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2014 Year-End Retrospective on Our Non-Partisan Campaign for Disability Accessibility And More News from the Accessibility Front Lines

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO
December 5, 2014

SUMMARY

This is the AODA Alliances final Update for 2014. We thank one and all for reading or skimming our Updates, for passing them on to others, and for being part of our non-stop grassroots campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to over 1.8 million people with disabilities. Every contribution of effort by each one of you to our campaign helps sustain this effort. Because we are a volunteer coalition, it is the contribution of that effort that powers us ahead.

In this Update we give you a punchy retrospective of our key collective efforts over this year. In addition to the actions we list here are, of course, all the critically important things that you do in your own community or organization to help propel us forward. We give a similarly punchy summary of what we have seen the Ontario Government accomplish on accessibility over the past year.

We then provide several items for you to read and skim, and on which our Year-End Summary at times comments, below. These include:

* The November 27, 2014 statement by NDP MPP Cindy Forster in support of the 20th anniversary celebration of the birth of our grassroots Ontario accessibility movement. Hers is, to our knowledge, the only such statement by any of the political parties now in the Legislature.

* An article from the November 30, 2014 Toronto Star on the efforts of one creative individual, Luke Anderson, to make Toronto accessible for people with disabilities like himself. That article illustrates so well how any individual, using creativity and drive, can make a big difference for us.

* Statistics Canadas December 3, 2014 Daily web posting, emphasizing statistics on the horrific unemployment rates facing Canadians with disabilities. It demonstrates why the Ontario Government must stop dithering on jobs for people with disabilities, and start taking prompt, concrete action. It also shows why Ontario desperately needs an Education Accessibility Standard. People with disabilities with a better education stand a much better chance of getting a job.

* Statements by all the parties in the Ontario Legislature on December 3, 2014, to mark the International Day for People with Disabilities; and

* a December 4, 2014 Ontario Government news release on a statement by Government Services Minister David Orazietti on disability accessibility.

We want to also let you know that we have posted on YouTube a captioned video of the news conference we held at the Queens Park Media Studio on November 28, 2014, right after our Queens Park celebration of the AODA movements 20th anniversary, available at

We wish one and all a happy and healthy, and hopefully accessible holiday season, and a great new year. We look forward to resuming action early in the new year. Our priority will be to build on our campaign to reach every member of the Ontario Legislature to get them to help us kick-start stalled Ontario Government action on its disability accessibility pledges and duties. We will have ideas on how you can help get involved.

Even while we are off-line, the Accessibility Clock ticks on. A disturbing 382 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. This revelation came from a Freedom of Information application last year. The Government still has not made public its promised detailed plan for the AODA’s effective enforcement. The Governments November 7, 2014 web posting on AODA enforcement includes little new. It does not constitute the promised detail AODA enforcement plan.

Two hundred and eighty-eight days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan “in short order.” Two hundred and five days have passed since Premier Wynne promised to establish a toll-free line for members of the public to alert the Government to accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in the community. None has been announced.

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11182013.asp

To read the Government’s February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in “short order” its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02202014.asp

To read the Governments May 14, 2014 election promise to establish a toll-free line to report disability accessibility barriers, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp

To read our analysis of the Governments paltry November 7, 2014 web posting on the AODAs enforcement, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11182014.asp

As well, 465 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 215 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!

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MORE DETAILS

1. Our Action this Year in Our Campaign for Accessibility 2014 In Review

We can be proud that again this year, mobilizing at the grassroots, we accomplished a great deal, waging our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

For example,

* Last winter, we provided resources to enable people with disabilities and their supporters to raise disability accessibility in the by-elections held on February 13, 2014. These by-elections were especially important as they were widely seen as a test-run for a general election, possibly to take place later the same year.

* In the winter and spring, we rallied people with disabilities and their organizations to take active part in the Independent Review of the AODA which the Government appointed former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran to conduct.

* With input from the disability community, we prepared and submitted a comprehensive 368-page brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. It is likely the most thorough compilation of the Governments action and inaction on disability accessibility since the AODA was enacted in 2005. It shows that the Government got off to a good start after it enacted the AODA in 2005. However, since the 2011 summer, the Government has ground down to a snails pace, making far too little progress, and taking too long to get anything done.

Our brief offers constructive, detailed recommendations on how the Government can fulfil its duties and promises under the AODA. If the Government uses it, it can get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

* With the possibility of a spring 2014 election looming, we prepared and submitted to the major Ontario political parties a good list of election commitments on disability accessibility that we asked each to make.

* When the Government called the June 12, 2014 election, we quickly sprang into action. We spearheaded a non-partisan campaign on disability accessibility issues throughout the election campaign. We got letters from the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives on disability accessibility. We held a novel virtual news conference to unveil these election pledges on accessibility. We secured media coverage during the election campaign, not an easy thing to do.

