Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
By December 3, 2018, Send Us Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
November 23, 2018
Today we make public a draft of the brief that the AODA Alliance is aiming to submit to the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ontario Government appointed the Honourable David Onley to conduct. We are eager for your feedback. Do you have any additional findings that we should suggest to Mr. Onley, or any additional recommendations that we should make?
What is this about? Under the AODA, every few years, along a timetable that the AODA sets, the Ontario Government must appoint an independent person to conduct an inquiry into the effectiveness of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. The AODA was enacted in 2005. The third AODA Independent Review is now underway.
As in the past, our main way to have our say is to submit a detailed brief to this AODA Independent Review. We have been hard at work preparing a brief for Mr. Onley. We make it public as a draft today and welcome any feedback you can give us. Send any feedback to us by December 3, 2018, at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will then take into account the feedback we receive as we finalize the brief. We will be submitting the brief to Mr. Onley by December 8, 2018.
You can download the entire brief in an accessible MS Word format by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Nov-23-2018-Draft-AODA-Alliance-Brief-to-David-Onley.docx
We realize that the brief is rather long – about 450 pages! Many won’t have the time to read it all.
To make it much easier for you, we set out below the brief’s appendix. It gives you, chapter by chapter, an introduction to each chapter’s subject, the findings we ask Mr. Onley to make, and the recommendations we are urging upon Mr. Onley.
If you cannot look at all of it, feel free to look at any of it! We regret that we cannot allow more time for feedback. We have been inviting and collecting your feedback over the past weeks and months. We have to get this brief finalized and submitted in time for Mr. Onley to be able to make full use of it.
As you can imagine, the preparation of this brief took quite a bit of work. We are indebted to all who have helped us along the way, resulting in this brief’s detailed analysis. We believe it is likely the most thorough and detailed exploration of what has been done, and what has not been done, to implement and enforce the AODA.
When sending us your feedback, please do not use track-changes. Just explain in the email anything you want to say, and mention which chapter of the brief you are commenting on, if you are able to do so.
Appendix to the November 23, 2018 Draft AODA Alliance Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Before this brief’s detailed discussion in the following chapters of each of the major facets of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), this chapter first takes a look at the “big picture.” It addresses some common themes that the later chapters’ discussions, proposed findings and recommendations address in greater detail.
This chapter considers first whether Ontario is on schedule for reaching accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. It concludes that we are not. That is not to say that nothing has been done, or that no progress has been made. Rather, our conclusion is that progress has continued to be far too slow, compared to what is readily achievable in Ontario with proper leadership from our Government.
This chapter then addresses the need for new Ontario Government leadership on this file, as both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review urged. It addresses the need for Ontario to develop and implement a comprehensive multi-year plan to lead Ontario to accessibility by 2025. The rest of this brief fills in details of what that plan should include.
This chapter then takes a look at the lead office within the Ontario Government, charged with leading the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. It addresses the need for significant reform there. Finally, this chapter explores the excessive confidentiality and secrecy that the Ontario Government has too often sought to achieve with the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards. This all sets the stage for the more specific topics considered in the following chapters.
We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make these findings:
* There has been progress on accessibility since the AODA’s enactment. However, this progress has been far too slow.
* Ontario is not now on schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. At the present rate of progress, Ontario will not even come close to reaching full accessibility by 2025. A dramatic improvement is needed now to the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.
* Since the 2014 report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, the Ontario Government did not show the renewed leadership and revitalized approach to the AODA’s implementation that the Moran report recommended.
* The Ontario Government has never had and now has no comprehensive plan for leading Ontario to reaching accessibility by 2025. There is a clear and present need for such a plan.
* There is a clear need for substantial reform at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, the Government office that has lead responsibility for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, such as the development of AODA accessibility standards. This is so despite the fact that there are many hard-working, dedicated people working at various positions in the Accessibility Directorate.
* The Ontario Government has tried to shroud the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, with far too much secrecy. The public is entitled to expect the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, to be open, transparent and publicly accountable.
We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
We therefore recommend that:
#1-1. The Ontario Government must act promptly to re-vitalize and breathe new life into the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This should start with strong new leadership from the top, including the Premier, the Cabinet and he senior leaders within the Ontario Public Service.
#1-2. The Ontario Government should act quickly to adopt, implement and make public a comprehensive multi-year plan for effectively leading Ontario to become accessible by 2025, which includes the issues regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that are addressed in this brief.
#1-3. There should be substantial reform at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario so that it better provides the leadership on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that Ontario needs.
#1-4. As is addressed in further detail elsewhere in this brief, the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA, including the development and review of AODA accessibility standards, should be carried out in an open, public transparent and accountable way. The current pre-occupation with secrecy and confidentiality should be eliminated. For example, members of and presenters at Standards Development Committees should not be asked or required to sign non-disclosure agreements.
It has been widely recognized and repeatedly reported in the media that the AODA has not been effectively enforced, despite the former Ontario Government’s repeated promises to effectively enforce this legislation. Part 2 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrated the importance for the AODA to be effectively enforced. It also documented the former Ontario Government’s failure to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA, up to the spring of 2014.
In this chapter of this brief, we bring the situation up to the present. In short, the former Ontario Government continued to fail to effectively enforce the AODA for the past four years, even though it had unused funding on hand that could be used for enforcement, and even though the Government knew of rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The limited enforcement that the former Ontario Government did deploy was weak and limited in scope.
We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:
* For years, the AODA has not been effectively enforced, even though the former Ontario Government knew for years about unacceptably high levels of AODA non-compliance, particularly within the private sector. Enforcement efforts have been too weak.
* This ineffective AODA enforcement does a disservice to Ontarians with disabilities, to the broader public, and to all the obligated organizations who have opted to comply with the AODA.
* The former Ontario Government did not significantly improve AODA enforcement after the 2014 Mayo Moran Report called for strengthened enforcement. To the contrary, within a week of the former Ontario Government’s public release of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in February 2015, the former Ontario Government instituted a substantial cutback of the already-weak AODA enforcement. In June 2015, the former Ontario Government announced that it had a new plan for increased AODA enforcement, to begin in 2016. Subsequent Government records and the results of an AODA Alliance Freedom of Information application demonstrate that this never took place.
* The former Ontario Government failed to effectively publicize the Government’s promised toll-Free number for the public to report AODA violations, for purposes of AODA enforcement.
* It is important to make AODA enforcement independent of the Ontario Government. The Ontario Government should not enforce the AODA against itself. Moreover, independent enforcement of the AODA will better ensure effective enforcement of the AODA. AODA enforcement should not be subject to any political involvement.
* While enforcement is not the only way to get obligated organizations to comply with the AODA, it is one important way to do so. The failure to effectively enforce the AODA has contributed to low rates of AODA compliance.
* The failure to effectively enforce the AODA also works against the efforts of those who try to get obligated organizations to comply, such as accessibility consultants. Those consultants can point to strong enforcement powers in the AODA. However, the fact that only five monetary penalties were imposed in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, is ample proof that obligated organizations need not fear any real consequences if they don’t comply with the AODA.
