Dear Mr. Lepofsky:
Thank you for your letter and questionnaire regarding the Ontario Liberal’s plans for disability accessibility. I would also like to thank your organization for working with us over the years on this important issue. I welcome this opportunity to respond to your questions.
As reflected in my answers, Ontario Liberals have a strong track record in creating an accessible Ontario by 2025. I am heartened by the progress we have made together. We hope to have the support of your organization.
Please accept my best wishes.
Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE: Response
Dear Mr. Lepofsky,
Thank you for your letters of March 3rd and May 4th providing me with the opportunity to speak to the strong track record of the Ontario Liberal Party to create an accessible Ontario by 2025 as well as our forthcoming plans to build on that commitment. You asked for our detailed commitments in the following eight areas regarding 19 specific commitments:
A. Generally strengthen implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
1. We continue to fully support the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and its goals. We have created enforceable standards including customer service, information and communications, transportation, built environment and employment. In January 2013, we appointed the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee, chaired by Jim Sanders, former President and CEO of CNIB, to advise the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. Specifically, the Council will review Ontario’s existing accessibility standards and develop new accessibility standards. The Committee is currently reviewing the Customer Service Standard.
2. Over the past few years, we have made a number of changes in the way we approach accessibility issues and have strengthened the implementation of the AODA, including moving the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment with its own dedicated Assistant Deputy Minister. This will encourage collaboration between the public and private sector to improve accessibility standard awareness, underline Ontario’s commitment to ensuring businesses comply with AODA standards, and work together to explore new standards that will make Ontario the most accessible and inclusive region in the world. To aid organizations in carrying out the AODA objectives, a number of sector-specific tools and resources have been developed to support businesses in meeting the requirements of the accessibility standards. As an example, through our Enabling Change Program, we partner with umbrella organizations to educate an industry or sector as to their obligations to comply with Ontario’s accessibility standards.
3. The AODA is ground-breaking legislation in Ontario introducing a new approach to accessibility. No doubt, our government’s proactive effort on removing accessibility barriers across the employment life cycle has resulted in Ontario being recognized as a leader in accessibility.
B. Ensure that all enforceable requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced
4. The Ontario Liberal Party is dedicated to pursuing compliance and enforcement action to bring more private sector organizations into compliance with AODA. To speak to our track record, 99 per cent of Designated Broader Public Sector Organizations have submitted their reports by the deadline to date. If I am elected, I will see to it that this becomes 100 per cent.
We will ensure that organizations that fail to comply with AODA requirements are met with monetary penalties and be subjected to prosecution, where necessary. Under my government, we issued the first monetary penalties. I am committed to using all enforcement provisions under the AODA to ensure that organizations that do not comply with the law are penalized and to encourage compliance. To date, my government has issued over 500 Notices of Director’s Orders and we will continue to send more out monthly. Paired with enforcement activities, we are actively reaching out to businesses and not-for-profit organizations to help them understand and follow their obligations under the AODA.
5. With respect to additional enforcement activities, we commit to investigating the possibility of having government inspectors and investigators enforce the AODA within the context of existing resources and as training capacity exists.
6. We will make a detailed plan on all enforcement activities available, along with establishing and publicizing an accessible toll-free phone number to report violations of AODA requirements. Unfortunately, communication of the enforcement plan is on hold during the writ period. I look forward to releasing it promptly should we win the honour of re-election.
7. To ensure increased transparency going forward, we will make an annual report publicly available on levels of compliance including the effectiveness of our enforcement measures.
C. Develop the new Accessibility Standards under the AODA needed to achieve full accessibility by 2025.
8. We are committed to a fully accessible Ontario by 2025. This is important work and we need to make sure it is done right. Our pride stems from our most recent accomplishments in which five accessibility standards became law under the AODA.
The existing standards focus on five key areas of daily living and the AODA requires that all public and private sector organizations comply with the existing standards. The next accessibility standard we will develop will focus on education and/or health.
The education sector, including publicly funded school boards, colleges and universities are responsible for compliance with the AODA and associated regulations. Healthcare organizations must also comply with accessibility standards. Examples of requirements that already apply to these organizations under the current five accessibility standards include:
- Establishing policies on providing accessible customer service;
- Providing information in accessible formats upon request;
- Developing accommodation plans for employees with disabilities;
- Requiring schools and hospitals that provide transportation services to provide accessible vehicles or equivalent services upon request; and
- Ensuring that public spaces are accessible.