* During and after this election, we again campaigned for the removal and prevention of barriers that again impeded voters and candidates with disabilities in Ontario and municipal elections. We made public inexcusable accessibility barriers that impeded voters during the 2014 Ontario election.

* After the Ontario Liberal Party won re-election, we wrote each key cabinet minister, as well as Premier Wynne, to list the Governments disability accessibility promises and duties for which each is responsible. This let each know what they need to do, to do their part.

* We continued to campaign to get the Government to keep its broken promise to effectively enforce the AODA. We have gotten the Government to go from ignoring enforcement entirely vis a vis the private sector, to taking enforcement action, but to our dismay, only for a very small percentage of private sector organizations which the Government knows to be violating the AODA. When the Government quietly posted a statement on AODA enforcement on the web near years end, we quickly showed that it said little new.

* We continued to press the Government to start developing new accessibility standards, it has been dithering over which new accessibility standards to make next for over three years.

* This summer we revealed that the Government was planning a design for several subway stations on Torontos new Eglinton Crosstown subway line that included accessibility/safety concerns for certain people with disabilities, such as those with vision loss. AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky had to resort to a Freedom of Information application to get to the bottom of this. The Government initially threatened to charge him some $250 to answer this request. Once we revealed this fee to the public, the Government backed down, and agreed to waive this fee.

* We rallied people with disabilities and their supporters around Ontario to take part in the consultation which the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) held this spring on its proposals for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The Government is required to have every accessibility standard it enacts reviewed after it has been on the books for five years.

We prepared our own detailed brief to ASAC. We circulated a draft of this brief publicly for input before we finalized it and sent it to ASAC. It showed why the current Customer Service Accessibility Standard is far too weak to ensure accessible Customer Service for people with disabilities. We offered constructive recommendations on how that accessibility standard could and should be revised to strengthen it.

This fall, the Government made public ASACs final proposals for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. We made public our criticisms of it as seriously deficient. ASAC ignored most if not all of the ideas and recommendations that we presented in a brief that we spent a great deal of time preparing for ASAC earlier this year. We have called on the Government to implement the reforms to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard that we proposed to ASAC in that brief. We have also called on the Government to substantially fix its now-broken process for developing new accessibility standards and for reviewing existing ones.

* During the 2014 general election, Premier Wynne promised us in writing that she would direct her ministers and senior officials to keep the Governments disability accessibility promises and duties. On October 4, 2014 we revealed to the public that she had broken this promise. We showed that in her 100 pages of Mandate Letters to each minister, in which she set out each ministers priorities, she systematically left out many if not most of the Governments promises and duties on accessibility.

* This spring, we made public a new, comprehensive series of captioned video lectures on the history and accomplishments of the AODA movement. These lectures are now available to people interested in accessibility in Ontario and indeed, around the world. You can check out our comprehensive captioned lecture series on disability accessibility by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03272014.asp

* We continued to press the Government to make public a comprehensive plan for a strong disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. To this day, we have seen no such plan announced.

* Over the year, we again got great media coverage on our accessibility campaign. On several occasions, the media from around Ontario came to us with stories about barriers that people with disabilities still unfairly face around Ontario. We were given a chance to publicly comment on these, and to show how the Government is not keeping its promise to ensure that we are on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA requires.

* On November 28, 2014, we organized a highly successful event at Queens Park to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the birth of Ontarios grassroots, non-partisan disability accessibility legislation movement. Our movement began in that same building on November 29, 1994. It has accomplished so much in the two decades since then. At this event, we announced our new strategy to rebuild more meaningful support in the Ontario Legislature for reaching accessibility by 2025, by getting our supporters around Ontario to reach out to every MPP, one at a time.

2. What Has the Ontario Government Accomplished on Accessibility This Year?

The Government has made a number of speeches congratulating itself on its efforts on accessibility, and claiming to be a world leader on accessibility. Its statements in the Legislature, set out below, in connection with December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities, are good examples.

These statements are wildly disconnected from the reality facing people with disabilities around Ontario, and the actions on accessibility which the Government actually took this year.

To its credit, near the end of the year, the Government launched an advertising campaign on the duty of organizations to file accessibility reports by years end. This commendable action should have been undertaken years ago. The 2010 Independent Review of the AODA conducted by Charles Beer, recommended such action over three years ago.

Yet this year, the Government did not get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. It did not make meaningful progress on keeping its many unkept promises on disability accessibility. For example:

* The Government has still not announced the promised detailed plan for the AODAs effective enforcement.

* The Government has not announced the new toll-free line for the public to report accessibility barriers, which it promised in the 2014 election half a year ago.

* As noted above, the Government has still not decided which accessibility standards it will next develop. This has been on the Governments plate for well over three years.

* The Government did not enact a single accessibility standards this year.

