Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Send Us Feedback on the Draft AODA Alliance Framework for the Health Care Accessibility Standard – and – Results of The December 3 Celebration of the 25th Birthday of the Grassroots AODA Movement
December 5, 2019
After a very busy year, this may be our last AODA Alliance Update until the New Year. It is full of important news for you.
We thank one and all for your ongoing support for and help with our campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities. We wish one and all a safe and happy holiday season and a barrier-free new year!
1. Send Us Feedback on Our Draft of an AODA Alliance Proposed Framework for the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard
We have made public a draft of an important brief. We want your feedback on it before we finalize it. This time, we are focusing on disability accessibility barriers in the health care system.
The Ontario Government is working on developing a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It would address barriers in the health care system that patients with disabilities and their support people with disabilities face in the health care system. The Health Care Standards Development Committee is developing recommendations for the Ontario Government on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.
To help the Health Care Standards Development Committee with this work, we plan to send it an AODA Alliance Proposed Framework for the Health Care Accessibility Standard. We have written a 24-page draft of this Framework. We are eager for your feedback. This draft is the result of a great deal of work. It builds on feedback that our supporters have shared with us. We’ve gotten tremendous help from the ARCH Disability Law Centre and from a wonderful team of volunteers who are law students at the Osgoode Hall Law School.
Please download and read our draft of this Proposed Framework for the Health Care Accessibility Standard. You can download it in an accessible MS Word format by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Dec-2-2019-AODA-Alliance-Draft-of-Proposed-Framework-for-Health-Care-Accessibility-Standard.docx
Send us your feedback by December 20, 2019 by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, please encourage your friends and family members to share their feedback with us. We aim to use that feedback to finalize this Proposed Framework for the Health Care Accessibility Standard and submit it to the Ontario Government and the Health Care Standards Development Committee in early January 2020.
Here are the headings in this draft Framework:
- What Should the Long-term Objectives of the Health Care Accessibility Standard Be?
- A Vision of An Accessible Health Care System
- General provisions that the Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include
- The Right of Patients with Disabilities and Their Support People with Disabilities to Know about The Health Care Services Available to Them, about Available Disability-Related Supports and Accommodations, about Important Information Regarding Their Diagnosis and Treatment, and How to Access Them
- The Right of Patients and Their Support People with Disabilities to Get to Health Care Services
- The Right of Patients and Their Support People with Disabilities to Get into and Around Facilities Where Health Care Services are Provided
- The Right of Patients and Their Support People with Disabilities to Accessible Furniture and Floor Plans in Health Care Facilities
- The Right of Patients with Disabilities to Identify their Disability-Related Accessibility Needs in Advance and Request Accessibility/Accommodation from a Health Care Provider or Facility
- The Right of Patients with Disabilities to Accessible Diagnostic and Treatment Equipment
- The Right of Patients with Disabilities to the Privacy of Their Health Care Information
- The Right of Patients with Disabilities and Support People with Disabilities to Accessible Information and Communication in Connection with Health Care
- The Right of Patients with Disabilities to the Support Services They Need to Access Health Care Services
- The Right of Patients and their Support People with Disabilities to Health Care Providers Free from Knowledge and Attitude Barriers Regarding Disabilities
- The Right of Patients and Support People with Disabilities to Accessible Complaint Processes at Health Care Providers’ Self-Governing Colleges and To Have Those Colleges Ensure that the Profession They Regulate Are Trained to Meet the Needs of Patients with Disabilities
- The Right of Patients with Disabilities to Systemic Action and Safeguards to Remove and Prevent Barriers in Ontario’s Health Care System
- The Need to Harness the Experience and Expertise of People with Disabilities Working in the Health Care System, To Expedite the Removal and Prevention of Barriers Facing Patients and Their Support People with Disabilities
2. A Very Successful Day to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Grassroots AODA Movement at the Ontario Legislature on December 3, 2019
On Tuesday, December 3, 2019, the International Day of People with Disabilities, we had a very successful day at Queen’s Park to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth of the grassroots movement for the enactment and implementation of strong accessibility legislation in Ontario.
Our 10 a.m. news conference went very well. We are working on getting it posted online. It yielded a detailed article in the December 3, 2019 edition of QP Briefing, an influential news publication about issues at Queen’s Park. We set that article out below.
From 4 to 6 pm, the big birthday party for the grassroots AODA movement was a huge success. Some 200 people signed up to attend. There was also a great turnout of MPPs from all the political parties.
