AODA Alliance Report on 5 Years of Lax AODA Enforcement Comes Up in the Legislature and the Media – and — AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Files Another Freedom of Information Application to Get Needed Information on AODA Implementation and Enforcement

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Report on 5 Years of Lax AODA Enforcement Comes Up in the Legislature and the Media – and — AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Files Another Freedom of Information Application to Get Needed Information on AODA Implementation and Enforcement

April 19, 2018

          SUMMARY

1. Immediate Fall-out from the Release of the AODA Alliance’s Report on Five Years of Lax AODA Enforcement

The release yesterday of the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2018 report on five years of lax Government enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has triggered quite a response!

* On the same day, New Democratic Party MPP Monique Taylor pressed the Government on its lax AODA enforcement, during Question Period. Below we set out our brief analysis of this exchange in the Legislature, the text of the actual exchange in the Legislature, and MPP Monique Taylor’s news release about this exchange in the Legislature.

* On April 18, 2018, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed on the Jerry Agar show on CFRB Radio 1010 in Toronto. He is scheduled to again be interviewed on that program on Monday, April 23, 2018 from 11 to 11:30 a.m. We encourage AODA Alliance supporters to call in to the program:

In the Toronto area, this program is on AM radio at 1010 on the dial.

Listen online live at http://www.newstalk1010.com

Tweet about the program before, during and after, by including in your tweet @jerryagar1010 And @aodaalliance

* Tweets about the AODA Alliance new report on lax AODA enforcement have made their way around social media on Twitter and Facebook. Please help by re-tweeting and sharing these tweets.

2.  Brief Reflections on the April 18, 2018 Exchange in the Ontario Legislature on AODA Enforcement

We thank MPP Taylor for raising the AODA Alliance’s April 18 report on five years of lax AODA enforcement. We urge other MPPs to do the same in the Legislature and in the media.

MPP Taylor stated in her question that only 2 fines have been imposed under the AODA. This is incorrect. Our April 18, 2018 report on lax AODA enforcement states that there have been only 5 monetary penalties imposed on the tens of thousands of AODA violators in 2015, 2016, and 2017 combined, or less than two per year.

In her answer in the Legislature, Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles said:

“We know Ontario is a global leader when it comes to accessibility…”

The Wynne Government has claimed this since 2015. It is not accurate. It is very commendable that Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005 ,and took good action early on to get its implementation started. However its implementation and enforcement in recent years has been uneven, insufficient, and in key ways, too lax.

In comparison, there is greater accessibility on the ground, and more effective enforcement in the US, even though the US still has a distance to go.

In her answer in the Legislature, Accessibility Minister MacCharles also said

“We remain committed to our goal to have an accessible province by 2025, and although there’s always been resources dedicated to compliance and enforcement to respond to my expanded mandate, we reorganized the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to reflect and create a dedicated branch on compliance and enforcement.”

It is true that in the latter part of 2017, the Government did a re-organization of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. However there has been no announcement of any increase in the budget for enforcement, in the numbers of staff working on enforcement, or in the number of organizations to be audited. There have not been any specific plans announced to inspect the premises of a specified number of obligated organizations for accessibility, instead of just inspecting their files for accessibility documentation.

The Government has refused to disclose the outside report on the operations of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario which led to the re-organization of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has therefore had to include a request for that report in his April 2, 2018 Freedom of Information application, addressed below.

Accessibility Minister MacCharles also said this in the Legislature:

“I’m pleased to say, Speaker, that compliance reporting rates continue to increase. Around 24,000 businesses completed their 2017 accessibility compliance reports by this past December. That represents a 20% increase over the previous reporting deadline, and more than 6,000 businesses filed their compliance reports for the very first time this year. We’re also experiencing increased reporting rates amongst businesses, not-for-profits…—we’ll continue to work with them to make Ontario accessible.”

This disregards troubling facts, documented in the AODA Alliances April 18, 2018 report on lax AODA enforcement. These are all based on data we obtained from the Government:

  1. a) The Minister said she was pleased that compliance reporting rates are increasing. Yet the rate in 2016 was 43%. The rate in 2017 was 43%. The Minister did not fulfill or even make material progress on the priority which Premier Wynne set in her September 2016 Mandate Letter, namely to increase private sector compliance by 50%
  1. b) The Minister was also pleased that Around 24,000 businesses had filed their required accessibility self-reports by the start of this year. Yet some 32,000 business, or 57% of them with over 20 employees, had not filed that report.
  1. c) The Minister also said that there was a 20% increase in compliance by these businesses for the 2017 filing over the rate for the last filing year. The last filing year was 2014. The Government had had three years up to 2017 to generate this increase. In actual numbers of businesses, that 20% was only about 4,000 businesses. The percentage looks as high as 20% only because the number of businesses in 2014 that had complied with their filing requirement in that year was so disturbingly low. Here again, it must be emphasized that in contrast to that increase of 4,000 organizations to which the minister referred, fully 32,000 obligated organizations in the private sector had not fulfilled this filing requirement.

