AODA Alliance Writes Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles to Request Modest But Important Improvements to the Way Accessibility Standards are Developed Under Ontario’s Disabilities Act

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 Writes Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles to Request Modest But Important Improvements to the Way Accessibility Standards are Developed Under Ontario’s Disabilities Act

April 23, 2018

          SUMMARY

The AODA Alliance has again written to Ontario’s Accessibility Minister, Tracy MacCharles. In this new letter, we ask for a series of modest but important adjustments to the process by which accessibility standards are developed under the AODA. None of these requests requires any change to the law. The minister can quickly do everything we ask, within her mandate as the minister responsible for the AODA.

Here is a summary of what we ask for in this letter:

  1. We ask the minister to amend the Terms of Reference for Standards Development Committees, to allow them to make a recommendation on what an accessibility standard should include as long as that recommendation is supported by a simple majority of 50% of the voting members, at least half of which comprise representatives on the Committee from the disability sector. The minister’s Terms of Reference now provide that a Standards Development Committee cannot present a recommendation to the Government on what an accessibility standard should include unless it is passed by a super-majority of at least 75% of the Committee’s members, at least half of which comprise disability sector representatives. The excessive 75% super-majority requirement will make it harder to pass recommendations and will thus lead to weaker or more diluted recommendations.
  1. We ask the minister to instruct the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario not to direct Standards Development Committees that when they vote on matters such as approving or amending Committee meetings’ minutes, they require a 75% super-majority. A simple majority should be all that is required.
  1. We ask the minister to withdraw her request of the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, in her Mandate Letters to them, directing them to decide, within their first six months of work, on priorities for the Education Accessibility Standard. We are concerned that this comes too early in the work of those Committees. Also, if priorities are to be chosen among barriers to be addressed, the result will be that students with some disabilities will be the winners and others could be the losers. That unintended result would be unfair.
  1. because fully 12 different public consultations will be coming up over the next months, we ask the minister to make public a schedule of all the forthcoming public consultations that will come up over the next 18-24 months under the AODA, and to ensure they are not overlapping, so that the public can adequately prepare to participate in them all. We include requests:
  1. a) To now announce a rough timetable for all of these public consultations.
  1. b) To ensure that there is no overlap between the consultation periods. We ask for a reasonable gap between each of them.
  1. c) To ensure that the consultation period for any of these does not occupy key periods when many are on holidays, such as in late August or at the end of December.
  1. d) To allow a longer time for input during these consultations than the minimum period that the AODA requires.
  1. e) To make public a Standards Development Committee’s draft or final recommendations as soon as the Government receives them. Since the AODA’s enactment in 2005, there has often been a period of several weeks after the Government has received a Standards Development Committee’s recommendations, before they are made public.
  1. f) To now immediately make public the final recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development committee for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. Your Government already has received them from the Transportation Standards Development committee.
  1. g) During these consultations, to hold public meetings to gather input on Standards Development Committee recommendations. The Government did this back in the late 2000s, but regrettably abandoned this practice after 2011.
  1. h) Please work with the Third AODA Independent Review to ensure that its public hearings and consultation process will not take place until after the 2018 Ontario general election.
  1. We ask the minister to now launch the process to recruit members of a new Standards Development Committee to review disability barriers in the built environment, including those addressed in the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. Under the AODA, the Government was required to launch this review by the end of 2017.

Our detailed letter fully explains each of these requests. This may not seem to be as zingy and adrenalin-generating a topic as have been others that our AODA Alliance Updates have recently addressed. However it is still a very important subject. It needs prompt action.

Our letter notes that Accessibility Minister MacCharles has recently announced that she is not running in the June Ontario election. In our letter, we thank her for her public service and wish her well in her future endeavours. We also note that even though our requests come weeks before the next election, it is open to the minister to act on them now. These do not require any changes to legislation or regulations.

Minister MacCharles brought to this role her extensive prior knowledge about and experience with the AODA. We hope she will act on our recommendations in this letter, as part of her legacy, as she winds up her term of public service as Ontario’s first Minister of Accessibility.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliances April 23, 2018 Letter to Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

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

April 23, 2018

Via Email Tracy.MacCharles@ontario.ca

The Honourable Tracy MacCharles,

Minister of Accessibility and Minister of Government and Consumer Services

Office of the Minister Responsible for Accessibility

6th Floor, Mowat Block

900 Bay St,

Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

Dear Minister,

Re: Ready Ways for Strengthening the Process for Developing Accessibility Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We write to ask for your help regarding your Ministry’s current process for the development of new accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and for reviewing existing AODA accessibility standards.

