May 1, 2015
Part 2: Major Findings and Recommendations in the Moran Report that We Do Not Support
OVERVIEW AND SUMMARY
In September 2013, the Ontario Government appointed Professor Mayo Moran to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of its implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Her task, assigned under the AODA, was to see if Ontario is on schedule to reach full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025.
The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead the province to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. If Ontario is not on schedule, Professor Moran’s job was to recommend actions needed to get Ontario back on schedule.
In November, 2014, Mayo Moran gave the Government of Ontario her final report. The Government studied it for some three months before it made the Moran Report public on February 13, 2015.
To date, the Government has not announced which of its findings and recommendations the Government accepts. It has not announced any action plan for implementing that Report. On February 13, 2015, the day the Government made this Report public, the Government announced that “…we are already moving forward on a number of Provost Moran’s recommendations.” On a February 25, 2015 news story on CITY-TV News, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid is quoted saying: “…we’re looking forward to embracing many, if not all, the recommendations in Mayo Moran’s report.”
The AODA Alliance is making public in two parts our analysis of the Moran Report. On April 29, 2015, we made public the first part of our analysis. It examined the many findings, conclusions and recommendations in the Moran Report that we endorse, and that we urge the Government to promptly implement.
In this second part of our analysis of the Moran Report, we examine the few recommendations in the Report with which we respectfully disagree. Our disagreement with these few recommendations does not take anything away from our agreement with a large majority of the Report’s findings and recommendations, which we described in Part 1 of this Analysis.
As Part 1 of our analysis shows, we agree with the Moran Report that, after ten years of implementing the AODA, this legislation has not made a significant difference in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities. Ontario is not on schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. The Ontario Government, including Premier Wynne, must show strong new leadership if Ontario is to get back on schedule. This involves needed new action to effectively enforce the AODA, to educate the public about it, to give needed supports to obligated organizations so they can comply, to strengthen existing AODA accessibility standards, and to create needed new AODA accessibility standards.
To summarize this second part of our analysis of the Moran Report, we urge the Government not to adopt:
- The Report’s recommendation that the next Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, required to start in three years, be delayed by an additional year
- The Report’s recommendation that the five-year mandatory review of AODA accessibility standard requirements on employment and information and communication be delayed
- The Report’s call to permit minor amendments to AODA accessibility standards without first submitting them to an AODA Standards Development Committee
- The Report’s proposal regarding repeal of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and
- The Report’s proposal that accessibility standards should set only one deadline for all obligated organizations and for all barriers
As we show below, for the Government to implement any of the first four of these five recommendations would clearly break important written Government promises to Ontarians with disabilities on accessibility. Professor Moran’s reasons for these five recommendations are unsound. Moreover, the five actions she recommends are all counterproductive. Implementing any of them would make it harder for Ontario to reach full accessibility by 2025.
We heartily commend the Moran Report for having found that Ontario is now behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. Ontario cannot afford for the Government to take any actions that could slow us down even further.
To read Part 1 of the AODA Alliance’s detailed analysis of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review’s Final Report, examining the Report’s many findings and recommendations we support.
The Final Report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review can be downloaded in MS Word format.
A Closer Look at the Mayo Moran Report’s Recommendations We Do Not Support
1. The Report’s Proposal that the Next Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation, Required to Start in Three Years, Be Delayed by an Additional Year
When the AODA was passed in 2005, many feared that its 20-year deadline for reaching full accessibility by 2025 was too far off. They feared that governments could falter and lose momentum along the way. Both we who campaigned for this legislation and the Government that was designing it agreed that it was important to build into the AODA important independent checks and balances to help prevent that from happening. We didn’t want the Government to discover on the eve of 2025 that Ontario can’t reach that mandatory deadline for full accessibility.
We knew that governments of any stripe would tend to congratulate themselves along the way about the great job they are doing, rather than take a critical look at what they need to improve on accessibility. They needed a credible independent voice, letting them know at key points whether they need to do more to ensure that the Government leads Ontario to full accessibility by 2025.