3. Time for Another Freedom of Information application About AODA Implementation and Enforcement

Sadly, on April 2, 2018 AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky again had to resort to filing another Freedom of Information application, to get needed information on the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA.

In the AODA Alliance’s in February 1, 2018 letter to the Accessibility Minister, we asked for very specific information on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. The Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Ann Hoy, sent us a response on March 7, 2018. It answered some, but not all of our questions.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has carefully formulated his new April 2, 2018 Freedom of Information application to get information which we earlier requested, and which the Government has not provided. He has also formulated his requests to make it clear and obvious that the Government should be able to find this information quickly and easily, without being able to impose a search fee.

The Government has in the past tried to impose hefty search fees, even though it knows the AODA Alliance has no money. In 2013, the Government it dropped that fee when it was blasted in the media. In 2017, the Information and Privacy Commission found that another hefty fee the Government tried to charge was more than five times what the Government could justify.

Below we set out the key parts of this new Freedom of Information application, the Government’s April 13, 2018 letter acknowledging receipt of it, and AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s April 19, 2018 responding email, in which he asks the Government to get this addressed before the upcoming election.

          MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard April 18, 2018

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Miss Monique Taylor: My question is to the Premier. A report released today by the AODA Alliance contains some shameful facts: Ontarians with disabilities still face too many barriers when they apply for jobs, try and access public transit, go to school, access hospitals or try and/or go out to eat—activities that many of us take for granted. Worse, there was little or no enforcement of the laws that would ensure this access.

In the five years since the law passed, 57% of businesses have not even filed the required accessibility reports. Only two fines have ever been levied for non-compliance. What is the Premier going to do to ensure that accessibility laws in Ontario are followed?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister responsible for accessibility.

Hon. Tracy MacCharles: We know Ontario is a global leader when it comes to accessibility—Canada’s first jurisdiction to adopt accessibility standards. We remain committed to our goal to have an accessible province by 2025, and although there’s always been resources dedicated to compliance and enforcement to respond to my expanded mandate, we reorganized the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to reflect and create a dedicated branch on compliance and enforcement.

I’m pleased to say, Speaker, that compliance reporting rates continue to increase. Around 24,000 businesses completed their 2017 accessibility compliance reports by this past December. That represents a 20% increase over the previous reporting deadline, and more than 6,000 businesses filed their compliance reports for the very first time this year. We’re also experiencing increased reporting rates amongst businesses, not-for-profits and—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Hon. Tracy MacCharles: —we’ll continue to work with them to make Ontario accessible.

Text of April 18, 2018 NDP News Release

MPP Taylor demands stronger enforcement of accessibility laws

Queen’s Park – In the wake of disturbing evidence of a lack of enforcement of accessibility laws, Monique Taylor, NDP Critic for Accessibility and MPP for Hamilton Mountain demanded answers of the Liberal premier during question period.

“A report released today by the AODA Alliance contains some shameful facts” said Taylor. “Ontarians with disabilities still face too many barriers when they apply for jobs, try to access public transit, go to school, access hospitals, or try to shop or go out to eat – activities others take for granted.”

“Worse, there is little to no enforcement of the laws that would ensure this access. In the five years since the law passed, 57% of businesses have not even filed the required accessibility reports,” Taylor said.

“What is the Premier going to do to ensure the accessibility laws are followed,” asked Taylor.

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Audio  https://www.dropbox.com/s/xcbjd4iziad6wuo/Q3_Forster_04-18-18.mp3?dl=0

Video  https://www.dropbox.com/s/4flmxo76fo4ozf3/Q3_Forster_04-18-18.mp4?dl=0

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s April 2, 2018 Freedom of Information Application

Ontario Access or Correction Request

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Date: April 2, 2018

  1. Type of Request:

Access to general records (non-personal information)

…C.    Description of Records Requested

Note: “AODA” refers to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

  1. In 2016-2017, the Government hired the Leadership Intelligence consulting firm to conduct a review of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. I request a copy of the report which Leadership Intelligence submitted on the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not exempt from mandatory public disclosure, the advice to a minister or ministry, if, according to s. 13 (2) (f), it is:

“(f)      a report or study on the performance or efficiency of an institution, whether the report or study is of a general nature or is in respect of a particular program or policy;”

As the chair of the AODA Alliance, the Leadership Intelligence consulting firm consulted me in late fall 2016, as part of this study. The focus of that consultation was on the performance and efficiency of the Accessibility Directorate.

