Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
AODA Alliance 2023 Year-End Report to Our Many Supporters
December 22, 2023
The AODA Alliance has been around since mid 2005. 2023 was as busy a year as we have seen. It was full of as many surprises, twists and turns as ever!
This year, we kept you, our many dedicated supporters, updated with 97 of our AODA Alliance Updates. These were shared with you by email, on our website, and through social media. We sent out thousands of tweets once again this year and a good number of Facebook posts, which resulted in a delightful number of re-tweets.
We approach 2024 with unstoppable determination and tenacity. Yes, the road ahead of us is uphill. We are used to that. It will never slow us down.
After a holiday break to recharge our advocacy batteries, stay tuned for more action tips in 2024 that will empower you to help fight for a barrier-free society for all people with disabilities. We thank one and all for your help, support and encouragement. We wish one and all a safe, happy holiday season and a barrier-free New Year.
Here are some of the highlights of 2023.
The Ford Government’s Record This year
Despite all our efforts and those of many who are dedicated to the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities, The Ford Government’s track record was no better this year than its abysmal record last year. While there has been some progress on accessibility, it has been far, far too slow. Moreover, new barriers keep being created, often using public money.
The Ford Government has enacted no enforceable accessibility standards in the five and a half years since it took power. Its enforcement of the AODA is paltry and ineffective.
There are only 376 days left before 2025. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. We are far behind.
There have been 1,786 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the 3rd AODA Independent Review conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. Yet the Government has still not announced a comprehensive plan to effectively implement the Onley Report.
There have been 199 days since the Ford Government received the Final Report of the 4th AODA Independent Review conducted by Rich Donovan. As discussed later in this update, it has announced no specific reforms recommended in that report.
There have been 693 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. That report identifies what the Government should include in the promised Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. Since then, the Ford Government has enacted none of those recommendations.
This grim situation never deters us or dampens our tenacity one bit. We are used to uphill battles.
Radio Silence from Premier Doug Ford and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho
2023 was yet another year in which we had no meeting with Premier Doug Ford or with Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho and had no contact with either the Premier’s Office or the Minister’s Office. We have had contact with public servants within the Ontario Public Service. In
the most recent effort, we wrote Premier Doug Ford on November 10, 2023 to ask for a meeting. On November 17, 2023, the Cabinet Office Correspondence Unit sent a standard form response. It said that Premier Ford is too busy to meet, but our inquiry is referred to Accessibility Minister Cho. This week, we finally got a letter from Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho. It told us nothing new. The Minister ducked our request for a meeting.
Losing David Onley
On January 14, 2023, we were saddened to learn of the death of former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The media invited the AODA Alliance to play a role in the public honouring of his memory. We reminded the public of the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA. The Ford Government left David Onley’s hard-hitting recommendations to collect dust. We aimed for the media coverage of David Onley’s passing to serve to repeat his advocacy message during his lifetime that called for strong and comprehensive accessibility legislation and regulations that are effectively enforced.
Supporting the 4th Government-Appointed Independent Review of the AODA by Rich Donovan
This year, the AODA Alliance submitted two major briefs to the 4th Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation of the AODA, conducted by Rich Donovan. Our February 6, 2023 brief spelled out the findings we urged Rich Donovan to make at the first phase of his Independent Review. Our May 31, 2023 brief listed the recommendations we urged Rich Donovan to make in his final report.
Rich Donovan submitted his Interim Report to the Ford Government on March 1, 22023. The Ford Government made it public 8 days later. It concludes that government after government have done a poor job of implementing the AODA. We acted to publicize this report.
Rich Donovan submitted his final report to the Government on June 6, 2023. We campaigned for six months to get the Government to make it public. Section 41(4) of the AODA requires the Government to place this report before the Legislature. On November 11, 2023, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky submitted a Freedom of Information application to try to force the Government to make the final Rich Donovan report public. The Ford Government refused to do so, for bogus reasons.
