ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Ontario Conservatives Press Premier Wynne in the Ontario Legislature's Question Period to Agree to the AODA Alliance's Call for the Government to Develop an Education Accessibility Standard – Premier Wynne says Her Ministers of Accessibility and Education Are Discussing How to Move Forward on This
November 1, 2016
During Question Period in the Ontario Legislature yesterday, October 31, 2016, opposition Progressive Conservative MPP Bill Walker pressed Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to ensure that Ontario's education system becomes fully accessible to students with disabilities. Below we set out the official transcript of the entire exchange in the Legislature.
In her response to this question, Premier Wynne said that she had a "very good" conversation with AODA Alliance Chair, David Lepofsky, with Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles in attendance, about the idea of an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The Premier also said:
"I know that the Minister of Education and the minister responsible for people with disabilities are having a conversation about how we might move forward with that. I appreciate the question from the member opposite."
It is good that the Premier has herself engaged in recent discussions with us about the proposal of an Education Accessibility Standard with the Accessibility Minister present. It is also good that the Ministers of Education and of Accessibility will be discussing this topic. The AODA Alliance has led the half-decade long campaign to get the Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
The Government has never publicly said "no" to our request. The Premier's answer here is not a "yes," but it is a positive sign that our proposal is being actively discussed.
It is also good that PC MPP Bill Walker pressed the Government in support of our proposal that an Education Accessibility Standard be developed under the AODA. We commend Mr. Walker and the PCs for raising this issue during Question Period. Until now, the PC Party has not gone public in direct support of our proposal. We urge the PC Party to build upon PC MPP Bill Walker's encouraging question in Question Period, by committing that if elected, it would support the creation of an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
In the lead-up to the September 1, 2016 Scarborough Rouge-River by-election, PC Candidate Raymond Cho was asked about this topic. His response at that time to the AODA Alliance included:
"The Ontario PC Party believes that every Ontarian has the right to lead his or her life to its fullest potential - regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, we have a responsibility to remove the barriers that prevent those with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities."
"2. Will you support the call by people with disabilities for the Ontario Government to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to make Ontario's education system fully accessible to students, parents, and education staff with disabilities, including the 334,000 students with special education needs in Ontario-funded schools?
The Ontario PC Party is currently undergoing the largest and most inclusive policy consultation process in our Party's history. We want to hear from those involved on the ground floor - including the AODA Alliance - about how to build a better province. We are open to any and every idea to bridge society's gap regarding persons with disabilities, and better employ and support persons with disabilities."
We aim to get all parties to support the creation of an Education Accessibility Standard. We will be asking all candidates in the November 17, 2016 Ontario by-elections in Ottawa Vanier and in Niagara West-Granbrook to make commitments in support of an Education Accessibility Standard.
For easy-to-use action tips on how to raise this and other important accessibility issues in the November 17, 2016 by-elections.
Until now, the only political party that has been on the record in support of an Education Accessibility Standard is the Ontario New Democratic Party. To read the NDP's commitment to support the creation of an AODA Education Accessibility Standard in the 2014 Ontario election campaign, our goal is to secure all-party support for our proposal.
We will have lots more to say in the next weeks on why Ontario needs an Education Accessibility Standard, and on what an Education Accessibility Standard could include. Stay tuned.
Did you know that our proposal that the Ontario Government develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA has been endorsed and supported by the Ontario Government's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, and by key organizations that speak for front-line teachers and other education workers in Ontario, including the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, the Ontario Association of English Catholic Teachers Association, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario)? We know of no organization that has publicly opposed our call for an Education Accessibility Standard. We no of no one who claims Ontario's education system is now fully accessible to all students with disabilities or that it will reach full accessibility by 2025 at the present rate.
We encourage you to press your local MPP to endorse the AODA Alliance's call for the Government to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you taken part in our "Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our "Picture Our Barriers" campaign.
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We encourage you to use the Government's toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.
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Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org
Ontario Hansard Monday, October 31, 2016
Accessibility for the disabled
Mr. Bill Walker: My question is to the Premier. Thirteen years ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission's ground-breaking report showed that students with disabilities face far too many unfair barriers in our society. Sadly, as a result, people with disabilities face very high unemployment rates that former Lieutenant Governor, David Onley, your accessibility adviser, calls "a national shame."
There are 334,000 students with special education needs in Ontario-funded schools, one of every six students. This government has no comprehensive plan to ensure that our education system will become fully accessible by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. The AODA Alliance has pressed you for over half a decade to agree to develop an education accessibility standard under the AODA to tackle these barriers. It's a great idea. Will you agree now to do this?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know the Minister of Education is going to want to comment, but I want to tell the member opposite that I had the opportunity to meet with David Lepofsky, actually, and with the minister responsible for people with disabilities. We had a very good conversation about the education standard.
As the member will know—or may not know—there is a health standard that is being developed right now. That was one of the things that the AODA had been advocating up until this time. As I say, we had a very good conversation about the education standard.
I know that the Minister of Education and the minister responsible for people with disabilities are having a conversation about how we might move forward with that. I appreciate the question from the member opposite.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Bill Walker: Back to the Premier: You've been having lots of conversations but there's still a lot that needs to be done. Ontario is not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, the deadline this Legislature set.
The Toronto Star recently reported that new accessibility barriers are still being built in new buildings in Ontario, including on university campuses. The renovated Osgoode Hall Law School is much harder for a blind person to get around than it was before it was renovated. The new Ryerson Student Learning Centre has a student area that requires students with disabilities to climb steps they can't climb. This violates the Premier's promise that public money would never be used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. Recent Ontario Building Code changes don't solve this problem.
Will this government agree that Ontarians with disabilities need an educational accessibility standard to do what the Premier's throne speech promised: to build up Ontario for all Ontarians?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister responsible for accessibility.
Hon. Tracy MacCharles: I want to thank the member for the question. You know, I'm pretty proud to be the first Ontario minister responsible for accessibility in this province.
It's very important to remember that Ontario is a leader in accessibility. Ontario was the first to move to a modern regulatory regime that mandates accessibility reporting, the first that requires staff to be actually trained in accessibility, and the first in Canada with legislation that sets out clear goals for accessibility by 2025. That's in all aspects of daily living, whether it's transportation, whether it's employment, whether it's our buildings and our built environment, whether it's the information and communication systems we use. It's important that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential and that barriers be removed for persons with disabilities so they, too, can have full participation in our daily—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question?