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AODA Alliance Writes New Ontario Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles to List Priority Actions to Get Ontario Back on Schedule to Reach Full Accessibility by 2025, the Deadline that Ontario’s Accessibility Law Imposes

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

July 12, 2016

SUMMARY

On July 10, 2016, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s new Accessibility Minister, Tracy MacCharles. Tracy MacCharles is the fifth minister in the past five years to be assigned lead responsibility for the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Our detailed 10-page July 10, 2016 letter, set out below, acknowledges the advantages that Minister MacCharles brings to her new job, lists the challenges that face her, and offers concrete, constructive recommendations for actions that Ontario needs to take to get back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. That is the deadline that the AODA sets.

In our letter, we offer the Minister our help and support. We emphasize her great potential for getting Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. She can spend more ministerial time on this issue than did prior ministers. She begins this job with far more prior experience with the AODA. As well, what she needs to do is crystal clear.

Our letter describes the big challenges facing her. Ontario is not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. Less than eight and a half years remains before that deadline. Ontario does not now have in place a needed comprehensive plan to reach that deadline on time. AODA enforcement is too weak. AODA violations are rampant in the private sector. The development of needed new accessibility standards is behind schedule and needs to speed up. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has significantly disengaged itself from the prior good working relationship it earlier had with the AODA Alliance. There is an evident lessening in the Government’s enthusiasm for this issue in recent years.

Our letter shows that Ontarians need our new Accessibility Minister to show strong leadership on the accessibility issue. Our letter urges the Minister to:

  • Immediately ramp up AODA enforcement.
  • Get the required Health Care Standards Development Committee appointed now to start developing recommendations for a strong and effective Health Care Accessibility Standard, with no prior restraints on the health care accessibility barriers it can address.
  • Agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard to address the many barriers that confront 334,000 students with special education needs in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools and the other students with disabilities in Ontario’s post-secondary education institutions.
  • Effectively improve Ontario’s weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and reverse Premier Wynne’s recent breach of her promise never to weaken such accessibility standards.
  • Keep the Government’s promise to get a Standards Development Committee appointed to develop recommendations on accessibility standards needed to address barriers in the built environment in residential housing, and in existing buildings that are not undergoing major renovations.
  • Get the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to restore the robust relationship it had prior to the last three years with the AODA Alliance.
  • Develop an effective 8.5-year plan for Government action that will ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

We hope this new letter gives Minister MacCharles a good introduction and briefing on this important area for which she takes on lead responsibility within the Ontario Government. In recent years, we have written each of the successive ministers assigned to this task, immediately after they got the job, to highlight the most important things they need to do. A review of those letters shows that a good number of the issues we have presented to Minister MacCharles have cried out for ministerial leadership for several years.

On November 1, 2011, we wrote John Milloy after he took on responsibility for the AODA. On February 27, 2013, we wrote Eric Hoskins when he was assigned lead responsibility for the AODA. On August 14, 2014, we wrote Brad Duguid when he took on responsibility for the AODA.

Whether the recent appointment of Tracy MacCharles as Ontario’s first Accessibility Minister leads to a real improvement in the Wynne Government’s action on accessibility will depend on two things: First, whether Minister MacCharles acts on our recommendations in this letter, and second, whether Premier Wynne’s forthcoming Mandate Letter to Minister MacCharles gives her clear direction to act on these recommendations.

The Premier writes a Mandate Letter to each cabinet minister to give them their priorities. In the 2014 election, at our request, Premier Wynne’s May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance commendably promised that she would instruct her ministers to fulfil the Government’s duties and promises on accessibility. However, Premier Wynne’s September 25, 2014 Mandate Letter to the immediately previous minister with responsibility for the AODA, Brad Duguid, did not instruct him to set many of these issues, such as effective AODA enforcement, as priorities. This undoubtedly contributed to the lack of sufficient progress on accessibility over the past two years.

Premier Wynne was the first Ontario premier to ever make the Government’s Mandate Letters public. This was very commendable. We look forward to reviewing Premier Wynne’s Mandate Letter for Minister MacCharles when it is made public, to see which priorities the Premier sets for Minister MacCharles and her other cabinet ministers.

