Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
AODA Alliance Writes Premier-Designate Doug Ford, as the Conservative Party Prepares to Take Power in Ontario
June 15, 2018
We have gotten right to work on developing a good working relationship with Ontario’s incoming new Government. You can help with this effort. On June 14, 2018, the AODA Alliance sent a letter to Premier-Designate Doug Ford. We set that letter out below. In it, we:
* Introduce the AODA Alliance to Ontario’s next Premier.
* Explain why accessibility for people with disabilities, and the effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, are important for all Ontarians.
* Summarize previous actions by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party to support the AODA’s enactment and implementation.
* Show how the AODA’s effective implementation aligns with the PC Party’s platform, and
* Offer to work together with Ontario’s new Government on the AODA’s effective implementation, in order to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.
Premier-Designate Ford is working on creating his first Ontario Cabinet. In our letter, we offer him four constructive and practical pieces of advice:
- The AODA requires him to designate a minister to have lead responsibility for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We recommend that he assign this to a full-time Accessibility Minister, a minister who will have sufficient time to devote to this important work.
- In any event, we recommend that he not assign this ministerial function to the minister who is responsible for Government services, as had the previous Wynne Government. That creates a hopeless conflict in the minister’s roles.
- We recommend that he designate a senior official at the deputy minister level as the Government’s Chief Accessibility Officer. That public servant should have lead responsibility to ensure that the Government, as an employer and service-provider, becomes accessible.
- We recommend that he publicly direct all his ministers and senior officials from Day One that no public money shall ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.
Please use this letter to help with this new chapter in our non-partisan campaign for accessibility:
* Help us educate every MPP in Ontario’s new Conservative Government about the AODA and about accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. Of the 76 Conservatives who will sit in Ontario’s next Legislature many are new. Most, 71 of them, were not members of the Legislature when the AODA was passed in 2005.
Contact your nearest Progressive Conservative MPP. Give them this letter to read. It will give them a great introduction. Call their office and get their email address so you can email it to them. Also encourage their staff to read it.
* Post this letter on your Facebook page and urge your friends to read it. Re-tweet our tweets on Twitter that spread the word about it over the next days.
* send this letter to your local media. Urge them to cover disability accessibility issues in your community.
Text of the AODA Alliance’s June 14, 2018 Letter to Premier-Designate Doug Ford
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Visit : www.aodalliance.org
June 14, 2018
To: Doug Ford, Premier-Designate
Room 381, Legislative Building
Via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Premier-Designate Ford,
Re: Ensuring Ontario Becomes Fully Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities by 2025
On behalf of the AODA Alliance, please accept our congratulations on your election victory. In this letter we introduce ourselves to you. We explain how ensuring accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities aligns with your Party platform. We offer your Government our help, and make four suggestions as you establish your Cabinet. In summary, as you decide on your new Cabinet:
- We recommend that you designate a Cabinet minister responsible for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, preferably a full-time cabinet post, and in any event, to a minister who will have sufficient time to devote to this important work.
- In any event, we recommend that you do not assign this ministerial function to the minister who is responsible for Government services, as that creates a hopeless conflict in the minister’s roles.
- We recommend that you designate a senior official at the deputy minister level to serve as the Government’s Chief Accessibility Officer. That public servant should have lead executive responsibility for ensuring that the Government, as an employer and service-provider, becomes fully accessible.
- We recommend that you publicly direct all your ministers and senior officials from Day One that no public money shall ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.
Who Are We?
The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan grassroots voluntary community coalition. Founded in 2005, we united to achieve a fully accessible Ontario for Ontarians with disabilities through the prompt and effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Our supporters include persons with disabilities, people who have not yet gotten a disability, and community organizations concerned with the rights and needs of persons with disabilities.
Our predecessor coalition spearheaded a successful decade-long non-partisan campaign that led to the enactment of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (passed by the Mike Harris Government), and later, the AODA in 2005 (passed by the McGuinty Government). We have worked extensively with all parties in the Legislature on the AODA’s implementation. Ontario’s political parties and the media have recognized our knowledge on this issue.
