Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Media Covers Blistering Report of Latest Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – Ford Government Announces No Plan to Improve Is Dismal Performance on Disability Accessibility
March 12, 2023
On March 10, 2023, the Canadian Press reported on the blistering interim report, released the day before, by the 4th Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. (See the CP report, below) Last year, the Ford Government appointed Rich Donovan to conduct the mandatory 4th AODA Independent Review.
The Donovan Interim Report found that the Ontario Government had done a very poor job of implementing the AODA, that people with disabilities still confront far too many disability barriers, and that it is shocking that the Ford Government has no plan to improve the inexcusable plight of 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. This CP news report was the result of the AODA Alliance’s March 10, 2023 news release which had alerted the media to the Donovan Interim Report.
The excellent CP news report included the Ford Government’s response to the Donovan Interim Report. In its response to CP, the Ford Government did not dispute the accuracy of any of the findings in the Donovan Interim Report, nor could it. Moreover, the Ford Government announced absolutely no new actions to strengthen and speed up the Government’s implementation of the AODA.
For example, the Government continues to announce no actions to implement the final reports of three Government-appointed AODA Standards Development Committees, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Those Committees called for strong new Government action under the AODA to tear down the many disability barriers in Ontario’s education system and health care system.
The CP report was published online on several media websites, such as Global News and the Globe and Mail. It is more than a little ironic that the Globe and Mail did not include this CP report in its print edition. The Donovan Interim Report criticized the media for not doing a better job of holding the Government accountable over the years for its dismal performance on disability accessibility.
Please urge your local media to cover the Rich Donovan Interim Report! For more background, here are helpful resources:
- The March 9, 2023 Rich Donovan Interim Report of the 4th AODA Independent Review.
- The AODA Alliance website which documents the non-partisan campaign since 2005 to get the Ontario Government to effectively implement the AODA.
- Text of the March 9, 2023 interim report of the Rich Donovan 4th Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Fully 1,501 days have passed since the Ford Government received the January 31, 2019 final report of the 3rd AODA Independent Review, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. Over four years later, we are still awaiting an effective plan of action by the Ford Government to implement that scathing report. There are only 662 days left before the start of 2025, the deadline which the AODA sets for the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities.
Global News March 10, 2023
Ontario’s 2025 accessibility goals impossible without urgent action, report finds
Tyler Griffin The Canadian Press
March 10, 2023
Ontario will fail to meet its goal of making the province accessible for people with disabilities by 2025 unless the government takes urgent action, a new report has found.
The report examined the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and said a lack of basic leadership, accountability and data will make meeting the 2025 target “difficult, if not impossible to achieve.”
“People with disabilities still consistently face barriers in their everyday experiences, from navigating city streets, to applying for jobs, to accessing public transit and government services,” wrote report author Rich Donovan.
“Entities serving Ontarians with disabilities need to change … There is no plan that adjusts behaviours to achieve an accessible Ontario.”
Donovan, who was appointed by the province in early 2022 to conduct a legislative review of the act, said little progress has been made since the law was passed in 2005. That stems from design flaws in “services, products, technology, buildings, infrastructure, careers, processes and human imagination,” he said.
In the report, which was based on extensive consultations with the disability community, Donovan asks Ontario Premier Doug Ford directly, “Do you care?”
Ontario’s accessibility law was the first of its kind in Canada, with a stated goal of ensuring universal accessibility in the province by Jan. 1, 2025.
Donovan’s scathing report asserts the government has failed the roughly 2.9 million Ontarians with a disability — more than one-fifth its population.
The review noted that previous reviews of the law — Donovan’s is the fourth — also reported continuous failures, poor outcomes and painfully slow progress.
Former lieutenant-governor David Onley, who conducted a 2019 review, said at the time it was released that disabled residents were barred from full inclusion at nearly every turn, likening some of the barriers they face to long-abolished laws that perpetuated racial discrimination in the United States.
Donovan echoed Onley’s language, writing in the report released Thursday that “no other demographic group faces these kinds of negative experiences, barriers and outright discrimination without public outcry, much less one that represents nearly a quarter of the population.”
In response to the report, Ontario’s Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility said the province has taken steps toward implementing the recommendations that were in Onley’s review.
“This includes breaking down barriers in the built environment, growing awareness and understanding about accessibility, increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities, and increasing funding to programs to make Ontario barrier free,” spokesman Wallace Pidgeon wrote in a statement.
“We know that more needs to be done. That’s why we will continue our efforts to improve the lives of those living with a disability.”
Donovan, the former chair of the province’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, called attention to the lack of incentives to comply with the law or improve accessibility, the lack of accountability for outcomes and the lack of data collection on the experiences of people with disabilities.
The report called the Ford government’s lack of a plan to implement the accessibility law “utterly shocking” and also criticized opposition parties, private sector organizations and the media for failing to hold the province accountable.
Donovan also said there needs to be a societal shift in how people think of and interact with people with disabilities in order to remove barriers.
“Government can, and needs to be, a leader,” he said, “But it cannot lead alone.”
David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, an advocacy group working to support the legislation’s implementation, said there was worry when the law first passed that politicians would celebrate the introduction of the law but then let it fall by the wayside.
The independent legislative reviews are a check-and-balance measure, he said.
“We have campaigned to get the government to implement each of these reports and virtually none of them were employed,” he said. “We’re at a point now where attempts at being polite, gentle in terms of terminology have proven fruitless.”
The law’s implementation is not exclusively the responsibility of the Ford government, Lepofsky noted, but they had a lot of potential to move forward on the file.
“They had a clear opportunity to say, ‘We’re going to shift this thing into higher gear.’ Instead, they shifted this thing down, they shifted it back,” he said.
“It’s gotten to a point where right now, frankly, nothing is going on that is changing the circumstances for us.”
Lepofsky said it’s hard to even point to specific access barriers that need urgent attention since they span all aspects of society, from built environments like transit stations to the COVID-19 pandemic response, which he said failed to account for the disproportionate hardships people with disabilities faced.
The report is an interim one that Donovan said he released to emphasize the urgent need for the province to make accessibility a priority – his final report will be published in June with a full set of recommendations following more consultations.