ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF ANOTHER IMPORTANT DATE IN OUR 17-YEAR-LONG CAMPAIGN FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

November 4, 2011

SUMMARY

Saturday, November 5, 2011 is the tenth anniversary of an important date in our campaign that started  in 1994 for a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities.

On November 5, 2001, Ontario's Conservative Government under Premier Mike Harris introduced Bill 125, the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (ODA), into the Ontario Legislature. That day the bill received  First Reading. Responsible for the bill's development was then Citizenship Minister, Cam Jackson.

Ontario's disability community's campaign for strong, effective accessibility legislation had been spearheaded since 1994 by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, the predecessor to our current coalition, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. Back in the 1995 election, the Harris Government promised a Disabilities Act in its first term. It was not until the middle of its second term, in late 2001, that it passed the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001.

Three years before the Harris Government brought forward Bill 125, back on November 23, 1998, the Harris Government had introduced a 3-page bill, that it had called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That bill was so devoid of any content that our community convinced the Harris Government to let it die on the order paper within three weeks, with the hope that a better bill would be brought forward. Bill 125 was the Harris Government's next public proposal for a Disabilities Act.

While a step forward, Bill 125 that was brought forward on November 5, 2001 was nevertheless quite weak and inadequate. Over the next six weeks after it was introduced into the Legislature, the ODA Committee spearheaded a blitz to get amendments passed to substantially strengthen it. Ontario's Liberal Party and New Democratic Party each proposed a series of amendments to strengthen the bill, at our community's request. The Harris Government used its majority to defeat most if not all of those amendments. The bill was passed on December 13, 2001. It was the final piece of legislation passed while Mike Harris was Premier of Ontario.

In 2005, four years after the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 was enacted, the new Liberal Government, under Premier Dalton McGuinty, passed the more comprehensive and stronger Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. We have worked tirelessly since then to get these accessibility laws effectively implemented.

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 remains on the books to this day. The McGuinty Government is aiming to eventually repeal it. We have voiced the view that while it was weak and inadequate as a solution to our problems, together with the later Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, the 2001 Act has contributed to our cause. We don't want it repealed until and unless all its components are effectively enshrined in the later AODA.

For example, earlier this year, we learned that the Government had recently abolished the Ontario Public Service Employment Accommodation Fund. That Fund  finances workplace accommodations for Ontario Public Servants with disabilities. We managed to get this Fund restored, in no small part because the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 requires this Fund to be maintained. For more on this incident, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06282011.asp  

If you are interested in knowing more about the days leading up to November 5, 2001, and the events of that day, we set out below a 10 page excerpt from the detailed history of the first eight years of our movement, with footnotes omitted. This article was written by David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance and previously chair of its predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. This excerpt first appeared in a 200-page published article on the first years of our movement entitled "The Long Arduous Road to a Barrier-free Ontario for People with Disabilities:  The History of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act - The First Chapter," found in volume 15 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. Even though it is published in a law journal, it is written to be easily read by everyone, whether or not you have legal training.

If you would like a copy of the full 200 page article in MS Word format, send a request to us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com

That day ten years ago was frustrating. Yet it serves as a landmark on the long, arduous road to a fully accessible Ontario. Since then, we have accomplished a great deal. The inadequacies of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 helped propel us to the stronger Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

To see the unfolding events over the several years leading up to that day ten years ago, you can also visit the legacy website of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. That coalition wound up in 2005, making room for the new AODA Alliance to stand in its place. However, its website remains as a permanent e-monument to all the efforts of people across Ontario who helped our cause over those years. Visit http://www.odacommittee.net

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EXCERPT FROM "THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES:  THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT - THE FIRST CHAPTER" PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW VOLUME 15

By David Lepofsky

12)       SUMMER AND FALL 2001: THE ROAD TO THE INTRODUCTION OF THE NEXT ODA BILL

a)         Preparing For The Government's New ODA Bill

            Over the Summer of 2001, it was time for the ODA movement to focus all efforts on getting ready for the Fall legislative session. Minister Jackson's recent statements suggested that he planned to introduce his new ODA bill that Fall, for passage into law before year's end. From its 1998 experience, the ODA movement knew that the Government could well bring in its new ODA bill without any prior notice to us, again hoping it might catch us off guard.

            We were keenly aware that before the ODA movement could take on the challenge of addressing a new piece of ODA legislation, lots of people had lots to learn, and very little time in which to learn it. Many in the ODA movement were not experienced with the technical formalities of the legislative process. Because this movement had grown so big so quickly, many were still scrambling to learn the details about the ODA that the ODA Committee sought, and the battles it had fought. Many had climbed aboard this movement's high-speed train after the events of late 1998. Some did not know much about the Conservatives' 1998 three-page ODA bill.

