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How the Ontario Government Should Mark the 10th Anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Watch AMI-TV’s “Canada in Perspective” on Sunday, May 31, 2015, or Afterward Online, Addressing Barriers to Accessible Public Transit May 29, 2015

SUMMARY

Below you will find helpful news on:

1. what we urge the Ontario Government to do as it conducts its celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

2. what we urge the Ontario Government to do as a last-ditch blitz to increase the accessibility of stores, restaurants and other tourism/hospitality services in time for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games.

3. the Sunday, May 31, 2015 season premiere of AMI TV’s “Canada in Perspective” show, featuring a program on accessibility and public transit. Watch at 6:30 pm, or a week later and afterward online, where you can see an exchange between AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky and a representative of the Toronto Transit Commission.

4. encouragement for you to subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel. It’s free!

The Ontario Government only has 9 years, 8 months and 2 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

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MORE DETAILS

1. National Access Awareness Week May 31 to June 6, 2015 and the Ontario Government’s Celebrations of the AODA’s 10th Anniversary

The Wynne Government is now holding events to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The AODA Alliance has no role in the Government’s planning for or conduct of those events, and has not been invited to have any role.

The AODA requires Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires the Ontario Government to lead this province to that mandatory goal, by enacting and effectively enforcing all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible by 2025.

The AODA alliance is the successor coalition to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. From 1994 to 2005, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee conducted a grassroots non-partisan campaign across Ontario to get the Legislature to pass a strong, enforced accessibility law. The enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005 was the result of the ODA Committee’s campaign.

After the AODA was enacted in 2005, the ODA Committee disbanded. The AODA Alliance was immediately formed to step into the ODA Committee’s shoes.

Ten years after the AODA was passed, we believe that the Legislature should be commended for passing it. However, it is not good enough to rest on past victories. It is as important to remind ourselves that Ontario is now not on schedule to achieve full accessibility by 2025. The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review confirms that after ten years of implementing the AODA, it has not made a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities. It has fallen well short of our needs and expectations. That is not something to ignore or downplay.

It is important for the AODA’s tenth anniversary not to become an exercise in Government self-congratulation and self-promotion. The Moran Report documented the huge frustration Ontarians with disabilities feel with the AODA’s slow rate of progress. We don’t want anyone alienated any further.

To make this 10th anniversary worthy of celebration, we need the Ontario Government to announce a comprehensive plan of action that will get Ontario back on schedule, and that will ensure that we reach full accessibility by 2025. Based on the recommendations of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, we made public on May 8, 2015 a list of actions that we call on the Government to announce. The Government should, for example:

1. Substantially expand the Government’s enforcement of the AODA. For example, the Government should at the very least, reverse the Government’s 2015 cuts to the annual number of organizations to be audited under the AODA. In 2013 and 2014, this was around 2,000 per year. In 2015, the Government cut this to 1,200.

2. Commit to develop new accessibility standards to address barriers in education and in residential housing, with completion dates to be set, and institute time lines for selecting all other accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. This should include, among other things, action on needed retrofits in existing buildings.

3. Commit to now bring together representatives from business, the public sector and the disability community to quickly give the Government a list of options to effectively strengthen the current Customer Service Accessibility Standard, in order to ensure that Customer Service becomes truly accessible.

4. Unveil a multi-year plan for substantially expanded effective public education on the AODA, including reaching the broader public, educating children in school, and key professionals and students training to become key professionals e.g. architects, planners, doctors, nurses, and lawyers.

5. Establish a comprehensive program to provide obligated organizations with information, practice directions, an advice hotline, and other resources so obligated organizations don’t each have to reinvent the wheel when trying to become accessible.

6. Announce a comprehensive and effective plan of specific new actions to effectively incorporate accessibility into the Ontario Public Service as an employer and service-provider. This should include a comprehensive barrier-review of the Public service, the designation of a new full-time deputy minister to be called the Ontario Government Chief Accessibility Officer, a plan for the Government to periodically audit its own front-line accessibility, and assigning each Ministry’s “Accessibility Lead” position to be a full time post in the office of their Ministry’s deputy minister.

7. Announce timing for an Omnibus Bill to be introduced in the Legislature, to address accessibility barriers in the first 50-55 Ontario statutes that the Government has reviewed for barriers over the past several years. As well, announce specific plans for reviewing all other Ontario statues and regulations for accessibility barriers, to be completed in the next three years, to be followed by another omnibus bill.

8. Announce an immediate consultation on accessibility barriers in provincial and municipal elections facing voters with disabilities, and a target date for introducing a Bill into the Legislature to fix these. New elections accessibility legislation should go into effect before the next provincial and municipal elections.

9. Announce a short term blitz for getting as many restaurants, stores, hotels, and other tourism/hospitality organizations as possible to improve their accessibility before the 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games begin.