Therefore, as an important safeguard, section 41 of the AODA requires that, four years after the day when the AODA was passed, the Government must appoint a first Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. It requires that three years after that first Independent Review was tabled in the Ontario Legislature, the Government must appoint a second AODA Independent Review. A third Independent Review must be appointed three years after the second Independent Review’s report is tabled in the Legislature. This repeats itself on the same cycle up to 2025.
The first AODA Independent Review was appointed in June 2009, four years after the AODA went into effect. The Government appointed Charles Beer to conduct it. In September 2013, the Government appointed Mayo Moran to conduct the second AODA Independent Review. According to the AODA, the third Independent Review must be appointed by February 13, 2018, three years after the Government tabled the Moran Report in the Legislature.
In its first recommendation that we do not support, the Moran Report recommended that the Government delay the appointment of the third AODA Independent Review to four years after the Moran Report was tabled in the Legislature, rather than the mandatory three years which section 41 of the AODA now requires.
We strongly disagree with this recommendation. The Report states:
“During the consultations there was, as mentioned, a great deal of discussion among all stakeholders about “review fatigue.” Particular concern was raised about the timing and overlap of reviews, especially since this comprehensive Legislative Review coincided with the review of the Customer Service Standard. In the future, review fatigue is likely to become even more intense, with 15 legislative reviews or standards reviews mandated between now and 2025.”
Later the Report states:
“As noted previously, the overlap of this Review with the review of the Customer Service standard put much pressure on the time and energy of the participants, most of whom are volunteers or people employed to implement standards, rather than review them. If the timeframes outlined above are adopted, the reviews of the Employment and DoPS standards will be under way during 2018, concurrent with most of the work on the next Legislative Review, which is scheduled to begin three years after this Report is tabled. To avoid repeating the same problem that occurred with this Review, I recommend deferring the Third Legislative Review until 2019.”
We strongly oppose any delay in the start of the next AODA Independent Review, or of any AODA Independent Review after that, for several compelling reasons. First, for the Government to do what the Moran Report recommends would fundamentally violate its solemn written promises to Ontarians with disabilities on accessibility. The Government has clearly promised in writing that it would not take any action that would reduce our rights or protections, or that would weaken our gains or provisions in the AODA or in regulations enacted under it. Both Premier Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne have promised this.
In his August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out the Government’s 2011 accessibility election promises, Premier Dalton McGuinty wrote:
“We will ensure that we maintain and/or strengthen the current provisions and protections in the AODA or any regulations enacted under the legislation.”
Just one year later, when she was running for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne made the same promise. She also committed to keep all Premier McGuinty’s accessibility promises. In her December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, she wrote:
“1. Under your leadership, will the Liberal Party fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any policies, practices, strategies or initiatives of or within the Ontario Government that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives?
Yes. I’m committed to building a more accessible Ontario as it is not only the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. I will maintain the implementation of the AODA, 2005 and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and not weaken or reduce the progress we’ve made.
2. Will you stand by and fully honour the past commitments that your Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility?
Yes. I will honour the specific commitments made by my party and the government, and look forward to working with you to continue making progress.”
For the Government to adopt this Moran Report recommendation, it would have to introduce a bill into the Legislature to amend section 41 of the AODA, pushing back by one year that mandatory deadline for appointing the next Independent Review. That would violate the Government’s promise not to weaken any protection or provision in the AODA for us. The AODA’s mandatory requirement of Independent Reviews every three years is an important safeguard for Ontarians with disabilities. It provides an important means for holding the Government accountable for its AODA obligations.
We fought long and hard for every protection that we won in the AODA, after a long, arduous ten-year campaign for this legislation from 1994 to 2005. It would be a fundamental betrayal for any of those protections or provisions to later be taken back or weakened in any way.
We sought and obtained those written promises from Dalton McGuinty and later, from Kathleen Wynne, afterCharles Beer recommended in the final report of the first AODA Independent Review, in 2010, that the Government push back the mandatory date for the commencement of the second AODA Independent Review. We strongly pressed the Government in 2010 not to implement that recommendation in the Beer Report. We were happy that the Government listened to us, and did not implement that Beer Report recommendation. We were also happy that the Government made its important commitments not to weaken any AODA protections or provisions. We urge the Government to now keep its word, and as such, not to push back the deadline for appointing any future AODA Independent Reviews.