9. In order to develop a new accessibility standard, the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment has been actively working with the Ministries of Education, Training, Colleges and Universities as well as Health and Long-Term Care to examine where changes and new standards are required to make our education and healthcare systems more accessible. This important work needs to be done prior to broad consultation with the accessibility community.
10. With respect to the Ontario Building Code, we made amendments to enhance accessibility in newly constructed buildings as well as existing buildings that are to be extensively renovated. These changes were filed December 27, 2013.
- Requirements for an elevator or other barrier-free access to be provided between storeys in most buildings, with some exemptions for small residential and business occupancy buildings;
- Requirements for power door operators to be provided at entrances to a wider range of buildings, and at entrances to barrier-free washrooms and common rooms in multi-unit residential buildings;
- Updated requirements for barrier-free washrooms and universal washrooms;
- Requirements for barrier-free access to public pools and spas; and
- Updated requirements for accessible and adaptable seating spaces in public assembly buildings such as theatres, lecture halls and places of worship.
D. Ensure taxpayers’ money is never used to create or buttress disability barriers
11. We will continue to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Our current mandate fully supports responsible governance and we will continue to pursue objectives that align with this belief. The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has explicitly called for the elimination of 1/3 of all regulations, which could threaten enforcement of the AODA. By contrast, the Ontario Liberal Party believes that greater accessibility means greater opportunity and prosperity for Ontario.
12. On accessibility at the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, the organizing committee (TO2015) has developed an Accessibility Advisory Council to give advice on the development of an accessibility strategy, guidelines and programs. The Council will also identify and deliver legacy opportunities related to accessibility in this strategy. Examples of initiatives to date include training all employees and volunteers on the requirements of the Customer Service Standard as required by the AODA; focusing on accessibility of infrastructure developed including meeting applicable accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and the AODA; and the development of a Transportation Master Plan with input and advice from the Accessibility Advisory Council as well as ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Accessibility Standard for Transportation.
E. Ensure accessibility of provincial and municipal elections
13. Ensuring the proper accessibility of the provincial and municipal elections falls in line is a top priority for us to safeguard the interests of Ontarians with disabilities through ease of access to the provincial and municipal elections as does every citizen of Ontario. We will ensure that the Ministry of the Attorney General, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Elections Ontario are committed to providing the best possible services to ensure accessible elections.
F. Substantially improve how the Ontario Public Service ensures the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces
14. As stated earlier, we are dedicated to pursuing compliance and enforcement actions which includes ensuring accessibility of the Ontario Public Service including its services, facilities and workplaces.
15. If we win the honour of re-election, our government will continue to implement our accessibility obligations and commitments. This includes directing Cabinet Ministers and senior public officials to implement accessibility obligations and commitments.
16. The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment – as the government’s lead for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario – has created a new position in its Ministry, a Director of Accessibility Integration and Planning, to work within the Ministry to ensure that accessibility is integrated into all business practices.
G. Complete the overdue promised review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers
17. In September 2013, we appointed Dean Mayo Moran to review the AODA. This follows the first review of the act conducted by Charles Beer, completed in 2010. His review examined the process for developing accessibility standards, municipal accessibility advisory committees and the government’s administration of the act. When our government introduced the AODA, we also required regular reviews to ensure the act remains effective.
Dean Moran has completed her public consultations but continues to accept written submissions from the stakeholder community. My government responded to the AODA Alliance’s request to move the deadline of the Customer Service Standard to ensure that stakeholders had adequate time to also submit their feedback to Dean Moran’s review. Dean Moran has committed to submit her review by October 1, 2014 – one year from commencing her review.
In addition to the review of the AODA, the government is currently conducting a legislative review with the goal of identifying and considering steps to remove any potential barriers in Ontario statutes. In the current phase of the review, 13 ministries are reviewing 51 high impact statutes. The list of high impact statutes includes statutes that affect persons with disabilities directly, provide for the delivery of services to a large group, provide benefits or protections or affect democratic or civil rights. This phase of the review will be complete by the end of 2014. We commit to addressing the findings of the review and continuing to review additional Ontario statutes to remove any potential barriers.
18. We commit to making amendments to regulations to remove accessibility barriers as required based on the findings of the current review and the review of additional Ontario statutes going forward.
H. Foster our ongoing relationship with your party
19. Our government regards our current relationship with you as one of great importance and sees our partnership as a step towards fostering a more accessible and inclusive province. The Ontario Liberal Party will continue to safeguard the interests of Ontarians with disabilities and ultimately achieve our goal of full accessibility by the year 2025. We see the AODA Alliance as a principal partner in achieving this goal. My office is always happy to meet with you.