AODA Alliance Writes Ontario’s Major Political Parties, Seeking Their Election Pledges on Accessibility for 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

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 Ontario’s Major Political Parties, Seeking Their Election Pledges on Accessibility for 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

April 5, 2018

          SUMMARY

This week we’ve reached another important turning-point on the road to a fully accessible Ontario for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. On April 3, 2018, the AODA Alliance wrote the leaders of Ontario’s major political parties. We asked for a series of specific election commitments on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. Below we set out our 3-page letter, and the attached 10-page list of the detailed commitments that we seek.

We ask the parties to answer us by April 30, 2018. On a date after that, we will make public any commitments we receive. We seek a series of commitments under these 14 headings:

  1. a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Each Party
  1. b) Substantially Strengthen Implementation of the AODA 2005
  1. c) Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced
  1. d) Develop the New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility by 2025
  1. e) Take Overdue Steps to Ensure the Accessibility of the built Environment, Including Residential Housing
  1. f) Substantially Reform How the Ministry of Education Deals with the Needs of Students with Disabilities
  1. g) Reform and Speed Up the Process for Developing and Reviewing Accessibility Standards.
  1. h) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations Akin to Successful US Programs
  1. i) Ensure Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers
  1. j) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Truly Accessible to Voters with Disabilities
  1. k) Substantially Improve How the Ontario Public Service Works to Make its Services, Facilities and Workplaces Accessible to Customers and Employees with Disabilities
  1. l) Speed Up and Complete the Promised Review of All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers
  1. m) Reform the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
  1. n) Ensure Effective Independent Reviews of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement

This is the seventh Ontario election that the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, have sought election commitments on accessibility. This election is especially important, because Ontario’s next premier and government will be in the decisive position to determine, by their actions, whether Ontario will get on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

As is our strong non-partisan tradition, we do not support or oppose any party or candidate. We seek to get strong commitments on accessibility from all the parties. We will make public the answers we receive, and will encourage voters to take this information into account during the lead up to the June 7, 2018 Ontario election.

We encourage you to:

* Spread the word about this letter to your friends and family.

* Let your local media know about our accessibility issues that we raise in this letter.

* Tell candidates running in your community about this letter. Urge them to get their party to make strong accessibility commitments. Ask the candidates themselves to make personal commitments on these issues, even before their party does.

* Let us know what feedback you get. Contact us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Stay tuned to upcoming AODA Alliance Updates when we give you more information about this election’s disability accessibility issues, and action tips that will give you ways to have a real and substantial impact. We thank everyone who offered us input from which we formulated the list of election commitments that we here seek.

At the end of this Update is background information on the AODA Alliance, including information on how to sign up for or unsubscribe from these AODA Alliance Updates.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance’s April 3, 2018 Letter to Ontario’s Major Political Parties

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

April 3, 2018

Hon. Ms. Kathleen Wynne, Premier

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1A1

Email: Premier@ontario.ca

Mr. Doug Ford, Leader – Official Opposition

Room 381, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1A8

Email: doug.ford@ontariopc.com

Ms. Andrea Horwath, Leader – New Democratic Party

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1A5

Email: ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

PO Box 1132, Station F

Toronto, ON M4Y 2T8

Email: leader@gpo.ca

Dear Party Leaders,

Re:      Seeking your Parties’ 2018 Election Commitments on Disability and Accessibility

Our non-partisan grass-roots community coalition seeks the achievement of a fully-accessible Ontario for people with disabilities, through the prompt, effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We ask you to make election commitments on steps to make Ontario barrier-free for over 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities.

It is great that in each Ontario election since 1995, any of Ontario’s political parties that made commitments on disability accessibility issues, did so in correspondence with us, the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, with our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. We write you in our spirit of non-partisanship, to seek your election commitments.