            To tackle this challenge, the ODA Committee took several steps. In August 2001, we wrote to Citizenship Minister Jackson, to again formally call for a barrier-free legislative process. We detailed that this should include province-wide public hearings, with sufficient advance notice of legislative debates and hearings to enable people with disabilities to arrange accessible transit to the Legislature. We asked the Government to commit that it would provide for full debate on any amendments proposed to their bill that are consistent with the 11 principles for the ODA, which the Legislature had unanimously adopted by its October 29, 1998 resolution.

            The ODA Committee alerted Minister Jackson that in the Spring of 1999, many individuals had written to the Clerk of the Legislature, requesting a chance to appear at public hearings on Bill 83. We asked that all applications received at that time be applied to hearings on the forthcoming ODA bill. We urged that new applications should be encouraged and accommodated, so that all who wish to appear at these hearings would be able to do so.

            We encouraged ODA supporters to write again to the Clerk of the Legislature, to apply to make a presentation at hearings on the ODA. Of course, no hearings had been announced or even agreed to, but the ODA Committee wanted to get a head start on this once more. We also wanted to fully engage ODA supporters in the process early on. By getting people to ask to appear at hearings, they were staking their claim in this legislative process.

            We widely circulated a new “action kit” to help ODA supporters get ready for the bill, and recirculated our Spring 1998 blueprint for the ODA as a refresher. We distributed a handy pamphlet setting out a checklist of six questions that people could ask when looking at any new ODA bill.55

            We prepared and widely circulated a summary of the steps that a bill must go through to get passed into law. It was entitled: “HOW A BILL MAKES ITS WAY THROUGH THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE: AN OVERVIEW FOR ODA SUPPORTERS.” This was designed to explain the legislative process and the terminology often used in it. We projected that we would not have enough time to explain this process all to ODA supporters on the fly, once the Government tabled its new ODA bill.

            Meanwhile in the early Fall of 2001, the ODA issue kept heating up even more in the Ontario Legislature and in the media. Amid coverage of the Fall session's opening were the Premier's public statements that an ODA bill would be introduced in the Fall. MPPs played verbal tennis in the Legislature, exchanging volleys about the ODA. News articles addressed individual barriers or commented on the Government's record of broken ODA promises.

            In the Fall of 2001, there was a palpable feeling among ODA supporters of excitement and momentum. ODA supporters had accomplished so very much. They had built a large, active coalition. They had developed a detailed, positive blueprint for a strong and effective ODA.

            Grassroots ODA supporters in 23 regions all around Ontario had gotten many municipal councils to adopt the ODA movement's goals and its 11 principles for the ODA, by passing local resolutions. It had won the active, ongoing support of both the opposition Liberals and NDP. It had successfully rejected the Government's first ODA bill in 1998, as well as the Government's leaked 2000 plans for another weak bill. It had opted to hold out for something better. It had kept the issue alive in the public eye for years, despite so many other headline issues that seemed to monopolize the media's attention. Over seven years, ODA supporters spent so much time listing the barriers they face, organizing public forums, recruiting new people to the ODA cause, writing, phoning and visiting MPPs, giving interviews to the media, writing letters to the editor, etc.

            It was clear that an unprecedented grassroots battle lay just ahead, and that the odds for the ODA movement were not great. However, the ODA movement had done all it could at the grassroots around Ontario to be in the best position for the events that were about to unfold.

b)         Conflicting Rumours And A Healthy Scepticism

            In October 2001, rumours abounded that Citizenship Minister Jackson was holding a second round of meetings with a diversity of disability groups around Ontario. These followed on his Spring 2001 meetings. These reportedly included briefings on what his bill would include. We heard that at many of these briefings, the Minister required those present to sign undertakings of confidentiality. At other meetings, no confidentiality undertakings were sought. At the end of this process, the Minister gave a confidential briefing to a small ODA Committee provincial delegation, though he agreed to their request for permission to speak to anyone else who had previously had a confidential briefing.

            It appeared from all the conflicting information floating around that the Minister had at different times been discussing not one, but two different versions of an ODA bill. We consistently heard descriptions from some people of a new ODA bill that sounded utterly toothless, being barely more than the Government's 1998 three-page ODA bill. From others we heard about a different ODA bill, one that included substantial and potentially helpful components. While the latter bill did not appear to meet all the ODA Committee's requirements, it sounded like a sign of real and significant progress.

