Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Here We Go Again! Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Members of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?
September 25, 2022
Here’s a slap in the face to Ontarians with disabilities. The Ford Government held no open, merit-based competitive process before it appointed members of a new Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on how to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities. The Government did not post any announcement publicly inviting people to submit applications to this Standards Development Committee. This denied qualified applicants from even putting their names forward and being considered based on their merit.
No grassroots cross-disability coalition is represented on the Standards Development Committee that the Ford Government hand-picked. For his part, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had told the Ford Government that he wanted to apply to be considered for appointment to that Standards Development Committee. He is one of the possible candidates who were utterly locked out of the process.
For over a decade, the AODA Alliance has led the grassroots campaign to get the Ontario Government to set proper accessibility standards for the built environment. Our efforts are publicly documented on the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.
We’re not taking this lying down. In our September 25, 2022 letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, set out below, the AODA Alliance urges the Government to crate six new positions on this Standards Development Committee, and to hold an open, fair, merit-based competitive process for those spots on the Committee. We also ask for a meeting with Minister Cho to discuss this issue.
Let the Government and the media know if you think it is proper for the Government to ignore its own past practice of inviting members of the public to apply to serve on a Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and to have their application considered on their merits. Nothing about us without us!
September 9, 2022 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Deputy Minister for Accessibility
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
September 9, 2022
To: Nancy Matthews, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CC: Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond.cho@ontarioca
Dear Deputy Minister,
Re: On the Record Request
I was shocked to learn this week via the grapevine that the Ontario Government had appointed all the members of the Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. We have never seen any public posting for members of the public to apply to serve on that Committee. No such announcement was ever sent to the AODA Alliance. I have never been told that the Ministry was open to receiving applications in my numerous discussions with senior officials at the Ministry.
We have been advocating for some 4 years to get that Committee appointed. I have indicated to senior public officials within your Ministry for months that I myself intended to apply for a position on that Committee.
Could you please advise whether in fact the Ontario Government posted any public announcements inviting people to apply to serve on this Standard Development Committee? If so, when and where were these posted? Why was this never sent to the AODA Alliance?
It is understood that you yourself had not been the deputy minister in this Ministry until very recently. Nevertheless, we are eager for answers to these important questions as quickly as possible. Please confirm that you received this request.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
September 16, 2022 Email from Deputy Minister for Accessibility to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky
Thank you for your organization’s interest in the review of the Design of Public Spaces Standards (DoPS) and the selection process for members of the DoPS
Standards Development Committee (SDC).
An established targeted recruitment process was followed. The process included consideration of a wide range of factors in determining potential candidates for the committee including the importance of bringing the perspective of members who are potentially new to the SDC process and with particular expertise and understanding of the current DoPS standards and the barrier-free accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code.
Thank you for your continued advocacy on accessibility in Ontario. We appreciate your feedback on the ministry’s process and transparency regarding selection of committee members.
September 25, 2022 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
September 27, 2022
To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Via email: email@example.com
College Park 5th Floor
777 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1S5
Re: Ontario Government Failed to Invite Applications to Serve on the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee
A Province Full of Disability Barriers
Ontario remains a province full of unfair barriers that impede 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities from fully enjoying all that the province has to offer. Among other things, buildings in Ontario far too often have significant disability accessibility barriers. This is so, even though the AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead the province to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, just over two and a half years from now. This includes a duty to ensure that old and new buildings in Ontario become accessible to people with disabilities.
Two successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA by Mayo Moran which reported in 2014 and by David Onley, which reported in 2019, emphasized as a priority the need for the Government to take effective action to tear down the disability barriers in Ontario’s built environment. Yet, Ontario now has no plan to ensure that its built environment becomes accessible by 2025, or ever. For example, Ontario never enacted a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA to achieve this goal. We have been advocating for one to be passed for well over a decade.
The only limited and inadequate regulatory action taken on this score under the AODA took place almost a decade ago. In December 2012, the Government passed a very limited and weak Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It does not address the vast majority of disability barriers in the built environment from which so many people with disabilities continue to suffer. Of the limited number of disability barriers that it does address, its provisions are too often vague and weak.
the Government has promised to lead by example on accessibility. Almost five years ago, the Government was required to appoint an independent Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government did not do so for years. That violated the AODA and set a very poor example. Our coalition has been in the lead in reminding the Government at the most senior levels that it was required to do so, and was in violation of the AODA.
