ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act
December 2, 2021 Toronto: Because of years of Ontario Government foot-dragging and broken promises, it is now impossible for the Government to fulfil its legal duty to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, a leading non-partisan disability coalition declared on the eve of December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities. In a November 22, 2021 letter sent to all party leaders (set out below), the grassroots AODA Alliance wrote:
“The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. … With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. …We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.”
The Ford Government is certainly not being let off the hook for living up to its obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There’s still time for the Ford Government to take its foot off the brakes and hit the accelerator.
“Three successive premiers and a parade of ministers caused this hurtful failure,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “When the Ford Government took power in 2018, we needed him to speed up action on accessibility, but instead, he slowed progress even more and created new disability barriers that make things even worse.”
For example, the vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On the Ford Government’s watch, hospitals trained doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. As well, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.
Fully 1,036 days ago, Premier Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the AODA’s implementation, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. It reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.
Ford’s accessibility minister said Onley did a “marvellous job.” Yet Ford still has no comprehensive action plan to implement Onley’s recommendations.
With next June’s Ontario election campaign already in effect underway, the AODA Alliance is getting out in front. It today releases the package of election commitments on disability accessibility that it seeks from all the political parties, detailed in its November 22, 2021 letter to the parties, below. Each party is asked to pledge to implement the AODA Alliance’s proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario laid out in that letter. In the meantime, the Ford Government should act now on all the actions spelled out in that plan.
For more background, visit www.aodaalliance.org
Text of the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
November 22, 2021
To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier
Via Email: email@example.com
Room 281, Legislative Building
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Room 113, Legislative Building
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5
Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:
Via email: email@example.com
Room 451 Legislative Building
Toronto, ON M7A 1A2
Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
344 Bloor St W,
Toronto On, M5S 1W9
Dear Party Leaders,
Re: Seeking your Parties’ 2022 Election Commitments to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities
We write in a spirit of non-partisanship to ask your Parties to pledge in advance of the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, to implement our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario (set out below). Our non-partisan grass-roots community coalition seeks the achievement of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities, through the prompt, effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
Below we set out specific commitments that we seek in order to make Ontario accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Taken together, they constitute the much-needed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we ask your parties to each endorse.
In each Ontario election since 1995, some or all parties made election commitments on this. They did so in letters to the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, to our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
We write over six months before the election, because these are big, important issues. We will make public responses we receive.
These Commitments are Vital
For people with disabilities, Ontario is at a very troubling crossroads. We must seek a substantial list of commitments, because of the Government’s cumulative failures to effectively implement and enforce the AODA for years.
People with disabilities had tenaciously advocated for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. It was an historic day in 2005 when the Legislature unanimously passed the landmark AODA.
The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. The Government must enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to lead Ontario to that goal.
Accessibility standards are enforceable provincial regulations. They are to specify, on an economic sector-by-sector basis, the disability barriers that an organization must remove or prevent, and the time lines for action, to become accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the Transportation Accessibility Standard is meant to spell out the actions that transit providers must take to tear down barriers that impede passengers with disabilities from fully using and benefitting from their transit services.
Since 2005, we have vigourously advocated to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced. There has been some progress since 2005. However, it has been too little and too slow.
With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. Responsibility for this entirely avoidable failure spreads out over many years. We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.
People with disabilities know from their daily life experience that we are now at this painful turning point. Reinforcing this, in January 2019, the third Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, found that progress on accessibility in Ontario has been “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal was nowhere in sight.
No one disputed these Onley Report findings. On April 10, 2019, the Government told the Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”
There has been no significant progress since the Onley Report on actually removing and preventing disability barriers. The AODA’s implementation and enforcement have not been strengthened or sped up.
Undermining the AODA’s purpose, new disability barriers have been created since the release of the Onley Report. People with disabilities disproportionately bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its worst impacts. Yet the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning has not effectively addressed people with disabilities’ urgent needs.
For example, a new critical care triage protocol, systematically embedded in Ontario hospitals, enshrines discrimination against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving care, if hospital overloads require rationing of critical care beds. Another example of new barriers traceable to the Ontario Government are electric scooters, which are ridden by uninsured and unlicensed joy-riders in public and which now endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others in some Cities on a daily basis.
The AODA does not vanish on January 1, 2025. It remains the law of Ontario. The Government will remain responsible for leading its implementation and enforcement.
The Government elected on June 2, 2022 will be in power when the AODA’s January 1, 2025 deadline for accessibility arrives. That Government needs to have a plan of action. We here offer a carefully-designed one, based on our years of experience on the front lines, and ask you to pledge to implement it.
What Went Wrong?
