Year-End Report on Efforts in 2017 of Ontario’s Grassroots Non-Partisan Accessibility Campaign
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @aodaalliance
December 8, 2017
1. Today the Wynne Government Finally Announced the Chairs of the Promised Education Standards Development Committee
In a news release today, set out near the end of this Update, the Wynne Government today finally started to announce the appointment of the promised Education Standards Development Committee. We have led the campaign for months to get this to happen, and are happy to at last see some action.
Today, the Wynne Government announced the appointment of the chairs for two Standards Development Committees. One will develop recommendations for the content of an AODA accessibility standard to remove and prevent accessibility barriers in education from kindergarten to Grade 12. The other will make recommendations for the content of an AODA accessibility standard to remove and prevent accessibility barriers in post-secondary education.
Lynn Ziraldo was selected as Chair of the K-12 Standard Development Committee. Tina Doyle was selected as Chair of the Postsecondary Education Standard Development Committee. We await the announcement of the rest of these committees’ membership.
The Wynne Government announced that these Standards Development Committees are expected to start to meet in early 2018. On the one hand, it is great that this work is getting started. On the other hand, it is a true disservice to over one third of a million Ontarians with disabilities that the Wynne Government took a full year to just reach this step. We thank everyone who helped up keep up the pressure on this issue over the past year.
2. Year-End Report of AODA Alliance Activities
Below is the AODA Alliance’s Year-End Report on our activities over 2017. It highlights some of the major efforts we have made, and looks forward to some priorities facing us in 2018.
From everything we recount in this year-end report, the message to all political parties is clear: As they prepare for the June 7, 2018 Ontario general election, and when they head out on the campaign trail, voters with disabilities will be everywhere. Families of Ontario’s students with disabilities, numbering at least one-third of a million, will be everywhere. Their disabilities in some cases are not visible, but their need for much more provincial action on accessibility for people with disabilities is overwhelming.
This is our last AODA Alliance Update for 2017. As we take a break until the new year from these Updates, from Twitter and from email, we invite all our supporters to reflect with pride on the efforts we have mounted together over the past year, in order to get Ontario on schedule for reaching full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025.
We thank everyone who generously donated their time and effort to help us take all the action listed in this year-end report, and the other efforts that may inadvertently have been left out of this list. Our efforts and our accomplishments are the result of, and a credit to, everyone who has helped out in their own way, whether they have banded together with others or just done what they can on their own.
From now until early 2018, the AODA Alliance Update service and social media campaign is officially on holiday. Emails, tweets and the like will wait until early 2018 to be answered. We wish everyone a healthy and safe holiday season and a fully accessible 2018.
We always welcome your feedback. Feedback on our year-end report is, of course, no exception! Write us at email@example.com
As always, this Update ends with links to key background information, including instructions on how to subscribe to or unsubscribe from these Updates, and how to send us feedback.
2017 Year-End Report to All AODA Alliance Supporters
Here is a break-down of some of the major efforts of our volunteer coalition. Our efforts and our successes are the result of all the many people and organizations who are part of Ontario’s non-partisan grassroots campaign for accessibility for all people with disabilities in Ontario. We are everywhere!
1. Disability Barriers in Transportation Services
Ontarians with disabilities continue to report serious disability barriers in transportation in Ontario. Two years ago, the Wynne Government appointed a Transportation Accessibility Standard to review the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, and to make recommendations on improvements needed to ensure that transportation becomes fully accessible in Ontario by 2025. The AODA requires a review of each AODA accessibility standard every five years.
In May 2017, the Transportation Accessibility Standard made public its draft recommendations for public comment. This was the first time that the Transportation Accessibility Standard sought general input from the disability community, including from the AODA Alliance.
The AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre again teamed up to prepare and submit a joint 106-page brief, this time, to the Transportation Standards Development committee. Drawing on input from our supporters, we identified serious deficiencies in the Transportation Accessibility Standard’s draft recommendations. We made 59 recommendations to strengthen them.
On November 15, 2017, the AODA Alliance and ARCH made a joint in-person presentation to the Transportation Standards Development Committee. That Committee did not ask a single question for us on our 59 detailed proposals and the 106-page detailed research and analysis that underpins them.
2. Disability Barriers in the Built Environment
The Ontario Government now has no plan in place that will ensure that the built environment in Ontario becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Both the Ontario Building Code and accessibility standards under the AODA are woefully inadequate. A new building can fully comply with the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards, and yet be full of accessibility barriers.
