Premier Wynne’s Throne Speech Offers 1.8 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Nothing new

September 12, 2016 Toronto: The Wynne Government’s new Throne Speech, read at Queen’s Park this afternoon, offers 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities absolutely nothing new, as a point-by-point analysis, set out below, shows.

“This Throne Speech is called “A Balanced Plan to Build Ontario Up for Everyone,” but nothing in it ensures that 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities will be treated as part of ‘everyone’,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance which spearheads the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario, and who was at Queen’s Park for the Throne Speech. “The Throne Speech announces eight priorities for the Government. Getting Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, as Premier Wynne promised three years ago that she would, is nowhere among these. Nothing in this Throne Speech even mentions people with disabilities.”

The Throne Speech committed to new action on education, but offered nothing for the one-third of a million students with special education needs in Ontario-funded schools. It’s another huge let-down that the Throne Speech did not commit to creating an Education Accessibility Standard under Ontario’s Disabilities Act, to tear down the barriers that treat these students as second-class.

The Throne Speech promises new hospital construction, but nothing to ensure this has full disability accessibility, unlike the accessibility bungles in the brand-new Women’s College Hospital.

“The Throne Speech was supposed to be a Government mid-term re-set, but no one hit the re-set button on disability issues,” said Lepofsky.  “We are undeterred by again being left out in the cold. We are poised to press the Wynne Government to do better, and call on both opposition parties to do the same.

Eleven years after passing the Disabilities Act, Ontarians with a physical, mental, sensory, learning, communication or intellectual disability still face too many barriers when trying to go to school or university, use Ontario’s health care system, ride public transit, take a cab, shop in stores or eat in restaurants. Search the Twitter hashtag #AODAfail for many crowd-sourced examples around Ontario.

Two years ago, a troubling report of a Government-appointed Independent Review of the Disabilities Act found Ontario behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025. It reported that after ten years on the books, Ontario’s Disabilities Act, for which people with disabilities fought from 1994-2005, had not made a significant difference in their lives. The Government has not effectively enforced accessibility rules, even though it promised effective enforcement.

Contact: David Lepofsky
Twitter:  @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Point-By-Point Analysis of Key Parts of the Wynne Government’s September 12, 2016 Throne Speech

* The Throne Speech states:

“While many across our province are benefiting from growth, challenges remain. Some have yet to share in Ontario’s resurgence.”

AODA Alliance Response:

Ontarians with disabilities face far too many recurring barriers that impede them from equally sharing in economic growth in Ontario. Unless pro-active measures are put in place to remove and prevent those barriers, 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities will continue to suffer as second class citizens. The Throne Speech announces none.

* The Throne Speech states:

Your government’s top priority will therefore remain job creation and economic growth – and to make sure that everyone shares in the prosperity we are building together.”

AODA Alliance Response:

Three and a half years after the Wynne Government made private sector employment for people with disabilities a priority in its first Throne Speech under Premier Kathleen Wynne, little has been done to effectively address the high unemployment rate facing Ontarians with disabilities, Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, the Wynne Government’s Special Advisor on Accessibility, has repeatedly proclaimed that the unemployment rate facing people with disabilities in Canada is not only a national crisis – it is a national shame.

* The Throne Speech states:

” Every child deserves to have the best start in life.

Over the past three years, the government has helped to create 56,000 new licensed child care spaces.

Within the next five years, it will help to create another 100,000 spaces, so that working families can find quality, affordable care.

Your government will also make it easier for parents to find and use the services their children need, whether they are before-and-after-school programs, drop-in centres or more licensed child care spaces.

Community hubs are creating spaces for expanded child care and child and family support services, as well as helping to make it easier to access health, social, education, cultural and recreational programs and services that nurture community life.”

AODA Alliance Response:

The Government has announced no plan and made no specific commitment, in the Throne Speech, to ensure that all these new day care spots will have full disability accessibility, and to ensure that the new Community Hubs it is creating will have full disability accessibility. An Education Accessibility Standard, which the AODA Alliance has sought for over half a decade, could help ensure this. Yet the Wynne Government has not agreed to develop one.

* The Throne Speech states:

“Every person in Ontario deserves an excellent education, from kindergarten through to postsecondary.

Your government is strengthening what is already one of the best education systems in the world, working collaboratively with our partners across the education sector.

It will continue to invest to make the classroom and school experience a positive one for all students, teachers and staff.

It is building and renovating schools.

Today, more students are graduating from high school in our province than ever before.

Your government is committed to making sure students have the excellent literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed.

To help students improve their mathematics skills, your government is implementing a renewed math strategy, including having up to three math lead teachers in all elementary schools.

It is also setting a goal for every young person to have at least one opportunity for experiential learning.

At the postsecondary level, your government is building new campuses and modernizing old labs — helping Ontario students to get the best possible start in their adult lives.”

AODA Alliance Response:

The Throne speech does not commit to ensure that any of these new measures will be fully accessible to the 334,000 students with special education needs in Ontario-funded schools or the additional ones in Ontario colleges and universities. Ontario’s education system is replete with far too many accessibility barriers.

As but one example, of the 550 schools in the Toronto District School Board only 85 were disability-accessible at the start of this year. University buildings and programs, even new ones, too often have accessibility problems. The Wynne Government has neither put in place nor committed now to put in place needed measures to ensure that, for example, new schools or university facilities will have full accessibility, as well as the programs delivered in them. Physical barriers to school buildings are just one of the many kinds of recurring barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Ontario’s antiquated special education legislation is over a third of a century old, and desperately needs modernization.

As noted above, the Wynne Government has not committed to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to ensure fully accessible education in Ontario. Therefore, it is fair to expect that the new measures promised in The Throne speech can and will repeat barriers persisting in the education system against students with special education needs.

* The Throne Speech states:

“Third, your government will invest in skills training that aligns with the job market of today and tomorrow.

People who want to upgrade their skills should expect help from their employer and from government.

Your government will work with industry, unions and educators to develop new skills training projects, guided by the recommendations of the Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel.

These projects will help people gain the skills they need to get a good job and will ensure Ontario retains the competitive advantage of having a workforce with the skills employers want and need.”

AODA Alliance Response:

The Wynne Government has nothing in place that will ensure these programs are fully accessible to people with disabilities. The Throne speech announces none. This too is where an Education Accessibility Standard could make a huge difference.

* The Throne Speech states:

“Since 2013, seven new hospitals have been built in five communities. Over the next five years, 18 more hospitals across Ontario will complete major renovations or rebuilds, and approximately 20 more major projects will get underway.”

AODA Alliance Response:

Nothing in The Throne speech commits to ensure that these new hospitals and major renovations will have full disability-accessibility. The Wynne Government has nothing in place now that will ensure this.

A recent Toronto Star report on accessibility blunders at the just-opened Women’s College Hospital in Toronto show that the Government is not now ensuring that new health care facilities, built with public money, are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

* The Throne Speech states:

“Fifth, your government will invest in roads, transit and modern infrastructure, as part of the largest infrastructure investment in the province’s history — about $160 billion over 12 years.”

AODA Alliance Response:

Again, despite commitments made five years ago, the Wynne Government has not put in place effective measures that will ensure that new infrastructure is designed with full disability accessibility. The Throne Speech does not commit to this or even mention it. the Government’s track record of including accessibility in its infrastructure and capital projects, like Women’s College Hospital or Metrolinx projects, can give people with disabilities no confidence.