June 3, 2015
Here’s more news on a busy day on the accessibility front. As a great way to help advance the cause of accessibility for people with disabilities during this National Access Awareness Week, and in the wake of the AODA’s 10th anniversary, we are delighted that at the AODA Alliance’s request, NDP MPP Percy Hatfield today introduced a Private Member’s Bill into the Ontario Legislature for First Reading. This bill, set out below, would make it easier for businesses to take action to make their premises accessible to people with disabilities.
Right now, some businesses can be reluctant to install a ramp at their store’s or restaurant’s front door, out of fear that municipal government officials may order them to rip out the ramp. This private member’s bill aims to ensure that there are no municipal barriers, including well-intentioned ones, that can impede or deter businesses that want to make their premises accessible to customers and employees with disabilities.
This clear, straightforward three-page bill would require municipalities to take specific action to ensure that their by-laws, and the officials who enforce them, don’t impede a business’s efforts to make itself accessible. In summary, this bill would:
- prohibit a municipality from taking any action that impedes an organization from making their premises, goods, services or facilities accessible to people with disabilities, except where the municipality must take that action to achieve a pressing objective that cannot be achieved in any other way;
- require each municipality to review its by-laws to see if they could impede an organization from taking action to make their premises, goods, services or facilities accessible to people with disabilities;
- develop a plan to revise their by-laws or other policies to ensure that they do not lead the municipality to impede organizations from becoming accessible to people with disabilities; and
- train their officials, including their by-law enforcement officials, on the duty not to impede organizations that are trying to become accessible to people with disabilities.
The most startling and widely-publicized illustration of this problem over the past months is the City of Toronto’s ongoing and unjustified effort to order the Signs Restaurant to rip out an accessibility ramp that it installed last fall to make its front door accessible. We have urged the City of Toronto not to deploy its enforcement officials to force businesses to become inaccessible. We need more government action at all levels to make restaurants, stores, and other like establishments more accessible.
We have called on the Ontario Government and Legislature to take prompt action on this issue. This commendable NDP private member’s bill is the first action by any Ontario political party, in response to our request.
We urge all political parties in the Legislature to swiftly pass this private member’s bill. It is short, simple, uncontroversial, and needed now.
As we have reported in our recent AODA Alliance Updates, the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games are fast approaching. Yet the Government has not implemented a plan to ensure that there is a strong legacy of increased accessibility of tourism and hospitality services near the Games, such as restaurants and stores. We have called on the Government to launch a last ditch effort to make progress on this front. This private member’s bill would be a helpful part of such an effort.
Below you will find the AODA Alliance’s June 3, 2015 news release on the NDP Private Member’s Bill, and the three-page NDP Private Member’s Bill introduced by Percy Hatfield
We encourage you to:
* let your local media know about this new private member’s bill, and why it is important;
* urge your MPP to support swift passage of this private member’s bill; and
* call on your local municipal government to now take the actions that this bill lists, even before this bill is debated and hopefully passed. These actions will help your community become fully accessible to people with disabilities.
The Ontario Government only has 9 years, 6 months and 27 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.
Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.
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ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Disability Advocates Applaud Novel NDP Private Member’s Bill Introduced at Queen’s Park Today, to Eliminate Municipal Action that Blocks Businesses That Try to Make Their Premises Accessible to People with Disabilities
June 3, 2015 Toronto: This afternoon, marking National Access Awareness Week, NDP MPP Percy Hatfield introduced into the Legislature for First Reading a private member’s bill that would, if passed, prevent municipal government action that can impede businesses that want to make their premises accessible to customers and employees with disabilities. This three-page bill is set out below.
Far too few Ontario restaurants and stores are accessible to people with disabilities. One or two steps at the front door make it impossible to enter. Imagine a restaurant or store owner who wants to do the right thing, and install a ramp, but city officials order them to tear it down. We need our public officials to do more to promote accessibility, and not to oppose increases in accessibility.
Hatfield’s private member’s bill, which the non-partisan AODA Alliance applauds, would place a clear duty on municipalities not to impede a business’s reasonable efforts to become accessible. The bill would require municipalities to review their by-laws and plan measures to ensure that they don’t block needed efforts on accessibility.