* It is not sufficient for AODA enforcement to take the form of “paper audits”, where Government officials review an obligated organization’s documentary records on AODA compliance, such as records of an obligated organization’s accessibility policy and of its staff training on accessibility. Effective auditing or inspections need to include on-site examination of the actual accessibility of the obligated organizations, not just its accessibility paper trail.
We therefore recommend that:
#2-1. AODA enforcement should be substantially strengthen, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers, enforcing all AODA accessibility requirements, and enforcing the AODA in connection with all classes of organizations that must obey the AODA. The Government should not just enforce the requirement of certain obligated organizations to file an accessibility self-report. The Government should effectively enforce AODA requirements vis à vis both the public and private sectors, and vis à vis all classes of organizations within each sector.
#2-2. AODA enforcement should be transferred outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and be assigned to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement.
#2-3. The number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers should be significantly increased.
#2-4. Among other things, Ontario Government and local municipal inspectors and investigators under other legislation should be given a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation or by-laws.
A core feature of AODA enforcement should be the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities, not a mere audit of their paper records on accessibility documentation.
#2-5. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and any successor body assigned responsibility for AODA enforcement should 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.
#2-6. Obligated organizations should be required to report to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario or any successor AODA enforcement agency on accessibility complaints received via their required AODA feedback mechanisms, and on how they were resolved, while protecting individual privacy.
#2-7. New ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement should be created, 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 accessibility policy and its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one.
#2-8. To reverse the public perception that the Government is not and will not be effectively enforcing the AODA, the Government should immediately and widely publicize its enforcement plans and its intention to substantially increase its efforts at AODA enforcement. This should not be limited to postings on Government website.
#2-9. The Government should develop an effective strategy for ensuring that municipalities effectively enforce the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements as well as any built environment accessibility requirements in AODA accessibility standards, including
- a) providing effective training tools on the Ontario Building Code accessibility requirements that can be used by municipal enforcement officials;
- b) monitoring levels of enforcement and compliance at the municipal level across Ontario
regarding the Ontario Building Code accessibility requirements.
Chapter 3 Current AODA Accessibility Standards Don’t Ensure Ontario Will Become Accessible to People with Disabilities by 2025
The accessibility standards which the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA over the past 13.5 years have been helpful, but only to a limited extent. They do not ensure that Ontario will become fully accessible ever, much less by 2025. Moreover, work on developing accessibility standards over the past six years has been much slower than it was during the AODA’s first five years.
No new accessibility standard has been enacted since the end of 2012, some six years ago. only one accessibility standard has been revised in the past six years, the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. Those revisions instituted improvements that were marginal at best, and counterproductive in part, as this chapter explains.
The 2014 Mayo Moran Report identified serious problems with the current accessibility standards. The former Ontario Government did not fix those problems. They persist to this day.
We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:
* The current AODA accessibility standards will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, even in the specific areas they regulate, e.g. customer service, employment, transportation, or information and communication.
The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review correctly identified significant deficiencies with these accessibility standards. In the intervening years, the former Ontario Government did not rectify those deficiencies.
* The Government’s mandatory 5-year review of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard did not rectify most of the significant deficiencies with that accessibility standard. In one way, it made that weak accessibility standard even weaker.
* The Government’s mandatory 5year- review of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard resulted in weak recommendations to the Government from the Transportation Standards Development committee. Even if those recommendations were all implemented, these would not materially or substantially improve that accessibility standard.
* Similarly, the 2018 draft recommendations from the Employment Standards Development Committee on how to improve the very limited Employment Accessibility Standard would not significantly improve that accessibility standard.
We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:
#3-1. The Ontario Government should substantially strengthen all the existing accessibility standards.
#3-2. Any accessibility standards enacted under the AODA should, at least, measure up to the accessibility standards and accommodation and undue hardship requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Where any existing standard falls below that standard, or provides defences to obligated organizations that are broader than those under the Human Rights Code, the AODA accessibility standard should be amended as part of any review of that accessibility standard, to bring it in line with the Human Rights Code.
#3-3. The Ontario Government should 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 Standards Development Committee 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 on an ongoing basis, including appointing a representative of the Ontario Human Rights Commission as an ex officio non-voting member of each Standards Development Committee.
#3-4. When any Standards Development Committee is conducting a review of an existing AODA accessibility standard, that Committee should be advised that its mandate is not simply to decide if the existing accessibility standard is working “as intended”. Rather, it should investigate whether the accessibility standard will ensure that accessibility in the area that the standard addresses will be achieved by 2025. If it does not, then the Committee should recommend measures needed to ensure that accessibility in that area will be achieved by 2025.
#3-5. The Ontario Government should appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the general provisions in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, since no Standards Development Committee appears to be reviewing them.
#3-6. The Ontario Government should now launch the next review of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, since that standard remains so weak, and since the last review of that accessibility standard failed to significantly improve it. As part of that review, that accessibility standard should be revised to remove the barrier it impermissibly creates. That review should be mandated to consider, among other things, the low-cost revisions that the AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Law Centre recommended to the Ontario Government in their joint March 15, 2016 brief.
#3-7. The Ontario Government should now convene a summit with leaders from the disability community and the transportation sector to identify substantially stronger reforms to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard than those which the Transportation Standards Development committee had recommended.
#3-8. The Ontario Government should ask the Employment Standards Development Committee to expand its efforts, and to develop recommendations on measures to remove and prevent specific workplace disability barriers.
Note: See also the recommendations in Chapter 4.
Chapter 4 The Need for New Accessibility Standards, Including a Strong and Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard
Chapter 3 of this brief shows that the accessibility standards enacted to date under the AODA, while helpful to a degree, are not sufficient to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. It recommends needed actions in so far as those specific accessibility standards are concerned. This chapter addresses the need for the Ontario Government to enact new accessibility standards, to address issues and barriers that are beyond the areas that the existing accessibility standards address.
Part 4 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran shows that since 2012, the Ontario Government’s work on developing new accessibility standards under the AODA had slowed to a virtual crawl. That Part of our 2014 brief reached this conclusion:
“This Part of this brief shows that the Government has in recent years taken an unjustified and inordinate amount of time just to decide which accessibility standards to next develop under the AODA. It seems as if the Government has been stuck in neutral. With the 2025 deadline growing ever nearer, this was time that Ontario could not afford to squander.”
That slow pace of progress has persisted to the present time. Since June 2014, no new accessibility standards have been enacted. The former Ontario Government only completed the mandatory review of one of the existing accessibility standards, the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The mandatory 5-year reviews of the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard are still underway. The mandatory 5-year review of the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard has not even begun. As shown later in this chapter, the Ontario Government has violated the AODA by not starting that mandatory review by the end of 2017.
Chapter 3 of this brief shows that the mandatory 5-year review of the weak 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard did not lead to that standard being substantially strengthened. In one respect, it led it to be weakened even more.
Throughout the past decade, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in trying to get the Ontario Government to create new accessibility standards. During that period, the Ontario Government did not undertake a comprehensive effort to ascertain all the new accessibility standards that are needed. At most the former Ontario Government only focused on two of the new subject areas which we had emphasized, namely education and health care. In those two areas, the former Ontario Government took an unconscionably long time to eventually decide whether to create accessibility standards in education and health care.