Both the 25th anniversary of the AODA movement and the International Day of People with Disabilities were mentioned several times in the Legislature. Below we set out four key excerpts from the Legislature’s official transcript, called “Hansard.”
Meanwhile, the partying is over and the work must continue. As of today, there have now been 308 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government did not take the opportunity on December 3 to finally announce a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report. This is so even though a spokesperson for Premier Ford’s Accessibility Minister is quoted in the QP Briefing article below as stating that accessibility for people with disabilities is a “top priority.” We are still waiting.
QP Briefing December 3, 2019
On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, advocate says Ontario “nowhere near close” to accessibility goal
Disability advocate David Lepofsky warned Ontario is “not on schedule” to meet its goal of becoming fully accessible by 2025 as people across the globe marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3.
“That was ambitious, but doable,” Lepofsky said of the goal that is outlined in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, legislation that was passed in 2005.”With just over five years left, we’re not on schedule, we’re nowhere near close.”
The legislation called on the province to develop, implement and enforce accessibility standards “in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025.”
The province’s former lieutenant governor David Onley was tasked with reviewing the implementation of the AODA and said in a report tabled earlier this year that the “promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.”
“There’s no question we’ve made progress, but nowhere near the progress we need and nowhere near the progress the law guaranteed to us,” said Lepofsky, who is chair of an advocacy group called the AODA Alliance.
Lepofsky was at Queen’s Park on Tuesday to discuss accessibility issues in the province, although his media availability took on a slightly different format. He was joined by Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, who fired numerous questions at Lepofsky about his years of work advocating for people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance also marked the 25th anniversary of the movement its chair helped spearhead on the “enactment and effective implementation of accessibility legislation in Ontario” with a celebration at Queen’s Park.
During his fireside chat with Kirby-McIntosh, Lepofsky noted that barriers remain in many areas for people with disabilities.
“This is a province where many of our buildings are ones that are hard to get into and hard to get around, our public transit systems are full of accessibility barriers,” he said. Lepofsky said the education system meant to serve all students “treats students with disabilities as second-class citizens,” and that the health-care system is “full of barriers” such as getting accessible information about a diagnosis, treatment or medication.
Lepofsky said while the provincial government had a good start at trying to implement the legislation after it was passed in 2005 until about 2011, progress started to slow down “to a virtual snail’s pace.”
“And the new government of Doug Ford, rather than speed things up, slowed things down,” Lepofsky said. He said while he appreciates statements of support from the government, “this province right now has no plan and this current government has no plan to get us to full accessibility by 2025.”
As part of the implementation of the AODA, various committees were struck and tasked with proposing standards that could be turned into regulation in areas like transportation and customer service.
Lepofsky criticized the Progressive Conservative government for “months of delay” in getting some of the committee work underway. He’s involved in one of the committees and said work is being done.
Raymond Cho, the minister responsible for seniors and accessibility, said earlier this year that the government had resumed the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee last fall.
“I am proud to say that these committees have already met and completed their work,” the minister said at the time.
He said the government also resumed the education and health standard development committees in March, and that the chairs “have been engaged with the ministry and are working to develop new work-plans.”
In response to a query during question period from NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky about when the government would put forward a “comprehensive plan to improve the lives of people living with disabilities,” Cho thanked Onley for his report and pinned some blame on the previous Liberal government.
“The previous government had 14 years to improve the AODA. Mr. Onley said in his report that they did so little,” Cho said on Tuesday.
“The government knows that a lot of work needs to be done to make Ontario accessible for everyone. Making Ontario accessible is a journey. This government will continue to take an all-of-government approach to tearing down barriers,” he said.
Pooja Parekh, Cho’s spokesperson, said the government sees accessibility as a “top priority.” A lot of work needs to be done to make Ontario accessible for everyone, and it cannot be completed overnight,” Parekh said. “A key part of this journey includes recognizing that there are 2.6 million people in the province that have a disability.”
She pointed to provincial initiatives focused on accessibility such as the EnAbling Change Program, which funds not-for-profit disability and industry associations “to develop practical tools and guides to help communities and businesses understand the benefits of accessibility.”
“As well, families will experience clearer and more transparent processes when requesting service animals accompany their children to school, no matter where they live in Ontario,” Parekh noted. “The updated elementary Health and Physical Education curriculum reflects the diversity of Ontario students of all abilities.”
In May, NDP MPP Joel Harden proposed a motion in the House calling on the government to “release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.” The motion was struck down by the government.
Speaking just before question period on Tuesday, Lepofsky said he wants to see the provincial government develop a roadmap “on how to get us to full accessibility” and ensure that the government “doesn’t make things worse.”