The Moran Report did not appear to consider the fact that to adopt this recommendation would violate these important Government promises to Ontarians with disabilities. The fact that Professor Moran made this recommendation to which we object does not relieve the Government from those written promises. A promise made is a promise made. It should be a promise kept.
Second, any delay in the appointment of any future AODA Independent Reviews would harm the cause of reaching full accessibility by 2025. In the first part of our Analysis of the Moran Report, we strongly support the Report’s finding that Ontario is not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. As we noted earlier, the Moran Report commendably found that strong new Government leadership and action is needed now to bring about the needed course correction. Ontarians, including Ontarians with disabilities, need the next AODA Independent Review to start on time as an important safeguard to check to see if the required Government course correction has been implemented. We need the next AODA Independent Review to independently find out if Government action taken in response to the Moran Report was sufficient to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.
For the Government to set Ontario back further behind schedule for full accessibility would also violate Kathleen Wynne’s written promise to us to ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. Kathleen Wynne’s December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance included:
“3. Will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities no later than 2025, the deadline that your Government’s AODA requires?
Yes. If elected Premier, I will ensure Ontario remains on schedule to become more accessible by 2025. Ontario Liberals have taken significant steps toward our shared goal of making Ontario accessible by 2025. I recognize that the task of building a more prosperous and equitable province is far from finished. I look forward to continuing to work together toward achieving our goals.”
It is very good that the Government did not implement Charles Beer’s recommendation to delay the second AODA Independent Review. Ontario needs to know now that it is behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and that major action is needed to correct this. We could not afford to have waited another year to have an AODA Independent Review make these findings. Had the Government acted on the Beer Report’s recommendations to delay the second AODA Independent Review, we would not now have the benefit of the Moran Report’s finding that we are behind schedule for full accessibility and that strong new Government leadership is needed to correct this.
The Government’s initial public response to the Moran Report also shows why Ontario cannot now afford any delay in the appointment of the third AODA Independent Review. On February 13, 2015, when the Government made the Moran Report public, it did not acknowledge that it needs a significant course correction, despite the Moran Report’s clear findings and recommendations. Instead, the Government declared itself to be a “global leader” on accessibility. That claim flies in the face of the Moran Report’s finding that after ten years, the AODA has not made a significant difference in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities.
The next Independent Review is now required to start at a pivotal time. By 2018, there will only be less than seven years left before 2025. That Independent Review will need to focus on efforts that will cover the dwindling time left before Ontario must become fully accessible. To delay that Review by a year will make it harder for the Government to benefit from any corrective action that the third AODA Independent Review recommends.
Moreover, to delay the third AODA Independent Review by one year would make the fourth AODA Independent Review come on the eve of 2025 itself. If, by the time the fourth AODA Independent Review is conducted, Ontario is still not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, we need that fourth Independent Review to report its findings and recommendations in time for last-ditch measures to be deployed to ensure that Ontario meets the 2025 deadline.
Third, even though the AODA specifies a three-year interval between Independent Reviews, that interval between Independent Reviews actually ends up being much longer. This is because the three-year clock does not start to tick until the previous Independent Review has been appointed, until that Independent Review concludes its report and submits its report to the Government, and until the Government then tables that report in the Legislature. The period between the day Charles Beer submitted his first AODA Independent Review report to the Government in February 2010, and the day when the Government made public Mayo Moran’s report of her second AODA Independent Review on February 13, 2015, was fully five years.
The Government improperly contributed to that five-year delay. In 2013, the Government did not appoint Mayo Moran to conduct the second AODA Independent Review by the legally-mandatory deadline of May 31, 2013. Instead, it inexplicably violated its own accessibility law. It delayed fully 102 days past that deadline, before it appointed Professor Moran.
