Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Re-Appointed Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho Must Get Right to Work on a Specific List of His Top Priority Duties, According to New Letter from the AODA Alliance
June 27, 2022
On Friday, June 24, 2022, Premier Doug Ford announced his new Cabinet at the start of his second term in office. He re-appointed Raymond Cho as Minister for Accessibility.
The AODA Alliance has just written Minister Cho to congratulate him on his re-appointment as minister, and to list his top priorities. He is required by law to lead the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. He is already the longest-serving minister with that responsibility since the AODA was enacted in 2005. The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.
Our letter explains that Minister Cho is well-positioned to get right to work on all these priority items. Because he has held this ministerial role for four years, he is not like a brand-new minister who has to start from scratch, knowing nothing about the job, and read a pile of briefings on the topic.
In our letter, we ask Minister Cho for a virtual meeting. The Minister and his ministerial staff have had no conversations with the AODA Alliance leadership in well over one year.
Your feedback is always encouraged. Write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of the June 27, 2022 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
June 27, 2022
To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Via email: email@example.com
College Park 5th Floor
777 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1S5
Re: Fulfilling Your Statutory Duties Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Congratulations on again winning your seat in the Legislature in the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, and on your re-appointment as Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility. You are the minister in charge of leading Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. We write to assist you in fulfilling your duties to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.
Because you held this ministerial post for the past four years, you can now get right to work. You won’t need extensive briefings by Ministry staff to introduce your duties to you. Had a new minister been appointed, they and their political staff would need time to study all the briefing books, receive detailed briefings and get to know the key stakeholders before sinking their teeth into their priority tasks. You can and should get to work right away on the issues we list in this letter.
On June 22, 2022, we wrote Premier Ford to outline the Government’s top priority actions. Your Ministry officials have already had a good chance to review that letter. None of it came as unexpected news to them or you.
You are required to develop all the accessibility standards under the AODA that are needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Over the past four years, no new AODA accessibility standards were enacted. None of the existing accessibility standards were revised to strengthen them. They need to be strengthened.
Here are your top priorities, as of now:
- You need to enact the promised Education Accessibility Standard and Health Care Accessibility Standard. You need to strengthen the existing Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. The AODA empowers you to do all of this now. This is because you have on your desk the final reports of six AODA Standards Development Committees, including
- The Transportation Standards Development Committee’s final report, which the Government received in the spring of 2018, before you took office.
- The Employment Standards Development Committee’s final report, which you received in January, 2019.
- The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s final report, which you received in January 2022.
- The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee ‘s final report, which you received in February 2022.
- The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s final report, which you received in or around March 2022, and
- The Health Care Standards Development Committee’s final report, which you received in February 2022.
- You need to strengthen the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
The AODA requires you to appoint a Customer Service Standards Development Committee to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and to recommend measures needed to strengthen it. In fact, the AODA required you to appoint that Standards Development Committee by June 6, 2021, over a year ago.
- You need to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. In fact, the AODA required the Government to do this over 4.5 years ago, back in December 2017 (when the previous Government was still in power.) We have alerted you about this duty several times since you became the Minister for Accessibility four years ago.
Last December, you announced that you had appointed a chair for that Standards Development Committee. No competition was held for that position. You also announced that this Standards Development Committee will review accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code as well as those in the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard (something we applaud).
Last December, you also committed that this new Standards Development Committee would be up and running by early 2022. It does not appear that this Standards Development Committee is appointed and working. We have seen no Government announcement inviting people to apply to serve on this Standards Development Committee, nor any other appointments to the Committee, nor any minutes of meetings of that Standards Development Committee which are required to be publicly posted. I should add that I myself wish to apply to serve as a member of that Standards Development Committee, but have found nowhere to apply.
The chronic shortage in accessible housing for people with disabilities has become a crisis. We need that AODA accessibility standard to address all the disability barriers in the built environment, including in the housing sector.
- Beyond these accessibility standards under the AODA, we need prompt Government policy and program reform in important areas like education, health care, employment transportation, and housing, to fulfil the AODA’s goal of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities. The reports of the six AODA Standards Development Committees, listed above, include detailed recommendations for those non-regulatory reforms. Moreover, the AODA Alliance’s thoroughly-researched briefs which we submitted to those accessibility standards, including additional recommendations meriting swift Government implementation. You are mandated as our voice at the Cabinet table to press for this.
- Many Ontarians with disabilities now face a harrowing crisis affecting their very survival, due to their chronic poverty. Tearing down disability accessibility barriers can help them over time, but their existential crisis is immediate. Other disability advocates are effectively and commendably leading the disability advocacy efforts on that vital issue. You need to listen to them and act on their urgent recommendations. We echo their pleas for action on that important issue.
- Ontarians with disabilities need you to effectively enforce the AODA. For upwards of a decade, since it first became enforceable, there has been paltry and grossly-inadequate enforcement of the AODA. We fear that many will think they need not comply with the AODA.
- The Government is spending billions on new infrastructure. This includes, among other things, building and expanding schools, hospitals, college and university facilities, and public transit. The Government has in place no measures that effectively ensures that this new infrastructure will be accessible to people with disabilities, and that public money will never be used to create new disability barriers. You need to fix this.
- Your Government needs to swiftly establish a comprehensive plan that will ensure that the AODA’s goal and 2025 deadline is met. A good starting point for creating this plan is the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, that was submitted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. You received this report on January 31, 2019, which was 1,243 days ago. You would also be aided by the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to Mr. Onley
We are certain that other priority issues will emerge. However, those listed in this letter are ample to get your second term started.
As you begin your second term in office, we ask for a virtual meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss these priority items. We have not had a virtual meeting or conversation with you or with any of the officials in your Minister’s Office in well over a year. You have told us in the past that you found our input to be helpful. Let’s work together.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont, LL.B. (Osgoode Hall Law School), LL.M. (Harvard Law School), LL.D. (Honorary) (Queen’s University, Western University, the Law Society of Ontario, and Brock University
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford firstname.lastname@example.org
Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, email@example.com
Alison Drummond, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, firstname.lastname@example.org