Why It Is Important for Your Government to Effectively Implement and Enforce the AODA
At least 1.9 million Ontarians now have a disability, be it a physical, sensory, mental, intellectual, learning, mental health, communication or other kind of disability. Ontarians with disabilities want to enjoy all life has to offer. Yet as you wisely recognized in your May 15, 2018 letter to us:
“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”
Over one third of a million students with disabilities face disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Patients with disabilities face barriers in Ontario’s health care system. Passengers with disabilities face many barriers when trying to use public transit, including barriers in brand new public transit stations, built with the public’s money. Ontarians with disabilities face unemployment rates that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley called a “national shame.” Customers with disabilities run up against barriers when they try to spend their money in stores and restaurants.
Ontarians with disabilities shouldn’t have to fight these barriers, one at a time. Public and private sector organizations want to know what to do to become accessible. Each organization does not want to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel, one organization at a time.
These disability barriers hurt everyone. They hurt people with disabilities, who too often have to live in poverty, and lose out on so much that Ontario has to offer. Businesses lose the spending power of 1.9 million customers with disabilities in Ontario, over 4 million across Canada, and one billion around the world. The public loses economic benefit that accessibility would bring to Ontario.
The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s Efforts on Disability Accessibility
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party has made written election commitments on the need for accessibility legislation for persons with disabilities in elections in 1995, 2007, 2014 and 2018. These letters were signed by PC leaders Mike Harris, John Tory, Tim Hudak, and most recently, by you. In the 2011 election, the Progressive Conservative Party wrote us but made no specific commitments.
Twenty years ago, on October 29, 1998, the Legislature unanimously passed an historic resolution. It adopted eleven important principles that a strong and effective Disabilities Act should fulfil. Each PC MPP in the Legislature that day voted for that landmark resolution.
In 2005, all parties, including each PC MPP, voted unanimously to pass the AODA, and rose to give it a standing ovation. Five of those PC MPPs, Norm Miller, Ted Arnott, Ernie Hardeman, Jim Wilson and John Yakabuski, will be in your caucus.
The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires the Government to lead Ontario to that goal.
During the 2005 clause-by-clause debate on that legislation, the PC Party put forward a number of proposed amendments at the request of our predecessor coalition, to make the bill even stronger. After the AODA was enacted, the PC leader congratulated the Government for passing it. Each of the PC Party’s leaders since the AODA was enacted has met with AODA Alliance leadership to get advice and input on what is needed to strengthen the AODA’s implementation. On a number of occasions, the Ontario PC Party has put questions to the Ontario Government at our request, to press for more action on the AODA’s implementation.
It is important that in your May 15, 2018 letter to us, you continued your Party’s commitment to this legislation and its goal, reaffirming:
“Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”
How Ensuring Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Aligns with the PC Party
Ontario is not on schedule to become fully accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. The need for the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025 aligns with the PC Party’s platform. We appreciate very much that in your May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance during the election campaign, you committed:
“Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus” and that “they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party.”
You committed during the recent election to lead a Government “for the people”. Of course, 1.9 million of the people of Ontario now have a disability. The rest are bound to get a disability later in their lives, as they grow older. “The people” are, at some time in their lives, all people with disabilities.
You promised to make Ontario “open for business.” That of course needs to ensure that it is open for people with disabilities, as employees, job-seekers, business owners and customers.
You were elected on a pledge that you will be responsible in the use of taxpayers’ money. We hope and trust that you would agree that it was quite irresponsible for public money to be used in the past to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Our widely-viewed online video, released during the election campaign, shows how public money was recently used to create serious disability barriers in several new and recently renovated Toronto area public transit stations.
We did not succeed in getting the previous Government to keep its promise to never use public money to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, a huge new courthouse is now being designed for downtown Toronto. Its design has serious accessibility problems that have not yet been corrected in the project design.
In your May 15, 2018 letter to us, you made a number of important points. These show why it is so important for the AODA to be effectively implemented. You wrote:
“When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination….
…It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.”
