In the Wake of the AODA’s 10th Anniversary, Accessibility Comes up in the Legislature’s Question Period, in the 2015 Ontario Budget and in More Recent Media Coverage – The Wynne Government Claims Ontario is “Number One” in the World in Taking Action on Accessibility, Yet the Moran AODA Independent Review Says this Law Hasn’t Had a Significant Impact on People with Disabilities

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

May 15, 2015


In the wake of the 10th anniversary of the historic vote when the Ontario Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, here’s a recap of recent developments in our ongoing campaign to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility in or before 2025.

1. The AODA came up in the Legislature on Monday, May 11, 2015. That was the first day that the Ontario Legislature sat after May 10, 2015, the 10th anniversary of the Legislature’s passing the AODA. The entire exchange is set out below.

We appreciate NDP MPP Cindy Forster’s pressing the Government during Question Period for more action on enforcing the AODA by stepping up the number of organizations it will audit. Ms. Forster said the Government cut the number of obligated organizations to be audited in half for this year. In fact it was cut from 2,000 organizations to 1,200 obligated organizations this year. That is a 40% cut.

Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid’s answer included:

a) “…we are number one in the world when it comes to making headway on accessibility.” In fact, we are certainly not Number 1. Other places like the U.S. have made far more progress than Ontario, even though the U.S. also has quite a way to go.

b) “When it comes to having legislated requirements, we’re the only province that has that right now.”

In fact, every province has a Human Rights Code that bans discrimination because of disability. As well, in 2013, Manitoba passed a disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Manitobans Act.

c) “We’ve come a long way; we’ve got a long way to go.”

We agree that we have a long way to go. As for the claim that we’ve come a long way, we emphasize the finding in the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review that after ten years of the Government’s implementing the AODA, it has not make a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

2. Our recent news release, on the May 10, 2015 10th anniversary of the Legislature passing the AODA, secured good news coverage on CITY TV on May 10th, 570 News Radio in Kitchener on May 12th, and  CBC Toronto TV on May 14th.

3. The Government included a brief reference to an accessibility legacy for the Toronto 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games. In a fuller passage set out below, the Government committed:

“It’s going to be an exciting summer event. And one that will provide housing, transportation, accessibility, and recreational and educational legacies for decades to come.”

We remain deeply concerned that Toronto and the other communities for the Toronto 2015 Games are not ready to accommodate the needs of tourists and athletes with disabilities who venture out of the bubble of the sports stadiums and athletes’ village. We anticipate that the stadiums and athletes’ housing will be state of the art, in terms of accessibility.

Yet if tourists and athletes with disabilities want to eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores, visit our tourism sites, take a taxi, ride public transit, or even find a place to go to the bathroom, we are concerned that they will run up against the pervasive barriers which have impeded Ontarians with disabilities for years.

Over one and a half years ago, on August 28, 2013, when the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the Toronto 2015 Games, it announced nothing about disability accessibility, especially in the context of increasing the accessibility of tourism and hospitality services in Ontario. To fill this gap, on October 1, 2013, we made public our own detailed proposal for an accessibility legacy for the Toronto 2015 Games. We have spent months and months trying to press the Government to act on this. It has been enormously frustrating.

In her September 25, 2014 Mandate Letter to the Minister responsible for the Toronto 2015 Games, Michael Coteau, Premier Wynne commendably set as a priority for him: “Working with stakeholders to make Ontario a more accessible and barrier-free tourist destination.”

Yet since then, the Government, which has lead responsibility for this, has announced no new strategy to increase the accessibility of tourism and hospitality organizations and providers. The Games are fast approaching.

To its credit, the TO 2015 Games organization, which is responsible for operating the actual sporting competition, organized an event on May 7, 2015 to offer training to stores, restaurants and other tourism/hospitality providers, on accessibility. It is good that the TO 2015 organization stepped up to the plate, trying to start to fill a huge gap in the face of the Government’s not doing so.  Below we set out the May 7, 2015 report in the on-line edition of the Toronto star on this event.

Because this event was held so late, it couldn’t trigger the full range of action that would have been the case had the Government acted on this issue much earlier, as we had urged. Because this event was held in downtown Toronto, it may not have reached store and restaurant operators spread out among the many different communities which will host parts of the Games.