As an illustration of another much-needed new accessibility standard, we have been calling for the Ontario Government to create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard for over half a decade. In July 2009, the former Ontario Government promised to address residential housing through the standards development process, once the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard was enacted. It never kept that promise. The former Ontario Government never gave a reason for failing to address accessibility barriers in residential housing. It has never denied to us that there is a protracted and critical shortage of accessible housing in Ontario – a shortage which will get worse as our population continues to age.
In this chapter, we first document the exceedingly long delays for the Ontario Government to decide to take action under the AODA on education and health care barriers. We then address the unmet need for a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Finally, we turn to the need for other accessibility standards to be created under the AODA.
We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:
* Ontario has a pressing need for an Education Accessibility Standard and a Health Care Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. students with disabilities face too many barriers in Ontario schools, colleges, universities and other education programs. Patients with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system.
* After the AODA has been part of Ontario law for 13 and a half years, the built environment in Ontario remains replete with far too many disability accessibility barriers. The AODA has not had a significant effect on removing existing barriers or preventing new ones in the built environment. A new building can be built in full compliance with the AODA and the Ontario Building Code and yet have serious accessibility problems. The Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements, like the few built environment requirements in AODA accessibility standards, are entirely inadequate to meet the known modern needs of people with disabilities.
* Ontario also has a pressing need for a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. The former Ontario Government’s decision to carve the built environment largely out of AODA accessibility standards and to only address it in the Ontario Building Code was wrong. It set Ontario back.
* The former Ontario Government’s failure to keep its August 19, 2011 election promise to enact the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard promptly set Ontario back.
* The former Ontario Government’s failure to act effectively on the 2014 Mayo Moran recommendations to address retrofits in existing buildings further set Ontario further back.
* Ontario has a pressing need for a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard. There is a serious shortage of accessible housing in Ontario for people with disabilities. It is getting worse because the demand for r accessible housing increases as Ontario’s population ages. There is no effective strategy in place in Ontario to ensure a sufficient increase in the supply of accessible housing in Ontario.
* Ontario needs a Goods and Products Accessibility Standard to be created under the AODA.
* The former Ontario Government never undertook a comprehensive consultation or other effort to determine what additional accessibility standards need to be created in order for the AODA to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.
#4-1. The Government should consult with the public, including with people with disabilities, over the next three months, 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.
#4-2. The Government should not delay a decision on whether to have a new accessibility standard developed, while the Ontario Public Service decides what barriers it might include.
#4-3. Immediately after the Government decides what remaining accessibility standards need to be created, it should promptly create Standards Development Committees to develop recommendations for each of those new accessibility standards.
#4-4. The Government should now publicly recognize that there is a problem with the inaccessibility of the built environment in Ontario. It should launch a concerted and comprehensive strategy that will address new construction, major renovations, and the retrofit of existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations, using feedback from the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal complaints and findings, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policies and advice.
#4-5. The Government should develop and enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, ensuring that it effectively addresses accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations (not limited to those covered in the DOPS accessibility standard). Among other things, the new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include additional accessibility requirements for elevators that are not currently addressed by the requirements in the Ontario Building Code and other provincial laws. To this end, the Ontario Government should appoint a new Built Environment Standards Development Committee, both to review the 2011 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard and to develop recommendations for a far more comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard.
#4-6. The Government should create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and should promptly appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include, or assign this to the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to in the preceding recommendation.
#4-7. The Government should direct each AODA 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 Education Standards Development Committee should be directed to make recommendations for accessibility in schools, colleges or universities. The Health Care Standards Development Committee should be directed to recommend requirements for the accessibility of the built environment in the health care system.
#4-8. The Government should announce a comprehensive strategy on accessible housing to address the current and growing crisis in accessible housing in Ontario, in addition to creating an AODA accessibility standard on point).
#4-9. The Government should strengthen enforcement of accessibility in the built environment. For example, it should require that before a building permit 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 all AODA accessibility standards.
#4-10. The Government should require professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects, interior designers, landscape architects, and other design professionals, to require detailed training on accessible design, to qualify for a license, and continuing professional development for existing professionals. The Government should also require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains these key professions, that their program curriculum must include sufficient training on accessibility and universal design. This should be designed to ensure that no new graduates in these fields will make the same mistakes as too often is the case for those now in practice.
#4-11. The Government should substantially reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario. This should include
- A requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, during master planning, feasibility studies, and functional programming, with any accessibility advice that is received being made public. This input should also be obtained through consultations with people with disabilities.
- A requirement to track any decisions to reject any accessibility advice, identifying who made that decision and the reasons why. That information should promptly be publicly reported.
- To require the Government to promptly make public the accessibility requirements under consideration as a requirement for a contract for any infrastructure, with enough time before the start of the bidding competition to allow for feedback and adjustments. It is too late to make this public only after the bidding competition.
- A requirement for post-project accessibility commissioning inspections which would include compliance with the project specific output specification accessibility requirements as well as the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards.
- A requirement in all contracts that any accessibility deficiencies found must be the financial responsibility of the Project Company who built the project to fix them.
#4-12. The Government should require that when public money is used to create new public housing, 100% of that housing should include universal design and visit-ability as mandatory design features.
#4-13. The Government should agree to create a Goods and Products Accessibility Standard.
#4-14. Accessibility standards should include, where appropriate, not only end-dates for achieving results, but also interim benchmarks for major milestones towards full accessibility.
This brief has already shown that an absolutely central part of the AODA is the creation of effective accessibility standards that will ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. This brief has also already shown that the accessibility standards enacted to date, while helpful, are woefully insufficient to ensure that Ontario reaches accessibility at any time, much less by 2025.
Much more needs to be done to develop sufficient accessibility standards in Ontario. At the same time, there is a pressing need to reform the standards development process under the AODA. the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review report recommended this. Our 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review demonstrated this. Events since our 2014 brief to Mayo Moran further demonstrate this.
Part 5 of our June 30, 2014 brief to Mayo Moran showed that the reforms to the standards development process which the former Ontario Government implemented in response to the 2010 Beer report did not work. Events since 2014 further show this.
The former Ontario Government eventually abandoned those reforms over the past two to three years, without announcing that it was doing so. We supported the Government’s abandoning those reforms. This is because they had accomplished nothing positive, and, if anything, set back our progress.
Since we submitted our brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in June 2014, further problems with the standards development process have come to light. Last spring, we called upon the former Ontario Government’s minister responsible for the AODA, Tracy MacCharles, to implement a series of changes to the standards development process. These were well within her authority as minister. There was no need for new legislation or regulations to be enacted. Nevertheless, she did not make these changes.
The need for reforms to Ontario’s standards development process that we recommend are reinforced by the current activities surrounding Parliament’s consideration of Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That bill incorporates helpful improvements on Ontario’s standards development process, though that federal bill too, requires strengthening, as our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 demonstrates.
We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
* There is a pressing need to reform the standards development process under the AODA. The problems with the standards development process that the 2010 final report of the Charles Beer AODA Independent Review identified remain present to this day. the former Ontario Government’s attempt to address these by temporarily assigning the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council with responsibility for developing recommendations for all accessibility standards was a failure and was properly abandoned by the former Ontario Government by 2016.