We again called on the Ontario Government/ to launch a new strategy to tackle this issue. So far, the Government has announced nothing new. To ramp up the pressure on this issue, our efforts this year included:
* On October 29, 2017, the 19th anniversary of a major resolution on accessibility legislation in Ontario, we released a new online video that shows serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre. That video has gone viral on the internet. It has garnered thousands of views. It has secured great media coverage in the Toronto Star, on CITY TV and on Global.
* Earlier this year, we wrote the Wynne Government to raise significant accessibility concerns about its plans for the huge renovation of the Macdonald Block in Ontario, the heart of the Ontario Public service’s offices.
* We wrote the Attorney General of Ontario this fall to identify accessibility concerns regarding plans for a huge new courthouse in the heart of downtown Toronto.
* On the eve of December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities, we issued a news release, identifying serious accessibility problems with a major new building that York University is planning, using $125 million from the Ontario Government. In response, York University quickly reached out to us for our input. York sent a December 1, 2017 tweet on Twitter that states:
“York University: @DavidLepofsky Thanks for raising this. #YorkU plans to start construction by the end of 2018. @AODAalliance has a vitally important perspective we value. Together w @DiamondSchmitt & @tweetdesignable we are committed to an inclusive consultation process to support the final design.”
* On October 4, 2017, the AODA Alliance was invited to take part in a Queen’s Park news conference organized by the Older Women’s Network. That news conference called for new Ontario Government action to increase the supply of accessible residential housing. The AODA Alliance has pressed the Ontario Government for over half a decade to create an AODA accessibility standard on residential housing. Despite promising action in July 2009, the Ontario Government has done nothing under the AODA to keep that promise.
3. Disability Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Colleges and Universities
In Ontario, students with disabilities continue to face far too many disability barriers in all levels of Ontario’s education system. This contributes to the high unemployment rate that people with disabilities face.
Since before the 2011 Ontario election, the AODA Alliance has pressed the Ontario Government to agree to develop an AODA Education Accessibility Standard, to tear down those education accessibility barriers. We were delighted one year ago, on December 5, 2016, when, in response to a question in the legislature from Conservative MPP Bill Walker, Premier Wynne at last agreed to create an Education Accessibility Standard.
We have made a priority in 2017 to press the Government to get to work on developing the promised Education Accessibility Standard, by actions like these:
* Over the first half of 2017, we repeatedly pressed the Wynne Government to post an announcement that invites the public to apply to be appointed to the promised Education Standards Development Committee.
* At the end of May 2017, after a six-month delay, the Wynne Government finally announced that people could apply to be appointed to the Education Standards Development Committee. We widely publicized this announcement, and encouraged people to apply.
* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky applied to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee. He also serves in a voluntary role as chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board.
* In the 2017 summer, the Ontario Government commendably announced an online survey about disability barriers in Ontario’s education system. The AODA Alliance has widely publicized this survey. We also offered a series of tips on how to answer it. We tried without success to get the Ontario Government to fix serious problems with that survey. We showed that the Government’s online survey leaves out or downplays many if not most of the accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. The Government refused to fix it or to publicize the AODA Alliances tips for addressing it.
* We made public our guide for schools, colleges and universities to help them conduct public forums to gather information and input for the Ontario Government on the accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in educational organizations.
* We publicized the fact that Education Minister Mitzie Hunter told school boards that the Government intended to restrict the range of accessibility barriers that the promised forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee could consider. The AODA Alliance has campaigned since then to get the Government to agree not to try to hog-tie the Education Standards Development Committee. The Government has made no public announcement in response.
* We submitted our detailed response to the Wynne Government’s online survey of education accessibility barriers.
* Once the period wound up at the end of July 2017 for people to apply to be appointed to the Education Standards Development Committee, we repeatedly pressed the Wynne Government to appoint that committee. We wanted it to get right to work, to end these delays. For example, each day, we announced on Twitter the number of days that have passed since Premier Wynne promised to create an Education Accessibility Standard, with no Standards Development Committee that had yet appointed in education.
* On October 26, 2017, we were invited to take part in a Queen’s Park news conference that the Ontario Autism Action Coalition held. It pressed the Ontario Government for action to address the “crisis in special education” that that grassroots autism coalition had declared.
* This fall we released our analysis and critique of a seriously flawed decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on accessibility barriers in education in Ontario. The Waterloo District Catholic School Board improperly refused to let a student with autism bring his service dog to school. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario erroneously ruled in favour of the school board, and against the student.