            We didn't know which of these two bills Minister Jackson actually intended to introduce. We didn't know why he would tell some about one version and others about a different version of the bill. We never figured out whether the difference in these versions was due to a deliberate strategy by the Minister, or whether it was just due to a simple lack of effective communication at the Minister's end, or whether it was due to confusion on the part of those who received the briefings. We may never know.

            When the Government finally introduced its 2001 ODA bill, it turned out to be in reality neither of the two rumoured versions. Instead, it was somewhere in between.

c)         The Lead-Up To The 2001 ODA Bill's Introduction

            As October 2001 came to a close, the Government chose to let the disability community know in advance when it would introduce its new ODA bill. This suggested that the Government didn't plan to hide from its new ODA bill as bad news. Instead, this suggested to us that the Government decided to stand proudly behind its new ODA bill this time, as good news. This stood in contrast with the Government's leaked plans the year before to minimize or avoid publicity of the weak ODA bill it had planned to introduce in the Fall of 2000. As discussed earlier, those plans were set aside in the Fall of 2000 after the Government's plans were leaked, made public and widely condemned.

            On November 1, 2001, four days before introducing the bill, Citizenship Minister Jackson hosted a public event at which he unveiled the Government's brand new “Vision Statement” on disability. That day the Government also bought space in newspapers around Ontario to publish this new “Vision Statement.”

            This vision statement committed the Ontario Government to achieve the goal of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, where existing barriers are removed and new ones are prevented. This amounted to a wholesale adoption of our core objective and our language. It gave the ODA movement another yardstick against which to measure the forthcoming ODA bill.

            We knew that the Government might not match its lofty new words with its upcoming legislative actions. However, we viewed this vision statement as helpful to us. We had collectively won the battle over what we were entitled to expect as the ultimate goal. It was not a vision from which the Government could easily back down.

            The Government made it known that it would introduce its new ODA bill in the Legislature on Monday, November 5, 2001. It invited dozens of people from disability organizations around Ontario and others to come to Toronto at public expense for the bill's formal introduction, and to attend a lunch earlier that day at the Legislature. This was to be hosted by Minister Jackson, just before he introduced the bill. It appeared to us that the Government was taking quite a gamble. If the bill turned out to be a let-down, the Government would have organized their own potential corps of critics. After all, the Government itself was bringing together the very people who would be most motivated to criticize the bill if it was a let-down right at the Queen's Park media corps doorstep. The Government built up these individuals' expectations about the bill by virtue of the Government's invitation to this major November 5, 2001 event, and by virtue of its November 1, 2001 vision statement.

            As November 5, 2001 approached, we encouraged ODA supporters to hold off passing judgement on the bill until they saw it and got a chance to read its “fine print.” In this Government's past handling of other issues, it would often make a big splash with some new announcement, which at first generated a flurry of positive media coverage. This would not infrequently be followed days later by media stories in which those issuing initial compliments changed their tune, after they had gotten a chance to explore the devil in the details of the Government's announcement.

            We also had figured out that if the bill was introduced on November 5, 2001, and was to pass before year's end, the Government must be planning to rush the bill through. Either there would be no hearings on the bill at all, or there would be very rushed hearings. This pointed to serious concerns that the bill was not going to measure up to the expectations that the Government had created at some of its Fall 2001 confidential briefings.

            Over the weekend before the bill's introduction, the Government “leaked” an advance story about the bill to one news outlet. A good number of other news outlets picked up the story. Governments plant these advance leaks when they want to try to effectively control the story's initial “spin.” It is usually leaked to a news outlet friendly to the Government. Such leaks are usually done at a point when the journalist receiving the leak will not have time to check the story with other sources in the community, before the story goes to print.

            In the leak, the Government told the media their bill would raise parking fines for people who illegally park in handicap parking spots to $5,000.00, and would address accessibility to Government buildings. The leak led the Toronto Sun to report on November 4, 2001, the day before the bill's introduction that:

“Unlike an earlier attempt at legislation, this law will have teeth, and is expected to be one of the most comprehensive pieces of disabled-rights legislation in the country. ... There will be mandatory components on accessibility for Government and for the broader public sector.

As well, private business will be encouraged to become more inclusive in providing services for people with disabilities.

... It is expected the new legislation will establish consistent standards for accessibility and barrier-free access to buildings. At present, no such standards exist.

“It will have a mechanism to engage the private sector,” the source said.”