The attached is a list of requested commitments. These are key measures needed to help ensure Ontario reaches accessibility by 2025. These are under 14 headings, namely:

  1. a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party
  1. b) Substantially Strengthen Implementation of the AODA 2005
  1. c) Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced
  1. d) Develop the New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility by 2025
  1. e) Take Overdue Steps to Ensure the Accessibility of the built Environment, Including Residential Housing
  1. f) Substantially Reform How the Ministry of Education Deals with the Needs of Students with Disabilities
  1. g) Reform and Speed Up the Process for Developing and Reviewing Accessibility Standards.
  1. h) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations Akin to Successful US Programs
  1. i) Ensure Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers
  1. j) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Truly Accessible to Voters with Disabilities
  1. k) Substantially Improve How the Ontario Public Service Works to Make its Services, Facilities and Workplaces Accessible to Customers and Employees with Disabilities
  1. l) Speed Up and Complete the Promised Review of All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers
  1. m) Reform the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
  1. n) Ensure Effective Independent Reviews of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement

We will share your responses with the public and urge voters to consider this issue in the election. We would be happy to brief you and your team on these issues, to assist you in deciding what commitments your Party will make.

We would appreciate receiving your response by April 30, 2018. Please email your response to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com. Please send an accessible MS Word document and not a PDF document.

We realize that our list is quite detailed. This is because the 2025 deadline for reaching an accessible Ontario is now looming. The specific steps needed to get us there on time are quite detailed and specific. We have kept all parties posted on an ongoing basis on the range of disability accessibility issues facing 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, through our regular AODA Alliance Updates, and when available, through our direct briefings.

We know you will receive requests from other community groups on different disability issues. Our requests focus on a cross-disability basis on the important issue of accessibility, as that is our coalition’s mandate. We urge you to also take very seriously the requests from other community groups on other important disability issues.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

2018 Election Commitments Requested by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

Our coalition and, before 2005, its predecessor (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have repeatedly been recognized in the Legislature and elsewhere for our leadership and advocacy for and expertise in disability accessibility. We seek opportunities whenever we can to offer our input and advice to the Government and to the opposition parties.

We ask your Party to commit:

#1. as Premier, to periodically meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility such as the commitments we here seek, including once within the first four months of taking office, and to have a minister responsible for disability issues, and any other minister with responsibility bearing on our issues, meet with us where needed. If your Party does not form the Government, then we seek your commitment to meet with us periodically, and for your Party to be open to raise our concerns in the Legislature, including in Question Period, where appropriate.

Substantially Strengthen Implementation of the AODA 2005

It was an historic moment in 2005, when all parties unanimously voted for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). That law requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025, by enacting and enforcing all the accessibility standards needed to reach that goal. Ontario’s next Government must plan to treat the achievement of a fully accessible Ontario by 2025 as a top priority, to ensure that Ontario reaches that goal. By June 7, 2018, only six and a half years will be left before 2025.

We therefore ask you to commit:

#2. To fully support the AODA and its goals.

#3. to strengthen the implementation of the AODA, and not eliminate, weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation, in regulations enacted under it, in any policies, practices, strategies or initiatives of or within the Ontario Government that exist to implement it or achieve its objectives, or any rights that persons with disabilities enjoy under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

#4. To Stand by your Party’s previous commitments on disability accessibility and the AODA.

#5. Within six months of taking office, and after consulting the public including people with disabilities, to announce a comprehensive action plan for ensuring that the Government fulfils its duty to lead Ontario to accessibility by 2025. No such plan now exists.

Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

All parties voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties. On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth.

Government records show that that the Government has not been sufficiently enforcing the AODA, even though it knows of rampant AODA violations over the past half-decade. For years, the Government has left unused appropriated funding that has been available for AODA enforcement. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

We therefore ask your Party to commit:

#6. To substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers, and to use them to enforce all requirements that are in force under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of organizations that are required to comply.

#7. To Transfer AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement.

#8. To significantly increase the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers. As of now, there were only three inspectors and three directors appointed under the AODA to enforce this law across all of Ontario. Among other things, we seek a commitment to immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation. The Ontario Government has piloted this and had this under study for years.