In Ontario, AODA deadlines on accessibility are already known to be rampantly violated by private sector organizations with at least 20 employees. Making this worse, the Government has set a poor example by disobeying the Independent Review appointment deadline in its own accessibility law. It would set an even worse example for the Government to extend the deadline for the next AODA Independent Review – a deadline Ontarians with disabilities cannot afford to have extended.
Fourth, the Moran Review did not find that work on accessibility is progressing at such a good rate in Ontario that Ontario does not need the benefit of an Independent Review to begin in 2018. Instead, the key reason the Moran Report gave for proposing a one year delay the next AODA Independent Review is simply because of a concern that the Moran Review’s public hearings took place over the same weeks that the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) was conducting a mandatory five year review of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. Yet that timing problem could easily have been avoided, without needing to amend the AODA or break any Government promises on accessibility.
The overlap of those two consultations was due to poor Government planning. The Economic Development Ministry was providing logistical support to both consultations. It knew, or easily should have known about the overlap of both the Moran public hearings and the time period for the public to submit written submissions to ASAC on the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. To avoid this rather obvious scheduling problem, the Government could and should simply have extended by a few weeks the input period for the Customer Service Accessibility Standard review. If the Government had simply ensured that the two periods for public hearings did not overlap, this issue would have disappeared.
A quick phone call to the AODA Alliance in advance to discuss possible timing could have gone a long way to preventing this. Under the AODA, we have time and again faced multiple issues on the public agenda. We have asked the Government to work with us to avoid such readily avoidable public clashes. At certain other times the Government has done so, with constructive results.
In any event, the Moran Report’s proposal to delay by one year the start of the next AODA Independent Review will not prevent such scheduling clashes. With other accessibility issues on the public agenda, and other new accessibility standards needed, there will always be a need to co-ordinate the timing of consultations to avoid overlap where possible. This is not rocket science. It does not require an amendment to legislation and violation of important Government promises on accessibility.
In any event, we have been in the lead of the disability community’s campaign on accessibility. We have not heard from our community any need for a full year delay in the next AODA Independent Review. If the Moran Report contemplated that this would be for our benefit, we respectfully disagree.
Fifth, echoing her agenda on the 2014 campaign trail, Premier Wynne reiterated in her September 25, 2014 Mandate Letters to each cabinet minister that the Ontario Government would become the most open and transparent government in Canada. To delay by one year the next AODA Independent Review would contradict that promised government openness, accountability and transparency. The AODA Independent Review is perhaps the most effective independent way for ensuring government openness, accountability and transparency on accessibility. To delay the next AODA Independent Review by a year would unjustifiably delay by a year the Government’s accountability and transparency on this important issue.
Sixth, we vehemently oppose any effort to re-open the terms of the AODA itself. This is sacrosanct legislation that the Legislature passed unanimously in 2005. We won this legislation only after an arduous decade-long campaign for it by people with disabilities. We do not want to risk any tampering with its terms. We do not want to afford anyone the chance to weaken it in any way.
Time on the Legislature’s agenda is very precious and scarce. To our knowledge, the Legislature has not devoted any time to accessibility legislation since 2010, when it passed weak accessibility upgrades to Ontario’s elections legislation.
If the Legislature were to devote any time now to the issue of disability accessibility, it should use that time to remove barriers in other existing laws, as the Government promised us back in the 2007 election. Legislative time would be better spent, for example, addressing recurring barriers facing voters with disabilities in Ontario and municipal elections. It would be better spent passing new legislation to require municipalities to be more open to letting local stores and restaurants install ramps to enable accessibility by people with disabilities, without fearing municipal officials ordering that these ramps be torn down.
In conclusion, it is highly beneficial that the Government and the public did not have to experience any further delay in hearing from Mayo Moran that after ten years, the AODA has not made a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Given the problems with the AODA’s implementation that both the 2010 Beer Report and the 2014 Moran Report have found, the public, including Ontarians with disabilities, deserve no delays in finding out from the third and fourth AODA Independent Reviews whether sufficient corrective action has been taken.