As you know, the AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. The Government must enact and effectively enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved. An accessibility standard is a provincial regulation that spells out what an obligated organization must do to prevent and remove accessibility barriers and that sets times lines for this action.

The vital first stage in developing a new accessibility standard or reviewing an existing one is for the Government to appoint an independent AODA Standards Development Committee. That Committee makes recommendations on what a new accessibility standard must include, or what an existing accessibility standard should be revised to include, to ensure that it is strong and effective and meets the AODA’s goal. I was honoured by your appointing me, as chair of the AODA Alliance, to serve on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. It is now working on recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include to ensure that Ontario’s education system becomes accessible to students with disabilities by 2025.

We seek your assistance to address our concerns with the operation of the current standards development process. All the actions we seek fall within your power and responsibility as the minister responsible for the AODA. You do not need to get anything passed by the Legislature or the Cabinet in order to make these changes.

Our proposals will affect the work of several Standards Development Committees now in operation. Those Committees are mandated to address disability accessibility barriers in education, in health care, in employment, and in information and communication. They would also affect the as-yet unappointed Standards Development Committee that your Government was required to appoint by now, to address disability accessibility barriers in the built environment, e.g.  in so far as public spaces are concerned.

In summary, the actions we here request, and which we explain below in detail, include:

  1. We ask you to amend the Terms of Reference for Standards Development Committees, to allow them to make a recommendation on what an accessibility standard should include as long as that recommendation is supported by a simple majority of 50% of the voting members, at least half of which comprise representatives on the Committee from the disability sector. Your Terms of Reference now provide that a Standards Development Committee cannot present a recommendation to the Government on what an accessibility standard should include unless it is passed by a super-majority of at least 75% of the Committee’s members, at least half of which comprise disability sector representatives. The excessive 75% super-majority requirement will make it harder to pass recommendations, and will thus lead to weaker or more diluted recommendations.
  1. We ask you to instruct the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario not to direct Standards Development Committees that when they vote on other matters such as approving or amending Committee meetings’ minutes, they require a 75% super-majority. A simple majority should be all that is required.
  1. We ask you to withdraw your request of the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, in your Mandate Letters to them, directing them to decide, within their first six months of work, on priorities for the Education Accessibility Standard.
  1. because fully 12 different public consultations will be coming up over the next months, please make public a schedule of all the forthcoming public consultations that will come up over the next 18-24 months under the AODA, and ensure they are not overlapping, so that the public can adequately prepare to participate in them all.
  1. Please now launch the process to recruit members of a new Standards Development Committee to review disability barriers in the built environment, including those addressed in the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.
  1. The Excessive Requirement for a 75% Vote of Support for Recommendations to the Government by a Standards Development Committee Should Be Reduced to a Simple Majority Vote

We are very concerned that the Government has directed each AODA Standards Development Committee that a 75% super-majority vote is needed to pass any recommendations at a Standards Development Committee. We ask you to revise this as soon as possible. Please direct that a simple majority is sufficient. We concur with the requirement that at least half of the majority, supporting a recommendation, must be made up of Committee members appointed to represent the disability sector.

We and, as far as we know, the disability community, were never consulted by the Government before imposing this 75% super-majority voting requirement. Had we been consulted, we would have strenuously opposed it. We would have rallied others in the disability community to oppose it. We know of no one in the community or the public who has ever called for a 75% super-majority requirement.

Under the AODA, you, as the responsible minister, can set Terms of Reference for a Standards Development Committee. Section 8 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act gives the Minister the power to make Terms of Reference for Standards Development Committees. It is open to the AODA Alliance to ask you, as the Minister, to alter the Terms of Reference accordingly.

Here is what the key provisions of your Ministry’s Terms of Reference provide for voting on recommendations by each Standards Development Committee:

“7. Quorum

In order to hold a discussion, 75% of SDC members must be present at the meeting to constitute a quorum.

  1. Voting

…In order to pass formal resolutions on proposed standards and recommendations for the Minister, agreement by 75% of the voting members present at the meeting will constitute approval.