#9. To Have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months.  It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not, as too often is the case at present, how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization.  At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2014 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

#10. to require obligated organizations to report to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario on accessibility complaints received via their required AODA feedback mechanisms, and on how they were resolved, while protecting individual privacy.

#11. To make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities. It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on accessibility. It is more important that organizations actually achieve accessibility.

#12. To expand and widely-publicize the toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations, and to provide and widely-publicize online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, FaceBook and a web page, to publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result (including whether the subject of the complaint was notified of it.

#13. To create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government beginning to post all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one.

Develop the New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility by 2025

Central to the AODA is the Government’s duty to create and enforce accessibility standards in different sectors of our economy. These specify what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. They help business and public sector organizations know what to do. They contribute to the profitability and success of these organizations.

We need the Ontario Government to develop and enact new accessibility standards. The AODA requires the Ontario Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The accessibility standards enacted to date will not ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible by 2025, even if they are fully complied with. While helpful, they are too weak and limited.

It can take years to develop a new accessibility standard. With only eleven years left to reach 2025, it is necessary for the Ontario Government in the next term to ensure that all accessibility standards are developed and enacted that will ensure that the 2025 goal is reached.

At present, the Ontario Government has enacted five accessibility standards. These address disability barriers in customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and a very limited range of built environment barriers in “public spaces,” mostly outside buildings.

The Ontario Government has also agreed to create new accessibility standards to address barriers in the health care system, and in Ontario’s education system. It has appointed Standards Development Committees under the AODA to make recommendations for what those accessibility standards should include. Those committees are now developing recommendations.

The Ontario Government has also appointed AODA Standards Development Committees to recommend revisions to strengthen existing accessibility standards in employment, in information and in communication, and in transportation. The Government is required to now appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, enacted in 2012.

We ask your Party to commit:

#14. to continue the work of the six AODA Standards Development Committees now underway, to enact accessibility standards in the new areas of education and of health care, and to strengthen existing accessibility standards in the areas of transportation, employment, information and communication, and the design of public spaces, promptly after recommendations are received from Standards Development Committees in these areas.

#15. To consult over the three months immediately following the June 7, 2018 election, with the public, including the disability community, on all the sectors that other accessibility standards need to address, to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, with a decision to be announced on the economic sectors to be addressed in those standards within three months after that consultation.

(See also the next sections of this letter regarding housing and the built environment).

Take Overdue Steps to Ensure the Accessibility of the built Environment, Including Residential Housing

Ontario’s built environment is still full of far too many accessibility barriers. There has been too little progress in this area over the 13 years since the AODA was enacted. Even if a new building fully complies with the Ontario Building Code and the AODA, it can and too often does still have significant accessibility problems. We have illustrated this by widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, and the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre.

Shortly after passing the AODA, the Government commendably committed to create a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. This is needed to ensure that Ontario’s built environment, both inside and outside buildings, becomes accessible to people with disabilities. A Built Environment Standards Development Committee was appointed in the first years after the AODA was passed.

In July 2009, the Government announced that the first phase of the Built Environment Accessibility Standard would only address the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations of existing buildings. It then committed that retrofitting of existing buildings that are not undergoing major renovations, and residential housing, would later be addressed through the standards development process. Yet, nothing has been done to fulfil that latter commitment.

On August 19, 2011, during the 2011 Ontario election campaign, the current Government promised it would enact its promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard “promptly.” Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA

In December 2012, the Government only enacted a very narrow AODA accessibility standard to deal with “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). That mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but very little inside buildings. In December 2013, the Government enacted limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code to address the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. This was not enacted as a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively cover all the disability barriers in buildings. It does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities.

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will not become accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.

The Government has not announced a plan of action to address, under the AODA, the retrofitting of existing buildings where appropriate, for accessibility, when no major renovation is underway. It commendably held a policy forum to gather ideas on this, on March 19, 2018.