The only search that should be needed to locate this document would be to request it from the office of the Deputy Minister responsible for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

 

  1. In 2016 or in 2017 (broken down by year), for how many obligated organizations, has all or part of their website been audited or inspected by or on behalf of the Ontario Government, for compliance with AODA accessibility standards?
  1. In 2018, at the place of business of how many obligated organizations does the Ontario Government plan to have an on-site AODA inspection? In 2018, how many obligated organizations does the Ontario Government plan to audit for AODA compliance, without conducting an on-site inspection of the organization’s place of business?
  1. In 2017, how many compliance orders were issued under the AODA?
  1. In 2017, for the three monetary penalties that were imposed under the AODA, what were their amounts? How many were against private sector organizations? How many were against public sector organizations?
  1. As for the annual budget of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario:
  1. a) How much did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario actually spend in fiscal year 2016-17?
  1. b) What total budget was allocated to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for fiscal year 2017-18?
  1. c) How much did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario actually spend in 20170-18?
  1. The June 3, 2015 Toronto Star included an article on new plans for AODA enforcement. Among other things, it stated the following, regarding complaints of AODA violations which the Government receives on its toll-free line, which the Government promised to provide for the public to report AODA violations:

“New monthly reports to the minister’s office on complaints will ensure systemic problems are addressed promptly, officials say.”

I request copies of those monthly reports since the Government made that commitment. If it would be burdensome to locate them for that entire period, please let me know what shorter period would be easy to obtain. If any reports contain any personal information, I do not seek access to that personal information. To reduce search time, I would be happy if the search were directed to the records of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. I would expect that these records would be set to the Minister’s office via the office of the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Ann Hoy. Hence a search of her office’s records should be sufficient. Let me know if that narrow search would not yield any results, before contemplating any further search efforts.

CLARIFICATIONS

  1. Please provide all documents in an accessible format in MS Word, so that they can be read by screen-reading software used by people with vision loss and other print disabilities. If this presents any difficulty, please advise me and I will do my best to see if there are ways to effectively address this.
  1. Please provide any requested information as soon as available. In other words, please do not hold back all requested information until it is all assembled. If some information can be quickly provided, while other requested information may take longer, please provide the immediately available information as soon as possible, and do not hold it back until all other requested information is sought and obtained.

As one example, if it will take longer to address other requests, please immediately provide the report of the Leadership Intelligence consulting firm on the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, requested above.

  1. If some requested information would require extensive efforts to collect and provide, please contact me. I am open to adjusting the request for information to reduce the time and cost to the Government of complying with this request, so long as I can obtain the substance of the information I am seeking. I have assisted with just such an issue in the past, and am happy to do so again.
  1. I am not seeking disclosure of any privileged legal advice sought or obtained by or within the Government.
  1. I ask in advance that any fee for complying with this request be waived. I do so because this is a public interest application. I make the request for information under the Freedom of Information Act as a matter of public interest. I am the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, a volunteer position with a volunteer coalition. Our coalition is a non-partisan, non-profit community coalition advocating for the effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. We have no funds of our own, as the Government admitted during my January 2017 appeal to the Information and Privacy Commission.

I make this request for information in good faith. The search fee should not become an unfair barrier to access to information for such a community group or for people with disabilities generally. The AODA Alliance has been recognized by all parties in the Ontario Legislature as a leading voice advocating for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. As one illustration of this, each of the political parties has made their election commitments on disability accessibility in the form of letters to the AODA Alliance.

Method of access:  Receive copy

  1. Payment and Signature

$5 application fee – Cheque

Text of April 13, 2018 Email from the Wynne Government to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

Ministry of Government and Consumer Services

Corporate Resources

Management Branch

20 Dundas St. W., 4th Floor

Toronto ON M7A 1N3

Telephone: 416-325-2791

April 13, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair

AODA Alliance

Mr. Lepofsky,

RE: ADO 18-001 – AODA Stats

Acknowledgement Letter

This letter concerns your request for access to records held by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO) under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Your request and $5.00 application fee was forwarded to us, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, from the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth on April 09, 2018.

Please be advised that all future access requests and associated correspondence for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario be directed to: Freedom of Information Office, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, 20 Dundas Street West, 4th Floor, Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1N3.