It is nevertheless still not too late for the Ontario Government to itself step up to the plate. We urge the Government to launch a last-minute blitz to help get stores, restaurants and other hospitality/tourism providers to rally at the last minute. It does not take long for a restaurant to order a Braille menu, or make sure its menu is posted in an accessible format on its web site. Even ramps to bridge a few steps at the front door can be put in place relatively quickly.

The Ontario Government could also be a big help if it took steps to get municipalities not to impede local businesses, like stores and restaurants, who try to do the right thing by installing ramps at their front door. Sadly, the City of Toronto has still not withdrawn its efforts to force the Signs Restaurant to tear down the ramp at its front door. We fear that such municipal action can scare stores and restaurants away from trying to do the right thing. This is an important way in which the Ontario Government could show the strong leadership on accessibility that the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review has urged.

Below we also set out short excerpts from the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report, which emphasize the importance of the Government using the Toronto 2015 Games to increase the accessibility of Ontario as a tourism destination.

4. As a reality check on the Wynne Government’s claim that Ontario now is Number One in the world on making progress on accessibility, we set out some recent news articles on inexcusable barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in Ontario:

a) A May 11, 2015 Toronto Star story on yet another restaurant refusing service to a blind person using a guide dog.

b) An April 30, 2015 CBC story on a person with a disability who was refused a Peel Region para-transit ride because they had a service animal.

c) We emphasize that of course there has been progress on accessibility, just not as much as there should have been by now. We heartily commend any organizations in the public or private sectors that are taking action on accessibility.

As a positive illustration we set out the April 1, 2015 news release on accessibility efforts by the City of Mississauga

The Ontario Government only has 9 years, 8 months and 16 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

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Ontario Hansard Monday, May 11, 2015

Accessibility for the disabled

Ms. Cindy Forster: Yesterday marked the 10-year anniversary of the Legislature’s unanimous passing of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It mandated the government to ensure Ontario be fully accessible and barrier-free by 2025—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Who is it to?

Ms. Cindy Forster: To the Premier.

The Liberals’ own independent review concluded that, 10 years later, it has failed 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities through non-compliance and lack of enforcement. The Premier promised that Ontario would be on schedule when she was running as leader of her party, but AODA enforcement is down, cut in half in 2015.

Will the Premier admit that her government has failed Ontarians with disabilities and commit to increasing AODA audits in both the public and private sectors?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.

Hon. Brad Duguid: That’s a good question; I actually welcome the question.

We have seen our compliance go up, Mr. Speaker, over the last 24 months, from 16% to 40%—a good increase, but not good enough as far as we’re concerned.

We’re now coming up to our 10-year anniversary of the AODA. What a great time to celebrate how far we have come, because we are number one in the world when it comes to making headway on accessibility. When it comes to having legislated requirements, we’re the only province that has that right now. So we’re number one in the world for that. But also what a great time to assess how far we’ve come and how far we have to go, and the measures we’ll need to take over the next 10 years to reach our goal of full accessibility.

I welcome the member’s input. We will continue to work to improve compliance. We’ll continue to work to ensure that people with disabilities get hired throughout our employment system in Ontario. We’ve come a long way; we’ve got a long way to go. It’s something we’re very excited about tackling.

Ontario Budget April 23, 2015

Originally posted at

Mr. Speaker, this summer we will host the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. This has been years in the making.

It will be the biggest multi-sport event ever held in Canada. And we will welcome more than 10,000 athletes, coaches and dignitaries to 51 sports at more than 40 venues across Ontario.

It is another way we are building Ontario up. The Games will attract more than 250,000 tourists, help create more than 26,000 new jobs, and grow our gross domestic product (GDP) by $3.7 billion.

It’s going to be an exciting summer event. And one that will provide housing, transportation, accessibility, and recreational and educational legacies for decades to come.

Toronto Star On-line May 7 2015

Originally posted at:

2015 Pan Am Games

Parapan Am Games push businesses toward accessibility
Games organizers hope to leave a legacy of accessibility.
By: Sarah-Joyce Battersby, Staff reporter

Wheelchair basketball player Abdi Dini can dominate on the court, winning gold at the 2012 London Paralympics, but choosing a restaurant to celebrate the win presents problems.