We therefore ask your Party to commit:

#16. To publicly recognize that there is now a problem with the inaccessibility of the built environment in Ontario, and to launch a comprehensive strategy that will address both new consultation and the retrofit of existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations.

#17. To ensure that the accessibility of the Built environment is fully and effectively addressed by requirements enacted under the AODA, e.g. by developing and enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and to ensure that it effectively addresses accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations.

#18. To direct each Standards Development Committee now in operation to make recommendations on standards for the built environment as it relates to the area that that Standards Development Committee is studying. For example, the Transportation Standards Development Committee should be directed to make recommendations for accessibility in public transit stations and stops.

A key area which we understand is not now covered by the Ontario Building Code or AODA accessibility standards concerns the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs clear and strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities, which confuse the public as a whole, and present serious accessibility problems.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#19. to ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators.

A major area where Ontario falls short is in ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of accessible residential housing for people with disabilities. The shortage of accessible housing is a crisis. This will get worse as society ages, and the unmet demand for accessible housing grows.

The Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Moreover, we have seen no comprehensive and effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#20. To create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and within six months of taking office, to appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include.

#21. To announce a comprehensive strategy on accessible housing (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities. This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

Other new measures are needed to ensure an accessible built environment In Ontario.

First, existing enforcement measures regarding the built environment should be revised to ensure that accessibility is a mandatory part of that enforcement. It is our understanding that compliance with AODA accessibility standards is now not required for this.

We therefor ask your party to commit:

#22. To require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a project, the approving authority, municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards.

#23. To require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards.

Second, at present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though eleven years ago, the current Government promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#24. To require professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible  design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design.

The Government now contributes substantial funding to Ontario colleges and universities for training professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. In effect, public money is being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creating design professionals.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#25. To require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains key professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum.

Third, there are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government deals with major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates further problems.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#26. To substantially reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project. This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

#27. To require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing.

#28. To create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency.

Substantially Reform How the Ministry of Education Deals with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

The people who are working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to effectively meeting the needs of students with disabilities . Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities and their families. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities.

Students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as students with “special education needs” (a patronizing description), seen as a major additional budget demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. We have seen the Ministry of Education as having operated as a barrier to our efforts to get the Ontario Government to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#29.  To create a new associate Deputy Minister and Division at the Ministry of Education, to be called the Full Participation Inclusion of Students with Disabilities Division. This division should have lead responsibility for ensuring that all planning and programming at the Ministry is designed and operated to ensure that students with disabilities  can fully participate in and be fully included in schools and education services. To avoid this becoming an irrelevant, isolated  silo within the Ministry, this Division should have a mandate to oversee and ensure the work of all other divisions in the Ministry in this regard, so that no new initiatives in education will go forward unless this Division approves it as fully including students with disabilities without barriers.

#30. To amend Ontario’s Education Act and special education regulations, to eliminate the unfairly restrictive definition of “exceptional pupil” and “exceptionality,” and to replace it with a definition of students with disabilities that covers all disabilities covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code. The current out-dated terms “exceptional pupil” and “exceptionality” now leave out  mental health conditions that have not become a behaviour issue).

#31. To independently review the Ministry’s programming and funding formula for special education, to be renamed funding for students with disabilities, in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities  in a school board, not some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities  there hypothetically should be at that school board.

Reform and Speed Up the Process for Developing and Reviewing Accessibility Standards.

Once the Government decides to create a new AODA accessibility standard, or to review an existing one, it takes far too long for this work to get done. It is bogged down in too much delay, secrecy and Government attempts to micro-manage it. Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA called for reforms to this process, to make it more independent from the Government.

We therefore ask you to commit to:

#32. Ensure that the Standards Development Committees, appointed under the AODA to make recommendations on what an accessibility standard should include, can operate in a more open manner and are fully independent of Government. These should not be shrouded in secrecy and non-disclosure requirements. An independent Ontario Access Board should be created to oversee this work, that is independent of and arms-length from the Ontario Government.