* The Government has been and remains in violation of the AODA, because it has thrice failed to appoint Standards Development Committees on time to conduct mandatory 5-year reviews of existing AODA accessibility standards by the AODA’s deadline. This includes the former Ontario Government’s failure to appoint the mandatory review of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard until sometime in 2013, and its current failure to appoint the mandatory review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017 and the review of Part I of the2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation by 2016.
* Once the former Ontario Government had decided to develop new accessibility standards in the area of education and health care, it took far too long to take the simple first step of appointing Standards Development Committees to start working on recommendations on what those accessibility standards should include. It took some two years to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee and over one year to appoint the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees. It took the Government longer to set up any of these Standards Development Committees than it had taken the Government to develop the entire AODA legislation and introduce it for First Reading in the Legislature back in 2003-2004.
* The new Ford Government has unjustifiably created further delays in reaching accessibility in Ontario, by its excessively-long freeze of the work of existing Standards Development Committees that were already appointed and working on their mandates before the June 7, 2018 Ontario election.
* The former Ontario Government inappropriately tried to restrict or narrow the work of some of the AODA Standards Development Committees it had appointed.
* There has been too much secrecy maintained around the work of the AODA Standards Development Committees, particularly in recent years.
* The mandatory minutes that each Standards Development Committee must keep and publicly post, regarding their meetings, are too often insufficiently detailed and informative to enable the public to know what they are doing, and have confidence in their work.
* The former Ontario Government was wrong to require Standards Development Committees to have a 75% vote in support before a recommendation for an accessibility standard could be submitted to the Government, or for any other decision by a Standards Development Committee, e.g. a decision to approve an amendment to its minutes.
* It put the cart before the horse for the former Ontario Government to require a Standards Development Committee in its first six months to set priorities for its work, before it had fully assessed which barriers exist in the area that the committee was assigned to study.
* The former Government did not give the public sufficient advance notice of when it would be consulting on a proposed accessibility standard.
* The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has been overstepping its role, when supporting the work of Standards Development Committees, by attempting to inappropriately micromanage and influence the direction of their work and recommendations.
* Standards Development Committees have not been effectively fulfilling their role under the AODA to propose an accessibility standard for the Government to consider enacting. For example, in 2018 the Transportation Standards Development committee submitted recommendations that are in significant part made up of items that are not a proposal for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.
* The recommendations from Standards Development Committees for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, and the draft recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard, are all very weak, and dramatically less than people with disabilities need.
* The standards development process requires much more extensive involvement by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
* Standards Development Committees have at times insufficiently consulted with the disability community, especially when formulating their draft recommendations.
* Since 2013, the former Ontario Government has broken its 2007 election promise to provide dedicated staff support to disability sector representatives on Standards Development Committees.
* In and after May 2018, the Government has inappropriately failed to consult the public on final recommendations it received for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard from the Transportation Standards Development committee.
* The Government’s has repeatedly failed to comply with the statutory deadline for deciding on making an accessibility standard after a Standards Development Committee recommends one.
* The former Government took the extraordinary and highly problematic step in June 2016 of purporting to amend parts of the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation without first appointing a Standards Development Committee to review the relevant parts of that standard, a mandatory precondition under the AODA.
3. Recommendations on Improving the Process for Developing New Accessibility Standards and Revising Existing Standards
We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:
#5-1. There is a strong need for the standards development process under the AODA to be substantially strengthened so that it produces stronger accessibility standards that will fulfil the AODA’s purposes.
#5-2. The Government should lead by example, by always ensuring that it meets all of its own deadlines set by the AODA, such as the deadlines for appointing Standards Development Committees 5-year mandatory reviews of existing AODA accessibility standards.
#5-3. The Government should immediately lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.
#5-4. The Government should modify the Mandate Letter for the Health Care Standards Development Committee so that it ensures that that Standards Development Committee makes recommendations on barriers throughout the health care system, and not merely or primarily regarding barriers in hospitals.
#5-5. The Government should 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 and accountable 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.
#5-6. The Ontario Government should not try to get members of Standards Development Committees to sign non-disclosure agreements when inviting them to serve on an AODA Standards Development Committee.
#5-7. The Accessibility Directorate should provide effective dedicated staff support to the disability sector representatives on each Standards Development Committee.
#5-8. The Government should 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
#5-9. The Accessibility Directorate should 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.
#5-10. Minutes kept by Standards Development Committees should be more detailed and informative. They should include minutes of any sub-committee and should have appended to them, as part of any public posting, any documents which are tabled with the Standards Development Committee to review. Minutes of meetings of an Standards Development Committee should accurately and comprehensively record the detailed issue-by-issue deliberations of that Council on accessibility standard proposals, and should be written in a fashion to make them fully understandable by members of the public who did not attend those meetings.
#5-11. Standards Development Committees should not be directed to decide, within their first six months of work, on priorities for their work.
#5-12. The Government should widely publicize the opportunity for community groups to request a chance to present to Standards Development Committees , when it is developing proposals for an accessibility standard.
#5-13. Because several 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 24 months under the AODA, and ensure they are not overlapping, so that the public can adequately prepare to participate in them all.
#5-14. The Government should 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.
#5-15. The Government should now appoint a Standards Development Committee to conduct the overdue mandatory 5-year review of Part I of the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
#5-16. When it is developing proposals for the contents of an accessibility standard, the Government should strongly encourage Standards Development Committees to extensively and publicly consult the public, including the disability community. As part of this, Standards Development Committees should be encouraged to invite stakeholders from the disability community and regulated sectors to meet together with ASAC to informally discuss issues that the Standards Development Committee have found challenging to resolve.
#5-17. When a Standards Development Committee submits an initial proposal to the Government for the contents of a new accessibility standard, or for revisions to an existing accessibility standard, the Government should convene face-to-face stakeholder meetings as one avenue for gathering input and should not restrict input to written submissions from the public.
#5-18. When a Standards Development Committee submits to the Government a final proposal for the contents of a new accessibility standard, the Government should obey s. 9(7) of the AODA by the minister, responsible for the AODA, deciding within 90 days what to enact from that proposal. The Government should immediately make that decision public.
#5-19. When a Standards Development Committee is developing an accessibility standard, the Accessibility Directorate should provide to it, and post on the internet for public input, a review of measures adopted in other jurisdictions to advance the goal of accessibility for persons with disabilities in the area that the new accessibility standard or the existing accessibility standard under review is to address.
#5-20. The Human Rights Commission should be far more extensively involved in the formal and informal work of each Standards Development Committee, including during review of public input and discussion and votes on clauses of proposed accessibility standards. This could include having a representative of the Ontario Human Rights Commission sit on each Standards Development Committee, as they work on proposals for the contents of accessibility standards.
#5-21. The Government should encourage each Standards Development Committee, when developing proposals for the contents of an accessibility standard, to identify where changes are needed to provincial or municipal legislation, regulations or bylaws, to advance the goal of a fully accessible Ontario.