Last week, we learned from the NDP that the Ford Government had made public Rich Donovan’s Final Report on Thursday, December 14, 2023. The Ford Government did not tell us that they had released it.
The AODA Alliance raced to analyze the Donovan Final Report and write a news release
Our news release endorsed Rich Donovan’s declaration that the inaccessibility facing 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is a crisis requiring an urgent crisis response, led by Premier Ford. We support a number of Mr. Donovan’s recommendations but do not agree with several others, as the AODA Alliance’s December 18, 2023 news release explains. Our efforts led to good media coverage of the issue.
Seeking Strong Accessibility Pledges from Candidates for the Ontario Liberal Party Leadership
On December 2, 2023, the Ontario Liberal Party selected Bonnie Crombie as its next party leader. The non-partisan AODA Alliance sought commitments from all the candidates for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party on what they’d do to tear down disability barriers, if elected. All four candidates who were on the ballot at the end of this campaign made written commitments to us. You can read what the winner, Bonnie Crombie, pledged in her November 16, 2023 letter to the AODA Alliance.
As always, we do not support or oppose any party or candidate. We try to get the strongest commitments and actions from all candidates and all parties.
Getting Media Coverage on Disability Issues
We continued to do what we could to get media coverage on disability barriers in the community and the need for action to remove and prevent them. Over this year, we issued several well-documented news releases to alert the media to key issues. We also were approached many times over the years by the media to comment on stories they were investigating. We are honoured that so many news organizations view the AODA Alliance as a reliable expert whose comments on those stories is sought. You can find news stories in which we took part on the AODA Alliance website’s media page and on our YouTube channel.
Advocating for a Barrier-Free Built Environment
In our effort to try to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, we submitted a detailed brief to the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee which the Ford Government appointed under the AODA at least five years later than the AODA required. The Ford Government knew that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wanted to be appointed to that Standards Development Committee. It never included him, or even held a public competition that would allow members of the public apply to serve on that Committee.
On November 20, 2023, the AODA Alliance made public another jarring captioned video. It showed that Toronto had built a new bike path in the midst of a midtown sidewalk along Eglinton Avenue West. This seriously endangers pedestrians with disabilities such as those who are blind. This video quickly got thousands of views, and great media coverage. However, instead of agreeing to fix this problem, the City of Toronto doubled down and defended the sidewalk design.
Read all about the AODA Alliance’s efforts to make Ontario’s built environment accessible by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.
Fighting for a Strong Canada Disability Benefit under Bill C-22
Throughout the first half of 2023, we worked hard with several other leading disability organizations, such as the ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Income Security Advocacy Centre, to try to get the Senate of Canada to strengthen the weak Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act which the House of Commons passed in early February. This included AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s April 27, 2023 testimony at a Senate Standing Committee.
Early in the year, we made public a striking captioned video that showed how severely the Trudeau Liberals had flip-flopped on whether amending Bill C-22 was a good idea or a bad idea. It got over 4,000 views.
As a result of our collective efforts, the Senate passed several amendments. The House of Commons ratified all those Senate amendments, except one especially important one. The House of Commons vetoed an amendment to Bill C-22 that would have forbidden private insurance companies from clawing back the Canada Disability Benefit. Sadly, those companies will be free to divert money into their bank accounts that was meant to lift people with disabilities out of poverty.
Fully six months after Bill C-22 was passed, we still have no hard commitment from the Trudeau Government on when impoverished people with disabilities will start to receive the Canada Disability Benefit, or who will be eligible to receive it, or how much money they will receive. It appears to still be months and months away. Had we won all the amendments to Bill C-22 that we sought, we would have had a much clearer picture by now. Anyone who thought we did not need those amendments should now realize how important it would have been to win them.
You can read about the AODA Alliance’s efforts on Bill C-22 on the AODA Alliance website’s Bill C-22 page.
