News Release: A Look at Premier Doug Ford’s First Throne Speech from the Perspective of Ensuring that Ontario Becomes Accessible to 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities by 2025

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

A Look at Premier Doug Ford’s First Throne Speech from the Perspective of Ensuring that Ontario Becomes Accessible to 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities by 2025

July 13, 2018 Toronto: Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s first Throne Speech, read at Queen’s Park on July 12, 2018, said nothing about taking new action to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the deadline which all parties set in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. Below the AODA Alliance identifies six passages in the Throne Speech which have implications for the accessibility needs of Ontarians with disabilities. The Throne Speech is where a Government sets out, at a high level, its priorities for action.

“We have congratulated Premier Doug Ford for appointing Ontario’s first full-time minister with responsibility for disability accessibility and for seniors, Raymond Cho”, said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “Whether or not disability accessibility was mentioned in the Throne Speech, we will be urging Minister Cho, Premier Ford, and the entire Cabinet to strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.”

In 2005, after a decade of grassroots non-partisan campaigning by Ontarians with disabilities, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Yet with less than six and a half years left before 2025, it is widely recognized that Ontario is not on schedule. As Doug Ford wrote in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s 2018 election commitments:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

For example, during this year’s election campaign, the AODA Alliance made public an online video that has gotten great media attention. It reveals serious accessibility problems at a number of new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, using millions of public dollars. Last fall, the AODA Alliance made public an online video that has gone viral. It reveals serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Centre, built in the heart of downtown Toronto. A year earlier, we also released a similarly disturbing video about serious accessibility problems in the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre. Those videos focus on built environment barriers, and not the many other barriers that also hurt Ontarians with a physical, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health or other disability.

Ontario needs a comprehensive plan now to get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility in 2025. Yet flying in the face of this pressing need, while waiting for the new Government to be sworn in, the Ontario Public Service has frozen some important work on disability accessibility. Pending briefing the new minister, it suspended the work of the Standards Development Committees, which were appointed under the AODA to make recommendations to the Government on accessibility issues in important areas like education and health care. Ontarians with disabilities need the new Government to immediately lift that suspension so these important Committees can get back to their work – work that is mandated by the AODA, a law in force in Ontario which all parties unanimously voted for in 2005.

The previous Ontario Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne made no new commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities in its March 19, 2018 Throne Speech, or its September 12, 2016 Throne Speech. Earlier, there were commitments on disability accessibility in the Wynne Government’s first Throne Speech on February 19, 2013 and in its second Throne Speech on July 3, 2014.

Contact:  David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Key Passages of the July 12, 2018 Ontario Throne Speech that Are Significant from a Disability Accessibility Perspective With AODA Alliance Comments On Them

  1. “Your new government assumes responsibility with great humility. Recognizing that, on so many issues, the people who know best live and work well outside government’s walls.”

AODA Alliance Comment: This is why we encourage the Government to listen to the detailed recommendations for action on accessibility that we will shortly be bringing forward, in a forthcoming letter to the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho.

  1. ” It will be a health care system that can count on long-term stable funding. Including 15,000 new long term care beds over the next five years and a historic new $3.8 billion investment in mental health and addictions, including supportive housing.”

AODA Alliance Comment: Increased funding for mental health services and supportive housing is welcomed. This needs to include substantial expansion of accessible housing.

  1. “You can also count on your government to respect parents, teachers and students by getting back to basics and replacing failed ideological experiments in the classroom — with tried-and-true methods that work.”

AODA Alliance Comment: This needs to include very substantial reform and improvement in supports for students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, and the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The PC Party, while in opposition, helped press the former Wynne Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and to set up an Education Standards Development Committee to recommend what that accessibility standard should include. We need the Doug Ford Government to get that Standards Development Committee back to work as soon as possible –work which, as noted earlier, the Ontario Public Service has temporarily suspended.

  1. “And it will include respecting the parents of children with autism, by increasing supports for the families who need it most.”

AODA Alliance Comment: This is welcomed. It should be extended to supports for children with other disabilities in need, including in the substantial reforms to Ontario’s education system we referred to above.

  1. “Your new government will also respect our municipal partners. Whether by partnering with Toronto and other GTA municipalities to build a world-class transit system. Addressing the transportation needs of other Ontario urban centres. Or respecting the wishes of rural municipalities by putting an end to unfair, unaffordable green energy contracts that have been imposed on them over local objections.”

AODA Alliance Comment: Substantial reform to create a world-class public transit system requires substantial new action to ensure that it is accessible to the many present and future public transit passengers with disabilities. This requires a substantial improvement to Ontario’s weak Transportation Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA. We and the ARCH Disability Law Centre have presented good ideas to the former Government on how to do this.

  1. “And it will respect workers — across all professions and trades — by ensuring everyone gets a fair opportunity to compete for opportunities and build their careers here in Ontario.”

AODA Alliance Comment: This requires the Ontario Government to substantially strengthen the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA, so that present and future employees and job-seekers with disabilities get a fair chance to compete for and take part in jobs in Ontario. We have presented good ideas to the former Ontario Government on how to do this.

 

Key Background Links

 

* Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his Party’s 2018 election commitments on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

 

* The AODA Alliance’s first reflections on the election of Ontario’s new provincial government.

 

* The AODA Alliance’s June 14, 2018 letter to Premier-designate Doug Ford.

 

* The AODA Alliance’s retrospective on the legacy of the former Ontario Liberal Government on the issue of accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.