity on the election, including ours."

We immediately and repeatedly tweeted back to confirm this commitment, both to Mr. Naqvi and to Premier Wynne. No one denied or tried to walk back this stronger commitment. We hold the Government to it.

Your Government is therefore on the record as agreeing to develop the next accessibility standards in both the areas of health care and education. People with disabilities should not have to face a cruel choice of whether they will achieve accessibility to education but not health care, or accessibility to health care, but not education. The Government has never put such a choice to Ontarians who have no disability.

Well over four years have passed since any Standards Development committee has met to develop proposals for the content of a new accessibility standard under the AODA. It has taken longer for the Government just to decide which accessibility standards to develop next than it takes to actually develop an entire accessibility standard.

At the present rate, Ontario's education system will not become fully accessible by 2025. Ontarians, including Ontarians with disabilities, cannot afford to wait any longer for action to ensure that Ontario's education system becomes fully accessible no later than 2025. Your Government has stated that accessibility for people with disabilities is a top priority. This is an excellent opportunity to put those words into action.

2. Advocating to Self-Governing Professions to Include Disability Accessibility Training for their Members

Over seven years ago, in the 2007 provincial election, your government committed to approach the self-governing bodies in Ontario responsible for the major professions, to urge them to ensure that they provide training on accessibility to people who want to qualify for their respective professions. For example, someone studying to be an architect in Ontario should have to learn about accessible building design, in order to qualify to become an architect in this province. The same should apply in a wide range of other professions such as lawyers, doctors, teachers, social workers, and nurses. The same need exists for other career areas with focused expertise, such as software developers or urban planners, even if they are not self-governing professions.

In his September 14, 2007 letter to us, setting out your party's 2007 disability accessibility election commitments, Premier McGuinty wrote:

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

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

This promise remains alive. When she was running for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne pledged to us in writing on December 3, 2012 that she would keep all of your Party's prior commitments on disability accessibility. Kathleen Wynne's December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp

Please act now to keep this promise. To date, your government has, to our knowledge, not taken any steps to keep this promise. On July 20, 2009, we wrote your predecessor, Minister of Training Colleges and Universities John Milloy to ask what your government had done to date on this issue, and to find out about your government's future plans. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07212009.asp

We received a response from Minister Milloy dated October 6, 2009. The closest he came to responding to our inquiry was as follows:

“It is important that students starting new careers are able to ensure compliance with the legislation in their chosen profession. While the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities does not set the curriculum for postsecondary institutions, I have written to college presidents and university executive heads urging them to consider accessibility when conducting curriculum reviews. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11102009.asp

That response did not reveal any effort to specifically reach out in a focused way to self-governing professions and others who take part in setting their training curriculum.

A year later, on November 12, 2010, we wrote to the previous Minister of Community and Social Services (who was then responsible for the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act), Madeleine Meilleur. We sought, among other things, an update on your government's actions to date and future plans on this 2007 election commitment. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11242010.asp

Minister Meilleur never wrote to us in response to that letter.

In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, setting out your party's 2011 election pledges on accessibility, Premier McGuinty re-affirmed all prior commitments in this area. He wrote: "We will also continue to make progress on all previous commitments."

Premier McGuinty's August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

Two years later, on December 2, 2011, we wrote a subsequent Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Glen Murray, to ask what steps he would take on this commitment. In his February 15, 2012 response to us, 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."

In his letter, we received no specifics 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.

It should be easy for your government to fulfil this election commitment. Lawyers, paralegals, social workers, teachers, planners, architects, health care providers, and the like should receive accessibility training in order to qualify for their respective professions. They should learn how to serve all of the public, not just those members of the public who have not yet acquired a disability. Training required under existing AODA accessibility standards, including the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation, is not sufficient to meet this specific need.

3. Ensuring Disability Accessibility is a Key Focus of Research and Innovation Programs and Projects that the Government Operates or Finances

Please direct your Ministry's officials to ensure that its research and innovation programs, and its spending to finance research and innovation activities in Ontario, embed disability accessibility as a key criterion and focus.

Our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran Independent Review of the AODA, referred to above, described in detail our frustrating efforts to get the Government to incorporate disability accessibility as a key requirement in any Government infrastructure, procurement, or other spending (such as spending on grants or loans for innovation or research). Our brief states, in material part:

"If an organization applies for any other kind of Government grant or loan, or a subsidy for business development, the Government should make it clear that preference will be given to applicants who ensure that their workplace, goods, services and facilities are accessible, or who stipulate accelerated deadlines for achieving full accessibility.

Any research grants that include public funding should make it a condition that people with disabilities will be properly included in the research. Any psychological or medical research should ensure, where possible, that test subjects are not solely people without disabilities.

It is not enough for the Government to ask applicants for any of these kinds of public expenditures to commit that they will comply with AODA standards. They already must comply with these standards. Such a condition would add nothing, and hence, accomplish nothing.