            The Government's “leak” strategy worked, to the extent that a good proportion of the news coverage of the bill then and afterwards mentioned the evidently large hike in parking fines. It was ironic that this high-profile part of this bill was actually the very same prominent item in the Government's planned ODA bill of the year before. As discussed earlier, that bill never reached the Legislature because the Government's plans about it were leaked to the Liberals who made these leaked plans public.

            It is also ironic for two additional reasons that the hike in parking fines got so much profile. First, although the Government raised the maximum parking fine to $5,000.00, it was unrealistic to expect that anyone except some horrific serial offender would ever be sentenced to a $5,000.00 fine.

            Second, this hike in parking fines actually threatened to harm persons with disabilities. During hearings on the new ODA bill, ODA supporter Carole Riback pointed out that she too often erroneously gets parking tickets for parking in a handicap spot, even though she herself uses a wheelchair and has a clearly marked disability parking permit on her vehicle. She has to fight each of the many improper parking tickets which are wrongfully put on her vehicle. She also has to pay the fines before fighting them, or else she may not be permitted to renew her driver's licence. To renew the licence, one must pay the outstanding fines up front, and then fight the fine later, in hopes of getting the fine back. If the Government's raised parking fine were in effect, she might accrue such high erroneous fines that she could not afford to renew her licence.

            Yet this leak strategy also backfired on the Government. It alerted ODA supporters that this bill was not likely going to be the promising version of the legislation that the Citizenship Minister had described to some groups in his confidential Fall 2001 briefings. Also, the Government's leak dramatically piqued media interest in the ODA story on the day before the bill was to be introduced, a Sunday, when ODA news would otherwise rarely get much news attention. This in turn amplified the media attention we were able to secure the next day, when the bill was introduced.

d)         November 5, 2001, The New ODA Bill Is Introduced For First Reading

            The morning media coverage on November 5 heralded the forthcoming bill. It reported that we claimed that the very fact of the introduction of a bill is a victory for us, but only an interim victory. We were reported as cautioning that we will need to read the bill's fine print to see how good it is.

            On the morning of November 5, 2001, the Legislature was swarming with individuals with disabilities and employees of major disability organizations. This was the first such ODA-related event at Queen's Park in seven years that we ourselves did not have to organize. The Government had delivered it to us on a silver platter. It was replete with a real sense of suspense, as we awaited the chance to see the bill. The level of interest and suspense signified the interest that had grown since 20 people had first met in this same building almost seven years earlier, starting the organized grassroots ODA movement.

            Citizenship Minister Jackson's luncheon before the bill's introduction brought together many from across Ontario who had been involved in the ODA cause. Yet the invitation list also left out many others. The Minister's office had planned its invitation list, and certainly had not consulted the ODA Committee on it. The Minister's speech at the luncheon was strikingly non-partisan. It gave significant credit to the ODA Committee. His tone was to change minutes later, the moment he entered the Legislature.

            After the lunch, and before the Minister entered the Legislature to introduce his bill for First Reading, he held a news conference about his bill in the Queen's Park media studio. At that news conference the Minister declined to answer reporters' questions on the content of his bill. He said he could not comment on these until the bill was introduced. It was quickly evident to all that the Government had scheduled this news conference for a time before the bill was introduced, to help the Minister duck probing media questions on the bill's contents.

            After this news conference, Minister Jackson proceeded to the Legislature to formally introduce Bill 125, the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, for First Reading. Each party made short speeches. In his speech, the Minister congratulated and acknowledged everyone present, except for ODA Committee provincial leadership, who were noticeably omitted from his remarks. When the bill was being introduced, many again watched the Legislature's proceedings on a TV monitor from a legislative committee room, since nothing had been done in advance of this event to provide for better accessibility in the public gallery.

            At the same time the bill was being introduced, the Government released backgrounders on the bill, and a 35-page policy document, entitled “Independence and Opportunity - A Framework for Change.” That document detailed the bill's contents, enumerated the results for persons with disabilities that the Government said the bill would achieve, and listed companion commitments that the Government said it would undertake in conjunction with the bill.

            After the Minister introduced the bill, copies were made available to us. We scrambled to read through and analyze its 30 pages. This was a more challenging task than was the case for the Government's 1998 three-page bill. This task was more challenging this time because the bill was written in a convoluted and confusing manner. It was unclear whether it had been written in that way because the legislative drafters had been asked to write it in a hurry, or as a deliberate tactic to confound ODA supporters, or to make the bill appear to do more than it did to an uninformed reader. The media clamoured for our instant reaction. We had to fend them off long enough to try to digest the bill.