2. The Report’s Recommendation that the Five-Year Mandatory Review of AODA Accessibility Standard Requirements on Employment and Information and Communication Be Delayed
We similarly do not support the Moran Report’s recommendation that the Government delay the mandatory five-year reviews of AODA accessibility standards enacted to date, covering employment and information and communication. The Report stated:
“Moreover, during the consultations concerns were expressed that five years from the enactment of standards in regulation was not enough time to fully understand the implications and provide meaningful feedback. The timing of the IASR review – due to begin in 2016 – will pose a problem because it will occur before there is significant data concerning compliance and the general experience under the standards. One option the Government could consider is conducting the IASR review in stages, examining the three standards sequentially.
While some key transportation provisions, such as the requirement for electronic pre-boarding and on-board announcements, do not take effect until 2017, most of the Transportation standard is now in effect. On balance, I believe the review of this standard could begin as scheduled, in mid-2016. (The general provisions of the IASR, such as those on accessibility policies and multi-years plans, will be in full effect by then and could be reviewed in tandem with the Transportation standard.)
The situation with Information and Communications is more complicated. Requirements for new websites are currently in effect and provisions for accessible educational materials and educator training will be fully in place by 2015. However, one of the most significant requirements, for accessible formats and communications supports, is being phased in between now and 2017. In light of this, it would seem to make sense to defer the start of this review until mid-2017 when most of the standard will have been in force for some time and there has been some experience with the accessible formats provisions.
The Employment standard presents the biggest challenge. It is being phased in over five years and will not reach the private sector until 2016 and 2017. Given that more than three quarters of Ontario jobs are found in the private sector, it is clear that little could be accomplished by reviewing this standard before the entire private sector is obliged to comply. It therefore seems reasonable to defer the start of the review of the Employment standard until mid-2018.
Looking at the fourth standard in the IASR, the DoPS requirements will be largely in force by 2017 and I believe the review set for 2018 can proceed on schedule. This would be concurrent with the Employment review as suggested above. To round out the picture, the review of the Building Code accessibility amendments – assuming the Government brings them within the AODA process – would begin five years from their effective date, that is, in 2020.
A phased review would bring another advantage – it would help to address the concerns raised about ASAC’s workload and especially its capacity to review three standards at the same time. I understand that some stakeholders will be concerned about any additional delays, but in my view the deferral of the reviews of the Information and Communications and Employment standards is the unavoidable result of the earlier decision to adopt a rolling implementation model that defers compliance with many of the requirements.”
We oppose any delay in the upcoming mandatory review of accessibility standards passed to date for the same reasons we set out above, for our opposing any delay in the next AODA Independent Review. The time lines for the mandatory reviews of the employment and information and communication accessibility requirements in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation are set out in section 9(9) of the AODA. To lengthen them would require an amendment to the AODA that would weaken existing provisions and protections in the AODA. The Government has solemnly pledged not to weaken any AODA protections or provisions.
Any delay in conducting the review of that accessibility standard would in turn delay progress towards full accessibility. Where there are deficiencies in existing accessibility standards, we need them caught and fixed on time, and with no further delay.
As it is, we now know beyond any doubt that, even if every obligated organization strictly obeyed every requirement in existing accessibility standards regarding transportation, employment, information and communication, Ontario will not achieve fully accessible transportation, employment, or information and communication by 2025, or indeed, ever. As such, there is already a demonstrated a need for these accessibility requirements to be strengthened. We can certainly afford no delays beyond 2016 for a review of these accessibility standards to even begin.
We respectfully disagree with the Moran Report’s reasons for recommending this delay. It is not necessary for an accessibility standard to be fully implemented before the Government is able to authorize a Standards Development Committee to review it, within five years after it was enacted. The AODA contemplates that the review of an accessibility standard could begin earlier than five years after it was enacted. Five years is set as the outside deadline. Section 9(9) of the AODA provides (with our italics added):
“(9) Within five years after an accessibility standard is adopted by regulation or at such earlier time as the Minister may specify, the standards development committee responsible for the industry, sector of the economy or class of persons or organizations to which the standard applies shall,
(a) re-examine the long-term accessibility objectives determined under subsection (2);
(b) if required, revise the measures, policies, practices and requirements to be implemented on or before January 1, 2025 and the time-frame for their implementation;
(c) develop another proposed accessibility standard containing such additions or modifications to the existing accessibility standard as the standards development committee deems advisable and submit it to the Minister for the purposes of making the proposed standard public and receiving comments in accordance with section 10; and
(d) make such changes it considers advisable to the proposed accessibility standard developed under clause (c) based on the comments received under section 10 and provide the Minister with the subsequent proposed accessibility standard.”