#5-22. Standards Development Committees should fulfil their mandates under the AODA by each recommending a proposed accessibility standard, or revisions to an existing accessibility standard. The accessibility standard or revisions to a standard that they recommend should be designed to meet the AODA’s goal of achieving accessibility in Ontario by 2025. If they are to recommend any other measures at all, such as non-legislative measures, this should be secondary to their core mandate, and not the core of their recommendations.
#5-23. The Government should now conduct a robust consultation with the public on the Transportation Standards Development committee’s final recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, because those recommendations are so weak.
#5-24. The Government should never attempt or purport to amend an AODA accessibility standard without first fulfilling the mandatory requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to consider revisions to that accessibility standard.
Since the organized disability accessibility movement began in Ontario in 1994, every Government and every minister responsible for this issue has proclaimed the importance of and their passionate dedication to educating the public on the need for and benefits of accessibility for people with disabilities. Yet these rhetorical flourishes and the promises that accompanied them too often did not translate into sufficient effective action.
Part 6 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrated that up to that date, the Ontario Government did a quite inadequate job of discharging its responsibility to undertake public education on disability accessibility and the AODA. As that brief showed, there were times that the former Ontario Government actually gave out harmful and inaccurate information, such as its website for years incorrectly claiming that accessible customer service does not include providing customers with ramps and automatic door openers.
The former Ontario Government made some limited and efforts on public education since June 2014. However that action was not close to sufficient to address the problems in this area which both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review identified. We here provide an addendum to Part 6 of the June 30, 2014, AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran.
We recommend that this AODA Independent Review make the following findings:
* With only six years left before we reach 2025, and with the AODA having been the law since 2005, the findings in the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review report and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review report remain valid– Many if not most in the public are not aware of their AODA obligations. Of those who are aware of the AODA, too many, including too many within the Ontario Government itself, are not aware that the Ontario Human Rights Code and, where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms impose disability accessibility obligations that are as high as or higher than those now imposed by AODA accessibility standards.
* Government efforts on public education on the AODA since 2014 have not solved this problem. Moreover, the former Ontario Government’s ineffective enforcement of the AODA has undermined efforts at public education on the AODA, since the message has been widespread that failing to comply with the AODA likely brings no adverse consequences for an obligated organization.
* It works against the AODA’s goals for the Ontario Government to have publicly posted that accessible customer service does not include providing ramps or automatic door openers.
* There is a pressing need to include disability accessibility and inclusion in school curriculums. Moreover, professional training for a range of professions, such as design professionals, needs to include sufficient training on disability accessibility. The former Ontario Government never kept its promises to take action in these two important areas.
* This many years after the AODA was enacted, it would be wrong to contend that effective AODA enforcement must now await further efforts to educate the public and obligated organizations on their obligations under the AODA. It is incorrect and harmful to treat public awareness and education as some unending precondition to effective AODA enforcement.
* While it has made available some useful tools and resources, the Ontario Government has not provided obligated organizations all the tools that could help them comply with the AODA and has not effectively and sufficiently publicized the tools and resources it has provided.
* The public, including obligated organizations, will pay far more attention to public education and awareness efforts on accessibility when they know there is effective AODA enforcement.
* The aim and core focus now should be raising action, not raising awareness.
We urge this Independent Review to recommend as follows:
#6-1. The Government should widely advertise on the mass media, and not just on the internet, via email and on Twitter the availability of resources, training materials and guides it has already developed for organizations to comply with accessibility standards enacted under the AODA.
#6-2. Promptly after any new AODA accessibility standard is enacted or an existing accessibility standard is revised in the future, the Government should make available and widely publicize a free guide, policy guideline and other like resource materials for obligated organizations to comply with that accessibility standard’s accessibility requirements
#6-3. The Government should develop, make available and widely publicize a free web-authoring tool for creating accessible web pages, to comply with the IASR’s information and communication website accessibility requirements.
#6-4. The Government should promptly implement a permanent program to ensure that students in the school system are educated in disability accessibility. For example:
- a) The Government should identify the Minister and public officials responsible for this program’s development and implementation.
- b) School boards and teachers’ representatives should be consulted on its development and implementation.
- c) The Government should develop a sample curriculum which school boards could adopt if they wish, in lieu of developing their own curriculum.
- d) The Government should report to the public on this program’s implementation and effectiveness. Among other things, the Government should promptly implement a permanent program to advocate to self-governing professional bodies to educate people training in key professions, such as architects, on disability accessibility. The Government should identify the Minister and public officials responsible for this program’s development and implementation. The Government should report to the public on its implementation and effectiveness.
#6-5. The Government should promptly implement a program to advocate to the self-governing bodies for key professions (such as architects, interior designers, planners, other design professionals, lawyers, doctors and social workers) to adopt, implement and require education on disability accessibility to qualify for those professions, and to require continuing professional development on this topic for those already qualified in those professions. Among other things, as part of this effort:
- a) The Government should advocate to key professions such as architects and planners that to qualify in future for a licence or other qualifications certificate as an architect or other designer of the built environment, a specified amount of training in barrier free design must be completed, that goes beyond the insufficient requirements of the Ontario Building Code.
- b) A lead minister and public servants should be identified as responsible for this initiative.
- c) The Government should make available to those self-governing body any readily-available resource materials to help those self-governing professional bodies develop needed disability accessibility curriculum on accessibility needs of persons with disabilities.
- d) The Government should report to the public on this program’s implementation and effectiveness.
- e) Funding to any post-secondary faculty or self-governing professional organization for any of these professionals should be made conditional on compliance with this provincial policy and goal.
#6-6. The Government should promptly consult with persons with disabilities, including the AODA Alliance, on the content of these public education materials. This should involve in-person discussions, and not merely an invitation to provide on-line feedback to the Government.
#6-7. The Government should not treat AODA public education or AODA awareness-raising as a substitute for or precondition for effective AODA enforcement. The Government’s aim and core focus now should be raising action, not raising awareness.
Chapter 7. The Government’s Failure to Effectively Ensure that Public Money Is Never Used to Create, Perpetuate or Exacerbate Disability Barriers
One notion that meets with universal and instantaneous acceptance whenever it is discussed is that public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. This is a powerful lever for positive social change in the hands of the Government, if it is used effectively. Public money to which accessibility strings can and should always be attached includes, for example, infrastructure spending, spending on procurement of goods, services and facilities, and spending on grants or loans such as those given to businesses or local authorities, or the broader public sector.
Yet over 13 years after the AODA was enacted, the Ontario Government has not taken the full range of actions that it should to turn this proposition into a practical reality. Disability accessibility barriers continue to be created or perpetuated using public money, for no good reason. Some public officials and offices that should lead in this area too often fail to do so. Rhetoric too often fails to match reality. There is no discernable public accountability for a public official or office that continues to use public money to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.
Part 7 of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran explains how the AODA Alliance has tried for many years to get the Ontario Government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. We had too little success on that front up to 2014, as our earlier brief shows.
We here show that from June 2014 to the present, the Ontario Government has continued to fail in this area. Strong new Government action is needed.
We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
* Public money should never be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Public money to which accessibility strings can and should always be attached includes, for example, infrastructure spending, spending on procurement of goods, services and facilities, and spending on grants or loans such as those given to businesses or local authorities, or the broader public sector. It would be irresponsible for any public official or office to permit public money to be used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. It creates more future costs – the cost of removing barriers that should never have been created in the first place.