Of the 75% who vote to pass a formal resolution, proposed standard or recommendation, 50% must be comprised of representatives from the disability community or persons with disabilities.”

We discussed our concerns regarding this 75% rule with your Ministry. We were told that it was meant to ensure that anything that the Standards Development Committee recommends to the Government regarding the content of AODA accessibility standards is supported by a vote that includes equal representation from the disability sector. We were also told more generally that the Ministry wants the Standards Development Committee to work towards reaching a consensus position where possible.

We agree with both goals. Indeed, the requirement that Standards Development Committees have an assured equal representation at each Standards Development Committee originated with the AODA Alliance. We secured it as an election commitment in 2007. This was promised to us in that election. As well, a consensus position on a recommendation on an issue at a Standards Development Committee is desirable, where it can be achieved.

However, this 75% super-majority voting requirement is not necessary for these laudable goals. In fact, it works against these goals.

Let us give you an example. Assume that a Standards Development Committee has 20 members, including 10 from the disability sector and 10 from the obligated sectors. Assume that all 20 members attend a meeting where the Committee is to vote on its recommendations to the Ontario Government on what an accessibility standard should include.

Assume further that a specific proposal for a recommendation is on the table for a vote. Assume that every representative of the disability sector on that Standards Development Committee votes in support of that specific recommendation. Assume further that two other members of that Standards Development Committee (from the obligated sectors, such as from business or the broader public sector) also vote for that recommendation. All eight other representatives from the obligated sectors vote against that recommendation.

The vote therefore is 12 in support of the recommendation (including all 10 disability sector representatives), and 8 against it. That recommendation would fail, under your current terms of reference, because it did not secure 75% support, or 15 votes out of 20. This is so, even though it got more than 50% support, and even though the entire disability sector, represented on that Committee, voted in favour of that recommendation. Your Ministry’s 75% super-majority voting requirement does not ensure an equal and strong voice for the disability sector.

The real effect of a 75% super-majority requirement is that the only recommendations that will pass will tend to be weaker ones. The 75% super-majority rule simply makes it harder to reach a sufficient consensus to pass a recommendation. It forces the Committee to only come forward with recommendations that are the lowest common denominator. Rather than empowering the disability sector, it will force that sector to agree to weaker positions, in order to garner all the votes needed to reach the excessively-high 75% threshold. If 75% is not reached, the Committee recommends nothing. The disability community would be stuck with the status quo, a world full of disability accessibility barriers.

We, along with the ARCH Disability Law Centre have amply documented that the recommendations from the last two Standards Development Committees (regarding customer service and transportation) were very weak. We demonstrated this in our 2016 brief to your Ministry on the final recommendations of the Customer Service Standards Development Committee and in our 2017 brief on the interim or draft recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development committee. If anything, we need each Standards Development Committee to bring forward more bold recommendations, not weaker ones. The 75% super-majority rule will not help achieve this.

In sharp contrast, under a simple majority rule, if a Committee happens to garner a stronger majority of votes in favour of a recommendation, its recorded voting record will reflect this. On the other hand, if a smaller majority (but still a majority) supports a recommendation, it would still go forward to the Government for the Government’s consideration. On the other hand, on your Ministry’s current approach, if a 75% super-majority is not mustered, a proposed recommendation dies on the Committee table, and does not come forward to the Government as a Committee recommendation worthy of consideration.

There is no good reason for this 75% super-majority voting requirement for a Standards Development Committee to pass a recommendation on what an accessibility standard should include. By stark comparison, the Legislature requires only a simple majority to enact a law. Cabinet only requires a simple majority to enact or amend an AODA accessibility standard. Why should a Standards Development Committee have a much tougher threshold to overcome?

For the Government to make it harder for a Standards Development Committee to make a recommendation to the Government is not consistent with the aims of the AODA. The AODA was passed to ensure that disability barriers impeding people with disabilities in society are torn down by 2025, less than seven years from now. Ontario is lagging behind schedule to reach accessibility by 2025. We need action on accessibility that is bolder, not more tepid and diluted.