Why do we ask your parties to endorse and commit to our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario, set out below? What led to this predicament? First, despite strong unanimous support for the AODA when it was passed, and a good start on implementing it in the early years, it substantially dropped as a Government priority after that. Premier after premier failed to show the strong leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities needed, which three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA called for. Second, the AODA accessibility standards passed to date, while helpful, are not strong enough. They do not cover all or even a majority of the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face. Third, the Government’s enforcement of the AODA has been weak and ineffective. Fourth, the Government has not used all the other levers of power conveniently available to it to promote accessibility for people with disabilities.
For over a decade, successive governments and ministers have been told about the need to strengthen and speed up the AODA’s implementation. They received strong, practical recommendations on how to do this. This all came from Ontario’s disability community, and from the reports of three successive mandatory Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA. The report of the first AODA Independent Review, conducted by Charles Beer, was made public in May 2010. The report of the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, was made public in February 2015. The report of the third AODA Independent Review, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, was made public in March 2019.
Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell
The 2022 election is the most pivotal one for Ontarians with disabilities since the 2003 election. This is because Ontario is on the verge of failing to comply with the AODA’s mandatory deadline. We need Ontario’s Government, elected on June 2, 2022, to commit to a bold plan of strong new action on disability accessibility, targeted at two goals. First, Ontario must get as close to full accessibility for people with disabilities as is possible by 2025. Second, Ontario must thereafter get the rest of the way to full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025.
In summary, our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we set out below, and to which we ask you to commit, includes requests that your party each agree to:
- Foster and strengthen our ongoing relationship with your party.
- Show strong leadership on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
- Protect the gains on accessibility that people with disabilities have made so far.
- Enact a comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
- Enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
- Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards.
- Enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
- Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA and create an Accessible Housing Strategy.
- Strengthen the weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA.
- Develop additional new Accessibility Standards under the AODA, needed to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities.
- Speed up the excessively long process for developing and enacting AODA Accessibility Standards.
- Substantially strengthen AODA enforcement to ensure that all requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced.
- Substantially reform and improve how the Ministry of Education and Ontario school system address the needs of students with disabilities.
- Ensure that new generations of design professionals (like architects) are not trained to be new barrier-creators.
- Ensure that taxpayers’ money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
- Establish free independent technical accessibility advice for obligated organizations.
- Make provincial and municipal elections accessible to voters with disabilities.
- Substantially improve the accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s workplaces, services and facilities.
- Review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
- Root out recently-created new disability barriers traceable to the Ontario Government.
- Give no more public money to the problematic and unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program.
Following Up on This Letter
Please respond to this request by February 1, 2022. Email us at email@example.com. Please send your response in MS Word format, and not as a pdf, because the pdf format presents serious accessibility problems. We would be pleased to provide background briefings or to answer any questions you may have.
Our coalition addresses disability accessibility. We urge you to also take very seriously the requests you will receive from community groups for election pledges on other important disability issues, such as the pressing need to strengthen income supports like ODSP to tackle the protracted, rampant poverty among far too many Ontarians with disabilities.
Our non-partisan coalition does not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to secure the strongest commitments from each party.
David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
A Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario – 2022 Ontario Election Commitments Requested by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
I. Leadership Commitments
a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party
Our coalition and its pre-2005 predecessor (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have been recognized in the Legislature and elsewhere for our leadership and advocacy for and expertise in disability accessibility. We offer input and advice to the Government and to opposition parties.
#1. As Premier, will you periodically meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility, including once within the first four months of taking office?
#2. If your Party does not form the Government, will you meet with us periodically? Will your Party raise our concerns in the Legislature, including in Question Period?
b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility
Three successive Independent Reviews of the AODA concluded that Ontario needs strong new leadership within the Ontario Government on accessibility for people with disabilities, starting with the premier.
#3. As premier, will you show strong leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities? Will you substantially strengthen and accelerate the AODA’s implementation?
#4. Will you commit to get Ontario as close as possible to the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025? Will you also announce and implement a plan to get Ontario to reach full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025, if the 2025 deadline is missed?
Ontario has not had in place a comprehensive multi-year plan for implementing the AODA. We and others urged the Government for years to establish such a plan, and have offered proposals.
#5. Within four months of taking office, and after consulting the public including people with disabilities, will you announce a comprehensive action plan for ensuring that the Government leads Ontario to become as close as possible to full accessibility by 2025 for people with disabilities, and if the 2025 goal is not reached, to reach the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities as soon as possible after 2025?
#6. Will you assign a stand-alone minister responsible for disability issues, who will periodically meet with us? Will other ministers with responsibility bearing on our issues also meet with us?