You can always send your feedback to us on any accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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 http://www.aodaalliance.org/2016

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.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

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org

MORE DETAILS

AODA Alliance’s July 10, 2016 Letter to Ontario’s New Accessibility Minister, Tracy MacCharles

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance http://www.aodaalliance.org

July 10, 2016

Via Email
Tracy.MacCharles@ontario.ca

To: The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Accessibility Office of the Minister Responsible for Accessibility
11th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor St.
Toronto, ON M7A 2C4

Dear Minister,

Re: Getting Ontario Back On Schedule for Full Accessibility by 2025

I write on behalf of the AODA Alliance, the non-partisan grassroots coalition that your Government has recognized for spearheading advocacy on disability accessibility in Ontario. We congratulate you on your appointment as Ontarios first Minister for Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

Of course, we need not introduce ourselves to you or your Government. You are very familiar with the AODA Alliance, and our leading role in advocating on accessibility in Ontario. Your Government has repeatedly recognized and commended us for our advocacy efforts. It has chosen letters to the AODA Alliance as the place for your Government to make its election promises on accessibility to us in every Ontario election since the AODA was enacted in 2005.

In this letter we offer our support and assistance to you in your new ministerial role. We bring you up to date on the Ontario Governments efforts on disability accessibility. We let you know about the challenges that face you as you take on this role. To help you succeed, we identify key priorities for you, from the perspective of those whom the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is meant to serve.

Great Potential in Your Appointment as Ontarios First Minister for Accessibility

Your appointment as Ontarios first Minister of Accessibility has great potential. There are several reasons why it could lead to a substantial improvement in the Governments actions on disability accessibility.

First, while you are not a fulltime accessibility Minister, you come the closest to being one since the AODAs implementation began in 2005. Two successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA, one conducted by Charles Beer in 2009 and one conducted by Mayo Moran in 2014, each recommended to your Government that a stand-alone fulltime Minister and Deputy Minister for Accessibility is needed in Ontario to give this issue the attention it deserves.

Since the second half of 2005, responsibility for the AODAs implementation and enforcement was successively assigned to the Community and Social Services Minister (2005-2013), then to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment (2013-2014), and then to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (2014-2016). Especially since 2011, these Ministers have had so many other issues on their plates that they did not give this issue as much attention as it needed. The same was the case for each successive deputy minister at those ministries.

You have ministerial responsibility for Accessibility and for Womens Issues. You and your ministers staff therefore can devote much more direct time and attention to this issue than could any of your predecessors since the AODA was passed. The same is the case for your deputy minister. We welcome and applaud this.

Second, you start in this portfolio with far more knowledge and experience on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) than did your predecessors. Your experience before running for office in 2011, as a non-partisan member and later as chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, gave you a great chance to see the strengths and the weaknesses in the Ontario Governments implementation and enforcement of the AODA.

In those roles, you sat across the table from the Cabinet Minister who was responsible for implementing and enforcing the AODA. You experienced the challenges in getting Government to listen, and to act with boldness and decisiveness.

Now you are in the Minister’s chair. You have the power to make the decisions, on which you previously could only give advice (which no minister had to follow). What an extraordinary and exciting opportunity! You can leave a real and positive legacy for Ontarians.

Third, from our perspective, the road ahead towards full accessibility is a clear one. What needs to be done, as we describe below, is readily apparent. It derives from the content of the AODA itself and from the specific promises that your Government has made to Ontarians with disabilities.

The path for you to follow is further illuminated by key recommendations of the two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews, the 2010 Charles Beer Report and the 2014 Mayo Moran Report. We encourage you to look at the AODA Alliance’s analysis of the Charles Beer Report, at our analyses of the key recommendations in the Mayo Moran Report with which we agree, and at our analysis of the few less central recommendations in the Mayo Moran Report with which we don’t agree.

We also commend to you the AODA Alliance’s detailed June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. It provides a carefully-researched and documented review of the Government’s efforts at implementing the AODA since it was enacted in 2005, measured against the Government’s duties under the AODA and the promises that the Government made to Ontarians with disabilities. That brief offers detailed recommendations for needed improvements. We were delighted that the Mayo Moran Report drew heavily on our brief’s analysis and recommendations.