“We want them to adopt a strategy now to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers,” he said.
Lepofsky also raised concerns about policies that he feels could post a threat to the safety of those with disabilities. He pointed to the government’s recent announcement to launch a pilot project that would let municipalities allow the use of electric scooters.
He said a priority for him going forward will be on “making sure that the current provincial government doesn’t create a new series of barriers to our accessibility and our personal safety.”
Meanwhile, earlier on Tuesday, the NDP and disability advocates called on the government to boost funding for adults with disabilities, with Gretzky saying the province is facing a “crisis in developmental services.”
Christine Wood, press secretary for Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Todd Smith, said the province is providing $2.57 billion in annual funding for developmental services. Wood previously noted that “adults with developmental disabilities may be eligible for funding from the Ontario Disability Support Program and the Passport program.
The Passport program provides funding to adults with a development disability for community classes, hiring a support worker, respite for caregivers or developing skills. Wood noted that “the maximum annual funding an individual can receive through the Passport program is up to $40,250.”
But Gretzky said many young adults face a wait-list for the program and that not every individual receives the maximum amount of support. She said that individuals “fall through the gap” in terms of services when they turn 18.
“The biggest gap that families are facing now and individuals is the fact that they lose all supports and services once an individual celebrates an 18th birthday,” said Gretzky, who introduced a private member’s bill about a year ago that aimed to address this issue. The bill passed second reading and was referred to committee in February.
“As soon as a person is deemed eligible for adult developmental services, they are automatically approved for $5000 in direct funding through the Passport program,” Wood said. “This allows people to purchase services and support. Following the completion of the developmental services application package, additional funding may be provided as it becomes available.”
She said Smith’s ministry works with the education ministry to provide “transition planning” for youth with disabilities who are transitioning to adulthood.
She also noted that since he took over this file, Smith has been “talking to families, adults with developmental disabilities and service providers about how our government can better serve those who depend on us.”
Excerpts from Ontario Hansard for December 3, 2019
Mr. Joel Harden: Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and we are very privileged in this House to be joined by some of our country’s leaders on that front. I want to mention the great David Lepofsky, who I just got back from a press conference with, Odelia Bay, and Sarah Jama. Thank you for all the work you do for our country, for our province, and for people with disabilities.
Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I would like to invite members to the reception hosted by the All Disability Network later this afternoon in room 228. More than 160 representatives from the disability community will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ontario’s provincial accessibility legislation. I encourage all members to join me there.
Assistance to persons with disabilities
Mr. Joel Harden: My question is to the Premier. Today is the international day for people with disabilities. Living with disabilities in Ontario is getting harder for them. This is a crisis, but the actions of this government so far have been to include a cut—in half—to planned increases to the Ontario Disability Support Program, and take $1 billion out of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. That has made life worse.
We know that there are 16,000 people waiting for supportive housing in Ontario. We know that people with disabilities experience higher rates of homelessness, violence, food insecurity and poverty. We know that from the time children with disabilities are born to the time they grow old, we’re failing them. We’re failing them right now, and we are failing their caregivers, who suffer from ritual burnout right across this province.
On this day, for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, will this Premier keep making things worse, or will he finally turn this around and start making life better for people with disabilities?
Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
Hon. Todd Smith: Thanks to the member opposite for the question. It’s very important, particularly on this day. But every day, my ministry is working to ensure that we’re improving supports for those living with disabilities, including all of the types of disabilities that the member opposite mentioned. When it comes to developmental disabilities, we are looking into how we are delivering services to those in the DS sector—the developmental services sector—to ensure that we get them what they need.
The previous government, for many, many years, didn’t improve supports for these individuals. That’s why we’re taking an approach where we’re looking across all of the different programs that are available. I’ve met with OASIS—and I know the members opposite were with OASIS when they were here last week—and Community Living and all those different organizations. As a matter of fact, I had a great meeting on Friday with Terri Korkush in my own riding. She is the executive director of Community Visions and Networking in the Quinte region.
There are many different models out there. We’re going to find the ones that work—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.
Supplementary, the member for Windsor West.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Back to the Premier: The fact of the matter is, there have been numerous studies and reports done. You have the Nowhere to Turn report done by the Ombudsman. You have the housing task force report that was put forward. You have the Deputy Premier, who sat on a select committee and made recommendations about the crisis for people with disabilities.