Once a Standards Development Committee makes a recommendation, the Government must consider whether to enact it as a regulation, as proposed, or with changes. We have found over and over that once a Standards Development Committee makes a recommendation, the Government tends to be very reluctant to go any further than that recommendation, in an AODA standard regulation. If we propose to the Government that the regulation should include something that the Standards Development Committee did not recommend, or if we propose to the Government that a measure should be stronger than what the Standards Development Committee recommended, the Government typically and predictably tells us that it places great weight on what the Standards Development Committee had recommended. In other words, the Government will use the limited reach of the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations as its own justification or excuse for going no further. For the most part, the regulations that the Government has enacted under the AODA have been weaker than what the Standards Development Committees have recommended.

As mentioned earlier, in 2007, the AODA Alliance approached all the political parties to seek commitments to reform the standards development process during that year’s provincial election. This was because we had received feedback from disability sector representatives on the earliest Standards Development Committees. They reported to us that the Government had created the earliest Standards Development Committees, with disability sector representatives being a minority on each Committee. They were out-numbered and out-voted by the members from the obligated sectors. This led to those Committees coming forward with weaker recommendations. Disability sector representatives reported to us in 2007 that they faced the cruel choice of either voting for a very weak recommendation, which they felt was inadequate, or running the risk that the Committee would pass no recommendation at all.

To rectify this, in 2007, as noted above, the Government commendably agreed to our proposal that the disability sector be assured an equal number of seats at each Standards Development Committee. The Government’s later creation of this 75% super-majority voting rule has in a real way counter-acted the progress that we made in 2007. We ask you to rectify this now, by amending the Standards Development Committee Terms of Reference as we have requested.

To adopt a simple majority voting rule does not disempower or silence a minority viewpoint on a Standards Development Committee. If a majority votes for a recommendation, it is open to a minority to submit a minority report to the Government. All voices can thereby be raised and heard. The Government can be enriched from a diversity of viewpoints.

  1. The Additional Excessive 75% Super-Majority Voting Requirement for an Standards Development Committee to Make Other Decisions, such as on Their Meetings’ Minutes, Should Also Be Reduced to a Simple Majority

From my experience sitting as a disability sector representative on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, I have learned that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has also directed that each Standards Development Committee should apply this 75% super-majority rule on other voting matters, and most particularly, on votes to approve or amend the minutes of each Standards Development Committee meeting. We ask you to get the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which reports to you as minister, to change this to a simple majority vote as well.

It is clear that the Minister’s Terms of Reference for the AODA Standards Development Committees, quoted above, only imposes a 75% super-majority voting requirement for a Standards Development Committee, when it votes on recommendations to the Government on what an accessibility standard should include. Those Terms of Reference do not impose this 75% super-majority requirement for any other votes by the Standards Development Committee, such as a vote to approve or amend the minutes of a Standards Development Committee meeting.

I have asked the Accessibility Directorate where this additional 75% super-majority voting requirement comes from, i.e. for things other than votes on recommendation to the Government on what an accessibility standard should include. The Accessibility Directorate has not substantively answered this inquiry, and has pointed to nothing that grants it the authority to impose this 75% voting requirement on Standards Development Committees. Nothing in the AODA sets this requirement. Nothing in the AODA empowers the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to unilaterally impose this requirement on a Standards Development Committee, that is appointed under the AODA. It is an unwarranted interference in the independence of those Committees.

Over the years, I myself have taken part in innumerable meetings of different organizations and committees, at which minutes are kept. Votes to approve or amend those minutes have always been decided on a simple majority basis, not a 75% super-majority basis. The Accessibility Directorate has offered no policy rationale for changing that longstanding common practice, in the case of Standards Development Committees.

To many, the minutes of meetings may seem of little consequence, and hardly worth any attention or concern. In the case of AODA Standards Development Committees, this is not the case.

Under s. 8(9) of the AODA, each Standards Development Committee is required to keep minutes of every meeting. These must be publicly posted. Section 8(9) of the AODA provides:

”      (9)   A standards development committee shall keep minutes of every meeting it holds and shall make the minutes available to the public by posting them on a government internet site and by such other means as the terms of reference may provide.”

These minutes are an important way for the public to learn what ideas and options are being discussed at a Standards Development Committee, why they are being accepted or rejected, whom the Standards Development Committee is consulting, and generally, how the Standards Development Committee is going about its work. This provides an important measure of openness, transparency, and accountability for the work of the Standards Development Committee, and more generally, for the operations and implementation of the AODA.

