Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program
August 6, 2019
The August 6, 2019 edition of the Toronto Star includes a powerful editorial. It slams the Doug Ford Government for spending 1.3 million dollars on the problematic private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), when the Government should act more strongly and swiftly to speed up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). That editorial can be found below.
We applaud the Toronto Star for this editorial. This is the 16th editorial that a media outlet has run in the past quarter century that endorses some aspect of our non-partisan accessibility campaign, spearheaded since 2005 by the AODA Alliance, and from 1994 to 2005 by its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
This new editorial follows on and builds on the excellent July 24, 2019 Toronto Star article which reported on some of our serious concerns that the AODA Alliance has with the Ford Government’s plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. In the coming days, we will have more to say about our concerns with public funding of that program. This will supplement our July 25, 2019 news release and report on this topic.
This editorial comes 188 days, or over six months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was conducted by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still announced no plan to implement that report. This is so, even though Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”
It is time for Premier Doug Ford to suspend its controversial and trouble-ridden plan to divert public money to the RHF private accessibility certification program. It should instead promptly sit down with disability advocacy organizations like the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders, all together at one place and time, to quickly map out a far better plan of action.
There are two ways you can help: First, write a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star to support this editorial. Send your letter to the Star at: email@example.com
Second, join in our Dial Doug campaign. #DialDoug Phone or email Premier Doug Ford and ask him where is his plan to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. You can find out what to do by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/
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The Toronto Star August 6, 2019
Buildings must be for everyone
As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.
And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will affect our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.
So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.
In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health-care systems.
But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.
When NDP MPP Joe Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”
Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation.
By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.
We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.
But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications.
And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.
For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.
Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.
But, for the province to be financially backing such a scheme – particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations – is questionable.
Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible
under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.
And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need.
Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.
It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.
Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities.
And just 15 per cent of units in multiresidential buildings – condominiums and apartments – are required to be accessible.
Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.
Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.