Your request reads as follows:

  1. In 2016-2017, the Government hired the Leadership Intelligence consulting firm to conduct a review of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. I request a copy of the report which Leadership Intelligence submitted on the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.
  1. In 2016 or in 2017 (broken down by year), for how many obligated organizations, has all or part of their website been audited or inspected by or on behalf of the Ontario Government, for compliance with AODA accessibility standards?
  1. In 2018, at the place of business of how many obligated organizations does the Ontario Government plan to have an on-site AODA inspection? In 2018, how many obligated organizations does the Ontario Government plan to audit for AODA compliance, without conducting an on-site inspection of the organization’s place of business?
  1. In 2017, how many compliance orders were issued under the AODA?
  1. In 2017, for the three monetary penalties that were imposed under the AODA, what were their amounts? How many were against private sector organizations? How many were against public sector organizations?
  1. As for the annual budget of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario:
  1. a) How much did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario actually spend in fiscal year 2016-17?
  1. b) What total budget was allocated to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for fiscal year 2017-18?
  1. c) How much did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario actually spend in 2017-18?
  1. The June 3, 2015 Toronto Star included an article on new plans for AODA enforcement. Among other things, it stated the following, regarding complaints of AODA violations which the Government receives on its toll-free line, which the Government promised to provide for the public to report AODA violations:

“New monthly reports to the minister’s office on complaints will ensure systemic problems are addressed promptly, officials say.”

I request copies of those monthly reports since the Government made that commitment.

A file has been opened and assigned the case number ADO 18-001. If there is a fee involved in processing your request, you will be notified in writing and provided with an itemized fee estimate. If we have any difficulty identifying the records in your request, we will contact you in writing to obtain clarification.

Although a final decision cannot be provided until the records search and review are complete, an early review of your request indicates that some of the information you are seeking may already be publicly available online. While we are processing your request, we would like to provide you with website links that you may wish to review.

In regards to your fourth question, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has published the 2017 Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement Report which outlines the activities undertaken by the Accessibility Directorate in 2017. It can viewed on the government’s website at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/accessibility-compliance-and-enforcement-report

As for your budget questions, specifically 6-b which asks about the 2017-18 allocation, the Directorate has published its Expenditure Estimates for fiscal year 2017-18. It can also be viewed on the government’s website at:

Please feel free to contact our office at 416-327-4113 or email us at MGCS.FreedomOfInformation@ontario.ca.

Sincerely,

Original signed by

Amanda Doobay-Kydd

Manager, Information Management & Access

Ministry of Government & Consumer Services

Text of April 19, 2018 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to the Wynne Government

To: Amanda Doobay-Kydd

Manager, Information Management & Access

Via email: amanda.doobay@ontario.ca

Ministry of Government and Consumer Services

Corporate Resources Management Branch

20 Dundas St. W., 4th Floor

Toronto ON M7A 1N3

Telephone: 416-325-2791

From: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

Date: April 19, 2018

RE: ADO 18-001 – AODA Stats

Thank you for your April 13, 2018 email, confirming receipt of my April 2, 2018 Freedom of Information application. I would ask the Ministry to do what it can to respond to my request before the forthcoming election writ period begins. The information I request is very important for issues to be raised in this election. If some of that information can be quickly provided, while other parts may take more time to consider, I ask that the easy-to-deliver information be provided now, without waiting for the rest to be dealt with.

I have drafted the request in order to ensure that the information I have requested can be found with absolutely minimal search time. In the case of my last Freedom of Information application regarding the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, the Information and Privacy Commission concluded that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario had exaggerated the search fee that the ADO was requesting by over five times the justifiable fee. I ask that this not be repeated here.

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario should be able to find this information quickly, since I had earlier requested it in a letter to the Minister of Accessibility in a February 1, 2018 letter to her. In formulating the Government’s March 7, 2018 response to that letter, no doubt the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, Ann Hoy, already accessed most if not all of the information I have requested. Any fee estimate should not involve re-searching for information that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario would already have gathered.

In your email, you suggested that I look for some of the information I requested in the Ontario Government’s 2017 Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement Report. I carefully studied that, before formulating my April 2, 2018 Freedom of Information application.  If I am incorrect, no doubt the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario can quickly point that out, since they wrote the Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement Report.

Your April 20, 2018 email to me suggested that I could find the actual expenditures for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario by going to this link:

https://www.ontario.ca/page/expenditure-estimates-accessibility-directorate-ontario-2017-18

I have tried that link. I regret that given the way the Government has formatted that web page, a blind person like me, using a screen-reader, can find it hard to make sense of it. I certainly did.

In the past several years, the Government has been prepared, ultimately at no charge, to simply send me the figures I requested regarding the actual per-year total expenditure of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. I hope and trust that this could be done again now.

As in the past, I am happy to speak by phone or in person if you need help in taking the quickest and easiest route to the information I have requested. Please confirm that you received this email.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

            For More Information About the AODA Alliance

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We encourage you to use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Check out our new and expanded collection of online videos about the history, strategies and accomplishments of Ontario’s non-partisan grassroots accessibility campaign, available at:

https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-aoda-alliance-launches-part-2-of-its-series-of-online-videos-on-the-campaign-for-accessibility-to-mark-the-23rd-anniversary-of-ontarios-grassroots-campaign-for-disability-accessibility/

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