No Merit-Based Open Application Process for the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee
We were shocked to recently learn via the grapevine that the Ontario Government had at some time in the past few months appointed a slate of persons to serve on the required Standards Development Committee, without first holding an open, fair, merit-based application process. This came to us as a complete shock. The Government posted no public announcement inviting members of the public to serve on that Committee. It sent out no news release or broadcast email to announce that the Committee had been appointed. The only announcement they ever made was in December 2021, when it announced that a chair of the Committee was appointed. That announcement said nothing about other members having been appointed.
We monitor for such announcements. In case we somehow missed such an announcement (which would be hard to believe), I wrote your Deputy Minister on September 9, 2022 to ask if a public announcement had been made inviting people to apply to serve on this Standards Development Committee. I wrote in material part:
“Could you please advise whether in fact the Ontario Government posted any public announcements inviting people to apply to serve on this Standard Development Committee? If so, when and where were these posted? Why was this never sent to the AODA Alliance?”
The Deputy Minister’s September 16,2022 response to me did not claim that the Government made any public announcement that invited people to apply to serve on that Standards Development Committee. The response spoke in terms that do not directly answer our question or explain how the Committee members were recruited. The Deputy Minister gave this vague answer:
“An established targeted recruitment process was followed. The process included consideration of a wide range of factors in determining potential candidates for the committee including the importance of bringing the perspective of members who are potentially new to the SDC process and with particular expertise and understanding of the current DoPS standards and the barrier-free accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code.”
Why This is Wrong
This lack of transparency is a serious breach of longstanding Ontario Government practice. In the past, the Government has posted public announcements, inviting members of the public to serve on earlier Standards Development Committees. For example, in 2017 I responded to such an announcement regarding the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and applied to serve on that Committee. I, like other candidates, were interviewed by Accessibility Directorate of Ontario officials. I was considered worthy, and was appointed to that Standards Development Committee. You have thanked me for my service on that Committee.
Last December, we criticized the Government for failing to hold an open competition for the position of chair of this Standards Development Committee, when the Government announced her appointment on December 20, 2021. In our December 23, 2021 letter to you, we emphasized that a competition should be held. Stating:
“For a Standards Development Committee to be credible and successful, the public, including the disability community, must have strong confidence in it and in the process for appointing it.”
The AODA Alliance’s December 23, 2021 public posting about this issue, which was forwarded to you and senior officials at your Ministry, bore this headline:
“Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?”
Neither your office nor your Ministry ever contacted us to discuss this concern, to justify its action, or to explain why there should be no open application process for members of the public to apply to serve on this Committee. On behalf of the AODA Alliance, I have had numerous conversations with senior officials in your Ministry over the past year. At no time was I ever told that there would be no open process for members of the public to serve on this Standards Development Committee. I had made it clear to Government officials that I myself wanted to apply to serve on this Standards Development Committee. I also told you this in the AODA Alliance’s June 27, 2022 letter to you, which was also sent to senior officials in your Ministry. I wrote:
“I should add that I myself wish to apply to serve as a member of that Standards Development Committee, but have found nowhere to apply.”
Neither you nor anyone else from your Government told us of this Standards Development Committees appointment in response to our letters insisting that it needed to be appointed. I raised this in the AODA Alliances June 27, 2022 letter to you, and in the AODA Alliance’s June 22, 2022 letter to Premier Ford, which was copied to you.
This failure flies in the face of Premier Ford’s written election commitments to the AODA Alliance in his May 15, 2022 letter to us, as follows:
“This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.
Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility. …
…Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities. “
With Ontario lagging so far behind in reaching the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, it is especially important for there to be a fair, open, merit-based competitive application process for membership on a Standards Development Committee in order for the public, including the disability community, to have confidence in the Committee and the overall process. The principle “Nothing about us without us” is pivotal to the disability community.