* The Ontario Government does not have in place effective, monitored procedures for ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. There is no real accountability or consequences for a public official who permits or directs the use of public money in a way that creates or perpetuates disability barriers. The public has no way to find out who made the bad decisions that result in these barriers.
* The former Government did not take effective new action to address this concern after the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report identified it as a concern. As a result, the former Ontario Government broke Premier Wynne’s 2014 Ontario election pledge not to use public money to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
* Where the Government has put in place some policies regarding accessibility considerations when undertaking public procurement of goods, services or facilities, there are no publicly-disclosed regimes for monitoring or enforcing these. There are no known consequences for contravening these policies or procedures.
* As online videos produced by the AODA Alliance in 2016, 2017 and 2018 reveal regarding the new Centennial College the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, and new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, the former Ontario Government broke Premier Wynne’s pledge in the 2014 Ontario election that public money would not be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
* There was no discernable progress in ensuring accessibility of publicly-funded infrastructure from June 2014 to June 2016, when the Minister of Infrastructure was also the minister responsible for the AODA. The fact that both subjects were under one minister should have led to far better provincial efforts at ensuring that new infrastructure is fully accessible to people with disabilities.
* An effective use of the Government’s lever of power over the use of public money could have a very dramatic impact on the removal and prevention of disability accessibility barriers, at little or no cost to the Ontario Government.
3. Recommendations on Ensuring Public Money Is Not Used to Create, Perpetuate or Exacerbate Barriers
We urge the Independent Review to recommend that:
#7-1. The Ontario Government should adopt and broadly publicize a cross-government policy that public money may never be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.
#7-2. The Government should 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. A senior public official within the Ontario Public Service should be designated with lead responsibility and authority for this effort.
#7-3. The Government should make it a condition of research grants that it funds or to which it contributes that people with disabilities should, where feasible and appropriate, be included in research study as subjects.
#7-4. In any Government strategy to ensure that public money is not used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers, it is not sufficient for the Government to make it a condition that a recipient of public money merely obey the AODA and AODA accessibility standards. It should require that recipients of public money comply with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and where applicable the Charter of Rights. It should require, among other things, that the recipient organization’s specific capital project or goods, services or facilities be fully disability accessible or require a commitment to remediate these to become fully accessible by time lines to be set out in the grant, loan or other terms of payment of public money.
#7-5. Any Government contract for infrastructure or for the procurement of goods, services or facilities should include a mandatory, enforceable term that requires the recipient of the public money to remediate any accessibility barriers that the recipient allows to be created or perpetuated at the recipient’s expense.
#7-6. The Government should make it a condition of transfer payments and capital or other infrastructure funding to municipalities, hospitals, school boards, public transit providers, colleges, universities, and transfer partners that these recipient organizations adopt comparable initiatives to ensure that their procurement and infrastructure spending, and any loans or grant programs, do not create, exacerbate or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. The Government should make public a resource guide to assist those transfer partners to know how to effectively implement this requirement.
#7-7. The Government should promptly establish a process for monitoring and enforcing the recommended comprehensive strategy to ensure that public money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate accessibility barriers. It should not be left to each ministry to do as little or as much as it wishes to implement Government policy and procedures on this topic.
#7-8. The Government should widely and prominently publicize as soon as possible to any organization that seeks Ontario infrastructure or procurement funds, or any Government funded or subsidies, loans or grants, that they must prove in their applications that they will ensure that public money isn’t used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities.
#7-9. The Government should establish and widely publicize an avenue for the public to report to the Government on situations where public money is used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability accessibility barriers.
#7-10. The Provincial Auditor should audit the Government to ensure compliance with recommendations on ensuring that public money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability accessibility barriers.
#7-11. It should be a mandatory Government policy that when an accessibility consultant is retained on an infrastructure project to which Ontario public funds are contributed, the accessibility consultant should report directly to the Ontario Government, with the consultant’s advice being made promptly public.
#7-12. When a public infrastructure project is undertaken involving any Ontario Government funds, the Project Specific Output Specifications (on disability accessibility PSOS) for the project should be made public before the competition process, and subject to public input.
#7-13. The Provincial Auditor should audit the accessibility practices at Infrastructure Ontario, and provide a report to the public, including on any recommended reforms to how that Government organization approaches the planning for accessibility in infrastructure projects.
#7-14. When a Government-funded infrastructure project is undertaken, successive plans for the project should be made public on a real time basis, for crowd-sourced input on accessibility.
#7-15. Where a public official or project team member, paid out of the public purse, vetoes or decides against an accessibility measure that an accessibility consultant recommends, the identity of that public official should be recorded and made public, when successive plans for the project are made public, with an explanation of what the accessibility feature is that was excluded from the project on the decision of that public official.
The Ontario Government has a special obligation to ensure that the legislation that the Legislature passes and the regulations that the Cabinet passes are barrier-free for people with disabilities. They should not create or permit the creation of disability accessibility barriers. They should be written in a way that ensures that people with disabilities have their disability-related needs accommodated, so that they can enjoy the rights, opportunities and responsibilities that our laws afford to all.
To that end, it is necessary for the Ontario Government to review all Ontario legislation and regulations, to ensure that they are barrier-free. It also needs to put in place and effective system for ensuring that whenever new laws are passed or old laws are amended, these changes to the law are also barrier-free.
It is commendable that in the 2007 election, just two years after the AODA was enacted, Premier Dalton McGuinty gave an election pledge to review all Ontario laws for accessibility problems. It is entirely indefensible that 11 years later, that promise remains largely unkept. Only a small percentage of Ontario laws have been reviewed for accessibility. Only a fraction of the required changes to those laws were made. The Ontario Government has had in place no plans for the past four years to complete this project.
Part 8 of the June 30,2018 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran demonstrates that up to 2014, the former Ontario Government had done very little to review all Ontario laws, both statutes and regulations, to ensure that they neither create nor mandate any disability barriers. Part 8 of that brief began as follows:
“An important step for Ontario to reach full accessibility by 2025 is to ensure that all Ontario statutes and regulations are themselves barrier-free. The Government needs to ensure that all existing laws and any new laws neither require nor mandate the creation or perpetuation of barriers against persons with disabilities. Among other things, the Government must ensure that Ontario statutes and regulations incorporate active measures to ensure the full accessibility of the programs, policies, rights and opportunities that they address.
To achieve this, the Government must do more than simply creating, enacting and enforcing AODA accessibility standards. The Government must conduct a thorough review of all of its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers. Where any are found, these laws must be amended to ensure they are barrier-free. The Government must also implement new proactive measures to ensure that new statutes or regulations are carefully screened before they are enacted, to ensure that they are entirely barrier-free.”