These are not secret committees. Public confidence in the work of each Standards Development Committee is a key requirement for making the AODA work. It is especially important since the 2014 report of the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by Mayo Moran, found that there is a significant amount of frustration and skepticism within the disability community, due to the slow rate of progress on accessibility.

As I understand it, the current practice regarding these meeting minutes is that the Accessibility Directorate staff first prepare a draft of a meeting’s minutes. The Standards Development Committee chair then reviews this draft, makes changes if he or she wishes, and then circulates it to the Standards Development Committee members for their approval. According to the Accessibility Directorate, a 75% super-majority is required to approve the minutes. That 75% super-majority is also required to make an amendment to the proposed minutes.

This has twice shown itself to be inappropriate in the early proceedings of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, on which I sit. When the members of that Committee received a draft of the minutes of our first meeting, which had been held on February 5, 2018, I proposed a minor amendment, to ensure that the minutes included an important point that I had raised. The Accessibility Directorate had not included that point in its draft of the minutes.

Fully 16 Committee members voted in favour of my proposed amendment. Only 7 members voted against it. It would seem obvious that it should pass. However, it failed, because it only secured 68% support, not the required 75% support. By this approach, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has tremendous, indeed excessive de facto control over what the public sees in those minutes.

I raised this concern at the April 18 meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. I proposed a motion that our votes on meeting minutes be decided by a simple majority, not a 75% super-majority. I emphasize that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee had never previously voted to adopt that 75% super-majority rule, and that the Minister’s terms of reference for the Standards Development Committee do not impose any 75% super-majority requirement for Committee votes on things like approving or amending our meetings’ minutes.

At the April 18, 2018 meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, fully 11 Committee members voted in support of my motion, in favour of a simple majority voting requirement on items such as meeting minutes. Only 9 Committee members voted against it. We had a clear simple majority in favour of my motion.

Yet the Accessibility Directorate staff directed the Committee chair that my motion failed to pass, because it had not garnered a 75% vote in support. This makes no sense. A majority of Standards Development Committee members wanted votes on their minutes to be decided by a simple majority vote. The Accessibility Directorate had no authority to override this.

We ask you, as the Minister, responsible for oversight of the Accessibility Directorate, to direct the Accessibility Directorate to stop purporting to impose a 75% super-majority voting requirement on Standards Development Committees when they take a formal vote on such issues as approving or amending Committee minutes. The Accessibility Directorate should not be trying to exert such control over the work of independent Standards Development Committees.

 

  1. Revisit Your Direction to the Education Standards Development Committee to Decide on “Priorities” Within the first Six Months of Their Work

In your Mandate Letter to the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, you directed each Committee to report to you within six months, on the priorities they recommend. We write to ask you to reconsider and withdraw this direction.

We raise three concerns with this direction. First, it is not clear what you mean by “priorities”. Are you asking these Standards Development Committees to report to you on what areas they should address first in their work plan, as they work through the disability accessibility barriers in the sector of Ontario’s education system they are reviewing? Alternatively, are you asking them to report to you on which accessibility barriers are a priority to be addressed by the promised Education Accessibility Standard? We have not been able to get this effectively clarified by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

Second, if your Mandate Letters’ request is for each Standards Development Committee to decide in the first six months of their work on which accessibility barriers should be a priority for the promised Education Accessibility Standard to address, this, respectfully, is inappropriate. It puts the cart before the horse. It would not be possible to make appropriate and informed decisions on this before the Standards Development Committee has had enough time to effectively identify and list all the accessibility barriers that need to be addressed.

Third, if you are asking each Standards Development Committee to decide which, among the various barriers in Ontario’s education system, should be a high priority or a low priority to fix, this would be problematic. It would call on each Standards Development Committee to pick and choose among different disabilities, and in effect, to rank some as a greater priority than others. A Standards Development Committee would thereby in effect be wrongly choosing winners and losers among students with disabilities.

For example, if a Standards Development Committee decides that physical barriers are a greater priority, but accessibility of instructional materials is a lower priority, this would make students with mobility disabilities the winners and students with vision loss or dyslexia the losers. The Education Accessibility Standard must ensure an accessible education system for all students with disabilities, not just some of them.

For a Standards Development Committee to in effect choose winners and losers flies in the face of the guarantee of equality in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We do not believe you intended for a Standards Development Committee to engage in such conduct, or to contradict the AODA’s goal of ensuring a barrier-free education system by 2025. However, even if this was not intended, it is the practical result.

