May 5, 2018
Dear AODA Alliance,
Thank you for your letter dated April 3, 2018 regarding our election commitments on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
Ontario is at its best when everyone is able to reach their full potential and people of all abilities feel included and see themselves in Ontario’s future. People of all abilities must have the opportunity and lifelong supports to succeed and thrive.
Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals have had 15 years to make life better for people with disabilities. Despite this, disability advocates, including AODA Alliance, have consistently faulted the Liberals for not having a plan for full implementation of AODA, and regularly highlight where the Liberal government commitments have fallen short.
Ontarians deserve better. Ontario’s New Democrats are committed to the full implementation and enforcement of the AODA, and to removing all forms of barriers, particularly to the job market, and will absolutely stand by our previous commitments on disability accessibility and the AODA. We will make sure government initiatives are designed to help people of all abilities access government services.
We’re committed to ensuring that every government initiative is designed from the start to allow people of all abilities to access government services and programs. This commitment will begin from the moment we take office and will include comprehensive consultation.
Consultation with the AODA Alliance
We are committed to meeting with the AODA Alliance and accessibility advocates within the first 100 days of forming government. An NDP government will also create Accessibility leads within Ministries as part of an all-government approach to achieving full accessibility. We will quickly release the results of the AODA Independent Review, due at the end of 2018.
We understand that strong accessibility policy means nothing unless it is coupled with strong enforcement. We have repeatedly called on the government to utilize an independent review process and to expand current AODA enforcement activities beyond the assessment of voluntarily submitted accessibility reports. We have lambasted this government for failing to use the powers, authority, and penalties set forth under the act to ensure compliance.
An NDP government will explore options for increased enforcement, including increasing the number of inspectors, and certifying inspectors from other agencies to be able to enforce AODA compliance. An NDP government would commit to publicizing ways for the public and public servants to report AODA violations.
Developing and Implementing Accessibility Standards
Public funds should never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. This means that processes for developing and reviewing accessibility standards must be reformed and sped up. They must adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code, and each ministry should conduct regular audits of their progress toward becoming fully accessible.
We know that ensuring every government initiative is accessibly designed from the start requires the enactment of accessibility standards and the full implementation of Standards Development Committees. This underscores our commitment to continue the work of the six AODA Standards Development Committees now underway.
In December, we called on the government to immediately establish the as-of-yet undelivered Built Environment Standards. These will include recommendations for retrofits, major renovations, transit and elevators. An NDP government is committed to implementing these recommendations.
We understand that the Ministry of Education has been a major barrier to effectively meeting the needs of students with disabilities, and that the responses and supports that students and families receive have varied wildly across the province. We are committed to ensuring that students with disabilities are no longer treated as an afterthought. We will review the funding formula for special education, and will re-structure the way that the Ministry of Education approaches accessibility.
We are proud of the advocacy we have done to push the government to establish an Education Standards Committee.
Accessible Communities and Housing
There is an accessible housing crisis in Ontario. To begin to address this, we will earmark affordable housing units for Ontarians with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Our investment in 30,000 units of supportive housing will give adults who have developmental disabilities access to housing that ensures they can live rich lives with more independence.
We are proponents of universal design and will ensure that accessibility standards are considered and met before, during, and after any major reforms or infrastructure projects are undertaken by the government.
We’re committed to ensuring that every government initiative is designed from the start to allow people of all abilities to access government services and programs.
We will invest $67 million annually in increasing support for agencies that provide services to adults with developmental disabilities so they can participate in their communities, have options for public services, and have a great quality of life. We are committed to substantially improving how Ontario Public Services work, ensuring that customers and employees with disabilities have full access to all public services.
For the NDP, creating an accessible Ontario means ensuring accessibility at every level. This means creating more opportunities for civic engagement. We will create an Election Finances Commission to review and provide regular recommendations on updating Ontario’s election law, with a primary focus on electoral fairness. The commission will include representation from Elections Ontario, members of civil society such as academia, law and civic organizations, and nominees from major political parties.
We will ask the Commission to deliver recommendations on improving Ontario democracy and increasing citizen participation and engagement in the political process – both during and between elections. This includes the full implementation of an Accessible Elections Plan that will be supported through legislation.
We agree that these reforms should take place at the municipal level as well, and will work with municipalities to ensure this happens.
Thank you once again for reaching out to me regarding the NDP’s commitments for creating an Ontario that is accessible for everyone.
My team and I take your counsel and the issues raised seriously. We have a history of raising issues brought to us by the AODA Alliance in the Legislature on numerous occasions – over the past year alone we have raised questions on the issue of accessibility six times during question period.
I highly value our relationship with the AODA Alliance, and look forward to continuing to strengthen this relationship when we form government on June 7.
Leader, Ontario’s New Democrats