            We hurriedly compared the bill's contents to the initial blast of public statements about the bill that the Government had released. As we combed through the bill, many who initially had been enthusiastic based on the Citizenship Minister's confidential briefings (conducted before anyone saw the bill's text) rapidly lost their enthusiasm. The closer we looked, the worse things appeared. The Minister had led many to expect a bill that was very different from the product he introduced in the Legislature that day.

            The bill stated that its purpose was to “improve opportunities for persons with disabilities and to provide for their involvement in the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to their full participation in the life of the province.” It did not state, as had the Government's November 1, 2001 “Vision Statement,” that the government's purpose here was to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities. To “improve opportunities” appeared to be a far more minimal aim for this bill.

            The bill did not create a general legal duty to remove or prevent barriers, beyond what the Ontario Human Rights Code provided. It only addressed the broader public sector, and not the private sector. It required provincial Government ministries and broader public sector organizations like municipalities, school boards, hospitals, public transit providers, colleges and universities to develop and make public annual “accessibility plans.” These plans would include only those barriers that the organization chose to remove or prevent. Each organization could decide voluntarily which barriers, if any, to include in their annual accessibility plans, and which actions, if any, to take to deal with them.

            Moreover, no organization need ever implement their annual accessibility plan. They need only make the plan and then make it public. The bill did not create any means for enforcement, for example if an organization failed to make a plan, or made a plan that was palpably weak and ineffective, or if an organization failed to implement its plan. Under this bill, barrier removal and prevention was left entirely voluntary.

            The bill imposed a series of “obligations” on the Ontario Government, e.g. to make its websites accessible, and to provide certain government information to the public in a format accessible to persons with disabilities such as Braille, where requested. However, the bill created no means for enforcing these seeming obligations. As well, many of these obligations were worded in very equivocal language, lacking teeth. For example, the bill required the Ontario Government to “have regard” to disability accessibility needs when it purchased certain things such as goods and services. To “have regard” to something only required the Government to think about it, and not necessarily to do anything about it.

            The bill created a limited and confusing power for the Government to set provincial standards. However, it did not oblige the Government to ever exercise this power. The bill itself neither set time lines for barrier-removal and prevention, nor required that any such time lines ever be established.

            Central among the bill's features was the bill's establishment of two new bodies. First, it established a provincially-appointed Ontario Accessibility Advisory Council, to advise the Citizenship Minister on the ODA's implementation. Before the Conservatives took power in 1995, a similar provincially-appointed disability advisory council had existed in Ontario since the 1970s. The Conservatives abolished it within weeks of taking office in 1995.

            Second, the bill proposed to require that all municipalities with a population over ten thousand create a municipal accessibility advisory committee, to advise the municipal Government on taking certain actions under the ODA. Several Ontario municipalities had had such a committee for years. None of these advisory bodies could do anything more than give advice. No one had to listen to them, or to give reasons if their advice was rejected. The disability community had no say in who the Government or local municipalities appointed to these bodies.

            For a more detailed summary of the bill's contents, here is the Government's explanatory note, which was written by the Government and tabled with the bill. It summarized Bill 125's contents as follows:

“The Bill imposes a number of obligations, with respect to improving access for persons with disabilities, on the Government of Ontario and other organizations. The obligations include the following:

 1.        In consultation with persons with disabilities and others, the Government is required to develop barrier-free design guidelines for buildings, structures and premises and to ensure that any buildings, structures or premises that it purchases, constructs or significantly renovates after the Bill comes into force comply with those guidelines. When entering into a lease for a building, structure or premises, or part of a building, structure or premises, for the occupation or regular use by its employees after the Bill comes into force, the Government is also required to have regard to the extent to which the design of the leased premises complies with the guidelines.

 2.        In deciding to purchase goods or services through the procurement process for the use of itself, its employees or the public, the Government is required to have regard to their accessibility for persons with disabilities.

 3.        Where technically feasible, the Government is required to provide its internet sites in a format that is accessible to persons with disabilities.

 4.        Upon receiving a request by a person with disabilities, and where technically feasible, the Government is required to make an Ontario Government publication available in a format that is accessible to the person.

 5.        The Government is required to accommodate the accessibility needs of its employees and applicants for positions as Government employees who are invited to participate in the selection process. The Government is required to ensure that its employees with managerial or supervisory functions receive training with respect to its obligations and also to inform its employees of the rights and obligations that they and the Government have in the area.