It’s time for you to actually act to help those people. On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, it is important to take stock of how we as a society support those living with a disability to lead full and happy lives. The reality is that living with a disability in Ontario is hard, and the government is not doing nearly enough to make life better for people living with disabilities. Wait times under the Assistive Devices Program, which helps people access things like hearing aids and wheelchairs, have ballooned to as much as six months under this Conservative government, and there is still no response to the Onley report, or any plan for Ontario to achieve full accessibility by 2025. In fact, this government is going backwards when it comes to accessibility.
When will this government put forward a real, comprehensive plan to improve the lives of people living with disabilities?
Hon. Todd Smith: Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.
Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I would like to thank the member for raising that question. But first of all, I would like to thank the Honourable David Onley once again for his work with the AODA review. The previous government had 14 years to improve the AODA. Mr. Onley said in his report that they did so little. When I tabled Mr. Onley’s report, I was very pleased to announce the return of the health and education SDCs, which was one of his recommendations.
The government knows that a lot of work needs to be done to make Ontario accessible for everyone. Making Ontario accessible is a journey. This government will continue to take an all-of-government approach to tearing down barriers.
Statements by the Ministry and Responses
International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I’m honoured to rise today to mark the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Since 1992, countries around the world have observed December 3 as a time to raise awareness about accessibility.
In Ontario, 2.6 million people have a disability.
Mr. Speaker, in Ontario we continue on our journey to make our province accessible. Our government is committed to protecting what matters most to people with disabilities and their families. By helping to remove accessibility barriers, we are empowering everyone to drive their own futures on their own terms.
We are taking a cross-government approach towards accessibility. This includes working with partners in the disability community, business, not-for-profit and broader public sectors. Collaboration is key in making this happen. By working together, we’ll make a positive difference that will impact the daily lives of people with disabilities.
We are helping improve understanding and awareness about accessibility. For example, our EnAbling Change program provides funding to not-for-profit disability and industry associations to develop practical tools and guides to help communities and businesses understand the benefits of accessibility. Many of these free resources are available on a convenient web page at ontario.ca/accessiblebusiness.
One of the resources is a handbook called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. It includes helpful tips to help businesses be welcoming to all customers.
When communities and businesses are accessible, everyone benefits. People with disabilities can take part in everyday life, and businesses gain potential talent, customers and higher profits.
As part of our government’s commitment to break down barriers in the built environment, we are providing $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation to help make buildings more accessible. This accessibility certification program will provide free accessibility ratings of 250 building over two years.
Just two months ago, we announced ways that Ontario is making its education system more accessible. For example, the updated elementary health and physical education curriculum reflects the diversity of Ontario students.
The K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees resumed their work this fall to provide advice to government on addressing education barriers.
Also, the processes for families requesting service animals to accompany their child to school are clearer.
We’re providing $1.4 billion in funding for the 2019-20 school year to help school boards install accessibility features in learning environments.
Ontario is advancing accessibility. However, we know that a lot of work still needs to be done. It requires changing attitudes about disability.
As we recognize the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I invite my MPP colleagues to join me as we work to bring positive change to the daily lives of people with disabilities.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Responses?
Mr. Joel Harden: This is an important day. This is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. This is also the 25th anniversary, last Friday, of the accessibility movement in Ontario embodied in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
I want to acknowledge at this moment, as the critic for people with disabilities in this province, that that act was created by sympathetic people in this chamber, pushed by disability rights activists in this province and around this country.
I want to salute in particular David Lepofsky, who is here, who is the current chair of the AODA Alliance. I also want to salute my friend Sarah Jama, who is here with the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, and who is one of this country’s tireless campaigners for disability rights.
I also want to salute the legacy of Gary Malkowski, who was part of the NDP government from 1990 to 1995, who was the first deaf parliamentarian in this space, and who championed the case brought in 1994 to have an act that was finally realized in 2005 with the AODA.
I want to salute people like Laura Kirby-McIntosh, her daughter, Clara McIntosh, and her partner, Bruce McIntosh. I want to salute Sherry Caldwell, with the Ontario Disability Coalition. I want to salute Sally Thomas and I want to salute Kenzie McCurdy, folks back in Ottawa Centre who have fought tirelessly to get people in our profession to pay attention to them so that it might get embodied in an act like the AODA.
But let me be perfectly clear: While we celebrate the AODA, we have to acknowledge, as Mr. Onley acknowledged in his latest report, that we are nowhere near meeting our AODA obligations. Let me be very clear: A $1.3-million investment to look into the building infrastructure of 250 buildings in this province is vastly short of what we need.