The Major Challenges Facing You as You Take on Your New Portfolio

You take on this new portfolio at a time when Ontarians need strong new Government leadership on accessibility for people with disabilities. We summarize key challenges that face you and all Ontarians.

a) Ontario is Not on Schedule for Full Accessibility by 2025

Ontario is not on schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025, the deadline the AODA requires. To the contrary, the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review showed that Ontario was not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. It called for the Ontario Government and Ontario’s Premier to show new leadership on this issue, and to revitalize the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, in order to get Ontario on schedule for reaching that deadline.

Your immediate predecessor, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, commendably acknowledged to the Canadian Press one year ago, on June 3, 2015, that efforts on this issue had been flagging in recent years. He acknowledged a need for those efforts to be reinvigorated.

b) Ontario Needs a Comprehensive Plan for the Government to Lead Us to Full Accessibility by 2025

The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review identified the need for the Government to create a multi-year plan designed to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025. Over a year ago, on June 3, 2015, the Government announced a strategy entitled “The Path to 2025: Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan” That title made it sound like it was a multi-year plan designed to get Ontario all the way to full accessibility by 2025.

However, it unfortunately was not a 10-year plan. Economic Development Minister Duguid, who led the creation of this plan, candidly told the Canadian Press on June 3, 2015, that it was more like a 12 month plan. Those 12 months now having expired, you take on this leadership role, with no plan in place to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

c) AODA Enforcement is Too Weak

The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review showed a pressing need for the AODA’s enforcement to be beefed up. You take on the role of the AODA’s Enforcer-in-Chief at a time after your predecessor responded to the Moran Report, and to the need for increased AODA enforcement, by cutting AODA audits by over one third, rather than expanding AODA enforcement.

This enforcement cutback was not due to budget problems. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has had unused budget on hand every year for expanding AODA enforcement. Your predecessor imposed this enforcement cutback despite the fact that the Government has known for over three years about rampant AODA violations among private sector organizations with at least 20 employees.

In response to public criticism of the Government’s February 2015 AODA enforcement cutback, the Government commendably announced on June 3, 2015 that it would double the number of AODA audits, with the gradual increase in their numbers to begin in 2016. Yet since then, we have seen no such enforcement increase. The Government has not answered our inquiries about it. When we had to resort to a Freedom of Information application to get this information (among other information requests), our unfunded, asset-less coalition was met with the unfair fee of $4,250 for this and related information. The Economic Development Ministry refused to waive that fee. Regrettably, I am having to appeal that unfair refusal to waive this fee. Regrettably, the Economic Development Ministry was not keeping Premier Wynne’s promise to make hers the most open and transparent government in Canada.

Public knowledge that the Ontario Government is not effectively enforcing the AODA is too common. We have heard talk of it not only here, but even among accessibility experts in the United States. This slows down progress towards full accessibility. It counterproductively signals to obligated organizations that they need not worry about any real consequences if they don’t comply with the AODA. The rampant and persistent violations of the AODA over the past three years in the private sector, known to the Government, is proof positive of this.

The approach of the last minister was to take the position that rather than strengthening AODA enforcement, he would try as a priority to educate obligated organizations on their AODA obligations, and on the benefits that accrue to an organization by becoming disability-accessible. That approach to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility has been proven to be clearly insufficient.

Indeed, on the day the AODA passed Third Reading in the Ontario Legislature, your Government recognized that effective enforcement is key to the AODA’s success. At a May 10, 2005 Queen’s Park news conference, Citizenship Minister Marie Bountrogianni, the AODA’s author, said this on the Government’s behalf, referring to the previous Conservative Governments weak and unenforceable disability law:

They will be given of course chances to remedy their situation. It’s not about punishment. It’s about doing the right thing. However if they do not comply, there is a fine — fifty thousand dollars for individuals and a hundred thousand dollars for corporations. So we’re serious. That was missing in the previous act. That was one of the things that was missing in the previous act. And without that enforcement compliance, when you just leave it to the good will of the people, it doesn’t always get done. And so we know that we know that from the psychology of human nature. We know that from past research in other areas, like the environment, like seatbelts, like smoking. And so we acted on the research in those areas.

