What a difference a year makes? In the case of the Wynne Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, unfortunately, not much.
One year ago today, on February 13, 2015, the Wynne Government made public the landmark final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. Conducted under the mandatory terms of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran, former Dean of Law at the University of Toronto, reached powerful conclusions.
The Moran Report in substance found that after ten years on the books, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act had not made a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Ontario was then not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires.
The Moran Report showed that accessibility standards enacted under the AODA, and their enforcement need to be strengthened. It found that the Government must revitalize its implementation of the AODA. It urged that Premier Wynne must herself show new leadership on this issue.
So what has happened in the year since then? Has the Government revitalized its implementation of this legislation? Has there been the new leadership that the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review called for? Sadly, the answer is: “No.”
In the ensuing year, the Government has created no new accessibility standards. It has not strengthened any existing accessibility standards. To the contrary, last fall the Wynne Government proposed further weakening the already-weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, even though Premier Wynne promised never to weaken any AODA protections.
One year ago today, in the only real good news from the Government that day, it announced that it would develop a new Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. We had been pressing the Government to do this for almost half a decade. Yet in the ensuing year since then, the Government has taken no public steps to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard. The first step it must take is to appoint an independent Health Care Standards Development Committee under the AODA to consult the public and to develop recommendations for the Government. The Government has not, to our knowledge, even appointed that mandatory Standards Development Committee. A full year has been lost.
Since receiving the Moran Report, the Wynne Government cut back on AODA enforcement, rather than strengthening it. Four months later, in the face of public and media criticism of this, the Government promised to ramp up AODA enforcement in ensuing years, but nothing concrete has yet come of this.
In the ensuing year since release of the Moran Report, the Government organized parties to celebrate the AODA’s 10th anniversary. However, the Government’s inaction and delays on fulfilling its core duties under the AODA have led Ontario to slip further and further behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025.
On June 3, 2015, to mark the 10th anniversary of the AODA’s passage, the Wynne Government released some new initiatives. The Government called these “The Path to 2025,” even though Economic Development Minister Duguid conceded to the media that this was just a twelve-month plan, not the ten-year plan its title implies.
On June 3, 2015, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid acknowledged to the media that the Government’s efforts on accessibility had flagged somewhat and needed to be re-invigorated. However, in hindsight, the Government’s June 3, 2015 announcements fell far short of what the Moran Report showed that Ontario needs. Moreover, what little new that was then announced has not made the needed difference, to the extent that it has materialized.
As a result, the AODA continues not to make a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities. It is a cruel irony that one year ago today; the Wynne Government accompanied its release of the Moran Report with a claim that the Ontario Government is a global leader on accessibility. The Wynne Government’s actions since then do not live up to the honour that the Government unjustifiably bestowed on itself.
It is still not too late for the Government to change gears, and show the bold leadership on accessibility for people with disabilities that it showed over a decade ago when it created and passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As a good start, the Government should now:
* appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to get right to work on recommendations for a strong and effective Health care Accessibility standard;
* agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA and get to work on developing it;
* withdraw its plans to weaken the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and instead propose ways to strengthen that accessibility standard. We will soon make public ideas on how to do this;
* develop an accessibility standard, as it promised in 2009 that it would, to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings, and accessibility needs in residential housing;
* double the number of obligated organizations the Government audits for AODA compliance, as it announced it would on June 3, 2015, and take other actions to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement;
* keep its unkept promises on the AODA’s implementation.
Here are links to key background information:
To read Part 1 of the AODA Alliance’s analysis of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review and Part 2 of the AODA Alliance’s analysis of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at firstname.lastname@example.org
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We encourage you to use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.
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