Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
4 Years Ago Today David Onley Gave the Ford Government A Scathing Report On Ontario’s Disability Barriers – We Honour Onley’s Legacy by Urging the Next Independent Review of the Disabilities Act to Reaffirm Onley’s Findings and His Unimplemented Roadmap for Reform
January 31, 2023
As Ontario, with sadness, says goodbye to late former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, the torch is passed to all Ontarians to honour his legacy. The best way to honour that legacy is for Ontario to fully implement the practical roadmap that the David Onley Report gave the Ontario Government four years ago today, to become accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.
As our first action to help honour his legacy, the AODA Alliance today makes public a brief, dedicated to David Onley’s memory, that documents exactly how far behind Ontario is on becoming accessible to people with disabilities. We will submit this brief to the Fourth Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ontario Government appointed Mr. Rich Donovan last year to conduct. The brief’s summary is set out below. The full brief can be downloaded at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Jan-31-2023-AODA-Alliance-Draft-Rich-Donovan-Assessment-Brief-Posted-for-Feedback.docx
This is a draft of our brief. We seek the public’s input on this draft by this Sunday, before we finalize it for the Donovan Independent Review.
“Four years ago to the day, David Onley sent the Ontario Government the blistering report of the Independent Review of the AODA which the Government had appointed him to conduct, but the Government has still not implemented his widely praised roadmap for making Ontario accessible,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities, and David Onley’s friend and comrade-in-arms. “We ask the Rich Donovan Independent Review to affirm the Onley Report’s findings, and to find that progress on accessibility has actually slowed and even backslid over the four years since Mr. Onley delivered his recommendations to the Ontario Government.”
On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho told the Legislature that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. In 2018, the Ontario Government had appointed Mr. Onley to conduct the third mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, and to recommend reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 (the deadline which Ontario’s Disabilities Act sets).
Onley’s report found that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” His report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”
Onley wrote: “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”
The Onley report recommended desperately needed major new action, to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Disabilities Act.
Feedback on our new draft brief can be sent to the AODA Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org up to the end of February 5, 2023.
Summary of the Draft Brief of the AODA Alliance to the Rich Donovan Fourth Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Here is a quick summary of what is in this brief: Part I of this brief explains who the AODA Alliance is. It identifies the questions that we urge this AODA Independent Review to ask in this first phase of its work. We encourage this Independent Review to honour the legacy of the late David Onley by reaffirming the findings that he and the two earlier AODA Independent Reviews made in their reports to the Ontario Government. We document that the previous and current Ontario Governments have, regrettably, not acknowledged some of those key findings.
Part II summarizes the key findings that we invited the David Onley AODA Independent Review to make in the AODA Alliances exhaustive January 15, 2019 brief, that we submitted to that Independent Review. We resubmit that brief to this Independent Review, because with few exceptions, its analysis and proposed findings remain apposite today. In Part II, we have removed any conclusions that we asked the Onley Independent Review to make that are no longer relevant. We also expand on those findings with key events since the Onley Report was submitted to the Ontario Government on January 31, 2019.
The rest of this brief focuses on developments over the past four years since the Onley Report was submitted to the Government. Part III shows how the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic created new disability barriers and failed to effectively address the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic in fundamental ways. It focuses on this in the context of Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system. It concludes with a specific examination of the harms to people with disabilities created by the Ontario critical care triage protocol, which has been entrenched in our health care system despite the serious disability discrimination that is embedded in it.
Part IV takes a closer look on the serious barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. Part V examines the barriers facing patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In each case, we emphasize the failure of the Ontario Government to effectively address these recurring disability barriers.
Part VI takes a look at a new and troubling disability barrier that has been emerging in parts of Ontario since 2020, due to action by the Ontario Government. Specifically, the proliferation of electric scooters (e-scooters) on roads, sidewalks and in other public places. This has made Ontario less accessible and safe for vulnerable people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Part VII addresses the one major new initiative on accessibility that the Ford Government has instituted, one which is seriously flawed. The Government has spent 1.3 million dollars on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program, about which we have raised strong objections.
Finally, Part VIII concludes this brief with a focus on the failure of the Premier, and over the past months, the Accessibility Minister, to even meet with us.
This brief as a whole is a statement of the findings that we ask the 4th AODA Independent Review to make. In summary, we ask the Review to endorse the findings of the first three AODA Independent Reviews, and to find:
- Ontario is not on schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, as the AODA requires. Progress to date on accessibility has been too slow, and far slower than Ontario could have achieved. The major cause for this situation is that the Ontario Government has failed to effectively implement this legislation. Steps have been taken to implement it, that while helpful, fall short of what was needed. This was the state of affairs before June 2018. Progress since that date has slowed even further. As the three earlier AODA Independent Reviews correctly found, there is a real public appetite for and acceptance of the AODA’s goals. The lack of effective Government leadership has not converted that public appetite and acceptance into the amount of action that has been needed.
- There has been a lack of leadership on accessibility from the Premier’s Office which has trickled down in the Ontario Government. Three successive premiers have not showed the renewed and revitalized leadership on the AODA for which three successive AODA Independent Reviews have called.
- As a result, too many pre-existing disability barriers remain in place. Moreover, throughout the life of the AODA, more new barriers have been created, including those financed with public money.
- The insufficient progress was experienced across society and the economy. Prime illustrations are the failure to make effective progress towards accessibility for students with disabilities in the education system, and for patients with disabilities in the health care system.
- These serious problems reached a crescendo during the COVID-19 pandemic. People with disabilities were disproportionately exposed to get COVID-19, to suffer its worst impact and even to die from it. The Ontario Government failed to effectively meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic. This was especially manifested in the education system and the health care system.
- These failures are not due to the exact wording of the AODA. It still contains the key legislative ingredients that are needed.
- These failures hurt all Ontarians. They hurt those people who have a disability now, or who have someone near and dear to them with a disability. They hurt all the rest, who are bound to get a disability later in their lives.
- A successful strategy on accessibility must include more than strong and effective legislation. However, without the effective implementation of such legislation, the attainment of the AODA’s goals is not possible.
Ontario is capable of doing much better. Even if it were assumed that only one third of the concerns documented in this brief were valid, there is ample room for the Government to improve its implementation and enforcement of the AODA.