You and your Government can change this. The 2011 AODA Employment Accessibility Standard, now under review by the Employment Standards Development Committee, needs to be strengthened to help ensure that the workplaces of tomorrow are barrier-free for job-seekers and employees with disabilities.
“There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election.”
We agree. Yet I and a number of other voters with disabilities encountered unfair voting barriers in the 2018 election.
It was commendable that in 2010, when the Legislature was considering bill 231 (which was intended to modernize Ontario elections), the PC Party proposed a number of amendments at our request to make voting fully accessible to voters with disabilities. The previous Government defeated those amendments. Now you have the opportunity to rectify that.
“The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce.”
We appreciated your Party’s efforts in Question Period over the past two years to get the previous Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The previous Government belatedly appointed Standards Development Committees under the AODA to make recommendations on what to include in an Education Accessibility Standard in Kindergarten-Grade 12 and in post-secondary education. Your Government now has the chance to ensure that these Committees can come forward with good recommendations, while dialing back the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s unfortunate efforts to steer the advice of these committees’. Your new Minister of Education can get the Ministry of Education to stop serving as a barrier to an effective education for students with disabilities.
You also wrote:
“This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.
Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”
We agree. We are eager to help your Government create a comprehensive strategy for strong and effective AODA implementation and enforcement. This includes, among other things, the previous Government’s unkept promises to which your letter referred, especially in the areas of the built environment, professional training for design professionals, and in all other areas regarding accessibility standards.
Your letter to us highlighted Christine Elliot’s important role within the PC Party on disability issues. Your Party designated her to speak on behalf of the Ontario PC Party at the May 16, 2018 provincial all-candidates’ debate on disability issues, held in Toronto. She there made important commitments on your Party’s behalf, on issues such as the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, on ensuring that students with disabilities can fully participate in education at school, colleges and university, on ODSP reform, on the need for affordable, accessible and, where needed, supportive housing, and other topics.
The previous Government deserves credit for enacting the AODA in 2005 and for getting a good start on its implementation right after that. However, in more recent years, their efforts on this too often slowed to a crawl. It became sluggish, and too often, ineffective. Your new Government has a great opportunity to do a much better job, breathing new life into the AODA’s implementation.
We appreciate your expressing a strong desire to work with us on disability accessibility issues. You wrote:
“Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.”
Important Suggestions as You Form Your First Cabinet
We look forward to working with you and your Government on this challenge, and have lots of constructive ideas. As you are now busy creating your Cabinet and senior management team for the Ontario Government, may we offer you four preliminary suggestions:
First, it is important for you to designate a Cabinet minister responsible for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, as the AODA requires. We strongly encourage you to create a stand-alone fulltime minister’s position. This was recommended in the 2010 report of the first Independent Review of the AODA. Otherwise, the AODA gets lost in the shuffle of a busy cabinet minister.
Second, if, despite the foregoing, you assign the AODA’s implementation and enforcement to a minister who has other duties, we recommend that you do not assign this function to the minister who is responsible for Government services. Unfortunately, Premier Wynne assigned one person to be both Minister of Accessibility, and Minister of Government and Consumer Services. That was a significant error. A minister is put in a position of hopeless conflict if he or she is both the lead AODA enforcer and the lead minister responsible for the Government’s complying with the AODA.
Third, we recommend that you designate a senior official at the deputy minister level to serve as the Government’s Chief Accessibility Officer. That person should have lead executive responsibility for ensuring that the Government, as an employer and service-provider, becomes fully accessible. They should have both the final responsibility and authority to make things happen. This is sadly missing from the Ontario Public Service. In contrast, large leading corporations, like IBM, Apple and Microsoft, have shown that this can make a real positive difference.
Finally, please publicly direct all your ministers and senior officials from Day One that no public money shall ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. We would look forward to working with you and your relevant Cabinet ministers on how to put that direction into operation.
Again, please accept our congratulations on your new role as Ontario’s premier.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
Links to More Information About the AODA Alliance
Send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at email@example.com
Use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. Call 1-866-515-2025.
Check out our online videos about the history and accomplishments of Ontario’s non-partisan grassroots accessibility campaign, available at:
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