We know from Government records that when the Government actually deploys its enforcement powers, it can get a good rate of improved compliance among the obligated organizations at which those enforcement efforts are targeted. Moreover, the Government has had over a decade to try the approach of simply educating obligated organizations. It has told us about its conducting or funding a great number of workshops, sending obligated organizations tens of thousands of letters and reminders, and funding a great number of Enabling Change projects for this purpose. Yet massive AODA non-compliance has persisted.

With less than 8 and a half years left for the Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility, there is no more time to wait for ramped-up enforcement, while the Government says it first wants to effectively educate organizations on their AODA obligations and on the benefits of becoming accessible. The persisting weak AODA enforcement serves to undermine and counteract benefits of any Government efforts to inspire obligated organizations to voluntarily comply. In other areas of the law, such as public health and safety or the environment, Government does not hold off on promised effective enforcement for years, while it first tries to get obligated organizations to understand why it is good to obey the law. Put another way, the most effective way at this point to educate obligated organizations is through effective AODA enforcement.

d) The Development of New Accessibility Standards Has Been too Slow

You will also face the challenge that the Government has fallen far behind on fulfilling its core duty under the AODA to develop and enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. Section 7 of the AODA provides:

“7. The Minister is responsible for establishing and overseeing a process to develop and implement all accessibility standards necessary to achieving the purposes of this Act.”

The Government commendably got a good start on developing needed accessibility standards from 2005 to 2011. The original accessibility standards enacted over those years were a helpful start. However, they are limited in scope. Even if all obligated organizations fully comply with all of them on time, those accessibility standards will not ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025, or indeed, at any time in the future. The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review identifies several deficiencies with the accessibility standards.

Over the past five years, the Government’s work on developing new accessibility standards has proceeded, at best, at a snail’s pace. For example, we have pressed the Government for over five years to develop the next accessibility standards in the areas of health care, education and residential housing.

In 2009, the Government promised that once the first phase of the Built Environment Accessibility Standard was completed, it would address accessibility barriers in existing buildings and in residential housing through the standards development process. Yet it has done nothing to keep this commitment since it amended the Building Code more than two years ago.

The Government has still not decided whether to create an Education Accessibility Standard, after having had over five years to think about it. Widespread accessibility barriers in Ontario’s school system continue to confront 334,000 students with special education needs in publicly-funded schools, and other students in post-secondary educational institutions.

The Government commendably committed almost one and a half years ago, on February 13, 2015, to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard. However, in the intervening 17 months, it has still not taken the next preliminary step of appointing a Health Care Standards Development Committee.

The Government has substantially delayed taking that first mandatory step in the AODA’s process for developing this accessibility standard. Instead the Government has taken over two years to conduct a redundant internal review of accessibility barriers in the health care system. Last week the Government compounded that delay by announcing another redundant two-month “pre-consultation” on health care accessibility barriers. This all puts Ontario even further behind schedule.

Once a Standards Development Committee is appointed, it takes years to develop a new accessibility standard. With less than eight and a half years left before 2025, the Government must, in this term in office, ensure that all accessibility standards are developed and enacted that will bring Ontario to full accessibility by 2025. That means that the Government must promptly identify all the accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that Ontario reaches that goal on time. The current accessibility standards plus the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard, and, if created, an Education Accessibility Standard and a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard, are not enough to ensure that Ontario will reach that mandatory goal.

e) The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario Has Significantly Disengaged Itself from the AODA Alliance

Another challenge facing you is the fact that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has significantly disengaged itself from the AODA Alliance in the past three years. Before the past three years, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario regularly reached out to us for formal and informal discussions. At times we had weekly contact with the Directorate. We commendably were given early “heads up” on upcoming initiatives, and were often consulted well in advance. We did not need to resort to Freedom of Information applications. We were typically consulted in a full and effective way, long before major decisions were made affecting Ontarians with disabilities. This worked to our mutual benefit.