* We continue to gather feedback from our supporters on the accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.
4. The Need for the Wynne Government to Keep Its Unkept Promise to Effectively Enforce the AODA
The Wynne Government continues to do a very inadequate job of enforcing the AODA, despite its promises that it would effectively enforce that legislation. The AODA Alliance continued this year to lead the campaign to get the Government to effectively enforce the AODA. For example:
* This year we again wrote the Wynne Government for information on its efforts and budget on enforcing the AODA, and levels of compliance.
* In the past, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has had to file Freedom of Information applications to force the Wynne Government to make public important information on what the Government is doing to enforce the AODA, and on levels of AODA non-compliance. On January 31, 2017, Chair David Lepofsky personally argued his appeal to the Information and Privacy Commission to challenge the steep $4,250 fee the Wynne Government tried to impose to get access to much of the information that he had requested on AODA implementation and enforcement. The Government claimed it was just trying to protect the public purse by demanding that fee, and by refusing to waive it. Yet at the appeal, the Wynne Government sent an armada of five lawyers and one law student to oppose David Lepofsky’s appeal. No doubt, that legal armada cost the public at least $4,250.
* On July 28, 2017, the Information and Privacy Commission rendered its ruling on David Lepofsky’s appeal. It ruled that the Wynne Government’s $4,250 fee was more than five times the fee that the Government could justify. It ordered the Government to divulge parts of the requested information at no charge. Those were the most important documents David Lepofsky had requested. The AODA Alliance has been carefully studying them, and will have more to say about them in the New Year.
* The Toronto Star blasted the Wynne Government in its August 6, 2017 editorial, because of the Government’s efforts to oppose David Lepofsky’s Freedom of Information application. Despite this, and despite an election next year, the Wynne Government stuck to its refusal to waive any part of its Freedom of Information fee. This is so despite the fact that the Wynne Government finally admitted, on the eve of David Lepofsky’s appeal, that it knows the AODA Alliance has no money to pay any fee.
* Both the opposition Ontario Conservatives and New Democrats issued public statements criticizing the Wynne Government for withholding the documents on AODA implementation and enforcement that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was seeking.
* The AODA Alliance continues to spearhead its successful “Picture Our Barriers” social media campaign, launched in 2016. Grassroots AODA Alliance supporters all around Ontario are tweeting pictures of accessibility barriers they face, using the hashtag “AODAfail”. The AODA Alliance has retweeted many of these #AODAFail tweets to each member of the Ontario Legislature who is on Twitter. MPPs have commented to us that these tweets show how many accessibility barriers are still out there.
5. Addressing the Chronic High Unemployment Facing People with Disabilities
The Wynne Government’s Special Advisor on accessibility, David Onley, has said that the unemployment rate facing Canadians with disabilities is not only a national crisis. It is a national shame. We agree.
In February 2013, the Wynne Government announced that employment for people with disabilities would be a priority. It took the Government more than four years to announce a strategy to address this in June 2017.
We have here again been in the lead in the effort to get the Wynne Government to take real and effective action to tackle the many employment barriers and the excessive unemployment facing people with disabilities. For example:
* We have offered time and again to give the Wynne Government input into its plans for action on employment for people with disabilities. We regret that the Wynne Government inexplicably did not take us up on that offer, until after it had announced its disability employment strategy in June 2017.
* Just before the Wynne Government announced its disability employment strategy in June 2017, the AODA Alliance made public key background information on this issue to help the public assess the Government’s forthcoming strategy.
* After the Wynne Government announced its disability employment strategy in June 2017, we released our critique of it, showing that it is very lofty and limited. We pointed out what more it needs to be effective.
* We got good media coverage of our concerns about the Government’s limited disability employment strategy.
* As noted above, we have also made education for students with disabilities a priority. This is because people with disabilities cannot get good jobs if they cannot get a good education.
6. Preparing for the Forthcoming National Accessibility Law that the Federal Government has promised
In the 2015 federal election, the federal Liberal Party promised to enact a Canadians with Disabilities Act to tackle accessibility barriers across Canada. The AODA Alliance has taken an active role in grassroots efforts on this issue. As a foundation for our efforts this year, last year AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky made public a Discussion Paper that he had written on what the promised national accessibility law should include. This drew on feedback from AODA Alliance supporters.
Our efforts in this area this year included:
* Presenting at a public consultation forum that the Federal Government held earlier this year on what the promised national accessibility law should include.