Dini started using a wheelchair after an errant bullet lodged in his spine while he played with friends during recess as a boy in Somalia.

Since moving to Toronto in 1993, where it was easier to navigate in his chair, commuting has become easier. More accessible TTC buses cut down his reliance on Wheel-Trans.

But business owners don’t always know what to look for to improve accessibility, Dini said in an interview on Wednesday.

Roomier washrooms and larger doors would go a long way.

“There are people with different types of disability and that use different mobility devices to get around: scooters, electric chairs,” Dini said.

“It will be eye-opening for some people,” he said of the influx of 1,500 athletes attending the Parapan Am Games in August.

Dini addressed a crowd of business owners that gathered on Thursday to learn how to improve accessibility.

The Pan and Parapan Am Games organizing committee hosted the event as part of its Are You Ready? initiative.

“If we can demystify what accessibility is, we’re contributing to a legacy of a more inclusive society,” Naki Osutei, the director of public affairs and social legacy for the Games’ organizing committee, said ahead of the conference.

The initiative includes a four-part challenge to business owners: create clear paths of travel, build no-step entrances, comply with Ontario’s accessibility act, and make their communications more accessible.

“It’s got to be something that lives longer than when the last athlete gets their medal,” Osutei said.

PHOTO:  STEVE RUSSELL / TORONTO STAR:  Adam Lancia takes a tumble after a collision with Abdi Dini. The Canadian wheelchair basketball team was training for the Parapan Am Games at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto in April.

What the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Said about the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games

* The timing of this Review is also crucial because there is a new government which holds the promise of creating renewed momentum for accessibility in Ontario.  In addition, with Ontario hosting the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games next year, we have a key opportunity to showcase an accessible Ontario and to build a strong and lasting legacy that advances our shared goals.  The eyes of the world will be on Ontario and, as a province that has championed accessibility and implemented an innovative regime to achieve that goal, this is a rare chance for us to shine.

* A further concern involving the Government of Ontario itself was the slow pace of the Government’s promised review of provincial laws and regulations to identify and then remove accessibility barriers.  Premier McGuinty promised this review during the 2007 election campaign and reiterated the commitment during the 2011 campaign.  In 2013 the Government stated that, by the end of 2014, 13 ministries will have reviewed 51 statutes and considered steps to remove any barriers identified.  Disability stakeholders pointed out that this leaves about 700 other statutes, as well as 1,500 regulations, still to be examined.  The Government was urged to complete the review of all legislation by 2015, and all regulations by 2016.

The upcoming Pan Am/Parapan Am Games were repeatedly cited as an opportunity for the Province of Ontario to show leadership and move accessibility forward.  Participants in the consultations stressed that the Government should ensure that all venues for Games-related activities are fully accessible.  In addition, it was suggested that the Government should prepare a comprehensive plan to ensure the Games leave a legacy of accessibility, such as accessible housing units and investment in Ontario’s parasports system.

People with disabilities expressed the hope that accessibility would become part of the Government’s DNA.

* At the same time, given the timing of this Review halfway through the implementation period for the AODA, the slow and challenging implementation to date, the imminent Pan Am/Parapan Am Games and new government leadership, this is an extremely key opportunity for Ontario to show a strong commitment to accessibility.

* One of the strongest messages that the Review heard concerned the troubling lack of awareness of the AODA nearly 10 years after its enactment.  There was a widespread consensus that it will be impossible to achieve the objectives of the AODA without increased awareness on the part of both the public and the obligated sectors.  Accordingly, I recommend that the Government launch a public awareness campaign designed to promote understanding of the value of accessibility generally and the demands of the AODA specifically.

As one illustration of the kind of initiative that could be undertaken, participants in the Review frequently referred to the upcoming Pan Am/Parapan Am Games as an opportunity not to be missed.  The Games provide a rare chance to highlight athletes with disabilities to help change attitudes, to encourage businesses to get ready by improving accessibility and to promote accessible facilities and services.  Looking beyond the Games, it was emphasized that building awareness will take a sustained, long-term commitment to education and promotion programs by both Government and partners in the obligated sectors and the disability community.  I fully agree.

