New Information On AODA Compliance!

By Victor Schwartzman
October 8, 2014

For well over one year your diligent correspondent has written AODA articles. The articles have been based on events which have and have not happened. Mostly, it’s the have not happened part. That is why you have read (or avoided) these columns containing debates between Pollyanna and Franz Kafka because this journalist has been waiting for NEWS!! There has been no news about AODA enforcement, so he has had to make things up!

This is not totally the idle concern of a desperate writer. Enforcement of a law depends on citizens knowing the Government is enforcing it.

After writing what feels like countless columns, and the exhausting extensive research they require (and which I would certainly do if I were paid anything), there always appeared to be no AODA enforcement news. But wait! A recent Accessibility News post DID contain information WILDLY new!

The post was about the first decisions made on appeals of administrative fines against businesses which did not meet AODA filing requirements. The aptly named Licence Appeal Tribunal reduced fines against four companies from $2000 each to $500. The reduction was because the Tribunal ruled none of the cases involved a “major” contravention, even though it involved the reporting requirement of a legislation which relies solely on companies reporting. Although the companies’ actions rendered AODA useless, the Tribunal did not consider it “major” because the failure to report did not constitute a health or safety hazard to a person with a disability.

This is not the wildly new part.

Going easy on Ontario companies which have failed to meet the AODA requirements has been the official Government mandate since the legislation was proclaimed in 2005. AODA very quickly became Ontario’s first ‘take it or leave it’ law! So that wasn’t new.

Here is what IS:

“In all four cases, the Tribunal reduced the fine imposed by the Director of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (the “Director”). The Director had imposed a fine of $2,000 on each of the organizations for failure to file an Accessibility Report.”

Yes, it is news that fines had been imposed! Who knew?

But more important: have you ever heard of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario?

I’ve written about AODA for over a year and although it sounded vaguely familiar, this was the first time I recalled the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario being directly mentioned. What was that masked organization riding off in the distance?

Time to find out more!

I Googled “Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.” In the first page of hits, one web page seemed to lead to the Directorate, an Ontario Government INFO-GO page. However, that page, on access in Ontario, did not even mention the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario! Nor did using the Government web page’s search function on the Directorate get me anywhere.

In a full page of Google hits on “AODA enforcement,” there was nothing official about the Directorate. Clicking “ADO” or another tag on the bottom of the page got no results. The Directorate, perhaps alone among Ontario Government agencies, does not appear to have any web presence.

This doubtless makes it easier when trying someone is trying to get AODA enforced. (Still, the Directorate did impose fines!!)

A similar problem in visibility, doubtless completely unrelated, occurred with the Ministers’ transparency letters. In the Wynne Government transparency mandate, the Ministers are supposed to be creating plans to present to the public on what the Government will do in various areas of policy and law. Presumably this includes AODA because, seriously don’t laugh, it is an actual law.

However, a Google search turned up nothing, nor did churning through the Ontario Government’s websites.

If you Google “AODA enforcement,” the most recent article is from February, 2014. The rest of the articles on the first page are from 2013. This indicates there have been no official Government announcements or news about enforcing AODA for the better part of this year. The last announcement I recall was Minister Hoskins’ office in the spring (or was it last year?) stating it would send another handful of letters to businesses, requesting compliance.

The new Minister, Brad Duguid, has yet to make any serious statements about AODA or enforcing it.

Recently the AODA Alliance, frustrated at the lack of planning, given there is only ten years left for Ontario to be accessible, called on Premier Wynne to make more information public, including any specific assignments each Minister has. “These directions should stand on the same footing,” the Alliance notes, “as the September 25, 2014 Mandate Letters that the Premier sent to each Minister.”

Transparency! That turned out to be the key to the whole problem!

Apparently, the lack of any public comment or information or overall significant action about enforcing AODA all stems from a misunderstanding of the transparency mandate. Key policy makers interpreted “transparent” as “being able to see through it.” That led to “Transparency” meaning “invisibility.”

True to that mandate, AODA enforcement has been so transparent it is invisible.

Invisibility, it turns out, perfectly suits the Government’s AODA enforcement plan. To pursue it, the Government quietly appointed a new head of AODA policy and enforcement, brought over from England. We can now announce that he is the well-known Dr. Griffin.

You will know Dr. Griffin when you don’t see him – he is the original invisible man.

Next: Toronto Transit Commission Issues “Rain Passes” To People With Disabilities Who Cannot Access Its Stations

Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly satiric column to Accessibility News nothing in these columns is true except what they are about. Buy the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/King-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/

His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He also contributes to http://www.targetaudiencemagazine.com. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and hosts two writers’ circles. His email is vschwartzman@gmail.com.