Over the last three years, this constructive relationship has substantially dried up. In recent months, we have a times not even been notified of major announcements on the AODA. Sometimes we receive blast emails from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. On other occasions, we only indirectly learn of new Government announcements after the fact, via the grapevine or through Google searches. For the most part, and with only a few exceptions, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has only reached out to us during this period when it is conducting formal structured consultation processes. This too often seems to have occurred after the Government had largely if not totally decided on its direction. This is not consistent with Premier Wynne’s commitment in her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out your Government’s 2014 election pledges on disability accessibility, as follows:

“Our government regards our current relationship with you as one of great importance and sees our partnership as a step towards fostering a more accessible and inclusive province. The Ontario Liberal Party will continue to safeguard the interests of Ontarians with disabilities and ultimately achieve our goal of full accessibility by the year 2025. We see the AODA Alliance as a principal partner in achieving this goal.”

We do not know why this change has occurred. We have no reason to believe that it was the result of any political direction. It was certainly not at our request or on our initiative.

f) Evident Reduced Visible Government Enthusiasm About Achieving the AODA’s Goals on Time

A final challenge as you take on this important portfolio is the fact that the Government’s visible enthusiasm for this issue has appeared to wane in recent years. Many of the MPPs who fought alongside us for years during the decade-long campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA passed, have now left provincial politics. Many of their successors have not displayed the same collective enthusiasm and sense of mission for this issue that culminated in the amazing day in May 2005 when the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the AODA, and rose in non-partisan unison to applaud its passage.

The 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in effect recognized the problem of reduced Government enthusiasm for and leadership on accessibility. Since those reports, this problem was most recently demonstrated when the Government broke Premier Wynne’s December 3, 2012 written pledge (made when she was running for the Ontario Liberal Party’s leadership) to never weaken or reduce any accessibility provisions or protections that we had won in or under the AODA.

In direct violation of that important promise, one month ago, the Wynne Government amended the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, significantly weakening one of its core provisions. The Customer Service Accessibility Standards central requirement is that public and private sector organizations that provide customer service to the public, must establish a policy on ensuring accessibility of their Customer Service to people with disabilities, and must train their staff on this policy. Until now, any private sector organization with at least 20 employees had to make sure it had that accessible Customer Service policy in writing, had to make it available to the public on request and had to keep a record of its employee training.

One month ago, acting contrary to our strong advice, the Government gutted that requirement for the huge number of private sector organizations, over 30,000, with 20-49 employees. They no longer need to have the policy in writing, no longer need to provide it in writing to the public on request and no longer need to keep records of its employee training on it.

This amendment will make this accessibility standard’s core requirement very hard if not impossible to effectively enforce, in the case of the great number of private sector organizations with 20-49 employees. It will make it very hard for customers with disabilities to easily learn about and benefit from those organizations’ required customer service policies.

The Governments main way of enforcing, in the very small percentage of cases where it has done any enforcement, has been by auditing an organizations paper records. Yet if a private sector organization with 20-49 employees no longer needs to keep any paper records, there is nothing for the Government to audit.

In the past three years, the Government’s focus seems more on staging “good news events” and making expansive statements, rather than on making substantial progress on accessibility. The minister responsible for this legislation from 2013-2014, Dr. Eric Hoskins, repeatedly said that accessibility was a “top priority” for the Government. The minister responsible for this legislation from 2014 to 2016, Brad Duguid, said Ontario is a “global leader” on accessibility. The Government’s actions do not correspond with those statements.

The Road Ahead We Need Your Strong Leadership

To help you capitalize on the helpful advantages you bring to this portfolio, and to help you tackle the real challenges that you face, we offer these constructive recommendations. We do not list them in order of importance. Each is important. We also extend our hand to you, as we are eager to work with you to implement these important actions.