Toronto Star On-line May 11 2015

Originally posted at:

Woman with guide dog refused service at Toronto restaurant
by Laura Armstrong, Staff Reporter

Kaye Leslie and her service dog Jordan brunched elsewhere Sunday after a Yonge St. restaurant employee said the golden retriever wasn’t welcome near halal food.

BERNARD WEIL / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO:  Caption:  Kaye Leslie and her guide dog Jordan normally go everywhere together. But on Sunday, they were turned away from a Yonge St. resident, a legal violation.

Kaye Leslie and her guide dog Jordan were on their way to meet family for lunch Sunday when nephew-in-law Steven Lewis called with a surprising message: an employee at Paramount Fine Foods was refusing to seat the group because the golden retriever couldn’t mix with its halal-style food.

Lewis said he requested a table for four with a “bit of extra space” for the guide dog at the Middle Eastern restaurant and bakery on Yonge St. The unidentified employee told Lewis and his wife Leah, Leslie’s nice, that dogs weren’t allowed in the near-empty restaurant.

“I said, ‘No, it’s a service dog. It’s a guide dog.’ He said, ‘No, this restaurant’s halal, you’re not allowed in here with any dogs,’” said Lewis, a onetime Toronto resident who was in town for the weekend from Muskoka.

All businesses licensed by the City of Toronto must provide service to people with service dogs, according to the city’s licensing bylaw.

After learning about Sunday’s incident from the Star, Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamed Fakih said the company allows service dogs across their 13 locations, a policy printed in their operating manual.

“Probably it’s a single mistake from a junior employee,” he told the Star on Monday.

Fakih said he was unaware of a link between halal food — which is prepared as prescribed by Muslim law — and a ban on service dogs or dogs in general. He also welcomed the family back to the restaurant to “show that we’re different than they thought.”

Leslie said she was shocked to receive the phone call from Lewis on Sunday, though she’s been discriminated against before because of her guide dog. She has previously taken a few taxi drivers to court after they refused to pick her up.

“It doesn’t happen every day, but when it does I think, ‘What year is this?’ I think, ‘Wow, we’ve really come a long way, but we’re not there yet.’ It never ceases to surprise me.”

How food is prepared doesn’t factor in to the city’s bylaw, said John Decourcy, director of bylaw enforcement at the City of Toronto.

“Everybody should have access to all the licensed premises that Toronto has, regardless of what they’re serving,” he said.

If a person with a guide dog is refused service, Decourcy encourages them to call 3-1-1 and lodge a complaint. Every complaint is investigated and, if there is evidence to support a charge, a ticket of up to $500 can be issued.

The city will investigate Sunday’s incident, he said.

Leslie’s nephew-in-law Lewis said the employee who refused to serve the group of four was the only one he saw in the restaurant Sunday. He doesn’t want anyone punished but wants everyone in the service industry to be aware of Leslie’s basic right to have Jordan at her side, no matter where they fall in the restaurant’s hierarchy.

“Regardless, even if he works there, he should be educated in what the protocols are.”

Danforth-area resident Leslie said these days she only reports the discrimination she experiences about 30 per cent of the time. When she does report it, other people who many not be as used to being blind or who may not be as well-versed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are front of mind.

“The reality is, if people don’t want to serve you with your dog, they will find some excuse.”

CBC April 30, 2015

Originally posted at:

Kelsey Le Coure denied taxi ride because of service dog
Peel Region’s TransHelp calls incident a ‘black mark’ against cab company
CBC News

An Ontario woman wants an apology Thursday after a wheelchair accessible taxi service refused to drive her because of her service dog.

Kelsey Le Coure, 19, of Mississauga has a rare bone condition that leaves her susceptible to fractures. She said her service dog, Troy, functions like a medical device — the same for her, she said, as a wheelchair or walker — but she’s had several difficulties with cabs since getting him five months ago.

She said that, on Tuesday, a driver with Blue and White Taxi — one of three companies contracted by the Region of Peel’s TransHelp program — refused to drive her, saying he was allergic to dogs. The cab company, when confronted about the complaint, showed CBC News the driver’s medical records, which back up the allergy claim.

Le Coure said that when she booked the ride 24 hours in advance, she indicated she would be travelling with her dog. The refusal also contravenes Ontario’s regulations.