This chapter is an addendum to that Part of the June 30, 2014 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran. Since 2014, the former Ontario Government took some further action on this front, but far too little. The last time the former Ontario Government reviewed any legislation to look for accessibility barriers was before the end of 2014. As of now, the vast majority of Ontario statutes and regulations have never been reviewed for accessibility. The former Ontario Government had only reviewed a scant 50-55 of Ontario’s 750 statutes and none of its regulations, as far as we have been told. In the spring of 2016, the former Ontario Government made a number of relatively minor amendments to the 50-55 statues that had been reviewed. This left in place many if not most of the barriers in those statutes. As is the case with so many other issues addressed in this brief, the AODA Alliance has led the charge for more than a decade to get the Ontario Government to ensure that its legislation and regulations do not mandate or permit disability accessibility barriers.
We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
* The Ontario Government has a special obligation to ensure that Ontario legislation and regulations are barrier-free for people with disabilities. They should not create or permit the creation of disability accessibility barriers.
* The former Ontario Government promised to review all Ontario laws for accessibility issues in the 2007 election. It repeated that pledge in the 2011 and 2014 elections.
* The former Government delayed even starting this review until 2011. That effort was further delayed for another two years after that.
* Eleven years after the initial pledge, the former Ontario Government has only reviewed a mere 51 of Ontario’s 750 statutes and no Ontario regulations, for accessibility problems. Of the 51 statutes reviewed, the former Ontario Government only amended a mere 11 of them. The former Ontario Government rejected further NDP amendments. The former Ontario Government did not correct a number of barriers in the 51 statutes it reviewed.
* Within the former Government, this issue was shuffled from ministry to ministry over the past eleven years, and through a revolving door series of deputy ministers.
* After some amendments were made to 11 Ontario statutes in spring 2016, the former Ontario Government in effect did nothing further on this review for its last two years in power.
* It should not take 11 years to complete this review, much less a review of only 51 Ontario statutes. Between 1982 and 1985, the Ontario Government reviewed all laws for compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including its equality guarantee in section 15.
3. Recommendations on the Government’s Duty to Review Ontario Statutes and Regulations for Accessibility Barriers
We urge this Review to recommend that:
#8-1. The Government should announce, within four months of this Independent Review’s report, a detailed plan for completing a comprehensive review of all Ontario statutes and regulations for accessibility problems, 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.
#8-2. The Government should complete this review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2020, and of all regulations by the end of 2021. The Government should 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.
#8-3. Cabinet should amend any regulations that the government deems necessary as a result of the accessibility review, by the end of 2022.
#8-4. The Government should appoint the Attorney General of Ontario to lead this review of all Ontario laws for accessibility problems, in coordination with the Secretary of Cabinet.
#8-5. The Government should report to the public by the end of 2018, the end of 2019 and the end of 2020 on its progress toward meeting the deadlines for reviewing all legislation and regulations for accessibility barriers. These reports should give specifics on what the Government has done and plans to do, whether by legislative amendments or other actions, to address accessibility barriers it has discovered in this review.
#8-6. When the Government identifies a potential barrier in an Ontario law, it should consult with the public, including with people with disabilities, on options for addressing the barrier, before deciding on the contents of possible amendments to those laws.
Chapter 9 Making Ontario and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters and Candidates with Disabilities
Many find it hard to believe that in 2018, voters with disabilities in Ontario still encounter disability barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Yet over 13 years since the AODA was passed, provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are still not fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities. There is no justification for this. The former Ontario Government did not act sufficiently to address this, and did not keep key election promises on this.
Part 9 of the June 30 AODA Alliance brief to Mayo Moran documented the history of this problem in detail up to the middle of 2014. This chapter is an addendum to that Part of our 2014 brief to Mayo Moran.
We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
* In 2018, voters and candidates with disabilities in Ontario provincial and municipal elections continue to face too many disability barriers. This is unjustified and unacceptable.
* The same disability barriers can present themselves in provincial and municipal elections. It is inappropriate to have to reinvent the accessibility wheel in the election context at both the provincial and municipal levels, and then again, from one municipality to the next. This slows progress on accessibility while costing the taxpayer more.
* Elections Ontario has not solved this problem at the provincial level, even though it has been within its mandate for many years.
* A comprehensive new strategy is needed to ensure elections accessibility for voters and candidates with disabilities, which can be expected to require legislative reforms.
3. Recommendations on Ensuring Municipal and Provincial Elections are Barrier-free for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities
We urge this Independent Review to make these recommendations:
#9-1. By October 2014, the Government should appoint an independent person to conduct a three month independent review of barriers facing voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections, including both the campaign process and the voting process. This Review, should, among other things, gather information on the use of telephone and internet voting in municipal elections in Ontario. This Review should hold an open, accessible and province-wide public consultation, and report to the public within six months of its appointment. Its report should be made public immediately on its being submitted to the Government.
#9-2. Within six months after the report of the Disability Elections Accessibility Independent Review, the Government should introduce into the Legislature omnibus elections accessibility reforms for both municipal and provincial elections, to remove and prevent barriers impeding voters and candidates with disabilities in the voting process, and in participating in election campaigns, to ensure that:
- a) all voters with disabilities can independently mark their own ballot in private and verify their choice. This bill should, among other things, ensure telephone and internet voting in Ontario elections and by-elections.
- b) get full physical accessibility to all polling stations and all public areas in polling stations,
- c) including sharing at the provincial and municipal levels information on accessible polling station venues, so each does not have to reinvent the same accessibility wheel.
- d) Ensure that election campaign information is immediately and readily available in accessible formats, and that campaign websites are designed to be fully accessible.
- e) ensure that all-candidates debates are accessible.
Every party in power since Ontario’s grass roots accessibility campaign began in 1994 has said that the Government of Ontario would lead by example, when it comes to accessibility for people with disabilities. By what kind of example has the Ontario Government been leading? Too often, it has led by a poor example.
This chapter serves as an addendum to Part 10 of our June 30, 2014 brief to Mayo Moran, which begins as follows:
“For Ontario to reach full accessibility by 2025, it is important for the Ontario Government to lead on accessibility by example. The Ontario Public Service is by far Ontario’s largest employer and provider of services to the public.
Other obligated organizations will look to see how seriously the Government takes the AODA. If the Government does not take its AODA duties seriously, obligated organizations will be incentivized to think that they can and should do the same. Moreover, if the Government does not hold itself to full and strict compliance with the AODA, obligated organization won’t expect the Government to expect any more of them.”
Part 10 of our brief to Mayo Moran revealed however that far too often, the Ontario Government was leading by a poor example. This included:
* Failing to put in place an effective front-line internal system within the Government for embedding accessibility across the Ontario Public Service.
* Examples of the Ontario Government violating or attempting to violate its own disability accessibility laws.
* More recent Government initiatives before the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review to improve its implementation of the AODA did not make a significant difference.
* The Government’s failing to consistently provide a simple, cost-free accommodation – the case study of Government documents in PDF format.”
The 2014 Mayo Moran Report in substance agreed that improvement was needed. Sadly however, the former Ontario Government did little that was at all effective at changing this since June 2014. As such, strong action is needed now, more than ever.
We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
* There is a pressing need to revitalize the AODA’s implementation, as both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review recommended. This revitalization never took place in response to those reports’ recommendations.
* The former Government did not keep Premier Wynne’s commitment to instruct all ministers on their accessibility commitments. This contributed to slower progress on accessibility.