There is no need to delay these reviews to be able to figure out where improvements to them are needed. The Moran Report itself was able to point out several serious deficiencies with them.
We too can now point out in detail where there are deficiencies with the existing accessibility standards that address employment and information and communication. Indeed, we presented detailed concerns with the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and did so within weeks of its enactment. Those concerns were the core basis of our submission to the review of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard that ASAC conducted in 2014.
Part 3 of our June 30, 2014 brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review showed in great detail the deficiencies of all the existing accessibility standards that have been enacted to date. Professor Moran was herself sufficiently convinced by our description of those standards’ deficiencies that she adopted several of them in her Report. As such, it is demonstrably not necessary to delay a review of any of those standards past the mandatory 2016 deadline.
One of the Moran Report’s reasons for recommending this delay was that the Government should wait until an accessibility standard is fully implemented before the Government starts to review it. By that reasoning, the Government should not have reviewed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard in 2013-14. After all, the Government’s records showed that a substantial majority of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees were in clear violation of that standard. Whether the compliance deadline had come and gone, or indeed had come and gone twice, was, however irrelevant. It did not and does not impair a full review of the standard.
The time lines in AODA standards enacted to date, including those governing employment and information and communication, are far too long. These were criticized, before they were enacted, by us and by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In many contexts, obligated organizations have a duty under the Human Rights Code to fix those accessibility barriers long before the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation requires them to be fixed. It would be wrong to use those excessively long time lines as an excuse for yet further delays in getting those barriers properly addressed in a revised AODA accessibility standard.
The Moran Report gave the Employment Accessibility Standard as its strongest illustration of the need to delay this standard review. The Report suggested that private sector organizations will only reach that standard in 2016 and 2017. Yet its review must start in 2016.
The Report’s thinking on this issue is wrong, for several reasons. First, AODA standards are not designed on the premise that an obligated organization will do nothing about an accessibility requirement until its deadline approaches. Obligated organizations are given these time lines on the basis that they will get to work on these issues, but need a stretch of time to implement them.
Yet there is little new in the Employment Accessibility Standard. It largely if not totally seeks to implement employers’ duty under the Human Rights Code to accommodate the workplace needs of people with disabilities. That duty first went into effect back in 1982, one third of a century ago. Private sector organizations have had over three decades to gear up to fulfill that duty. If they are still running afoul of these employment accessibility standard requirements in 2016 or 2017, or are only then starting to look into this area of their workplace, something is very, very wrong. In that event, it is very unlikely that another year or two will make a material difference.
In its first Throne Speech under Premier Wynne on February 19, 2013, the Government set as a priority the expansion of employment opportunities in the private sector. Yet to date, no actual new initiatives have been announced to act on that new priority, beyond the Government’s appointing an advisory council over a year ago to offer the Government ideas for action. It would contradict the Government’s new priority for employment for people with disabilities to delay the mandatory review of employment accessibility requirements under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
Similarly, in the context of accessible information and communication, obligated organizations should have already been busy ensuring that new web content is posted in an accessible format. By 2016, they should have ample experience to inform a review of the information and communication requirements in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. If they have done nothing whatsoever in this regard, that means that those obligated organizations are still wrongly creating new barriers. Creating new barriers can only make it harder to reach full accessibility by 2025. That would be a serious cause for concern, warranting prompt new action through strengthening the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation’s information and communication provisions. It certainly is no reason for delaying a review of that accessibility standard.
By 2016, it will be especially important to review the information and communication requirements in light of new developments on the internet and in the area of smart phones, since the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee finished its work well over a half decade ago. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee submitted to the Government its final proposals back on May 29, 2009.