 6.        The Government may include requirements with respect to accessibility to persons with disabilities as part of the eligibility criteria for certain projects or classes of projects to receive funding under a Government-funded capital programme.

 7.        Each ministry is required to prepare an annual accessibility plan that addresses the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to persons with disabilities in the Acts and regulations administered by the ministry and in the ministry's policies, programmes, practices and services. Ministries must make their accessibility plans available to the public. The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, include other organizations in the definition of “ministry.”

 8.        Municipalities having a population of not less than 10,000 are required to have an accessibility plan that addresses the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to persons with disabilities in their by-laws, policies, programmes, practices and services. They must make their accessibility plans available to the public. They must also have an accessibility advisory committee to advise on the implementation and effectiveness of the plans. The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, extend any of the requirements described in this paragraph to other organizations specified by the regulation.

 9.        In deciding to purchase goods or services through the procurement process for the use of itself, its employees or the public, the council of every municipality is required to have regard to their accessibility for persons with disabilities.

10.       Organizations that provide public transportation are required to have an accessibility plan that addresses the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to persons with disabilities in their by-laws, policies, programmes, practices and services. They must make their accessibility plans available to the public.

11.       The Schedule to the Bill lists organizations such as district school boards, hospitals, colleges of applied arts and technology and universities. The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, name other organizations or classes of organizations to the Schedule or delete them from the Schedule. Every organization listed in the Schedule is required to prepare an annual accessibility plan that addresses the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to persons with disabilities in the organization's by-laws, policies, programmes, practices and services. The organizations must make their accessibility plans available to the public.

12.       Every agency listed in the regulations is required to have an accessibility policy that addresses the provision of services to persons with disabilities in its policies, programmes and practices.

13.       The Minister responsible for the administration of the Bill is required to establish the Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario to advise on issues related to the subject-matter of the Bill and the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario under the Minister's direction.

            The Bill amends other Acts as follows:

1.         The Bill amends the Election Act to require every returning officer for an electoral district to report to the Chief Electoral Officer on the measures taken to provide accessibility for electors with disabilities in the district. The Chief Election Officer must make the report available to the public.

2.         The definition of “campaign expense” in the Election Finances Act is amended to exclude expenses that a candidate with disabilities incurs and that are directly related to the disabilities.

3.         The Bill amends the Highway Traffic Act to increase the penalty for various offences related to the use of disabled person parking permits. The penalty in the current Act is not less than $60 and not more than $500. Under the amendment, the penalty is not less than $300 and not more than $5,000.

4.         References to “handicap” in the Human Rights Code are replaced with “disability.”

5.         The Bill amends the Legislative Assembly Act to require the Speaker to prepare an annual accessibility plan that addresses the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to persons with disabilities in the Legislative Chamber and the other parts of the Legislative Building that are under the Speaker's control and in the policies, programmes, practices and services of the Assembly. The Speaker must make the accessibility plan available to the public.

6.         The Bill amends the Municipal Act to allow municipalities to require, as a condition for licensing a business, that the business premises be accessible to persons with disabilities. By-laws made with respect to the use of disabled person parking permits and the provision of parking spaces for vehicles displaying disabled person parking permits must provide that contravention of the by-laws is an offence punishable by a minimum fine of $300. The owner of a vehicle left parked, standing or stopped in violation of the by-laws is also guilty of the offence, whether or not the owner was the driver of the vehicle at the time.

7.         The references to electors with impaired mobility under Section 45 of the Municipal Elections Act are expanded to cover electors with disabilities.

8.         The Bill amends the Planning Act to add accessibility for persons with disabilities to the matters of provincial interest that the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board and the Ontario Municipal Board must have regard to in carrying out their responsibilities under the Act. The Bill also adds accessibility for persons with disabilities to the matters that approval authorities must have regard to in considering a draft plan of subdivision.

9.         Service managers that construct or alter housing projects under Subsection 5 (1) of the Social Housing Reform Act, 2000 or that deal with programmes under Subsection 5 (2) of the Act shall ensure that the housing project or programme contains the number or percentage specified by the regulations of modified units and units that comply with the criteria and requirements specified by the regulations for accessibility for persons with disabilities.”

            We were deluged that day with more media attention and coverage than in any single day in the previous seven years. This came without our having time to assemble a press release. Public affairs programmes that had taken years to show any interest in the ODA issue came to us that day asking for interviews on the spot.

            We learned that day that we had finally won our multi-year battle for public hearings on the bill. As of that day, we didn't yet know when they would be taking place. We knew that there would be little time available and lots of work ahead.