* The fact that the new Ontario Government has not made its Mandate Letters public makes it impossible for the public, including people with disabilities, to know what the Premier has instructed his ministers to do on accessibility for people with disabilities.
* The transfer from 2013 to 2016 of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to the Ministry of Economic Development was well-intentioned and held great promise. However it turned out to be a failure.
* It is important for the Ontario Government to have a full-time Minister of Accessibility, to lead the AODA’s implementation. It was inappropriate for the former Ontario Government to assign to the same minister both the responsibility as Minister for Accessibility and the conflicting role of Minister of Government Services.
* There is a pressing need for the Ontario Government to re-engineered the way the Government delivers and oversees the delivery of accessibility within the Ontario Public Service, as an employer and service-provider.
* The Ontario Government’s efforts at becoming an accessible employer and service-provider were slowed and hampered by virtue of the fact that the Government has no Chief Accessibility Officer, at the level of a deputy minister or associate deputy minister, with lead responsibility and authority for ensuring that the Ontario Public Service becomes accessible as an employer and service-provider.
* The Ontario Government missed an extraordinary opportunity to achieve advances on accessibility in the tourism and hospitality sector, when Ontario hosted the 2015 Toronto Pan/Parapan American Games. Despite our repeated efforts over two years, the former Ontario Government did not undertake a strategy to use the Games to leverage an increase of accessibility in the tourism and hospitality sector, such as in hotels, restaurants and tourism sites.
* The Minister of International Trade did not incorporate disability accessibility as a prominent part of the International Trade Ministry’s strategy for economic development and innovation.
* The Minister of Research and Innovation did not ensure disability accessibility is a key focus of research and innovation programs and projects that the Government operates or finances.
#10-1. The Government should designate a single minister to be responsible for ensuring that the Ontario Public Service becomes a fully accessible employer and service provider, and to ensure that the Government keeps all its accessibility commitments and duties, other than those for which the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors is responsible.
#10-2. The Government should establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Chief Accessibility Officer.
#10-3. The Premier should include in the mandate letter that his office issues to each cabinet minister, specific directions to fulfil the Government’s commitments and duties on disability accessibility which fall in whole or in part in that ministry’s purview. The Premier’s instructions to cabinet ministers on accessibility should be made public.
#10-4. The Premier’s office should direct the Secretary of Cabinet to ensure that the Government’s disability accessibility commitments and duties are kept, and direct the Secretary to Cabinet to take all needed steps to implement them.
#10-5. The Government should announce and implement a plan to re-engineer how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are fully accessible.
#10-6. The Government should ensure that the Accessibility Lead position in each ministry is a full time position, which reports directly to the deputy minister of that minister, with an option for a dual report as well to the ministry’s Chief Administrative Officer.
#10-7. The Government should promptly implement and widely publicize within the Ontario Public Service a comprehensive permanent periodic program for auditing and monitoring its workplaces and public services and facilities for disability accessibility and barriers. This program should include, among other things, on-site audits and inspections, and not merely paper trail audits. The results of this monitoring should annually be made public.
#10-8. The Government should promptly implement a constructive program for ensuring accountability of public servants in the Ontario Public Service for efforts on disability accessibility. Among other things, the Ontario Public Service should require that every employee include in his or her annual performance review, performance goals on disability accessibility within the scope of their duties. Performance on this criterion should be assessed for performance, pay and promotion decisions.
#10-9. The Government should not solely or predominantly rely on on-line programs to train the Ontario Public Service on accessibility. It should implement live, interactive programming where possible that involves face-to-face interaction with persons with disabilities.
#10-10. The Minister responsible for international Trade should incorporate disability accessibility as a prominent part of Ontario’s international trade strategy for economic development and innovation.
#10-11. The Minister who is responsible for research and innovation should ensure disability accessibility is a key focus of research and innovation programs and projects that the Government operates or finances.
Chapter 11 The Unmet Need for a Strong and Effective Ontario Strategy to Substantially increase the Employment of Ontarians with Disabilities
To fulfil the AODA’s goal of accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025 in the context of employment, Ontario needs a strong and comprehensive strategy to promote expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities. It is widely recognized and undisputed that people with disabilities face excessive and unfair unemployment rates.
This chapter explores what the Ontario Government has done about this. In summary, the former Ontario Government commendably committed to act on this in February 2013. However, it took far too long and did far too little in this area.
We urge this AODA Independent Review to find as follows:
* People with disabilities continue to face unfair and high rates of unemployment. This inflicts serious hardships on people with disabilities and on society. Society significantly benefits by increasing the employment of people with disabilities
* The Ontario Government is a significant cause of the disability unemployment problem
* Ontario does not now have in place sufficient measures to combat this. At the present rate, employment in Ontario will not be achieve full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. A stronger AODA Employment Accessibility Standard would help. However, companion Government strategies on increased employment for people with disabilities are also needed. Short term tax cuts or financial incentives are no long term solution
* Barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system contribute to the unemployment plight facing too many people with disabilities. A good education is needed to get a good job. As such* delays in creating a strong and effective AODA Education Accessibility Standard contributes to the ongoing unemployment plight facing people with disabilities. That includes the previous ‘Governments multi-year delay in deciding to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard, and the current Government’s freeze on the work of the K-12 and Post-Secondary Standards Development Committees.
* If Ontario had in place a combination of a stronger Employment Accessibility Standard, a strong Education Accessibility Standard, a stronger Transportation Accessibility Standard, a strong Built Environment Accessibility Standard, and a strong provincial disability employment strategy, the workplaces of 5 to 6 years from now can and should be fully accessible to people with disabilities.
* It was unjustifiable for the former Ontario Government to have taken over four years to develop a disability employment strategy. There have already been ample studies, reports and advisory councils on employment for people with disabilities. What is needed now is action, not more delay for extensive study and discussions.
* The former Government’s “Access Talent” disability employment strategy, announced in June 2017, has some helpful ingredients. However these were too often too high-level or preliminary. More concrete action is needed with prompt benefits for people with disabilities trying to enter or remain in the workforce.
#11-1. The Ontario Government should designate a specific minister and deputy minister with lead responsibility for ensuring that all the needed measures are taken to ensure substantially increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
#11-2. The Ontario Government should, within two months, make public a list of options for a strengthened disability employment strategy, drawn from the Government’s own past and present programs, and from the programs and ideas that others have accumulated, e.g. those readily discovered on the internet. The Government should promptly consult the public, including employers and people with disabilities on those options, and any additional options that the public bring forward. Within three months of releasing that list of options, the Government should announce a new and strengthened Ontario disability employment strategy, supplementing the existing Access Talent strategy, to substantially increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As part of this strategy:
- a) The Government should not treat “raising awareness” among employers about the benefits of employment for people with disabilities as its core strategy for substantially increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
- b) The Government should become a role model – leading by example through employment of people with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) and the broader public sector and procuring services, providing grants or financing to organizations with a strong orientation toward supporting employment of people with disabilities
- c) The Government should eliminate Government-created barriers to increased employment of people with disabilities
- d) The Government should promptly implement a pro-active strategy to ensure that all students with disabilities in K-12 education secure an experiential learning opportunity, to work towards getting a good job reference to assist them in securing their first paid job.