The Moran Report was also wrong to recommend a delay in ASAC’s review of the employment and information and communication accessibility requirements, because of an asserted concern about ASAC’s capacity to conduct all these reviews. As quoted earlier, the Report stated:
“A phased review would bring another advantage – it would help to address the concerns raised about ASAC’s workload and especially its capacity to review three standards at the same time.”
Yet the dozen members of ASAC are not expected to personally conduct all reviews of existing accessibility standards, and/or all the work developing recommendations for any new accessibility standards. Under section 9 of the AODA, the Government can appoint separate Standards Development Committees to deal with accessibility for each sector of the economy to be addressed. Between 2005 and 2010, the Government had fully five different Standards Development Committees operating. They addressed the areas of Customer Service, employment, transportation, information and communication and the built environment.
In the 2010 report of Charles Beer’s 1st AODA Independent Review, it was recommended that all this standards development work be brought together under one organization. This was to make the process faster and more effective. It was to better ensure the harmonization of accessibility standards.
Based on that recommendation, the Government announced in 2013 that it would consolidate all accessibility standard development under the auspices of ASAC. However this reform, which we commended, was not meant to have ASAC’s twelve members have to personally do all the work of five or more Standards Development Committees. That would have created a huge bottleneck. It would have substantially slowed down the standards development process. We would have strenuously opposed any such measure.
We were clearly told when the Government was designing this reform, that different sub-committees would be created under ASAC to separately address each accessibility standard. These could include some ASAC members as well as others with expertise in the area to be addressed. We supported that approach.
If the Government were to proceed on the basis that the Moran Report erroneously did, by assuming that all this work of developing new accessibility standards and reviewing existing ones are to be piled on the twelve members of ASAC alone, then this would contradict the essence of the reform that the Beer Report recommended. We would oppose it. We would insist on a return to the practice of simply appointing separate Standards Development Committees to address each accessibility standard. That would easily and quickly eliminate any possible bottlenecks.
The Government can clearly handle the work of reviewing these accessibility standards without needing to delay the commencement of those reviews. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, now located within the Economic Development Ministry, was able to oversee the development of proposals for accessibility standards in the five areas listed above, by separate Standards Development Committees, often operating at the same time. It did so with far less experience with developing accessibility standards than it now has. It did so with less money and fewer staff than it now has. It managed all this, while coming in under budget in each year.
Finally, showing no need for the Government to tamper with the AODA’s time lines for reviewing accessibility standards, there is a great deal of flexibility already built into the AODA for conducting these reviews. The AODA sets a deadline for when the review of an existing accessibility standard must begin. However, the AODA does not set a deadline for a Standards Development Committee to finish its review of an accessibility standard. After that, the Government has flexibility in how long it will take to decide what amendments, if any, it will make to the accessibility standard that has been reviewed.
For example, the Government had to commence the mandatory review of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by the summer of 2012 – five years after that standard was enacted. The Government did not even appoint all the members of ASAC to conduct that review until the end of the first half of 2013. ASAC’s work on that review did not begin until the latter months of 2013 or early 2014. The Government did not make public ASAC’s final proposals for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service until November 7, 2014.
As of May 2015, the Government has announced no action on those proposals. It has, to our knowledge, conducted no public consultations on possible revisions to that accessibility standard, despite our urging the Government to do so. It is now almost eight years since the Customer Service Accessibility Standard was enacted. We still have no idea when, if ever, the Government will make any changes to that accessibility standard.
3. The Report’s Call to Permit Amendments to AODA Accessibility Standards Without First Submitting Them to an AODA Standards Development Committee
We disagree with the Report’s proposal that the Government should adopt a process for making minor amendments to AODA accessibility standards without their being subjected to a Standards Development Committee process. The AODA requires that Standards Development Committee process. We fought long and hard for that protection. This recommendation would also require the Government to break its promises to us not to weaken any AODA protections or provisions.