* In June 2017, releasing our analysis of the report which the Federal Government had made public on its findings that resulted from its national consultation on what to include in the national accessibility legislation.
* On August 22, 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky chaired a successful online conference of policy experts, on what the promised national accessibility law should include. This was organized under the auspices of the Alliance for an Accessible and Inclusive Canada.
7. Other Activities
There are so many other activities in which we have been involved this year. Examples of these include:
* On November 29, 2017, to Mark the 23rd anniversary of Ontario’s grassroots accessibility campaign, the AODA Alliance made public its new, improved and expanded online series of videos on disability accessibility topics. This supplements the earlier series of online video lectures that we made public in 2014, and which have generated positive feedback. These videos offer a great way for people to learn about the history, strategies and accomplishments of our grassroots movement. A number of people teaching courses have included parts of our initial 2014 video series. We hope the same will be true for our new and expanded video series.
* This year, town hall meetings on our accessibility campaign were organized for us in Kitchener-Waterloo, Georgina and Oshawa, to help us reach out and build even more grassroots support around the province.
* In the first half of this year, we wrote Accessibility minister Tracy MacCharles to offer her a list of constructive priorities for action on accessibility, and later to ask what the Government is doing about those priorities.
* We offered tips to raise accessibility issues in the June 1, 2017 Saulte Ste. Marie Ontario provincial by-election, as we have in many previous by-elections.
* Throughout the year, we have been called on by the media, when accessibility issues come to their attention. We are asked to comment or just to provide background. We are treated as an authoritative voice on this issue. Most of the time, this arises when the media come to us, on their own initiative, to comment on a story. Of course, we also have issued several news releases over the year, pointing to key braking developments in our accessibility campaign.
* We are always involved in extensive behind-the-scenes discussions with disability organizations and individual disability activists, exchanging ideas, brainstorming strategies, and planning future efforts. We also take part in behind-the-scenes exchanges with Government officials at different levels. We get hundreds of emails a week from around Ontario and elsewhere, on a wide range of accessibility topics, and try to answer when we can.
* Earlier in 2017, a grassroots movement was launched in New Zealand, the Access Alliance, to campaign for a national New Zealand Disabilities Act. That movement and its goals were all inspired by and modeled after the work of the AODA Alliance. In September 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky completed an 8-day speaking tour around New Zealand, on the invitation of the Blind Foundation of New Zealand. This came three weeks before the recent national New Zealand election. In that election, a new New Zealand Government was elected that has promised to enact a New Zealand Disabilities Act. AODA Alliance supporters actively tweeted from Canada to support the New Zealand #AccessMattersNZ campaign on Twitter.
* Last spring, the Nova Scotia Legislature passed Canada’s third provincial accessibility law. Ontario’s was the first in 2005. Manitoba’s was the second, in 2013. The grassroots Nova Scotia disability advocates pulled together in an impressive and successful effort to get the Nova Scotia bill strengthened over the weeks before it passed. They got input from the AODA Alliance to help with its strategizing.
8. A Look Ahead to 2018
2018 will be another important year for our accessibility efforts, in Ontario and nationally. Here are a few priority items that we know are looming ahead. Others, no doubt, will surprise us along the way.
* By February 13, 2018, the Wynne Government is required under the AODA to appoint the next Independent Review into the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We will be poised to offer our input and recommendations to that Independent Review. The first Independent Review, by Charles Beer, reported in 2010. The second AODA Independent Review, by Mayo Moran, reported in late 2014. The Government made the Moran report public on February 13, 2014.
* In the lead-up to the June 7, 2018 Ontario general election, we will ask the major parties for election commitments on accessibility, based on feedback from our supporters. During the election, we will publicize the parties’ platforms on this issue. We will also again focus attention on the need for the election campaign and voting to be barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities. This will be the seventh Ontario general election in which we, or our predecessor coalition (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have done this. As always, we never endorse or oppose any party or candidate.
* We will continue to press for progress on the Wynne Government’s promise to create an Education Accessibility Standard.
* We will continue to press for new action to address the recurring accessibility barriers in the built environment in Ontario.
* we will work on preparing input and recommendations for three other Standards Development Committees : the Health Care Standards Development Committee (which is working on recommendations for the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard), the Employment Standards Development Committee (which is reviewing the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard) and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee (which is reviewing the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard).
* In the 2018 spring, the Federal Government will be introducing its promised national accessibility legislation into the Parliament of Canada for debate and a vote. We will be poised to analyze it, to offer amendments as needed, and to tell the public and the media about our reaction to it.