It is very important that the disability representation on that Standards Development Committee reflect the broad spectrum of disabilities that can be adversely affected by built environment barriers. The members you have appointed to the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee do not cover that full spectrum. Moreover, there are no representatives on that Standards Development Committee from any grassroots cross-disability coalition such as the AODA Alliance. That of course is not meant as a criticism of the good faith or commitment to accessibility of those disability sector representatives whom you have so far appointed to that Committee.
It is also important that the Government appoint the most qualified candidates to the Committee. We know of excellent potential members who were not appointed, and who were unfairly denied the chance to be considered.
Speaking for myself, as an example, I was denied the chance to be considered for appointment. I have the following experience, and deserved a fair chance to be considered.
- I have extensive familiarity with the AODA and the process of developing accessibility standards. I led the decade-long campaign to get the AODA enacted, lead the grassroots campaign to get it effectively implemented and served on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.
- I have extensive knowledge of applicable human rights laws, having published, lectured and appeared before the Legislature to address related topics. I am a lawyer with 33 years experience in the Ontario Public Service, and now a visiting professor of Disability Rights and Legal Education at the Osgoode Hall Law School. My legal writing on disability human rights topics have been cited with approval by several courts in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada.
- On behalf of the AODA Alliance, I have led the campaign for over a decade to get a strong Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted in Ontario. These efforts are publicly documented on the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page. The AODA Alliance, working with others in the disability community, has led the grassroots cross-disability efforts on that agenda.
- I have been invited on the AODA Alliances behalf to give guest lectures at architecture schools and architecture conferences on designing the built environment to be accessible.
- I have been asked to give accessibility feedback on behalf of the AODA Alliance on a number of specific building projects from the grassroots perspective of people with disabilities.
- On behalf of the AODA Alliance, I have created three widely-viewed online videos that depict serious accessibility problems in public buildings due to insufficiency of the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards. These videos are now used for training of design professionals and senior public servants. See e.g. our video on serious accessibility problems in the award-winning Ryerson University Student Learning Centre.
- The Ontario Government at the highest levels has consulted me on behalf of the AODA Alliance many times on issues regarding built environment accessibility. This includes for example, the Secretary of Cabinet, various cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers.
- Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and Accessibility Directorate of Ontario staff can vouch for the fact that I contributed constructively to the work of that Standards Development Committee, and helped the Committee devise positive recommendations that were supported by both the disability community and the education sector.
- I can draw upon and give voice to very extensive feedback on accessibility issues that the AODA Alliance has regularly received from people with disabilities for many years.
The fact that I had previously served on another Standards Development Committee has never been a bar to serving on a subsequent Standards Development Committee. The Ontario Government has appointed people to serve on more than one Standards Development Committee in the past. For example, there have been two successive Transportation Standards Development Committees, in 2006 and 2016. The person whom the Government appointed to chair the second of these Committees had also served on the earlier Committee.
We believe that other highly qualified candidates were denied a fair chance to be considered for appointment to this Standards Development Committee. It is no answer that there are some people with disabilities on the Committee as it is now constituted, who have some background in built environment accessibility.
The Government has no reason for failing to hold a fair and open application process for this Committee. The Government took almost five years to appoint it after the December 2017 legal deadline had passed for its appointment. No public official has ever told us that holding a fair and open application process for service on a Standards Development Committee created major problems.
A Constructive Solution
We offer a constructive solution to try to reduce the harm caused here. We ask the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to now announce an open competitive process for people to apply to serve on this Standards Development Committee. According to the Ministry’s website, 15 members have been appointed. An additional six spots should be opened up, to be filled through a fair open merit-based competitive process.
You as Minister should direct the public service to take the appropriate steps that we here recommend. Please get it done.
Minister, we have had no contact with your office in many months. We are eager to help you succeed on this issue. Can we have a virtual meeting to discuss this?
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont, LL.B. (Osgoode Hall Law School), LL.M. (Harvard Law School), LL.D. (Honorary) (Queen’s University, Western University, the Law Society of Ontario, and Brock University.
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Matthews, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, email@example.com
Jacqueline Cureton , Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate,