Ford Government Appoints the Next Independent Review of the Disabilities Act After it Failed for Three Years to Implement the Blistering Report of the Last Independent Review

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities



Twitter: @aodaalliance



Ford Government Appoints the Next Independent Review of the Disabilities Act After it Failed for Three Years to Implement the Blistering Report of the Last Independent Review


February 7, 2022




Here are three events over the past week that combined to a crescendo of head-shaking irony.


  1. On January 31, 2022, the AODA Alliance marked the Ford Government’s three years of inaction on the blistering Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that had been conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is making progress at a glacial pace when it comes to removing and preventing barriers impeding people with disabilities.


  1. The very next day, the Ford Government announced that it is appointing the next Independent Review of the AODA. In that announcement, set out below, The Government names Mr. Rich Donovan to conduct that review.


In light of the fact that the Ford Government has done so little over the past three years to implement the Onley Report, we fear that people with disabilities will wonder what possible impact a new Independent Review report by Rich Donovan will have.


The Ford Government has already shown how much it will drag its feet in response to recommendations from Mr. Donovan. Fully two years ago, on February 28, 2020, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee, chaired by Rich Donovan, submitted its final report and recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Information and Communications Accessibility Standard. The Ford Government has not announced any action on that report in two years.


  1. Five days later, CBC reported on David Onley’s hard-hitting criticism of the Ford Government for failing to implement his report. You can read the CBC report below.


In the CBC report, Mr. Onley says that progress on accessibility since his report has been far too slow. He rejected the Ford Government’s claims to be taking meaningful new action.


In the CBC report, the Ford Government claimed to have a plan to implement the Onley Report. However, The March 2, 2020, AODA Alliance Update documented that what the Ford Government has done was largely to re-announce programs and initiatives that were already in place. That included for example, re-announcing an initiative that has been in place for three decades, and that was established by Premier Bob Rae (five premiers ago).


Two statements in the Ford Government’s February 1, 2022 announcement of its appointment of Rich Donovan to conduct the next AODA Independent Review are deeply troubling. First, that announcement is carefully calculated to diminish the AODA’s purpose. The AODA’s goal is to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities. The Ford Government’s February 1, 2022, announcement talks about the far more limited goal of merely making Ontario “more accessible.” One new ramp somewhere in Ontario would make this province “more accessible.”


Second, the Rich Donovan AODA Independent Review comes at a time when we have sadly had to recognize that Ontario will fail to meet the AODA’s mandatory requirement of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Thus, his review needs to be wide-ranging and comprehensive.


Instead, the Ford Government has attempted to substantially dilute it. The February 1, 2022, announcement states that


” The fourth legislative review will focus on three key areas: considering potential changes to improve the AODA’s success, spreading awareness and building community support, and compliance and enforcement.”



Mr. Donovan’s mandate, defined by s. 41(1) of the AODA, cannot be unilaterally diluted in this way by the Ford Government. Section 41(1) provides that the Government is to appoint a person “who shall undertake a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of this Act and the regulations and report on his or her findings to the Minister.” Section 41(3) further defines Mr. Donovan’s authority, stating that his report “may include recommendations for improving the effectiveness of this Act and the regulations.”


We hope and trust that Mr. Donovan will undertake a full and comprehensive review and not feel limited by constraints that the AODA does not permit.


We will, of course, take active part in Mr. Donovan’s review. Stay tuned for more details.




February 1, 2022, Broadcast Email from the Ontario Minister for Seniors and Accessibility


To our valued partners:

As part of Ontario’s ongoing commitment to making a more accessible and inclusive province, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is reviewed regularly to gather feedback and determine where improvements can be made. I am pleased to share that Rich Donovan has been appointed as the fourth legislative reviewer of the AODA.


Mr. Donovan will consult with the public, including people with disabilities, as part of his review. He brings broad perspective and knowledge to the legislative reviewer position. Mr. Donovan is an accessibility advocate with lived experience. As you may know, he previously served as chair of Ontario’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and Ontario’s Information and Communications Standards Development Committee. He leads a business that helps clients find economic value within the disability market.


The fourth legislative review will focus on three key areas: considering potential changes to improve the AODA’s success, spreading awareness and building community support, and compliance and enforcement. The review will be completed by June 30, 2023. Your feedback is vital during the review of the AODA.


Ontario is making progress by working across government and with stakeholders as we focus our work on key areas in the Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework. The recommendations made by the Honourable David C. Onley in the third legislative review of the AODA, as well as input from partners, organizations and people with disabilities, helped inform the framework.


Further information regarding the fourth legislative review and consultations will be shared in due course by Mr. Donovan.


As we move forward on our journey towards a more accessible and inclusive Ontario, I encourage your input during the review and thank you for your collaboration.



Raymond Cho

Minister for Seniors and Accessibility


CBC News February 6, 2022

Originally posted at


3 years after Ontario accessibility report, ‘little progress’ made, former lieutenant-governor says


David Onley says he’s disappointed, but the Ford government says the work is happening

Trevor Dunn

David Onley, a former lieutenant-governor of Ontario who has disabilities stemming from a childhood bout with polio, is disappointed with what he says is a lack of progress in making the province more accessible for people with disabilities. (Kelda Yuen/CBC)


Three years after the Doug Ford government received a key report on making Ontario more accessible for people with disabilities, its author says little has been done to achieve its goals and there doesn’t appear to be a plan in place to fix that.


While he thought it would be “relatively easy” for the government to fulfil the report’s recommendations, David Onley says Ontario is still failing on issues such as employment equity, social assistance and even the physical accessibility of schools and other buildings.


“It’s been astounding to me that three years after my report so little progress has been made, especially when one considers that some 23 per cent of the Ontario population are people with disabilities,” said Onley, who was Ontario’s lieutenant-governor from 2007 to 2014 and has disabilities stemming from a childhood bout with polio.


In early 2019, Onley delivered his review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The report described Ontario as “mostly inaccessible” and slammed the current government, as well as previous Liberal administrations, for failing to follow through on the 2005 law’s promise of making the province fully accessible by 2025.


With that deadline nearing, Onley says Ontario has wasted the past three years, even as accessibility becomes a more urgent problem due to the province’s aging population.


“For whatever reason, consecutive governments of both major parties have failed to embrace these realities,” Onley said.


‘Business case for inclusion’

One of the issues Onley would like to see addressed urgently is the difficulty people with disabilities have in finding a job.


He says the provincial government could lead by example by hiring more people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service.


“Why are they not hiring within the civil service? Why are they not demanding that different employers outside the civil service and the private sector also hire people with disabilities?” Onley asked.


Mark Wafer, a business owner and disability rights advocate, didn’t need to be told to hire more people with disabilities. Wafer is deaf and understands the challenges people with disabilities have finding work.


So, he started hiring them.


A Tim Hortons franchisee has found that hiring disabled Canadians has boosted his bottom line. It’s an approach that’s been coined “return on disability.” For 25 years at Wafer’s Tim Horton’s locations across Toronto, he hired nearly 250 people with disabilities. The effort, he says, not only improved the lives of his employees, but it was good for business.


“I began to see a pattern and that is that people with disabilities required less supervision,” Wafer said in an interview.


“They worked more safely. They were more innovative. They were more productive. I started to see a clear business case for inclusion.”.


While Wafer believes the government should play an important role in improving employment opportunities, he also wants employers to step up the way he did.


“It has to be a multi-pronged approach. Employers are still buying into misperceptions and stereotypes about what it’s like. The onus is on the employers to get with the program,” Wafer said


Record on accessibility ‘abysmal,’ group says

In a news release, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA) notes that nearly 2,000 days have passed since Onley delivered his report and there is still “no comprehensive plan” to implement its recommendations.


“The Ford Government’s record on making Ontario accessible for people with disabilities is abysmal. It initiated a few slow, halting, and inadequate actions on accessibility. However, on balance, it made things worse for people with disabilities,” the release said.


As an example, the AODA Alliance says the current government does not allow people who don’t have drivers’ licences to renew their expired health cards online.


Cross-government framework established

The Ford government disputes the criticism and says it is committed to creating a province that is more accessible and inclusive for everyone.


In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility points to the Advancing Accessibility in Ontario program. It’s a cross-government framework aimed at improving accessibility in the province and was informed by the recommendations in Onley’s report, the statement says.


Raymond Cho is Ontario’s Minister of Seniors and Accessibility. (CBC)

The framework focuses on four key areas of improvement, including breaking down physical barriers and employment. Over the course of 2020, public announcements were made to highlight the work being done in these areas.


The statement notes that making Ontario more accessible “takes time” and collaboration between many partners.”


‘They’re not solutions’

For Onley, that time is running out. He says this current framework lacks firm dates and commitments.


It’s an approach he also accuses previous governments of taking — one that creates the impression of action and progress, but not the kind needed for fundamental change.


“These governments do not exist to solve problems. They create offices, positions, and ideas. But they’re not solutions,” Onley said.


“It’s a vicious cycle.”