Instead, the Government should require the recipient, as a condition of receiving public money through these avenues, to meet the accessibility requirements of the Human Rights Code and where applicable, the Charter of Rights. They should be required to show how they will ensure full accessibility of their capital project, goods, services or facilities, or program/workplace. If not now accessible, they should be required to commit to a specific deadline by which they will be fully accessible, which can be sooner than AODA standards otherwise require. The Government should negotiate specific commitments so that these can be written into the terms of the grant, loan or other payment. Put simply, if the organization wants the public's money, these strings should be attached.

This would create a substantial, positive new incentive for the public and private sectors to produce accessible goods, services, facilities and capital projects, and to operate accessible programs and workplaces. It costs the Government nothing. It requires no increase in the infrastructure, procurement, research or business development budgets. It simply leads the Government to use its existing budget more smartly.

The benefits of this strategy would be far-reaching. Once a recipient organization ensures that their goods, services or facilities are accessible, all customers with disabilities benefit, whether the purchaser is in the public or private sector. They can meet the growing unmet demand for accessible goods and services here, across Canada, and around the world. There are estimated to be one billion persons with disabilities around the world."

We would add to the foregoing the fact that research and innovation in the specific area of disability accessibility would yield major benefits for Ontario. Such research could help get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. It also could lead to the creation of new accessibility products and services for which there is a huge and growing global market.

What we here seek follows from strong election commitments that your Government has made to us. In the 2011 election, former Premier McGuinty committed that your government is incorporating disability accessibility considerations in all major government decisions. In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, setting out your Government's 2011 disability accessibility election pledges, Premier McGuinty committed:

"We are integrating accessibility as a fundamental principle when it comes to making vital decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians."

Strengthening this, in her May 14, 2014 letter to us, sent during the recent election campaign, Premier Wynne promised:

"11. We will continue to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Our current mandate fully supports responsible governance and we will continue to pursue objectives that align with this belief."

We urge you to direct your Ministry's officials to review Part VII of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review, and to implement our recommendations, as they apply to research and innovation spending. We also urge you to direct that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, at the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, be fully integrated into this part of your Ministry's work, to help prevent any barrier-creation or perpetuation through the Government's research and/or innovation spending.

4. And Finally

We would be delighted to work with you and your ministry in any way we can, to assist you in promoting this agenda. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

We have often written Ontario cabinet ministers, to make constructive proposals for specific actions on accessibility. To often our letters have simply been routed to a communications branch official for a "public relations" response. We too often end up receiving a letter, authored by communications officials, that thanks us for writing, praises our advocacy on accessibility, and voices support for making Ontario accessible. Such letters then simply repeat lists of things the Government has already done or promised. Too often these responses do not actually answer our inquiries or proposals.

Please don't let that happen here. We are eager to know what you are open to doing from among the proposals we here set out. We would be happy to discuss our ideas with you. Your Ministry officials have been brief over and over on these issues, so they should be able to bring you and your office up to speed in very short order.

We would welcome the chance to work together with you on taking bold new action on accessibility.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont,
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

c:          Premier Kathleen Wynne
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email brad.duguid@ontario.ca
Deborah Newman, Deputy Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities email deborah.newman@ontario.ca
Giles Gherson, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and Deputy Minister of Research and Innovation email giles.gerson@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario email ann.hoy@ontario.ca

Text of the AODA Alliance's September 16, 2014 Letter to the Minister of Health

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

September 16, 2014

Via email - eric.hoskins@ontario.ca

Hon. Eric Hoskins
Minister of Health and Long Term Care
10th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C4

Dear Minister:

Re: Important Measures for which your Ministry is Responsible for Ensuring Ontario Becomes Fully Accessible to People with Disabilities

I write on behalf of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. As you know, we are a non-partisan, volunteer coalition which united to advocate for a fully-accessible Ontario for all people with disabilities. Your Government set out election commitments on disability accessibility in letters to our coalition, including in the most recent Ontario election.

Please accept our congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Health. In this capacity, you have lead responsibility for a vital area, pivotal to your government's agenda of achieving a fully-accessible Ontario by 2025. We wish to work closely with you on this.

As you know, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which your Government was proud to enact in 2005, requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible for all persons with disabilities no later than 2025. Ontario is now clearly behind schedule. It needs renewed Government leadership to speed up action on accessibility. To assist, to see how and why Ontario is so clearly behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and what can be done across the Ontario Government to fix this, we invite you to examine our 368-page brief to the Independent Review of the AODA which your Government appointed University of Toronto's Dean Mayo Moran to conduct. You can find our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302014-Final-Brief-Mayo-Moran-AODA.doc
 
Please support our call for the development of a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Help us remove the bureaucratic roadblocks that to date have prevented us from getting the development of such an accessibility standard under way.

As you know, we have pressed since at least 2011, if not earlier, for the next accessibility standards to be developed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to include, among others, one that would directly address barriers that impede people with disabilities in the important area of health care. We would be delighted to work with you and your ministry on moving such an initiative forward, in conjunction with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

You can spring into action right away on this. You certainly need no briefings to bring you up to speed. You are very well-informed on this issue, and are well-positioned to advocate for this within your Government.