AODA Alliance on the International Stage
In late February and early March, the AODA Alliance had the extraordinary opportunity to offer our advice to the Parliament of New Zealand on how to design effective disability accessibility legislation. The AODA Alliance submitted two briefs to the New Zealand Parliament on an accessibility bill it was considering. On February 27, 2023, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky made a formal presentation on the Accessibility for New Zealanders bill to the New Zealand Parliament’s Select Committee holding public hearings. He also took part in several major events to support New Zealand’s Access Matters campaign. That accessibility movement was modeled after the AODA Alliance.
Trying to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others from the Silent Menace of Electric Scooters
Working together with a cluster of other disability organizations, the AODA Alliance continued this year to campaign to protect vulnerable people with disabilities, seniors and others from the serious danger to them created by the silent menace of unlicensed, uninsured untrained joyriders racing on electric scooters. These are not the power scooters that some people with disabilities use for their mobility.
Last summer, Toronto City Council unfortunately and unwisely decided to re-open this issue, at the behest of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists, and over our objection. Back on May 5, 2021, Toronto City Council unanimously voted to ban e-scooters, but the City has done an abysmal job of enforcing that ban.
We are now advocating to City Council members and City staff to try to keep the e-scooters ban in place, and to get it properly enforced. All our efforts on this issue are available for you to read on the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.
Pressing for Accessible Customer Service
The AODA Alliance has also been campaigning for over two years to get the Ford Government to fulfil its duty under the AODA to appoint a new Customer Service Standards Development Committee. That Committee is required to review the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard that was enacted under the AODA.
This year, the Government belatedly invited members of the public to apply. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky applied. His application was rejected. In fact, the Customer Service Standards Development Committee that the Government appointed has absolutely no representative from any grass roots cross-disability advocacy organization. Neither does the only other Standards Development Committee that the Ford Government has appointed in the past three years, the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee
Demanding Accessible Public Transportation
The barriers that passengers with disabilities face came up again and again this year, engaging us. For example, we have advocated for strong new municipal and provincial action when the Toronto Transit Commission announced this fall that it would not ensure that all Toronto subway stations are accessible by 2025, despite repeated earlier commitments that it would fulfil that obligation. Air Canada and other airlines were the focus of public and media attention as air travellers with disabilities too often continue to experience appalling mistreatment. You can learn all about this by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s transportation page.
Helping Our Supporters Do Their Own Individual Grass Roots Advocacy
Week after week, wonderful people reach out to the AODA Alliance, asking how they can help our cause. We depend so heavily on the efforts of grass roots supporters of the AODA Alliance’s work from one end of Ontario to the other. Their individual advocacy efforts power us forward. So many people bring their barriers to the attention of the media, write or call politicians, offer the AODA Alliance their feedback and ideas, and take other creative actions that are essential to our effort.
We want to help fuel and support these individual efforts. For our part, AODA Alliance Updates provide action tips throughout the year, on how you can help.
This year, the AODA Alliance made public a new captioned video that gives practical tips to members of municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees and Special Education Advisory Committees on how to be effective advocates. You should check out that video, if you are on any sort of disability advisory committee. Encourage others to watch it.
We applaud all our supporters for your help, encouragement and social media “likes”, “shares” and retweets that help our non-partisan accessibility campaign. We thank everyone, many who we cannot name, who struggle hard within government and private organizations to tear down disability barriers.
This year, we substantially expanded the collection of online videos about disability accessibility and advocacy that we make available to the public. Taken together, there have been over 100,000 views of our videos. Videos on the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel have been seen almost 20,000 times this year alone.
This year, we also made public two new video series. The first is on the history of Ontario’s disability accessibility movement. The second is on the campaign to make Ontario’s health care system accessible for patients with disabilities. You can find all these videos on the AODA Alliance website’s videos page.
Have a Great Holiday Break!
After a good rest, we will be ready to swing back into action early next year. Lots of new challenges will be waiting for us! This is the AODA Alliance signing off until early in 2024!