“I know I’m always going to face problems in my daily life, but at the same time I really wish I didn’t have to,” Le Coure told CBC News.

Le Coure said she was so taken aback by the driver’s rejection that she broke down and cried. Now, she’s angry.

“I realized this is against the law, and I was violated, and my human rights were violated,” she said.

“You think they would expect service animals. I know I’m not the only one with a service animal that uses the services.”

TransHelp’s manager Mark Castro called the incident a “black mark” against the cab company and warned its contract could be severed if changes aren’t made.

“This is not acceptable, under any circumstance,” Castro said.

Le Coure is seeking an apology from the cab company as well as a refund of the $3.50 she spent ordering the taxi she never rode in.

Troy, she said, is staying. “I don’t remember what I did without him,” she said.

City of Mississauga News Release

Originally posted at:;.node1-1?paf_gear_id=9700020&itemId=4600038q&returnUrl=%2Fportal%2Fcityhall%2Fpressreleases%3Bjsessionid%3D91107CD316959820AFF7B29816D09E8C.node1-1

City Hall

Mississauga’s 12th Annual Accessibility Plan: creating a place where everyone belongs

Apr 01, 2015

Park playground upgrades, transportation improvements and facility renovations are some of the many ways Mississauga is creating a barrier-free community for residents, visitors and employees.

“2014 was an extremely successful year in ensuring the City is more accessible for everyone,” said Diana Simpson, Mississauga’s Accessibility Coordinator. “We worked with several partners to improve services, facilities and programs for everyone including people with disabilities.”

Simpson reported the achievements of Mississauga’s 12th Annual Accessibility Plan include:

30 park playgrounds had accessible features added like paved routes, accessible swings and transfer platforms.

MiWay introduced electronic pre-boarding announcements. This was done three years ahead of the compliance timeline.

Transitway stations incorporated Universal Design Principles like tactile wayfinding panels and warning indicators.

Council approved a new Employee Recruitment policy in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that ensures accommodations are provided throughout the employment life cycle.

The Zoning By-law was amended to include new accessible parking space sizes and required number of accessible parking spaces for non-residential sites.

Seven building renovation projects including Woodlands Library, Don McLean Westacres Outdoor Pool, River Grove Community Centre and Streetsville Library provide better access for persons with disabilities.

A new fully accessible welcome desk at the Civic Centre.

The Friends of the Library donated accessible equipment to be used throughout Mississauga’s Library system like daisy disc players, magnifiers, large print keyboards and licences for Zoom Text.

The Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) hosted the Second Annual Abilities Awards in partnership with the Abilities Ministries, Able Living, Peel Regional Police, Victorian Order of Nurses, Coalition for Persons with Disabilities, ROP and the Next Step to Active Living Program and

Plain language training for staff to promote better understanding amongst all citizens.

Other updates include a new Accessible Built Environment Subcommittee and Steering Committee to implement requirements in the Design of Public Spaces Standards under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR).  The requirements will improve accessibility mainly outside of new and existing buildings.

Mississauga’s Accessibility Plan was developed with the Accessibility Staff Working Group made up of staff from all departments, in consultation with the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC).  The AAC includes representatives from the disability community and stakeholder community groups, and two members of City Council: Matt Mahoney, councillor, ward 8 and Pat Saito, councillor, ward 9.

The plan is updated every year. Recommended updates to the plan were approved by City Council today including a sidewalk program, renovation of Meadowvale Community Centre and revisions to the Accessible Parking By-Law.

“Removing barriers not only provides easier access to persons with disabilities, it also benefits families with young children, commuters and visitors to City facilities among others,” said Councillor Saito. “Mississauga’s commitment to accessibility ensures barriers are removed and the City continues to be a place where everyone belongs.”


On June 13, 2005 the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) was enacted.  The AODA requires the development of accessibility standards with the goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025.

Mississauga’s Accessibility Plan focuses on implementing a range of new provincial accessibility standards.  The standards are included in a number of regulations made under the AODA.  For more information please contact Diana Simpson at 905-615-3608, TTY 905-616-3411 or

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Media Contact:
Ashley Travassos
Communications Advisor
Phone: 905-615-3200 x3278
TTY:    905-896-5151