In your last cabinet post, you were the minister responsible for the AODA's implementation and enforcement. At that time, you were in a position to try to press the Minister of Health to support our proposal to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard. Now you are the Minister of Health. You can speed up action on this, by strongly supporting this proposal. As a physician yourself, you are also well-positioned to know of the barriers that people with disabilities unfairly face in our health care system, and how easy it would be to remove and prevent these accessibility impediments.

In her May 14, 2014 letter to us, setting out your Government's 2014 accessibility election pledges, Premier Wynne committed:

"The next accessibility standard we will develop will focus on education and/or health."

She also stated in that letter that your former Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, had already been actively working with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care as well as certain other Ministries, "to examine where changes and new standards are required to make our education and healthcare systems more accessible."

Premier Wynne's May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out your Government's 2014 accessibility election pledges, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp

Two weeks after the Premier wrote us during the election campaign, we received a stronger election commitment from the Liberal Party. On May 31, 2014, we received two tweets from Ontario Liberal candidate, Cabinet minister, and former president of the Ontario Liberal Party, Yasir Naqvi. He said that a Liberal Government, if re-elected, would create a standard for both health care and education. His two May 31, 2014 tweets, separately sent to both the AODA Alliance and to its chair, David Lepofsky, stated:

"Yasir Naqvi: @DavidLepofsky Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education and health standards."

And

"Yasir Naqvi: @aodaalliance Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education & health standards."

We immediately made this public. We announced this development on Twitter and in our May 31, 2014 AODA Alliance Update. We stated:

"Tweets are on the public record. We will hold the Liberal Party to this new, strengthened commitment. We know the parties track Twitter activity on the election, including ours."

We immediately and repeatedly tweeted back to confirm this both to Mr. Naqvi and to Premier Wynne. No one denied or tried to walk back this stronger commitment. We hold the Government to it.

Your Government is therefore on the record as agreeing to develop the next accessibility standards in both the areas of health care and education. People with disabilities should not have to face a cruel choice of whether they will achieve accessibility to education but not health care, or accessibility to health care, but not education. The Government has never put such a choice to Ontarians who have no disability.

At the present rate, Ontario's health care system will not become fully accessible by 2025. From your last cabinet post, you know only too well that Ontarians, including Ontarians with disabilities, cannot afford to wait any longer for action. You commendably stated several times in your last portfolio that accessibility for people with disabilities is a top priority for you and for your Government. This is an obvious chance for you to put those words into action.

As but one example of an important potential barrier your Ministry needs to address concerns the eHealth strategy that your ministry leads. Your Government is creating a new integrated electronic health records system to facilitate access to medical records by health care providers and patients. It is vitally important that the new infrastructure for electronic health records be entirely accessible at all points for people with disabilities, be they patients, their families, health care providers, or other officials or workers in the health care system who access health records.

For example, the eHealth records must be in an electronic format that is fully accessible. Also, any electronic kiosks, software or websites for accessing these records must be designed to be fully accessible.

To achieve this it is not just necessary to meet the accessibility requirements of the integrated accessibility regulation (IAR) that your government passed in June, 2011, and to do so ahead of schedule. It is also necessary for this new publicly-funded information technology and records system to meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code. In several respects, the IASR falls short of the Human Rights Code's accessibility requirements.

The action we request is also necessary to fulfil your government's 2011 election commitment to us to ensure the accessibility of information technology and electronic kiosks as part of the government's long-term ten-year infrastructure plan. In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, setting out your government's 2011 election commitments on accessibility, Premier McGuinty pledged:

"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."

Premier McGuinty's August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

This promise remains alive. When she was running for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne pledged to us in writing on December 3, 2012 that she would keep all of your Party's prior commitments on disability accessibility. Kathleen Wynne's December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp

We would be delighted to work with you and your ministry in any way we can, to assist you in promoting this agenda. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

We have often written Ontario cabinet ministers, to make constructive proposals for specific actions on accessibility. To often our letters have simply been routed to a communications branch official for a "public relations" response. We too often end up receiving a letter, authored by communications officials, that thanks us for writing, praises our advocacy on accessibility, and voices support for making Ontario accessible. Such letters then simply repeat lists of things the Government has already done or promised. Too often these responses do not actually answer our inquiries or proposals.

Please don't let that happen here. We are eager to know what you are open to doing from among the proposals we here set out. We would be happy to discuss our ideas with you. Your Ministry officials have been brief over and over on these issues, so they should be able to bring you and your office up to speed in very short order.

We would welcome the chance to work together with you on taking bold new action on accessibility.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont,
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

c:          Premier Kathleen Wynne
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email brad.duguid@ontario.ca
Dr. Bob Bell, Deputy Minister of Health and Long Term Care email bob.bell@ontario.ca
Giles Gherson, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email giles.gerson@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario email ann.hoy@ontario.ca