The Government needs to lead by a good example. Yet it has not done so. Examples are given below where the Ontario Government itself is violating the AODA.
#7. Will you comply with the AODA?
c) Protect the Gains on Accessibility that People with Disabilities Have Made So Far
It is vital that the AODA not be opened up in the Legislature or amended in any way.
#8. Will you ensure that no amendments to the AODA will be made?
#9. Do you agree not to eliminate or reduce any provisions or protections in the AODA or its regulations, or in policies or initiatives within the Ontario Government that promote its objectives, or any rights of persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code?
II. Develop and Enact Needed New Accessibility Standards Under the AODA
The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must then enforce those accessibility standards. When done right, these accessibility standards help business and public sector organizations know what to do. They contribute to the profitability and success of these organizations.
Since 2005, the Ontario Government has enacted five accessibility standards. They address disability barriers in customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and a very limited range of built environment barriers in “public spaces,” mostly outside buildings.
The Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that Ontario needs to enact more accessibility standards to address all the many recurring disability barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face. Yet no new AODA accessibility standards have been enacted since 2012, in almost a decade.
The AODA requires that each AODA accessibility standard must be independently reviewed by a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee after five years, to see if it needs strengthening. Only one of Ontario’s five accessibility standards has ever been revised. That was in June 2016, over half a decade ago. That is so even though four separate Government-appointed Standards Development Committees found that the four accessibility standards they reviewed all need to be strengthened.
We need the Ontario Government to develop and enact new accessibility standards, and to strengthen all the existing accessibility standards. The weak and limited accessibility standards enacted to date will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 or ever, even if all obligated organizations fully comply with them.
a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA
For example, students with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) schools, colleges and universities. All political parties have agreed that an Education Accessibility Standard should be enacted under the AODA. This is needed to remove and prevent the many disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.
In 2017, the Government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Last spring, both those Standards Development Committees sent the Government excellent, comprehensive Initial Reports. They give a strong roadmap for major reforms. A strong consensus supports their recommendations. They are expected to have submitted their final reports before the June 2022 election.
#10. Within one year of taking office, will you enact an AODA Education Accessibility Standard that accords with the recommendations in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 1, 2021, and the Initial Report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 25, 2021?
b) Enact a Comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard Under the AODA
All political parties have agreed that Ontario needs to enact an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In 2016 or 2017, the Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. It was only mandated to address disability barriers in hospitals, even though people with disabilities face many disability barriers throughout the health care system.
The Health Care Standards Development Committee gave the Government an Initial Report at the end of 2020. It shows why Ontario needs a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard, and what that regulation should include. The Health Care Standards Development Committee is expected to submit a final report before the June 2022 Ontario election.
#11. Within one year of taking office, will you enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to remove and prevent the disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system (not limited to hospitals), that accords with the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report, made public on May 7, 2021?
c) Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards
People with disabilities also still face many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, or try to get access to information and communication that is shared with the public. The accessibility standards in these three areas that were passed in 2011 under the AODA, while helpful, have not been effective at overcoming these barriers.
The Government has received recommendations to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 accessibility standards that address barriers in transportation, in information and communication and in employment. In the 2018 spring, almost four years ago, the Government received recommendations for reforms in transportation from the Transportation Standards Development Committee. Well over two years ago, in 2019 the Government received recommendations for reform from the Employment Standards Development Committee. Almost two years ago, in early 2020, the Government received recommendations for reform from the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. The Government has announced no plans to implement any of those recommendations.
#12. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?
#13. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?
#14. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?
d) Enact a Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA
There are still far too many disability barriers in the built environment. There has been far too little progress on this since the AODA was enacted.
Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.
The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.
In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.
For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.
In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.
The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.
#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.
We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.
#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?
e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy
Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.
The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.
#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.
#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.
f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard
Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.
In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.
The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.
#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?
g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility
Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.
#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?
h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards
Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.
Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.
#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?
III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced
On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.
Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.
#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?
#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?
#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.
#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.
#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.
#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?
#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?
Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.
#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?
#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?
IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility
Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.
a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities
Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.
In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.
The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:
#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?
#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?
b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators
At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.
#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.
The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.
#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?
c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers
The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.
#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all 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?
There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.
#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.
#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?
#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?
d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations
Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.
#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.
e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities
Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.
#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?
#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??
f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities
The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.
In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.
#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.
#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?
#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.
#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.
#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.
g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers
In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.
#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, 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?
#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?
#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?
h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government
Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.
The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.
Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.
#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?
#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?
#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?
#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?
In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.
The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.
#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?
#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?
#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?
The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.
#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?
i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program
In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.
We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.
#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?