Speaker, I want us to ask ourselves how we would feel if we showed up for work in this place and there was a sign, real or imagined, that said, “You don’t get to come into this place today”—because what Mr. Onley said in his report is that those signs, real or imagined, exist across this province. They exist for the dyslexic child right now who is sitting in a school somewhere in Ontario and who is being asked or compelled to write or learn in a way that is not accessible to her or to him. They exist right now for people who, as Sarah has mentioned so eloquently, cannot get life-essential devices for them for months—for months—with the absolute gong show that is the Assistive Devices Program. Can you imagine, Speaker, what would happen to any one of us if crucial services essential for our lives spun around in circles—which happens sometimes when power chairs malfunction—or if crucial devices that allow diabetics to live safely and monitor their insulin level weren’t available to us? What would people who are neurotypical or who are the so-called able-bodied have to say? We wouldn’t put up with it.
Let us be honest on this day for the elimination of all barriers: We do not have sufficient urgency. Who are we looking after? Let’s talk about that for a second.
We returned to this sitting of Parliament to find out that there were five new associate ministers created in this government, each of whom got a $22,000 pay increase. We found out that this government set in place an incentive structure for deputy ministers so that if they met their targets, they got a 14% pay increase. We found out that this government is constantly maintaining tax expenditures created under previous Liberal governments that allow people who are affluent to deduct things like Raptors tickets and Maple Leafs tickets as legitimate business expenses.
We are hemorrhaging hundreds of millions of dollars every year lavishing things upon the already affluent. That’s who Ontario currently serves. What can we spare for people with disabilities? Just $1.3 million; platitudes around education while people who are hurting, who are suffering, are not getting the essential things they need in life.
I want to name something as I close my remarks. This government, as were previous governments before it, is stuck in a charity model when they regard people with disabilities. They want to think that they’re compassionate if they do awareness days or if they do boutique announcements. People with disabilities don’t want our charity. They want solidarity. They want an equal opportunity to be themselves. “Free to be,” as the DJNO folks say: That’s what they want, what any of us would want. What it requires is for us to use the resources of this province fairly and make sure that when we talk about people with disabilities, we empower them to be their fullest selves and we do not create a disabling society.
Mr. John Fraser: It’s a pleasure to speak on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We’re encouraged to reflect on how persons with disabilities participate in society and how we evaluate the barriers that lay in front of them. It’s an opportunity to examine what we can do better to help integrate everybody to fully participate in our society in this province. We have a responsibility as legislators to better include all people in this province.
I want to stop now and tell a little story about a woman named Linda Smith. Linda Smith died about four years ago. She was an exceptional person. She lived in Ottawa and she touched the lives of many as a volunteer for politicians of every stripe—and as you can imagine, in Ottawa, that’s a lot of politicians.
Linda had a developmental disability or, as I like to refer to it, an exceptionality. That exceptionality filled her with love and acceptance in abundance. She would often call our office several times a day just to check in, and more than one person has said to me, “You could be having an awful day, and Linda would call and you’d forget all your troubles.” She had that effect.
Linda was a regular at city council meetings, often sitting in the front row until the mayor recognized her. There’s a plaque at city hall now in honour of her. She loved to have her picture taken with everybody; it didn’t matter who. There are hundreds of pictures of her with all sorts of politicians from all over Canada, actually.
Linda would help out with any mundane task. I was thinking about it this year, because she loved to do Christmas cards, especially because it came with lunch: two slices of pizza, with one to take home, and a Pepsi.
She was great company. She loved strawberry milkshakes and ice cream.
Her exceptionality left her vulnerable, and she struggled with how people could be cruel, mean and thoughtless, although she was resilient and was always quick to forgive.
Linda was our friend, and we are the better for it. She had this ability to bring everybody together. It was really quite incredible, and we all miss her.
When I think of Linda, I try to understand what the world looked like through her eyes. I’ve never quite gotten to that point; I’ve seen some of that. As legislators, it’s not just for the Lindas of the world who have a developmental exceptionality—which also gives them a great gift, in another way—but there are people who have disabilities and exceptionalities that are different than that. We need to try to see the world through their eyes and understand the barriers that are in front of them—whether that’s a device they need to be healthy, as the member from Ottawa Centre said, or whether that’s access to a public building, access to a restaurant.
My eyes were opened when my father-in-law became wheelchair-bound and we tried to find a restaurant where we could get him in and out, with an accessible washroom. The definition of “accessible” is definitely different in many different places.
So our job is to see the world through their eyes and then make laws and investments with that in mind.
I really appreciate the opportunity to speak to this today, and all the members’ words in this House.
Let’s remember to try to see the world through their eyes.