The need for this legislation was brought into clearest focus last fall when the City of Toronto unjustifiably ordered the downtown Signs Restaurant to rip out an accessibility ramp it had commendably installed at its front door. City officials claimed the ramp blocked blind pedestrians. Yet the ramp did no such thing.
Ten years ago the Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It requires the Ontario Government to lead the province to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.
Yet Ontario is not on schedule for that goal. After ten years on the books, the Disabilities Act has not made a significant impact on the lives of Ontarians with disabilities. These were the damning findings of a Government-appointed Independent Review of this legislation, conducted by University of Toronto Provost Mayo Moran.
“With the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games fast approaching, we need all the help we can get to ensure that there are more accessible restaurants, stores and hotels to meet the needs of 250,000 tourists, including those with disabilities, not to mention 1,600 para-athletes,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the province-wide AODA Alliance which spearheads the campaign to make Ontario fully disability-accessible, and which called for this bill. “We call on all parties to swiftly pass this short, uncontroversial bill. Let’s cut red tape that can deter businesses from doing the right thing on accessibility.”
To read the Final Report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act conducted by University of Toronto Provost Mayo Moran, released to the public on February 13, 2015.
Municipal Action on Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Act, 2015
An Act to require municipalities to take action with respect to accessibility for persons with disabilities
The Bill prohibits municipalities from taking any action that impedes a person who offers items, including goods, services and facilities, from improving accessibility to the items for Ontarians with disabilities. The Bill requires municipalities to conduct a review of their by-laws and other instruments and to report and plan in respect of complying with the Bill.
An Act to require municipalities to take action with respect to accessibility for persons with disabilities
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
1. In this Act,
“accessible format” may include, but is not limited to, large print, recorded audio and electronic formats, Braille and other formats usable by persons with disabilities;
“accessible website” means a website that conforms with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, at Level AA;
“disability” has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005;
2. (1) Despite the Municipal Act, 2001 and the City of Toronto Act, 2006, no municipality shall take any action that impedes a person who offers an item mentioned in subsection (2) to the public from improving accessibility to the items for Ontarians with disabilities.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the items are goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures, premises or any other thing that is prescribed for the purposes of clause 6 (6) (a) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.
(3) Subsection (1) does not apply if the municipality’s action is required to achieve a pressing and substantial objective that is in the public interest and that cannot be achieved in any other manner.
3. (1) No later than six months after this Act receives Royal Assent, each municipality shall review its by-laws and other instruments for the purpose set out in subsection (2).
(2) The purpose of the review is to identify any by-laws or other instruments, the enforcement or implementation of which could result in the municipality impeding a person who offers items mentioned in subsection 2 (2) to the public from improving accessibility to the goods, services or facilities for Ontarians with disabilities.
(3) As part of the review, a municipality shall consult with persons with disabilities and representatives of persons who offer items mentioned in subsection 2 (2) to the public.
4. (1) Each municipality shall make the results of the review under section 3 available to the public in a report in an accessible format and by posting it on an accessible website immediately.
(2) The report shall include a summary of the feedback received as part of the consultation and a list of the by-laws and other instruments identified.
5. (1) No later than nine months after this Act receives Royal Assent, each municipality shall make available to the public in an accessible format and by posting it on an accessible website a plan that sets out the following:
1. A description of how the municipality will amend the by-laws or other instruments identified during the review under section 3 in order to ensure that the municipality complies with section 2.
2. A description of a process for a person who offers items mentioned in subsection 2 (2) to the public to obtain an exemption from a by-law or other instrument for the purpose of improving accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities to the items.
3. Guidelines explaining how persons may seek an exemption described in paragraph 2.
4. A description of training that will be provided to employees of the municipality regarding the rights of persons with disabilities to equal treatment without discrimination in accordance with the Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in particular regarding the enforcement and implementation of the by-laws and other instruments of the municipality.
(2) No later than one year after this Act comes into force, a municipality shall implement its plan in its entirety.
6. This Act comes into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.
7. The short title of this Act is the Municipal Action on Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Act, 2015.