There is room for a Standards Development Committee to identify priorities among barriers that fall within a category or class of barriers. A Standards Development Committee could, for example, recommend that when it comes to physical barriers, it is a greater priority to get in a school’s front door, around all classrooms and teaching/learning areas, and in the and around the washrooms. The Committee could also recommend that it is a lesser priority to get into the janitor’s storage area.

We ask you to clarify your Mandate letter accordingly, and to withdraw your request that priorities be set within the first six months of the work of these Standards Development Committees. An AODA accessibility standard in the area of education must ensure an accessible education system by 2025. If a class or category of disability accessibility barriers is treated as lower priority, or left out altogether, the accessibility standard will fail to serve its important objective.

 

  1. Ensure that the Public Can Fully and Effectively Take Part in All Upcoming Public Consultations on Proposals for the Accessibility Standards

The Ontario Government will be required under the AODA to come to the public over the next weeks and months with a series of at least 12 different important requests for public input regarding the AODA, including:

  1. The current request for input on the draft recommendations from the Employment Standards Development Committee on proposed revisions to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard. Within some months after that, the Government will seek public input on that Standards Development Committee’s final recommendations. (2 consultations)
  1. An expected upcoming request for input to the Government on the final recommendations by the Transportation Standards Development committee for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. We understand that the Transportation Standards Development committee has already submitted its final recommendations to the Government, but the Government has not released them to the public, for public input. (1 consultation)
  1. an expected upcoming request for input to the Government on the recommendations by the Information and Communication Standards Development committee for revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We understand that the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee is still working on its draft recommendations. Within some months after getting public input on its draft recommendations, the Government will seek public input on that Standards Development Committee’s final recommendations. (2 consultations)
  1. an expected upcoming request for input to the Government on the draft recommendations by the Health Care Standards Development committee on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. We understand that the Health Care Standards Development Committee is still working on its draft recommendations. Within some months after getting public input on its draft recommendations, the Government will seek public input on that Standards Development Committee’s final recommendations. (2 consultations)
  1. Some time in the next weeks, there will be an invitation for public input to be given to the Third Independent Review of the AODA, on how effectively the AODA’s employment and enforcement has been. That Independent Review must report by the end of the year. (1 consultation)
  1. Likely next year the Government will seek public input on the draft recommendations on what to include in the promised Education Accessibility Standard, that will come forth from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee. Those Committees just started their work. They won’t have raft recommendations before next year. Within some months after getting public input on its draft recommendations, the Government will seek public input on those Standards Development Committees’ final recommendations. (2 consultations)
  1. The Government was required to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. Within 12-18 months of its appointment, the Government will seek input on its draft recommendations, and later, on its final recommendations for revisions to the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. Within some months after getting public input on its draft recommendations, the Government will seek public input on that Standards Development Committee’s final recommendations. (2 consultations)

All told, these requests for public input will call on the public, including the disability sector and obligated organizations, to devote a significant amount of time and effort to reviewing detailed recommendations and to formulating their input, over a short period of time. In contrast, over the half decade since the end of 2012, the Government has reached out to the public, including the disability sector, with four such requests for input:

  1. In 2014, input into the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by Mayo Moran.
  1. in 2014, a request for input into the Customer Service Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations on revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
  1. in 2015-2016, the Government’s request for public input on the Customer Service Standards Development Committee’s final recommendations for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
  1. in 2017, the request for input into the Transportation Standards Development committee’s draft recommendations on revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

When such requests for input come to the public at the same time (as was the case in the 2014 spring) or when they come close on the heels of one another, this can impose an excessive burden on those who want to offer their input. This is so for all sectors. It is especially challenging for the disability sector. Our input comes from individuals, from non-profit charities with huge demands on limited resources, and from the unfunded and volunteer-driven AODA Alliance.

We therefore make the following recommendations. All of these lie within your authority as the responsible Minister:

  1. Please now announce a rough timetable for all of these public consultations. Where you cannot be precise, offer an estimate of when they will occur. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario can adjust it over time, and alert the public of these adjustments, as events unfold.

This will enable interested organizations to plan ahead. Up to now, the Government has simply announced a consultation on a Standards Development Committee’s recommendations on the very day that the consultation period begins. In the past, we have had to ask the Government a number of times to lengthen the consultation period. Happily, the Government has been helpful in doing so.

