Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
AODA Alliance Makes Public a Detailed Roadmap to a Barrier-Free Built Environment – and – Tonight, Watch AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin
March 28, 2023
A new AODA Alliance Brief on an Important Topic
What should Ontario do to remove the many barriers that people with disabilities face in the built environment and to prevent new ones from being created? The AODA Alliance has led the charge for well over a decade to get Ontario to enact a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We have seen promises made and promises broken. Three Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews have acknowledged the barriers that people with disabilities still face in the built environment, those by Mayo Moran in 2015, by David Onley in 2019 and by Rich Donovan in 2023.
Here is our latest effort in this seemingly endless saga! The AODA Alliance today unveils a detailed new brief, chock full of practical recommendations. Yesterday, we sent it to the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. The Ford Government appointed that Standards Development Committee last year, to make recommendations for reform to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.
We have asked for a chance to speak at a meeting of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. As a result, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been allotted 30 minutes to speak at the April 5, 2023, meeting of that Standards Development Committee.
The AODA Alliance had wanted very much to have a representative on the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. Sadly, we have none. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky planned to apply for a spot on that Committee. He let the Ford Government know this, well in advance.
However, breaking with past practice, the Government did not hold an open competition for spots on the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. Qualified members of the public with expertise in the area were not invited to apply and to be considered on the basis of their merit. Therefore, the Government froze us and many other deserving potential applicants out of a chance to sit on that Committee.
Below, we set out a summary of the March 27, 2023, AODA Alliance brief to the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee and the list of recommendations that our brief makes. You can read the entire brief at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/read-the-march-27-2023-aoda-alliance-brief-to-the-design-of-public-spaces-standards-development-committee/
To learn all about the AODA Alliance multi-year efforts in this area, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.
2025 is now only 646 days away. That is the AODA’s deadline for Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities. Over four years ago, a stunning 1,516 days to be exact, the Ford Government received the scathing David Onley final report, which showed a need to dramatically speed up efforts to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities. As the subsequent blistering March 1, 2023 Rich Donovan interim report found:
“To be clear, the “customers” of the AODA are individual businesses, municipal services, and the Cabinet of Ontario. Ontarians with disabilities do not need to change. Those entities serving Ontarians with disabilities need to change. It is utterly shocking to the Reviewer that the Cabinet of Ontario has no plan to change the behaviours of the customers of the AODA. There are standards. There is a Minister. There is budget. Yet, there is no plan that adjusts behaviours to achieve an accessible Ontario.”
2. Watch AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Tonight on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin
Please watch TVO’s flagship current affairs program “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” tonight at 8 or 11 pm Eastern time. It will include an extensive interview with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, speaking on disability issues in Ontario’s school system.
This program will appear on TV. It will also stream tonight at 8 pm on the Twitter feed and Facebook page of The Agenda with Steve Paikin. It will be permanently available on YouTube. In a future AODA Alliance Update, we will provide the YouTube link once it is available.
We gratefully applaud The Agenda with Steve Paikin for addressing disability issues on tonight’s broadcast, which is important for over one third of a million students with disabilities and their families in Ontario. Help us use this broadcast to promote real change. Please
- Encourage your friends and family to watch this interview.
- Promote this interview on social media like Twitter and Facebook.
- Urge your local media to cover disability issues in Ontario’s education system.
Summary of the March 27, 2023 AODA Alliance Brief to the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee
In summary, this brief recommends that:
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should now engage in a very open consultative process with the disability community.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should not limit the DOPS Standards Development Committees work to asking if the design of public spaces accessibility standard is working “as intended”.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should not have to reinvent the wheel.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should address all built environment barriers. Ontario should not leave the achievement of accessibility in most of the built environment to the Ontario Building Code.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should not recommend harmonizing the Ontario Building Code with the National Building Code or other provincial building codes.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should draw on superior accessibility requirements in some municipal facilities accessible design standards (FADS).
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should make recommendations targeted at specific categories of buildings.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should recommended specific revisions to the 2012 DOPS Accessibility Standard to:
- Extend the DOPS Accessibility Standard requirements to existing locations, not just new ones.
- Set specific accessibility requirements for outdoor play spaces.
- Set specific accessibility requirements for on-street parking spaces.
- Set specific accessibility requirements for accessible customer service counters and fixed queuing guides.
- Require audible pedestrian signals to operate automatically, rather than requiring people with disabilities to turn them on whenever.
- Narrow excessively broad DOPS Accessibility Standard exemptions.
List of Recommendations in the March 27, 2023 AODA Alliance Brief to the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee report to the Ontario Government should make the specific findings and recommendations set out in Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the 3rd Independent Review by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should now undertake a broad public consultation process, well before finalizing, voting on and circulating a draft report for feedback.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should consider whether the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard will ensure that Ontario’s built environment will become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It should not limit itself to considering whether the 2012 Accessibility Standard is merely working “as intended.”
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should endorse the built environment recommendations in the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, as usefully applying to the built environment more broadly, and not only to school buildings and grounds.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should obtain from the Ontario Government the final report of the earlier Built Environment Standards Development Committee, make it public for feedback, and incorporate into its own report anything in those earlier recommendations that would help make Ontario’s built environment accessible.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should include in its recommendations:
- Measures to ensure that existing buildings and premises become accessible, even if not undergoing a major renovation.
- Measures to ensure accessibility for all people with disabilities, and not only those who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, or those with vision or hearing loss.
- As a first and transitional step, measures to require retrofit of existing buildings for accessibility, even if not undergoing a major renovation, at least where doing so is readily achievable.
- A comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should be enacted under the AODA, rather than leaving accessibility of buildings exclusively to the Ontario Building Code.
- The Ontario Building Code should be amended to incorporate the AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard by reference.
- The AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard requirements should be fully enforceable not only under the AODA’s enforcement provisions, but under the enforcement powers available under the Ontario Building Code.
- A construction plan should not be able to obtain site plan approval and/or a building permit unless it is found to comply with all accessibility requirements created in AODA Accessibility Standards and not just those in the Ontario Building Code.
- The Ontario Government should not “harmonize” the Ontario Building Code with the National Building Code. Ontarians with disabilities should not have to fight to prevent any further weakening of the Ontario Building Codes inadequate accessibility provisions.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should draw on the strongest accessibility requirements in any municipal Facilities Accessible Design Standards (FADS) if they are found to be sufficient to ensure accessibility.
- The DOPS Standards Development Committee should recommend that any AODA accessibility standard addressing the built environment needs to include specific requirements targeted at discrete categories of buildings, such as residential housing, public transit stations or hospitals and other major health care facilities.
- The specific provisions in the DOPS Accessibility Standard should be revised to cover existing built environment, not only those developed after the Standard went into effect.
- The DOPS Accessibility Standard should be revised to set specific accessibility requirements for playgrounds and spaces, rather than wastefully requiring obligated organizations to repeat the same duplicative consultations with people with disabilities across Ontario.
- The DOPS Accessibility Standard should be revised to set specific accessibility requirements for on-street parking.
- The DOPS Accessibility Standard should be revised to set a specific height for an accessible customer service counter, and to fix specific accessibility requirements for public service queuing guides.
- The DOPS Accessibility Standard be revised to require that audible pedestrian signals operate automatically, without people with disabilities having to find them and push a button to turn them on.
- Each of the exemptions to the DOPS Accessibility Standard requirements addressed in this brief should be substantially narrowed or eliminated.