ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Premier Ford and His Cabinet Have Failed 2.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, According to Damning Report Prepared by a Person the Ford Government Picked to Assess Its Performance on tearing Down Disability Barriers
March 10, 2023 Toronto: The Ontario Government, including the Premier and his Cabinet, have utterly failed 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, according to a blistering new official report prepared by a person that the Ford Government hand-picked to review the state of accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. Yesterday, the interim report of the Fourth Independent Review of the Government’s implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was released. Last year, the Ford Government appointed Rich Donovan to prepare that report.
After consulting with the disability community, Mr. Donovan found:
“Despite 17 years since the AODA has come into force, People with Disabilities (PWD) still consistently face barriers in their everyday experiences, from navigating city streets, to applying for jobs, to accessing public transit and government services.”.
This has led to “frustration, anger, resignation, and disappointment with the state of accessibility in Ontario.”
“The current experience for many people with disabilities in Ontario is poor. This stems from design flaws in services, products, technology, buildings, infrastructure, careers, processes, and human imagination.”
This new Donovan report amplifies blistering findings delivered to the Ford Government over four years ago by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley in his 3rd Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation. The crowning achievement of David Onley’s legacy for Ontarians, the 2019 Onley Report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” hurting people with disabilities. David Onley called on Premier Ford to take bold new action. In the four years since then, The Ford Government failed to implement the Onley Report’s core recommendations.
The new Donovan report described the failed implementation of the AODA over 17 years as “a series of failures and missed opportunities”. Mr. Donovan found it “utterly shocking” that the Ontario Premier and Cabinet have no plan to achieve an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities. His report found that both the Government and private sector organizations “have not prioritized disability in their operations.”
Mr. Donovan concluded that “…there is an urgent need for action.” His report called for accessibility for people with disabilities urgently to be made a greater priority:
“Boards of Directors, business owners and the Premier of Ontario must urgently demand better experiences for Ontario’s people with disabilities.”
Mr. Donovan assessed that the Ontario Government needs:
“an urgent and material adjustment in strategy and output.”
The Donovan report concluded that among disadvantaged groups in society, no others experience the same severity of exclusion:
“No other demographic group faces these kinds of negative experiences, barriers, and outright discrimination without public outcry, much less one that represents nearly a quarter of the population.”
The report determined that there has been a failure of needed leadership on accessibility:
“It is the assessment of the 4th Reviewer that leadership on accessibility – and the AODA – has been absent for 17 years. Without leadership, progress on this file is impossible.”
The Donovan report identified the Government of Ontario and all political parties as sharing responsibility:
“It is the obligation of the government of the day to serve the population. It has failed to do so for 22% of that population. Opposition parties have failed to hold governments of the day accountable for this lack of service. These failures are shared by all of Ontario’s political parties.”
Mr. Donovan determined that the failure to make more progress on accessibility was also due in no small part to the lack of meaningful enforcement of the AODA:
“Alongside standards is a critical lack of enforcement or incentives to comply with the AODA or improve accessibility more generally.”
The Donovan Report attributes some of the responsibility for the lack of leadership to the media’s failure to give more coverage to accessibility problems:
“A key reason for the lack of leadership on accessibility is there has been little perceived incentive for potential leaders to prioritize it. Lacking “breaking news” stories, accessibility rarely enters the media cycle in a sustained way. This has helped keep accessibility off the social or political agenda in Ontario.
The absence of disability in the news cycle reflects a failure of Ontario and Canada’s major media outlets.”
Ultimately the Donovan Independent Review concluded:
“…the Premier of Ontario and his Cabinet have yet to meet the basic needs of a group of people totaling over one fifth of its population.”
In the bluntest statement of any of the four Independent Reviews that have been conducted since the AODA was passed in 2005, the Donovan report pointedly asked:
“Mr. Premier, do you care?”
“Premier Ford must sit up and listen to the damning findings about his Government that were made by the very person his Government hand-picked to review the Government’s efforts on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, that leads the grass roots campaign for accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. “We have been raising the same concerns for years, without success. Premier Ford has refused every request to meet with us, and his Accessibility Minister now does not even answer requests to meet.”
The AODA Alliance Shares Mr. Donovan’s conclusion that these failures are caused by a lack of Government leadership, inadequate attention from all political parties, and the Government’s failure to effectively enforce the AODA. We disagree with Mr. Donovan’s suggestion that these failures are attributable to a failure to collect more data, or with using accessibility standards as a core tool to promote accessibility for people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance will make public a detailed response to the Donovan Independent Review regarding those issues in the next weeks. That disagreement does not derogate from our strong endorsement of the Donovan Report’s other findings, as quoted here.
For more background:
The AODA Alliance website which documents the non-partisan campaign since 2005 to get the Ontario Government to effectively implement the AODA
Text of the March 9, 2023 interim report of the Rich Donovan 4th Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act