  1. Please ensure that there is no overlap between the consultation periods. Please put a reasonable gap between each of them, to avoid over-burdening interested organizations.
  1. Please ensure that the consultation period for any of these does not occupy key periods when we know that many are on holidays, such as in late August or at the end of December.
  1. Please allow a longer time for input than the minimum period that the AODA requires.
  1. Please make public a Standards Development Committee’s draft or final recommendations as soon as the Government receives them. This will enable the public to know what is being proposed as soon as possible. Since the AODA’s enactment in 2005, there has often been a period of several weeks after the Government has received a Standards Development Committee’s recommendations, before they are made public. Especially now, where so many consultation processes will be coming up, it will help us and the public to know what is on the table in as many of the Standards Development Committees as possible, when we are addressing each.
  1. in that spirit, please now immediately make public the final recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development committee for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. Your Government already has received them from the Transportation Standards Development committee. Public transit is a major issue in the upcoming Ontario June 7, 2018 election. There is no reason to withhold those final recommendations from the public in these circumstances. There are pressing reasons to now make them public.
  1. During these consultations, please hold public meetings to gather input on Standards Development Committee recommendations. The Government did this back in the late 2000s, but regrettably abandoned this practice after 2011. It is helpful to get face-to-face stakeholder input, and for stakeholders to hear from each other.
  1. Please work with the Third AODA Independent Review to ensure that its public hearings and consultation process will not take place until after the 2018 Ontario general election.

 

  1. Immediately Launch the Process to Recruit a Built Environment/Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

As noted earlier, the Government was required to commence a Standards Development Committee review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. As far as we have seen, the Government has not done so, nor has it announced a date on which it will begin this process. This is a contravention of the AODA.

We ask the Government to immediately post an announcement, inviting members of the public to serve on a built Environment/Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. Setting up such a committee takes months, according to the Government’s recent practices. We realize the Committee might not be appointed by the June 7, 2018 Ontario election. However the Government should now get this process underway, so that the next Government, elected on June 7, can get right to work on this, rather than having to start from scratch. Immediate action is especially important since the Government has not met the mandatory time lines for commencing this process that the AODA imposes.

We also ask you to direct that the mandate for this new Standards Development Committee will include reviewing needed action for the entire built environment, and not just the very limited parts of the built environment that the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard covers. The AODA itself requires the Government to address the entire built environment.

 

  1. and Finally

Minister, you have recently announced that you will not again be running for a seat in the Ontario Legislature in the June election. Therefore, this June will bring to an end your term as Ontario’s first Accessibility Minister.

We wish to thank you for your commitment to and your efforts on accessibility for people with disabilities in your years of public service, both before and during your two terms as a member of the Ontario Legislature. Your personal dedication and commitment to this cause began long before your election to the Legislature in 2011. As examples, you served as the vice-chair and later, as chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, as a member of a local school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, and as a member of one of the earliest Standards Development Committees, all as a private citizen. This afforded you many chances to serve the public on this important issue.

When you took over two years ago as Minister for Accessibility, you needed no orientation to the many barriers facing people with disabilities, to the workings of the AODA, or to the need for more action in this area. We hope and trust that the concrete, practical and workable recommendations in this letter give you a chance, as you conclude this part of your career, to take much-needed but readily achievable actions that can serve as a part of your legacy on the road to full accessibility. Your several roles in the accessibility area equip you to be able to quickly assess and tackle the issues we address in this letter.

We wish you the very best of luck in your next endeavours, and have welcomed the opportunity to work with you.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Kathleen Wynne, premier@ontario.ca

Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, marie-lison.fougere@ontario.ca

Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, ann.hoy@ontario.ca

Steve Orsini, Secretary to Cabinet steve.orsini@ontario.ca

More Information About the AODA Alliance

To sign up for or unsubscribe from Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Updates, send your request to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com In late December 2017, our email list for these Updates unfortunately crashed. We have rebuilt it. In case you fell off the list but want to return, just email to ask us to sign you up. In case you had wanted to be removed from the list, but were accidentally restored to it, just email us to ask to be removed! Sorry for any inconvenience.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Have you taken part in our “Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

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/

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/
Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting

https://www.aodaalliance.org