10. Announce a comprehensive government-wide program for ensuring that no public money is ever used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers, and to ensure that recipients of any Government grant or loan must make added accessibility commitments as a condition of receiving that grant or loan.

We will measure any Government announcements against this list, and more broadly, against the contents of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. It is also important that the Government not do anything to weaken any AODA provisions, protections or programs or other accessibility initiatives. Premier Dalton McGuinty and Premier Kathleen Wynne have promised Ontarians with disabilities in writing not to cut back on or weaken any AODA provisions, protections or programs.

2. Countdown to the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games Continues But Still No Ontario Government Action Plan to Significantly Increase the Accessibility of Tourism/Hospitality Services, Like Restaurants and Stores

There are only 42 days left before the start of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. The Ontario Government expects a quarter of a million people to converge on southern Ontario for this event, including some 1,600 para-athletes. We have repeatedly pressed the Wynne Government to take action to improve the accessibility of tourism/hospitality services in the environs of the 2015 Games. Tourists and athletes with disabilities, who venture outside the bubble of the stadiums and the athletes housing, should have a good range of options when trying to find a restaurant where they can eat, stores where they can shop, accessible public transit or taxis to get around, or even something as basic as a place to use the washroom.

Had the Wynne Government actively reached out to work with local businesses starting back in August 2013, as we had urged, there could have been real progress in this area to make Ontarians proud. It inexplicably has failed to do so.

Yet the Government continues to claim it is a global leader on accessibility. its inaction on creating a strong legacy of improved accessibility of tourism and hospitality services, outside the bubble of the 2015 Games’ stadiums and athletes’ housing, is not what a global leader on accessibility would do.

It is not too late for the Government to launch a last minute blitz. It has claimed to be at least $50 million under budget for the Games. Thus, it has far more money than it needs for this. There are great local organizations like Toronto’s “Stop Gap” organization which can help local businesses rapidly install low-cost ramps to a front entrance that has a step or a few steps. Braille and large print menus can be created quickly and at very low cost for restaurants. TTC could for once ensure that all elevators and escalators reliably work.

In the U.S., there are two national blindness advocacy organizations, the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind. Each has a national convention in July, in different cities in the U.S. Anyone going to one of their conventions is struck at the great job each organization does at getting restaurants in and near the convention hotel to have Braille and large print menus, and to have staff that know how to assist blind patrons, including those using a guide dog.

The Ontario Government should be able to deploy a blitz like this in the area near sites for the Toronto 2015 Games, addressing the needs of a wide range of disabilities. The Ontario Government could also help by pressing municipal governments, like the City of Toronto, not to deploy its by-law enforcement officials to oppose businesses that do the right thing by installing a ramp to their front door.

National Access Awareness Week and the AODA’s 10th anniversary together amplify the fact that we need more Government action, and we need it right now.

3. Barriers to Accessible Public Transit Featured on AMI-TV’s “Canada in Perspective’s Season Debut Show Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 6:30 pm

On Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 6:30 PM, AMI-TV launches its new season of “Canada in Perspective,” with a program focusing on barriers to public transportation facing people with disabilities. This program will include, among others, an interview with both AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky and a representative of the Toronto Transit Commission.

You can tune in to AMI-TV on your local cable service. You will also be able to catch Canada in Perspective online, a week after the air date, at http://www.ami.ca/AMI-tv/Pages/Canada-in-Perspective.aspx

4. Subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s Youtube Channel

We encourage you to subscribe to the AODA Alliance Youtube channel. Just go to Youtube’s website www.youtube.com and do a search for the AODA Alliance channel. There you can find a growing compilation of captioned videos and audio recordings of important events and news items regarding our non-partisan campaign for a fully-accessible Ontario. If you subscribe, you can get an automatic email alert whenever we post a new item on that channel. It costs nothing to subscribe.

For example, check out a recent CITY TV news story on accessibility barriers in new elevators, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seVI3qrR1DU&feature=em-upload_owner

Also you can watch a recent CBC TV story on problems with the accessibility of TTC subways in Toronto by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_dOkOhtyxQ

Would you like to learn all about Ontario’s grassroots accessibility campaign for people with disabilities? Also on Youtube, but not actually on our AODA Alliance channel, is a series of 12 lectures on the history, strategies and accomplishments of Ontario’s grassroots accessibility movement, presented in the 2014 winter by AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky at the Osgoode Hall Law School. For links to this lecture series, and supporting documents that will help you explore this saga, visit http://www.archdisabilitylaw.ca/node/845

We have gotten great feedback on this lecture series from across Canada and other parts of the world.

On Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 6:30 PM, AMI-TV launches its new season of “Canada in Perspective”, with a program focusing on barriers to public transportation facing people with disabilities. This program will include, among others, an interview with both AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky and a representative of the Toronto Transit Commission.

You can tune in to AMI-TV on your local cable service. You will also be able to catch Canada in Perspective online, a week after the air date, at http://www.ami.ca/AMI-tv/Pages/Canada-in-Perspective.aspx