At present, many provisions in existing AODA accessibility standards fall short of what obligated organizations must do under the Ontario Human Rights Code. This does a disservice to people with disabilities, and to obligated organizations who want to be sure they are doing the right thing.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#33. To direct each Standards Development Committee that is now developing recommendations for a new accessibility standard or that is reviewing an existing standard, or that is appointed in the future, to make recommendations on accessibility that live up to the Ontario Human Rights Code. To assist with this, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario should give each SDC up-to-date information on relevant rulings by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and courts, and should centrally involve the Ontario Human Rights Code in each Standards Development Committee.

Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations Akin to Successful US Programs

Two successive Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#34. To establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, to provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs. For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

Ensure Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The Government needs to use every lever of power readily at hand to advance the cause of accessibility. This can be very cost effective.

For example, the Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, to procure goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

In the 2014 election, the current Government promised to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. Yet insufficient safeguards are in place to monitor and enforce this. Even in recent years, public money has unjustifiably been spent to create new barriers against people with disabilities, beyond the examples of new public buildings, addressed above. For example, the Ontario Government created the new Presto Smart Card, replete with barriers, for paying public transit fares.

We ask your Party to commit:

#35. To set standards for, implement, widely publicize, monitor, enforce and publicly report on a comprehensive strategy to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants.

Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Truly Accessible to Voters with Disabilities 

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, you would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms to Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no improvements in the last four years, and no announced plans in this area for future improvements.

We ask your Party to commit:

#36. To consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2018and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months, with a view to passing a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections.

#37. To commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 7 2018 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities.

Substantially Improve How the Ontario Public Service Works to Make its Services, Facilities and Workplaces Accessible to Customers and Employees with Disabilities

There is a pressing need to substantially improve how the Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are fully accessible to people with disabilities. Despite some progress, barriers still remain. As well, accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos within the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic and accountable leadership, monitoring and public accountability. The Ontario Public Service makes policies and plans on accessibility, but is not at good at consistently and reliably delivering accessibility.

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any reforms since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

We therefore ask your Party to commit:

#38. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than 2 months, to announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are fully accessible. This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility.

#39. To ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given.

#40. To establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer. Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses such as IBM, Apple and Microsoft.

#41. To ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a position, now called “Accessibility Lead.” This position should be made in all cases a full-time position if it is not now. It should be designated to directly report to that Ministry’s deputy minister, rather than remaining buried lower down within the ministry, as is the current practice. This should also include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate any barriers against people with disabilities.

#42. To include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities. In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

Speed Up and Complete the Promised Review of All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Over a decade later, we have only been told of some 50 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

We ask your Party to commit:

#43. To announce, within four months of taking office, a detailed plan for completing this review of all Ontario laws, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.

#44. To complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2019, and all regulations by the end of 2020, and to introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed a result of this review, along time lines that the Government would announce by the end of March 2019.

#45. That Cabinet will amend any regulations that the government deems necessary as a result of the accessibility review, by the end of 2021.

Reform the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is responsible for leading the implementation of the AODA. We have raised concerns with the Government about the fact that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has become far more disengaged from the AODA Alliance as a key stakeholder in this area, over the past five years. See e.g. the AODA Alliance’s July 10, 2016 letter to Ontario’s Minister of Accessibility.

We therefore ask your party to commit:

#46. In consultation with the AODA Alliance, to review the operations of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and to make public the review of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario which was conducted in 2016-2017 by the Leadership Intelligence consulting firm. On February 1, 2018, the AODA Alliance asked the Government to disclose that report. To date, it has not agreed to do so.

Ensure Effective Independent Reviews of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement

The AODA requires the Government, approximately every four years, to appoint an Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We ask you to commit:

#47. To ensure that any person, appointed to conduct an Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, not be a person who worked for the Government on any aspect of accessibility or of the AODA during the period material to the review.

#48. To release the report of the Third AODA Independent Review, due by the end of 2018, within four weeks of the Government receiving it.

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

https://www.aodaalliance.org