Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
AODA Alliance Brief Urges the Rich Donovan 4th Independent Review of the AODA to Find that Government After Government Has Done a Poor Job Implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
February 7, 2023
Yesterday, the AODA Alliance submitted its finalized February 6, 2023 brief to the Rich Donovan 4th Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This brief addresses the first phase of the work of the Donovan Independent Review. At this phase, the Independent Review is assessing what findings to make. At the second phase, it will consider what recommendations to present to the Ford Government. We will prepare a brief later this spring for the second phase of the Donovan Independent Reviews work.
You can download and read the February 6, 2023 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act brief for the first phase of the Rich Donovan AODA Independent Review, by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/feb-6-2023-finalized-aoda-alliance-rich-donovan-assessment-brief/
Our finalized brief includes everything that was in the draft brief that we posted for feedback last week. A small handful of short points were added. The wording was tweaked a bit. Links to tons of resources were plugged in.
Below we set out a summary of the findings we urge the Rich Donovan Independent Review to reach. Only a point or two were added to the summary of proposed findings in the draft brief that we earlier posted for feedback.
We encourage you to email the Rich Donovan Independent Review to express support for our brief. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope that this brief is a helpful resource for anyone who wants to find out what is going on in Ontario in our efforts to make this province accessible to people with disabilities. In some ways, it is the culmination of the last four years of our volunteer non-partisan advocacy work at the provincial Level. We have also submitted similarly detailed briefs to each of the three previous AODA Independent Reviews:
- The December 11, 2009 AODA Alliance brief to the 1st AODA Independent Review conducted by Charles Beer, which played an important role in the 2010 Beer final report.
- The June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to the 2nd AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran. Our brief had quite an impact on the 2014 Moran Report.
- The January 15, 2019 AODA Alliance brief to the 3rd AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. You can see our brief’s footprints throughout David Onley’s January 31, 2019 final report.
There have now been 1,468 days since the late David Onley sent the Ford Government the final report of his 3rd Independent Review of the implementation of the AODA. Only 694 days remain before 2025, the deadline by which the Ontario Government is required to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. In over four years since then, the Ford Government has not announced a comprehensive plan of action to implement that report, even though the Government said that David Onley did a “marvelous job.” The best way to honour David Onley’s legacy and memory would be for the Ontario Government at last to implement his wise roadmap for reform.
Summary of the February 6, 2023 AODA Alliance Brief for the First Phase of the Rich Donovan 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 and have even contradicted some of them.
Part II summarizes the key findings that we had invited the David Onley AODA Independent Review to make in the AODA Alliances exhaustive January 15, 2019, brief to the David Onley Independent Review. We hereby 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 the key events that have taken place 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. We focus on this in the context of Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system. That discussion 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, even after it was told about them.
Part VI takes a look at a new and troubling disability barrier that has been emerging in parts of Ontario since 2020, due to specific 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 which the Government has neither answered nor rectified.
Finally, Part VIII concludes this brief with a focus on the failure of the Premier throughout his term in office since June 2018, and over the past months, the Accessibility Minister, to even meet with us.
This brief as a whole constitutes 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 they 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 and kind of action that has been needed.
- There has been a lack of leadership on accessibility from the Premier’s Office which has trickled down throughout the Ontario Government. Three successive premiers have not shown the renewed and revitalized leadership on the AODA for which three successive AODA Independent Reviews have called. The Ontario Government has not effectively implemented and enforced the AODA. It has not effectively used the other levers of power at its disposal to advance the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities.
- 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.
- This 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 and need for the Government to improve its implementation and enforcement of the AODA.