We are understandably concerned about having to fight rear-guard battles to protect what has taken us so long to win in the limited accessibility standards we now have. To provide an end-run of this would smooth the path for some, like public transit providers, to lobby the Government to let them out of obligations that are now enshrined in the law, without the full consultation protections which the AODA guarantees to us. This would all happen behind closed doors, where we cannot monitor what goes on.
Governments and others can become all too slippery in what they treat as a “minor” amendment. To us, they may be quite major amendments.
We have no difficulty with the Government offering interpretive guides on the content and meaning of accessibility standards, as the Report urges. We endorse this approach. However, if a change is needed to an AODA accessibility standard, whether major or minor, it should be subjected to the standards development process which the AODA itself requires.
Moreover, if a minor change to an accessibility standard is so important, the Government could easily appoint ASAC and/or others to do a short, focused review of that issue. The AODA is well-designed to enable this. Such a review can only help to ensure better reforms.
4. The Report’s Proposal Regarding Repeal of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001
We disagree with the Report’s recommendations regarding the repeal of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. In the 2011 election, Premier McGuinty made a specific election pledge on this topic. In his August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his Party’s 2011 election pledges on accessibility, he wrote:
“We are committed to repealing the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) once the current five accessibility standards under the AODA are enacted and we will ensure that all needed provisions in the ODA are incorporated into the AODA.”
The five accessibility standards to which he referred included the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard, to be enacted under the AODA. Yet the Government has still not enacted a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Instead, the Government only enacted weak and limited accessibility amendments to the Ontario Building Code. That is not an AODA accessibility standard. As the Moran Report acknowledges, the Government has not acceded to our request that those Building Code amendments also be enacted in an AODA accessibility standard that can be enforced under the AODA.
For the Government to repeal the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 before enacting the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard, as an accessibility standard created under the AODA, would violate this election pledge.
It would also be inaccurate to treat the AODA and its accessibility standards to have fully replaced and replicated requirements in the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 requires public sector organizations to make public annual accessibility plans or policies. This is set out in legislation which only the Legislature can change. In contrast, the AODA’s requirements regarding multi-year accessibility policies and plans are set out in regulations. Those regulations can be amended by Cabinet, without requiring any vote in the Legislature.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 continues to assist in the cause of accessibility. Both last year during the Toronto municipal election, and again now with the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games almost upon us, attention has focused on the fact that less than half of the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway stations are accessible. TTC has flip-flopped in recent years on its target for making all those stations accessible. In earlier accessibility plans under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, it said this target was 2020. In later TTC accessibility plans under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, it moved that deadline back to 2025. Last year, TTC went public claiming it could not meet the 2025 deadline.
This issue came up during the Toronto mayoralty election. Had TTC not been required to make those annual accessibility plans public as the Ontarians with Disabilities Act required, we would have been less able to monitor and hold it accountable for these flip-flops.
5. The Report’s Proposal that Accessibility Standards Should Set Only One Deadline for All Obligated Organizations and for All Barriers
We do not agree with the Report’s recommendation that all new accessibility standard obligations come into force at the same time for all obligated organizations. It is a bedrock principle of the AODA and its accessibility standards that we expect more action on accessibility of huge obligated organizations than we do of smaller obligated organizations. We also expect swifter action on barriers that are easier to remove than on barriers that cost more and take longer to remove.
If the Report’s recommendation were accepted, the Government would set the same time lines for all barriers, no matter how easy or hard to fix. It would set the same time lines for all organizations, no matter how big or small. The Government would end up setting the longest possible time lines, to ensure that the smallest organizations and the hardest accessibility adjustments are fully accommodated. That would wrongly slow progress towards full accessibility. Faster progress is needed on accessibility, according to the Moran Report’s core findings.
Moreover, the feedback we have heard from obligated organizations since the time when the AODA was being developed was a strong opposition to “one size fits all” accessibility standards that fail to take into account the different barriers they must address, and the different sizes and capacities of different obligated organizations. The Report’s proposal would drive Ontario right into a one-size-fits-all approach that few if any would like. That would not serve the goal of speeding up progress to ensure full accessibility by 2025.