1. Immediately ramp Up AODA enforcement, including, for example:

a) Now at least double the number of obligated organizations to be audited for AODA compliance, based on the base number of organizations annually audited before Minister Duguid’s February 2015 cuts to AODA audit.

b) Conduct on-site audits of actual accessibility practices, rather than the current practice of off-site paper audits of an obligated organization’s records regarding AODA compliance. Ontarians need to know if obligated organizations are actually becoming accessible, not just if they produce required paper trails (which may or may not be accurate).

c) Deputize a wide range of inspectors under other legislation to also be AODA inspectors, so that AODA compliance is included when they inspect obligated organizations under other legislation, such as inspectors under labour, health and safety or environmental legislation. The Government did a trial with this idea, based on our recommendation, but has refused to disclose any results unless we pay $4,250 (the fee for this and other information).

d) Keep Premier Wynne’s 2014 election promise, set out in her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, to widely publicize the Government’s toll-free number for the public to report AODA violations, in connection with AODA enforcement. The Government has not, to our knowledge, made any significant effort to publicize this toll-free number. Again, the Government has refused to disclose its plans and actions for publicizing this, unless we pay $4,250.

e) Implement the Mayo Moran report recommendations to make public on a quarterly basis key information on the Government’s AODA enforcement.

f) Engage in much more visible AODA enforcement, so obligated organizations get the clear message that there are real and significant consequences for non-compliance.

2. Get the required Health Care Standards Development Committee appointed now to start developing recommendations for a strong and effective Health Care Accessibility Standard. Do not impose any prior restrictions on the range of accessibility barriers in the health care system that this Standards Development Committee can consider and on which it can make recommendations.

3. Agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard to address the many barriers that confront 334,000 students with special education needs in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools and other students in Ontario’s post-secondary education institutions. As long as people with disabilities continue to face so many barriers in Ontario’s education system, Ontarians with disabilities will continue to face high employment rates that are much greater than the national average for the public.

4. Effectively improve Ontario’s weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, by:

a) reversing the previous minister’s breach of Premier Wynne’s promise to never weaken any protections or provisions in the AODA or regulations enacted under it. For private sector obligated organizations with 20-49 employees, restore the requirement to document their customer service accessibility policies and training on them. In the wake of the recent Cabinet shuffle, the Wynne Government has shown itself willing to reverse earlier policy changes that were widely criticized. Here is a chance to do the same thing.

b) bringing together representatives from the disability sector and obligated organizations to produce a list of reforms to strengthen, not weaken, the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The AODA Alliance has been calling for this for over two years. We have offered a list of constructive, high-impact, low-cost reforms as a basis for discussion. The Government has not taken up our proposal to date to bring together stakeholders to discuss this.

5. Get a Standards Development Committee appointed to develop recommendations on accessibility standards needed to address barriers in the built environment in residential housing, and in existing buildings that are not undergoing major renovations, as the Government promised back in 2009.

6. Get the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to restore the robust relationship it had prior to the most recent three years with the AODA Alliance. As part of this, please ensure that the AODA Alliance is always given timely notice of Government announcements on accessibility issues.

7. Develop an effective 8.5-year plan for Government action that will ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025, the AODA’s deadline. This should include, among other things, a plan for fulfilling the Government’s duty to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches that goal on time. This plan should set out time lines for identifying and developing all the other accessibility standards that will need to be developed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

8. Ensure that you, as Accessibility Minister, and your deputy Minister, capitalize on your expanded ministerial and deputy ministerial roles, by allocating a substantial majority of your time to work on the accessibility issue.

Concluding Thoughts

You take on this role at a pivotal time. In the next two years leading up to the 2018 Ontario election, either of two things will happen: Either the Government will take positive action that can ensure that Ontario gets back on schedule for full accessibility, or the Government will by insufficient action make it increasingly difficult for Ontario to reach that goal on time.

We welcome the opportunity to work with you to make your tenure in this new role a success, and to help you ensure that Premier Wynne keeps her December 3,2012 promise to Ontarians with disabilities, made when she ran for Ontario Liberal Party leadership, that she would ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc:
Premier Kathleen Wynne, email premier@ontario.ca
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, Email marie-lison.fougere@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, email ann.hoy@ontario.ca Steve Orsini, Secretary to Cabinet, Email Steve.Orsini@ontario.ca