* In the February 2013 Throne Speech, coming just after Kathleen Wynne became Ontarios new premier, the Government set as a priority promoting opportunities for employment for people with disabilities, particularly in the private sector. For the next year, the Government announced no action to act on this priority. In February, 2014 we made public the fact that rather than taking action, the Government merely planned to appoint an advisory council to give it ideas on what to do on this issue. The Government gave that council until the end of 2014 to come back with ideas.

This meant that the Government would do nothing concrete to help expand employment for people with disabilities in the meantime, as far as we can tell from any Government announcements. The information on unemployment facing people with disabilities, set out in the Statistics Canada report below, shows why speedy and decisive Government action on jobs for people with disabilities is long overdue.

At the November 28, 2014 Queens Park celebration of our accessibility movements 20th Anniversary, David Onley, former Ontario lieutenant Governor, and now Special Advisor on Accessibility to the Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, said that the unemployment rate facing people with disabilities in Canada is not only a national crisis Its a national shame. The Government needs to listen to the Special Advisor whom it is so proud to have appointed.

* The Government has not announced a major strategy to ensure that the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games leave behind a strong legacy of improved accessibility for people with disabilities in areas like tourism and hospitality services. All the Government announced in the Legislature in Question Period on December 3, 2014, (set out below) are plans to ensure that the sites where the Games take place will be accessible. This is of little use if tourists with disabilities and athletes with disabilities cannot find accessible transit to the Games sites, and cannot find accessible places to eat in the community, when not at the Games. Toronto is headed for a global embarrassment next year if this is not addressed now.

* The Government has not yet substantively answered any of the important letters we have sent to it over the past six months, in which we offer ideas, and seek information and concrete action.

On May 2, 2014, we wrote the previous minister responsible for the AODA, Eric Hoskins, for specific updates on actions on accessibility taken to date. Neither he nor his successor have yet sent a substantive answer.

Over the summer, we wrote the Premier and all key ministers listing detailed actions that they need to take to fulfil the Governments promises and duties on accessibility. None have answered us.

As noted earlier, the Premiers September 25, 2014 Mandate Letters to each cabinet minister, setting out their priorities, systematically leave out many if not most of the Governments disability accessibility pledges and obligations.

What does this all lead to? Even when the Government makes speeches in the Legislature on accessibility, as it did on December 3, 2014, it often speaks of the extremely modest goal of improving accessibility. This is far more trivial than the mandatory requirement of ensuring that Ontario becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025 a requirement that the Government proudly enshrined in the law in 2005.

You can see two sharp contrasts. First, there is a huge gap between the Governments self-congratulatory claims about its work on accessibility and its actual record. Second, you can see a similarly large gap between the practical ideas we offer the Government on disability accessibility, and the Governments consequential inaction.

This does not deter us one bit. We are ready to work with the Government, and to commend it when it takes positive action. When it does not, we are ready to hold it accountable.

In the new year we will continue to unfold our new campaign to get people with disabilities and their supporters around Ontario to reach out to your local MPP. We will also turn attention to the leadership campaign now underway in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. We will do the same as we did two years ago when the Ontario Liberals held a leadership race.

We will ask each candidate for PC leadership to make strong commitments on disability accessibility. As a non-partisan coalition, we will not support or oppose any candidate.

According to a Government statement in the Legislature on December 3, 2014, the Government has already received the final report of Mayo Moran, who conducted an Independent Review of the AODAs implementation and enforcement. We urge the Government to make that report public now. On December 3, 2014, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid (who has lead responsibility for implementing and enforcing the AODA) said:

Provost Moran has just completed her review, and I now have her report. Id like to thank Provost Moran for her hard work. I look forward to reviewing her recommendations and tabling them in this Legislature at the earliest opportunity.

We also urge the Government to announce a comprehensive plan to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. The Government has the Moran Report, and can also benefit from our June 30, 2014 brief to the Moran Independent Review.

3. Statement from MPP Cindy Forster on the 20th anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA)

Posted at http://www.cindyforster.ca/statement-from-mpp-cindy-forster-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act-alliance-aoda-2/ November 27, 2014

Statement from Cindy Forster, MPP for Welland, on the anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA):

Today marks 20 long years since accessibility activist David Lepofsky and former NDP MPP Gary Malkowski sparked a struggle to ensure that Ontario becomes a fully accessible province.

While many landmarks events have taken place over these two decades, shamefully, since 2011, this government has virtually slowed progress down to crawl! This morning, AODA Chair David Lepofsky called their delays unacceptable and inexcusable dithering.

We now only have 10 years to achieve the goal of full accessibility by 2025. Premier Wynne has already broken her promise on timelines and enforcement. The AODA knows the Liberal government has the money because they discovered that $24-million went unspent by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

This government is failing at making standards, and failing further at enforcing them.

The AODA has more people lobbying today than 20 years ago. Technology makes this even easier. They plan to lobby MPPs one at a time because most of them werent even here 20 years ago.

I want to be leader at Queens Park in this fight for a fully accessible province.

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For information contact: Laurie Orrett 416-325-7106