* In the 2018 fall will be the next municipal and school board trustee elections. We plan to offer action tips for raising accessibility issues in both elections. For example, we plan to publicize a “Special Education Pledge” that we will want all candidates for school board trustee to be prepared to make.
We again thank one and all for supporting and helping our accessibility campaign by reading and sharing our Updates, re-tweeting our tweets and sharing our Facebook posts, offering us your ideas and feedback, acting on our action tips, helping in any way you can, and just by your encouragement and solidarity with our efforts.
We wish one and all a very happy holiday season and a barrier-free new year!
9. December 8, 2017 News Release by Ontario Ministry of Accessibility
Ontario Making Education More Accessible for Students with Disabilities Chairs Appointed for Standards Development Committees
NEWS December 8, 2017
Ontario has selected two individuals that will help lead the creation of a new Education Accessibility Standard to remove accessibility barriers for students.
Lynn Ziraldo has been selected as Chair of the K-12 Standards Development Committee (SDC). Since 2016, Ms. Ziraldo has served as Strategic Advisor and Executive Director at the Learning Disabilities Association of York Region. She served as the Chair of the Minister of Educations Advisory Council for Special Education from 1996 to 2006, and in 2007 chaired the Ministers Autism Reference Group. Her lived experience as a parent of an adult with learning disabilities will provide valuable insight to the committee.
Tina Doyle has been selected as Chair of the Postsecondary Education SDC. Ms. Doyle is the Director of AccessAbility Services at University of Toronto Scarborough, and provides a unique perspective as a person with significant lived experience with disabilities. She is a former Chair of the Inter-University Disability Issues Association and a current participant on the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Developments Financial Aid Working Group.
Membership for both SDCs is currently being finalized, with first meetings expected early 2018.
Helping all students succeed is part of Ontarios plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.
– The government has consulted broadly across the education and disability sectors. Almost 3,000 responses were received to an online survey, providing valuable information about the barriers faced by students and helping to target priority areas for the SDCs to focus their immediate attention.
– More than 340,000 Ontario students from kindergarten to Grade 12 are receiving special education programs and services.
– More than 54,000 postsecondary students are identified as persons with disabilities.
– There are currently enforceable standards for accessible customer service; information and communications; transportation; the design of public spaces; and employment.
– Visit the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for information about legislative reviews, committees and councils. – Access Talent: Ontarios Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities
Education is a vital step on the road to meaningful employment. By identifying barriers faced by students with disabilities, we will be better able to ensure that Ontarians of all abilities have equal access to education.
Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Government and Consumer Services and Minister Responsible for Accessibility
All students should have the opportunity to study and succeed in colleges and universities. With the help of Tina Doyle, we can work to remove barriers to postsecondary education for students living with disabilities and build a system that better serves everyone. She possesses the right kind of professional expertise and personal experience that will help her lead this committee.
Deb Matthews, Deputy Premier, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Digital Government
The Ontario government is committed to supporting all students in achieving their full potential. We know that Lynn Ziraldo shares that same deep commitment. Her expertise within the special education sector spans over 30 years and we look forward to her leadership on the Education Standards Development Committee. The important work of this committee will bring us one step closer to achieving equity for all elementary and high school students across the province. Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education
K-12 represents a critical stage of educational development for children and youth in Ontario. In my experience working with students with learning disabilities and autism, I have seen the direct impact fair and accessible learning has on children. I look forward to joining fellow experts in our field to identify opportunities for improving accessibility from kindergarten to high school graduation. Lynn Ziraldo, Chair of the K-12 Standards Development Committee
Choosing to pursue postsecondary education is a monumental step in the personal and professional development of students across the province. We know that postsecondary education directly impacts the ability to obtain and retain meaningful employment. Reducing and removing barriers that students with disabilities face will have invaluable benefits in their education, and as they join the workforce.
Tina Doyle, Chair of the Postsecondary Education Standards Development Committee
Andrew Lang, Ministers Office
Andreas Kyprianou, Communications Branch
Disponible en français
10. Key Background Resources and Links
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you taken part in our Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our Picture Our Barriers campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016
Check out our new and expanded collection of online videos about the history, strategies and accomplishments of Ontario’s non-partisan grassroots accessibility campaign, available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11292017.asp
To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: email@example.com
We encourage you to use the Governments toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.
Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.
Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliances YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance
Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/
Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance
Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org